Fancy Food and Drag Shows - Fun Times in Chicago

Chicago was not originally a stop on my tour.  Everything changed when Laura and I decided that we had all been apart for long enough and we started making plans to fly the family back up to the States.  I was in the Detroit/Flint area around the time we planned to reunite, so we ended up buying them tickets into Chicago, the nearest airport with cheap flights from Mexico.  This also happens to be Laura’s hometown.  Oak Lawn, actually, but the Chicago area was her turf. 

Laura has no more immediately family in Chicago, but she has many friends, including a lady named Nijole, who is closer to our parents’ age.  Nijole, now retired, was an opera singer and a voice teacher, and she and Laura have stayed friends over the years, knowing each other originally through the Lithuanian community in Chicago.  Nijole kindly agreed to host our family for several days while we reoriented ourselves.  I had our car, stuffed to the brim with our gear, and the girls were coming back from Mexico with tons of luggage, which would have to somehow be integrated into the already full car.

My first task when I arrived at Nijole’s house was to empty out the car and take the huge totes full of additional gear off the roof.  We would have to go through all of it and repack, and I needed room for the girls and all their stuff when I got them at the airport.

It was wonderful to reunite with my family, whom I hadn’t seen in two months.  They were all well, and we enjoyed catching up on what all had been happening.  It was a good thing we had several days to chill, because they were weary of travel and we had lots to do.

We went into the city, which was fun once we made it through the horrendous traffic to get there

We went into the city, which was fun once we made it through the horrendous traffic to get there

Laura had several people she wanted to see while we were in town, and I wanted to visit my cousin Nathan, who also lives in Chicago.  Our girls mostly grew up in Oregon, but Eva was born in Chicago, and she and Gaia used to stay in the city frequently when visiting their mociute (grandmother) and Jurate.  Their paternal grandfather Dennis still lives in Chicago, and we planned for them to go out and visit him while we were in town.

My cousin Nathan moved to Chicago to be part of the theater community, and he’s still active there, doing improv shows and unrehearsed Shakespeare performances, which are unbelievable.  Each character memorizes lines independently and the players never take the stage together until the performance.  Nathan always has something cool going on.  He’s currently training to become a sommelier, which is fancy talk for a wine expert.  He knows so much about it, it’s crazy.  And he’s just a beginner, even though he’s very close to getting his certificate.  

Unrehearsed Shakespeare

Unrehearsed Shakespeare

Nathan was working at a casual fine dining place called Bad Hunter, thusly named because they feature vegetables as the main focus of the meal, with meats being more side-show.  Walking in, you wouldn’t realize what kind of quality you were in for.  It felt like any small urban restaurant.  The menu was not huge because everything is seasonal, and each dish is a special.

The prices seemed reasonable enough, until Nathan told me that most people eat at least two or three plates, because each dish is a very small portion.  Still, we had to try a wide variety because the descriptions made everything sound exquisite.

 

And was it ever.  I am pretty sure this was the best food I’ve ever eaten, as far as quality and flavor go.  Fine dining, gourmet level food, in a casual environment.  I don’t think it’s ever been done before Bad Hunter.  Nathan told me that since he’s been developing his own skill set and reputation with restaurants, he’s very picky about where he works.  He always reverse interviews places by going to eat there, and he said he was instantly sold on Bad Hunter simply because the quality was so above and beyond.  The fact that it wasn’t so stuffy and formal was just a perk.  We had a good laugh about Calvin being in a restaurant with too much atmosphere. 

Nathan took great care of us during our meal.  Rather than order anything, we just asked him to bring out different dishes for us to try.  We sampled a wide assortment of foods, each about the size of a small appetizer, but so rich in flavor.  Asparagus, snow peas, rampion, onions… I wish I had written down everything they served us, because it was all awesome. 

The bill at the end was a doozy, but it was worth it, and I enjoyed getting to catch up with Nathan.  We made plans to get together the next night when he was off work.  The last time we all came to Chicago we did this same routine; stopping by with the whole family to visit Nathan where he works (he worked at a different restaurant back then) and then later me going to Nathan’s place to stay the night and go out on the town.

I met his boyfriend, who is also named Nathan, and we hung out and talked for a while before heading to a café down the road.  Nathan’s friend Charlie also came.  I met Charlie the last time I was in town, but at that time she was Caroline.  Nathan brought Charlie over expecting good conversation, and I think we did not disappoint.  I liked Charlie a lot.  We were on the same page about a great many issues, though trans culture is, admittedly, beyond my comprehension.  Talking to Charlie helped me get some perspective on how it must feel to be in the position of someone making that change, though, and I appreciated the chance to better understand. 

This is not a topic I go into a lot on Permagora.  As with any issue, we are all entitled to our own opinion.  Perhaps another time I’ll expand on my perspective regarding nature, sex, and identity.  I hope I didn’t offend Charlie by speaking honestly (I don’t think I did), though I’m sure I just sounded like a privileged white cis male.  The thing is, I am a male, but I don’t identify as “white” any more than I identify as “cis.”  I know I am privileged.  This isn’t a bad thing.  I’m thankful for the privileges I’ve enjoyed, and I am committed to working towards a world in which everyone can have equal privilege.   While I love and value all people, my desire to hang out with people is directly connected to how easy they are to hang out with.  If we can’t have our opinions and then agree to disagree, then we can’t very well be friends.  Point being, speak your truth, but don't browbeat people who aren't going to change their beliefs just because you think they should.  Charlie and I got along so well because neither of us tried to do this.  We each had our perspectives, and we shared them, allowing each other to just be.  This is the essence of good relations.

Anyhow, our lovely afternoon on the patio was at once halted by a change in the wind.  The temperature dropped suddenly and drastically, in one definite moment during which all of us (there were others outside as well) all looked at each other in shock.  “Did it really just get freezing that fast?” we asked each other.  I’m talking fifteen, twenty degrees in two seconds.  No exaggeration.  That’s Chicago for you. 

We went back to Nathan’s apartment after that, though the real night out had yet to begin.  The next item on Nathan’s agenda was to take me to a drag show.  I had never been to one before.  It was still cold on the walk over there, and I didn’t really have warm enough clothes (the previous two days had been hot and sunny) so I was glad to get there and get inside. 

What a strange place.  There were lots of men dressed like women, and everyone seemed to worship them.  One queen was standing up on a raised surface (a table or bar or something; not the stage) while others came by to draw on him.  I saw couples of all types, and everybody was having a good time. 

I learned that night that there are certain questions you’re not supposed to ask trans people, and I assume that means queer folks in general.  One of them was ‘who do you date?’  Bummer too, because this is the first question that jumps to my mind when I see a dude all dressed up like a girl.  Is it because he wants to have relations with a man?  Are most men who choose to become women gay before they take this route? If not, I have a hard time imagining why they would fancy the switch.  I would think that most trans people are gay/lesbian first, in their natural body, and then when they switch, they still prefer the same hardware for sexy-time fun.  But if you’re a lesbian who becomes a man, aren’t you becoming the very thing that lesbians are trying to avoid?  If you’re a straight man who becomes a woman, do you then seek out lesbians?  Because straight women would have liked you better before, as a man, I would think, and lesbians might not be into you because you were a man.  To some people these questions might seem very offensive.  For others, they seem absurd.  But there are some of us who really like to understand how things work, and telling us that we’re not allowed to ask questions is a red flag. 

I mean no offense, and I can’t take responsibility for everybody’s feelings.  I am not trying to be derisive; I really am just curious, and I feel my curiosity and skepticism are natural.  Can a biological male really become female? 

So anyhow, we hung around and talked that night, waiting for the show to begin.  Several drag queens were walking around, all dressed up with big shawls and such.  I wandered about the club and did some people studying, finding it most fascinating.  I would have filmed and taken more pictures if I could have, but I don’t think my curiosity would have been too well received.  I didn’t even have my big camera, just the phone, so the only pictures I have from that night are lower quality.  Still, worth including.  When the singers came on, they sang some songs and danced around a bit, like any other show.  What’s funny is that if it had just been a woman singing these songs, it wouldn't have been anything special.  I doubt anyone would have even noticed her up there.  But guys dressed like women singing the same songs… wow, the crowd went nuts.  Just another aspect of the great mystery.

Later that night I got my first chance to see Rick and Morty.  My friends in Richmond, Virginia were telling me that this show is a must see, but I generally avoid getting wrapped up in television series, because even when they’re really good, they just lengthen the already long list of things that demand my attention and time.  But Nathan insisted that I really did need to see this one, and I think he was right.  Over the course of that night and the next morning, we watched the whole first season.  It was genius writing.  Very funny, if in a slightly disturbing way.  We also talked about the old days, running around and getting into mischief around Louisville, pranks we played on our poor grandmother, and old favorites like the Feist novels and Calvin and Hobbes, which we both read to near memorization growing up. 

Nathan even credited me with influencing, if only subconsciously, his eventual path to being a sommelier.  “Whenever we would go to fancy restaurants with our families,” he told the other Nathan, “Eric would tell the waiter ‘my friend would like to see the wine list.’”  (This from a Calvin and Hobbes strip.)  “I guess the notion kind of stuck,” Nathan explained.  

It was great spending some time with Nathan again.  Our lives are very different, and yet we still have a great time together.  I’m glad he is happy and doing well. 

One of Nathan's friends did this interesting art work in his apartment.  You can only tell what you're looking at when you stand in just the right place. 

One of Nathan's friends did this interesting art work in his apartment.  You can only tell what you're looking at when you stand in just the right place. 

We stayed in Chicago for close to a week.  The girlsspent the night with Dennis one night, and after that I took them out to a nearby town, Naperville, to see an outdoor orchestral performance with Nijole.  I met her daughter and some of her friends, whose kids were performing in the event.  My girls were not at all interested in the music, but the theater was in a park and there were tons of other kids running around, so they enjoyed themselves. 

Some very young violinists

Some very young violinists

Downtown Naperville

Downtown Naperville

Our final agenda item in Chicago was getting our car re-packed.  When we drove out from Oregon last December, we were full to the brim, even with two huge totes strapped to the roof.  Now we had my guitar (which I shipped to Florida to save room in the car), three boxes of my book Portlyn, and all the new stuff that the girls acquired in Mexico.  I did some mental math/tetris, and I realized we’d never fit it all.  So I went to Home Depot and bought a piece of plywood, some zip ties, ratchet straps, and a new tote.  Room for one more box on the roof.

It turned out pretty janky, but it worked.  We got everything in, though it was definitely tight.  We thanked Nijole for her hospitality, and Laura insisted we leave her some money to cover the expense of our electricity use (we did many, many loads of laundry).  I didn’t think Nijole would accept it, so Laura hid the money in a card that Eva or Gaia made for her.  When we were driving out of the city Nijole called and said we had to come back.  “You left money,” she said.  Laura laughed and said that it was for her, to cover our expenses.  Nijole wasn’t having it.  “I am going to mail it back to you,” she insisted.  Unfortunately for her, we don’t have a mailing address at the moment.  When one day we get one, I won’t be surprised if she actually mails the money back.  She is such a sweet lady, so generous and caring. 

From Chicago, we were bound for Kentucky.  We stopped briefly in Indianapolis for a picnic lunch and a downtown walk, for me.  I knew my tour was going to be very different now that the family was along.  I missed them a ton, but I certainly had mobility and speed on my side when I was traveling alone.  I didn’t even bother trying to set up meetings or talks in any of the last cities we’d be stopping through.  Sometime in the future I knew I would be touring again, so there would be opportunity.  Looking at the map, as I often do, I realized that I’m the least traveled in the central, great plains states.  For obvious reasons, I suppose.  But I don’t care if it’s flat and boring.  I want to see all these places and get to know the people there.  So hopefully my next US tour will be of that whole central plains area, all the way out to Montana, a state I’ve yet to explore.  I scratched a few states off of my never-visited list on this tour, leaving only Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  I have been to Montana, but only just briefly, crossing the corner on my way out of Yellowstone.  I’d love to explore there more.

There’s just so much to see and do in this amazing world, and my ambition seems to know no bounds.  I’m blessed to have the life I do, and I know the rest of the adventure will be just as awesome as it’s been so far.  So stay with me folks, because I’m not just going on all these journeys whimsically or without purpose.  I am on a mission, and I need everybody’s help.  This is our world, and we’re the only ones who are going to be able to fix it.

Detroit Permaculture

“Detroit Detroit, got a hell of a hockey team.  Got a left handed way of making a man sign up on that automotive dream.”

Originally, I scheduled Detroit as my main stop in Michigan.  I knew there was lots of great urban farming going on there, and I got in touch with a group called the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI).  I never did get to visit their farm, which was closed on the one day I ended up spending in Detroit, but I respect what they are doing, and I hope to get back out that way and get to know more about their project first hand. 

I only went to Flint on a whim, and it ended up being my main stop in the area.  I met great people there and had so much to see and take part in that I didn’t end up having much time to spend in Detroit.  Also, a good friend of mine passed and I went to the funeral, over the weekend I had planned to spend in Detroit.  I am glad I did still get to experience a little bit of the city and scene there.  My flight to Texas for the funeral was out of Detroit, and my friends EJ and Pascale offered to drive me there.  We went early in the morning so we could have several hours to walk around.  We explored downtown and I took my usual pictures.  We went to a coffee shop called Urban Bean Co., which was a nice local spot.  EJ was very good at talking with everyone, getting to know businesses and people in the community, helping to promote and building positive feedback loops.  I got a glimpse of that more as I went to different places with him.

After our walk through the city we went to an urban permaculture farm.  He had gotten in touch with the lady who ran it, and she told us we were welcome to swing by.  Nobody was there upon our arrival, but we walked through the gardens, which were very nice.  An enormous pig with a very thick neck and with actual tusks was hanging out in his pen, and EJ went and found somebody in the building associated with property, asking if there was anything we could feed the pig.  He came back with a bucket of kitchen scraps to slop out for the pig.  It was too funny.

We heard back from the lady who ran this garden, and she told us she was out at her other location, on the east side.  When I first got to Flint, I hung out with a couple of local guys who told me all about Detroit and Flint, and how they stay away from Detroit.  They warned me particularly about the east side, saying it was the place to avoid.

So naturally we went out there.  I could tell it wasn’t a nice side of town, but it seemed normal enough.  If anything, it seemed kind of empty.  EJ told me that whole neighborhoods had once been taken over by gangs and drug addicts, and that most of the housing that they were living in has been torn down.  Lots of empty lots.  The gardens we were visiting were on a block that no houses on either side of the street.  A big block too.  There must have been thirty or forty houses at one time, but they were all removed, leaving only trees, grasses, and small bushes.  Pioneer species are always at work to fix the mistakes humans keep making.

We saw no one when we first arrived, but at the end of the block there was a parked car and a person moving around.  We went down that way, assuming this was Tuka.  We went up and started talking with her, asking about her garden.  She was very nice, though I was confused at bit, because she didn’t seem to really want to answer questions.  Wasn’t that the purpose of why we had come?

Eventually we realized that she was not Tuka, but rather just another gardener from the area.  We went back down the street checking out other gardens, and eventually Tuka arrived.  She was more inclined to answer our questions, and she told us the history of the spot.

“This street was one of the worst places,” she explained.  “It was like the main drag, and they ended up tearing down every single house when they cleaned this place up.”  Once the land had been vacant for several years, gardeners just started appearing to use the land.  Some of them bought the lots (for practically nothing) and others simply use the land.  Tuka talked about her projects in the city, and she was affiliated with quite a few other projects.  She had a very grounded perspective and a good sense of what kind of hard work is needed to transform our world.  She talked briefly about struggles with some of the residents in the area, one in particular who likes to ride around on his mower all the time (he came out to mow while we were talking even) and find things to criticize. He had even done some damage to one of her installations (the details elude me) once, and yet she didn’t harbor any grudge that I could pick up on.  She simply understood that not everybody is ready for the changes that are coming, and that most people carry a lot of pain.  Tuka seemed like a very wise person, and I wish we could have had more time with her.

But this was towards the end of my time in the city.  My flight was in early afternoon, and we soon had to make our way to the airport.  I’m glad I got to see at least a little of what is going on in Detroit, and I had a great time hanging out with EJ and Pascale. 

Like Flint, Detroit’s population is only half of what it once was, and great opportunities remain for those who are looking for cheap land, especially for those with interest in urban renewal and suburban farming.  Realizing that there’s a problem is the first step.  Going out and actually cleaning up our world is the next step.  We start with our own backyards.  There are unused, abandoned places everywhere, and grassroots community groups ought to be approaching absentee owners everywhere, making agorist deals to get something happening there.  There are certainly enough homeless and jobless people to fill all the roles that would be needed.  It starts with an idea, and it grows into our reality. 

The Flintopia

“The best place to do permaculture and community projects is in a failed state.”  Mark, of Flintopia.

A major theme of my work is that government stands in the way of real progress, when it comes to redesigning our communities.  Laws and regulations, while perhaps well-intended, typically only support the status quo, inhibiting innovation and grassroots community efforts.  They especially stand in the way of low budget community projects, which seldom have the resources to get permits, licenses, or official permission to do the work they are doing.  Anything from gray water systems to raising chickens, to work trade housing might be considered illegal.  Having potlucks, barter markets, or concerts is a great way to bring people together, but in many cases such things are prohibited unless sanctioned by some bureaucratic process.  

We get a glimpse of just how much this official process hinders real progress when we go to places where the governments are bankrupt and simply don’t come around to bother anyone.  This is where the agora flourishes, and Flint, Michigan is just such a place.  Like many cities which were decimated by the expatriation of American industry, Flint has greatly declined.  But this isn't just standard rustbelt decline; Flint has been undergoing a major crisis with their water supply, as most people know. 

The population of Flint was once over 250,000 people, but now it has dropped to less than 100,000, a dramatic reduction which can be easily perceived when exploring the town.  Vacant properties and buildings are everywhere, and the traffic seems minimal, given the width and general design of the road system.  It was most amusing to see people treating stoplights like stop signs.  Give a good look and go when it’s safe.  No victim, no crime.

I was honored to be most warmly received by The Flintopia, a Sustainable Intentional Community in the heart of Flint.  They have an old bank building which is set up as a community center with a kitchen and a big gathering room with a wood stove.  This room was to be my lodging during my visit, on one of the many couches that took up one side of the room.  It was quite comfortable, and it was a great room for other uses as well.  Workshop space, tables, a map area with great layout of the city and which properties were vacant. There were also some musical instruments, and EJ, who was showing me around, was delighted when I brought in my guitar.  He was very nice, and he had a grand vision that was well on its way to becoming a reality.  I learned that the whole project was started up by him and his father.  The price of properties in Flint is so low that they bought up several houses along with the bank building, and they had an in-depth, long term plan for what to do with all this space.  Currently they had some local craftsmen, who were living in the main building, working to fix up the houses and get them up to comfortable standards.  They also had forest gardens in multiple locations with predominant hugelkulturs. 

EJ showed me the map and told me about the city’s plan to turn whole swaths of certain neighborhoods into renewal zones, showing which vacant lots were designated adoptable or leasable, as well as showing the condition of the existing structures.  The Flintopia is one of many projects endeavoring to redesign the land-use system of Flint, and many properties were owned by the organization called the Land Bank, which was mentioned to me by the guys at Camp Promise, not in high esteem. 

I didn’t ask EJ about the Land Bank, and I didn’t know much beyond that they have lots of land in Flint that they are trying to put to good use, with community restoration in mind, same as Flintopia.  EJ also had a permaculture project called Abundant Michigan Permaculture Flint, which was responsible for most of the forest gardens.  People interested in the project came from all over, some to stay for longer lengths of time, to intern or work trade.  

Also there during my visit was EJ's partner Pascale, who was from France, living in Montreal.  The three of us spent a good deal of time in conversation, and we were all thrilled to be on the same page about a great many issues.  The more we talked, the more EJ and I discovered that we have very similar visions and ideas, on a number of topics.  He was happy to hear me bringing unapologetic voluntaryism to the conversation, claiming that he shares the values but often isn’t able to talk too much about it because for so many people the word anarchy has too negative of a connotation.  Hence my reluctance to lead with that one word.  Voluntaryism is much more to the point, but no matter what words you use to describe it, the idea is always a little threatening to people who believe that initiatory violence (via government) is necessary to keep the order. 

When our goals are to build projects, plant gardens, and restore crumbling cities, even the most important part of the problem (violent institutions) has to be put on the back shelf sometimes to preserve cohesion.  Any solutions we come up with will be minor at best if we don't address the false authorities holding a monopoly on violence, but sometimes small steps are all we can get everyone to agree on.  EJ knows this and has kept his community-building approach focused on production of food, restoration of infrastructure, and creation of small scale industry and jobs.  He works with the city council and with the boards of directors from other non-profits, and even though he knows that all this work would be a lot easier if we just got rid of the violence-initiators, he accepts that things are like they are and makes the best of it. If you want to own land and buildings and have larger scale projects of any kind, you’ve got to interface with these systems. 

One of the houses being fixed up by the Flintopia Crew

One of the houses being fixed up by the Flintopia Crew

EJ and I both are eager to see the development of strategies that will help us get around this roadblock to redesigning our societies.  We are also pragmatists, and while the gangsters in charge don’t have legitimate authority, the rules they make are backed by the violence of the state, and even in a failed state like Flint, overt violation of code and zoning regulations would result in threats of comply-or-die from whichever government bodies claim jurisdiction.  Point being, we have to play their game for now, buying land through their title companies and paying property taxes, or everything we’re trying to build can be easily taken away from us.

Bella, hanging out by headquarters.  Bella is something of a mascot for Flintopia, and she's a great dog.

Bella, hanging out by headquarters.  Bella is something of a mascot for Flintopia, and she's a great dog.

This was but one issue we discussed in our time together.  I got along with EJ and Pascale so well that I moved my schedule around so I could stay longer.  My plans were altered yet again when I decided to fly down to San Antonio to attend a funeral of an old friend, and I was fortunate that EJ offered to help me out, driving me down to Detroit, keeping my car for me, and then picking me up again at the end of the weekend.  After my brief trip back to my hometown, I came back and spent a couple more nights with them before heading on to Chicago. 

It was great getting to know EJ and Pascale.  We explored downtown Detroit on the morning I was to fly out, and we went to two different permaculture installments in the city.  One of them was on the east side, where I’d been warned not to go by some locals up in Flint, but when we got out there, it was like a ghost town.  The whole block on which the project was set up was void of houses.  There were only gardens and empty lots with tall grasses and young trees taking back over.  There were no cars, and no people.  We did eventually meet up with the lady we had gotten in touch with, but I’ll tell more of that tale in a separate article

We also went around Flint, visiting a great book store called Totem Books, and also a memorial to the sit-down strike of 36-37.  A group of workers calling themselves the United Automobile Workers went on strike against GM, and as they usually do, the government sided with the big industry and sent in police to break up the strike.  Violence ensued, though I think it was mostly minor clashes.  A prominent statue in the park shows a woman being dragged away by police, which became something of an icon of the whole strike.  The result was a raise in pay and a few other concessions for the workers.  The United Automobile Workers were transformed from a loosely organized group to a large and prominent union.

Aside from getting along very well with EJ and Pascale, I found Flintopia to be an excellent project, a prime example of permaculture and agorism working together to tackle real problems in the world.  If you want a full scoop on what all Flintopia is up to, you should definitely check out the Facebook page.  They are laying the groundwork for what could eventually be a major hub of alternative living and education, not to mention a major stopover on the underground agorist migration/travel route that is forming.  This is something I had some great conversations with EJ about.  He and I were on the exact same page when it comes to developing an effective, consistent, but decentralized network of permaculture and agorist locations where people can couch surf and work trade as they travel around.  I was blazing my own trail in this endeavor as I moved my way up the east coast on my tour, finding folks based on common interest and being offered great hospitality just about everywhere I went. 

EJ’s project, HOBO, takes this idea to the next level, making it easy for people to travel unconventionally and cheaply.  Different combinations of rideshare, hitch hiking, biking, and couch surfing make it possible to get all the way across the country with very little money, and EJ is working on setting up an easy to use system to streamline all these types of endeavors and establish a peer review rating system similar to what Airbnb uses to develop credentials and profiles for travelers and hosts.  This idea is still being developed, and soon there will be an online manual to explain it better detail.

Some other highlights from my visit were going up on the roof of the main building, where we could see the whole spread of Flintopia, and where EJ gave me a bit of a bigger picture download on the goals of the project.  I was glad to be part of a great yoga session with EJ’s friend Jules, who leads yoga for the group regularly.  It was also really fun when we got an impromptu jam session going out on the street corner.  I took my guitar, Mark took a drum, and EJ took some juggling balls to juggle while we played.  Our goal was not to get money for this, but just to show some high spirits and vitality in the streets.  We got great feedback, with many honks and cheers.

So much more could I tell about The Flintopia, but this was just a first visit.  I will definitely have to get back up there for a follow up, and I’d love to get more time on camera with EJ talking about all of the ideas that he’s working on.  I did get in a good interview with him right before I left, which is up on Youtube, and I’ll embed it here as well. 

I write about places like The Flintopia and people like EJ not just to inspire people with what can be done, as far as solutions go, but to provide real, on the ground options for people who want to break out of the matrix.  If you’re sick of the rat race and want to just get out and start over, there are places where you can go and be taken care of as you work out the details of your life transition.  Places like D Acres, Keene New Hampshire, Richmond Virginia, Orlando Florida, and Earthaven Ecovillage all represent different kinds of options people have when they’re looking for a new way of life. 

An example of this is Tom, who had us all over for dinner one night in Flint.  Tom also bought a house in the area and is in many ways in alignment with the goals of The Flintopia.  We had a great conversation over dinner, and he played us a few songs on guitar, one of which I’ll post as a video, so much did I like the words. 

Tom’s story is a perfect example of what I see becoming a growing trend – people finding new situations in life that are more in line with how they want to live, and which are cheaper and less stressful than conventional work-a-day reality.  Don’t get me wrong, living in the alternative scene (ecovillages, co-housing, agorist hubs) involves hard work.  But it also affords a freedom that can never be achieved when you’re running an uphill race against economic factors (like rent spikes and inflation) beyond your control.  Each individual has to design his or her own strategy, but organizations are popping up to help with this process, making it easier and easier for people to find their way out of the labyrinth, to come up from the caves and step into the sunlight of agorism, conscious awareness, and freedom.  Let the great migration begin!

To wrap up, here is a picture of a cat in a basket at The Flintopia. 

To wrap up, here is a picture of a cat in a basket at The Flintopia. 

A Conversation With Darrell of the Glowhouse

While I was in Washington DC, I was stayed at the Glowhouse, an intentional community in the city.  Darrell was my host, and he was a really awesome guy to get to know.  He owns the house, and he has turned it into a scene for Burners and an intentional community.  A three story house with a basement, the Glowhouse is a combination of a residence, an Airbnb, a couch surfing scene, and a venue for events. 

I talked with Darrell about permaculture, agorism, and voluntary society, and he was all on board with almost everything I was laying down.  Darrell was a good listener, taking the time to sit down and listen to my vision, giving me excellent feedback.  We talked about the fishing licenses, and some limits on what people can do to nature or take out of nature.  A free for all would really destroy the last of what is left. 

And, for the record, a free for all is not what we are envisioning when we speak of a stateless society.  Law enforcement and maintenance of infrastructure will continue to be prioritized.  The only difference is that the ‘state’ no longer has the right to use violence, arrest, or any kind of force in cases of civil infractions.  Only an aggression with a victim can be called a crime.  For actual crimes, we most certainly have law enforcement, though their training (in the voluntaryist version) includes mediation, peacemaking, and persuasion.  As well as martial arts.  In most cases, though, violence is not even needed. 

But I digress.  I had a great conversation about the whole idea of community and changing the way the world works, and Darrell had many insights.  I was glad to get to chat with him on camera for a bit about such things.  We also covered Burning Man, Bitcoin, and how the blockchain could be used to serve almost all the functions we currently rely on government agencies to oversee.  The interview is well worth checking out!  Darrell has really got a good sense of the big picture, and he seems to be right in the middle of the new culture that’s growing through the cracks of the broken system.  The more of us that hold the vision, the more it takes root in reality.  So keep on dreaming of the kind of world you would like to see!

Gerald Celente of Trends Research Institute

When following economics and world affairs, there is a lot to keep up with, and we have precious few sources of reliable information.  Corbett is great at helping us understand the history of things, Storm Clouds Gathering is great at dissecting current events, but the most reliable source of insight and perspective about what is to come is Gerald Celente and the Trends Research Institute.  

Gerald is a trends forecaster who analyzes current events, through which he can see which direction things are heading, in many different arenas of geo-politics.  He predicted the stock market crash of 89, for which he became very well known in mainstream media, and he has made many other accurate forecasts of things to come.  He became too radical for the mainstream a while back, and now he mostly makes appearances in independent media, on top of having his own publication, the Trends Journal, and a daily broadcast of news and reflections. 

He was kind enough to spend some time with me to talk about the state of things presently and the rise of counter-economics.  Before meeting Mr. Celente, I took a brief tour of the three historic buildings he owns in downtown Kingston, New York.  These are all stone buildings from the eighteenth century, the only intersection in the country where all four corner buildings are pre-revolutionary war. 

Kingston is a beautiful city.  I walked about before my meeting, and it has great appeal.  A perfect place for someone like Gerald, who always struck me as being a classy guy.  He’s always nicely dressed, he enjoys good food, good conversation, theater and fine arts, yet he’s from the Bronx, carrying none of the high-brow attitude sometimes associated with the finer things of life.  He's just a down to earth guy who’s passionate about this country, about freedom, and about bringing back high quality of life.  I had never met Mr. Celente before this interview, but I had seen enough of him in videos to feel like I knew him a bit, already.  I was excited to meet him and have a discussion.

Kingston was the original capital of New York, before it was a state.

Kingston was the original capital of New York, before it was a state.

Spring: Gray Skies and Colorful Flowers

Spring: Gray Skies and Colorful Flowers

Fire station, for volunteer firemens

Fire station, for volunteer firemens

He welcomed me into his office and studio, which is another old building he owns.  The sidewalk is lined with plants, and the inside is almost like a jungle.  There are so many plants that you can’t even see his desk from the front door.  The whole place is one big room, with his desk, I later learned, is hidden away in the forest of potted plants. 

On the other side of the room is a bar, which is often the set for the nightly news segments.  In the back was a giant pizza oven, which Gerald installed.  He told me the whole place was bare when he got it, and he had to redo the floors and some walls and bring in all the furnishings.  He has done a really great job, because the place has a very nice appeal.  The middle area has several dining tables, making the place feel like a European café of some sort.  Nice spot!

 

Gerald and I spoke at length about a great many things.  The full interview is up now, and I'm working on a recap that is less than ten minutes.  I do hope you’ll check them out.  And if you haven’t ever heard of Gerald Celente or the Trends Journal, it’s definitely worth looking into.  I have been enjoying the latest edition very much.  Aside from the great content, I can't tell you how nice it is to look through a magazine that is ad free.  Most magazines are anywhere between two thirds and three quarters advertisement, so it's wonderful to get a straight shot of stimulating original material.

 

Thanks to Gerald Celente for taking the time to meet with me, and for all the great he's doing!