A Dedication to My Father: Aikido, Home, & The Collective

My father's love for functional architecture with aesthetic designs led him to become a draftsman at Leslie E. Robertson & Associates (LERA), an engineering firm in NYC, in 1970. He worked at LERA as their senior draftsman where he remained until the time of his death. There he worked on many famous buildings around the globe like the World Trade Center (NYC), Bank of China (Hong Kong), Corning Museum Glass (NY), United States Steel Building (Pittsburgh, PA), Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (Cleveland, Ohio) and many more. Dad was around to work with the firm on redesign of the WTC structure after the first bombing in the early 90s. I remember vividly his description of the blast area when their team went on site to assess the structural damage. He said it was like looking into an abyss.

The same year he joined LERA, he married my mother on October 31, 1970. Dad always joked that he couldn't forget their anniversary because not only was it Halloween but it was also my mother's birthday. As a couple, they looked for a martial art that they could practice together. My mom saw an Aikido demonstration in the city and soon after they joined the NY Aikikai. They routinely practiced early in the morning followed by breakfast with other practitioners before heading to work. Over time, both my parents rose in the ranks and started to teach classes in the morning. When I was little (from age 5-8), my father took the time to teach me and be my partner. As an Aikido instructor, dad was great at explaining each technique and demonstrating its effectiveness. To say the least, I was well-behaved cause I did not want to be called up when he demonstrated a technique with me in front of the class. It was funny and embarrassing at the same time.

The idea of assembling a collective of like minded politically engaged people, remained a goal he wanted to fulfill. At the same time, his idea for the design of a communal house came into being. My father, mother, David, a couple, and another friend joined together to form a collective with the intent of finding land, building a community house with smaller homes on the property, and living together. The collective formed during the Back to the Land years. After finding land in the Catskills region and beginning construction of the main building, three of the six members decided to leave after the first year because of other opportunities (and building a house was too big of a challenge for them). 

In spite the abrupt leaving of the three members and their financial support, my parents and David were able to carry on with their regular jobs in NYC to continue to support the farm. Being youthful, filled with energy and idealism, they were able to accomplish goals while having some fun on the way. While both working during the week in the City, my mother and father made the long trek to upstate New York to meet up with David to work on the construction on the house over the weekends. The work started in 1974 and has continued till the present. These were happy times for my family and it would take a few years before I joined them.