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?


W said...

My memory is a little different of how I got to be a "fire chief". First off, I entered Big Grey as a temporary roomie, at the time, I was applying for the Peace Corps, and was only going to be there a couple of months. My feeling was that my entrance was opposed by Joe (because of my cat) and Dan, but that was overcome because of my supposed transient stay. Needless to say, the Peace Corps didn't want me, and so I was there to stay.

I didn't really need to be coached to be a fire chief, once I was there to stay, my more natural predilection as a pot-stirrer came out. Calling people on chores or inconsiderate behavior was never a problem for me. I recall Kristin being more my goad than Joe, though. Joe would certainly take the good cop role, though at times we would reverse roles.

A lot of my "fire chief" came out as a result of my being the house bookeeper. It was often the more delinquent who were the most obstructive to keeping the house energy moving, and the combination would at times infuriate me -- the person who wouldn't make time to meet potential rent-paying roommates also neglected to pay their rent that month; the one who complained about the extra $5 we were going to have to pay for cable when she was already $600 in arrears, as if that was the whole reason she was a deadbeat. And my favorite, the look I'd get when I explained why a check for $300 next month didn't help much when you already owed $500 -- as if I was cheating with my high-falutin' finance, not that the rest of us were being short-changed.

(Note: Not everyone in debt at the house was a problem, Some were very conscientious and pro-active, especially in the later years I handled it.)

My concept of the last generation is a little different, too, though I can see why Joe makes the break he does with his longer view of events. As I recall, we were going to be down to three full-time members, Joe, Vienna and me, and two part-timers, Kim and Joyce. Maybe John was with us, can't recall.

We sat down to a dinner (cooked by Joe, natch) on the porch and talked about how this was an opportunity to re-create the original intention, albeit with a 1990's reality. We didn't want boarders, we wanted roommates, people we could hang out with, who wanted to hang with us, who brought some creative energy to the house. And so we started recruiting, and got some amazing people to come. Anastasia would become the heart of the house, and still is to this day; Hoopy, who was so goofily lovable, I don't think anyone ever argued with him; Ken, the wild child/man who felt every moment; Eva, straight-talking sweetheart who could be hardass when the situation called for it; and Brenna, who just plain wasn't with us long enough.

In retrospect, I wish I had been able to forego my fire chief hat when they came, it would have been a lot more enjoyable for all of us. I couldn't put it down because it was my nature, and that couldn't change overnight, I needed to evolve out of it, something I'm still not finished doing.

Anonymous said...

You were a good fire chief, Bill.

William fka Bill said...

You know, reading this, I forgot to mention the woman who replaced Brenna, the last member (and I apologize if I've made a mistake). Judith was a marvelous presence, serene, creative (I remember going to see her perform as a storyteller at Dixon Place). She brought an energy that was at once ethereal and earthy.

Thanks to the anonymous writer's encouragement.