another co-op beckons

7 Asma’ 165 B.E. (Baha’i calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Levi Tafari, “Duboetry”

Yes, I’m moving to another co-op, after 5 ½ years at my current one.  A new co-op in a quiet neighborhood was needing members, and after deliberating and praying about it, I decided it was time for me to take the leap. 

It was a very difficult decision for me because I feel like I’m leaving my current co-op at it’s peak.  I’ve been here for so long precisely because it is a great co-op—well-organized, clean, warm and friendly.  I think that there is more closeness in the co-op now than I have seen during my entire tenure here. 

But I’ve always wanted to live in a more residential neighborhood.  Downtown Madison just doesn’t feel like a real neighborhood to me.  And while there’s a nice mix of people within my house,  most of our neighbors are students.  It’s odd—living here for so long, I think I almost began to think of myself as a college student, yet at the same time not fitting in with the other students.  Nothing wrong with students per se.  (Though I did have the police noise complaint number saved onto my cellphone.) It’s just that I’m in a different place in my life. 

The neighborhood I’m moving into is quieter and has a wider variety of people.  Lots of trees, a great place for going on a walk.  I have the feeling that my thinking will shift considerably after I move.  Things have been changing so much in the last year and a half and there seems to be no sign of it slowing down…

It was hard to tell my housemates that I was seriously looking into this.   The first time I brought up the subject at a house meeting, there was a part of me that wanted to say at the same time, “No really, I’m not thinking about this.  I mean I love you all and really I want to stay—I just lost my mind for a moment.  Ignore what I just said.”  Part of me felt like I was throwing away a diamond, and for what purpose?   And when I finally reached my decision, it was hard to see the somewhat sad look on the faces of my closer friends in the house.  But it’s not like I’m going very far.  I’ll still hang out here from time to time.

No, it’s time for me to move on to a new adventure.  I’ve always wanted to live in the neighborhood I’m moving to.  I like the other people who will be at the new co-op, and I’ll have a say in who else joins. 

Last night was my last house meeting at my current co-op.  They asked me if I’d like to be the “honorary facilitator” running the house meeting for one last time, and I agreed.  Most of the meeting was spent assigning work assignments for the next four months, and it was funny because this time, I was an observer rather than a participant.  As the meeting drew to a close,  I found it difficult to concentrate—probably because there was so much on my mind.  The last thing we do in our meeting is something called “peeves and praises,”  where we either highlight a little thing in the house of concern to us (being careful not to name names) or offer praises.  I was the recipient of an unusually larege number of praises,  and as each housemate spoke, I could feel a lump forming in my throat, and tears starting to well up in my eyes.

A party followed the meeting.  It’s purpose was to welcome the four new house members, but there was also a sign there that said, “Congratulations!”  We took group photos, including an interesting one with me posing with the four new members.  

So I’m going to be busy for a little while. My room is already full of boxes. I don’t know what the Internet availability at the new house will be for the short term, but I’ll do my best to keep you all in the loop…

time capsule 2003

17 Kamal 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)

Soundtrack in my head: Primal Scream, “Come Together”

Last weekend, a
friend I hadn’t seen in five years passed through Madison enroute
from Rapid City, SD to Chicago, and stayed in my house overnight for
one night. She had been my last roommate in Chicago. We’ve been
friends for thirteen years, and have seen each other through
interesting phases in our lives. She moved to Rapid City a couple of
years ago. We talked for hours until neither of us could stay awake.

With plans to move
to Madison foremost in my mind, I rented a room in her condo from
September 2002 through January 2003. I moved in with the mutual
agreement that I would move out when the opportunity to move to
Madison came up. When a co-op—now my current one–called me to let
me know they had an opening, she was the one who persuaded me to rent
a room with them even though I still had my job in Chicago. I was
going to Madison at least once a month anyway, and she convinced me
that having residency in both Madison and her place would maximize
the opportunities for me in Madison. Renting a room in her condo was
also helpful because it forced me to trim down my possessions in
preparation for my move to a co-op house. She was also the first
roommate I’d had a long time—I’d lived in a studio or one-bedroom
apartment for the previous six years, and having a roommate was
probably helpful for the transition from living by myself to living
with eleven other housemates.

I’d set aside the next day to go up into the attic and bring down
boxes of my stuff that had sitting up there largely undisturbed since
I moved into this co-op five and a half years ago. These were
possessions that were with me in her condo, possessions I had right
as I was moving from Chicago to Madison.

My first bedroom
in this co-op house was tiny—maybe 7 x 11 feet, and so I had to
make hard decisions as to what keep in there and what I could
temporarily part with. I moved out of the room only eight months
later, and over the years I have gradually moved to bigger and bigger
rooms within the house. But I never went through my stuff in the
attic until last week. Going through these possessions was like
going through a time capsule from 2003. I knew basically what was up
there, but had forgotten about a lot of this stuff.

It was interesting
what I found. I found a number of books I knew I had, including “Is
It Utopia Yet?”, a history of the Twin Oaks intentional community
in Virginia and two excellent references books entitled “The
Witches’ God” and “The Witches’ Goddess.” But I found books
I’d forgotten I still had, including two Kurt Vonnegut books
(“Slaughterhouse Five” and “Cat’s Cradle”), Richard Bach’s
“Illusions”, and a book about bioregionalism called “Dwellers
In The Land.”

I also found a
handkerchief I bought at a kiosk at a train station in Osaka, Japan.
I’d been told that it is good to carry around a handkerchief in Japan
because most Japanese bathrooms don’t have towels or hot air dryers.
I was on a pilgrimage as a Mahikari member, and as I’ve previously
written, I’m no longer a member of that spiritual organization.

I also forgot
about some artwork I had. One is a print called “The Scweam,”
which spoofs Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” by replacing the
panicked person in the foreground with the cartoon character Tweety.
I also re-discovered some Southwestern style paintings on bark that
my parents gave me a number of years ago and that I never got around
to framing. I was also reminded that I have a Leonardo Nierman
painting that my parents once owned, which I appropriated while they
were getting rid of stuff for one of their moves.

I have several
boxes that have dishes and pots and pans from when I lived by myself.
I don’t know when I will use them again, but it doesn’t make sense
for me to just get rid of them. A lot of the cookware is good
quality stainless steel cookware I inherited from my grandparents.

I also discovered
a Swatch watch that my aunt and uncle had been given to me as a high
school graduation present. It was a pretty popular style then—it
had a normal clock face but had a dot in the middle with the numbers
13 through 24 marking military time. It was made of cheap plastic, but that watch lasted fifteen
years—all the way through college, the Global Walk, several
apartments, several relationships, and several jobs. When it broke
down for the last time, I guess I couldn’t throw it away because it
was an artifact from a remarkable time in my life. But I had no
problem throwing it away this time.

A lot of other
things were thrown away, too. I filled two trash bags and I have a
huge box of stuff I intend to take to Goodwill.

Nevertheless, it
was fascinating to look at those artifacts from a previous life. I
have changed so much since moving to Madison. I am still changing…

time capsule 1973

14 Kamal 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)

Soundtrack in my head: Blame,
“Visions of Mars”

a couple of young women stopped by our co-op house. One of them
explained that her mother lived here in this co-op in 1973, and that
her parents met here. They wondered if they could have a tour of the
co-op and be allowed to take a few pictures.

always happy to oblige. We don’t get many visitors from our past.
I’ve met many people who have lived here this decade and some who
lived here in the 90’s. But hardly anyone before that. I’ve never
met anyone who lived here in the 1980’s, but I have met two people
who lived here in the 1970’s. From them, I learned a little bit
about the layout of the co-op in its early days. I learned that a
bedroom I inhabited until last year was once a
kitchenette. That would explain why some of the walls in that room
looked so new.

took the women up to the third floor where they said their mother
used to live. I showed them the bedroom that was once the
kitchenette. What was once her mother’s bedroom is now a guest
room—it’s so small we really can’t rent it out. The woman snapped
pictures throughout. I told the woman that her mother was welcome to
contact us at any time.

had another visitor from 1973 who came by earlier this year—an
older man now in his fifties. He was visibly impressed with the
cleanliness and upkeep of the house. In this co-op’s early years,
this house was owned by a landlord even though it operated as a
co-op. According to this gentleman, this house was much more
crowded. There were more doubling up in rooms, and the house in
general was not as well maintained as it is now. The gentleman was
amazed to see a modern fire alarm system here.

blows my mind to think of all the people that have been through here,who have walked through our hallways, cooked in our kitchen, ate in our
dining room, had house meetings in our living room. Hundreds of
people have lived in this co-op over the years, and I know of only a
tiny number of them.

in the basement there is a graffiti wall. Most of the postings are
anonymous and undated—the oldest dated posting is from 1980. Some
very intelligent graffiti, too—very philosophical and often
spiritual in nature. The oldest postings look as new as the newest
postings, as if all of the people posting over the last thirty years
were all in the room right now, gathered as one group.

feel proud to have been part of the continuum of souls that have
inhabited this house. So many people have come and go, and there
will come a time when I, too must move on to new things…