Home!!!

IN ENGLISH:

I got into Athens last Sunday, 10 days ago, my last ride conveniently dropping me off at the Pilgrims’ Pride plant right around the corner from Laura’s trapeze studio, my transportation made possible by the evident need to move chicken carcasses from north Georgia to West Virginia. So now I’m living in a place with a bed and people I know and a cold, magical box full of healthy foods. I’m done traveling, after more than two years, sixteen countries, and ten billion conversations with strangers. What did it feel like to get back, to hug Laura, to start rushedly gushing praises of Uruguay, condemnations of Peru, and interrogatives about how we’re going to fix the world? Incredible, actually. I feel like I just finished a PhD in travel, or human studies, or intentional discomfort, or… A chapter of life closed, another one beginning, full of massive potential. Well, a chapter or PhD not totally closed, I guess, because Jesse and I want to write a book, which I guess makes us more like ABD. Oh, and he and Jess are still in South America, volunteering on a farm in Argentina last I heard. They’ll be flying out of Lima March 6th.

I flew from Lima to Fort Lauderdale on the 6th and hitched up to here, spending a comfy night in Port St John, Florida and the coldest one of the entire trip outside of Swainsboro, Georgia. Now I’m here, with my material needs met, and a shocking number of options for how to spend the next hours, months, and decades. So far I talked a lot about the path for transforming the US and the world, first to the maddeningly obvious unfinished work of social democracy and then onto the more difficult to visualize move to a socialist or anarchist society that actually functions and achieves the dream of a society that actually works to realize its fullest potential, for individuals and collectively. And I’ve spent a whole lot of hours reading about important things, Syriza/Greece’s battle for a new direction for austerity-engulfed Europe, the anti-capitalist, anti-state, feminist revolution in Syrian Kurdistan, and more detail on the rise of the Frente Amplio to power in Uruguay.

Anyway, I’m going to be trying to write a lot here as I work my way into writing the book. I want to put into words some of the incredible experiences from the last 5 months of the trip, and work through more of the ideas that will hopefully make our book a useful contribution to the project of bettering the human condition. Wow, so much hope! Let’s end with a paragraph that’s not about me.

Just a few hours after I got back, I got to go see Laura’s trapeze show at the non-profit studio where she both studies and works. Performance after performance at the show displayed some pretty amazingly artistic and athletic creatively choreographed routines. The performers ranged from teenagers to older women, and they performed in groups or individually, each piece the length of a song or two carefully selected to reflect their piece’s take on the show’s theme of duality. They were so good! I was particularly struck by a piece about imagination done by two older women. What hit me the hardest was that they got to be stars of something awesome and beautiful, have everyone’s attention and appreciation aimed directly at them while they did something of their own creation. I realized that that’s what we’re looking for. To be blunt, that’s…the revolution. I had just come back from Peru, a country that’s depressing for a whole bunch of reasons, but among them is that most people (at least on the coast, which is the only part I visited) just seem beat down by the difficulty of life. Women are particularly oppressed and objectified, surrounded by billboards and marketing showing them impossible, almost always white, images of female “beauty” and “must-have” products that they can’t afford. They’re kept out of good jobs by old boys networks and out of conversations and decision-making by patriarchal families. It’s not all bad, obviously, but it shows that we’ve got a long fucking way to go. And so too in the United States are we far from the society of equality and opportunity for self-actualization that we long for. But not so in Canopy Studios. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s why we’re socialists, honestly. Yeah, we want to make sure everyone has food and a decent place to live and all that. But what’s the point? Material well-being. Free time. Good education. These things are steps. They are the base components that make it possible to craft your own life, to craft your own routine on trapeze, fabrics, or some odd hanging cube-thing. I’m not even a dancer of any kind, but the possibility of escaping from the drudgery of toiling labor and the repression of common sense in a capitalist society – that’s what drives me to work for building a better world, one that places the growth of people over the growth of the GDP.

So, here’s to a future in which we all get to actualize ourselves in whatever way we want, to live beyond what is strictly necessary and do things that enhance our humanity and evince our existence.

All in everything together,

Adam
from home

EN ESPAÑOL:

Llegué en Athens el domingo pasado, hace 10 días, el último aventón dejándome convientemente en la fábrica de Pilgrims Pride, justo doblando la esquina del estudio de trapecio de Laura, mi transporte posibilitado por la necesidad evidente de desplazar unas carcasas de pollo del norte de Georgia a West Virginia. Así que ahora estoy viviendo en un lugar con una cama y gente que conozco y una caja mágica y fría llena de comidas saludables. Ya no viajo, después de más de dos años, dieciséis países y mil millones de conversaciones con desconocidos. ¿Cómo me sentí al llegar, abrazar a Laura, empezar a elogiar con entusiasmo a Uruguay, condenar con tristeza a Perú y interrogar sobre cómo vamos a arreglar el mundo? Increíble, de verdad. Me siento como que acabo de terminar un PhD en viajar, o estudios humanos, o incomodidad intencional, o… Un capítulo de la vida cerrado, otro empezando, lleno de posibilidades emocionantes. Bueno, un capítulo o PhD no cerrado del todo, supongo, porque Jesse y yo queremos escribir un libro, lo que nos deja más como ABD (falta la tesis para el PhD). Oh, y él y Jess todavía están en Sudamérica, trabajando gratis en una granja en Argentina, yo creo. Tienen su vuelo de Lima el 6 de marzo.

Yo volé de Lima a Fort Lauderdale, Florida el 6 de este mes y llegué aquí a dedo, pasando una noche cómoda en Port St John, Florida y la más fría de todo el viaje cerca de Swainsboro, Georgia. Ahora estoy aquí, con todo lo que necesito y un número impactante de opciones para cómo pasar los próximas horas, meses y décadas. Hasta ahora he conversado mucho sobre el camino para transformar los EEUU y el mundo, primero al trabajo exasperantemente incumplido de la socialdemocracia y entonces a la transición mucho más difícil de visualizar a una sociedad socialista o anarquista que funcione de verdad y realice el sueño de una sociedad que trabaje para realizar su potencial máximo, individual y colectivamente. Y he pasado muuuuuchas horas leyendo sobre cosas importantes, la batalla de Syriza y Grecia para una nueva dirección para una Europa ahogando en la austeridad, la revolución anticapitalist, anarquista y feminista en el Kurdistán Sirio y más detalle sobre el ascenso al poder del Frente Amplio en Uruguay.

De todas maneras, voy a intentar escribir mucho aquí mientras empiece a escribir el libro. Quiero poner en palabras algunas de las experiencias increíbles de los últimos cinco meses y dar forma a las ideas que con mucha suerte hagan que nuestro libro sea un aporte útil al proyecto de mejorar la condición humana. ¡Uau, tanta esperanza! Terminemos con un párrafo que no sea acerca de mí.

Solo unas horas después de mi llegada en Athens, tuve la oportunidad de asistir el show de trapecio en el estudio sin fines de lucro donde Laura estudia y enseña. Actuación tras actuación del show demostraron rutinas impresionantes, atléticas y artísticas, con coreografía re creativa. Los bailarines incluyeron tanto jóvenes como mujeres mayores y actuaron en grupos o como individuos, cada pieza con la duración de una o dos canciones cuidadosamente seleccionadas para reflejar la interpretación de su pieza sobre el tema de la dualidad. ¡Fueron excelentes! Me impactó especialmente una pieza sobre la imaginación realizada por dos mujeres mayores. Ellas, como todos en el show, puedieron ser las estrellas de algo genial y bonito – tener la atención y la admiración de todos enfocadas directamente en ellas mientras hacían algo de su propia creación. Me di cuenta de que es eso lo que buscamos. Para ser directo, eso es…la revolución. Acababa de regresar de Perú, un país en que la mayoría de la gente (por lo menos en la costa, la única parte que visité) simplemente parece golpeada por la dificultad de la vida. Las mujeres, en particular, son oprimidas y objetificadas, rodeadas de publicidad que les muestra imagenes imposibles y racistas de “belleza” feminina y les vende productos “indispensables” que no pueden alcanzar. Una cultura machista y patriarcal les limita las oportunidades laborales y la participación en las conversaciones y la toma de decisiones. No todo en la sociedad está mal, obviamente, pero es evidente que tenemos un camino muy largo para andar. Y también en Estados Unidos estamos lejos de la sociedad de igualdad y oportunidad para la autorealización que anhelamos. Pero no es así en Canopy Studios. Es para eso que luchamos. Es por eso que somos socialista, honestamente. Sí, queremos asegurar que todos tengan comida y un lugar digno para vivir. Pero, ¿qué es el punto? El bienestar material. El tiempo libre. Una educación buena. Esas cosas son peldaños. Son los componentes básicos que hacen posible diseñar tu propia vida, crear tu propia rutina en trapecio, telas o ese cubo extraño que se cuelga del techo. Ni siquiera soy bailarín de ningún tipo, pero la posibilidad de escaparnos del trabajo arduo y fastidioso y la represión del sentido común en una sociedad capitalista – eso es lo que me empuja a trabajar para construir un mundo mejor, uno que priorice el crecimiento del ser humano por encima del crecimiento del PIB.

Brindemos por un futuro en que todos nos podamos realizar de cualquier manera que queramos, poder vivir más allá de lo estrictamente necesario y hacer cosas que fortalecen nuesta humanidad y dan evidencia de nuestra existencia.

Todos juntos en todo,

Adam
en casa

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Changing the Conversation

We are in motion again! Yeah, yeah… our electrons are always vibrating rapidly and the Earth is always rotating and revolving as our galaxy hurdles through the abyss at incomprehensible speeds… But in a larger and smaller sense, we’re back to traveling!

With packs on our backs and instruments in hand, our thumbs (and stunning good looks?) lured six gracious ride-givers, each of whom helped us reach the fine city of Gainesville, FL barely 24 hours after departing Athens. Our sights are set on South America by way of the Caribbean and Mexico. Hopefully some boat-sailing folks will be as open and generous this year as their solid-ground counterparts have been to us throughout 2013 and to this day. So far so great.

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Our beloved friends Adam and Lauraq took us out of town in the Vealemobile where we were promptly picked up by a young couple envying our trip. Then an initially incredulous cop who’d never given hitchhikers a ride before took us well beyond the county line she’d initially mandated we accept a ride to. Before we could even set our packs down a Mormon husband and wife proudly parenting five children brought us down to the highway split where our paths diverged and there, at a gas station, the first person we asked seemed to think transporting us in the back of his US military truck was a swell idea. This National Guardsman has succeeded for over two years now at his personally delegated task of at least three significant acts of kindness every day, thus proving that you can never judge books by their covers or, more literally in this case, people by their camouflaged fatigues. All that felt like enough for one day so we hobbled, under-slept and sweaty, toward the silty brown waters of Lake Sinclair, just North of Milledgeville, and enjoyed a swim beneath the austere smokestack of a Georgia Power plant among swarms of chironomidae before stealth-camping in a grassy field behind some RVs in a storage facility.

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Today our good fortune with good people continues thanks to some lovely Waffle House employees, a ride from an enthusiastic and supportive college professor, and then a long roll with an awake, aware, and alive woman, who very graciously digressed here, en route from NC to her organic farm on the Southeastern coast, with her four cats in the back of the van. Jess pet them.

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Those who’ve remained connected to our sadly neglected blog yet haven’t spoken to us might be wondering what happened with that campaign we made a four-thousand-mile digression back to Athens for… Well, we lost in the ballot box. Tim received 40% of the vote in an off-year local election where under 1/4 of the voting population even turned out. Appallingly, the turnout in this election was actually a few points higher than the average, which, on an up-note, is arguably thanks to all our efforts. We knocked on thousands of doors and met countless wonderful people whose lives and community we feel connected to and a part of in a way we’ve maybe never felt before. And while Athens has four more years of uninspiring, unimaginative, out-of-touch leadership to deal with, some notable accomplishments have resulted from our efforts. An organization is being formed to harness and expand upon the momentum that was built since November against poverty and for social justice. Pulling from our campaign’s slogan, the organization is called Athens for Everyone. Among other more concrete things, Athens for Everyone will continue to change the conversation in Athens, and hopefully, in some small ways, the regional dialogue as well.

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The more avid readers among you may recall my previous entries about the importance of conversation (like this one). Whenever we talked about changing the conversation surrounding Athens politics, we were sure to clarify that we aimed not only to change what it was about, but also who was part of it, hearing it and being heard. Athens has an especially heinous poverty and inequality problem and is no stranger to a whole host of social issues from racism to sexual assault. In a town where the predominantly privileged campaign on their personalities and these issues go ignored, our campaign – Tim’s campaign – was a horizontally organized, radically progressive stand against that convention. More importantly, we stood with folks from the most marginalized parts of town for a bold vision of a more equal and democratic society with free public transit, affordable child care, and living wages.

What made all our time and energy spent worthwhile – to us – was that those conversations on people’s porches, at their churches, in the papers, were about the very important topics typically left out of the political dialogue and that they were especially with the people most affected and least included in that dialogue. We all have a lot to learn from each other and we have a lot of potential to evolve in a positive way together, but none of that will happen without first having such conversations. That brings me to the third aspect of changing the conversation that I think applies to our trip as well: how we talk with each other.

Listening is so important. As is remembering how wrong we might be, and how important others’ stories are, regardless of how little our views and backgrounds overlap. Atypically, our campaign’s outreach hinged on the principles of Transformative Organizing, and we emphasized listening over proselytizing as we went door-to-door. With the electoral experience in our rear-view, we’re back to more geographically diverse “idea-pollinating” and hoping to grow ourselves and engage others we’d otherwise never meet, in conversations about things that matter, in a manner that’s at least somewhat novel… reaching out to listen and learn.

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Now, sitting in front of a Starbucks with an empty wallet, watching a tiny reptile eat an even tinier caterpillar alive, I can’t help but wonder at the meaning of any of this. And while continued reflection and questioning is invaluable, I still think what we’re doing is – at least as much as anything can be – worth a damn. And that’s a nice feeling to own day-to-day. So here’s to a better world and a better understanding of what that world can be.

Athens for Everyone! Everyone for Everyone!

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with love in solidarity,
Jesse
looking across Newberry Road at the cumulus clouds above Gainesville, FL, USA

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Georgia? Again? Really???

Yup. But wait…

In case Jesse’s last post didn’t make it clear, we’re back in Athens, GA. Why are we in this place again, a place we were already in before? A dude’s doin’ a thing, with a lot of other awesome folks, and we think we should help that dude do it. That is, Tim Denson is running for mayor in a totally winnable race against an incumbent who shares his surname but not his blood, ideals, or vigor. Yeah, Tim’s vigorous. And this endeavor has invigorated us, though our abysmal posting rate since arriving here might not indicate that.

We decided to come back until the May 20th election because strongly progressive political movements are an important way to improve people’s lives and move toward a better world. We think. (It’s also possible that cutting food stamps and calling poor people lazy is the best way to improve things, but we think the frighteningly large portion of the population who thinks that is at least partially mistaken.) And this strongly progressive political movement has a significantly better chance of significant success with significant in-person contributions from us, so we came back. We left the ridiculously beautiful nature and incredibly warm people of México to spend the winter in Georgia.

Oh boy.

But seriously, this whole campaign is bubbling over with promise and attainable awesomeness founded in compassionate ideals.

What’s Tim’s platform?! What’s Tim’s platform?! Well, you can read the whole thing here. [<—that link] ¡Y en español también! [<—ese link]

Some highlights: Do everything in our power to bring people out of poverty, even if it means poking those who pay property taxes with the stick of obligation to share the wealth from which they benefit disproportionately. Take the incredibly radical step of ensuring that every kid has access to affordable Pre-K. Make the buses frequent and free. Free! Stop turning undocumented immigrants over to the immigration Gestapo and let them go to college. Start a sexual assault task force because our culture’s status quo has a shocking number of rapes. Push as hard as we can for a living wage in a community with tens of thousands of working poor. Start a bike share and community-wide composting service. Legalize backyard chickens. It’s awesome.

Awesome like Mulegé, but in a different way.

– Adam (w/ Jesse)

Aliens

It was February and we were excitedly honing our questioning skills during a party at the old Sunset House. Sam and his girlfriend Beth were finalizing plans to spend the summer working in Skagway, AK. A port city in the state’s panhandle nestled on the mouth of its eponymous river, Skagway enjoys a hefty seasonal spike in population and capital as various cruiseships dock up for tourists to marvel at the glaciers, learn about the gold rush, and of course, spend their money. They were planning their trip there for the summer, to work for the tourists as tourists. It’d be Sam’s third go at it, but Beth’s first time living away from home let alone ALASKA. She was excited and nervous about her soon-to-be new everything, her job there being an essential factor she still had to fully work out.

Mark and Adam and I grew quickly abuzz with this fresh opportunity to inquire about such an exciting endeavor. She was combining something we certainly were doing (a new and adventurous embarkation across many miles to lands unknown) with something we certainly were not doing (work for a company we don’t care about doing a job we have no personal excitement for just to make money).

We couldn’t help ourselves.

“What do you need a job for?” Beth was visibly uncomfortable as the conversation devolved into a one-sided (three-voiced) rant on the possibilities of a life path that doesn’t center on paychecks and the unreasonable bills and unjust debts they’ll be entirely diverted to. It doubled as an attack – no doubt very eloquently worded – on the basic nature of our capitalist society with a formidable assault on some pretty core aspects of living that she – like most people we ever meet – takes for granted as necessary.

“Is that what you want to do? I mean, ideally what would you want to do? Visit Alaska? Hell yeah! But working for some cruiseline while ya do it? There are other ways! You can see the world and you don’t have to work for the man to do it!”

This was our first time back in Athens since departing the previous calendar year. We’d left behind our jobs and money and the sedentary life in favor of an adventure whose unconventional parameters emerged and evolved as the miles – and kilometers – ticked by. By then we hadn’t yet given up on the use of money entirely, but we knew there were ample dumpsters full of good food, coffee was free pretty much everywhere that you wanted to ask for it, and somehow we’d survived without working real jobs since October. We wanted to share our excitement, our revelations of the possibility, our newfound hope and empowerment. But it was too much too soon all at once. As if packing up for Alaska wasn’t enough already. So instead, Beth felt attacked and overwhelmed – the very opposite of our goal. And Sam had been stewing in mild contempt ever since.

“I just kept thinking, ‘who are these alien people?’” He tells me this, a couple nights ago, a few days past Christmas, as he shuffles his shiny new Munchkin Legends cards. The quality of cardstock used for Munchkin, he says, telling me to give one a flick, is cheaper than that of Cards Against Humanity or Harbinger. “I support what you’re doing. I get it. I just don’t want to be preached to.”

With a little bourbon to help loosen our lips we were finally addressing the fundamental, frictional energy that’s been humming beneath all of our dialogues since the wave of Occupy drenched Athens in 2011 and solidarity entered my common vocabulary. With yet another year of dense experiences, this time coupled with the fleeting experience of travel, I am now readjusting temporarily to sedentaryism to boot. And for a few months as we reunite with our friends and this community, I’m inundated in the alienation that accompanies reintegration with a community of familiar faces that have no familiarity with one’s recent experiences.

Feeling alien isn’t something rare on our trip. In fact we deliberately put ourselves in places that appear alien to us, where we will likely seem alien to the folks we encounter. And when things start seeming too familiar, we invent and attempt scenarios that are deliberately unusual and often uncomfortable. It’s a big part of how we find value in what we’re doing beyond the fun-having that our new roles as minimalistic idea-pollinating vagabonds provides. Awkward as it may be – and practice does make pleasant – strangers reacting to us like we’re aliens just isn’t really unnerving the way it is when friends do.

Yet here we were forging through it. The old adage prevailed as we found our way to each other’s hearts via the stomach, uncanning the worms of our bromantic woe thanks to potatoes. Jess wanted potatoes. I wanted potatoes. Did Sam want potatoes?

“I don’t want to eat your food.”

“Nonsense, there’s no such thing as our food. There’s just food. All food is everyone’s!”

“You know what I mean. I have food at home; I don’t want to take some of yours if that’s all you have.”

[Yes, in conversations with friends, I imagine their pauses in speech as semicolons when appropriate.]

“We have plenty. We have the privilege of being in the part of society that enjoys abundance. In fact, our abundant waste is a main problem! Scarcity is a myth. Besides, most of what we got came from dumpsters. It’s just as much yours as any of ours.”

And there I went again, ranting excitedly, thinking I might be jovially empowering my friend with a bold new perspective. Instead I was making him grimace. The shuffling of his shiny new Munchkin cards grew more deliberate.

“Can’t we just have a normal conversation?”

(Normal? If there is such a thing as normal, I certainly don’t want to be it. Because normal is what’s dealing billions of people shit cards every day as they go to bed hungry. Normal means people in Mexico continue to lack access to potable water unless they buy it from Coca Cola. Normal means we continue to be bombarded by insane marketing for useless and awful products that destroy our self worth. Normal means we keep fighting wars while people profit off them! Normal means we keep medicating five-year-olds for ADD so they can pay attention in their normal classes! Normal is the continued retelling to our children of Disney’s story – you know that one about the impossibly-figured princess that lives happily ever after submissively shut up and bound by her hunk of a man. And those children’s normal parents trample each other over iToy deals on Black Friday while Santa’s elves in Japan’s toy factories commit suicide regularly. Being normal means giving a passive nod to the long history of bloodshed, exploitation, and oppression that gave us black lung, and slavery, and continues to strangle millions of Latinos with the fear of deportation every day while they break their backs picking fruit for a wage middle-class folk can’t imagine surviving on. Enjoying my normality, I could bask in the air not breathed by the millions of prisoners – extremely disproportionately people of color – locked away in privatized penal colonies. We blow up mountain tops in West Virginia to keep our climate controlled to a normal temperature at home. We suck dry the water under our feet to spray it all over our normal lawns in our desert cities. Normal? Fuck normal. Which means, I die a virgin because there’s no such thing as normal! Normal is a myth! Normal is the opinion you have of people you don’t know, because as soon as you begin to know anyone, you realize they aren’t normal.)

Those thoughts and more, in an even less-sensical hurricane of synaptic fervor, bang around the walls of my thick skull and I edit myself. “I’m not trying to be an asshole here. I’m serious.”

“Yeah, but you know what I mean.”

“Exactly. And that’s why I’m saying this. So you know what I mean. After a year of doing what we’ve been doing, how could I do anything but share my potatoes?”

And so we went on for some time about that and more, with me digressing far too much into romantic lamentations about Mexico. We revisited the topic of marriage – and polyamory – which preceded the potato exchange and was likely the main culprit of Sam’s disposition. We made some progress, and ate some potatoes, but as he left with a fond farewell I still felt a gnawing sense of loss as the gap between him and me was clear, and bridging it will be laborious. And it’s clear that such a gap is growing between me and everyone else in my life who isn’t actually in my daily life.

And I get it. Instead of referring to her as my girlfriend, we thanked my partner for her delicious preparation of dumpstered vegetables and mashed potatoes. Sam highlights Rhonda Rousey‘s UFC contract and Haywire during a discussion about feminism, and I see them – along with most corporate sports and movies – as falling short. All the while, I’m elaborating on the dark side of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil and the astonishing number of films that fail the Bechdel test.

But Sam, like most people in my life, is relating to a me of a year ago. How would the me of a year ago relate to the me of today? A year ago I had no idea what the Bechdel test was and the word ‘partner’ felt like forced, awkward, politically correct semantics for me too. While I still would have been reading up on the riots in Rio, I wouldn’t have been seeing things through such an anti-capitalist, anarchist lens.

Now, I am genuinely open to the potentially laughable incorrectness of any or all of my views. I do not think I have answers, though I do think I’m better at asking questions than I was. I try my best to present my views as simply different, coming from a different set of life experiences, and not better. But they’re still not being interpreted that way, which is… disappointing.

With a year of especially experimental, unconventional living behind me, I feel like I can relate to fewer and fewer people with any sort of ease. The more we step outside of society’s boxes and glimpse alternative possibilities, the more difficult it is to reintegrate into “normal” conversation with friends – or anyone – and the more difficult it is to feel anything but alien as my principles grow ever more marginal.

Plus, with friends – and family – there is this whole history to battle which is extra-exhausting. We are hardly ever looking at each other for who is there without attaching a whole back story of who was there. Our preconceptions about each other now are heavily slanted by a whole range of past personal experiences and interactions. Without sharing our latest experiences, without witnessing each other’s recent growth firsthand, we’re left to act as if no growth has occurred or to guess at how we have grown. I, like most everyone I know, relive this frustrating dilemma every holiday season with people I hardly know that recollect me sucking on a pacifier. With a 2013 so chaotic, dense, and outside the spectrum of typical relatable experiences, connecting with loved ones is simply an even greater struggle before we get started.

Alas, as we hop from home to home, I’m generally mindful that most people don’t (yet) regard all food as everyone’s and I try to respect what I assume are typical boundaries until knowing otherwise. But it’s nice to think that when I offer someone food, they might accept it, and not react to the situation they assume I’m in, projecting their pity or misguided support or general misunderstanding, thus neutralizing my gesture.

If the things we think might make the world better – giving freely, thinking openly, acting compassionately – are to ever gain any headway, we have to make space for those things in our daily lives. We have to allow for people to give and share and act in unconventional situations with unconventional means. Otherwise we’re shooting ourselves in the feet before they leave the ground.

So as December wanes and 2014 hovers on the horizon, I’m resolving to a better writing routine. Recently, I’ve made some real headway with jumping jacks and stretching and flossing routines; it’s time to step it up past the basics. Maybe I’ll seem a little less like an alien to anyone who reads this thing. Maybe I’ll get better at articulating my alien ideas. Maybe I’ll even get better at helping redirect our societal momentum toward perspectives and habits that reduce alienation.

I can go on about how awful it is that millions of people are referred to as aliens everyday – illegal ones – and how dehumanizing that is for both the labeled and the labelers. I can better elaborate my condemnation of normality and fumble through trying to be an ally for social justice in spite of my privilege. I can finally explain who the hell Calvin in Paris is and why he meant so much to me, or what it’s like to hide under a bridge during a tornado in the black hole of West Memphis, or how amazing hitchhiking through Mexico was, or how I think a gift economy is at least partially feasible, or why I think self-sufficiency is a farce, or why the hell we’re back in Georgia when we’re supposed to be somewhere in Oaxaca or the Yucatan by now. Those thoughts and stories are to come, in a new year, with a new understanding, something we get with each passing moment if we choose to listen. Right now I’m tired and ready for a drink.

Until next time, here’s to 28 years shared with y’all on this crazy rock, and to a hell of a year ahead… Cheers!

– Jesse
from the Wash House in Athens, GA