Sunday, June 8, 2008

thinking out loud

I've always been in the habit of dressing up for the occasion and if there's nothing in particular to celebrate then dress up anyway was my philosophy. If you've ever wondered what I look like well.. you may never know but I'm willing to admit this is what I looked like in 1972 in a picture taken in our loft in Montreal. Back then I collected and wore a lot of antique clothes and I'm sure the woman who originally had this black silk suit made would have spun in her grave.. or, maybe not.

I spent a number of years living in urban communal situations and although the Loft wasn't the first it really was a lot of fun and led to another and larger one a couple of years later in Vancouver - a place called Armadillo Arms. There'll be a story or two about that place but not today. The funny thing about writing stories is that even if you attempt to write what happened you find it's impossible not to color it with impressions because that's what memory is. The things we recall don't live in little color coded boxes in our heads but go through subtle shifts depending on current context. There are stories that don't fit the paradigm of beginning, middle and end because to do that properly you'd have to start at the beginning of everything and finish when the last star has died. Who has time for that? While I consider the next one to draw I thought I'd mention this commune thing.

Montreal in the early 70's was a city in deep economic trouble because the Parti Quebecois (a separatist movement) was gaining in power and new laws were being passed to make French the official language for education and business. Since a lot of American as well as Canadian businesses had their head offices in Montreal there was a mildly composed panic as they arranged to relocate to Toronto with the consequence of leaving a lot of property available. We'd been part of a proposal made to the Canada Council for an arts grant to be undertaken in the city so once the funds came through we got ready to go. There were lots of large and cheap apartments but we met the people who had the Loft and after an evening of getting to know one another we decided to take up their proposal. There were six adults and one child with everybody involved in the arts - music, painting, weaving, potting, sculpture and the place was big enough that we even had our own radio station. Needless to say there were lots of visitors so lots of stimulation without having to resort to television for entertainment. It was also kind of nice not having to cook every day and in my experience people share kitchens well.

I only mention this subject now because I believe it's still a pretty good idea. As things are now we live in a stage-managed culture where it's necessary for the benefit of the corporations to convince us we need at least one of each of their products. Wouldn't it be better if we could figure out a way to share?

Signed - an admitted hippy.


Seraphine said...

I hate sharing.
It isn't that I mind sharing things; what I hate is obligating myself to share time with anyone else.
I don't know how people do it. By the time you add up work, appointments, chores that need to be done and family, there's little precious time left over for oneself.
I have to share myself with myself. I'm know that's selfish.
I wish I could learn to live with less.
The problem with corporations is they've forgotten how to help us be more productive.
If we want healthier food, we have to pay extra for it.
If we want to express our love to someone, we have to buy something for them.
They've gotten into our heads.
I want my head back.
It's time.

CDP said...

Fabulous post, and I love the pictures. The t-strap shoes are perfect, I couldn't stop looking at them.

Ingrid said...

rock on sister.. how '70s' you look! Thanks for posting that, I loove 'old'(errr) pics.. sometimes I even think, phew..glad I'm not running for office! I can't wait to hear more about the stories re. Vancouver. I visited it in the early 70s as my oldest (half) sister had moved there so I do kinda have memories of that place..
(kids just started their respective summer camps and my mom left to go back to Holland so I'm hoping to start on the story this week..aaah, peace and quiet!)

Seraphine said...

I'm on holiday.
See you in two weeks.
I'll have a lot of
great catching up to do.

Anonymous said...

Fab post. I've "joked" in the past that communal living is a good idea. I think I even proposed a bloggers' commune at one time because it seemed that so many of us were out of work or falling on hard times.

Recently I watched a movie about the Depression and a group of people accidentally started a commune. It made me start thinking all over again, that at some point, we might need to reconsider the way we live. You're on your own isn't working for a lot of people.

And those pictures are wonderful.

susan said...

sera - It would mean rethinking everything but if major expenses are shared there's time for oneself.

cdp - I may have mentioned before that I like shoes :-)

ingrid - Well, at least I looked 70's when it was the 70's so that's a relief.

I'm looking forward to reading the story you've been considering. I hope your Mom had a lovely holiday with all of you.

sera - Don't forget to click the heels of your silver shoes if you need to return sooner than the flight. I hope you have a fine time.

dcup - I wasn't sure about this post at all (will people think I'm totally lame?) so I'm very glad to know you liked it. The way we lived then did have some drawbacks so I may have to do a follow-up just to clarify the the good vs the less good and some possible solutions. Overall, it's a wonderful idea - more tribal than anything else.

Randal Graves said...

Lame? The furthest thing from! It may not happen this century, but when oil really becomes scarce and nations are warring over resources that will make these days seem like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, we might be forced to shack up on a grand scale whether we like it or not.

As long as batteries are still manufactured. I couldn't live without my music.

The pictures were groovy, too. Ah, the 70s and short shorts. ;-)

fairlane said...

You damn Hippie Chicks, and your Hippieness.

Ah, well, what can you do?

Anonymous said...

Susan - great story and pics. So can you play the mandolin?

susan said...

randal - I know. I'm just trying to get myself used to the idea of our self-run old folks home.

fairlane - hippieness, huppienuss, hoppinuss

spartacus - Actually, no.. but I tried for a while.

lindsaylobe said...

Dressing up for an occasion I think makes you feel good and can lift your spirits and bring back memories. I used to go the extreme when my children were little and at night tell them stories from out of my head, but dress up in the part as well. Their friends used to come along to listen and scream in delight. It left a lasting impression as they still talk about it to day even though they are in their thirties.
Nice photos of you, with somewhat of a whimsical look on your face to me, maybe about to sing a protest folk song? The community living sounds as if it was interesting and rewarding, but I guess as you say its colored as in ones own unique memory.
At least we often still share when attending functions; everyone brings different food or a plate. Most clubs and communities still do a lot of sharing, they simply can’t function without sharing but I think we could can do so much more and be much happier.

Do we own the land or does the land own us?

Best wishes

gfid said...

it's always comforting to bump into fellow recovering hippies. should we start a self-help group? or maybe someone has already. clothes are such fun, aren't they? in a former life i was a fashion designer. i was even a finalist in a provincial contest. still love clothes, though i have no time to make my own lately. and the body doesn't show them off exactly to best advantage anymore. 2 of my kids seem to have got the fashion passion gene - one male and one female. not sure if it's a blessing or a curse. do you still love to dress up?

susan said...

lindsay - Your story telling times with your children sounds like it was lots of fun for everybody. We did it the more classic way and I'll always have good memories of reading Don Quixote to our seven year old who demanded it as a bedtime story. It was hilarious.
ps - By then I wasn't much into protest songs.. more likely Mississipi delta blues.

gfid - Hah.. recovering hippies unite! I learned to weave but I was already a designer and seamstress so I got to make the dresses. In the 70's it was still possible to buy clothes from the 30's - 50's but eventually I got tired of the responsibility of maintaining them. Since I moved out here 15 years ago I gave up fashion entirely and started dressing like Crow (all black but for one of my 8' long hand painted silk scarves). I save the colour cravings for my artwork.

gfid said...

black is indispensable. it never lets you down. (unless you have a freely shedding white pet)