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The Social Life of Artistic Property

Ganas: The Persistent Anomaly

Caroline Woolard

When I was a toddler and Ronald Reagan was president, six people in Staten Island started an intentional community called Ganas. For Mildred Gordon, George Caneda, Jeffrey Gross, Susan Grossman, Michael Johnson, Bruno Krauchthaler and a few more, what began with the counterculture of the '60s became a lifelong examination of the ways we typically live. Each person spent the '60s and '70s living in different kinds of groups. By the end of the '70s, the founding group congealed in San Francisco and moved to New York City to establish an early outpost on the Lower East Side. In 1983, the group moved to Staten Island permanently with the purchase of a building for around $50,000.

Thirty-five years in, the oldest intentional community in New York City remains a vibrant experiment with around seventy full-time residents. The founders have been living, working, sharing money—collectively, they own and run three stores—and talking through challenges for more than three decades. Responsibilities for cooking, maintenance, cleaning and coordinating are distributed between members of the community who choose to work inside the community rather than outside. As do the majority of residents in exchange for residence, rather than paying $720 and "working outside."Ganas is a living example of commitment to mutual aid, geographic place, voluntary simplicity and collective-self management and health. All members share the belief that life without a landlord, boss or coercive bureaucracy is both possible and desirable.

I wanted to find out, what keeps this project alive? What holds its membership together? Working with a member of Ganas, Michael Johnson, on SolidarityNYC.org since 2010, I have been visiting and talking to members of Ganas for the past four years. I began interviewing members of Ganas in 2012. With all interviews, I began by telling the truth: I'm thinking about moving to Ganas permanently. If I don't move to Ganas, I intend to join another intentional community or cooperative house in New York City.

For two weeks in August 2012, I rented a room at Ganas. The room reminded me of my grandmother's house—the pink crocheted bedspread, the bamboo-framed prints of Asian women with parasols on every wall, the smell—that is, until I hid them away in a dark corner of the closet. But hiding decorations proved to be the beginning of a conflict for me, a dissonance between Ganas' aesthetics of thrift store frugality and my own loft-living dreams; Ganas' dedication to conspicuous parsimony and my art-school desires for roomy industrial spaces (despite the post-industrial economy that makes these spaces impossible). Could I be seduced by the beauty of group processes at Ganas? Could this beauty overrule my old recalcitrant aesthetic ideas? Could I reshape my desires and move in?

Caroline Woolard: Did you know you'd be doing this for thirty-two years?

Jorge Caneda: No. We did not set out to start a community. We set out to experiment with a transformation process. In different ways, we all carried a deep sense that the culture we had grown up with—which was very ingrained in our beings—stood in the way. We were not happy. Susan and I had been in the protest movement; Jeffrey was more conservative and had come to conceive of the possibility of alternatives in his high school years; and Mildred had been in the human development/human growth field for many years.... She's thirty years older than us, more or less. There was a yearning or an intuition of a new place that could be created by transforming ourselves...because you cannot force a change, you cannot create the change, because we are tainted with elements of the culture we grew up with. So we must transform ourselves. The process is one of personal transformation within a community context, in relationships.

Michael Johnson: There was no intention to become a cooperative or solidarity institution of any kind. However, during those years, and the following ten, an intentional community of multi-leveled membership did evolve around us, which we, along with some others, have managed and sustained. Currently there are eleven members of the core group: six who have been together for thirty years, three for twenty, and two for ten. Two retired founders also live at Ganas.

CW: How did it start?

Michael: We came together in 1983 with the shared intention to set up a living situation in which we could learn to cooperate. Each of us in our own way had come to the conclusion that for the most part people simply could not generate enough cooperation to solve problems together well enough to realize the potential of important relationships and joint projects. And that the more exciting possibilities usually ended in painful failures. We included ourselves as good examples of the problem. So we became a live research laboratory in which we were both the "mice" and the "lab coats" exploring why we and others have so much difficulty talking honestly with each other. This was virtually a 24/7 commitment for twenty years.

CW: How did you open the stores and become a "solidarity institution"?

Jorge: The stores started in 2008 as an everything shop, a tchotchke place. We sell what nobody wants, they throw out, we fix it, we sell it for very little. We gonna be recycling, we gonna be saving stuff from the dump. We are gonna use our creativity, our imagination, our love for things that are not wanted, for ugly things, and we are going to make them beautiful. We are going to provide a service for people who have very little money...providing the possibility for a little acquisition and then invite them to a different community experience in the stores. This was the objective: to use the work situation as a new stage, a new gestalt to work on our relationships, on issues of hierarchy, issues of collaboration, on the issues of learning to deeply listen to what is meant—not what is said or heard...where people could find a different contact kind, where people would be treated with love, with respect: All of our businesses had this objective. This grew into Everything Goes [Ganas' furniture store]. Our purpose is not to make a profit, but to cover the costs. To cover the people that work there. We need to provide income for the people who come and join us.

CW: How do you learn to cooperate?

Michael: All of this learning occurs in the context of constant flows of varied face-to-face communication about daily logistics, policy-making, personal experience, relationship issues, work projects—that is, everything in our shared life. In our formal conversations the power dynamics in our relationships can always be made the focus, shifting from the content of an issue to how it is being discussed and the "hidden" dynamics going on.This work involves ordinary people building unordinary capacities to doubt their perceptions of reality and then use that as a source of self-confidence.

CW: Doubting perceptions of reality?

Leslie Greenwood: I think that it's very countercultural to approach "conflicts" by finding out what is wanted and what is possible instead of who is right and who is wrong and what should the punishment be. A culture of taking responsibility for our own experience.

CW: If you're talking about counter-culture, what is the culture you want to counter?

Jorge: The existing culture provides very strong contexts for alienation—from ourselves, from our bodies, from each other, in work, in love, in creativity. Alienation shows up in all sorts of ways: rivalry, jealousy and other pain structures. There were some of us thinking: Maybe humans are so pliable. There are so many ways to be human! We thought: Maybe we can transform ourselves. And in transforming ourselves, we will create a new context. This is not a revolution against anything. This is a revolution for love, for contact, for opening up, for attending to what humans can become.

CW: So, you're building community?

Jorge: When we started, we didn't think of ourselves as a community. We were an experiment. We didn't think we could create structures yet. The only goal was experimenting with our connections with each other in order to understand how we were embodying this reactive, status-oriented condition. You know, "You don't talk to me like that." Or, "Why are you looking at my preferred female partner like that? What do you want?" On and on. So we're learning to come to a place of trust. Freedom really. Freedom from all the shackles of pain and all the difficulties we have ingrained in this culture. And we've made significant progress, we've learned a lot.

CW: In thirty-two years talking together, I bet you have.

Jorge: We accept that we have this radical group at the center, that it is experimenting with learning to tell each other the truth—not “The Truth,” but the truth I feel right now. We want to ask the unaskable questions. Like, "I sense this is happening, is it?" ... "I feel ashamed." ... "I feel totally alienated.” ... "I have this great antagonism against you right now." This is the core experiment.

CW: Is this why it's called Ganas?

Michael: Ganas is Spanish for "motivation sufficient to act." We've found that solving problems together gives us the "ganas" and satisfaction that makes community living sustainable. Our purpose is to bring reason and emotion together in daily problem solving, in order to create our world, with love, the way we want it to be.

CW: On your website you speak of "Ganas people." Is Ganas a cult?

Jorge: Some of us had had experiences of cults. I had had the experience of the Catholic cult, the Communist cult, the Hippie cult, in some ways. What do I mean by a cult? A set of beliefs that create, in a way, an us-versus-them kind of thing. We have an understanding of both the need for the creation of a separate space—to create something new—and the danger of righteousness: We have a better thing than you. So we were aware of how this cultish thing happens as people close themselves to the outside. We came to New York in part because we wanted an open situation. We wanted lots of influences.

CW: Could other people make something like Ganas?

Tom Reichart: Lots of people come here to ask us that, but Ganas is only a model of itself.

Jorge: I'm not much for speculation.

CW: Well, can you at least tell me how you did it financially?

Jorge: The money to do everything we have done comes from the core group. So some of us in the core group had jobs outside, and we pooled all of our resources—money, time, etc. Some of us stayed at home, and made the community, made the process work. From 1979 to 1986, I worked full time. When we moved to Staten Island, I would commute. So Monday through Friday from nine to five, plus commute, I would miss the process, but I was providing a lot of the money. I stayed in contact by telephone, and I was consulted and stuff, and only at night would I join in the process. Susan did that too. Ellen did that for a while too, as did Julie.

CW: So the core group funds everything?

Jorge: Out of all the monies, at first, 100% of the income came from core group monies. Then, another revenue stream came from people who lived with us (who were not pooling income). We came up with the "share of the expense" number by adding up what it costs to run the household and dividing it by the number of people. These people worked outside and joined us when they were home. Then in 1983, out of core group money, we started a store. The money and work that non-core group people provide goes to cover expenses. We do not make profits. The core group investment in infrastructure—buildings—does not generate any returns. That's never the point, but the properties do appreciate—or sometimes depreciate—in value. We are into covering costs, not accumulating liquid assets. We invest cash in things that are useful. So up till '83 we had core group income stream and resident income stream. From 1983 on, we started having the stores' income stream. This helped us move from 100% core group income, to 80% core group and 20% residents, to 60% core group, 20% residents, 20% stores, and so on, until it became balanced.

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From eight AM to ten AM every morning, in sessions known as "Planning," the entire Ganas community is invited to talk openly about interactions, feelings, motivations and community problems. One morning, I attended. The community only has four rules: no violence to people or things (though they support meat eaters), no freeloading (you must pay or work), no illegality (no drugs,), and no non-negotiable negativity. These meetings are also where the considerable logistical detail involved in coordinating a seventy five person community are hashed out.

The room where we gathered for Planning has a low ceiling, about eight feet tall. (I'm 6 feet tall, so when I entered for the first time it felt like I might have hit my head; what seemed like a basement turned out to be the first floor.) I saw a row of thick wooden shelves with lights illuminating a stone wall, an upholstered maroon La-Z-Boy chair, a beefy leather massage chair, twenty golden hotel chairs upholstered with plastic and wall-to-wall carpeting.

Food was arranged for people to share. There was a grey cafeteria tray with bread, bagels and a serrated knife; diner-style drip coffee (orange plastic spout on the glass carafe for decaf and black spout for regular); square tubs with containers of dairy products (cottage cheese, yogurt) and another tub for drinks (cranberry juice, soy milk, whole milk, skim milk). Another tub held tiny containers of spreadable things: peanut butter, tahini, jelly, butter. There was a woven basket filled with bananas, plums and oranges. Mangoes had been sliced on a cutting board.

The meeting started with eight people in the room. There was no facilitator. Later, I was told that Ganas' nonagenarian founder, Mildred, used to facilitate in a way that included a specific communication process. For the past ten years the group had been experimenting with different approaches to facilitation. Personally, I found the no-agenda situation less than ideal. Plus, there weren't many people at the meeting. I wondered if, perhaps because it was August, people were on vacation.

There was no central table at the meeting, which meant the floor was open for people to stand in. Everyone held a bowl of breakfast in their lap and kept mugs of coffee or tea on the floor by their feet. After thirty years of morning meetings I was amazed that the carpet didn't look worse! Michael Johnson sat in the massage chair. Another guy, in his fifties, sat in the maroon La-Z-Boy chair with a bowl of mango slices in his lap. I could easily picture him as a Republican—his look, a cropped haircut and big calf muscles, read military. Later I learned his name is Alex. Jessica, the woman to my right, had thin brown hair and glasses and wore a floral dress from the eighties. I imagined I might see her working at the post office, or as a substitute teacher. The woman to my left, with short black hair, looked exactly like the director of the medical residency program that she is. Her adopted daughter who is about eight years old opened a bag of banana chips and talked to the group. A man with a salt-and-pepper ponytail sat up straight and ate from the bowl on his lap. He moves furniture for the store at Ganas. Another man, around fifty, stood out for his sense of style—cut-tailored jeans, a T-shirt that fit his strong body, a clean haircut, and frameless glasses. Of everyone there, his dress code most resembled mine. I think he works for MoveOn.org. Another woman, middle-aged with short hair and exercise clothes, balanced a big metal salad bowl in her lap. She was preparing dinner. She is part of OWS Staten Island, I learned. Her name is Leslie. A man with short white hair and seventies glasses sat towards the back. Lastly, Julie, who manages the houses at Ganas, sat in a floral dress and sandals.

When the meeting started, we each stated our intentions. I said, "To be present, and to listen." Next the meeting segued to one-minute statements, which at times seemed like non sequiturs—for example, the possibility of Ganas giving their clothing store to me. But then there were urgent issues to discuss: occupancy and plumbing; the feasibility of moving a rain-proof tent to the common garden; a reading about sour-versus-bad milk for the newsletter, and a farewell for a visitor from Naples, Italy. Furthermore, there were questions about who would make dinner for Mildred, and who would be on call if she needed help since her regular support member was on vacation. Finally, they went over the staffing for the next week, referring to the detailed Excel spreadsheet printout that we all got. Then the meeting was over.

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On August 24, 2012, after one of Ganas' morning Planning session wrapped early, Leslie asked if I'd like to interview the group. I said yes and asked if I could transcribe the conversation on my laptop. The group, some of whom I only knew by first name, agreed and I began.

CW: Why do you think people sometimes label Ganas "a cult"? What are people so afraid of?

Jessica: I think it's a fear of seeing and being seen. People are afraid of it or don't know the value of it. There's also ignorance, and some people who aren't particularly curious about it. I've lived here for ten years and my son visited once and his wife visited, and her mother lived here, and she hated it. She barricaded herself up in her room, and she only came out when she was all dolled up. Her daughter also is very against it, and things I'm interested in, like polyamory. People are entitled of their preferences and lifestyles.

Aviva: I think one of the fears that people face is a fear of control—it's impossible to live with so many people and be in control all the time. I think that this brings up a lot of negativity towards an environment where doing it your way is not the main priority. Especially when the culture outside is so invested in the idea of "I did it my way.

Julie: People want to think of themselves as free-thinking and independent. In a community, things are related to going with the groove and with going along with the group. It's also true with the community at large. Common questions are: "Who's in charge? How come that person gets to tell me what to do? Where can I put my suitcase?" It's endless. This fear of being seen like a child, like you don't make the decisions, that someone else makes the decisions for you.

George Hunt: Who makes these decisions?

Julie: Decisions are made at Planning, and by managers of each area. For example, when Marcos wanted to have a cat, we had a policy of no animals and he brought it up. Decisions about money are made in the core group. Discussions are tedious and endless.

George: Sometimes decisions are made sneakily—someone just thought about it and then did it and thought, "I'll get permission to return it if no one likes it." In this setting you can't get away with that unless you actually solve problems. There's something about reputation here that is very flexible but also indelible. If you get a reputation for not thinking things through, then power drifts away from you. I think most of the people who have power here are sensitive to the needs and wants of others. There's an ebb and flow of power that has more to do with being effective and helping the whole scene improve.

Aviva: Some people say it's easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Michael: People come into a situation where the possibility of having influence and being politically active is relatively more available than in most other places. However, they come in with that top-down mentality and they can't see those possibilities. So they project—as Julie said—that they make the decisions. You can almost see the projection as it happens. I think an intentional community in and of itself challenges people to take a look at basic assumptions they live with: family, monogamy, disapproval/approval. An intentional community is really "too weird" because we test what people are willing to re-think or step back from. The whole thing about "cults" is used to reinforce the threat of something that is “too weird.”

George: It was impactful to me when the founder of Twin Oaks [an intentional community] came for eight months, and her comment was "Baaaaaaaa"—we're all a bunch of sheep. There's this thing here where one person asks the important question and delves deeper. It doesn't feel good to be a sheep, but there's a way in which I am. My image of myself as an independent thinker was damaged. I had this image of being solo, but I'm not.

Aviva: I watched this movie about Orthodox Jews being really strict. They have a rabbi, and once he's dead, they still follow the rabbi. They have these rules and lifestyle, and it was very attractive to me. It was a relief not to make all the decisions, to trust the group. I have somebody who is very wise, and I can ask them to decide for me. I think for the most part, I like this way of living in Ganas. I relent a lot of my decisions and choices to a lot of people. When I talked about it with a lot of people, they were so stimulated, in a bad way. "Where is your free choice? Where is your own command on yourself?!" But the way I was feeling—it was more a feeling than a thinking—was: It was a relief that I trust someone that they will do the right thing for me.

George: From the very definition, that's a cult.

Aviva: "Cult" is a bad thing, but, in my experience, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Leslie: A cult is not just something to conform to or to subsume your desires in at any moment. There's pressure to conform. There's punishment. That's that dynamic of who's in charge and who's not. That triggered that for me. Whereas here you can leave at any time.

Jessica: Notice how threatened we all are by the word "cult."

Julie: If I stop at a red light with no one else in sight, am I being "controlled"? Control is a thing we deal with all the time. To say [Ganas is] "just a cult" minimizes the way we make decisions across our entire community. If I let other people make decisions for me, am I losing myself? I am not reactive to the word “cult”; it's about control. People think you're not free-thinking if you decide that someone else can decide something for you, but you are making that decision to give them control. There really are places where, if you don't follow the program, you can be hurt or killed. This is not about cult. It's about the importance of what we do, and how we do it together.

Jessica: I agree with you.

Julie: The issue is just as central here as it is to the guy outside who thinks we're weird, because people confront it every day. "Who's the leader?" It has to be assigned to other people. This topic is even hotter in here than it is to the outside. It's about how we live together and what that means together. It's about how decisions are made: By group decision or by individuals? You have to confront it every day. How do we decide what chairs to have in the dining room? It's everyday. Why did they cook it that way? What's wrong with these people?

Tom: I feel this every day.

Jessica: It's a complex situation. Many decisions are made in different ways. Yeah, sure I get mad about some things. I don't expect this place to be nirvana.

Alex [Aviva's husband]: There's a piece here that I didn't hear today about blame and punishment. I still can't get my head around it. I still think if someone did something, someone did it. They should be blamed.

Caroline: Wait, I feel tension here. Is it the topic, me typing on my laptop, or what?

Alex: The tenseness is just interpersonal dynamics.

Michael: The word tension is misleading. It's that people are re-engaging in the discussion. It's a core issue every day.

Jessica: Many people are struggling with it.

Aviva: By default, people talk to the micophone, or to the laptop.

Tom: Or people talk to who asks the question. It has to do with the extent to which it becomes more interactive.

George: I find myself using shorthand terms for things that are very complicated, and people react to those terms. You have to choose your words very carefully and speak very slowly or else you're going to create a mess.

Leslie: Here you are with people you care about, or at least have some interest in, and they are presenting you with a challenge. It doesn't seem like you're wondering, "Is this a cult?" It's more like you're wondering, "What do we think about this topic?"

Tom: Polyamory is not for sissies. The way it happened here in the past was so open. I mean, it was so much the focus, that I wouldn't necessarily recommend it without that help and support and focus, and the idea that we're going to learn something from this. It's not about the ideal way to live, that sex needs to be with a number of people, it's not about that.

Aviva: For some people, having sex with a number of people is the point. Relationships are not for sissies. Monogamy is not for sissies.

Tom: If you could somehow objectively compare the two lifestyles, they might be equal. But the possibility of weighing each lifestyle objectively is nearly impossible. To practice polyamory, in my experience, requires so much that it's hard. To do monogamy, you have so much cultural backup, it's not as hard.

George: I came here for the polyamory.

Jessica: Most monogamous relationships are not monogamous anyway, so that rigidity is not working.

Tom: I think you have a much better chance of dealing with [polyamory] in an intentional community than you do on the outside. Of course, on the outside, you could get away with not spending so much time talking about it. That's a trade-off—and maybe it works better. It's a hugely time consuming thing to try to pull off respectfully.

Alex: I was on OkCupid and it was a little after New Years. [Aviva and I] emailed Saturday, we talked Saturday night, and Sunday I met her. We came here after we had done a little ferryboat trip. I came in to one of these meetings and it was George Caneda and someone else coming to grips with their feminine side. And I was like, "Uh..." And then there was some argument with some big guy. For me, it was just like [makes a face]...no, it was like everyone was very casual and very open.

Aviva: When I met Alex, one of his first comments was, "This is the place where men are domesticated by women."

George: How did you know that?

Alex: Oh, I dated some woman who worked in the [Ganas] clothing store. She did volleyball, she was a swimmer or something. It wasn't very eventful. And I talked to somebody else. Deborah something. She had a weird twist on the place. It had to do with offhanded comments from people who I didn't really know. Yes, I said it, and not completely in jest.

Aviva: It was there until it was proven otherwise.

Tom: Were there any cult, non-cult ideas?

Alex: No, this woman had good experiences. What got me about the place was how open everybody was. The big thing here was that I'm very much opinionated and hold my own thoughts and don't hold anyone else's thoughts as the gospel. Like the song says: I'm not often right but I've never been wrong. I'm into the trust that this place engenders in people. I can trust other people, that they aren't working against me, whether I understand people or not. People try to come to it with a very open heart.

Aviva: For Alex—not so much for me—it's less about the theory than the practice. He had bedbugs in his apartment and he was invited by core group members to spend time here for a month while his apartment got cleaned. It had never happened that people offered so much despite knowing him so little.

Leslie: I asked Susan's mother what she thought of the whole thing and she said, "Oh, I think it's great." And here we are driving her to meet her family at the beach. And many direct-helps like this have happened for her. And then she said, "I couldn't live this way, but it seems very nice." She didn't go on. I didn't get a sense that she cared to really talk about it.

Aviva: In the beginning, it was very difficult for them that Susan lived here under Mildred. But thirty years later [throws hands up]...

Leslie: Right out of college I moved to a small community where I lived for four years, and it was pretty much consensus [decision-making] although there were people who had lived there longer, who were more studied and had more influence. In the course of being there, I visited at Kripalu, when there was a guru. There was some draw I had to that situation—it was beautiful in some ways—but there was also a sense in which I didn't want to have a guru. Then I moved to Twin Oaks where there wasn't any one person or cluster of people who had authority. There was a lot of authority thrown around but there wasn't one guru-type person. When I moved here I didn't really want to move here. I thought, "I don't want a guru." I thought, "Mildred's old. Maybe I can see her doing what she's doing and then see this place without her doing what she's doing." I thought she would die and that's what would change things. I didn't think she'd still be around. Mildred never called herself a guru and the people here never thought of her that way, but I did. I continued to react to her authority and respond to her authority like a disciple. And I don't mean a good disciple. I was like someone who supposedly had signed up but then was in a lot of conflict about it. I always knew that I had the choice, that living here throughout that experience was completely my choice. Mildred said I was in "humility training" to really get that I'm not the center of everyone's universe—and that what I say and think are not the most important things to everybody. I felt like that was in fact what a lot of people would call "humiliation training." Humiliation is very different from humility. In a cult I think that's the big difference.

George: There's a degree to which many communities start around a central figure. I don't know whether that's someone with more verbal capacity and insight or just more commitment. Instead of guru you could say convener.

Michael: Whatever role you say, it's always triggering the authority issue.

George: I just want to comment that Mildred was monogamous.

Julie: She'd help with whatever relationships you had. She went from individual to individual. She thought polyamory was good but she couldn't handle the jealousy that came with it. I don't think it was a matter of practicing what she preached. She wasn't advocating polyamory. It was more that if someone wasn't happy with what they were doing, she wanted to help them.

Brian: We're not here now because of Mildred. We're here for completely different reasons.

Jessica: I wasn't here while she was constructing the place, but she asked those pertinent questions that helped construct the community. I wonder if that's a stage communities go through in order to handle problems.

Tom: I don't think Twin Oaks has gone that way.

Alex: I had heard that "feedback learning" went on at the drop of a hat. Now, if somebody wants to do something like that, you have to set it up.

Tom: To be more precise, it wasn't "feedback learning," but there was some advice process that was constant in nature. Every dinner, after dinner.

Julie: Always the goal was to introduce the idea of the availability of people to want to hear what other people have to say. Always. That was always the basis. I think that was one of the appeals. You would bring your personal things, but they were discussed in a political way, because in some ways you were representing that problem. For example, I'm feeling rivalrous, and we would discuss the meaning of rivalry in that situation and in our culture....

Leslie: And then inviting everyone else who's present to comment on that particular thing that we're studying together.

Jessica: And then it de-isolates the individual.

George: And then there was a time when we were dealing with the alpha male.

Tom: That was the beginning of the end.

[Unattributed]: We were trying to advance the state of the world's knowledge about living together well. A big factor in my attraction to this place was that we are a lab, here to learn whatever we need to learn and maybe make it available to others. That was a little grandiose and we haven't really achieved that.

Jessica: Mildred's trying to write a book.

Alex: We went to have supper with her—or I thought it was just going to be supper, that it was just going to be thirty minutes. But I brought up my anger issues and it went until nine o'clock. She said, "I think we'll see each there again soon." She's very insightful.

Julie: I have never met anyone like her.

Jessica: Now she doesn't know what's going on in the community.

George: She had unusual talents that I found fascinating, and, yes, I might be a disciple or a sheep, but I know what I like and that's really interesting. And other people did too.

Jessica: The price of trying it is to look like a sheep. From the outside, people might see us moving in concert, but that's not how we experience it.

George: I wanted to embody her idealism. We all are ideal here in some sense; we've self-selected for that.

Jessica: It's a self-selecting group. I suspect it's a different group now than when Mildred was really present. I suspect it's different personalities that want to be here now. I came in after she'd been gone for a year and the consensus was, "Well, I guess we're going to make it without her after all." That was 2002.

Peter: I came in 2003 and thought you were here a lot longer.

Brian: I did too.

Jessica: Wow, that's nice to hear.... I was having a big struggle around feeling like I belonged.

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I am deeply grateful to Ganas members for spending time with me and allowing me to publish this article.

Ganas is open to the public every Friday at 7 PM. To schedule a visit, go to Ganas.org.

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