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January 7, 2007


Monkeyhut was a time, place, and spirit. Steve Anderson has a genius and generosity for building community. From 1998 - 2002, Monkeyhut the place was the rundown house he rented in lower Fremont. It served variously as a community center, homeless shelter, Solstice Parade staging area, Carfree Fremont HQ, workshop for group art projects, and at the end of this short but intense run a full-service forge and foundry. But the neighbors in this industrial-zoned area of purportedly "funky Fremont" didn't like the noise and human clatter that it attracted, so they pressured his landlord into evicting him. The house was promptly knocked down. A sad end. The ambassador of Monkeyhut was Nigel, a breed Steve called American Brown Dog. Others knew Nigel as the mayor of Fremont, who made daily solo rounds off-leash to local residents and businesses where he was usually greeted with a biscuit. Nigel died recently at age 13. A memorial was held today at the site of Monkeyhut, now a vacant lot grown over by grass. The lawn is neat and trim except for a burn spot in the middle around which many from the old days gathered to tell stories of Nigel and by extension the unique and lively community that was Monkeyhut. His ashes were passed around and the smell lingering on his collar vividly brought him to mind. There was more laughter than tears, which is perhaps as it should be when celebrating the dead. Afterwards, we walked Nigel's old rounds, distributing ashes at the bases of trees the way dogs will dribble just a few drops of pee to mark their territory. Along the way, I found a dog collar by the canal complete with tags: GUS. I called the number and the owner was very grateful becauses licenses cost money. I left it to be picked up at the local pet supply store where the proprietor called me a good citizen. I replied, "It's a community, right?" It was such a simple thing to do, how could I have done any less?