This is Part 4 of 5 of an article series detailing my recent six-week visit to five intentional communities based in the D.C./Virginia area of the United States. Part 5 is coming soon.
My Fourth Destination: The Keep – The Trendy Cousin
The final destination I had the opportunity to visit during my three-week visitor period at Acorn Community was an urban housing collective in Washington D.C. known as The Keep (there is no official page or website for The Keep as far as I know).
The Sunday before the trip, Paxus, a notorious dual member of Acorn and Twin Oaks, intentional community aficionado, and advocate of polyamory announced that he was planning to do a dumpster diving run in D.C., and he was looking for volunteers to join him for the trip. Intrigued, and always interested in experiencing new things, I decided to sign up for the trip, and the following Thursday evening seven of us from Acorn packed in to two vehicles—a red sedan and a white van—and made our way to D.C.
The Keep was a four-story row house with six current members all in their mid-twenties to early thirties, some of whom worked for different government agencies, and others who had other jobs, one being a professional designated driver business for people who were too intoxicated to drive after partying and wanted a safe ride home in their own vehicle.
When we entered The Keep, five of the six members were present to greet us. We were offered refreshments, and Marshall, our liaison for the first phase of our trip, offered us fruit and bread for a snack, and then prepared a vegetarian stir-fry for a quick dinner meal.
Since we weren’t going to begin our dumpster diving run until after midnight due to possible legal issues, we had some free time on our hands, so the members of The Keep suggested that we attend a weekly blues dancing event with them to occupy our time. We accepted this offer, although one person from our crew had to stay behind and help Marshall with food processing, which consisted of cooking up a lot of The Keep’s dumpstered stock into sauce with the intention of spltting the end product evenly.
So with one member of our crew staying behind at The Keep, the remaining six of us set out to the blues dancing venue to meet the members of The Keep who were already there. None of us had ever done blues dancing before, and considering our general lack of cleanliness and casual dress, it was pretty obvious that we were outsiders, or to put it bluntly, a bunch of dirty hippies dancing around fancy-dressed city folk. I’m not sure if anyone else besides us noticed this stark contrast, but we thought it was pretty hilarious.
Along with the female members of our crew, I also danced with the female members of The Keep who were there, and while I had fun being intimate with them, I found blues dancing to be difficult, and it was tough for me to loosen up and get into the flow of things. Several of the women tried to teach me the basics, but after a while I gave up trying to get it right and just focused on having fun with my partner, which worked out for the better.
Eventually it was time to go, so we said our farewells and headed back to The Keep. It was about 11:30 PM now, so it wasn’t long until the dumpster diving crew headed out to the streets. Once again, a member of our crew had to stay behind to cook with Marshall, and since I was the one who volunteered to do so, I am unable to share specific details about the experience of dumpster diving, but I’m sure you can very well imagine what it’s like to collect food out of a dumpster, or refer to any other content online about this topic.
When the rest of the crew returned to The Keep some time after 4:00 AM, I went outside to the van to help with food processing. This process entailed carrying the dumpstered food into the kitchen of The Keep, sorting out what food was safe to take home with us, disposing what wasn’t, and then packing it all back up into the van again for transport.
One of the members of The Keep, Steve, was an experienced dumpster diver, and he gave our crew a lesson on the basics of identifying the characteristics of spoiled food, as well as other tips on food sanitation and signs of possible damage. He remarked that he had been living on dumpstered food for over four years now, and he had never once gotten sick from eating it. We were also told earlier that the majority of the food in The Keep was dumpstered, and there was most certainly a ton of it in the house—entire trash bags full.
This experience really opened my eyes to the reality of how much food is wasted in the cities of America. While I do not personally have an interest in dumpster diving, I would say it is most definitely a feasible alternative for those who are willing to put in the extra work and live in an area where the opportunity to do it regularly is available. It may be dirty and disgusting to a first-timer, but I’m sure that feeling gradually goes away over time until it becomes a normal part of daily life—and besides, it’s free food, what do you have to lose?