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An Empire of Vacant Lots

“All the trash comes here” Wolvie replied when i asked why they wanted to be in New Orleans. As a scavenger and builder from free materials, this is the carpenters equivalent of having a free lumber yard. But they went on to explain the much richer and complex relationship between the punks of this town and material wealth. It caught my ear because it centered around sharing.

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Wet chairs in a stylish vacant lot

The informal collection of people living in conventional housing and shacks and vehicles functions in many ways like the intentional communities i am more used to. Cars are lent for long periods, instead of buying or renting tools a distributed informal library provides for these needs, and friends are invited to move in. Wolvie comments that it provides access to the culture and services of intentional community, but they can still retreat to their own private space at the end of the day.

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The art and propaganda above Ruby’s desk

I visit a collection of punk homesteads where different “rent” models comfortably co-exist. Some folks are squatting, others renting, some residents are paying back taxes on abandoned properties in hopes of securing ownership of them eventually, still others have succeeded in owning places. The people i am introduced to flow between these housing options as luck, circumstance and employment permit. Work seems often to be gig based, to fit in with peoples needs for traveling or activism.

The names of collective properties make me smile: Kitty Meow Town, Liability Park and Squatopotomus. This flat rainy city is ideal for bikes and i have several offers for bikes to borrow in my first couple of hours in town.

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Over a decade after hurricane Katrina, the effects of the disaster are often visible. “We have moved from shock capitalism to disaster tourism” Catrina tells me, referring to Naomi Klein’s brilliant book Shock Doctrine. Construction is everywhere.
“I am becoming a boat punk.” Wolvie confesses. And within an hour of this confession we are off rescuing abandoned barges of the St John’s bayou.  Credit goes to Ruby for convincing the nay-saying boys that we could get these barges out of the water and loaded onto the truck.

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Ruby surveys our success.

With the help of a passing runner we landed this barge which had been built for a recent raft race and left behind. We are particularly excited by the US american flag paint job and make shift paddles.

Wolvie and Ruby on barge

“It is battery powered” jokes Wolvie.

NOLA is a party town. We stop at a laundromat/restaurant/bar which serves inexpensive frozen daiquiris and i find myself slightly smashed in the late afternoon. Mardi Gras is not just for tourists, the whole city celebrates for weeks with parades and musical performances and pub crawls. The colorful fabric of this place is woven by mixing diverse cultures and taking it to the streets.

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The piano has been drinking, and it is on fire.

All this begs the question, “Can we mimic the benefits of intentional residential community in scattered punk microvillages?” The New Orleans punk scene with its generous material cooperation, low cost and no cost housing, binding festivals and cultural events, and inexpensive social lubricants makes a compelling case.

why i am an anarchist

anarchism is the ultimate intellectual and ethical high wire act without a net.  it starts with rejecting the principle extant political institutions and dominant paradigms – but to get very far you need to build something. you need not build based on great thinkers of the past (tho some are available).  you can go where you find your passion and create something based on what you experience as true.  it is a broad anti-orthodoxy and thus everyone has their own slightly different personal flavor.  this is mine, i hope you like it.

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i share.  perhaps the greatest challenge to the dominant political models is the idea that you do not have to possess things exclusively. widespread change in only this cultural value could result in a far more economically just world, using the same or fewer resources. i own little myself and live in places where material things are held in common.

anarchism deals with more than just the physical. feminism is about sharing power. it is training people to listen, helping the quiet find voice, flattening hierarchy and finding consensus – this is the beginning of building justice.  i like the adage that anarchism is the philosophy and feminism is the practice.

polyamory is sharing lovers – i do not claim sole rights to my intimates, and they as well have other lovers. i find it a great poison that intimacy should be locked up and made exclusive. it is the commodification of love. some of the hardest work of my life has been moving thru jealousy,  balancing time and establishing clear communication.

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radical spirituality is about sharing the planet with all of its life forms and respecting their rights.  as pagans we seek to build relevant rituals. we explore how to move symbols and create meaning.  this is the reclaiming of magic from the scientists and spirituality from the church. it also dovetails with environmental politics and the development of the connection to things greater than the self. these are the critical extensions of our language and culture we need to evolve.

i am a communard – i choose to live in an intentional community, where we work and live together, sharing income and resources, we build our own buildings, grow much of our own food organically, we don’t use money internally. there are basically no locks, no tv and virtually no crime. it is far from utopia – we have little shared vision, for example – but it is working model of what can be.

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anarchism is embracing flexible strategies in face of structural dilemmas. a central example is the prefigurative politics versus the “length of the fuse” debate.  it is intellectually attractive to say “we will limit the tools we use now for the social change to the ones we want to still have in our new society.” violence and property destruction are the tactics most often excluded by this reasoning.  the length of the fuse argument is “if you are running out of time to change things you need to use fast tools”. sadly, prefigurative approaches are generally slow.  the resolution is that there is no fixed strategy – the workers (or activists) decide, the people who are on the scene at the relevant time make the choices. it was a pacifist who convinced me that violence played a central role in ending nuclear construction in Germany. when you are looking at preventing thousands of years of uncontrollable toxins, can you risk failure because you could not reach consensus on strategy?

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i smuggle – borders are perhaps the most offensive static structure of the state.  i had the good fortune to help smuggle 3 Tibetan monks across a thousand miles of the Himalayas and into Nepal to see the Dalai Lama. i have carried banned documents and other contraband.  i’ve gotten caught a few times, but i’ve been lucky and made it thru basically unscratched.

i am a lobbyist – i have run thru the halls of parliament and congress trying to get elected officials to behave as i thought they should.  i am not especially good at it, but i have been the best available. simply because we can see that a governmental system is corrupt does not justify failing to engage with it. we have more tools than protest.

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i am a propagandist – i don’t believe i or we have any monopoly on the truth – i have debated ideologues and i know they are sure they are right as i think i am in my most arrogant moments.  we have an obligation to put out our beliefs brilliantly and we need to remember that we are trying to sway people to think like us, not because we know we have a better way, but because we believe we do.

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i’m an outlaw – i shoplift, counterfeit, trespass, destroy property, break and enter, hop trains, panhandle, violate curfews, copyrights and security clearances, trade on the black markets, tax resist, enter and exit countries illegally, black ride (ride without a ticket), lie to the police, default on credit cards (for $50K), forge signatures, falsify visa’s, hitchhike, cut handcuffs, leak state secrets and don’t wear seat belts (for somewhat crazy reasons). i wish i could say all of this has been done for the greater good and to advance the revolution – in fact, some was self-serving and some just frivolous. But i certainly don’t start from the place of assuming laws are right – this is the anarchist prerogative.

i am a life style terrorist. someone who asks uncomfortable questions to people who are comfortable, about what they really need and what they can contribute.  of course, this is only credible from a place of doing it yourself and is best served in a humorous and non-dogmatic way. when visiting people we don’t really know my Dutch lover Hawina and i try to be “ambassadors from where we want to come from”. this is about pushing the positive aspects of our lifestyle choices, hoping to inspire folks to try to do more progressive political work.  This can be as small as recycling and using mass transit to as large as quitting your corporate job and running campaigns or moving to a commune.

vote nobody

i am a clownmy favorite fairy tale ends with the line “don’t take yourself too seriously”.  i make a point to remember jokes and riddles and try to make people laugh.  i don’t believe things are so bad we can’t make it without humor. similarly, one of the things i like the most about my community is that we strive to be a great audience – anyone willing to get up and perform is highly appreciated. i have watched it change the self-confidence of our kids and improve the overall quality of our cultural life.

 

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he will need a bigger bag

 

i travel. i have hitchhiked on sail boats from Mexico to Australia, trained across Europe and Asia, crossed the Atlantic twice on polish tramp ships, worked briefly on the north slope of Alaska and the bottom of the ocean near Hawaii. years ago i quit flying, for energy and environmental reasons, but i continued to travel more than most people i know – i am writing this on the train across the US. i have had to change my perception about the importance of the time spent traveling – correspondingly, i make fewer but longer trips.  but i have basically stopped going to places where i don’t know anyone – this is the difference between tourism and traveling. i strive to discover the culture thru the eyes of people who live there, rather than a guide book.

i raise funds – money is an oft necessary great evil. i learned how to make it come towards projects and campaigns which were important.  i never escaped the feeling that there was something wrong with this solution, and my ego did unhealthy flops around successfully finding money.  when i was doing this a great deal, it felt best to be homeless, without salary and living very cheaply.

 

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Know who “we” is

 

anarchists seem to be either of the individualistic/loner type or cooperators looking for allies.  i am always looking for allies. the success of the recent World Bank and WTO protests has been the ability of divergent groups to put aside their differences long enuf to come together to make an effective mass protest.  globalization and these oft media-invisible institutions which drive it are now the subjects of popular debate and they can not continue unchanged. we are a long way from closing them, but debt cancellation is gaining momentum and the WTO fast track seems derailed – both good things.  anarchists were central in organizing these actions.

anarchism deals with more than just the physical. feminism is about sharing power. it is training people to listen, helping the quiet fine voice, flattening hierarchy and finding consensus – this is the beginning of building justice.  i like the adage that anarchism is the philosophy and feminism is the practice.

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building these broad coalitions. and there are lots of other types of alliances – my wordsmith lover jazz edited this piece … almost every project of significant scale is a collaborative effort, and many which fail simply did not gather the right allies.

i am an organizer.  there are several key differences between an organizer and a leader.  the first is that no job is too low for an organizer. they are self-aware enough to know what they can teach and humble enuf to know there is still lots to learn.  always pressed for time, good organizers don’t get stuck and don’t overwork problems. they replace themselves before they leave work undone (something i have often failed in) and they are most generally invisible to the eye of fame.

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in a tiny train station in Czechoslovakia, i helped a man buy an international ticket and we got to talking.  he told me he had the best job in the world, traveling from place to place telling stories.  After listening to one of his stories and thinking about this for a while, i decided that it was a wonderful and important job and have been working on my storytelling ever since.

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i am an optimist – if the anarchist principle is that “you can do what ever you want, but you must take responsibility for it” and you believe the new age principle of “we create our own reality”, then we have an obligation to be optimistic – or else we are creating the wrong reality.  For seven years i lived in eastern Europe working with small anti-nuclear groups against the most powerful corporations and the state.  i was constantly reminding them that it was groups exactly like theirs which had stopped reactors around the world.  it is as papa Chomsky so well put it:

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i am in the hope business. and that is why i am an anarchist.

 

Call For Presenters: Twin Oaks Communities Conference

May is the month when the organizers for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference ask people to think about Labor Day weekend.  Specifically, we ask people what types of workshops they might be interested in offering at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference (TOCC).  These come in two broad types.

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Fixed Time Workshops:  This is the collection of 16 (or sometimes 20) workshops which are selected in advance and are all relating to intentional communities.  We are exploring different themes and it is likely we will choose a couple of them.  If you are interested in presenting on an intentional community related topic we would encourage you to submit this workshop proposal form.  The deadline for proposals is May 31st.  These workshops happen Saturday, Sept 1st and Sunday morning. Workshop presenters who are selected for these fixed time slots will get their registration fee waived.  And if you are coming from NYC metro area (or south of there) you might be able to come on our totally groovy bus.

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Wolf’s Magic Bus is coming to TOCC

Open Space Technology Workshop:  There are way too many clever and interesting people at the TOCC to not provide a forum for them to demonstrate or propose their own workshop even if it has little or nothing to do with community.  The problem (from an organizers perspective) is which ones do you choose?  Fortunately, this problem has been well worked by others and there is a democratic, self selecting mechanism called Open Space Technology.  These workshops are giving Sunday (Sept 2) midday into the afternoon and typically we do between 10 and 20 workshops ranging in size from 25 participants (like at a urban squatting or polyamory workshop) to just a couple of excited participants (bird watching or Python blockchain programming).

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Jenny from Compersia will facilitate scheduling this years Open Space Workshops

Even if you don’t want to offer any workshop there are three types of people who might want to come to this annual event, which often has over 150 participants and 40 plus communities represented:

  1. You want to find an intentional community to move into
  2. You are starting a community with friends
  3. You live in a community and are looking for new members

If any of these three things is true for you, then you can register for this event here.  If you want to see who is already coming and who is interested go to the Facebook event (35 attending and 215 interested so far (May 1), and we have just started our outreach).

 

Gossip is the Fabric of Community

I co-moderate a large diverse facebook group on intentional communities.  Recently someone posted:

Gossip gets embellished as it travels. Things heard second hand should be verified with the speaker. Beware words taken out of context, even if the context is the room next door. Good communities practice all that.

While this is true as far as it goes, it misses the tremendous complexity around the issue of gossip and how important it is to both the culture and success of a community venture.

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What is gossip?  It is certainly more than an opinion expressed about someone who is not in the room.  “Trump is a misogynist racist,” isn’t gossip, unless you are close to him.  It is just an opinion.  “Cindy is gifted at fixing cars,” almost certainly does not qualify either, as most people think gossip is a negative opinion.

“Paxus is a poor driver.” What if this is something I have said myself and you are simply repeating it?  Is it gossip if the target is the source?

 

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They did what?

Let me propose a harsher definition: Gossip is a critical judgment shared about a person or group, often in conspiratorial or secretive tones, while not directly communicating with the subject of the gossip.

Using this definition one might reasonably be concerned that gossip would have an acidic effect on the fabric of the community.  One of the common anti-gossip norms that exist in the communes is if you hear something critical about someone you could ask, “Have you told this to them?”  This is the antidote to gossip; being transparent with the subject of the rumor.

 

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Back in the 80s, as I was just becoming aware of community living, when I was making a critical comment about gossip, my dear friend and mentor Crystal replied “Gossip is the fabric of the community,” and it took me a couple of decades to understand what he was talking about.

Even when using the negative it turns out gossip is important for a community to be healthy.  Members need to confide in confidants about their frustration with others in the community.  Ideally, this is less about spreading rumors and more about seeking advice.  “How do I deal with this headachy circumstance?”  or “Do you understand their motivations for this strange behavior?” or “I was so upset and they were clueless, what is really happening here?”

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In the best light, gossip is the flow of self-critical and self-correcting messages which members share in the lead up to actually addressing the problems.  [Where the “self” here is the larger collective one, rather than the individual personal one.]  You talk about things which are on your mind with the people who you live with and they help you reflect back on what you should do about it.  Recognizing that if you are being critical of another member of your community, you are obligated to get back to them with your concern.

In this way, gossip within a community is different from what happens in the mainstream.  If I am being critical or concerned about another member, I have a larger obligation to do something about it than I do if it is a co-worker or random stranger.  If you have a substance abuse problem and we live collectively, not only can it blow back on me in a problematic way, but I have made some level of commitment to take care of you.  If we are part of the same intentional community and I am worried about your mental health, I can’t casually gripe about it to another member, we have to be considering what our course of action is regarding this problem.  Even less dramatic problems other members are experiencing like a poor choice of romantic partners or headache with a boss are much more shared in a community setting than when living independently.  Gossip in community has more obligation to it.

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It is worth pointing out that Twin Oaks does not embrace this culture.  In my large commune, if you don’t want to deal with someone you can completely shut down communication with them.  This is terrible for clearing gossip but might make it possible for some people who really do not see eye to eye to be able to live together.  And because the community is so large these estranged members (including me) just try to avoid each other.

It is worth pointing out that when ex-Oakers founded Acorn with financial assistance from Twin Oaks, this was one of the most important things they wanted to do differently.  Acorn (and many other communes) have a communication covenant which makes it the community’s business when members are failing to communicate.  When you are designing communities one of the thorniest issues is when do you give power to the collective over the individual members.  And gossip is one of the few places you should seriously consider it.

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Secret for a Day

The morning after the super bowl more than half of Twin Oaks woke up without knowing who won the big game.  You might correctly assume that since these people live in this egalitarian, rural, income sharing ecovillage commune they might not prioritize this national event.  But this is not the whole story.  Quite a number of these members who don’t know the result are actually very excited about the game and are looking forward to watching it.  Let me explain further.

Twin Oaks has a long-standing “no live television” norm.  There is no place in the community that you can just flick a switch and suddenly view broadcast television (or even live cable television).  There is, however, a whole subculture of television and cable watching members, who draw from our huge archive instead of watching things live.

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Apparently, it was here

But sports are somehow different.  People mostly want to watch sporting events as they are actually happening.  I’ve never completely understood this. I will leave it to some sports enthusiast to enlighten me as to why this is important.  And Oakers want to watch the Super Bowl; they want to watch it in their home, they want to watch it with a bunch of other Oakers.  So to get all of these things a few years back we stumbled onto a solution.  Watch the Super Bowl a day later.

 

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Tell no one

 

This clever fix has its own problems and at the top of the list is that there are a couple of dozen Oakers who do not want to wait. They visit outside friends or nearby communes which don’t have such restrictive norms around the television.  And basically, the whole rest of the community agrees that they have to keep the game a secret for one day and especially not say who wins.

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Is TV a social toxin?

 

Back in 2004, we were less into sports.  I remember walking into the Morningstar kitchen and asking the dozen assembled people “If I were to say ‘Janet Jackson’s left breast‘ how many of you would know what I was talking about?”  No one did.  Perhaps I got lucky that morning, perhaps the commune has become more accepting of major sports events.

 

 

Stepping Stone Commune

 

Architecture shapes culture, so a guiding principle of Cambia is, if we can make it beautiful, we do.  Architecture is unique as an art form because it integrates function with form. This includes landscaping and outdoor play spaces.

Stepping stones are interesting because they have multiple functions; for example. they can protect clover, especially in the winter. The form also affects our local culture: when you walk on stepping stones, you are called to a child-like stance.

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You can walk with your hands hanging down by your sides, and what tends to happen is that your arms raise up to maintain your balance.  The stepping stones can draw you into being playful and childlike.  As your hands go up, you are more likely to skip and as you start to skip, you are more likely to smile.

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Kelpie, Sappho and some big nose guy on Trampoline with snow

Cambia also boasts a trampoline.  The trampoline draws kids from the surrounding communes.  We recently replaced our broken one, in an assembly effort which was guided by a gaggle of giggly kids.

The German modern architect Mies van der Rohe is famous for two sayings, both of which are applicable.  “Less is more” is the argument for minimalist architecture to achieve simplicity, using white elements, cold lighting, large space with minimum objects and furniture.

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One of Mies’s iconic creation.

The second aphorism is “God is in the details“, expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly because details are important.

 

Cambia is a handcrafted commune, in sharp contrast to the grandmother commune, Twin Oaks, just down the road.  Twin Oaks is a large place which includes industrial spaces, warehouses, tofu production facilities, rope machines, gang drills, and sawmills.  All the spaces are closer and on a more human scale at Cambia.  Some of the art is tiny and temporary.

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Ella sorts seeds into a mandala

Handcrafted means focusing on details: doorknobs from twisted branches, floors of pebbles and clay, tiny signposts, salvaged redwood around the hot tub and hyacinth pool.  It is these and dozens of other tiny aspects that makes this stepping stone commune so precious.

 

Other Blog Posts about Cambia:

Rent a room in NYC commune

Cotyledon is the newest income-sharing commune aspiring to be part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC).  Founded in Dec 2017, this Astoria, Queens-based community has a single room to rent, starting quite soon.  If you know someone who wants to be at the center of the income sharing communities movement but is not yet ready to be part of a commune, this might be exactly the right place.  Below is their roomate announcement.
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Cotyledon is the energy packet for the first leaves

 

Join our cozy communal home! We are looking for a long-term member interested in income sharing but will accept a short-term collective member, for a room available February 1st.  If you are interested, read on about our house and continue to complete the questionnaire below. We receive many applications, and we appreciate you putting thought and care into your answers! We know this isn’t the best way to get to know someone… but we’re working with the tools we have to learn as much as we can and make informed decisions. Please submit your applications ASAP, we will be contacting people as the forms roll in!
ABOUT US:
Cotyledon is an egalitarian, income-sharing residential community, dedicated to environmental and food justice, radical sharing, personal growth and accountability, clear communication, and simple, cooperative living. We strive to practice equitable physical and emotional labor, and consensus-based decision making. We are currently a small group in a 4 bedroom home based in Astoria, Queens, but we have a mid-term plan to grow and move into a larger home, staying close to Western Queens.
After organizing together since 2015, we recently moved in together. We are queer friendly, age-diverse, and welcome POC and all genders. While we do not bring parties home, we are organizers and frequently host meetings and social gatherings, often around shared meals. We participate in various urban farms and food justice groups in Western Queens. We also enjoy listening to music, playing games and going on outings together.IMG_20180119_111106.jpg

Roommate #1 – A 66-year-old white male bookworm, compost fanatic, systems devotee, and community networker. Technically retired but excited to be involved in many projects. Community is my passion.

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Snake is not included

Roommate #2.0 – A funky woman in her mid-forties who loves cooking for folx, dancing, biking, being outdoors and, although I can be quite serious at times, playing the jester. My passions lie in food sovereignty, mushroom growing, gardening and bringing slow-medicine into our everyday lives. I help support our community working odd jobs, giving massages and occasionally teaching workshops on mushroom cultivation.

 

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Turning tracks into gardens since 2010

 

Roommate #3 – Almost 40 y/o white male. Works various gigs offering environmental education, volunteers as a nonprofit leader and urban farmer. Enjoys bike rides, dancing, dumpster diving and participating with a local artist collective. Down-shifting towards a slower, contemplative life.

YOU:

Progressive (if not radical) and cooperatively minded. A good communicator and listener. You are interested (if not experienced) in living communally. This doesn’t mean you have to be the most social person out there! but you’re responsible, respectful, interested in participating in the community in some way (i.e. not simply looking for a room). You’re also financially stable, however, you make that happen. You’re compassionate and non-judgmental. You may be of any gender/sex/sexuality/race/ ethnicity/religion, and you respect those who align differently along those (and all) categories.

COMMUNAL LIVING
We are an income-sharing, egalitarian residence, and this differs from other collective houses (which can sometimes mean nothing more than sharing a big space).… But what does it mean? Basically, we pool the products of our labor, including monetary income, salvaged food, clothes, etc. helping insulate us from the corrosive and isolating effects of capitalism. Although scary to get into, once established, income sharing makes everything else we are trying to do easier. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.

 

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Cotyledons just finding out that they got their place in Astoria

 

As for the term egalitarian: Let go of the idea of justice and deserving. We’re making it all up anyway. What matters is that we’re being taken care of and that so is everyone else. Liberty, equality, community. By basing our economy on equal access to resources rather than an equal distribution of resources we celebrate and support differences and eliminate a lot of paperwork on our way to our post-scarcity utopia.

The three of us who are already income-resource-sharing meet every week, usually over dinner (or weekend brunch), to discuss and organize that aspect of our living agreements and general household concerns, norms, and ideas. Moving in as a non-income sharing participant, we ask that you commit to attending a house meeting every other week as a participant, while the alternate week you are welcome to observe, especially if radical sharing is of interest to you. We also want to be transparent so you understand that, although we are consensus-based, the income-sharing group may need to make some decisions that could impact you.
While we have yet to establish a schedule of household chores and responsibilities, it will be expected that you participate in the work of the house which could also include assisting us in developing communal norms and standards.

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THE HOUSE & NEIGHBORHOOD:
Located at 21st Street and 30th AVENUE on the Astoria/LIC border, a short walk to grocery stores, post office, laundry, restaurants, banks, healthcare and cultural amenities including libraries, the waterfront, Socrates Sculpture Park, Rainey Park, Hallet’s Cove, Two Coves Community Garden, Noguchi Museum, Welling Court Mural Project, Boys and Girls Club, Astoria Park (& pool) and Hellgate Farm (where we bring our compost).
Transportation: Express bus at the doorsteps two stops to the F train and easy access to the W & N trains. Approximately 25 minutes to midtown transfers. Plus the NYC Ferry, Astoria route is 4 blocks away.
We share the basement and ground floor of a row-house (not a large apartment building) with 4 bedrooms and 1-½ bathrooms. A full, eat-in kitchen, separate and roomy living room, plus a bonus room downstairs that we are currently utilizing as a craft room and for visitor accommodations.

ROOM, RENT & EXPENSES:
Unfurnished (but we could provide shelving and/or a bed upon request) 14’x8-½’ and a closet with a south facing window. A wonderful blank slate!
Monthly cost: $950 (includes utilities!)
Move in cost (1st and last month’s rent): $1900
Couples are welcome, see question below.
RESTRICTIONS: Pets are negotiable, no smoking indoors.

Please complete this form

 

Dream Alliance

One way to think about community is as an antidote to the problems of contemporary society. A strong case can be made that deep sharing mitigates most climate disruption contributors. We see that highly intentional community helps heal some people’s mental health challenges. But the real allure of community is something larger.

If we look at living together and sharing our lives as a long lever for creating culture, then isn’t it possible to design a community in which the members become well harmonized and deeply mutually supportive? Community asks the question “How might we come up with a way to live together in which amazing, healing and transformative things are accessible to the people who live this way? How could we develop a set of rituals and communication patterns which helps members of these communities manifest their dreams? And if this is possible, what do we know about these types of successful cultures already so we can experiment with them?”

One of the things we know for sure is we can not be supportive without being communicative. And the more we can trust, the more we can share what we find to be true, the more profound our ability to advise and ally with people.

Cambia is reviewing how we dream and vision. The community is small and reforming and old traditions are being reconsidered by new members as well as founders with new eyes. For me the piece of greatest interest is the exploration and manifestation of personal dreams. I believe this is a rich place for meme craft and hopefully deep personal satisfaction.

We are tinkering with the parameters of a dream alliance. The basic idea is simple, I tell you my dream and invite you to support it and then we switch roles. If you don’t have a dream, or it feels incompletely formulated (“i want more music in my life”) then your ally will guide you through an exploration to help refine and define it more.

If your dream is ambitious (“we need to deconstruct industrial capitalism”), your dream ally might help you identify the next piece (“let’s start a worker coop”). If your dream is sprawling (“i want to get people to think!”), then perhaps your ally makes you look on a focused part (“let’s start an inspiring book club”).

But more important than suggestions from your ally is a willingness to help manifest. “I would cook and drive for a local Food Not Bombs chapter, if that was your calling” or “You need to stop Trump, I will go door to door with you before the next election”. Or perhaps simple logistics “I’ll watch your kid while you meditate/exercise.”

I was excited about this thinking and I brought this rough idea to the Thursday night book club at Cambia. We are reading Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible”, one chapter each week and talking about it. And after my enthusiastic description of dream alliances, Craig was uninspired. “I am not excited about exploring people’s individualistic dreams, what would make this interesting to me is if we were seeking and building our shared dream.”

This is consistent with Eisenstein’s thinking. That we need to move past dualism and find a new story which connects everything. Craig gets this, which is why he has been pushing this book, and the concept of InterBeing. InterBeing, as close as I can tell, is a sort of secular enlightenment, where you feel and react from a place of being connected with everything and seeking some type of harmony with it all.

I don’t get it. I am a dualist. This is slightly challenging to the book group I think. Perhaps it is a bit like having a libertarian in your anarchist discussion groups. You are all talking about getting rid of government, but are way out of line when it comes to what happens next.

And even though I don’t quite get it around Interbeing, Craig’s challenge feels like a friendly amendment. There is something very powerful about seeking our shared dream together. The alliance is richer, when it is our dream instead of you supporting mine in exchange for me supporting yours.

And I am again grateful for Cambia which thinks these are the questions we should be pondering and energy well spent exploring and cultures worthy of our efforts to design them. I think a carefully constructed dream alliance could be super memetic. And that is my personal holy grail.

NYE – Sorry, you can’t come

There were three different parties last night as warm ups to tonight’s New Years Eve event at Twin Oaks.

  • Acorn’s Annual New Years Eve Eve
  • Cambia’s “Quite Party” and hot tub
  • Christian’s Going Away Party in the Compost Cafe

Acorn had a small sober party with a new puppet show by Purl and live music by Acorn artists.  There was a vast cash of cookies from a members prolific mom.

puppet controls man over moon

Just as i was driving the last (but early) shuttle away from Acorn a minivan full of Oakers showed up and tilted the party just the right way.

Because Acorn did not want to be over run by all the unknown (to them) guests who are already here for the Twin Oaks New Years Party, they understandably asked that their New Year’s Eve Eve guests be folks who had been there before.  But this left us with the high class problem of needing another “open” party for all the lovely guests who are already here.

Cambia stepped into the breach.  Since many of these unknown (to Acorn) guests were Craftees from Tufts who were already staying at Cambia or Simple House, it made sense to have the party here.  There are a dozen Craft House affiliated folks coming to these events.  If you are wondering why all these students and ex-students,  the current manifestation of the feeder school strategy.

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i slept in Tracy Chapman’s closet at Craft House

Three Generations of Feeder Schools:  The idea is over a decade old, but we never have been able to pull it off with any longevity.  The idea was to find a cool school, a college or university, where clever progressive students  were already enthused about students coop  communes and select this option over corporate America, because it was more fun and lively, despite the terrible pay.

It started with GPaul who was at Saint Mary’s and excited about the communes.  Over time 3 other St Mary’s grads became members of Acorn or Twin Oaks.  But then we sort of lost contact with the school.

We then did an infamous TOAST gig at McDonough prep.  Three different members/interns came out of this visit, all of whom happen to be here for this New Years Eve party.

danile tofu dress.jpg

McDonough Grad and NYE costume model – Daniel.

We deepened our relationship with the Craftees this fall by attending the Honk Festival largely with them.  It was then we started lobbying the Craftees to come to New Years.  I thought “Let’s add a bunch of young, sexy, colorful, non-conforming, high energy, artists and musicians into your party mix” – What could go wrong?

The last party I attended last night was Christian’s going away party in the Compost Cafe.  This is a tiny smoking lounge off the main courtyard at Twin Oaks.  The space is so small that 6 people can barely dance in it and we have well over that at points.  This was a loud, excited party, with Christian spinning his favorite classic tunes and lots of singing, not all of it on key. 

My room is filled with most lovely guests, now after too long, but too lovely a day, i will go find a suitable couch.

Below is the program to the most elaborate New Years Eve system of parties we have ever attempted.  Don’t ask if you can come, you can’t.  If you were not already planning on attending, this is not your year.

NYEE & NYE Celebrations – A cross-community NYE project

December 29th

7 to 9 PM Transparency Games – TCLR at Twin Oaks – This is a facilitated collection of exercises which are designed to help people reveal more about themselves, build empathy and trust with others in the group.  These games are simple like “if you really knew me _______” and “i have a story about you” and participants are always at choice about being involved.

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10 PM meet at Cambia –  Applied Dumpster Diving Workshop:  Maximus will lead a group of intrepid dumpster divers to Short Pump and the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods dumpster. Dumpster techniques will be critiqued on a 28.6 point scale. (extra points for creativity).

December 30th

2 to 4 PM at Acorn – Regenerative Agriculture Workshop:  Rachel from East Brook Community Farm will present on ECBF’s efforts to repair soil and reverse climate change.  To rebuild soil takes more than simply avoiding pesticides.  Presentation and questions and answer.  Acorn asks that people attending this workshop either be FEC affiliated or have an Acorn host.

4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop:  The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties.  This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe.  Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.

5 to 7 PM at Cambia – Video Editing for the Revolution:  Maximus from Cambia will facilitate a discussion and presentation of community-focused video making and distribution.  How to edit videos effectively and inexpensively.  Making a youtube channel boosting its popularity.

Dinner at Cambia 7 to 8 PM – a big meal in a little place.  Dumpster and donated food expertly prepared will feed as many people as show up.

8 PM to whenever at Acorn – New Years Eve Eve party at Acorn:  If you really want to enjoy the New Years Eve party you need to pre-game for it by staying up late the night before at a different lovely event and then sleeping in the next day.  [The TO NYE party goes unusually late for the communes].  Acorn throws a New Years Eve Eve sober party which has all the kick of significant festivity without the alcohol.  Come enjoy live music, puppet theater, dancing and more with the anarchists from Acorn.   If you have never been to Acorn before you are encouraged to go to the quiet party at Cambia instead.

8 PM til whenever – Quiet Party at Cambia:  Cambia is hosting a number of people who are new to the area and some long experienced folks as well.  But don’t confuse “quiet” party with not fun.  Cambia has been the host for numerous interesting and enjoyable events.  Stories, party games, and other kid friendly activities will go late into the night.

December 31st

10:00  to noon at Appletree at Twin Oaks –  Canadian EcoVillages

Jacob is from Manitoba and started the EcoVillages.CA website, newsletter and network. He has been involved with Myriad Village in Manitoba and has toured extensively examining sustainable intentional community solutions and has presented an EcoVillages 101 workshop in various places.  This will be a more advanced workshop, looking at sustainability successes and obstacles, especially in Canada.

10-:30 – noon Bijou at Twin Oaks – The Last Day Singing Soirree facilitated by Cleo & Craig in the Bijou

Let’s get our voices hearts and minds in tune and in rhythm for the New Year! Craig and Cleo will lead songs about cycles and seasons, beginnings and endings, changing and returning. This is an inclusive vocal convergence. If you’ve got a song to share in this spirit, come ready to lead it.

1 -3 PM TCLR at Twin Oaks – Foolery Presentation

Spot (X Acorn, X Woodfolk) is a multiple who practices and shares comic arts often with a political twist.  This Foolery workshop has an emphasis on Fetch u, personification, paradox and paraphilia.  This workshops starts with presentation and then moves to question and answer.

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Who is fooling around?

1 -3 pm Bijou at Twin Oaks – Co-Authoring a More Beautiful World, with the Imaginarium Consort

This workshop will be a brief yet memorable foray into the art and science of co-authoring our lives. With stimulating prompts, queries, conversational interludes and communal reveries we’ll exercise our higher callings. By boldly expressing our aspirations we’ll build alliances and generate the courage needed to bring forth a more beautiful world in 2018.

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The Imaginarium Consortium is a group of activists and gadflies drawn from four central VA communities. We’ve been meeting weekly for 3 months to discuss Charles Eisenstein‘s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.This workshop is an expression of insights and inspirations we’ve gained thru our reading and conversations.

1 to 4 at Modern Times at Twin Oaks – Art Bike Workshop:  Converting broken bikes into something fun and beautiful.  Kunle from Boston has created dozens of art bikes and will facilitate this workshop.  Come and stay for any amount of time and create something beautiful or bizarre.

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I understand Kunle’s art bikes are even more outrageous

4 to 6 PM at Cambia – The Future of Urban Communes:  There are Point A influenced communities which have started in DC and Queens.  How do we support these new entities and where does the effort to bring income sharing to east coast cities look next?  Baltimore? Boston?  Philly?  Folks from the Point A Circus will wrangle an engaged discussion about how to move forward.

4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop: This workshop is a repeat of the one the day before.  The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties.  This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe.  Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.

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high temperature warning

6 PM at ZK dining hall –  Full Circle Community Intro:  A forming new income sharing community committed to elder care adjacent to Twin Oaks?  This is more than a dream a few of us have had, this is increasingly becoming a reality and if this is a project you are interested in or want to join, come and talk with Corb and Aurora over dinner. Participants will be encouraged to share their visions of building a Full Circle Community

6 – 7 PM at ZK dining hall – Angel Training

So you want to be an Angel?  Angel’s make sure everyone is comfortable and happy at the party.  Angels wear wing arm bands, when they are on duty.  Angels work as a network and take care of three types of problems.  1) A party goer is having a bad time and need to talk to someone and perhaps chill. 2) There is an altercation and the Angel may separate people or take someone out of the party space.  3) There is an emergency which requires driving.  If you can do anyone of these three tasks for some part of the party, come and get oriented and get your wings.  Angel work is labor creditable.

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Angels move the problems of the party

8PM in Temple of Oracles (Tupelo upstairs North Wing): Ritual casting Sacred Space. In this ritual we’ll set intentions for what we hope the party will bring us and will cast sacred space and grounding energy for the party. Open to all who like ritual, singing and being intentional.

8:30pm until late: Temple of Oracles (upstairs North Wing)

The intention of this space is to foster self-exploration, and create a quiet space for reflection (in the bustle of the Twin Oaks New Year’s Party) where anyone can consult the oracle, formulate a question and get external mirrors that help clarify feelings, thoughts, fears, resistances, hopes, dreams, intentions and future plans.

 

8 PM until whenever at Tupelo at Twin Oaks- New Years Eve Party at Twin Oaks:  With a bit of luck this party will change your life.  Perhaps it will be at the kissing workshop or connecting with someone new in the cuddle loft.  Perhaps you will be transported by the music of our talented DJs or the live shows in the Music Room.  Including puppet shows at 8:30 and Handpan.  \  Perhaps the theme and decorations will teleport you to exactly where you need to go.  You might finally get to express yourself at the 2 AM burlesque show.  Or the Infinity Room will allow you to see yourself in the midst of all things.  All manner of experiences and exotic treats await you at one of the reliably best parties of the year.

 

Kissing Workshop – Cuddle Loft 11 PM?  Janel will facilitate this tutorial on technique.  Bring a partner on not and lower your inhibitions.  And this is a high consent space, so no surprises

Burlesque Review – 2AM main dance floor – Belladonna will MC a burlesque review.  Party participants are strongly encourages to don their sexy undies and be prepared to strut and shout.  If you are interested just come and if you want couching or more info find Belladonna at dinner at ZK on the 31st

Open Mic – We are blessed at this event with a number of folks who live or have lived at Crafts House which is connected to Tufts University outside Boston.  Crafts House manages a free art space on campus and is rich with artists and performers.  They will run the Open Mic in the Music Room, beside the Infinity Room

January 1st

Whenever you can make it after the party.  At Tupelo – Clean Up:  Start the new year putting back together the residence which hosted the previous night’s bash.  Don’t worry that you don’t know the place or where anything goes.  Helpful Oakers will direct you and make you feel useful and righteous for having returned to normal the house which was converted temporarily into a most fantastic space.

 

Brunch:  at the ZK dining Hall at Twin Oaks [Time not confirmed]

 

1pm Closing ritual in temple of oracles (tupelo north wing -upstairs). We’ll ceremoniously close the circle, reflecting on our gifts and lessons. Then we’ll devoke and clean up.

 

2 PM to 4 PM at Acorn – Can pirate radio save the world?  Come explore the limits of internet media and radical propaganda.  Belladonna Took is the host of What would save the World? on Radio Free Brooklyn.  How to operate a radical radio show without a budget.  How to promote your podcasts and land interesting interviews.  What are the limits and possibilities of pirate radio.  A lively and interactive conversation.

 

4 to 6 PM at ZK dining hall at Twin Oaks – Funological Review:  What makes a good party?  What could we do differently in the future to make it be a better party?  What aspects were pulled off well and what got forgotten or underworked?  Did it change people’s lives?  Did people fall in love or decide to quit Babylon?  Come review the event and help figure out how to build the better party.

 

7 to 9 PM at Cambia or perhaps in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Crafts House Performance:  The gifted and talented kids from Crafts House at Tufts will do an edge exotic theater piece for the delight and thought-provoking amusement of the local communards.

 

January 2nd

 

10 AM to noon in ZK at Twin Oaks – The Future of Commune Life Blog:  This prolific blog has been running for over a year, producing 3 blog posts a week of visual and written works from all the FEC communities.  Who are the new writers and editors for this potentially potent piece of digital media.

 

1 to 3 PM at Cambia – East Brook Community Farm:  The newest FEC community in dialog is expanding its membership and its successful CSA business.  Come learn about this new rural commune and opportunities for working there this spring (and beyond).

 

 

 

 

Bye for noo, Milo

Milo MacTavish has gone to the other side.  He was an extraordinary man.

 

milo

Milo at the Pizza Stone in Vermont circa 2017

Over the life of this blog, I have written about him several times.  About his work as a wandering electrician and his taste or highland Scotch whiskey.  He was part of the crew which started the Karass Inn.  And there are several tales we are not allowed to tell about this old friend.

What is well known about him is that he helped out the communities movement a whole bunch in a number of places.   I worked occasionally as his travel agent, getting him from worthy project to ambitious startup.  He went to Missouri, Colorado, Virginia, Vermont and New York on his nomadic crafts person adventure.  Never by plane, mostly by train.  He preferred to do things right, but he could always work within the budgets of these sometimes struggling entities. This versatility was a big part of why he was so valuable.  All he would ask for, besides our regular room and board was Scotch whiskey.

 

Dalmor Whisky

Milo favorite and clan brand

As important as his work was, Milo will be remembered for his slightly larger than life character.  He was a wild card – “a disrupter” long before that term was popular.  Cantankerous and boisterous, he always had a story (often of Kenya where he came of age or Her Majesties Merchant Navy) and time to listen to yours.   He was also an excellent teacher and shared his skills with numerous communards, some of whom required a fair bit of patience to train.   He was a hard-partying, proud pagan.  Milo had loud opinions about many a thing and had no fear in telling you how uninformed you were on almost any subject where he knew more than you, which was likely most topics.

Milo was a missionary.  He rescued a failing health food coop in Norfolk and managed it with his then-wife Susan.  They ran it together for 5 years.  He canvassed for the Rain Forest Action Network and CalPIRG.  He even worked with the Dolfin Research Lab in Florida.   He had been a cop and occasionally on the other side of the law.   He complained loudly about what he called  “the 3 monos of the world”:  Monoculture, Monotheism, and Monogamy.

 

Milo and took

Milo and Belladonna at Acorn Circa 2014

Milo was often the life of the party.  And with his passing, some of that party is gone as well.

But Milo would not want us mourning his passing, he would want us to party harder.  There will be one this weekend (12/16) in Norfolk and next weekend (12/23) at the Pizza Stone in Chester, Vermont to remember him.  Contact me if you want more details on these events.

[Milo’s family of choice is trying to get in touch with Milo’s Scotish family to inform them of his passing.  If you have any leads on this, please contact me by email (paxus at twin oaks dot org) or comment on this blog post.]