Engaging strangers at dinner: Not everyone’s cup of tea

house dinner 2I’ve learned a lot from the Myers-Briggs, especially when administered and explored by my favorite former clinical psychologist. As an ENFP, one of my major take-aways is how differently I recharge my batteries than, say, someone whose profile begins with an I instead of an E. In Myers-Briggs terms, the difference between extroverts and introverts is a bit more nuanced than the popular understanding of the terms. In brief, it’s all about where we draw our energy: from interaction with groups or from more intimate, one-on-one or solitary settings.

Which brings me to the dinner table at Beacon Hill Friends House. When I hear we have guests for dinner, my ears perk up. I hope I end up sitting close enough to them at our long table to find out a bit about them and answer questions about the house. I also realize this is not a reaction shared by all. Continue reading

Thoughts on living large(r)

Screenshot 2014-11-24 13.23.39After 17 months of sharing a single room, Carol and I recently spent a week in our friend’s quite spacious two-bedroom, two bath (plus office) high-rise apartment overlooking downtown St. Petersburg, Fl. Spacious enough, in fact, that I found myself losing track of stuff — and Carol! — until I got used to the extra real estate.

I’ve always liked Judy’s place, located steps from the water in a building where we also lived when we moved to St. Pete 15 years ago. What surprised me about this recent week was how much I enjoyed our time up there on the 24th floor. It taught me something about how I’m feeling about living spaces and places these days.

Continue reading

Free for all: Condoms in a basket

Some of our friends and family enjoy describing our living situation at Beacon Hill Friends House as a hippie commune.  basket of condomsAnyone who’s spent any time at BHFH knows the reality of the place falls far short of a houseful of flower children.

Except last weekend, perhaps, if you paid a visit to the public restroom by the dining room during our annual barbecue for more than 100 friends of the house. There, displayed invitingly on a low table by the door, was a basket of condoms.

In our day, Carol and I were big believers in condoms. But never so much that we offered them up to visitors like so many tissues in a box or candies in a jar.

I realize that condoms are in many ways a healthier gift than jelly beans.  And that makes the community tension I’ll describe all the more interesting. Continue reading

Your room awaits you on Beacon Hill

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 11.49.32 AMAfter staying in Airbnb places in Detroit, Budapest and Vienna, it’s been interesting to experience the other, host end of the service. Beacon Hill Friends House has two guest rooms now listed on Airbnb, and the listing is generating lots of visitors.

Apart from occasional duty greeting a guest when our residency manager, Ben, is away from the house, encounters happen mostly in the kitchen. Breakfast is included in the cost of the stay. The breakfast table conversations are intriguing on several levels. Among them: the visitors’ stories of life from whence they’ve come, more often than not overseas. But it’s also fascinating to hear their reactions to the house, the neighborhood and — in the case of international visitors — the country. We’ve had recent visitors from Australia, Uruguay, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain, Colombia, Pakistan and Austria. Continue reading

Gap Year for geezers

One advantage of reading a newspaper in print is the chance you’ll stumble into something good you never would have searched for online. Like Tom Farragher’s first-house piece in the Boston Globe’s revamped Sunday real estate section.

Telling the story of the Connecticut house where he and his wife, Joanie, learned to be husband and wifeTom got me thinking about Beacon Hill Friends House and what it’s teaching me.

In neither case is it just about the house. Continue reading

Chocolate chip pancakes and the role of shared stewardship in community life

By the time I made it down to the kitchen, the place was packed. Housies, housie family members and overnight guests were all in motion — cooking, cleaning, eating, talking around a table strewn with two newspapers and all the makings of a holiday weekend breakfast. It felt a lot like the ones we’ve enjoyed over the years with family.

But there was a difference. Although I spotted Carol cranking up the blender at the far end of the room, I was related to none of the dozen or so others in the room. This was not a family gathering, but it reflected a dimension of relationship we’re finding increasingly essential to our lives.

That's Danny on the left

That’s Danny on the left

Presiding at the big six-burner gas stove was Danny, at 21 the youngest of BHFH’s 21 residents and one of its more accomplished cooks. The way I began the day with his chocolate chip pancakes — cooked up for everyone in the room — re-enforced an idea I’ve been noodling a lot in recent days.

There is something about the shared experience and stewardship of community life that enriches — and eases — day-to-day life in ways I hadn’t imagined. It’s not that this sort of community is without its challenges, so don’t mistake my enthusiasm for a blanket endorsement of life at BHFH. Continue reading