snapshot of a day in the life:

we don’t have a tv in our living room,
just baby chickens in an aquarium tank
in our kitchen, which is the common space.

daily activities include:
building things, like a yurt, a garden, a chicken coop.
communal living drama.
sharing stories of everyday trials & tribulations over food gathered via dumpster-diving, food stamps, the garden.
the latest events unfolding in the cultural/scientific/economic (r)evolution we’re each individually spearheading, in our own unique ways.
spirited brainstorms of brilliant ideas,
or vulnerable confessions of tiredness, disorientation, and/or frustration.

amerika, 2012, i see you,
and raise you one hand –
– my own.
it’s not enough that you vote for obama, or that you contribute tax dollars to the empire,
but that you act in the very vision of the world you imagine
as utopic.

i am utopic, and envision
a world in which food forests decorate every rooftop,
all information is derived from trusted sources entrusting their peers with providing their knowledge to the whole,
and so much is
forsaken yet still forgiven,
in the wake of a new world.

this is the plumbing of the depths.
the stirring of the soul
that, wrenching, screams
for forgiveness.

we came here sodden…

we left unforgotten.

What I have been up to recently…

Yes, I became one of those Blogs Without Updates, a potentially potent memetic force seemingly caught in the tethers of stagnation. However, I have very good reason for this.

I have cast my net to the midst, brought my wiles to the wild world of free and open source collaboration in all things from learning (more properly termed ‘co-teaching’- see Noisebridge), to living (communally – yurt the world!!), to working (federating aligned communities/organizations of practice).

In the past year, I was introduced to a fabulous crew with whom I resonated so strongly that I made the decision to take a first Leave of Absence from my Ph.D program down at UC San Diego. Together, we worked on many projects:

  • A live/work space we called Adeline Live/Labs – Live spaces upstairs, and labs downstairs for collaborative activities ranging from hacking the web to making things to growing food, cooking and sewing. While this fell through initially due to unforeseen budget restraints, we continue to seek a space befitting of a bevy of excellent hacktivists and DIYers.
  • An open source project we coined ‘The Pyre‘- in essennce, USB pendants that would serve as keys for bootrapping civilization, replete with a core, secure Linux OS; free and open source software for everything ranging from project management to audio-visual documentation; and instructables for DIY natural building, permaculture design and 3D printing. Check out our nascent wiki here, and contribute if you feel so inclined!

With the Fall came the onset of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Over the summer, I had started up a small web development business with a friend, and felt pulled to engage with and contribute directly to the movement. I found myself pulled onto the Occupy San Francisco web crew, with whom I built this site. Since November, I have been focused on the following projects:

  • Starting an East Bay hackerspace, SudoRoom devoted to citizen science and local community-based projects.
  • Ongoing volunteer work with the OccupySF web crew and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
  • More to my personal research agenda, federating alliances between hackerspaces, Occupy, co-working spaces, nomad/volunteer networks, neotribal subcultures and intentional communities.
  • Levelling up with an experienced meta-systems architect to design a tech platform for facilitating the collaborative nature of save-the-world projects through software designed to propogate tasks throughout tribes and then associated networks, built on biomimetic principles and encouraging alliances between values-aligned organizations and communities of practice.

For the past three months, I have been finishing up at UC San Diego – leaving the Ph.D program with a second masters and moving back up to the Bay Area to re-engage with these networks and continue my action-oriented ethnographic research under conditions more befitting of the emerging and future network economy.

I welcome anyone and everyone to become friends, beacons, lamplights in the darkness, as we together make our way toward the sunrise. The beginning is near.

it came of its own accord. accordingly, it came into its own.

Born alive dying dead,
start at the end and end at the head:
I am waiting to be born,
I am waiting to break free.
I call out to the moon,
but the wind-
it strangles me.

Nothing so near to completion can be free.

“As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation…” the headline read. We immersed ourselves in the mythology of the new frontier through full participation, hurtling headlong down 1-90 across the USA. It turned at the solstice when the moon spoke in yawns, ever glib in her slip-sweet tones howling, onward.

Before winding our way across the states we wove a circuitous path to all the homes we’d ever known – Joe’s in PA, mine in NY, Boston, Philly, New York and Wesleyan. At each place we paid our respects to the people who made it possible to prosper and sway, and here I give a shoutout to Joe’s family and my own, to Jeramie, to Jake, to Rob, to Isto, to Jenny, to Dawid, to Rod, to Jeff, to Natan, to Sam, to Alan and Alyssa. Further thanks to Rod to handing me Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry to get lost in overnight and in the dawn’s light, and whose words have remained burning inside me ever since.

“Poetry is the rediscovery of the self against the tribe,” but
“Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

The road onward was marked by strong women and sensitive men. We rocked the gorges of Ithaca, caught wind of a wesreunion in the windy city, told tales ’round a campfire on a reservation in South Dakota, coasted through the mountains of Montana to camp near kind souls in Idaho, reaffirmed friendships in Seattle and Portland, then wound our way manic down the coastline to San Francisco just around Independence Day.

At this juncture we parted ways; I wanted to know if I could hack it solo. Surprise? I not only survived, I thrived, and thus the rub: launched from a new nest and a temporary mental incubation, a transportation across the seas to hound the hidden corners of time and self and space. I spoke excitedly, concocted brilliant ideas with a burgeoning international community of activists and academics, wrote poetry buzzing with flavor, listened intently to words i could scarcely decipher, enacted and actualized the very stuff of dreams.

Alone and strange I would conjure charming spirits from the dregs of the day by dousing them in firelight, follow the music to find the true spirit of the town, eat the fruit of the looming dawn and dance until the rain came down. I met bums and soldiers playing heart-songs on the cobblestones, students and artists seeking poetry in well-worn places, all the time helping to foster community within ISDT using my own peculiar yet authentic form of connectivity.

There are so many forms of participation, I’ve yet to incubate fully. This is why I must be untethered and wandering for the entirety of August: to foment and to cement ideas, possibilities, chance happenings. To live the dream rather than living to dream, open heart allowing meanderings, intuition in my teeth. At present moment this structurelessness and imminent homelessness is precisely what’s been needed. I am re-learning how to cook for myself, how to explore unafraid, how to follow the firelights that guide the way.

(This is not to say, “the end,” but please begin: how do we do, how me? how you? now and at this great division of reality. on one end a dream-dew blankets the swamp; at the other, a fire engulfs a fissure.)

And so i found the soul of Portugal, and found my calling also: a wandering empath nourished by adventure and diversity, open heart guided by intuition and empathy ever onward toward la musica au vivo, a cacophonous cadence of erratic heartbeats wound together and the spaces in-between. Full-fledged allegiance to the tribe and to the set path must be avoided at all costs in pursuit of the self-sensical, the poetical peregrination:

She spoke of the need to need nothing, and then nothing came to be: um amor blooming in poetic ecstasy. Obrigada, universe, for synchronicity.

howls from the concrete jungle / human zoo

“The city is not a concrete jungle, it’s a human zoo.”
Desmond Morris, The Human Zoo.

Soaking up the sunshine this weekend, I perched with a friend on the steps of Union Square. Nearby, a group of attractive young white kids with brightly colored hair spun poi and hula-hooped in fashionable earthy garb, crafting a performative stage at the foot of the steps where dozens of people sat. I watched and wondered, as I always do, at the seemingly innate enjoyment of judging gazes, small envies, unsubtle desires, attentive eyes consuming their brightly colored shimmying hips and tanned, fluid limbs. I’m at a loss for how to go about reclaiming a lifestyle co-opted by childish style tribes, recuperated and sold back in the tone of the “underground.” But as Kurt Vonnegut says, so it goes…

A man holding a sign ranted loudly about the perils of nanotechnology, drawing a small cluster of avid listeners. My friend attended to her Seed Magazine, which highlighted the contemporary debate on the issue. She commented on the young man giving out free hugs while simultaneously strutting about in a shirt emblazoned with the words “made of poison.”

I casually struck up a conversation with the man chillin’ to my left, complimenting the intricate detail of the colorful psychedelic prints splayed out around him. Averting his eyes, he described his process as one of “adding to” pre-existing images – at this, I raised an eyebrow and smirked at the psychedelic elephant in my hands. Smoothly, he then pulled out a translucent pair of prints and moved them slowly across one another, blurring and goo-ifying a gigantic block print of the year 2012. Wince.

Gradually, we inserted ourselves into another nearby spectacle that had drawn a dense crowd- two lithe black men dressed in bright, skin-tight animal print bodysuits engaged in a wildly contortionist dance, bizarre twistings of bodily form. For their grand finale, one leapt effortlessly over the heads of half a dozen “volunteers.” Throughout, they called for the audience to give money for their endeavors, and at the end passed three large buckets around. Embarrassed, I avoided the buckets, reaching a hand into my pocket to ensure my four dollar bills were still milling about.

The area where I run at the Chelsea Piers has finally finished construction (or at least a substantial portion of it), and is now allowing people to meander along the shiny new walkways accented by bright green grass and surrounded by trees and water. It is beautiful!

Tonight, I rambled to the corner market for a beer. It was around midnight, and I found myself gazing in at the bars closing down. Bartenders, cooks and barbacks gathered in small pockets just beyond accessibility, cocooned in the inner glow of afterhours. There was a sense of belonging in these fractured glances, and in the smooth strides of a man who zipped down 19th street on rollerblades while chatting with his bluetooth’d self Each of these sightings registered a pang of longing that sung through my heart.

(I recalled, as I often do, a memory of a rainstorm at dawn several years ago, my green bedroom syrupy and sunlit and full of friends sprawled out on mattresses and in chairs, long bouts of listening interspersed with sleepy jokes and lazy laughter. Joe had set up a feedback contraption that captured the sounds of the falling rain and catapulted them back into the room. Drenched in sound and in the love of adopted family close at hand, I remember falling asleep with the acute sense that I had come full circle back to my childhood, to the warmth of s’more-infused campfires and sunday night baths with my siblings.)

Then I remembered that sunlit day, which proceeded into an evening of laughter, ranting, and friendly camaraderie with a friend I’d never gotten to know well one-on-one. There was a point where I found myself persuading her to look at San Diego, to come and make a community of smart, down-to-earth compadres. It occurred to me just how necessary such dreams had become, lost in the sea of anomie that is new york city.

This was all only ever temporary, a sacrifice for love. Never inclined toward urban environments, I resolved not to become too attached to this city – just as I’d resolved, 5 years ago, not to fall in love during the year I was abroad in Denmark.

That pact failed back then – of course during the last two months of my stay, with nothing to stand in the way of letting go – I fell in love with a Danish boy destined for the Danish military life, just as I was destined for the American collegiate life. I’ve no regrets. How could I?

And so I’ve no regrets for my renewed mission: to love this porous city for all its flaws and elegant superstructure, to capture this life so rich with culture and madness, and finally to know what it means to escape the zoo of my own accord.

the future! wouldn’t it be nice?

Since I last wrote, I’ve mourned a rejection from my top choice program (Stanford’s Modern Thought & Literature), spent a few nights writhing feverishly from a sudden-onset flu bug, celebrated an acceptance from UC San Diego’s Communication program, and (with no small degree of assistance from my amazing supertrooper parents) moved the entirety of our belongings from Bushwick into Chelsea.

Burrowed cozily in the heart of this giant clusterfuck called Manhattan (or as one Geo Geller calls it “Madhattan”), I have too much work for what is undoubtedly too little pay but I’ve been keeping my worries away through what has fast become my favorite pasttime: gazing at maps and photos of San Diego while simultaneously checking current weather conditions in the area. At the time of this writing, it is 69 degrees and partly cloudy.

Now to catch up on that low-to-non-paying research and writing work that I so dearly love as to consider making the sacrifice of spending the next 5 years continuing it in San Diego…

a tide,turning

This past month has been marked by:

  • Moving from the ghetto of Bushwick to the gayborhood of Chelsea (Brooklyn->Manhattan).
  • Getting laid off from my dog-running position (the day after we decided to move to the area).
  • Extensive website-making and my nascent introduction to programming (Python).
  • Working on my first publications, which are in the final stages of the editing process.
  • A lot of beer-drinking and friendshipping while I wait to hear back from schools and start my new jobs.

At least I am not alone in my misfortune – just another victim of this drowning economy. On the plus side, the current climate has shattered the false gods of individualism and consumer culture, revealing the matrix of proximate connections and interrelationships that enables our survival. As we continue to weave this web of neotribes, those markers of identity that once defined our place in societal structures (be they institutionalized or “alternative”) become increasingly meaningless. Trust, authenticity and reciprocity, those factors which are paramount to the success of online communities (truly the “network of all networks” when I speak of neotribalism), have never been so essential to my survival as they are today.

It’s been an enormously eye-opening experience, and in the process I’ve learned a few things:

  • Dissolution and spontaneity are easy; it’s the building of something new and true that’s the hard part.
  • I’d rather be honest and poor than rich and wasting my time on that which does not align with my values.
  • While I’d long considered myself oversensitive- prone to shutting down in the presence of those who make me feel uncomfortable- I’ve come to deeply value this instinctive mechanism of self-preservation. Trust is not something to be dispensed lightly.
  • On that note, toxic friends construct their own social demise, so let them do so and avoid ’em at all costs.
  • No matter where you are now and how alone you may feel, it will change again with great velocity and immense unpredictability.
  • Thus, continue Big Dreaming and inventing the future, for life itself is an artform fuelled by love’s imagination.

shaking off the cobwebs.

As much as I enjoyed my vacation with the boy’s fam, I’ve determined that I’m not really a *vacation type*. It’s disorienting, and I feel as though my mind has lost its edge, like loose elastic with no snap left. In the past month, there’s been a good deal of broken glass: I acquired a Blackberry Storm and somehow broke the screen, and also had my car broken into and had to get three windows and a rearview mirror replaced. Our lease is up next month and we’ve already found an awesome sublet in Chelsea, so we will be spending our final four months in NYC in high style.

I’ve been hard at work crafting my first two publications, both book chapters for edited collections. One is a revised version of the final chapter of my thesis, an ethnographic account of processes of remembrance and commemoration of the dead on Facebook. It will hopefully be accepted as one of the final chapters in The Psychology of Facebook, edited by BJ Fogg. The other chapter, “Weaving the Underground Web: Neotribalism and Psytrance on,” is for a collection titled Psytrance: Local Scenes and Global Culture, edited by the marvelous Graham St. John.

Additionally, I’ve applied to seven different Ph.D programs, all located in California with the exception of Brown’s Modern Culture and Media Program. I am hoping at least one of them will accept me and offer decent funding so that I have a direction when we move to California in June. It’s simultaneously terrifying and exciting that I won’t really know where the hell I’ll be come August, but I fully intend on adventuring my way westward. Give a shout if you’d like us to hit you up on our travels. My car is already fully stocked with a tent, an air mattress, and a brand new campfire coffeepot 😉

Next up on the agenda: Crafting a book proposal for The Virtual Campfire, and finally getting to work on percolating the website projects that have been brewing for far too many months.

runs with dogs

For those who were unawares, my everyday/daytime identity is Dog Runner, or alternately, Canine Fitness Specialist. When I got a part-time gig as a research assistant, internet-bound, I sought something that would get me out of my cozy hobbit hole and into the heart of New York. Since I was something of a star cross-country runner in high school (go figure), the Running Paws company took me on quite readily. Though I’d long since strayed from the routine of running and, indeed, sportiness in general, I truly believe that distance running is a state of mind. A love of challenge, a capacity for endurance, and resilience to nature’s obstacles are intrinsic to the long-distance runner- maybe I should throw loneliness in there as well.

So, every day, I log into my “dog schedule” before 10 am and confirm- usually a set schedule, but important to note cancellations and additions. Typically, I get into Manhattan sometime between 11:30 and 12:30, and am usually done before 4:30. My days begin and end with half-hour puppy-care visits with Nigel, a 4-month-old cocker spaniel whose nascent development I’ve been proud to help nurture. He is incredibly soft and cute, and enjoys peeing on the floor and wagging his tail maniacally at passers-by. Also gnawing on my shoes:

Once or twice a week, I play with a Boston Terrier puppy named Maddy, who is a little princess and hates the cold. So, she wears a puffy coat. I try to stay bundled, too: In terms of running, my favorite dog to run with is a standard black poodle named Jasper. Actually, Jasper does not run, he bounds, and his exuberance is completely infectious. He is a strange doggie dancer, at times leaping higher than my headtop. Additionally, he is quite prone to tearing after squirrels, the excitement of which leaves him frenzied and sprinting as I race to match his pace:

Every time he spots an approaching puppy, he sits himself down quite gingerly and cocks his head, inviting a cautious greeting/butt-sniff dance. He nose me: In truth, this job has fast become integral to my identity, or at least the one I perform in public. While my nighttime hours can best be described by the reverie of the internet and the cultivation of words and ideas, it’s generally hard to talk about things you’re literally writing a book about. Rather, I take delight in extolling the virtues of exercise and animal friendship, relating the everyday frustrations and hilarities that make up my daily life. The city streets have become my oyster, teeming with novelty and potential connections. I have made someone’s day on countless occasions, and vice versa. That’s enough to keep me going, through the cold and the wind, the piss and the poo.

Also, pups are way more fun to hang out with than most people.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

all i have are stories.

Last week, a very old woman instigated an interlude in what is normally the spot where i plug into the web whilst chomping an everything bagel. after a short conversation about the quality of the yogurt, we sat near each other with a shared wariness. she snapped, “young women these days, with their tits and their asses just out for all to see!” She eyed me slowly up and down. I was wearing grey sweatpants, a brown long-sleeved shirt, and green sneakers, no makeup, hair up in a ponytail. “You don’t do that, do you?” Responding in the entirely present moment: “no, I try not to attract too much attention.” This seemed to please her, she nodded approvingly. “This city’s dangerous.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” I agreed, distracted by the intense desire to check my e-mail. Somehow I felt that would be inappropriate. Turns out, I was right. Later in the conversation, she would speak of nearly all modern technologies with no small degree of contempt. In the interim, there were long silences.

She broke one: “Now, you’re under no obligation to answer this,” (oh boy, I thought), “but why did you move to new york? were you thinking of opportunity?”

I could answer this question with glee. “Not at all! I finished my master’s degree, and now i’m just working, trying to save money and building my life while my boyfriend finishes his degree.”

(Earlier that week, a Russian housekeeper at one of my puppy’s homes had received this same response and replied, “oh, so soon you will get married and get fat! trust me, i know.”)

The old woman (whose name I never did catch) eyed me suspiciously. I caught the vibe and attempted to convey my feelings toward this city: “people are too angry here. i want to have a garden. possibly a chicken. we are going to move west as soon as he finishes.”

At this, her eyes lit up. She nodded enthusiastically, her cynical old-new yorker guise slipping off. “Yes! That’s a very good idea.”

Our conversation moved to the economy, to the job market, her dour persona returning. “I’ve lived through a depression,” she said softly. Our eyes locked. I wanted her to send me the feeling she was exuding, and asked, “does it feel the same as it did back then?”

“Oh, it will get much, much worse,” she said ominously. “It’s terrible.” Her eyes misted and she looked distantly at nothing, mournfully, “I really don’t know what will become of us.”

And yet, yesterday morning I took a trip deep into Brooklyn. At Broadway Junction, an older black man in a dark green coat bellowed “Obama! Obamaaaamaman,” laughing maniacally. Around me, his giddiness spread like a virus. I found myself grinning despite my suspicions and doubts. Throughout the day, as I zipped through the streets of lower Manhattan on my new kick scooter, people murmured that name, shouted it, wore it proudly on their foreheads and chests. As I stopped at my favorite bagel place (where I had met the old woman), I recalled the man who’d sat near me two weeks ago, enthusiastically befriending another older man who’d been loudly championing John McCain. They went on for awhile, at some point one of them making a comment stupid enough for me to glance up in disbelief, which garnered the response, “I know you’re not happy, honey, but there’s nothing I can do about that.”

“Oh, I’m perfectly happy,” I had retorted, “this election is going to be a goddamn landslide!” Moved my gaze quickly back to my handheld and twittered about it.

Over the course of the past few weeks, my outlook toward my newly adopted neighborhood of Bushwick has changed dramatically. I barely noticed it happening, besides noting with relief that my panic attacks (lingering remnants of several traumatic incidents earlier on in the summer) had all but ceased. You see, as I came out of Mr. Kiwi’s the other day, groceries in hand, I was stopped by two eager young guys, musician types. “Excuse me,” one of them said, “do you think you could talk to us a bit about the neighborhood?” I drew in a breath, looked furtively toward Troutman, then met their eyes. They looked so hopeful, so willing to believe that this area wasn’t so bad as it looked, but instead, full of promise. It really struck a chord in me.

I began hesitantly, mentioning my recent arrival and subsequent mugging. I mentioned my fear of walking down even Broadway after dark. They were quick to point out that the danger is certainly more paramount for a young woman walking alone at night, and I agreed. They said they were looking at a place right where we were standing, and I found myself boasting about Mr. Kiwi’s, grinning as I mentioned the evangelical preaching at the corner of Myrtle & Broadway, praising the JMZ train. I spoke of the new bodega, Broadway Pizza, Goodbye Blue Monday, the eclectic and increasingly gentrified population, the many Hispanic families and odd Hasidic Jew, the fantastically low rents. They thanked me profusely, looking so excited and hopeful it just about broke my heart.

Inspired to become more involved with the community here, I wrote in to the editor of BushwickBK, a fantastic blog and my primary source of information about Bushwick. I told my story, pitched from the heart, and asked to write for them. “Ethnographic vignettes?”

As if I needed more commitments… 🙂

Hope!!, scheming, and dreaming.

As summer reaches its frenetic finale, the uncomfortable confines of my mind have begun to fall away. Still deeper in I go, nomad by day, warmed at night by the cocoon we have made to shelter us from the hectic deluge of city life. There is much to be done: more research to conduct, literature to dive into, tests to take, recommendations to procure, papers to submit, e-mails to send… but this much I can say for certain: I’ve got purpose, ambition, and a deep passion propelled like legs turn to windmills as they make their way downhill. Factors of “success” aside, the detachment and anxiety I’d been fighting all year (akin to constantly watching oneself on videotape) have been replaced by the sudden, startling return of my laugh. I’d missed that the most.

In exactly one month, Joe and I are traveling to California. While we may be romanticizing the great frontier, it is precisely such hope and planning for the future that has me utterly buoyant these days. Most astonishing is that I am actually connecting to some of my intellectual heroes on my own terms, which I was quite worried about, given Wesleyan’s complete inability to help graduating students network or find careers:

“You’re majoring in… anthropology? Have you thought about a job in advertising?”
*vomit* “Why no, not at all. In fact, after five years of being thoroughly indoctrinated in post-hippie nihilism, my options are pretty much limited to starting a commune, becoming a bum, or returning to academia.”

The first is more of a long-term goal. The second doesn’t quite align with my desire for the former. So, a return to academia it is, for I know myself well enough – born to write and read, a hunger for research and new ideas, an insatiable idealism and a desire to commune and connect – keeping hope for humanity alive.

Postings of a less self-indulgent nature to come, now that I’ve a mission. Kickin’ into high gear once again…