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From Havana with Love

 

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The taxi is older than me

 

 

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local super heroine

 

 

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Essence micro museum

 

 

 

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Hawina, statue, and kitten

 

 

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Saxophone Statue 

 

 

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Essence Shop/Micro museum

 

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Cuba shares the US’s dark history of racism

 

 

 

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No wonder you can never get it untangled

 

 

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Too hot to handle

 

 

 

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Camera Obscura (inside)

 

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Camera Obscura (outside) – Da Vinci lives

 

Hawina’s Birthday

If you live in community for a while, traditions form around you.  And so it is with Hawina’s birthday.  Part of the evenings festivities will be us singing the English translation of the Dutch birthday song.  This is a song that is only sung this way here, Hawina imported it herself by accident many years ago when someone asked for her tradition to be adapted to local culture.

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Werewolves is another birthday favorite game.  Some people call this game Mafia.  It is a good birthday game because it requires at least 8 people to play.  In our first pass, we had 15 people and Sky played god.  I was the first person killed.  I did not even get a chance to accuse anyone else before i was silenced.  I did not take it personally.  Hawina won (except the last towns person (new member Emily) was “the Hunter” role, who gets to kill one person as they die, and thus killed Hawina who was the last surviving werewolf – so no one won).

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Emily plays a mean guitar and ensures no one survives

In the second round of werewolves, i got killed in the first “evening” again!  Now i had to take it personally.  Hawina won again with Emily as her “lover” and they survived all the werewolves.  [If you are unfamiliar with this game there is an interesting and exhaustive article on wikipedia on it.]

 

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Hawina on Greek Island famous for Pistachios

Part of the power of collective living is that we get to create our own holidays and rituals. After nearly two decades of doing birthdays, Hawina has this one just where she wants it.

 

 

 

What she sees wrong with me

Sometimes our parents teach us how not to be who they are. My father’s father died when he was a boy. My father had to work hard all his life and grew up to be risk averse. He bought insurance, showed up early for almost everything, and was a highly disciplined and organized man. He was a captain of industry, the CEO of a firm which bore his name, and a real job creator. That ain’t me.

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L to R: Brother John, dad, myself, Jaz Tupelo.

The art of online dating is fundamentally about risk taking. It almost never works out, except when it does. Because I wanted to see the OK Cupid profiles for folks in a local poly group, I created a profile for myself (OKC will not let you review profiles unless you have one). But because I did such a terrible job with it a charitable friend offered to rewrite it for me – which lead to some curious situations, but that is another story.

I dutifully answered a few hundred questions and did some surveys that I found interesting and did some flirting, but nothing really came of it. I am the wrong demographic for this platform: too old, too male, maybe even too straight, who knows.

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I did at one point get a date with a gal who was a 99% match. This is quite rare for people who have not already lived in community. For the people who have lived in community, it is somewhat common to have very high matches. I was a bit excited. She wrote me that her and her boyfriend were in Virginia and he especially was interested in Twin Oaks and asked if they could stop by. A first date with her existing boyfriend seemed perfect to me.

Some might find this odd, but I have been on very few dates in my life. I’ve had more than my share of wonderful romantic experiences, but they almost all started at protest actions or festivals or conferences or the comfortably relaxed environment of the communities. Dating was a bit scary to me.

So having the boyfriend along set the parameter clearly. We were not going to end up in bed together at the end of the evening, unless there was some really amazing chemistry.   His interest in the communities gave us lots of things to talk about and we would get to know each other in a relaxed way. Them coming to the commune meant I did not have to organize travel or go anywhere and deal with bar or café scene, and could avoid spending money which was also nice.

They arrived at Morningstar and we spoke for a while, and they seemed nice enough. She was an unemployed opera singer, he did geeky things with software, they were from the NYC metro area, and I thought at first there might be a Point A connection.

But as the evening wore on it became increasingly clear that there would be no chemistry. She valued completely different things than I do. When we talked about how we made life choices I found myself repulsed by what she had chosen; she likely found my decisions equally problematic. I could ramble off a list of the things that I found problematic about her personally, but it is perhaps more useful to list the things she probably thought of me:

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Romantic Imbalance

Disconnected from the real world, not creating a secure financial future, not building a resume, sloppy, disorganized, reckless, over extended, unfocused, insufficiently respectful of existing power structures and institutions, uncultured, dirty, and self possessed.

“But what about the 99% match?” I kept asking myself. “How could we have done so well with the algorithm and be such a complete mismatch?” Then I figured it out. There are literally thousands of questions. If I only answered a few hundred and she answered very different ones than I, then we could have a high match by having very few overlaps and those being highly correlated by chance. I was pleased with my clear explanation of this slightly uncomfortable situation.

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“How many OK Cupid questions did you answer?” I asked to confirm my theory.

“All four thousand,” her boyfriend answered for her. So much for my clever theory.

And so it was with almost every OK Cupid experience I had. I hardly went on any more dates, but I chatted up a lot of folks and kept finding repeatedly that either I was too odd for them, or they were just not very appealing to me. I paid for the premium service for a few months to see if this would help, but I just got more people to be excited about (since it shows you who is interested in you) and none of them panned out. It seemed like the entire thing was a gigantic waste of time and emotional energy. All of online dating was a pointless exercise.

Except it wasn’t.

“I need to meet you,” she wrote me. She read my profile, was intrigued both by me and community life. Now we are together almost everyday, Gryphon, her charming daughter, Sappho, and her ex-husband Curt at Acorn. She was a 96% match. I never ever would have met her if it were not for OK Cupid. Our worlds had no overlap. And she has significantly changed my life.

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So when they tell you online dating is pointless, they are almost right but not quite. And that difference makes all the difference.

Commune Exports – Fatherhood

In the time of Trump, it is critical to seek high functioning alternatives to the mainstream culture.  Twin Oaks and the surrounding cluster of egalitarian communities could be a model for new behaviors of sharing technologies and cooperative culture.  But perhaps our most daring export, because many default culture citizens think they are expert in this, is how to be a father.

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Keegan and adder (sic) are two young fathers living in a rural income sharing egalitarian commune.  But if you are willing to listen, i think their advice might be applicable for your world as well.

Other articles about communes and families:

This is a rich topic.  Your comments are welcome.

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Willow behind me, before Women’s March (Pussy hat by Hawina)

Uninauguration- DC Jan 21st.

This is a repost of the CommuneLife blog.  Lot of great pictures of communards getting out and being part of what many are describing as the largest protest in the history of the country.   There is still lots to do, and we can celebrate that this event was a big gathering and an inspiring success.

Photos by Steve and GPaul of Compersia Folks from the DC and Virginia communes were very involved with the protests: Christian and Paxus of Twin Oaks appreciate PETA’s big fuzzy suits. Vegans GPaul of Compersia and Christian of Twin Oaks pose with PETA people. Paxus of Twin Oaks and GPaul of Compersia rest after the […]

Multi-colored “pussy hat” on Paxus was knit by Hawina, who was unable to attend, but wanted to be there in spirit.

 

via Uninauguration — commune life

Appreciations and Fist Bumps

I am constantly on the lookout for new transparency tools.  I have been ending the most recent transparency groups i facilitate with a simple popcorn of appreciations. Whoever felt moved would acknowledge someone else in the group for something they did or a way they are in the world that was appreciated.  This was fine, and occasionally compelling, elegant and simple.  And as a tool, it was a bit weak.

Kelly from the Point A DC group shared someone else’s appreciation tool at the recent retreat which i immediately snapped up because it is much more powerful.  In go round style, people said what it was that they wanted to be appreciated for.  This is a bit like a pointed “if you really knew me” where we get to learn a very specific and important thing about you: what it is that you feel under-recognized for that is none-the-less important to you.

It is a bit unclear where to go after this under-expressed appreciation is voiced.  Currently, i have someone in the group who feels like they can validate this appreciation in their own words.  When i said i wanted to be appreciated for my sloppy and unreliable organizing style, Hawina said “Minimal effort, maximum effect.  Yeah Paxus!” and pumped her fist.  It was perfect.

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Hawina – Circa 2013

But the commune affords other unprompted appreciations.  I do a weekly tofu trays shift. You get dressed up for this work – boots, apron, gloves with liners, ear protection, hair nets.  In the winter months this is cold, wet, heavy, loud, rushed, non-stop physical work for 3 plus hours (i get that compared with many jobs in the mainstream a single 3 hour weekly shift would seem like a breeze, but we are spoiled).   I do this work year round, regardless of my membership status.

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I was coming into my trays shift recently and new member David was finishing up in his similar protective garb.  He explained to me that the curds were wet and needed to sit longer and drain to make the proper weights.  And then he started to walk away towards the clothes changing space.  Then he turned around and came back and said,

“Hey, i appreciate that you do this unpleasant trays work even when you don’t live here.”

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And then he put out his glove in a fist and i bumped it.  I don’t think i have ever done a fist bump like that before.  As in “we are all part of the same team, making it happen together.”  And it really hit me.

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David and his new favorite cow

Fun Tables: Normal and Super

Living in community is often about zoning.  We ask people not to talk about work on the steam table line in our dining hall.  We ask people not to be topless in places where local people are likely to come by.  We restrict 18 wheel trucks to the industrial park portion of the community.  We have a building that the visitors live in while they are checking out the community.  Smoking is significantly restricted in location.  There are only certain places in the community where you can smoke cigarettes.

And at meals we have “fun tables“.  There are two large tables, one inside and the other outside, which are designated as “fun tables”.  Oh, fun happens in all kinds of places, but they have this name because we have agreements about what happens at them.  Specifically:

  • You can always sit a fun table
  • If there is no room, we will make room
  • No meetings or private conversations
  • No talking about work
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Pass the salt, please.

Willow is often the fun police.  If you start talking about work, he will call you out, sometimes by honking at you.  Some people try to get away with talking about work at the fun table by talking about it in funny accents.  Willow is rarely fooled by this ploy.

Times change, cultures evolve.  We have added the Staedtl, which is a collection of couches and comfy chairs which face each other.  You don’t have to ask to sit in this area and the conversations are an uncontrolled mix of private, public and somewhere in between.  Work is fair game and the fun police are not welcome.

We also have “super fun” tables.  These have the same rules are a normal fun table, except you can talk about work if you like, no need for silly accents.

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a quiet moment at a super fun table