Monday, May 26, 2008

William FKA Bill and the Last Generation

The topping on the cake. The cherry on top.This group of Big Gray kiddos renewed my faith in the communal mischigas. (I'm sure one of the BG Jews will tell me how to spell that) When Bill (I'm calling him Bill) showed up, and it appeared that he might make it through the process which for him was maybe 3 or 4 days, I awoke from my apathetic slumber. I needed to get with him alone and create an idea for him of how the house worked--how the Fire Chief and the Peace Chief were kind of like "good cop /bad cop", or yin and yang, or maybe Abbot and Costello. Anyway,I wanted him, needed him to buy into my original idea of the house. After all, I was the last guy standing who actually cared. No, that isn't right. I'm sure Joyce, Kim and Kristin cared. On the other hand, there was Maureen who probably didn't care at all. But no one was going to discuss conflict resolution, or how to create a fire chief persona with Bill but me. So we talked. We talked a lot . Like a director and his lead actor, we talked. Bill stepped right into the role and played it to the hilt. The last years were great ones in the house. I have a picture of Bill and I hanging a "sweet sixteen" party gizmo over the front door at our annual summer party. a . That was probably his first summer party , so I'll call those six years till the decommissioning of Big Gray, the time of the Last Generation.

The players were Joyce, Maureen , Kim , Kristin, Bill, John D. , Vienna , Eric and Cathy, Hoopy , Eva, Anastasia, Ken ,Brenna , Judith and me. With the exception of Eric and Cathy who were a mistake , and Maureen who wasn't a strong contributor to group dynamic or our culture, we all contributed in a very positive way to what after all, were our best years as a community.
Many of these people are younger than my kids. But we bonded and the stories which I hope they will all finally contribute, are a fitting last note to my opera. So come on you Last Gen readers, it's your turn. What was your Big Gray experience like?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Process of Finding Members

Finally, I am nearing the end of this sordid tale, dear readers. I find myself a little sad and nostalgic at writing those words as it means the tale of Big Gray is almost over is almost over. Perhaps it's fitting that Alfred Hoffman, the inventor of LSD died yesterday (at 102), as it was fitting that Jerry Garcia died a few months before the end of Big Gray in 1996. I look for those portends always- signs on the path. Anyway, back to the "Real, Real World" as we later called Big Gray in our recruitment ads. Recruitment was the lifeblood of the house because "house chemistry" was really key to enjoying living at Big Gray where we all, more or less suffered each other's warts, as long as we had that spark between us. For me, because I have always both recognized the need , and enjoyed the result, I sought that "chemistry" between myself and the house "fire chiefs" In meetings, I often took their side, but tried to stay short of creating rifts in the tribal fabric.
But, the prospect of getting someone to replace Sam (a Fire Chief who I bonded with) and Dan (who had a looser bond with me) , and someone who had the vision of Big Gray I did, was not something I looked forward to. The culture wars at Big Gray were becoming boring to me. Recruiting had become a tedious process. I needed someone who I liked, someone who had expertise , someone who wouldn't hide in their room, but instead, and this was always the kicker for me, I needed someone who would vigorously promote the idea of the communal experience. This is why I loved our parties large and small. It opened our home and exposed us, not as people shut off from each other , but rather as family members of Big Gray. If you visited one of us, you visited us all. You weren't just Sam's girl friend, or Kristin's mom and sisters, or Becky's friend or... well, you get the idea don't you? Aside from the "chemistry" component and the communal spirit, there was one other very necessary condition. We always needed someone who took care of business financially.We rarely found all of these traits in the same person. I don't honestly remember a single time in the house where everyone was paying their bills in a timely manner. We had always been home to people in transition. Lovely people with little money. Who among the thousands of people perusing the Village Voice wanted to move to the end of the line in Brooklyn, and live in a huge house filled with people who shared their business? They had to be a little crazy. It was our job on the phone and in subsequent interviews to weed out the very crazy, the very boring and the very poor. Then, we had to reach consensus, or continue our search. It's easier to elect a pope.