Russian Astronaut Yuri Gagarin (First Man in Space) Circles Globe. Anti-Castro Cubans Fail in Assault At Bay Of Pigs. First U.S. Manned Flight with Alan Shepard Stays in Space For 15 Minutes. East Germans Build Berlin Wall, Tensions Rise. JFK Advises “Prudent Family” to Have Bomb Shelter. Yo-Yo’s Become National Craze.
What do all these things have in common with me? They all happened in 1961. I was born on July 5th of that memorable year in Jamestown, New York, the third son in three years. I would eventually end up as the middle child when my twin sisters were born seven years later.
Jamestown (population 30,000) was a working-class town with lots of factories that have since closed and/or moved. Many of my memories are of the sights, sounds and smells coming from the tool & die and furniture factories.
My family lived in the same place for most of my first nine years. It was a great time, growing up with two brothers close in age and many friends in the same neighborhood. We spent our time with GI Joes and Matchbox cars, building forts and running rampant through our territory. School was 1/2 mile away and we had fun walking there. Southwestern New York is in the snowbelt so we always had plenty to do from November through March, with hills for sliding and plenty of participants for snowball fights. Many of my relatives lived nearby and we all got together for holidays and birthdays. Lots of my cousins were close to my age, so those gatherings provided plenty of playmates.
When I was nine my family moved a couple of blocks away, which put us in a different school district. I faced the trauma of going to a new school and having different friends, until the next year, when that school closed and I went back to my old school. During these years I played Little League baseball. I also had a paper route and bought my own ten-speed with my savings.
In junior high I participated in wrestling and track, and played drums in the band. In senior high, during 10th grade, I started working part-time at the food counter of a department store. Later I worked in the store itself doing clean-up and stockroom duties. Lots of partying in this phase of life though I still did OK in school.
Graduation time arrived in 1979 and my plans were to join the Navy and see the world. Unfortunately I developed plantar warts and was denied entry (go figure – fate?). That fall I had my first long excursion from home when one of my brothers, a cousin and I went to Texas. We planned on getting jobs there but nothing turned up, so my brother and I rode his motorcycle back to Virginia Beach to leave there with my other brother. We rode the bus back to Jamestown, which was an adventure too.
Shortly after getting back I got a job in a hardware store. This was a great job for me – a person into tools and gadgets. I started out working in shipping/receiving, then moved to sales, then to pricing (where I had my own office!).
A major turning point happened in 1980 when I went to California for a wedding. I went home afterwards but a bug had been planted that there was more to the world than Jamestown, NY. The following year my brother (who was in the Navy) got transferred to CA and I was invited to go along. Well, I could not pass up the offer, so off I was to the Golden State.
This was 1981 and California was still a fairly decent place to live. I lived with my brother and his wife, working on the house and cooking for them. I didn’t have a car or a license so I biked everywhere. Their first child was born that year and I got to help with child-rearing. I got a job with a contractor on a building site and later worked on several different construction jobs. Then, since California had free tuition for residents, I decided to go to college. I had been interested in electronics since I was young so that became my focus. During college I met other serious bicyclists and became interested in racing, which I did for two years.
After getting my degree I entered the job market. I moved out of my brother’s house and lived with several different roommates during the next 12 or so years. I had a lot of fun during that time: scuba-diving, bicycling, and backpacking, and lots of good times with great friends. I was working at the same company all that time and was becoming dissatisfied with the rat-race lifestyle.
In 1995 I took the summer off from work to go to northern CA to work as a Wilderness Patrol in the Trinity-Alps. That summer had the biggest impact in my life up to that point. I met people living off-the-grid who were growing their own food! I was amazed and wanted to learn more. After returning to San Diego I started searching for more information about that lifestyle and how I could join in. I found out about Communities magazine and directory, and in one issue saw an ad for a forming community called Dancing Rabbit. They were looking for interns to help them build their community. What better way to find out how a community is built than to help build it, I thought. I sent them letter, did a phone interview, and I got selected!
In mid-March of 1998 I arrived at DR. What I experienced was
incredible. There were basically only the remnants of an old farm. Where would we start? There was so much to do that at times it was overwhelming. Over many months we set up an eating area, built an outhouse, dug garden beds, put in a dock on the pond, and so much more. During it all we had so much fun. It was like one big family with everyone focusing on the same goals. Too soon August arrived and I went back to San Diego, but I was certain I would return to stay sometime.
Well, time passes quickly and new activities take up energy and money. I was working for a new company and found more friends in the pursuit of rock-climbing and mountaineering. The development and population growth in California was becoming increasingly depressing. I kept watch over DR during my years away, even as I climbed the summits of many mountains. I knew I had to get back to Dancing Rabbit and the lifestyle I craved. Finally in 2001 I put my energy towards moving here. I was welcomed back with open arms in August! In October I became a provisional member and will soon become a full member. My life is so much more complete now with so many kindred spirits around. Home at last!