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A Mountain of Pillows

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.

Willow and Evan in Time Square

Willow and Evan in Time Square

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

"Morning Walk" from Spectrum Exhibition

“Morning Walk” from Spectrum Exhibition

Not far from the Society of Illustrators is my favorite part of Central Park.

Alice, Willow and Paxus in Central Park

Alice, Willow, Paxus and a neuro-atypical hatter in 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.

The power of room service

The power of room service

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.

The Dolphin Effect on Homelessness

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.

sometimes it is best to beat a strategic retreat

sometimes it is best to beat a strategic retreat

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.

Rayenbo Acorn and Kat Traveler in Tompkins Square Park NYC

Rayenbo Acorn and Kat Traveler in Tompkins Square Park NYC

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.

Building Consent Culture Acorn

“… i will personally escort you off the property”  Belladonna is serious about consent. And if you don’t embrace how it is done at Acorn, your visit might be cut short.

She created this workshop (one of the very few visitor orientations) in response to a real need in community.  Perhaps one quarter of the visitors rejected for membership by Acorn over the last two years are due to failures to understand our consent culture.

Typically, these were not gross sexual assaults, but rather were mistakes by basically fine people who were not familiar with or paying attention to our culture.  Sometimes they were intoxicated, sometimes part of the problem is they come from a culture where people don’t ask others before they touch, sometimes guests misinterpret non-verbal signals,  sometimes they were fooled by parties where the consent rules appeared to be relaxed.

It looks simple, but there is a lot going on.

It looks simple at first, but there is a lot going on.

Don’t be fooled, the rules are never relaxed. The purpose of the workshop is to insure that the community is a safe place for members and guests alike and that these recent mistakes become a thing of the past.

While the topic is heavy, the form of the workshop is accessible.  Belladonna and Rejoice do short skits to demonstrate both problems and proper approaches.  There is more laughing than lecturing.

New concepts are introduced to many of the participants.  You can’t ask for Green Light Consent, it has to be offered.  Green Light means you have a prior agreement with someone about permissible physical or sexual interactions and it is delineated. “You can always hug me” someone offers.

clear messages - these might not work in the dark

clear messages – these might not work in the dark

 

A visitor asks about how shaking hands as an introduction fits into the culture, but then quickly figures out themselves that there is an effective non-verbal communication built into this ritual.  You would never grab a hand which was not offered back.

Sometimes failures are well meaning.  At the communities conference there was a blind participant who was occasionally asking for help in her process of mentally mapping the site.  A helpful person lightly turned her in the right direction, this was not what she wanted at all, because the “helpful” contact was not explicitly requested nor approved.

There is an introduction to toplessness.  Acorn tries to be a liberated zone and when it is hot, both men and women can choose to go without shirts.  This is novel to many visitors and rather than being surprised by it, this workshop both warns of it’s likelihood and encourages people to not stare nor presume there is a sexual message where there is not one.

And there is compassion for the stranger to our culture.  If you are uneasy conversing with someone who is topless, better to say something and take space than to act strangely pretending that nothing is wrong when you are uncomfortable.

i walk away from this gathering proud of us, knowing that this is the way things get better and we are building the place we want to live.

Careful language,

Careful language when understanding the state. Don’t consent to search.

What does NYC have for Kids?

I’ve lived in a bunch of cities: San Francisco, Washington DC, Sydney, Honolulu, Arnhem, Amsterdam, Brno, Vienna, Ljubljana.  In some ways it is strange that I have been living in a rural environment for so long, because I self identify as an urban rat.

Ljubljana is the Capital of tiny Slovenia, the richest part of former Yugoslavia.  This canal city boasts the highest education level in the world.  I fought the Krsko reactor here in 1995.

Ljubljana is the Capital of tiny Slovenia, the richest part of former Yugoslavia. This canal city boasts the highest education level in the world. I fought the Krsko reactor here with locals for much of 1995.

The Point A project is about starting communities inside large urban centers, and the way the project has worked out I have a significant responsibility for NYC.  Which is nice for me, big complex city, which in other blog posts I have likened to crack.  But despite having been there 6 times in the last 6 months, I am just really starting to know the city.

 

Google sez this is NYC i don't recognize it.

I am coming back up in a few days on my way to a craft fair (TarryTown link) and I am bringing Willow and his young friend and fellow communard Evan, ages 12 and 14.  We have a day together in NYC and I want to show them around.  The trouble is I dont really know the city very well from an exciting to a young person perspective.  So I am asking for help from my lovely comrades who are familiar with New York City.

 

If you had a single day in the city with a couple of high energy boys, what would you show off?  Anywhere in or near the 5 boroughs with an emphasis on Staten Island.  Links are fantastic.  You can comment inside this blog, or on Facebook where I have linked this post or to me via email if you prefer.

 

Shouldn’t this already be a fingerbook?

 

I am especially looking forward to the suggestions from Prof James, Lex, Elena, Diana, Teagan/Arrow and Aurora.

 

Thanks in advance.

Exactly the wrong thing to say – Hitching Stories

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”

"You can't have any more, if you have not yet had any."

“You can’t have any more, if you have not yet had any.”

 

 

=======================

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.”

hitchiker prsion roadside

Time to Change your Plans for this Weekend

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.

Young Activists in Europe

Young Activists in Europe

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.

One of the before pictures, Nina Sapling on the roof of the expanded kitchen.

One of the before pictures, Nina Sapling on the roof of the expanded kitchen.

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 MiddenLiving 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 BankHealth Care for All and Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO).

ideas change the world

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.

Put on your dancing shoes

Put on your dancing shoes

European Income Sharing Communities Contrasted with US ones

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:

GPaul about to take off

GPaul about to take off

* 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].

consensus group line drawing

* 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.

group in rings photo

* 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.

no i dont know why there is a label marked "snowy"

no i dont know why there is a label marked “snowy”

 

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