SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 177: “Always… Get And Give Receipts”

Who says apartment living cannot be communal? And if there are any apartment living rules that demand this, then Don, the man behind Das Bauhaus, is breaking all the regulations.

First off, those who reside in one of the twenty-four units of Das Bauhaus are called guests.

Guests, not tenants, not renters or not even numbers, they are respected as unique individuals; and I have to credit this as one of the major reasons there is a long waiting list to get an apartment in the compound.

I intentionally call Das Bauhaus a compound for a purpose. To call it an apartment complex would be selling it short.

The place is a visual and cultural festival. Art is everywhere, and is constantly being updated by the talents of those who are guests within the compound walls. Walls and guests that echo the community spirit, and vision of community, that Don has spent a life nurturing.

“I became very active in community service over twenty years ago when a group of us started the first Northridge Community Council. We changed the way things were done. First we dropped the titles, replacing them with things like big kahuna, bean counter, etc. We even drafted our by laws to allow for dogs to vote and not cats… everyone knows cat’s cannot be trusted. We did great things, and were supported by a very aware and active community. We all went at it like Indians, with no one looking to become a Chief. It was all about vision!

Downtown could not stand it, they even offered us a fifty thousand dollar grant, but we did not take it. Didn’t need it, we were doing well with what we had, and we knew if we accepted the money, there would be strings attached.”

Don tells me of the works they did, from hosting huge fund-raising events at Das Bauhaus to creating a vivacious community service team who were, and continue to beautify, watch and keep the neighborhoods and streets clean and safe.

Here is a cool fact; to be a guest at Das Bauhaus it is required to provide proof of participation in a yearly community service. That alone is a confirmer of the character that lies within the people of its community.

And because of this community, I am forced to break my entry into two consecutive days… a first for 365. With this, today I’m telling you of Das Bauhaus creator Don, and tomorrow I’ll introduce you to his daughter and five guests that are a living tribute to the community.

In getting to know Don, he guides me on a walking tour of the facility, all the while receiving greetings from his guests… as I observed… community.

Don cheerfully engages with all who greet him, and as he does, I feel as if I am part of a connected family of diverse people, all of whom are in-lawed together by the gates of Das Bauhaus.

Stories of art and energy surround me, a courtyard stage to the front of me, an eclectic recreation room behind me, as well as a curiously magnetic dart boarding enclosure to my right (Don’s way of turning the electrical room into a functional socializing experience).

Das Bauhaus is a breeding ground for human unity and in it you can feel, and see, its contribution to modern culture and creativity.

Don takes me to the parking area. All around us are elaborate works of graffiti art, some of which is created by the hands of now established and respected artists.

“All of this is living and breathing,” Don explains.

“And it’s been really cool to watch it grow. I’ve seen some amazing things happen here.

We’ve had days when twenty or more graffiti artists have gathered to work together on a wall. It’s a blast to watch. Here is this rough-looking group of guys, sitting around and constructively critiquing the work. Where else can something like this happen? If they did it on the streets, they would be arrested, and here they form a proactive community. How cool is that!”

Don shows me another quirky perk, a welding areas, complete with tools. “I’ve got one girl living here that is an exceptional artist, she is now making a living with her welded sculptures.”

They guy truly cares for all who are guests and he does all that he can to help them evolve in their lives. We joke about his title, and he settles on, “I’m OK with being called the Landlord.”

In summarizing Das Bauhaus, Don has the perfect words, “It is a cocktail that is always evolving. We work to keep the energy moving, and are very careful in the guests we accept. This is a special place, and the chemistry of the people who live here influence it spirit for all of us.”

I’ve only scratched the surface in describing the visual feast of Das Bauhaus. A place that is the brainchild of our new friend Don, and an ever-evolving manifestation of the guests that call it home.

Madonna Doors

From the handcrafted mail area to the strange second level doors that were one in Madonna’s home and ever-changing display cases that greet all who enter it gates, Das Bauhaus is one of a kind.

With the sweat of his own hands Don has built a home for the eclectic. A huge think tank of cultural diversity and a sanctuary for the arts. Tomorrow I will introduce you to a few of his guests, but for now I’ll conclude with a sober side of Don’s concerns for society.

“I’m not feeling so hot about the future. I’ve lived through The Bay of Pigs, Castro, The Cold War and Vietnam, and I have to say, I’ve never seen things like they are now. I think we are in a lot of trouble.

I’m pro Israel; it is a great country and a testament to people who can survive in a fight for peace. We should all model their tenacity and concerns for society. The Middle East is messed up by the greed of misdirected religion and that in combination with the war for fossil fuel is breeding the fulfillment of what is to come. We need to stand up and do what is right, and we need politicians who are courageous enough to move us forward.”

Don, you are a man of action. Your history, deeds and the community you so selflessly support clarify this to us all.

My hope is that your hard work is not in vain, and by the fruits of your efforts, and your courage to speak out of times to come, that we all gain a glimpse into your vision.

A vision that I think I can accurately translate to this question.

Shall there come a day when we can push ourselves in choosing to see eye-to-eye, rather than, through misdirected acts or reactions, adopt the lower law of an eye-for-an-eye?

Don, thanks again, we’ll keep our eyes open.

Oh! One final note… Don departs one last word of wisdom, “Always… get and give receipts.”

We have to give him that, after all… he is a landlord.