The pandemic disrupted my life a bunch. I was on leave from Twin Oaks and when the commune locked down, i had the choice to be in or out. Because Jade, who was not an Oaker, could not join me, we decided to leave Virginia and by summer of 2020 we were settled in Springfield Missouri hosted by the lovely and talented Bliss and her tennis prodigy son, Solace.
Besides running the comic and poignant novelty textile company Lewd Linens, Bliss manages the Farmers Market of the Ozarks (FMO). As part of her management of this large market she needs to chat with vendors, collect fees, repulse anti-mask idiots and generally make sure things are running smoothly. This leaves her little time to monitor her own Lewd Linens booth at the market, so Jade and i stepped in and watched her booth on Saturday mornings.
Booth watching gave us time to practice balloon animal making, something Jade had been teaching herself by watching youtube videos. We gave balloons to kids at the market for donations. It was quite a hit and over the course of a Saturday morning we would often make $50 to $75 in donations from parents who were happy to have some small joy inducing present to give to their kids and because it was “pay what you like” everyone was a winner.
Fast forward to the 2020 elections, Jade and I joined the Flip team and worked in Maine to try to save Democracy from the Trump madness. Balloon making followed us and was incorporated into a number of political actions and our repertoire of balloon animals expanded. Jade taught the whole Flip Maine crew how to make balloon animals.
But it was really not until we got to New Jersey that the balloon animal business took off. The Collinswood farmers market was initially very reluctant to have us be part of it or even near it. It was pre-vaccine covid and the organizers were under tremendous pressure to do what ever they could to minimize risk. A couple of folks drawing crowds of kids at no gain to the market felt like a losing proposition.
So we located ourselves a bit far from the entrance to the market, around the corner towards the parking lot and connected to kids as they were heading towards or away from their parents cars. Business was good and by the end of the summer of 2021, we had moved ourselves to across the street from the entrance and owner Dave had warmed up to us, because we were bringing in kids who were excited about getting this week’s balloon. And in my version of the story, because we were donations, no one felt pressured to pay anything in particular making it accessible to all participants and we actually give away a fair few balloons for free.
Enter Filbert. Just before Thanksgiving 2021, we met Josh who “used to be in the balloon game”. He had held onto his large specialty pump for reasons which were a bit mysterious to him, but he sold it to us quite inexpensively. This changed everything. We call the pump Filbert (because that is the company that makes it, because it is a funny name and because it actually fills the balloon extremely effectively, with a single push, as contrasted with 14 pumps of our previous hand pump). For a team that prides itself on quick turn around (otherwise you end up with a line of impatient kids and frustrated parents) this was a breakthrough.
Spot often comes and juggles and sells buttons with us. The juggling draws onlookers, especially kids and the coat tree holds the colorful balloons making us easy to find. As business grew we started to bring inventory to Collinswood, typically making 40 units (mostly swords and flowers) the night before we arrived, always selling out within the first couple of hours, despite replacing it often as fast as we can pump and tie. As we had bigger crowds to handle, Jade’s mom, Maureen joined us. Maureen worked the line, got orders from kids who were waiting (what color balloon, what type of animal), she counted and sorted money in our donations basket and would bring water and cookies she made for us.
We have a collection of pitches we give to the parents “So if part of your balloon sword pops while you are still here at the market come back to us, we have the only free, while you wait, balloon repair service in New Jersey”. Alternatively, i say “If the balloon pops you might be tempted to explain Zen non-attachment to your 5 year old, or describe the ephemeral nature of all things. Don’t do that. Come get another balloon. We have a bunch of data on this, trust us, everyone is going to be happier this way”. We explain that we have the only warranted balloons in the state (likely the world) and if they pop we will replace or repair it for free and parents often laugh at this, but the kids always remember and we get perhaps half a dozen repairs most Saturday mornings.
And in our effort to reframe kids scary experience of balloons bursting we often say “When a balloon pops we tell people you should make a wish, but you should wish for something nicer than a balloon”
We do have quite an array of balloon colors and types. Typically we use 160 and 260 balloons (which are one and two inches in diameter and 60 inches long, respectively) and get a number of fancy colors including reflex gold and silver, which are popular blade colors for swords and neon pink which is often requested as flower pedals. In quantity, balloon prices vary from 7 to 10 cents. They are all biodegradable latex.
This last Saturday there was a street fair in Collingswood, which we walked to from the farmers market. We had lots of attention at both venues, we burned thru over 60 inventory items and spent much of the afternoon with no inventory and Filbert going full blast. Jade is modest about our take, but let me just say i have not been paid this well since is was a software development consultant 30 years ago. We’ve come a long way from the Ozarks.
“You want me to first build the tree houses and then design them?” Pilgrim said, but he was not surprised. It was just this type of impossible task he was good at. And thus i would often ask him for these things.
6 weeks later with the help of all manner of volunteers and Acorners there were 7 different tree houses in the Acorn backyard. Pilgrim was never shy of work, because he was so fast at so many things, he reveled in it. It defined him as someone who could get things done, including difficult things often with surprising haste.
Pilgrim came to Twin Oaks in the late aughts and we became fast friends. In his relatively short time at Twin Oaks he did many significant construction projects at several of our buildings. Basically single handedly he did a major overhaul of Degania, our principal education building. He tricked out various rooms, including his own, which had a Hawaiian theme and fancy stairs to the loft. Later, in a too-short visit, he taught us how to mud drywall in our hospice-style addition, as we marveled at his speed and patience with our technique.
It was not his handiness or speed he will be remembered for though. His name gave the biggest clue. He was a Pilgrim, he was traveling from place to place looking for the truth, his truth. A place that could accommodate him as the hard working, hard partying person he was. He lived in a bunch of communities and tried to start some in this search.
He lived at Twin Oaks for a while, but ultimately the rules and bureaucracy got him down. He moved to East Wind where he helped build the ambitious but ill fated Villages in the Sky festival project. East Wind’s more pioneering mindset and rugged living was closer to Pilgrim’s style. As Deborah (who founded East Wind and Acorn and lived at Twin Oaks for many years) was fond of saying “I know there are problems at East Wind; they are just problems I am better at managing than the ones at Twin Oaks.” Pilgrim’s hard partying style fit comfortably at East Wind, where his ability to repair buildings quickly elevated him to minor hero status. But he was not through searching.
Pilgrim wanted a place which would model sustainable living and while East Wind (like Twin Oaks) is dramatically more sustainable than almost any place in the US, Pilgrim was looking for more and went to Ecuador with a shipping container of tools and supplies in hopes of building a better world there. He learned a bit of Spanish, directed international crews of volunteers working on tropical gardens and other sustainability measures. But too many variables were out of his hands for this situation to work for him, he was dependent on land owners being generous, had to balance tricky visa situations, and was perpetually willing to do too much work for too little compensation.
He returned to the States, where a new possibility called. Pilgrim had a famous green thumb. In Florida where he spent a bunch of time, there were all manner of impressive gardens he had started and developed at family members’ houses. So when Colorado decided to legalize recreational marijuana he called me up and said he wanted to try again to start a community, with cannabis growing at the center and the US based Stardust project was born. Pilgrim chose the name.
Despite his significant skills and an impressive crop in the first season, there are way too many ways to fail at growing pot and we hit a bunch of them, including theft. Stardust collapsed and our ragtag collection of members scattered across the country, many returning to the communes from where we had drawn them.
Turns out i don’t have any pictures of Pilgrim, which is a bit ironic because i have a bunch that he took. He was a gifted photographer amongst his many other talents. But he was not interested in capturing images of himself, he was modest in this way.
I have clear memories of both sides of Pilgrim: the guy who got me to build a heavy fence with him in Savannah, faster than i think i have ever worked before, and the guy kicking back with a beer at the end of the long day, enjoying the music and conversation. He was only a part time workaholic, who understood that you needed to relax deeply to appreciate what the work brings. In the end, i fear those beers took Pilgrim from us too soon.
In an effort to travel cheaply, I skipped my last chance to see him in Florida this last Christmas. I will always regret not seeing him one last time. And now finally, after years of fixing, building and making things better this craftsman can take his well deserved break.
Before i met Cassandra i had already lost a bet because of her.
It was Acorn’s Land Day, perhaps 15 years back. Suwelo and i were talking when this young woman walked by and Suwelo said to me “i bet she is an air sign.” In a world in which you believe in astrology, this comment made perfect sense. The woman in question seemed to float by more than walk, aided by flowing garments and the perfect light breeze of the Acorn’s early spring Land Day. But in the world of probability, there was a 3 in 4 chance Suwelo was wrong and i said “i will take that bet.”
Then having made the bet, we had to find out, so we chased after her around Heartwood and Suwelo asked without prompting “What sign are you?” and then realized the question without prompting was presumptive and followed it up by saying “Don’t worry, i am harmless.” To which i reflexively replied. “I am not.”
Cassandra successfully backed the conversation up to something more civil. She got us to introduce ourselves and then she explained that she was in the region having returned from a long trip to India. A trip which would change her life forever in a tragic way.
When she did finally confess her astrological sign, it was Aquarius and i thought i had won the bet, because that was clearly a water sign. Again i was wrong. But the clumsy introduction won Suwelo not only the bet with me, but the attention of Cassandra and they were happily involved for many years after that, and i visited them in several residences in Cville.
Cassandra was unsure of her taken name because it felt too heavy and she could not live up to the embedded assumption that the person with it would have prophetic, if not tragic capacity. Suwelo and Cassandra stumbled for some days trying to find a name (i of course suggested a naming party, but that was not what she wanted). And finally in frustration Suwelo said “i am going to open the dictionary, point my finger blindly into it and we are going to choose the name closest to my finger.” He did. And he pointed at the name Cassandra in the dictionary. She let go of her concerns and embraced it.
Cassandra always wanted to live in community, and many of us wanted that to happen as well. She was an enchanting personality, funny, caring, and empathic. But in India she had contracted an illness she could not shake, nor i believe was it ever really properly diagnosed, which fatigued her in a way that prevented her from working quota (a requirement for these communes). We discussed several different approaches to the problem, but the nature of Twin Oaks and Acorn egalitarian policies made it impossible to swap disability payments for quota. I’ve rarely been so saddened at the ableist policy of my home communities.
Cassandra was a facilitator of lovely small gatherings. My path continued to cross with her’s from the organizing she did with the local poly group in Charlottesville. Mac and i attended a couple of these gatherings back when i was a dual member at Acorn. One thing we lose with her passing is her mastery of how to make people comfortable talking about intimate things. In her more artful way she was gifted in inspiring participants into informal transparency games.
Cassandra also looked at my OKCupid profile and started to tell me all the things that were wrong with it. I realized that i had done it poorly and she offered to help fix it, including answering questions for me to filter out non-poly people from finding high matches with me. Unsurprisingly, after she answered a bunch of questions for me hers and my profiles matched much better.
Cassandra was easy to love and taken from us too soon. She died quietly, in the company of her new husband Randell and old friends from Acorn, Flame and Raven. Thus in essence with the community she always sought.
Cassandra saw a world of people living in harmony in community. She saw and crafted intimate groups taking care of each other in mundane and profound ways. She saw something possible and beautiful. But most people did not believe her, perhaps fulfilling her legendary name. It’s now up to the rest of us to continue her work and dreams.
When the nation was exploding in protests over the murder of George Floyd, some skeptics, perhaps tired of the nations inability to hold Trump for any of his many crimes, said “these protests won’t change anything”. They were wrong.
Viewers of mainstream news could be forgiven for thinking the big effects were removal of confederate statues and the confederate symbol from the flag of Mississippi and NASCAR races. And i fear the biggest effect of the Trump presidency is that many news sources now focus more on telling us what we will get upset about, rather than what is actually important.
However this short list misses most critical reforms and changes, many of which took place shortly after Floyd was murdered. Some terrible laws were cancelled, including A 50 in New York which protected criminal bad cops by hiding their disciplinary records and complaints filed against them. Colorado stripped cops of qualified immunity. LA cut over $150 million from the police budget and redirected it to other community services. Over a dozen police chiefs were forced to resign, including in large cities like Atlanta, Tucson, Richmond and Louisville. Police chiefs almost never resign suddenly or are fired. Letitia James, the Attorney General of NY State made history by being the first AG to sue their own police department for use of excessive force. At one point, i started to track all the things which had actually changed because of this uprising, it ended up being overwhelming by it and i quit.
The communes also changed. There were disruptive internal protests at these intentional communities about systemic racism and there was a lot of education of white communards about how despite their best intentions they were maintaining racist systems. And in part because of these internal protests POC members of communes started more seriously considering options which had only been discussed before. Importantly, a number of BIPOC community members realized there was a need for a BIPOC led income sharing community near the cluster of communes in Louisa county. And so Serenity Community was born.
While Serenity (taken for the name for the starship in the Firefly TV series) is still forming, it is already making good things happen. One of the things we are especially excited about is that Serenity has taken on the difficult task of dispersing scholarship (discount) tickets for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks who need economic assistance to come to QuinkFair. Recently, has also agreed to take on the granting of scholarship tickets to other economically disadvantaged participants.
And while they have been actively dispersing scholarship tickets, there are still more people who want to come to this event than can afford it. If you could help grow these scholarship funds it would be quite helpful. If you are on Facebook, you can donate at this fundraiser or you can venmo 541-505-0803, be sure to include a note “QuinkFair Scholarships”
George Floyds death forced America to admit it had a systemic racism problem and while these important changes are to be lauded, we know the real work lies in front of us, but i am glad and excited to have the talented and energetic Serenity folks help in crafting a more fair and equitable world.
I learned a lot of things from Coyote, one of the first things i learned from him was about death. In 2001, a few years after i had moved to Twin Oaks, a long time member Kana died. Coyote said an insightful thing about him. “When someone like Kana dies, you have to become stronger – because they leave the kind of hole in you that you can only fill with yourself.” Today i find that i have to be stronger for Coyote is irreplaceable to me.
But were he consulted, he would choose a different story to be remembered by, one i heard him tell with relish a number of times.
In the summer of 1982, a handful of armed FBI agents arrived at a cabin door in Indiana.
“Are you John Steven Fawley?”
“Would it make any fucking difference if i said ‘No’, officer?” asked Coyote in a most respectful tone.
“Absolutely none, Mr. Fawley”
“Then please come in officers, mi casa su casa” Coyote offered with a wave of his arm in greeting.
Inside they found 1254 marijuana plants growing.
Coyote would admit his role in the crime of growing these plants, he would take full responsibility and tell the judge that he was changing careers and the money would have allowed him to transition from teaching to what would ultimately be taking care of special needs kids.
In his contemporaneously delivered speech to the judge he would promise that “i am not a troublesome individual” the judge believed him, Coyote did no time in jail.
Coyote’s birthday was the day after Christmas which is also Chairman Mao’s birthday. And while he had myriad critiques of how the Chinese tried to implement communism, Coyote did have a deep respect for the vision of this revolutionary Chinese figure. Perhaps 50 years ago, and perhaps under the influence, Coyote and friends called the Chinese embassy and wished Mao a happy birthday and commented on the coincidence. The embassy staff person said “Chairman Mao and all the people of China wish Mr. Coyote a very happy birthday as well”.
He wanted to be nimble in his thinking, he did not want to be stuck in habits over substance or ethics. Coyote taught me everything i knew about baseball, about the shortstop being the soul of the team and what kinds of things to say in the club car of a train to sound like you know what you are talking about with respect to baseball. Coyote was a big Yankees fan, had been for decades, had cheered them on as they won numerous world series. We even donned nicknames for a hot minute, with him being Yankees owner Steinbrenner and me being the couch Joe Torre. The idea was he was increasingly stepping away from managing the communes affairs and i was stepping in to replace him.
But then in the summer of 2004, Dick Cheney was invited to Yankee Stadium just before the Yankees beat the Boston Red Socks. He was photographed with Joe Torre and sat in Steinbrenner’s box seats. That was it, Coyote retired as a yankees fan, threw out the baseball hats and other memorabilia and never went back, he dropped baseball as well, and since then i stayed away from club cars conversations about baseball.
But it is another parable of Coyote’s life that taught me the most, a parable i failed to tell him, tho i am sure he would deny it.
Coyote was a smart, literate and articulate guy. But as he grew older he seemed to drift towards being a curmudgeon, people annoyed him, the commune bureaucracy did not function as smoothly as he would have preferred. Having been a high functioning person for his whole life, it bothered him when others seemed to show up with weak effort. Those of us on his informal “care team” spoke about his growing resentments and if there were ways we should try to push him away from them, as he was needing increasing care from the community and all caregivers are volunteering.
And then over some weeks he seemed to chill out and become more grateful and less curmudgeonly. Oh he still had complaints, but they were toned down and less personal. He found his place in the collective which encouraged him to have a different voice.
Unlike most people, Coyote decided he would not become a curmudgeon and instead would be mostly grateful for his circumstance (“i’ve painted myself into a perfect corner” he used to say) and not let his furstrations poison his interaction with others who he was becoming increasingly dependant on.
Coyote was an avid reader and writes to his favorite authors. He wrote to the poet and revolutionary Wendell Berry who sent him back the powerful poem HOW TO BE A POET (to remind myself). Which includes the lovely lines:
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
And desecrated places.
Coyote’s funeral is this Saturday at 1:30. His final resting place will be sacred for us. It is possible for non-members to attend, but you need to follow the strict rules about social distancing and processioning. Hawina is coordinating outside guests coming to this event. You must contact her (at email@example.com) if you are not a current inside the Twin Oaks quarantine bubble and are interested in attending.
Today (April 27, 2020) at 8 PM Eastern there in this Zoom Chat Space.
This is a very late announcement, but i realized there were a fair few people who might see this post in time to join this workshop, and if you can’t make this one, there will be another unlimited one in a week.
Here is the workshop description:
This workshop includes my personal rules for compelling story telling as well as several of my own short stories. Participants will share a short story and hear others review it with an eye towards improving it.
This workshop itself is a story i am not yet well enough practiced in to do to a large audience. And since a limited number of people (perhaps 12 to 15) will each share a brief story i want to keep it small. So reserve a spot and then after this “rehearsal” workshop i do another in a week with open admission.
If you want to participate in this work shop please be willing to share a story of personal importance to you (tho it need not be a true story) of 1 to 2 minutes in length and prepare to hear constructive criticism of it from other workshop participants.
This workshop is designed to run 90 minutes. But if it is a chatty group it can make it to two hours. Please note this is 8 PM eastern time and 5 PM Pacific.
You must have the basic free zoom app installed on your phone or computer. We have a large Zoom conference space donated by our fine friends at Greenpeace International.
There is a gargoyle foundry in District 7 of New Orleans, but you won’t find it on google maps. You need to know someone to get in. A couple handfuls of vagabond communards are doing impressive work, flying below the radar of the local media. These are the folks who could direct you to this fanciful craftsperson village. My favorite work is storytelling, and i am flattered i got asked to tell you this one.
Gargoyle making is a special art and there are prerequisites which can’t be skipped. First you must build walls that hold your resource sharing community at a small but safe distance from the tsunami of disaster capitalism just outside.
This gargoyle foundry molded the impressive fixtures for these nearly impregnable walls. Adorned with blacksmith spikes at the top, these sturdy swinging doors separate this world of gritty makers from the profusion of AirBNBs which litter New Orleans and exacerbate the city’s acute housing shortage.
Within these tall walls there are shacks, tree houses, beached boats, buses and all manner of makeshift housing fashioned from salvaged materials in an area that sustained heavy damage by Hurricane Katrina. Many of these homes were demolished eventually by the city after its occupants couldn’t afford to move back right away after the hurricane. These mostly queer/POC/trans/indigenous craftspeople have salvaged and cobbled together this punk makers ecovillage, sometimes called the “Worst Steel Workers of America.”
After housing you need an income engine, an enterprise of some sort that covers the costs beyond what you can dumpster dive, salvage and barter (which is an impressive amount in this situation). Before making gargoyles, the blacksmith forges are crafting replacement parts for the beautiful balconies of the French Quarter. Aligned with long time local metal workers, the gargoyle foundry is the only place which can seamlessly mend broken balcony components in the state. Most of this work was sent overseas, until the virus struck. Business is brisk now.
Wolvie and their comrades have woven together disparate communities: metal working punks with Christian land owners, conventional business interests with anarchist communitarians, and long term locals with transient counter culture folks. And there are much more than just metal forges in this operation; there are wood working shops, ceramic kilns and artist studios. When asked about the difference between working in Baltimore where they helped starting the Free Farm, and the gargoyle foundry in New Orleans, Wolvie shared that the south was slower culturally, you have to work with locals for quite some time before they trust you. But a lot has happened in the few years since i last visited them.
It is hard to start an intentional community. It is nearly impossible to spark an income sharing community with a cottage industry. Yet this gargoyle foundry is treading this unlikely path. This requires navigating legalities and building neighbor relationships. The center of their neighbor relations policy is high prioritizing the needs of the neighbors. The Worst Steel Workers provide advice, tools, and muscle power along with a hefty dose of barter, lending, and gifting to serve their neighbors. These good neighbor policies have resulted in several free or inexpensive sites and buildings which feed their expansionist plans.
Wolvie’s message is clear: “Seize land”. They put their own chains and cell phone number on a nearby warehouse and waited for the owner to call. When the initially upset owner finally did call, they were able to strike a deal, where in exchange for repair and security for the warehouse they could legally use the formerly abandoned facility without taking ownership, but also without rent.
When i asked if people could join the Worst Steel Worker union, Wolvie laughed and said “Sure, if they want to come to a pandemic hotspot, we are open for more hard working folks who want to live collectively like this. It might not work out of course, but they are welcome to come and try.”
They have yet to forge their first gargoyle, but have made great progress with the many other prerequisites including cannons, brass knuckles, impregnable doors and guillotines as well as all manner of custom metal craft pieces. They have already sparked an inspiring, gritty community of talented mostly young people who have the solid foundation needed to craft both the good life and impressive gargoyles.
Cities try to distinguish themselves from others in different ways. The small city of Eugene has some impressive pieces of public art.
I had my heart set on Ignition. Maud and i had spoken half a dozen times about the theory and set up. We had emailed much more about the tests we could administer in the relatively short amount of time new participants would be willing to self reflect before they hit the festival space. We discussed if Re-Evaluation Counseling (AKA co-counseling) could be synthesized to untrained practitioners quickly and if it was too trauma focused which would likely be the wrong mood to spark going into a fair. We had rough questions and scripts and Enneagram experts consulting us. And it is not for nothing that the principal volunteers for this event are called “disorganizers”.
We had wanted a space for Ignition’s operation and Darrell from Camp Contact offered us a smaller (25’ diameter) geodesic dome. But even a small dome was too large for the trivial amount of furniture we had acquired. And we were underprepared in half a dozen other ways.
Maud called it first; “we should cancel it.” My heart was broken, but she was right. And in leaving this failure early we were both able to concentrate on other aspects of this inaugural celebration. Maud took ignition “wifi;” doing personal orientation to new arrivals and helping everyone she could find their way. And i ran around doing errands for Angie’s amazing kitchen, working the front gate, driving compost away, shuttling participants to Twin Oaks and Cambia tours. Reverting to the axiom “no job is too low for a (dis)organizer.”
By failing soft in this ambitious aspect, the entire event was served.
Numerous participants said they had quink experiences large and small. We started several promising romances. Several people were asked what their pronouns were for the first time in their lives, and some were surprised to discover they didn’t know what pronouns they would like to be referred to as.
Lila described her quink experience to me. “I was in the Temple of Oracles late last night and there was this lovely cuddle pile that formed which was sensual w/o being sexual. It felt very safe because people were checking in with everyone about touching. I’ve never been in anything like that, i want more of it in my life.” It was at that moment i realized i was not only excited about, but felt obligated to organize Quink Fair 2020.
I had another lovely experience during the event. On the Sunday morning i got a call from my son Willow. “You should know that the police have set up a check point between the Quink event and Twin Oaks and they are stopping all the cars going through and questioning people.” My frustration with this police harassment was quickly abated by my appreciation of my son. He knew what was important to me, that the event participants did not have problems with police and he called so i could do something about it.
Angie has a plan, she actually maybe the only person who has more plans than Elizabeth Warren. Angie will come down to Virginia in November to help dis-organize a mini reunion and QuinkFair 2020 planning session. On this trip she also wants to network with the fine folks from Network for New Culture and act as an ambassador for the QuinkFair project. Part of the reason for this is the New Culture participants were largely absent from our event because their own summer camp overlaps. New Culture builds the high consent culture which permits more daring workshops and events than is normally possible.
Her planning continues, we are deep into negotiations about dates, likely earlier in the summer as it will be cooler and avoid some of the key conflicts. On the other hand, we may move the event into the armpit of August, on the weekend before the Queer Gathering, to spark synchronicity and build solidarity. We have to find a new venue, raise money, round up disorganizers and do all the stuff it takes to make this amazing event happen again, only bigger and better.
If you want to attend or help out with QuinkFair 2020 write QuinkFair@gmail.com.
Twin Oaks is lucky. Some of our members complete their membership, but don’t move far away and continue to volunteer to support us. Some of the most valuable of these ex-members are the ones who can operate our equipment or fix our infrastructure.
Denny Ray left Twin Oaks many years before i arrived (and that was over 2 decades ago). But from early on in my membership i knew who he was, because he fixed things. Twin Oaks prides itself on on being self sufficient. And in many ways we are, in ways few families or even companies can brag about. But our little secret is we have some ringers. Denny definitely was one.
Denny was an independent political force in the labyrinth decision making system at Twin Oaks. He would get an idea in his head that we should do something and he would make it nearly irresistible to follow his advice, He wanted us to change to Blossman Gas; he argued that it would save us money, he argued that they gave better service, he argued they have safer equipment. But in the end what really won over the planners is when he said “And i will manage it”. We would have paid him, but he would not take money this time.
Denny brought the Blossman crew in and they went around to all our residences. They proposed a bunch of new hardware and i was frankly a bit scared that in the end it would not end up saving us money. Denny asked me to give hammocks and pillows to the Blossman engineers, which i happily did.
Denny was of course right. The new gas company ended up saving us over $10K a year, even after we paid for all the new equipment. Denny had negotiated a great deal for us. Best hammocks we ever gave anyone.
But Denny was loved for far more than his utility. He was funny, friendly, generous and highly opinionated. He loved his little house and would never move back to Twin Oaks, but he was often over for lunch consulting with old friends who were members, or newer members who knew he often had sage advice or a good story to share.
Denny also was a photographer. He would catch us walking on the road with our kids, and later send us a much loved picture to remember the moment. He loved our plays and musicals as well, and took photos of the performers in costume. We very much appreciated his generosity and artistic dedication. The sight of his much-beloved blue truck was always a cause for celebration.
Denny would get frustrated with us for poor decision making or treating a member poorly, and then he would take time away from the commune, a week – sometimes even a month. But his love for the place and its people always brought him back.
Denny’s last year was a tough one, He spent a bunch of nights in Twin Oaks hospice facility, Appletree. We don’t use Appletree for anyone who is not a member, but Denny was exceptional and no one even considered challenging the decision to bend the rule for this old friend.
I’ll miss Denny, who used to often joke about my many girlfriends or how i was upsetting the bureaucrats on campus. I’ll miss him, and i will remember him, his commitment to community, and his willingness to be part of something greater than self.
Good Journey, Denny Ray, thanks for everything.