August 10, 2008
To friends and family,
I'm sending my greetings from several stops between Philadelphia and Providence. It's been grey and balmy all throughout the Northeast today. I got caught in a thunderstorm in Philadelphia today, but managed to escape with only slightly damp clothing. I'm tempted to say that I need a tougher challenge, but I'll bite my tongue. Crossing the Hudson as The City disappears behind us, the railside is greener than I could've imagined.
My trip is off to a fabulous start. I catapulted from San Francisco's Mission District to Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood nearly a week and a half ago. My time in New York was mostly dedicated to new love as I crossed paths with John mid-way through his transcontinental summer travels. We managed to meet each other for four days of romance and resistance in the humidity-rich City. John and I spent our time swimming in a post-apocalyptic Atlantic Ocean with urban ruins in the distance, appreciating a truly classic East Coast thunderstorm, sunset gazing atop an artist warehouse, nabbing cheap healthy eats, and critiquing the spring-break-leisure-class and consumer culture to the point of revulsion in Manhattan (and who exactly are the snobs?). We began to realize how small our world really is since everywhere we went we ran into someone from one of our pasts or someone who knows one of our really good friends. It is now being referred to as "Our ever-imploding world."
Other than that, I visited some old friends who'd moved to New York, namely Tobias, an old boyfriend of mine. We materialized some relationship closure over some home-brewed pu-er tea.
An observation (yet obvious since it's put out for all to see) about NYC is the incredible amount of trash generated by that city! Every night is trash night, and huge piles of black plastic bags line the streets. Even more unbelievable was the amount of useful things put right in with the trash. I found high quality gems that I surely would've scavenged if I wasn't trying to travel light. I want to do a public art piece going through New York City's trash and displaying all the useful trash like a street vendor, only all of this would be free. A thousand little free stores, that's what's called for.
I feel like I got to know the city and I think it is because I spent most of my time in Brooklyn, which seemed a bit more knowable. I danced to crazy live music in a cellar and played chess on the east bank, and of course visited and met as many Collective Autonomy places and people as possible.
Philadelphia worked out well. I found myself magnetically pulled to West Philly and found a small activist scene living in the cracks of a neglected and impoverished neighborhood. The scene was so small that I saw the same people over and over throughout my stay. I spent four full days there, along with my friends from the Bay, Marika and Asaf, on their own extended escapades. We borrowed bikes and rode all over town, visited the urban farm, danced at a benefit for Critical Resistance, cruised a free store/ vegan potluck barbeque/folk show in the basement/party and garnered some valuable history from a housing activist whose been in the area for more than 15 years. I saw an incredibly pertinent single-act play about the drama of our globalized food system in which a seemingly innocent tea party between two friends uncovers hidden socio-economic catastrophes: certain parts of the world are experiencing diminishing supplies, and wreckage of their culture, while others are receiving the exotic fruits from others' labor halfway across the globe.
As far as the Collective Autonomy aspect of my trip goes, I'll be sending more detailed updates on that soon. It looks like the website will have to come down for a couple of days before I can start uploading pictures, but I have been doing much investigating, documenting and participating in alternative economics throughout the Northeast. I'm also starting to work on a zine series - one for every city I travel through. I've been seeing the framework come together quite a bit. At a donation-based communal dinner in Brooklyn a new friend helped me have a revelation. Collective Autonomy is looking at how we are currently building alternatives to capitalist orientation within the five major institutions in society: Food, Housing, Health Care, Education and Market/Resource Exchange.
Now my train is nearly in Providence, Rhode Island where a friend is picking me up and showing me his latest project – building a community center out of an old building. I'll let you know how it goes, but I have a feeling it will be just what I'm looking for.
You're all in my thoughts.
Misses and Kisses,