Chapter 10


People :

Author : Fredy Perlman

Text :

TAPED NARRATOR: It took most of a year to get together all the elements required by the commune’s first and most memorable exposition. The continuing indifference, and even outright hostility, of the numerous passive onlookers who had nothing better to do with their time than cripple our commune’s project, did not help expedite the various tasks. That the event took place at all is almost a miracle, and is entirely due to the profound involvement of the larger community and its devotion to the commune’s continuing development.

(DAN enters from left, typesets. TONI enters from right)

TONI: Well, it’s Dan.

DAN: Hi, Toni. (They embrace)

TONI: You’re almost a stranger. Find new friends?

DAN: No I haven’t, Toni. But I have felt like a stranger. I couldn’t take Olympia or Philip greeting me with another Political Pamphlet Dan. And I didn’t want to get in their way.

TONI: That’s been Philip’s sole concern for the past months — that the commune not get in the way of his Expo.

DAN: I heard it took place this past weekend.

TONI: Didn’t they invite you? No, I guess they wouldn’t have. They know how you feel about the friends Philip has been waiting for all his life.

DAN: How did it go?

TONI: I didn’t go either, although they did invite me. Have you seen the brochure? (Hands him one from a surface)

DAN: I see they left Lyman’s texts. I thought it was supposed to be a women’s project.

TONI: That’s news to me. I thought it was Philip’s coming out party. He acted like a kid all last week; it must have been the greatest experience of his life. Remember when he used to melt down his objects and you could only see them in pictures? That’s ancient history. Now he’s prolific. He produces art objects by the crate. What are you typing?

DAN: Can’t you guess?

TONI: “Another political pamphlet, Dan? When will you political people learn to put your ideology into practice?” That’s exactly what she puts into practice: her ideology.

DAN: That’s actually more than I’ve been doing.

TONI: Something happened?

DAN: Not exactly. My unemployment ran out and I had to get a part time job. In a print shop, with no window facing the outside. I really like it here now. I thought there’d be some interesting things to set, but it’s all ads. And you?

TONI: The same. I heard that Lisa started school.

DAN: Just this year. And Leon?

TONI: We’re still holding out. But it’s impossible with no other kids around. Leon has the TV schedule memorized and he’s glued to the tube all day. It’s ten times worse than school. At least in school you’re with others and you can rebel. He just sits and watches.

DAN: What about all the projects he and Alec had going?

TONI: Alec’s in boarding school.

DAN: Really? I didn’t know.

TONI: Philip didn’t want anyone or anything between him and the Expo.

DAN: Did Donna take part in the preparations?

TONI: Are you kidding? Donna’s like a ghost. She lives here but no one sees her.

DAN: She used to be such a lively person.

TONI: She was a real trip when I first came here. I’ll never forget her “Gosh, is that marijuana? I’ve heard so much about it — what do you do?”

DAN: That’s cute.

TONI: It’s true. She used to be excited by everything and interested in everyone. Funny how people change. She still cares for the garden; she comes alive once a year, when the seeds get planted. The rest of the time she goes from her job to the bar and back.

DAN: I remember she was already a little like that years ago, that night Ben wrote a poem to her.

TONI: I remember that night too, and I’ve always regretted missing Ben’s reading because of Grover’s antics. At that time I thought those two would make a go of it.

DAN: Ben and Donna? Are you kidding? The radical hippie and the straight secretary?

TONI: It wasn’t so ridiculous then.

DAN: I remember she thought him “sweet.”

TONI: After her miserable high school marriage, Donna apparently didn’t want to get involved. But around the time of Ben’s poem, I know she would have accompanied Ben to a farm commune in Saskatchewan or Mongolia. But except for his poem, Ben never made a move nor said a word, and over the years they drifted apart.

DAN: I saw Ben a couple of weeks ago; I had some research to do at the underground paper. I hadn’t seen him in over a year. He hasn’t changed. He still thinks a revolution would only make things worse, so why do anything? Maybe that’s why he never approached Donna, because that’s pointless too if you practice the politics of despair.

TONI: At one time I agreed with you, Dan, but now I know you’re wrong. I was very close to Ben for almost two years. He’s someone who doesn’t just talk about independent human beings — he actually believes it. He thinks a revolution will be significant only if it’s made by independent individuals who act on their own. If they can be talked into it then they can be talked out of it, and worse, they can be talked into believing they got it when they didn’t. That’s why he rejects all kinds of propaganda. And that’s why he never tried to convince Donna to quit her job or join us in our projects or move to Mount Tabor or wherever. Poor Donna was dying to be convinced, to be invited, but Ben wanted her to decide on her own. His poem wasn’t an invitation. It was a gift, a love offering; Donna accepted it as that and disappointed Ben by continuing to repeat her crummy routine. She waited for his invitation to make a move, but the invitation never came. Donna remained the “Cool Lady” to Ben and Ben remained “sweet” to Donna.

DAN: You’re a generous person, Toni. I’m sorry I never really got to know either of them. I never even knew about you and Ben.

TONI: We never loved each other. Ben and I are too much alike; we’re too movementy for each other’s tastes. Ben and Donna loved each other. It’s sad.

DAN: When did you break up with Ben?

TONI: I didn’t. Ben broke up with the house when the new friends started dropping by. I guess Ben expected me to drop out too, or to spark a confrontation or make a scene or at least let him know he wasn’t alone. And I guess I disappointed him the same way Donna did. Nothing was clear to me.

DAN: Does Ben really have nothing to do with the commune?

TONI: It’s just a house now, Dan. And it’s a hotel to Ben. He leaves in the morning and comes back at night. If he runs into any of us he greets us the way he’d greet the hotel receptionist or elevator operator. It isn’t what you call despair. Ben is full of hope, but his hope is constantly disappointed.

(BARRY enters from left)

BARRY: Ah, Dan. Nice to see you’re coming around again.

TONI: Yes, we do so much to make our friends feel at home here, don’t we?

BARRY: Why so sarcastic on such a lovely morning, Toni?

TONI: Who’s being sarcastic? Dan told me he’d heard through the grapevine that a commune event took place last weekend. Thank god for grapevines.

BARRY: We told you about it, Toni, and you didn’t come.

TONI: Did you also tell Donna about it? And Ben?

BARRY: Neither of them has taken part in any commune activities in years, and you know it.

TONI: I bet Sharon would have loved to work on the preparations.

BARRY: Tony, have you ever tried working with Sharon? I tried for years and believe me it’s impossible.

TONI: You never had trouble working with Steve. Why was he excluded?

BARRY: Who’s excluded, for crying out loud? You’re making a political ideology out of your own paranoia. Ever since his great romance, Steve dropped out of everything.

TONI: Mattie worked all right with everyone, she hasn’t had a great romance in recent years, and she was really into the pottery for a while; why wasn’t she —

BARRY: Is this a third degree? Look, I hate to say this, but Olympia, Philip and I don’t enjoy working with Mattie.

DAN: Since when?

BARRY: If you’ve got to know, it’s because she gives off the wrong kind of energy, negative energy —

TONI: So some people are excluded because they’re too eager and others because they aren’t eager enough.

BARRY: No one’s excluded from anything; you’ve got a butterfly in your noodle this morning, Toni.

TONI: Why did Dan have to learn about the event from the grapevine?

BARRY: This discussion is a waste of time. Look, a couple of people gave a small party for their friends. That’s common enough, right? It so happens that Dan wasn’t the best friend of some of the friends. For crying out loud, Dan, I thought you couldn’t stand Lyman Sanders! Don’t you ever give parties? Do you invite everyone you know in the whole city? Look, I’ve got some work to do. (Exits right)

DAN: I’ll be damned.

TONI: Won’t we all. Were you calling this a commune?

DAN: How long has this been going on?

TONI: Long, I think. You were still one of the friends when it started.

DAN: You mean when I sided against Ben about the typesetting?

TONI: Even before that, I suppose. But why ask me? I was one of the friends until last week. My work was a bona fide commune project, it didn’t interfere with their preparations, and I didn’t exude any negative energy —

DAN: You mean you didn’t question anything they were doing.

TONI: It can’t be that simple, since Mattie didn’t either.

DAN: Mattie said something when they were taking the plants to Donna’s room, and she knew at the time —

TONI: Is that it? And I always thought Mattie was such a meek person.

(GROVER enters from left.)

GROVER: Man, am I glad it’s you two.

TONI: Why us two? Doesn’t the whole town love you any more? Cops after you? This is the last place they’d look, you know.

GROVER: Have you heard about the shit that went down last weekend?

TONI: We’ve been waiting for you to clue us in. But why the sudden fury? I thought you were one of the impresarios.

GROVER: There was all this talk about the women’s group doing all the work.

TONI: If it hadn’t been for such talk, you would have worked your ass off, wouldn’t you, Grover?

DAN: I thought you were one of the women, Grover — you and Philip and Barry and Lyman —

GROVER: How was I to know that Mattie, Sharon and Toni and Donna weren’t in on it?

DAN: what happened?

GROVER: Women’s art exposition, my ass. It was a religious revival, a mystical seance, and we’d better confront them —

TONI: Welcome to the club.

DAN: A seance? Are you serious?

GROVER: I thought it couldn’t be serious. That’s why I went along. I kept waiting for the twist, the April fool’s joke. But it was no joke. They were serious.

DAN: What kind of seance? I can’t believe it.

GROVER: Anastasia brought down these friends of hers: a woman called Lamia, who turned out to be some kind of palm reader, and this dude Earl who’s supposedly into self-publishing.

TONI: Presumably you didn’t know any of Anastasia’s friends when you first brought her here —

GROVER: All I knew was she was into the shit we did here.

DAN: Go on, Grover. The seance.

GROVER: Anyway, Anastasia starts it all up with a rap about this commune being a return to the origin, resurrecting the spirit of our earliest ancestors. I could go along with her shit because I thought it was some kind of poetry. Then she introduces this Lamia as someone with powers to put us in direct contact with the dead ancestors.

TONI: Oh wow, you are serious. And here I was thinking that Sharon and Mattie and Steve would have loved to take part in the preparations. Wrong track again!

GROVER: Candles, burning incense, hands on the table, the whole thing, and Olympia saying “Oh how exciting, I’ve never contacted an ancestor before.” I laugh and ask if there’s a translator in the room to tell us what the mummy says. Philip and Barry are sitting there transfixed, like they expect a Neanderthal to walk in any second. Then Lamia gets into this incoherent rap, like she’s oh deed on LSD although I didn’t see her take anything, and it turns out she’s the ancestor.

DAN: Incredible.

GROVER: That’s bad enough. But then I start recognizing bits and scraps of her rap, and it turns out it’s not even original; it comes out of an old Life magazine article on the Aztecs that I happen to have read. I keep expecting someone to say something. I look at Philip, but he thinks he’s seeing Kukulkan on Illyria Street. Finally I can’t take it any more so I get up. Lamia snaps out of her trance and says I broke the spell, and the others look at me as if I’d set the house on fire. So I split.

TONY: That’s heavy.

GROVER: I phoned Lyman yesterday to ask about the meaning of what went down. Listen to this. “I hope you don’t feel embarrassed,” he tells me, “not everyone is strong enough to support such an experience.” Can you dig that? It turns out that Lamia and this Earl character bought $500 worth of Philip’s pottery, so my splitting didn’t break the spell.

DAN: Philip sold his pottery?

TONI: What did you think the Expo was for?

DAN: Then the brochure texts sounded like ads because they were ads.

TONI: It settles slowly, doesn’t it?

GROVER: It’s not the sale that bugs me —

TONI: That’s why we considered you one of them, Grover.

GROVER: It’s the religious shit that gets me. Is that what we’ve been building up to? I think you people in the house had better get it together; I’ve got to split.

TONI: Why we people? Why not everyone who ever related to the commune?

GROVER: That’s what I’m talking about. There’s got to be some kind of confrontation over this seance business —

TONI: The seance and the selling and the exclusions — Are you still free on weekends?

GROVER: Weekday nights, weekends anytime, but be sure you tell me in advance. (Exits left)

TONI: I had an idea when Grover started talking.

DAN: So did I. What’s yours?

TONI: It has to do with going back to the origins.

DAN: That’s it. We’re too Movementy for each other, Toni.

TONI: We could have a resurrection — our version of one. Remember that Japanese meal Ben and I were preparing?

DAN: Sounds great!

TONI: And the puppet play that was never performed, and the alternative to school that never got off the ground, and the commune that almost started to be real, and the —

DAN: Too much has been lost to get all that back, Toni. But I know Mattie will be eager to try; she’s literally been doing nothing at all, what with two kids, and Rose Anne home all day long.

TONI: I’m sure Steve and Sharon will be willing, even Ben, and I know Donna is longing to go back to one of the intersections where she failed to make a turn; she’s not the only one.

(OLYMPIA enters from right, rushing)

OLYMPIA: Oh hi Dan. Working on another political pamphlet?

TONI: Cripes, Olympia. He’s hardly been here for a year.

OLYMPIA: Really? I hadn’t noticed.

DAN: Thanks a lot.

OLYMPIA: Oh, nothing personal, Dan. I’ve been so busy with so many exciting projects and friends —

TONI: Some of us would like to talk to you about those projects and friends, Olympia.

OLYMPIA: I was on my way out, Toni. What is it?

TONI: I don’t mean now. I mean when everyone could be present — everyone who wasn’t invited to last weekend’s event.

OLYMPIA: I don’t have time to discuss anything with those people; there’s too much else to do in life.

TONI: That’s one of thing things we’d like to talk about: how and when some of my friends became “those people”.

OLYMPIA: I have no idea what you’re hinting at.

TONI: I’m not hinting! What you call “those people” now includes everyone who helped make this place what it once was. And I’m intending to give a party for all “those people.”

OLYMPIA: You can give all the parties you want, Toni, anytime you want. How does that concern me?.

TONI: Some of us have questions that concern you, like critiques of last weekend’s Expo.

OLYMPIA: The Expo was the commune’s most significant event so far.

TONI: We heard all about it from Grover.

OLYMPIA: What did Grover tell you about it?

TONI: He said it was a seance.

OLYMPIA: He should have talked to me first!

TONI: Why should he? If that type of thing is taking place in this house, we should all know about it and we should talk to each other about it at a meeting where everyone is present.

OLYMPIA: I told you I was in a hurry.

TONI: We’ll walk you to the car. Are you afraid to defend your seance —

OLYMPIA: I happen to have nothing to hide. Let’s meet tonight to talk about the scheduling —

TONI: We’d like to schedule it right now.

OLYMPIA: Fine. I’m free the day after tomorrow.

TONI: It’ll have to be over the weekend; Donna can’t meet on weeknights.

DAN: Neither can I.

OLYMPIA: Well I’ll be out of town this coming weekend. The following weekend then. I’ll shift what I intended to do then to midweek —

(OLYMPIA, TONI & DAN exit left)

From :

Chronology :

November 30, 2010 : Chapter 10 -- Publication.
October 11, 2021 : Chapter 10 -- Added.

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