Milo MacTavish has gone to the other side. He was an extraordinary man.
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.
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 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.]
At first glance, I am not much like my father. He was a professional man, dedicated to building his architectural firm, reliable, respectful, a liberal Democrat, faithful to his wife, a military officer and a patriot. He believed the system would deliver justice and fairness if we voted for the right political candidates. My father was concerned with appearance, dressed conscientiously and carefully. He would not go out on a business lunch with his secretary unescorted, not because he was worried something untoward might happen, but because others might think something was happening. [I, in contrast, started a romance with my father secretary and stole her away to the commune.]
But current events are turning me more into him that I might normally admit. I remember in the summer of 1973 my parents and brother went to Mexico on vacation. It was the height of the Watergate investigation and my father was riveted to the coverage. I remember he bought a radio so while the rest of us were running around on the beach he could listen intently to the scratchy radio station broadcasting the Senate hearings. He was especially excited about John Dean who betrayed the president and catalyzed his ultimate resignation. My father disliked Nixon with a rare passion.
It is a different time, but I find myself mimicking my old man. Willow, Hawina and I are currently in Cuba. But back in the US, the Trump/Russia scandal is unraveling and every evening I am huddling around the internet listening to various new broadcasts drinking in every new nefarious detail. And perhaps my John Dean is Paul Manafort.
If you have not been following the Russia scandal closely you can be forgiven for not knowing exactly who Paul Manafort is. He was the Trump Campaign manager from March of 2016 until he was fired as his deep connections to the Russians were revealed, in Aug 2016. Manafort has a long colorful history of helping increasingly dangerous politicians. Two years after law school he worked on the “re-election” campaign for unelected US president Gerald Ford. Manafort received about $1 million for lobbying for Congo’s kleptocrat and brutal dictator Mobutu. He got another cool million image crafting for Ferdinand Marcos, the brutal dictator of the Philipines. The secret ledger recovered after the overthrow of the treasonous Ukrainian president, Yanukovych show Manafort was paid $12.7 million for his work helping elect the pro-Russia president. Hacked text messages between Manaforts adult daughters discussing their father include gems like:
- “Don’t fool yourself, that money we have is blood money.”
- “You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly,”
- “He is a sick fucking tyrant, and we keep showing up and dancing for him and eating the lobster. Nothing changes.”
Manafort, who is young looking 68, came out of retirement to work for Trump. He “had no relationship with Trump” before the election. In his 5 page application to Trump, he played down his brilliant work with autocrats and instead hyped three things which apparently won job or him:
- He was willing to work for free
- He lives in Trump Tower in NYC
- He was a Washington outsider and an enemy of Karl Rove
But was he really working for free? Between 2006 and at least 2009, Manafort was paid secretly $10 million each year by Ukrainian aluminum magnate on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government”. Manafort took cryptic notes during the infamous July 9th meeting with Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner and several Russians offering damaging intel on Hillary Clinton. These notes referred to the RNC and political contributions from the Russians. If this turns out to have happened, it is treason.
Less exciting than treason is tax fraud. Manafort is reported to have received $60 million in loans, through shady banks in Cyprus and sketchy domestic connections. Manafort has been told he will be indicted. Mueller has brought in the special IRS Criminal Investigation Unit (IRS-CI), which seems to mean he has evidence of at least tax fraud, likely of Manafort, possibly Trump himself.
The question still stands, will Mueller to get Manafort to sing? Meaning will he testify against the president in exchange for Mueller getting the testimony he needs to indite Trump. If Manafort is willing to betray Trump to save himself, it may well mean he, like John Dean before him, brings down the president.
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.
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).
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.]
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.
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.
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:
- Parenting in Community – It takes a Village
- Negligent Parenting Magazine
- Wrong from word 2 – Yahoo Parenting discovers the Commune
- Utopia Child Rearing – by Keenan (not Keegan)
- Momentarily Viral – Don’t Read the Comments (on Yahoo Parenting article)
- Being a “Yes”
This is a rich topic. Your comments are welcome.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.