Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Sam deserves his own post as he is on my list of people who I think I know well enough to write about. He and I have had numerous adventures together and still do as we see each other often. Sam is one of the smartest and most knowledgeable people I know, and a real seeker of knowledge. We have a lot of fun playing together and I learn a lot when we work together.My only trouble with Sam is doing something with him when it's in an area where I know as much or perhaps even more than Sam. Then, Sam is, as I often tell him, a "pain in the ass". I understand that the need to question every step in a process is a security issue for Sam whose family are a bunch of weird and selfish people, however, I ain't one of them. Of course, I am a pain in the ass who never feels he's wrong either, so I'm really not one to judge. To be fair, Sam and I usually work out our differences, and in spite of them, really like each other.

Sam had a good time with the guys at Big Gray. The men's club of Big Gray was a long standing tradition at the house. The men (especially) were more likely to have night jobs or weekends in the middle of the week as I did at both the bookstore and at Circle's.That also meant the people who you hung out with the most at Big Gray were men. There were a few women who didn't fit the mold , like Sylvia who worked nights waitressing and Donna who had ten or more odd jobs in her three year stay. But by and large,it was the men of the house who would find themselves gathering together for all manner of conversation and libations. I'm sure it was during one of these "meetings" that Sam and I cooked up the idea to grow pot indoors at Big Gray.Our outdoor gardens were far too apparent to our neighbors to whom we were trying to appear more "normal", and we had an entire crop stolen once before. So, as you constant readers will know, there was a long tradition at Big Gray of using the large, unoccupied space of the basement for individual ventures. Jaime's bottle destroying wall , Barbara's pottery studio, Abby's jewelry studio, Matt's wood shop ,the darkroom and my garden starting area were all "basement projects". The garden area consisted of a wooden frame with three shelves positioned between two of the basement's pillars.I mounted grow lights on the shelves and started garden plants there in early spring. There was a heavy, plastic sheet in the back of the frame used to block the cold from destroying my young plants. We decided to block off the area defined by the frame by placing two pieces of sheet rock from the frame extending back to the cellar wall. That created a "room"which we then sealed from light by lining it with garbage bags. This was important for two reasons. For one, meter readers visited our basement monthly, and secondly, in order to reach the flowering stage, pot needs to be grown in alternating 16 hour "days" and 8 hour nights completely devoid of light. To provide light, we hung a 5 bulb commercial florescent frame which we found in the trash somewhere from the ceiling. We construed a way it could be lowered or raised as needed to supply light to the 9 buckets of a specially designed soil mix we created. An aquarium timer shut the lights off after the requisite 16 hour interval. Characteristically, we argued incessantly during the whole process and the pot even though we got it to flower, wasn't that good. Weeks into our project, we learned that our basement was being bathed in carbon monoxide from a blocked chimney vent. Sam blames that on our arguments. I think we would have argued anyway, but I wonder if it compromised the pot.

Sam and I still argue over most things we do together, but our friendship also continues to grow.
At Big Gray, he had problems with the process of seeking consensus. Like Dan, he found consensus inhibited us from making Big Gray into a truly beautiful place to live and would have opted for a majority rule. (There was always someone who didn't want to spend money or energy for many of these projects)I don't think majority rule belongs in a commune, although I understand their position and often felt the same frustration with less committed people who for various reasons didn't want to go along with projects to improve the house. Recently, Sam's partner proposed we (She and Sam and my wife and I) buy a piece of property with the intention of creating another communal house, only this time with rules we would all be committed to following. I shot down the idea. I really don't think a commune can survive with rules, just like I don't believe a family can flourish on rules alone. It takes love and trust to make a family work, and I think the same holds true for communes. That's why all the rituals and parties and meals together are so important. They help provide the "glue" that bind people together. Where I personally failed with Big Gray was in not following my instincts about people who I felt would not fit the Big Gray model. Practically speaking, we would have had far fewer problems had I been stronger about waiting for people I felt that bond with. Of course, we would also have had far fewer members that way, but Sam would have been happier. Anyhow, Sam eventually left to argue with his new bride and Big Gray was left trying to recruit what would be its last Fire Chief.

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