My brother very generously gave the communes two dozen free tickets and back stage passes to his show last night in Cville. The Acorners and Oakers loved it. Some attendees were repeat offenders from last years show.
The band played it’s only platinum album Flood, for most of the show. And on this album is the song Hot Cha, which is the most clearly-about-me song my brother has written. The lyrics of Hot Cha were written (i believe) in response to my disappearance from contact with my parents for much of 1982. My brother and i often played the game Derby Day when we were little and Hot Cha was horse number two and my favorite. Despite his claims otherwise, i am clear that this song on the Flood album is about me.
The funny thing is that i told Mac that this song was about me just before the show and when it started playing she said “This is your song!”. But i did not really recognize it. At first this struck me as odd. Here is this song, written by my brother, on his most famous album, which is about me and i don’t even recognize it. That seems lame.
But really, i am not that big a fan of my brothers music (i do appreciate their theatrics) and it turns out that i dont know most of this album. And he does not know my stuff, so it seemed fair that i might not be paying super careful attention to this critical media.
Before the show we bumped into Olivia in front of the Jefferson Theater with her TMBG t-shirt on, excited about the show – i had never met Olivia before this evening. The conversation turned to the point where i admitted that my brother was in the band and Olivia said “You must be Pax”, which is i think the first time that someone has identified me by name for this connection. I was so excited i gave her one of our back stage passes.
When the show was over, we went thru the strange underground tunnels that lead to where the bands relax. The woman in the wheel chair from Louisa who i had worked on a local campaign with me, who i donated tickets to, could not come with us to the back stage party, which made me sad.
As is often the case, my brother was gregarious and generous. The commune hippies descended like locust on the food and drink in the back stage area. When we left half an hour later it was all but gone. We talked a bit about his coming tour to Australia, about angry audience vibe in Cville and other places. I also reminded him that he was completely right in his political forecast about Obama’s re-election. In May of 2012 he had forecasted “people will be surprised how much he wins by”. When i congratulated him on this forecast he was both dismissive (“could the Republicans have chosen a worse candidate?)” and quick to follow up with a new forecast for the coming two years.
“The Republican Party has opened a Pandora’s box of troubles which will ultimately tear the party apart. The Tea Party and other wingnuts will crash it within two years.” I am doubtful, but i thought Obama was going to be much closer than he was, so i will suspend disbelief.
He talked about his work to stop fracking, his insights into NY Governor Cuomo’s completely political nature (“he has no moral compass.” John said) and the unexpected popularity of their coming Australia trip.
Having evaporated the food, my crew left the green room of the Jefferson theater without Olivia, who lingered behind in the place she always wanted to be.
Since there seems to be a bunch of TMBG fan traffic to this post, i should perhaps go more into detail about my contention that this song was written about me, since there is at least some dispute about it. The song refers to the first time Hot Cha went away a float island was his home. A pretty clear reference to the time i spent hitching on sailboats across the Pacific.
In the original Hot Cha video (which seems now to have been pulled from You Tube) i am told there was a phone with “PAX” on the center of the rotary dial.
My brother certainly feels some affinity for the prodigal son story in light of my disappearance and we did eat fondue together when we were growing up, which is a bit of an odd food choice.
Okay, enuf parasiting off my brothers fame, on to other adventures.
i went with Abigail and her friends to see Wanderlust last night and really enjoyed it. Mostly because the film was pretty funny, but at least partly because it is an excellent parody of the culture i hail from. Someone had done a bunch of research on US communes from the late 60s and early 70s or they have lived at one.
One of the parodies was about doors. The bedroom that Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd end up in have no door. The charismatic leader explains that doors separate people and they want to create a more connected culture, it “interrupts the natural flow”. While we never did this with doors to peoples individual rooms, it was certainly the case that there were some toilets which were not hidden away in stalls in the bathrooms in the community when i arrived. Mostly these have gotten covered up with curtains, but there once was definitely the idea/belief that we wanted to move people away from the shame of naked bodies.
The movie ends with Rudd closing the door to his “small and expensive” apartment, symbolic of creating the space and privacy which he needs.
It would be way too much to ask such a film to have the heroes decide to stay on the commune. The fact that one of them had gotten to the place of loving it and wanting to stay was slightly rewarding for me as a recruiter to a commune. We actually had a couple who just graduated from Dartmouth come and live at Twin Oaks for a while and when he was ready to leave and pursue law school, she decided that she wanted to stay and enjoy the “good life”.
i am inspired to go thru some of the key points from this parody which need to be reclaimed.
Sharing: One amusing scene in the film is when one communard asks the city folx to borrow their car “because we share everything here” and then puts the car in the middle of the lake. I have written often about sharing systems and how this is what the communities movement should be exporting to the mainstream. As we would expect from a Hollywood film, they get the stuff about sharing completely wrong. It is exactly these types of failures that we have designed our sharing systems to avoid.
Truth Circle: One of the more interesting scenes is where the city types are invited to a truth circle in which they are pushed and heckled, but ultimately both say things of significance which were being withheld. This mimics our transparency group work (and lots of mainstream folx personal growth work, communes have no monopoly on these techniques). But as happened with some regularity in the film, while the commune culture was being parodied, it was also pointing out how it addresses and heals the failures of the mainstream culture. At the point where Aniston’s character somewhat dramatically reveals her inner feelings the commune charismatic leader says “Linda i think you have just met Linda.” This is exactly what we do on a good day.
Free Love: No movie about communes would be complete without the promiscuous sex theme. This was actually handled better than i had guessed it might be, with Jennifer Aniston pleading with her partner to go have sex with someone else after she had sex with the communes charismatic leader, so that they would be balanced. The sloppy agreements they made around their forays outside of monogamy were certainly reminiscent of many enthusiastic newbies trying to figure this complex stuff out. And while sexually permissive subcultures make great fodder for comic scenes, my take is that the real discussions around open relationships (at least my commune) are deeper, more complex and far better thought out.
Drugs: Another classic commune stereotype is that most of the members are drug crazed or addled. The scene where George is asked by Linda “Are you stoned?” makes for an amusing moment in the film, but does little to recognize that early in the list of causalities in the communities movement were the places where people sat around and got high all day. Turns out that the accounting does not work when everyone is high and these places crumble and fall apart like tumble weeds.
Sneaking away for Steaks: One scene shows the founder of the commune with Aniston at a diner where they have run from the communes vegan diet to get some real food – specifically steak. There are certainly some vegetarian and vegan intentional communities out there (especially on the spiritual side). But far more use the “embrace diversity” platform, in which they do not dictate food choices to their members. This is not to say that meat lovers are fully satisfied at Twin Oaks, and they are not shamed about their choices either. I always appreciated the Acorn approach where excellent vegan food was regularly served, making it easy for people to believe that if the food was this good, they could have this unusual and healthy diet choice.
Twinkling: One of the perfect parodies in the film is around communards rubbing their fingers together to express approval, rather than noisier clapping. This is actually not directly a parody of the commune culture, but rather consensus culture, where twinkling (wiggling you palms forward hands) is a silent expression of approval. It is part of a collection of hand signs, which are useful for both facilitators and other members of the decision making process. An example of another case where the film pokes fun at something which is done in the counter culture in a way which is superior to the mainstream, information-thin manner.
Drinking the Kool Aid: When the films heroes realize that the commune is the wrong life for them, Rudd says to Aniston that he “drank the Kool Aid and then made some more.” Wikipedia tells me, that “drinking the Kool-Aid” means that i am unquestioningly buying into someone else’s ideology, without critical examination. A reference to the Jonestown cult mass suicide/murder in 1978. It is here i feel the most animated. The life in the commune that is depicted in the film is largely sustainable, crime free, largely fair and colorful (like my commune). The urban life the films heroes retreat to is on a collision course with climate change and peak oil, crime pained, abrasively stratified and grey washed. If you ask me who has drunk the mind altering hypnotic drug, my response is most clear.