20 September 2016

Cooperative Housing Plan for the Future

  1. Get 5 or 6 more friends interesting in Co-housing. 
    1. Couples+Singles would be the excellent. 
    2. Couples and Singles that also include children would be awesome.
  2. Create a community contract stipulating plans and ALL that follows.
    1. It should be clear about obligations 
      1. including obligations for departing members such as paying off bills, etc.
    2. Everyone signs it.
    3. Get it notarized.
    4. Bring this with you when you do anything as a group: apartments, banking, joining Sam's Club etc.
  3. Set up a joint bank account.
    1. You'll need, probably, a credit union to do this.
      1. Cuz they will be easier on your group 
      2. Their fees won't kill you
  4. Even though everyone is still living on their own, begin collecting money monthly from all parties: this is to set up a fund for first month's rent, security deposit etc.  Ideally this fund will also have the second month's rent in it (or more) before you find a place to live - each month that you have saved up is one less month of stress when you actually move in.
    1. Yes, this may take a year or more.
    2. During this time, hang out a LOT: picnics, bar nights, movie nights. 
      1. Do you all go to the same school? 
        1. Take classes together. 
      2. Do you all go to the same worshipping tradition?
        1. Can you transfer memberships, whatever, to end up together?
  5. Find a large apartment or townhouse, house or other structure to rent.
    1. Tents are probably a bad idea
  6. Move in!
    1. YAY!
    2. Now for the hard part
  7. Track everything - any spending on food, utilities, rent, fixing things, renting movies for the house, phone bills (individual cellphone bills, yes) and anything else associated with the house.  Document it all on a spreadsheet.  Have weekly meetings to submit receipts. DO NOT FIGHT OVER THESE, YOU'RE STILL IN THE FIRST PHASE.
  8. After six months evaluate:
    1. Add cost rent (6 months)
      Cost of Utilities (6 months worth)
      Cost of food bought for the house (6 months worth)
      Cost of any individual purchase - phone bills, light bulbs, etc.
    2. Take total cost and divide by 6
      Take that 1/6 cost and divide by number of folks in the house.
    3. This is the cost of living in your house monthly per person.
    4. NB It is ok to make adjustments: the room under the stairs doesn't need to cost as much as the penthouse, but everything else should be divided evenly.
    5. To the monthly cost per person, add $100 - this is for savings.
    6. Figure out what a basic health care plan would cost for an individual in your area, be that through Blue Cross, Healthy SF, Covered CA, etc. 
      1. Allow for folks to include this estimated cost in the monthly contribution to the community.
  9. Begin collecting the new rent+costs+$100 from each person each month
  10. PAY ALL BILLS ON TIME out of the new fund.
    1. Including individual cellphone plans.  
    2. Shop for the house from the new fund.
    3. Get a CSA and or join a food club. 
    4. Its OK to fight over these now.
    5. The goal is "From each according to their ability to each according to their need." The month my cellphone bill taps my savings account is the month I need to eat on the house, so it's ok. 
  11. You should, ideally, have $500-600 a month left over. 
    1. Put this in the bank account until you have two months' rent surplus.
    2. Then begin putting monthly surplus in a savings account.
    3. Set aside the estimated health costs into a second savings account. 
      1. This is only a just-in-case fund: just in case someone is unemployed and needs to be covered.
  12. Live well and shop good. 
    1. Host public events - a weekly potluck is awesome
      1. Use these events to get the community's name out there, to let people know that a common life of prayer is neither scary nor impossible to construct.
    2. Give one weekend a month to the community's needs.
      1. The Garden, the doors that need painting, etc.
    3. Give 5% of time a month to an outside org and volunteer together at 
      1. The Senior Center
      2. The Animal Shelter
      3. The Parish's After-School Program, etc.
  13. After 5 years: evaluate. 
    1. How much money do you have in savings? 
    2. Is there enough money to buy a house?
    3. No? Then come back next year.
    4. Yes? Well then, let's see about doing that!

17 September 2016


In a discussion at St Augustine's Western Rite Orthodox Church in Denver, the priest shared that Fr Alexander Schmemann once said words to this effect: You cannot refer to "Anglican Liturgy" because although there is one prayer book, if you go different parishes you find that each parish does things differently, based on the whims of the priest. I realized he was right - it is 100% true.

11 September 2016

Autumn in New York

Just after Labor Day in NYC is a special time for me. It’s when I moved to NYC in 1983 - taking all my stuff and going to NYU, moving into the fraternity house at 3-5 Washington Place. NYU was suffering from a housing shortage and some fraternities (especially those with many members who didn’t need housing...) found themselves renting out rooms to incoming students. I was lucky enough to have my housing problem solved by the Nation’s Oldest Continually Active Fraternity... the Gamma Chapter of Delta Phi. Delta Phi was so old that fraternities only needed two letters. For a few weeks things will be confusing because I was a “Boarder”: neither a brother of the fraternity nor a pledge. We’ll cover that in another p0st, but it’s important to know I’m a boarder for a while. My first weekend in NYC was the beginning of the San Gennaro Festival. A few boarders - two were named “Joe” one with long, blond hair, and one with dark, curly hair and a beard, one was named Jordan, this guy Russ, and myself all traipsed off to the Feast. I think the in-house brothers didn’t want to be bothered with us. This was my first outing in NYC. I had been there before, of course: several times in my late teens, but suddenly I lived there! In a way that I couldn’t quite describe, I had “become” a New Yorker - although no one would say that to me for another decade. We walked down Broadway. I cannot begin to successfully describe the emotions! Leaving 3-5 and turning right, we walked past the Unique Boutique, truly a sartorial experience for a small town boy from the South, then past Tower Records - 4 solid floors of records and this new thing, the Cassette Tape in the basement. Going down Broadway we passed Canal Jeans - whose checkerboard logo was the mark of cool and cheap. Further on we got to Canal Street itself - a crazy jumble of street sellers and open store fronts, all selling “electronics” as we called ‘em then and various hardwares: speakers, boomboxes, interesting light fixtures for black lights - which one used to use to entertain people on drugs in one’s bedroom.... seriously! Right on Canal and across to China Town (that’s another post) and then south to Little Italy on Mulberry.

Just the strings of lights, alone... it was like a County Fair (minus the rides and all the animals had been slaughtered already and were grilling...) run by Italian Grandmothers. I still remember how I watched one Nonna in a black dress drop dough from her hand, tightly clenched either by age or just managing the recipe, into the hot oil to make Zeppoles: hot puffs of fried dough covered in powdered sugar, served up in a bag through which the grease was soaking. The purpose of this was to mark you: you would naturally get oil from the bag on your shirt, and you would, naturally, drop sugar from the pastry as it made its way to your mouth. It would land on your shirt and adhere to the grease. This was, like ashes in lent, a mark of you having performed the duties of a pious pilgrim. At the heart of the Festival was a Statue of the Saint covered in Ribbons to which the faithful pinned money. A happy Protestant, I found this all very confusing - but Italian Catholicism was about to take over my life in all sorts of ways since it was the dominant religion of that part of NYC in those days. I pinned a dollar to the saint and got a pin with the Saint’s image on it... I’d love to have that pin anymore, just as a mark that I was there. (I used to be a pin collector.)

Looming over all of lower Manhattan at this point in our history, were the Two Towers of the World Trade Center. They were always there... no matter where one went, you’d turn a corner and there they were. I wanted - for a decade - to catch a photo of the full moon next to the Towers looking under the Washington Square Arch but in those days to take a picture required something called a camera... and film. And timing. And you had to pay to get it developed. And then the towers came down, which also happened at this time of year. I had forgotten my first weekend in NYC until I sat down to write this essay. Nearly everything has been overshadowed by those Towers now.

We made it back to the Fraternity house in one piece (or, rather, five pieces, as there were five of us) having survived our first night out in NYC. It was not too exciting by standards we sat later, to be honest, but there was a tapped keg of beer at the house and it was free - even for us - so we played a drinking game and I fell off my chair laughing... but that’s a good story for another post. I think I’ve promised two or three already.

I find myself wondering though: 15 years after Pearl Harbor, we had destroyed Japan and helped them rebuild. We had forgiven them - and they had forgiven us. And we had even already fought a war with Japan against China who had been our ally in our war against Japan. In less than 15 years the world changed that much. What are we missing? What skill whereby we forgave the Emperor and the Generals and all the people have we forgotten now? We’ve become, I think, a different people than the nation that so magnanimously won the 2nd World War. It would be fun to blame that on the 80s or the 90s, on Reagan, Clinton, or Bush, but the reality is we are a democracy: what comes to pass comes up through the ranks. We, as a nation, have forgotten something because each of us, as persons, have forgotten it. I don’t know what it might be, that we have lost. But I am happy to explore what I remember in the hopes of finding it.

And that’s news from Lake Woebegone... ‘s neighbor to the far East, where everyone was pushy and everyone has an opinion, where a good cup of coffee with butter bagel in the morning, a hot dog for lunch and a slice of pizza for supper were all the same price: $1.

08 September 2016

The Rovin' Dies Hard

There are so many threads to this tapestry, it's hard to know where to start this post.  I'll begin with my own family: beginning with the first William Richardson in America. I share his name - Donne Huw William Richardson - and I had the "William" even before I changed my name in 2000.  William Richardson was on the boat with William Penn. I highly suspect he wasn't a Quaker - but that other sort of non-conformist: a Roman Catholic. I suspect this because one of his family members - also a William Richardson - was a Martyr under Elizabeth the First. Anyway, William didn't stay in Pennsylvania he moved southward and his descendants gave us Richardson town and county Tennessee, and later a line of Richardson towns ending in Texas. There was another clan of the same family that moved northward from Tennessee and ended up in Manitoba. From thence came my Grandfather. He was my grandmother's third husband (pretty adventurous for the 1930s). They met and married in Michigan after he had spent a large part of his life moving - having served in the US army on the Panama Canal and in San Francisco.  He was also a rail-riding hobo. He tried settling down in Michigan, but then they started to rove: Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Georgia again, Georgia a third time, Florida, back to Georgia... In all that moving my mother was born, and a mobile home was acquired when she was around ten. The home moved too, until it was sold after I was out of college.  My family - Mom, Dad and kids, however, kept roving. In 12 years of public education, I attended 9 different schools. My Amazon profile says Atlanta, Acworth, Wurtsboro, NYC, Hoboken, Astoria, SF, Asheville, Buffalo, and SF, but I think, off the top of my head, I could add at least 10 other locations to that list.

I tried Benedictine Stability for the last six months but - for reasons unrelated to stability - this was not a good fit. In fact, I was the 3rd postulant (plus one monastic) to depart in the last couple of years, so there may be other needed lessons.  But while I was there we'd drive - 300 miles to church and back on Sunday!  And I'd sit in the car and listen to the wheels on the road and come near to crying.  For that is, really, where I'm at rest: on that road; a dark night on a highway, trucks as far as the eye can see and a lone car - or two - and all things moving.

There was another William Richardson.  He was a sailor.  But he ended up staying in one place for the entire second half of his life: he got off his ship, married a local girl, and became one of the the first gringos in San Francisco and the founder of Sausalito... also he became Roman Catholic.

And he stopped right there on the Bay.  You know: my grandfather the hobo stopped there too.  And it is home for me.  Something is there that is no where else. I made fun of my friends in Buffalo for knowing every bush and every window-full of gossip.  And when she was in SF with me, my friend Sare made fun of me: because that's how I am there, knowing every window-full of gossip.  Just ask the people at Zoosk who got exposed to my knowledge of SF trivia in a scavenger hunt - with limericks! 

What got me started thinking about this was a friend on Twitter who wondered about kids not having a one-place-home to go to.  And I began to wonder if he was being realistic or just nostalgic.  Most of my IRL friends fall into one of two groups: people whose parents are in still one place - but they, themselves, are not; or people whose parents - and them as well - are all mobile.  In most cases, the mobility will not be as great as my family's, but the concept of "hometown" is missing from a lot of lives. It usually only means (as on Facebook) the place where you were born - where you may have spent a couple of days in the hospital.  I will allow that the older you are the more stability seems to be involved, the younger folks being more mobile.  But many people my age and younger - and especially in their 20s - seem to be much more mobile these days than people that were in their 20s when I was in my 20s.  

Compare: almost all of my Mom's classmates from HS are still in the town where she graduated.  Only many-but-not-all of my classmates are still in one place.  And most folks I know in their 20s have no such "pool" of former classmates all in one place. Yes, there can still be a Class Reunion - but everyone will travel from quite a ways away. To be certain, the ones trapped in one place tend to be the trackable ones. And the ones that move around are hard to keep in touch with - I have had, at various points, five friends from college living in SF. Apart from the time when one let me crash in his house for a few months, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen these friends since 1997. This also can vary by location: NYC is highly mobile, Buffalo is not mobile at all - although people like me may pass through.

Roots and connectedness and weavings are traditional descriptors of human society. But increasingly (I'm 52 now) I feel as if my life is less a woven tapestry than it is a line on a map, or a journey in process: a through-hike on a very long trail. Dare I say, life can be like a labyrinth. I have few folks, beyond immediate family, that stay in my life, although some stay for a decade or more. Rather than the uprooted tree at the top of the post (which will, most likely, die) a more descriptive image for my life is found in Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home (1985).  She calls this open spiral the Heyiya-If:

The point of it is both the coming together of the lines and their interplay in the open space: nothing is tied down. It is in that open space that dancing happens, that learning happens that changes both parties if they stay together for a while or if they do not stay together very long at all.

I don't have much of a point more than to wonder if there is a point... we're working out our salvation: some can do that in one place, and some rove.