Birthday Reflections

At Harbin Hot Springs on my 71st birthday looking forward to my future, I feel relaxed, confident, and clear: for the first time in my life, my priority is to make money.

Thanks to Uber, which has hurt the San Francisco taxi industry enormously, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sell my taxi medallion, or how much I’ll get if I do. And because I lived on “movement wages” my whole life, Social Security is far from adequate.

So, facing a reality I can neither change nor escape, I resolve to drive taxi as much as possible, write less, cut back on organizing, limit my spending, and save as much as I can for my old age.

What to do about vacations remains open. An old friend and I are going to New Orleans April 7-10 for the 2016 French Quarter Festival (if you want to go, get a room immediately, for hotels in the Quarter are already almost sold out for that fantastic, free event that presents all kinds of music on 23 outdoor stages.) After that vacation, I don’t know.

In about five years, I should move to the top of the waiting list for a Section 8 subsidy, which will lower my rent substantially. If I’m able to sell my medallion for a net of $160,000 (the current price) by then, I’ll probably be able to live comfortably and travel extensively. If not, I’ll keep driving taxi as long as I can and if necessary rely on the Food Bank and cheap meals at Senior Centers.

With regard to my commitment to social transformation, I may have found what I’ve been looking for: a community of political activists dedicated to transforming our social system into a truly compassionate society, while supporting one another in their personal growth by setting aside special time for that purpose. The Purpose-Driven Community project is headed in that direction.

The responses to my volunteer-interest form and subsequent emails have been encouraging. The organizers and I are on the same wavelength. Their success with Generation Waking Up reflects their competence. And I’m particularly encouraged by their commitment to maintain diversity by growing deliberately.  I look forward to their first exploratory event. This development makes it easier for me to shift to full-time cab driving. Rather than being a lead organizer, I can play a support role.

Pulling back from the Western Park Residents’ Council also eases my transition. Though challenging and time-consuming, serving as President was rewarding. I helped to revive the moribund Council and establish policies and procedures that will hopefully enable it to continue with new leadership. The Council has been much more active than it was for at least ten years and we eventually established a cooperative relationship with management.

Unfortunately, several residents are prone to impulsively attack the nearest authority figure, whether it’s the Building Manager or the Council President. At times I let those attacks get under my skin. More seriously, that negativity steadily discouraged participation in meetings. Hopefully after the August election, the Council’s new leadership can establish a more positive tone at meetings.

Regardless, I anticipate engaging in rewarding activities with residents with whom I have established a good rapport through my work with the Council. In order to avoid wasting time with “poisonous playmates,” to organize those activities we may form self-perpetuating teams by invitation only, rather than formal “committees” open to all residents (though others may continue to organize such committees). In this way, perhaps we can help the Council with its primary mission: to nurture compassionate community among our 200 residents.


Looking back on my 71 years, Mother comes to mind first. I wish she’d lived longer so we could’ve overcome the gap she created by smothering me with her love, which undermined my autonomy. She even tried to stop me from reading the “wrong” books. More deeply, her judgmental moralism led me to see humans, myself included, as essentially bad. To find myself and my essential goodness, I had to fight her overbearing protectiveness.

But from her, I learned to pursue Truth, Justice, and Beauty and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Though it seems longer, it was only a year ago that I distributed My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography. One reason I did so was to enable friends and acquaintances who want to do so to know me more fully. Another reason was to liberate myself from shame by being open about matters about which I had been secretive. On those counts, the project was successful.

I also wanted feedback that might help me re-work the book to make it more marketable to the general public. And I did receive lots of valuable feedback, which I very much appreciate. But I’ll probably be unable to re-write it so long as I drive taxi full-time.

The major event of the last year, however, was the death of Leonard Roy Frank, my dear friend for more than 40 years. After the manager of his building let me into his apartment and I found him dead, draped over the bathtub, I sat down on the stairs and cried. For the next month thereafter, while dealing with his affairs, I cried every day, often convulsively. After I gave the manager his keys, I cried more than I had for the whole month. I haven’t cried since.

Fortunately, the memorial service at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peopleswas very healing. Every word spoken by the ministers, Dr. Dorsey Blake and Dr. Kathryn Benton, was perfect. The speakers and the music were beautiful. Wanting to do Leonard justice, I worked hard on the eulogy, which was well received. But I still think about Leonard often, especially when I have something to tell someone (he was almost always home and available). I doubt that any soul mate will ever replace him.

Two other highlights from last year stand out. The first was an early August sermon on “intimate direct action” at Fellowship Church by Rev. Yielbonzie Charles Johnson, who called for “uncircumscribed engagement in the world” without fear.  This appeal rang a bell for me. It amazes me how rarely people ask one another, “How do you feel about that?” or “Would you like to say more about that?” I understand some of the reasons people are reluctant to be more open or more inquisitive. We often have good reason to be afraid. But if we shut down too much, it becomes a habit and we become frozen. It seems we need to find safe places where we can be intimate with at least a few trusted friends.

Even more inspiring were the exhortations offered by the Lawson brothers at a day-long intergenerational teach-in honoring Vincent Harding. First Rev. James Lawson urged activists to promote personal nonviolent struggle in order to become more fully nonviolent as individuals and more effective as activists. He called on the audience to work on “how we treat each other and ourselves and how we work together” so that we better “learn how to respect each other.”
Later, Rev. Phil Lawson echoed that theme when he asked, “Who is the enemy?” and answered that it is “a spiritual power that has captured everyone” and fosters a wide variety of destructive “addictions.” To counter that force, he said we need a new spiritual power of our own: a profound commitment to nonviolence as a way of life, not as a tactic. “Everyone is an addict and we need to be in some program of recovery from the addictions of our society. We need a long-term, disciplined project.”

Those words were music to my ears.

The most liberating event of the year, however, was reading the transcript to “The Power of Vulnerability,” the fourth most popular TED Talk ever. After struggling at length with my mother’s “you will be a great man” programming, this talk prompted me to affirm, “I am good enough (to be better).” .

The benefits of that insight persist. I feel much less need to prove myself, to others or myself. I look back on my efforts with modest pride. I planted some seeds and achieved some success, along with numerous failures. But I would rather have tried and failed than not have tried at all.

Now I need to save some money. So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, wish me luck.

Reflections from Ecotopia

Lake TahoeBy Wade Lee Hudson

I left Vegas in a positive frame of mind. Readers had recently sent me great feedback, movies and music had inspired me, a dream had enlightened me, I had won at blackjack, and I was headed back home to the lush green mountains of Northern California.

The most heartwarming email I had received was the following, whose subject was “Revive the failing bird,” a reference to my report on a dream that featured a near-dead bird that represented my self-identity as a community organizer:

Hi Mr. Hudson and greetings from Minnesota! Seeing your beautiful pictures from the Dominican Republic made my desire for a spring thaw even stronger. Eventually we will be able to see the ground again rather than layer upon layer of snow and ice…

My name is Amy Ledoux. I am 40 years old and am the mother of seven (three adopted as a single parent, two are my husband’s from his first marriage and, at the ages of 38 and 39, I gave birth to the last two little miracles who could have been nicknamed “surprise” and “are you kidding me???”) I have no idea how I began receiving your emails, but I have been reading them for years and I wanted to tell you that they have been a Godsend. I began losing my eyesight a few years ago from Fuch’s Dystrophy. I became quite confined to my house as my eye sight worsened. Last February I could no longer see the traffic lanes in front of me or distinguish the lights on a traffic pole, so I hung up my keys. In August I went to cross the street with my babies in a stroller in front of me and my mom pulled me back so that we wouldn’t get run over by the vehicle I did not see, so I no longer went for walks without an escort.

But, I was able to blow up the font of your emails and hold my cell phone right in front of my face and continue to read your emails. They were a great source of consistency, comfort, and a connection to the outside world.

In February of this year I had my first cornea transplant and my vision went from 20/200 to 20/25 in my left eye! Life is progressing and I am thankful for every moment of it! I am thankful that I can see the keyboard in front of me to write this email to you.

The reason that I am reaching out to you is in response to your writing about the seemingly dead bird in your dream. I may have a cause that could help revive the buzzard. I am forwarding an article that was published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch this past Sunday. It was sent to me by my good friend, Mike Tikkanen, who is the subject of the article. I think the rest speaks for itself. And, just so you know, I don’t know exactly how old Mike is but, I think we can safely say he has been buying the senior coffee at McDonalds for several decades!

Should you ever decide to make a stop in the Midwest on your U.S. tour, I hope that you make a pit stop in Wisconsin or Minnesota. I think we could arrange a get together of several open minded individuals and enjoy a good conversation in person.

Baby #2 is up and trying to rip off my glasses and grab the keyboard. Gotta go. I believe all of Mike’s contact info is in the article if you choose to follow-up with him.


She then included an article, “He hopes the public will soon notice the children he can’t ignore,” about Mike Tikkanen and his work with Kids At Risk Action (KARA) advocating for abused and neglected children.

I replied:

Dear Amy,

Wow. That’s incredible. It really warms my heart to hear your story and to know that my writings were so meaningful to you under those conditions. As is the case with many writers, I often write not knowing if anyone is really reading what I write. It’s great to know you were really reading!

Actually I’m familiar with Mike and hold his work in very high regard. May I post your email with a link to that article about him?

I have plenty of causes which inspire me. What is lacking is collaborators. Recently, it seems some partnerships may be forming with the Full Employment project and I just posted some encouraging feedback from Gary Pace on the Holistic Community Pledge.

We shall see. In the meantime, I’m enjoying working on my autobiography.

Thanks again and best of luck with the family!

Amy shared her email with Mike, who replied:

Wow Amy this is good news. As is your improving eyesight. Thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts and helping us advance our Kids At Risk Action effort.

I am very familiar with Wade’s work and so glad you have made this connection and hope that he will make our information available to his readership. I believe he has a pretty big following.

Wade, Hello from your pals in MN. I so love the smallness of the planet when my friends connecting me back into their circles. Amy was KARA’s executive director for quite some time and has helped us become an organized advocacy group making hour long documentaries with Public TV stations (we are in negotiations this week) and presenting resolutions to our DFL convention this spring in hopes of making life better for at risk children. We are really excited about the possibilities this year and would greatly appreciate any attention you might give our efforts.

Keep on writing and organizing as it does tie us all together and keep raising awareness.

As an odd tidbit related to your dead bird in the attic, years ago (about 30) I owned a junkyard with 29 employees and it made me crazy. I don’t know if this dream prompted my bailing out of the business, but I suspect it plays in somewhere; I remember the anchor around my neck and what seemed like an entire night of (dreaming) trying to remove it. I much prefer my bodies flying dreams but have not been able to replay them recently.

My very best wishes to both of you,


An email from Gary Pace in response to the draft Holistic Growth Pledge also heartened me. He said, “I think this looks really good, Wade. Simple, yet deep. Could be a good kernel to work around. Thanks for continuing to work with this thread of connection.”

In addition, Malcolm Hoover, had responded to that draft:

Wade, this is great. I would only add to this that I will identify and reach out to someone who I identify as a possible ally at least 3 times a year and try to build unity with that person and educate myself about their issue(s). For instance, for me it would be reaching out to the LGBTQ community and educating myself particularly on the issues of trans men. Thanks for including me.

I replied:

I’m glad to receive your response. Yes, I would think that each participant could add to it in her or his own way, as you have. My intent was to leave it open in that way, rather than trying to over-prescribe, and trust each person’s essential nature to guide them — if they pause to listen.

At times, I feel my efforts to facilitate deeper, more intimate dialog are a waste of time. But when very astute individuals such as Gary and Malcolm offer comments such as those, and Amy and Mike offers such words of support, I’m reassured that at least I’m not totally crazy. And then I reflect on examples such as the success of the True North Groups and how rewarding the “soul sessions” I initiated in Mexico were (they merely asked people to “talk from the heart,” with no predetermined agenda). So I persist with my obsession.

A number of films have reinforced my feeling that the lack of authenticity in the modern world is a widespread concern. The second “Hunger Games” affirmed the need for “deep friendship” rooted in honesty. “American Hustle” (what a great title; it sums up our culture) confronted the issue provocatively. And the incredible “Particle Fever” offered the perfect counterpoint to the hustling mentality: “The very things that are least important to our survival are the very things that make us human.” Einstein also said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Last night a woman at a pizza parlor where I went to hear music told me why she likes living on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. Life here is hard, she said, so people have to rely on each other, which is humbling. Being more humble, they are more “genuine,” she said.

“Particle Fever” also inspired me to stick with my resolve to nurture “deep community.” The relentless, decades-long pursuit of truth by those physicists was amazing. One never knows what the result will be. All success is built on a series of failures. But if the quest is righteous, it will provide enough reward in and of itself to stay on the path. The Holy Grail is not merely a myth.

On my last night in Vegas, the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” encouraged me to stick with my focus on “soul” and “speaking from the heart.” Loosely based on the accidental encounter of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis in the Sun Records studio shortly after each of them had “made it,” the musical tells the story of how Sun Records owner Sam Phillips believed in Black music and was determined to bring its liberating power to White audiences. Eventually his persistence paid off. Perhaps someday mine will as well.

The next morning I woke with the remnant of a powerful dream lodged in my mind. I quickly captured its message with this thought, “A key paradox: I want to save the world without being an evangelist.” This formulation was so strong it stuck with me and I posted it on Facebook, where it received interesting responses. Three people “liked” it, which is about average for me on Facebook these days, but three or four others raised objections, which prompted me to try to clarify my point with this statement:

Evangelists arrogantly assume they know something that others don’t know and need to convince them to do what the evangelists want them to do. In fact, most people already know what they need to know and believe what they need to believe, but don’t see a way to act effectively. One non-evangelical approach is to inspire others with the power of example and invite them to decide together how to collaborate to act on our universal values.

Those objections to my statement and many others over the years lead me to believe that most of my peers are locked into an old, top-down notion of leadership that is rapidly fading with younger people, who are more horizontal and collaborative. But young people don’t trust old people. So I am limited in my ability to find collaborators.

These reflections reinforce my tendency to stop trying to organize. If a strong team emerges with the Full Employment project (some signs are hopeful), I’ll stay involved with that effort. But mostly I’m just going to read, write, and dialog.

Driving to Lake Tahoe through Nevada, that dream fragment stuck with me and prompted me to compose in my head a new manifesto, titled “How to Save the World in X Simple Steps.” Alone with my own thoughts, I became excited about this statement, which could end up being a small booklet.

But then reality hit, symbolized by an unexpected snow storm that almost prevented me from arriving at my cabin. Being back in Ecotopia is comforting. I no longer have to endure women telling me they love my hair, or men patting me on the back and calling me “Einstein.”

But I’m no fan of snow and cold weather, so I’ll just hole up next to my heater and re-write, re-write, and re-write. The first draft of the autobiography is almost complete, but it’s coming in at about 350 pages, which is probably much too long, so I have my work cut out for me these next eight weeks before I return to my refurbished apartment, where I plan to offer folks a foot massage when they come to my second housewarming.

And then there’s my 70th birthday, July 26. It falls on a Saturday, So let’s party.

Reflections from Phoenix

DSC01862March 22, 2014

I woke up this morning with a fragment of the dream in which I was immersed as I woke up. I had been trying to get rid of a large, apparently dead, putrid bird in my attic. I finally got some help. I was embarrassed about the situation. I thought to myself that I would justify my neglect by telling them, “I didn’t know it was there,” which was only partly true. I had known it was there but had either neglected it or suppressed the awareness. As it turned out, after they rescued the bird, it was alive.

My take on the dream is that the bird represents my sense of myself as a “community organizer,” my lifelong identity. But lately, my initiatives have not gotten off the ground. The last one that had any success was the Occupy Be the Change Caucus, and that project was only partially successful, at best.

Part of the problem is my age. Soon I will be 70. People respond most strongly to their peers and most of my peers are either dead (Steve Sears, Gil Lopez, Richard Koogle), tired, or set in their ways.

So I resolve to stop beating that dead horse (or dead bird) and stop trying to initiate projects. Rather, I’ll concentrate on writing my autobiography and occasional proposals for action that I will share, while remaining available to participate if and when a strong organizing committee initiates a project that inspires me. If the bird flies, I’ll join the flight.


Being alone back in the States where I speak the language is more difficult than being alone in a country where I don’t speak the language (especially when that country is in the Caribbean and I can hang out on the beach anytime I want). Here my inability to have soulful connections with the people I encounter is more difficult because the potential is more present. It’s like a mirage that vanishes upon approach. When people ask me, “How are you doing?” I may start answering, “Alienated as usual, but I’m getting used to it.”

Except for my frequent conversations with my sister, Mary, and my old friend, Leonard, my online and telephonic communications are few and far between. I reply to emails in kind, and if someone calls me, I’ll call them later. But not much is happening in that regard, which I find curious, for I feel I can be a good friend.

Normally it doesn’t bother me. For one thing, it leaves me with more free time to pursue my other interests. But when the possibility for a deep conversation with someone appears in front of me, I often get butterflies in my stomach. Like when an artist from South Africa who loved the movie “Looking for Sugar Man” appeared for a three-day stay in this two-bedroom apartment where I’m staying. When she was twelve, she adored Rodriguez and knew all the lyrics to his songs. Surely here was a chance for an authentic dialog! But it never happened.

Then, ironically, Friday night, I ended up next to two women from Oakland, a mother and her daughter, and after the game I gave them a tour of Old Town and we experienced a remarkable, inspiring encounter. I cherish my memory of our encounter, which reassured me the path I’m on is valid. After we parted, I came home, went to bed, and slept better than I have in ages.

This afternoon, I’m going to Thai Royal Massage for another unique foot massage, which they provide while the client lies in a recliner, which has inspired me to offer foot massages to people who come to my next housewarming in my refurbished apartment after I return at the end of May!

In the meantime, my top priority will be my autobiography, whose working title now is “Saving the World: My Story.” Being de facto homeless, I plan to wander through Nevada, soak in hot springs, watch the Giants on TV, and play blackjack 2 hours a day to pay for my lodging.


March 25, 2014

I just posted three pieces that feel good to me:

Proposed: A Full Employment Jam, or Working Conference (3/25/14 Draft)
The following proposal for collaboration is presented for consideration by interested parties. At the moment, no one is working to organize this project. It is my hope that individuals and organizations will eventually emerge to convene a process of the sort envisioned here.

Read more.


Proposed: A Holistic Community Network (3/24/14 Draft)

Following is the first draft of a pledge that participants in “holistic growth support groups” might embrace and use to guide their work together. My thought is that if a sizable number of such groups were to form and affiliate with one another in an informal network, it could be the foundation for a deep sense of community.

Read more.


Proposed: A Full Employment Network (3/25/14 Draft)

Economic insecurity leads people to constantly calculate how to survive at the expense of others. It corrupts our culture, fosters social discord, undermines personal authenticity, and leaves individuals in great need of caring communities that truly nurture self-empowerment.

By gathering regularly in small groups with trusted friends, we could support one another in our efforts to become better human beings and more effective activists. In this way, a network of full employment support groups could fulfill unmet personal needs, grow community, and help build a grassroots full employment movement.

Read more.