“You should definitely do it. It will never work.”

We are returning for another Point A trip to NYC.  We in this case is Belladonna Took, Aster, Gpaul, Angelica and myself, all from Acorn or Twin Oaks.  On the way up i am reminded of our recent trip and the tales tangled with it.

One of my favorite stories is the Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  It has a contemporary Alice through the Looking Glass feel to it where figures of speech become characters in the story and a fair morality is woven among amusing chapter long vignettes.  If you have a kid you read to and you have not read this story to them, you should share this together. Central to the story is the idea that main characters have a secret which they are not telling Milo, the hero of the story, and they will only tell him when he returns from his quest.

Dogeared Book cover

Dogeared Book cover

When Milo returns from his harrowing quest they reveal the secret about his mission which is “It was impossible”. But he could not be told this at the beginning of his quest for it would discourage him.  Our experience of NYC is sort of the other way around.  When we explain the Point A project to people some excitedly tell us “That is fantastic, you really should do it.  And it is completely impossible.”

Consulting with Rhyme and Reason

Consulting with Rhyme and Reason

i am only beginning to understand this mentality.  It comes in part from long term urban activists seeing all the wonderful institutions they love vanish with time.   At the front line of chronicling the demise of the city is Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.  This blog‘s subtitle is  The book of Lamentations: A bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct. This blog is also one of the best sites i have found describing gentrification (which is actually dead) and hyper-gentrification (which is the current genetically modified version of the problem).

When i asked one of our NYC allies what this meant, they briskly proposed this translation.  “It means they are not going to help you.”  Further elaborating they said “They don’t want to be discouraging you, but they are presumably busy with ideas which might work, so they won’t be wasting time on your plan, which won’t.”

Cultural translation is often tricky

Cultural translation is often tricky

We are definitely outside agitators.  i find myself taking a crash course in New Yorkers.  They often show up late, they have crazy busy lives (i have heard people – including myself – saying they were “double booked”, it was not til i spent time in NYC that i heard someone say they were quadruple booked), they have complicated housing situations.  Many identify as artists and a surprising number express interest in having more community in their life.

Any insights into this crash course in urban culture i find myself now taking are appreciated.  The best place to talk about them is this excitingly unfolding Community Matchmaker event in Brooklyn on Oct 18th.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to ““You should definitely do it. It will never work.””

  1. anon says :

    Why NYC anyway? Go to Detroit.

    • paxus says :

      There are lots of reason for NYC. One is the density, we re looking for quite extraoridnary folks, if there are 8 million to draw from our chances of finding them are higher (assuming we outreach well).

      If you succeed in Detroit, you prove nothing to New Yorkers. If you can succeed here in NYC (as they say) you make it anywhere.

      And there are a number of interesting projects in Detroit, where people are buying entire blocks for crazy cheap which need tremendous work. NYC has very few crazy cheap places.

      There is more, but that is a fine start

      • anon says :

        Crazy cheap places that need a lot of work are the perfect places for communitarians, not the middle of what is basically a giant gentrified over priced shopping mall… if NYC outreach is really what you want to do, you can set up base in New Jersey or Staten island for a fraction of the price and still be in reasonable distance for such purposes.

      • paxus says :

        Oh dont worry, we spend far more time on Staten Island than we do on Manhattan and we are looking for inexpensive or income generating solutions.

  2. richard w. lisko says :

    yo! pax. i found myself a beautiful organic farm to volunteer at in chelsea, mi. there is good community here at the farm and all around us. we had a harvest party on sunday with live music, delish food, fire, dancing, and late night djs. it reminds me of life at acorn and twin oaks. it was great to get out of the city and into the country. the work is longer and harder, but very satisfying.

    this project of community in a city like ny sounds cool, but my own advice would be: escape from ny! find a community of organic farmers and plug in. i am a volunteer and have my needs met, so far. i am so glad to have escaped the need to hold numerous lousy paying jobs to make a too high rent.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest JBird

      So what do you think i have been doing for the last 16 years? i have had lots of time with organic farmers in the country. Prosaic, yes, relaxed and healthy ? you bet. Front line of the anti-capitalist revolution? Not so much.

      Curiously i am an urban rat who has been in the country for years. Some people love trees, i love subways. I am glad you are happy, i am too.

      Paxus at Slow House Brooklyn

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