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Melvyn Stiriss - Author - Publisher - Speaker - Movie Maker - Former Hippie Commune Resident of "The Farm"- March 29, 2013
Melvyn Stiriss, a “Space Age Baby,” was born the same day the first V2 Rocket was launched, inaugurating the Space Age, October 3, 1942. Melvyn grew up in a blue-collar, Russian-Jewish family in Edgewater, New Jersey, in view of New York City and the Hudson River, his playgrounds.
The author attended the University of Richmond in a segregated South, was an announcer on the air when John F. Kennedy was assassinated; worked as a newspaper and UPI wire service reporter in NY and Chicago; a stint as a Madison Avenue “Mad Man,” ran into the 60s, smoked marijuana, tried LSD and Zen, went to Woodstock and followed the powerful energy of the time to the great, San Francisco spiritual smorgasbord of 1969. Here, Melvyn found a “psychedelic Zen guru,” Stephen Gaskin, and went down the rabbit hole in search of enlightenment.
Melvyn now lives in rural upstate New York, enjoying a new career as author, publisher, speaker, and movie maker. Influenced by Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck and Maxine Hong Kingston, Melvyn is a visionary, twenty-first century, renaissance man and generalist.
Melvyn writes—Life is amazing! I went to high school with a cat, Peter Cohon, who would grow up to be Peter Coyote, the actor, narrator, writer, activist. When I was sixteen, Peter introduced me to Greenwich Village, where I found these words scribbled on the wall of a bar men's room—
What is Truth?
A bird sings.
Half a century later, I read in the latest Allen Ginsburg biography, I Celebrate Myself that beatnik literary icons, Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and Buddhist scholar, D.T. Suzuki used to frequent that bar, the San Remo. Any one of those cats, maybe all three, may have written that drunken koan. Now, I am very happy to preserve and publish their message, and now, my high school buddy, Peter Coyote is a Zen priest.
Melvyn Stiriss writes from a remarkably broad range of life and work experiences as a news reporter, editor, announcer; community builder, communard, farmer, carpenter, ditch digger, road builder, mason, mechanic, miller, baker, vegan chef, lumber jack, oil rig roustabout, detective, movie set carpenter, set dresser, prop maker and extra in a dozen movies, also as a theater stage hand, rock-and-roll roadie, and a humanitarian aid worker and co-director of Casa Marianela, a nonprofit.
The following is an excerpt from Melvyn's book "Voluntary Peasants"
Trip aboard an audacious, 12,000-mile, consciousness-raising, peace-spreading journey that landed right smack, dab in the middle of moonshine country in the boondocks of Tennessee, where the sudden, unannounced arrival of 250 hippies in 100 colorful buses, stirred up locals, the FBI, KKK, and vigilantes who resembled the Hatfields and McCoy's. Call it what you will—amazing grace, good karma—the meek, idealistic peacemakers prevailed, and the community began, from scratch, to build its own town and, hopefully a better way of life.
Looking around our 1,764-acre spread, we see life being lived as a celebration—happy, healthy-looking people; dedicated men and women working together in fields—gathering sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, corn, okra, eggplant, squash—hoeing, planting wheat and beans. Everyone stops and takes a much-appreciated lemonade, watermelon and marijuana break.
Elsewhere, people are building houses, roads, water systems; fixing cars and trucks, running a clinic, creating and running green, cottage industries; making soy ice cream, baking bread and other vegan goodies for a big party for 1,200. In a beautiful grassy meadow, pony-tailed men are building a stage for homegrown bands and comedy skits.
Way out in the woods, in a small clearing away from the hullabaloo, a radiant, young mother sits in the sun, swaying gently—adoring the infant in her arms. Eyes that can see auras would see pink and golden light surrounding them. Smiling, the woman nurses her baby and looks lovingly at her husband—a strong, good-looking, young man, as he hammers up a board on their simple, still-under-construction, honeymoon cottage. Feeling his wife's energy, the man turns to his family, smiles and says—
“You two are so beautiful,” and hugs his family. The woman says—“You got a lot done today, Baby. It really looks good.” They continue to hug and turn to look out at the sprawling forest, stretching off into the distance. Like Native Americans, we hold this land sacred. This is our “rez.”
Now, the sound coming through the trees is music—rock ‘n roll. Like people everywhere, The Farm loves to get down and boogie. Rockin’ musicians hit it! People dance. Children run around, carry on in front of the stage, and get a little wild. Everyone looks beautiful— smiling, in their best, Sunday-go-to-meeting, hippie/peasant finery. The whole scene is a timeless celebration—natural, spiritual expression of human spirit.
What a blessing it is to be able to actually love thy neighbor. Living at The Farm felt like being in love, all the time, with everyone—in love with neighbors, fellow workers, life, the land, even the work. There were many magical moments when The Farm seemed like “somewhere over the rainbow,” or the Garden of Eden.
The vast majority of the nearly five thousand people who lived at The Farm through the twelve collective years, were sweet, kind, honest, and decent—happy to give you the shirt off their back. Through the years, we shared history, blood, sweat, tears, love, marriage, birth and death. But, let’s be real. As in any community, we find every kind.
Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” We made mistakes. Some were doozies. Some, hilarious. Truth be told, we screwed up royally on more than one occasion, but we learned and grew. The Farm was a modern, American attempt to create a utopia. The origin of the word utopia comes from Greek and literally means “not a place.” Utopia, the ideal life, is “not a place,” but exists in the hearts and minds of people.
We're looking forward to learning what was done right, and went wrong, as well as what could have been done better, and what was learned along the way when we talk with Melvyn Stiriss on Cannabis Nation Radio.