Sunday, 27 May 2012
These Are The Days
It's summer here, humid with thunderstorms. The fan is on, which makes me think of that great John Godfrey line "Like Mick Jagger, I turn on my fans". It was eighteen years ago that I moved to the Lower East Side (East 6th Street between A and B, to be specific). We had a fan in that apartment. It filtered in the musty cat-piss scent of early June’s Tree of Heaven saplings springing up in the back alley. I lived with my friend Dave and thousands of roaches, and O.J. Simpson was on t.v. driving around the Los Angeles freeway in his white Ford Bronco. Every night I got a slice of pizza for $1.25 and went to Kim's video on Avenue A to pick out a Fellini movie. It was a steamy Italian summer. Those were the good old days. Were they? Probably not. Some things were good. The rents were cheap, but of course they seemed really expensive. Pizza seemed cheap and was cheap. Falafel too.
There are these heyday moments in life. In 1986, sophomore year of college in Buffalo, I met a bunch of cool twenty-year-olds. Green, New Left, queer/lesbian/straight, feminist, punk, folk, eco-conscious recycling freaks and food-coop-shoppers. We all moved into a big place on the North Side of town at 67 Englewood Avenue and started a sprawling chaotic cooperative community soon to be called “Love House”. Phil lined the floor of his room with leaves and welcomed in spiders, Tae-Wol lined the attic with red carpet and entertained interesting boys, Mr. Kim cooked ox tail soup in the kitchen, Julie and Aaron tripped on acid and stared at a light bulb through a spaghetti strainer, Lori and Kim raged against the patriarchy, we made tie-dye tee shirts in the basement and sold them to pay the rent. I learned about the finer pleasures of life: cashew butter, darjeeling tea, French press coffee, hashish, vegetarian Indian buffet, and magic mushrooms. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll (the Smiths, the Cocteau Twins, Jonathan Richman, and Bob Dylan) were themes of the place, but all kinds of things happened: we hosted poetry readings and edited a magazine called No Trees (published by the Love House Press Collective). On one occasion an ancient friend of Jack Kerouac's named John Montgomery came through town and we lured him to the attic to recite his verse. Discussions of politics inevitably turned into organizing meetings, which turned into direct actions. We locked horns with the college republicans, kept the CIA from recruiting on campus, took over the president’s office to protest the university’s Star Wars-related research projects, held a three day fast in solidarity with the Sandinistas, bused down to Washington to march on the Pentagon. William Blake, Emma Goldman, and Bob Marley were our heroes. Life was good. And then eventually it all fell apart. We squabbled over the virtues and vices of pornography, tofu, and revolutionary violence. The rent didn’t get paid. We stopped sharing food. Some from the group fled for San Francisco. Others stayed on and went to graduate school. Everyone turned out okay in the end (a bunch of lawyers, one librarian, one poet, one nurse, and a queer city council person).
I never thought it would be possible to again have that feeling of belonging and a shared “ethos” like they say. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, really. In New York City the rents are high, everyone works a lot, and people are focused on “making it” in some field or another. And then once a kid comes along you’re lucky if you have the energy to get down the block to socialize with the Pakistani cashiers at the 99 Cent Store. For Thomas and I, the first two years of kid-raising were bright with the joy of the kid and dark with the emptiness of the world around us. Every instinct we had about becoming a family was impinged upon by pediatricians, friends, neighbors, online mom groups, and even people passing on the street (“put a hat on that baby”). We felt more alone than we ever had, and New York was already a pretty lonely place.
Then the unthinkable happened. Back in September, after Bea got tossed from her preschool Waldorf-modeled Central Park-based outdoor nursery group (dress code violation), my first instinct was to buy her an ice cream and head to the Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaurs. Within a couple hours I realized that we had to continue our relationship with Central Park, with or without the acorn-worshipping Waldorfians. (I had had just about enough of Grandfather Gnome anyway.) So I asked around and lucked into the right places (the New York City Attachment Parenting group, a couple unschooling email lists, and the Queens homeschooling community). On our first day out in the park there were a dozen or more families with toddlers and babies. Within a month there were fifty people on our mailing list. By mid-winter the group had shrunk to thirty, with a core group of about a dozen moms and dads who were very serious about having fun with their kids in all kinds of weather even if it meant spending an hour plus on the subway with a hyper toddler. It’s taken months for me to permit myself to believe that there is room for ethical communal social life in New York City in the 21st Century. For the last seven months our free range forest nursery group has gathered every week (indeed three days a week), and the kids are now comrades who cross the rocky ledges of Central Park like a herd of wild mountain goats. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll have become co-sleeping, breast-feeding, and running with sticks. Shoes are optional, clothing is optional, raw carrots, raw milk, and seaweed are staples. In a great turn of events, every instinct I’ve had about child-raising has been confirmed. It’s okay for me to really want to spend entire days (and nights) with my kid by my side. I don’t have to hide the fact that we’re breastfeeding past the age of three. I can say “I didn’t sleep last night” without hearing the tedious return “You need to sleep-train”. I don’t have to bow to any social pressure to tell my kid to share or to say thank you. No one looks at me in slack-jawed disbelief when I say I’m not sending my kid to school. The conversation is not “how many vaccinations did you do at once?” but “are you going to do any vaccinations?” Weekday meetings now extend to weekend camping trips and cross-borough dinner gatherings and child care swaps and online recipe exchanges and chance meetings at secret Amish raw milk delivery sites. The kids make it clear that they’re quite capable of forging hiking routes, inventing games, sorting out squabbles (usually), and thriving under the old Crowleyan maxim “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” As for the parents, we now have a sanctuary where we can sit in the grass peeling apples with Buck knives removed from the damning mainstream accusation of “extreme” child-raising. Call me extreme, but I’m grateful that my kid has a place in a community where she can become herself in relation to a bunch of other kids, and adults, and red-bellied woodpeckers, who are all also becoming themselves out under the oak trees.
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
This and That
It's been hard to get to the blog because of all else that goes on around here: teeth-brushing, toy-picking-up, adventures in central park, slow-food-cooking-experiments. And then once in a while there's a quiet naptime and time to check in here.
We've been thinking about water filters this week, and wondering if we should buy a high-tech water filter to reduce the chlorine and the fluoride and the arsenic and the lead and everything else that is in our water. Sure, the water in NYC is clean and safe. Kind of. It comes from a nice reservoir, not far from our place upstate. But then it has to travel 150 miles to get here. And it's processed to kill the bacteria, so it's more like swimming pool water than spring water. Then the water is medicated with fluoride. We've heard anti-fluoride mamas described as "fringe". Fringe? The fluoride surrounds us, and really it's not that good for you— and sometimes is actually too much for a toddler's teeth (and bones, and organs). We keep it out of our toothpaste, but we'd also like to keep it out of our water. Europe is 97% fluoride free. Why not we? (If we lived in London we wouldn't have fluoride in our water, wouldn't pay for health care, wouldn't have to register our kid with a board of education, and wouldn't be arguing with the doctor every time they suggested a chicken pox shot.) I suppose the fringe American is just a mainstream European at heart. So, we're going to get a water filter that at least reduces the amount of fluoride that we consume (not to mention bathe in).
Meanwhile we've been doing a lot of bird watching in the Ramble in Central Park, and these are our sightings for the month: red-tailed hawk, starling, grackle, downy woodpecker, robin, field sparrow, mourning dove, pigeon, mallard, red-winged black bird, cardinal.
Stay tuned for warblers. And peace.
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Rather than alienating our friends with our views of the Neighborhood Bully Israel or Crazy Drone Strike President Obama, we've decided to talk about food today.
With a kid in the house, food is a big topic. What should we eat that is good for us and good for the Beast? We've spent the last seven months in Central Park with fellow moms and fellow toddlers, hashing out all the possibilities for good eating. We've switched to a primarily local food diet, and we've boarded the raw milk boat. Lacto-fermentation is a key word. Phytic acid: for or against it? Now other questions loom: gluten or no gluten? Paleolithic diet anyone?
As an experiment, we've decided to spend the next four weeks eating what other friends (families with toddlers) eat. We've collected shopping list from the peops, and here's what it looks like:
Week 1: D's semi-paleo no wheat no sugar (not even fruit sugar) list. This includes sustainable fish, olives, greens, carrots, avocado, yams, quinoa, cheese, cheese, and more cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, and miso. And we threw in a rabbit.
Week 2: M's Persian picks: lamb, chicken, fruit, fruit, and more fruit, rice, tilapia, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsnips, eggs, and saffron.
Week 3: A's hearty homestyle: eggs, cottage cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, ground meat, liver, stock bones, cheese, salmon, carrots, onions, tomatoes, basmati rice.
Week 4: C's picks. Those are pending.
More on all of this next week. After we complete the Grocery Lists of Friends Challenge, we'll try a week of the Okinawa diet. Peace out people, and eat whatever you want to.
Monday, 16 April 2012
It seems like the only way to battle insomnia is by not sleeping. Hence we are not sleeping on a freakishly warm spring night. Expect the temperature to hit 86 in NYC tomorrow. Meanwhile, the outdoor rooftop gardens are planted with pumpkins, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, and swiss chard. Amish farmers provide most of the rest of the incoming food, including the honey, raw milk, goat meat, ground beef and beef liver (for meatballs), and cheddar cheese. We at Lisablog are very grateful for local farmers.
These days we wonder what is important in life. Should we make money in easy ways or hard ways? Academia would be an "easy" way to make money, but it's really not something we want to do. Gardening is "easy" (we enjoy it), but it doesn't "pay the bills", or not most of them. We'd be content with knitting hats for money, but that's no way to make money you silly goose. So once again we're stuck here in this big stinking pile of capitalism (with limited capital) wondering what to do. The three year old who rules the household like to romp in Central Park and climb big rocks in the morning, and then have some ice cream, and then nap til dinner. This seems like a fine life too. I think where is Marx when you need him? We need "to each according to his needs", and what we need is a modest place to live, some chickens, and some peace and quiet to do our work. But this is what Robert Duncan wanted in 1946, and he never got too close to that except for a year or two in Stinson Beach circa 1958.
So, we sit in this island of insomnia and purring cats waiting for the answer. Until next time, peace out people, and eat the rich.
Monday, 9 April 2012
this and that
We were away from the blog being strip-searched by the Supreme Court. Really, what is happening on the civil liberties front? If you happen to get stopped by the cops as your bike drifts through a red light they can now strip search you even without suspicion that you have drugs or weapons. Any arrest can be accompanied by a strip search. Traffic violation. Open container violation. Going to a peace rally? Save them some time and show up naked. Also what is this problem Obama has with justice and liberty for all? The government of the United States is slap-happy for indefinite detention without trial of human beings. Don't call them terrorists. They're actually human beings. When we think about moving to England we think about all of this. And also about another cracked tooth that is going to net some dentist $1500 an hour. Meanwhile, it's a wild windy springtime in Sunnyside and we are back in Central Park this week to pick the dandelions and invasive ranunculus. Saturday's farm pick up includes ground beef liver. Do you believe it? We're going to make meatballs. Meanwhile, headaches are all the rage here. Does anyone have a good Chinese acupuncturist, NYC area? Peace out people. We'll be back soon.
Monday, 26 March 2012
The mom of Lisa of Lisablog points out that the blog has been languishing. It's been a very busy early spring here, with forays into gardening business (the pansies and primroses are in, and we've started a rooftop vegetable garden on top of a parking garage in Woodside. Meanwhile, Matilda (the oshino cherry tree on our block) has bloomed. She's thirteen days ahead of last year's bloom-fest.
It's true we feel a lurking despair about the state of the world (why are we in Afghanistan? who are these right-wing nuts who want to control women and their reproductive organs? why did Dick Cheney get that heart?).
At the same time we're trying to make things better, bit by bit. Our food supply is clean these days. We give our money to some Amish farmers in Pennsylvania and they provide us with onions, potatoes, goat, lamb, chicken, eggs, and milk. We dabble in local grown lettuces and try to keep a good stockpile of organic apples for the Beast. Our most extragant expense is Pakistani sea salt. (No weird anti-clumping agents.)
We also are imagining crossing the sea to set up house in the United Kingdom. Why? Dismiss it as a back-assward system, but health care and dental care are still the rights of mans and womans and childrens in the UK. The social contract is strong there. (Speaking of which, our friend Rebecca just got back from Tokyo where people leave their bikes unlocked on the street.) Food: the UK labels GMO food. Who knows what we eat here in the USA. And then there's the European Union. What better place to unschool a kid than the EU? Forget about art history class, we're going to the Prado. And yes, we have good friends there. Some of them are even bee keepers.
We'll be back soon with more news of this and that. Keep an eye out for the Robert Duncan book. We've heard we'll see a copy in early June. (I know the pub date is May, but publishing business, oy vey! as Tuli used to say.)
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Been Away, Are Back
We've been away but we are back.
Reasons we've been away are multitudinous. We're reading proofs of the RD biography mainly, but also kid-enjoying and making yogurt and pickles and soup stocks and rye bread and there are also rice germination experiments.
Also there was a trip to Buffalo, and a long train ride home yesterday with a semi-cranky Beast. Snow in the upstate hills makes us miss our childhood haunts of the cornfields of Derby, New York.
And then there are the Adventures of Tin Tin which never leave our consciousness these days. Tin Tin is the not so secret hero of our household. We've been watching a French version of The Castafiore Emerald over and over and over again.
And we've been out in the park as the non-winter turns to spring. The crocuses and hellebores and winter jasmine shrubs are all blooming. As we change seasons we change gears a bit with the kiddies. We spent the winter days romping through the empty park and huddling close together to eat our snacks. Now we're working toward a more structured "Forest Kindergarden" with games and treasure hunts and story telling and plant and animal identification. If only we could build yurts and have bonfires. It's likely we'll start taking weekend road trips with the crew to add those kinds of activities into the mix.
What comes of all this time in the park? Some wonderful friendships with moms from all over the NYC area. A bunch of kids who are fearless rock climbers. Sightings of blue jays, sparrows, starlings, red tailed hawks, early spring bulbs, squirrels galore. It's simply the best way we can think of to spend our days, and it adds a new dimension to unschooling: giving us a wild environment to learn from in the midst of the metropolis.
We'll be back soon with more news on this and that and hopefully with no news about Israeli bombing raids. Peace out people.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
We've been offline because we're proofreading the Robert Duncan biography. We'll be online again in two weeks. Peace, people.
Sunday, 5 February 2012
We just read about the 1983 Mitt Romney dog incident. (He put his dog on the roof of the car for a twelve hour ride.) Well, what do you expect from Republicans?
Meanwhile, we're back from the UK where we had a wonderful time with the family and friends. As ever, the land across the pond feels more humane than the land of the lost NYC. People compost their vegetables, not just by themselves, but with the help of the sanitation department. Doctors and dentists, yes, I know people say it's a crap system, but it's there, and it serves everyone, and you can call the National Health anytime day or night and say "I have a headache and I'm pregnant, can I take these blue pills with the number 7 on them?" Someone will actually give you an educated answer.
There's a certain social contract to life in the UK that is not the USA "who gives a shit?" lack of social contract. And the public transport? There's always a dude at the turnstile who can tell you the quickest route to your destination. There are services for people. Hot damn.
In New York we're always trying to find these things tribally, in little tiny communities of the outcasts of capitalist culture. It's an upstream swim, very Mad Max.
Now, the Superbowl. Well, someone will win. More on this later. Our t.v. keeps pixilating and saying "no signal", so it's also an upstream swim.
And finally, for all you fearful flyers out there, we finally have the answer: 3 Ativan, and 1 Beta Blocker. Flying is fun.
Peace out people. We'll be back next week with news of this and that, including but not limited to tales from our beekeeping class and ideas for fermenting beans and grains.
Thursday, 19 January 2012
We're heading to London on Saturday to see the peops across the pond. It's hard to think about lifting off from New York in the midst of such a comfortable schedule of days spent wandering Central Park with a pack of wild and wooly toddlers. The routines of mom-hood (making snacks, taking baths, reading Tin Tin) are very soothing.
At the same time it's exciting to imagine the visit with grandma and grandpa and Aunty Mapes. We're hoping to make it out to a walking adventure at Kew Gardens with some UK Unschoolers, and we're hoping to make a stop at Westminster Abbey where many of our favorite kings are entombed. Creepy? Well, we'll skip Lindow Man at the British Museum for now, and that nutty Museum of Medical Anomolies. But we will go to the Museum of Childhood and the Tin Tin shop. Mostly we want to see friends and drink tea and maybe have a pint.
As fearful flyers, we've been doing all the crazy stuff that we always do pre-flight: checking out the turbulence maps (very turbulent today over nova scotia and the north atlantic), taking pills (beta blockers and ativan), checking cruise ship schedules. Sigh. Tips welcome, as always.
We'll check in from the old country. Peace out peops.
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