The Tarrytown NY spring craft fair is one of our best shows. Hawina and i have been doing it for quite some years now and the commune does handsomely selling to affluent NYC suburban customers. It is an extended family affair. Willow comes with us, as does Corb and some years Angie and other years Feonix. The Stars and Corb split to cost of the extra hotel room and food, so the commune is not paying for this giant entourage.
We decided to take a bit of a chance and try the fall craft show at Tarrytown. This is risky because most people wont buy hammocks this late in the year. On this trip we brought Evan from Twin Oaks with us. We spent a day in NYC doing touristy things before the fair. Time Square, Staten Island Ferry and based on Aurora’s suggestion the Society of Illustrators compelling Spectrum exhibit
Not far from the Society of Illustrators is my favorite part of Central Park.
When we are at the Tarrytown fair we stay at the Marriott hotel which has fancy elevators and is near to the fair site. Like most hotels, the Marriott has room service. In the first couple of hours we used it to get a refrigerator and fix the television. From a young persons perspective, room service is like magic. You pick up the phone, you describe a problem and shortly there after the right person comes to fix it and then politely vanishes.
Willow loves pillows. And the hotel is pretty generous with them. But none-the-less he called room service and asked them to bring 3 more for him. Now he has 6. Life is good.
[This post has been approved by Evan and Willow.]
PS We did acceptably well at the fair, about $5K total, we might come back next year.
One of the most surprising evolutionary tales for me was the one of dolphins. Our best story tellers claim that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) evolved from the seas into land mammals and then evolved back to aquatic based life. This is either a tremendous re-adaptation to the changing climate of the seas or a fantastic U turn in habitat of preference.
Back in August we hung out with traveler kids in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan. Point A folks helped a risk reduction outreach volunteer give out clean needles, anti-overdose medicine naloxone and clean socks. And we heard stories.
The most striking stories were of this dolphin effect, how these kids (which is used as a diminutive, rather than some indication of age) came to their traveler lifestyle. Usually some catastrophic event threw them into poverty, homelessness and addiction (typically alcohol, heroin or both). After a while, pressure from outside friends, family and often they themselves got them to “clean up”. They quit substance use and returned to a more conventional life style. Working a straight job (some even doing outreach work with traveler kids) and living in a house or an apartment.
Then something funny happened. They decided that they were happier as travels and living on little to nothing, but being with their friends and animals. Now from a place of choice, rather than catastrophe they returned to this life style.
i have plans and fantasies about the traveling kids. One of the interesting consciousnesses about this community (and it is deeply a community, where they share most of what they have with each other) is that housing is a burden. If you have a house or flat you have to pay for it, and this generally requires a job. So for most of the year the traveler kids are content to sleep outside, in parks when they can. Under scaffolding when it is raining. But in the winter, they continue the noble tradition of squatting.
My hope is we can continue working with them, introduce transparency tools to strengthen connections and hopefully learn about contemporary squatting from them.
The kid of comments i am uninterested in for this post is all the risks and warnings folks have about traveler kids. i’ve heard them, thanks anyway.
A British racing green jaguar convertible sports car pulled up next to me as I was hitching outside Boston. I am surprised to see the door of the expensive vehicle pop open and the driver wave me over.
“Come on get it!”
“Thanks I needed a ride from here” I hop into the leather bucket seat.
“Where do you want to go? My wife says I am too drunk to be home”
Some years later I was driving in Los Angeles and picked up one of the quite rare hitchhikers inside the city limits.
“Thank you so much, I have been waiting there all day and I just got out of jail.”
In case you are unfamiliar with prison culture it is considered poor form to ask an excon what they were in the slammer for. If they want you to know, they will tell you. So assuming you are familiar with the culture, this statement (and the following lack of clarification) is basically saying, “i need you to trust me right now, and I am not giving you much info on why you should.”
With some regularity a young activist will come to me and ask
“What issue should i work on? There are so many important ones to choose from.”
Indeed there are. And some years back i would have found this question quite vexing. Clearly one should do some kind of analysis. Looking at the current state of political affairs, weighing all different possible effects of the various campaigning efforts, examining where the opportunities were, comparing your own skill set to what the various movements need.
Now i think differently. “Ignore the issues, look for the people who inspire you. Look for the group you want to be with and do what they do.” Issues matter, but it turns out that what inspires prospective activists matters more.
In a few hours we will start the communities conference. There has been tremendous work at the site, expanding and improving the kitchen facilities, fixing bridges, putting up domes all over the place. The place really looks great.
But it is not because of the physical plant upgrade, or even the killer program for this event that you should change your weekend plans. It’s because of the people coming. The colorful gang from the Baltimore Free Farm will be attending. Representatives from Ganas and Catalyst Communities in NYC will be here. Most of the income sharing egalitarian communities are sending ambassadors (East Wind, The Midden, Living Energy Farm, Sandhill Farm, Acorn and Sapling). Workshops will be done by folks from Red Earth Farms and Heathcote and The Farm and Dancing Rabbit.
Beyond existing communities there are compelling presenters coming from all manner of groups including Network for a New Culture, Hack RVA (the Richmond Maker Space), Charlottesville Time Bank, Health Care for All and Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO).
If you need to be inspired, this group will do it. If you are trying to start a community, useful answers found here. If your idea is going to change the world, you should be presenting at the Open Space on Sunday.
Post Script: The Communities Conference Dance on Saturday night is reliably one of the best dances at Twin Oaks over the course of the year.
GPaul has just returned from his summer adventure in Europe visiting urban income sharing communities. He just gave a wonderful report contrasting the US communes with their European counterparts. Here are some of the highlights from his talk:
* There are perhaps 40 or 50 secular income sharing communities in Europe and national and language boundaries largely keep them from networking together or even knowing about each other
* These communities of size 60 to 80 members (and of course much smaller) use consensus decision making without any problem. [Many small US communities, including Acorn, worry that they can not grow without consensus failing them, and almost all of them are far smaller than this].
* One of the maxims suggested was “The commune is rich, the communards are poor” The objective is great shared wealth, not increased personal/private wealth.
* None of the 6 income sharing communities visited had a labor quota (though one had a non-specific requirement for members to work full time). Most FEC communities have labor obligations and several have quota – though in Acorns case it is a “soft” and untracked quota.
* European urban income sharing communities are also both asset and debt sharing (unlike their US counterparts). The US based income sharing communities (most of them in the FEC network) were culturally founded during the rise of cults. Thus part of the desire to not be asset sharing at that time was to distinguish income sharing communities from cults (which took members assets).
* Very few people move to communes in there 20s (unlike in the US where this is our biggest demographic) instead they move in during their 30s when they want to settle down and have kids.
* Minimum stays at European communes tend to be much longer (on the order of 5 years) in sharp contrast to US communities where it is often just 12 or 18 months.
This is sort of a poor representation of some of the key ideas of GPaul’s presentation, but there is more i will elaborate on in future blog posts. Especially the transnational nomadic anarchist cyberpunks.