“Good Copy” – Zendik Farm TV Coverage

Most new visitors to this site come for this post on my experiences at Zendik Farm, an intentional community of artists and assorted craftspeople I was part of from 1978 until 1991. The farm presented itself as a living laboratory for a way of living based on a feeling of reverence for the Earth.

Part of our strategy was to get journalists’ attention by being “good copy”. So when we arrived in the San Diego area, local TV crews saw us as good copy and took turns doing stories on our unusual lifestyle.

Meanwhile, my family was a bit apprehensive about my living situation. Knowing that they watched a lot of TV news, I assembled our recent TV coverage onto a VHS tape and mailed it to them. (That’s how it was done in the late 1980’s.) They wrote back that it relieved a lot of their concerns.

On a recent visit to my family, I found that tape. 35 years greatly exceeds the life expectancy of a home VHS tape, so the picture quality is marginal and there are a lot of glitches. But it effectively documents where I was living and the cause I was pursuing during a significant period of my life.

Even though Zendik Farm disbanded in 2013, it continues to attract interest. So in an effort to preserve the historical record, I posted the videos to YouTube and you can view them here… Read on

The Long and Winding Road – Following the Beatles Trail

I started this post in 2019, but now it’s 2021. Yes, it’s taken this long to get back to it,  and then get it sent out for your reading enjoyment. Hope you like it.

As of 2019, it’s been 55 years since the Beatles arrived on our continent to forever change the history of rock n’ roll. As I remember that year 1964, I’d found out that they were going to be on the Ed Sullivan show. My family was more interested in watching the Walt Disney show than Ed Sullivan. So I convinced my neighbor-friends, Patty & Linda, to watch the show. Huddled together in one of their bedrooms we watched the show, screaming with all the other girls across the country, who were also watching. Afterwards we spent months fighting over who would be Paul when we pretended to be the Beatles.

Although I spent most of my early life listening to and playing classical music, I quickly developed a love for the Fab Four and all their wonderful and sometimes quirky music. Knowing that most of my family originally came from the British Isles reinforced my love even more. I hoped that someday I’d get to go to their homeland and visit the places that were important in their lives, and places where they performed.

Read on

The Day I Almost Met Bart Starr

It was sometime in the spring of 1977. I was a recent college drop-out just settling in to what became a year of blue-collar work making candles at a factory in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and I had gone up the road to Appleton to visit my friend Steve, a recent graduate applying his education to work in a paper mill.

On this weekend visit, we were hanging out with couple of Steve’s friends, tooling around in an old topless jeep. One of them had been invited to a wedding reception in Green Bay (another half-hour up the road). Having nothing better to do, we all tagged along.

We found ourselves arriving at a place called (something like) the Green Bay Golf and Polo Club. We drove into a parking lot full of large and shiny cars with an open space right by the door. The surreal nature of the evening was just beginning with the hippies in the jeep getting the best parking space in this swanky lot. We hopped out and went in.

I should note that Steve and I were dressed for a Saturday of drinking and partying with the guys… our t-shirts and jeans stood out in the sea of fine suits and dresses. We found ourselves crashing a party of one-percenters and discreetly helped ourselves to the open bar and tasty finger-food (I remember the breaded mushrooms, a treat that I had not yet experienced).

In the midst of this posh swankiness, I turned to Steve in amazement at the kind of crowd we had found ourselves in. Trying to come up with an example of the pinnacle of the elite, I said, “I’ll bet the mayor of Green Bay is here.”

A few minutes later, I noticed an excited conversation among the other three guys in my group, and Steve turned to me and said, “Bart Starr is here.” This was less than ten years after the Ice Bowl, and the fond memories of his playing days were fresh in everyone’s minds. In fact, this was at the dawn of his time as Packers coach. So forget about the “mayor of Green Bay” being there. There was no bigger name in Green Bay (and arguably in the entire state of Wisconsin) than Bart Starr.

We slithered out of our discreet corner to see if we could spot him. While wandering about, we saw the bride and groom in another room. They looked over and noticed us before the bride turned to her new husband (Steve later said, “I could read her lips”) and asked, “Who ARE those two guys?” We retreated to our corner.

It didn’t take long for a bouncer to show up. He could’ve been one of Bart’s linemen. He was an “older” guy who towered over both of us as he politely explained that this was a private party and that we would have to leave. We huddled with our other friends (who WERE invited) to arrange to meet up later.

We ended up spending the rest of the night nursing beers in a nearby working-class bar, processing our glimpse into a world that had been unknown to us, and the lost opportunity to stand close to one of our heroes.

Twenty Years Ago Today

RoZ and I on our first “date”, October 1, 1993…

Obbie and RoZ take a little boat ride on a lake outside Kansas City, MO on October 1, 1993.

Obbie and RoZ take a little boat ride on a lake outside Kansas City, MO on October 1, 1993.

While living in Philadelphia, I used some vacation time to visit some friends in Kansas City. I stayed with a couple who took me to an event the night before, which was where I met RoZ for the first time.

On our first full day together, the four of us (five actually, as they had a toddler that came along) took a drive into the country, where we found a couple of boats available for paddling around.

We’re still as happy as we were that day, even though we’ve never been in a rowboat since.

Class Reunions – Who Got Fat, Bald and Divorced

About the time I started high school, my father was planning to attend his twenty-year class reunion, and my mother had two things to say about these affairs. First was that people go to them “to find out who got fat, who got bald, and who got divorced.” A rather cynical outlook, I thought. But as I’ve grown older, it makes more sense, and says a lot in a small number of words.

The other thing was that “everybody just breaks off into the same little cliques that they were in during high school.” That seems natural to me, as we would want to first connect with those we spent the most time with. Regardless, I’ve been told that each reunion gets a bit less cliquey.

At any rate, early this summer I received an invitation to the latest decennial gathering. I can recite a lot of really good reasons that I never go, most having something to do with cost and logistics of getting there and back. But in reality, I have to admit that a class reunion is not something that I get excited about.

Read on

Marketing the Revolution – My 13 Years at Zendik Farm

“How do you put thirteen years at a commune on a resume?”

I started asking myself that question shortly after leaving Zendik Farm in 1991. Since early 1978, I had been a prominent member of that community and at times a highly visible public spokesman. But after hitching my identity to Zendik for over thirteen years, I suddenly became just another long-haired thirty-something with no money, no job, and a very long gap in my employment history.

During the early 90’s, a friend pointed out that what I had experienced was equivalent to a divorce. I had severed my social and emotional connections with an extended family I had lived with for many years, including a handful of children I’d helped raise who I would never see again. Just as in the end of a marriage, that it worked so well for so long is hard to reconcile with how it went so wrong for me in the end.

Read on

Sympathy for the Klutz

We’ve all had incidents at work that we’re not very proud of, but they’re the kinds of incidents that inspire a lot of good-natured banter with our co-workers. The day the wrong file was deleted, or an armload of dishes was dropped, that kind of thing.

A utility worker in the Arizona desert had that type of experience late last week. As he was trying to fix or replace a finicky piece of equipment, he flipped the wrong switch or cut the wrong wire or something, and all the lights went out from Orange County to Tijuana to Arizona.

As much of a disaster as that was, I’m willing to cut the poor worker some slack. We’ve all had our own experiences creating disasters, but things got fixed, and now we laugh about it with our coworkers in the lunch room. Read on

Decennial Anniversaries

I put up a new banner image tonight. RoZ is sitting next to the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park in an image captured exactly ten years ago (give or take a day). At this time in 2001, we were finishing a road trip of a lifetime through the western United States, and we would soon be preparing to spend two months in Europe.

In the coming weeks and months, we will release a new project that will tell a much more complete story of this life-changing experience. Until then, the web site we published while we were in Europe is still online, but that will also be incorporated into this new project. Stay tuned.

Twenty years ago this summer, in 1991, I was living in my step-van in Austin, Texas, slowly getting back onto my feet after leaving a commune I had been with for the previous thirteen years (yet another story that’ll be told in full, someday).

Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1981, I was living in Isla Vista, California (the student ghetto of UC-Santa Barbara). I was essentially in exile from the commune, but I had my own bike, a PO box, food stamps, a place to keep my stuff, a cozy place to sleep in a secluded piece of an overgrown park, but no roof.

Even though I was essentially homeless for about six months, I have fond memories of that summer. It helps that it never rained. But I also became part of a whole community of young hippies that populated the low-rent houses of the neighborhood, and together we participated in the Diablo Canyon blockade, one of the biggest anti-nuclear actions ever conducted.

The summers of ’91 and ’81 could be considered traumatic life-changing events, but in retrospect they were memorable and enriching experiences. The summer of 1971 was spent recovering from physical trauma: a serious bicycle accident that had me in the hospital for a few days in June and licking my wounds for the rest of the summer.

I don’t know what kind of life-changing event – if any – 2011 will bring. I’m willing for this year to be the one that breaks this decennial pattern, but if something big happens this summer, I hope it’s something good.

La Crosse Tornado

Today a tornado touched down in our neighborhood. In the Grand Scheme of Things, it was a relatively minor tornado, but it did some strange things to our neighborhood.

Our situation: We’re OK, and our house is OK. There’s a small corner of our metal roof that’ll have to be nailed back down, and some pieces of our neighbor’s maple tree that need to be picked up, but our “damage” is minor compared to others within a block or two of us.

Read our storm story after the jump, and look at our photo gallery of the aftermath.

Read on

Harmon Killebrew – When Baseball Players were Heroes

I grew up about 80 miles from Metropolitan Stadium, which is where the Minnesota Twins played during the 1960s. Our local TV and radio stations played Twins games, so they got more of our attention than the Braves, who played in Milwaukee at the time.

One day we were watching the highlight reel on the six-o’clock sports report, and I saw a grainy film of Harmon Killebrew hitting a home run. But this wasn’t just another home run floating over the fence; it was a line drive that rocketed into the nosebleed seats high above left field. At over 500 feet, it was one of the longest home runs ever hit.

A summer or two later, my mother bought a pack of baseball cards for each of her five kids. My sister’s pack included a Harmon Killebrew card like this one. I don’t remember how I got it from her. I probably stole it. I don’t know where it is any more. I wish I did.

My life as a young baseball fan was all about rooting for Harmon Killebrew to hit home runs, and he did so often enough to hold my interest for several years. Even though a lot of people have hit more home runs than he did, only Babe Ruth exceeds Killebrew in consistency. When he wasn’t hitting home runs, he was hitting doubles off the outfield walls. He didn’t hit many triples… he couldn’t run fast enough. Like Ruth, he struck out a lot, but that’s what happens when you’re swinging for the fences all the time.

In my early teens, a group of friends and I were brought to a Twins’ game by our fathers. There was a chance we’d see Killebrew hit his 500th home run, but we had to settle for a line-drive single. The only home run we saw was a game-winner by Tony Oliva, which barely snuck into the bleachers as it hooked into the right-field corner.

But the highlight of the trip was sitting in the cheap seats on the third-base side, looking to my right to see home plate, and then looking to my left and high up to the vast pavilion in the sky above the left field wall, where all the seats were painted green except for a small cluster in the middle that were painted red. The red seats marked the landing spot of that massive home run, and I could not fathom a ball getting hit that far. The distance looks a lot different when you’re standing there than it does on TV.

The best thing to remember about Harmon Killebrew is that he had massive upper body strength without the need for steroids, and that he played at the top of his game year after year without getting full of himself, trash-talking or taunting. Even when he developed into the older player that Jim Bouton called “the fat kid,” he was a fat kid that pitchers had to take VERY seriously.

It’s too bad that baseball no longer produces the kind of players that kids can revere the way that some of us revered Harmon Killebrew, who became the model for the silhouette of Major League Baseball’s logo, and who was rumored (not true) to be the model for the “Arm and Hammer” logo. Harmon Killebrew represents a baseball era that – sadly – is long gone.