Thursday Afternoon at the Dead Houses



We made our way back to Ithaka to meet with Rob Levitsky on Thursday afternoon. The home was quiet, once again, when we arrived, so we decided to open the fence and walk into the backyard. The “backyard” spans nearly an acre. It includes several other houses that are used as community homes. There’s a positive, playful, and environmentally friendly attitude surrounding Ithaka’s yard – a basketball hoop, a garden, a large tree with a swing, tie dyed t-shirts fading in the sun, and good people.

Rob, who lives in one of the Dead Houses next to Ithaka, was sitting at a table when we arrived. There were three empty glasses, apple cider, bananas, blueberries, and ice cream on the table – this couldn’t be a coincidence. Rob provided an exceptional historical context regarding the Bay Area and entrepreneurship. He brought up the Gold Rush, and explained how he believes there has always been an air of entrepreneurship in California. He talked to us about his experience with alternative living styles, and told us about some of his past residents who have decided to take a more radical approach to communal living. A couple of his previous tenants started the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri – check out their website here!

We were particularly interested in his thoughts about whether or not communal living within the tech and startup worlds here are in a coincidence or not.

“OK, now we’re going to do something hippie,” said Rob as he picked up the apple cider. He then started pouring the cider into a blender that was attached to a bicycle to the left of the table. He put the rest of the ingredients into the blender and asked one of us to get on the bike and start peddling. At this point, one of the other house residents, a Stanford graduate turned musician/filmmaker, had joined us to chat after asking if we were the girls who were coming to film.

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“So do you guys want to see the music room now? I recorded an album there last summer,” said the Ithakan at the table with us. We left the table and walked a couple houses down to a little shed with several string instruments and drums hanging on the wall, monitors, a whiteboard full of lyrics, and art pieces sitting on shelves. Two guys, also residents, were in the room working on music when we entered. After a couple minutes in the music room, Rob turned to us and said, “well, I guess now we should go tie-dye some t-shirts outside, right?” What an uncanny afternoon.