Twenty-one years ago I wrote in this space about organizing a twenty year reunion of the folks who built the domes at Baggins End on what was then a remote, treeless corner of the UC Davis campus. I posed the ponderous question, how do you organize a reunion of anarchists? This column lead to an all expense paid, sit down, candlelight supper at McDonald’s at which my wife, Brooke, innocently asked to see menu. The McDonald’s menu was shorter back then, and most people like Bob Dunning carried it around in their heads. But I’m not going to write about the domes this time.
Five years ago, I did write in this space about the 30-year reunion of the dome builders. We always get a good turn-out despite the fact that the group of 40 or so is made up primarily of anarchists, iconoclasts, and other free-spirits, who think sign-up lists are for other people deemed less enlightened. After 35 years I was able to write about the experience of building the domes well enough that a version of my of my “Replace the above Pictured Columnist” piece was published in UC Davis Magazine, and the UC Regents sent me a check for $100.00. That’s right, the first money I ever got for a writing a column was in the low five–figures, with a floating decimal point.
But I told myself I’m not going to write about the domes this time, even though this year the domes are now 40-years old and the community of folks who live there now did a remarkable job in 2011-12 of saving the domes from the wrecking ball. The students of Baggins End, kindred alumni and supporters accomplished this the same year as the infamous, but unrelated, student paper spray incident took place – a year when relations between students and the administration were strained to say the least.
My work with the current and former residents of Baggins End over the last couple of years in this Herculean effort, waged on all fronts, to try and save this little counter-culture community in the midst of all the conformity that surrounds it, made me realize what a wealth of political, organizational, building and general can-do talent lives there now and has lived there in the recent past. In this respect the current student residents are much like the folks who built the domes – a group with diverse nascent talents willing to learn quickly and to pull together for a moment in time for a common cause.
At the 40-year dome pioneers re-union this August, it was amazing to see so many old-friends now nearing the end of their work-a-day careers and learn where they have been and what they have done in their lives as artists, engineers, doctors, and the like. Many are parents and grandparents. The mixing of the generations on a Saturday evening among the domes with some of the current student-residents for a midsummer potluck was magical.
Life is best lived in a community of interconnected communities. Catch the contagion of community life and you will never want to go back to your old life in a neighborhood of strangers, no matter where you live. It’s not about the domes.
BIO: Clay Brandow is a hydrologist with water on his mind most of the time, but at 60 is seeking other diversions, including writing, Rotary and grandparenthood with his lovely wife with a watery name, Brooke.