Every now and then it will come up in conversation that I’ve spent some time (during my late 20’s) living in a hippie commune. Okay not just one, but two hippie communes. It was never something I planned on doing, but in my desperate attempt to find affordable accommodation in those “fun” and “cool” areas of town, I guess it couldn’t be helped.
So if you’re planning on moving to one of those “super-hip” cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York you may end up finding yourself deciding if you want to take the plunge and move in to a hippie commune in order to save money and live in a desirable part of town. I can’t speak for all hippie communes, but since I’ve had the pleasure of living in two of them I can comment on my experiences here.
When I first moved to Los Angeles I really had no idea where to live. LA is a huge sprawling city with no center and a public transit system that just doesn’t reach all areas of town very effectively. At the time the only thing I knew was that I wanted to live near the ocean, so what better place than Venice Beach. The only problem is that Venice Beach, despite being very grungy, is also very expensive. So in order to live where I wanted and not pay a ridiculous amount for rent each month, I found myself interviewing to live in a hippie commune just a few blocks from the water. The commune was a small LA-style three bedroom bungalow, that somehow had 15 individuals living there. I would be number 16.
The house had one bedroom designated for the girls, one bedroom designated for the “old-timers” and the third bedroom reserved for us new guys which housed six of us in bunk beds. In the back yard we had a guy living in the back of a van, a girl living in a trailer, two beach huts with one person in each and another girl living in a tent. This made for 16 people, not to mention the guy who lived in his car parked just outside who would come over and hang out during the day. With all these people we still only had one bathroom to share.
The bathroom policy was slightly invasive, as it was the unwritten rule that you had to leave the door unlocked when showering so people could come in and pee if needed. We had a television room in the front entrance way but the main “living room” area was in the backyard. Since it rarely rains in LA we could set up the backyard like an indoor living room without many issues. There was one refrigerator and people mostly respected each others food. Each of us had our weekly chores that we all did, however the place was more or less a mess due to the high traffic of all the housemates and their friends.
The vibe in the house was a friendly one. It was expected that if you moved in, you were apart of the “crew”. It was not uncommon to see people engaging in your classic hippie-like behaviors. Needless to say it was not a place where you would be getting a good nights sleep, nor could you easily keep a professional job in this environment. If there happened to be a party, good luck on avoiding it…even if you wanted to. Overall it was a fun and very interesting few months. People rarely stayed longer than a few months, as it tends to be an unsustainable way to live…even for your crunchiest of hippies.
Once the summer ended, I decided to leave LA and get back to San Francisco. And by some crazy twist of fate I found my self moving into yet another hippie commune! But this time it was different and much more of a necessity since San Francisco is no easy place to move to.
This time the experience was different. It was more established and organized. The interview process involved going to the house and meeting every member of the household and then being approved by each of those members against all the other competition trying to move in. The place in LA was much easier…just show up and pay the rent.
The house was composed of two types of people. There were the original hippies from the 60’s who were still there “living the SF dream” and the young new-comers to the city who were in the transition of finding a “real” place to live. I was in the later group.
There were three bathrooms, three floors, a backyard, a hot-tube and a balcony view. Unfortunately for me, I had a room (one of three) that was built in the garage and in no way legal in the traditional sense. The older folks in the house kept things civilized and as a result it was much less fun than the previous commune. Things were orderly, clean….and weird.
The house was decorated like your grandmothers house with old fashioned nicknacks strategically placed on built-in shelves. BUT what really made the place weird was that it was part of a sex workshop conglomerate. Though nothing of that sort actually took place in our house, it was not uncommon to see posted advertisements offering sex training seminars for exorbitant amounts of money as well as the occasional 60-year-old individual walking around buck-ass-naked. This is not a sight that goes well with having friends over.
Although this house probably sounds “interesting” it was not exactly “fun”. And I was trying to move out almost as soon as I moved in.
So there ya go! Hopefully that gives you an idea of the hippie commune experience, despite those being two very different examples. Although they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, you can bet they will be weird, interesting and something you won’t forget.