1991 January 4

A commune?!?

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Gathering in our dorm's common room to share some food. Stereo system visible along rear wall.

That needed some explanation, both back in 1991 and probably now. What I did NOT mean was that I wanted to be part of some radical 1960s free love back-to-Nature drug experiment zone. What I meant instead was just that I appreciated the communal aspects of college life, like sharing resources and having a built-in support network. In retrospect, I can see influences even earlier in life: a unit on Israeli kibbutzim in 3rd grade, reporting on the Oneida Community for summer school, Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, even the early Doonesbury cartoons. I’m pretty sure I also had Cat Stevens’s voice sounding in my ears.

An example: I started freshman year with a great stereo system (phono, dual tape-deck, radio, amp, equalizer) and a very small music collection… Gordon Lightfoot, Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, Jesus Christ Superstar, a few other albums. Four of us shared a suite that included two tiny bedrooms and one large common room. I set up the stereo system in the common room, and over the next eight months we created a series of mix tapes that exploded my taste in music (current library: 2,000 albums by more than 1,000 artists, nearly 10,500 tracks all told).

That’s what I was aiming for: a whole greater than the sum of its parts. My roommates needed a good stereo system to create the mixes; I needed exposure to new varieties of music.

It was also not lost on me that finding someone to shoot pool with, or catch a movie with—not to mention finding three other bridge players—was a lot easier when you were already living with compatible souls. So… yes, a commune.