24 Month-Old Party People

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The March issue is headed off to the printers, and you’ve already left for spring break. Still, please enjoy this preview feature from the next BLUE AND WHITE: A look at Brooklyn’s next wave of debauchery.

24 Month-Old Party People

Kids Rubulad Rubulad, the infamous bi-monthly debauch at an apartment-building-turned-commune in the badlands of Brooklyn, is a decidedly grown-up affair. About an hour and a half away from Columbia, it’s a converted warehouse that sits in the shadow of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, reachable only by switching from the 1 to the A to the G. After arriving at the Classon subway stop, the journeying partygoer must venture about half a mile past two stretches of housing projects, four gas stations and a structure behind a barbed-fence resembling a hybrid of a prison and a hospital.

What I remember of my last bender—ahem—evening spent at Rubulad are attempts to claw my way out through room after room of sweaty, writhing, half naked and less-than-half conscious bodies before my escape was almost thwarted by a man wearing noth- ing but socks. On his feet. Sort of like Resident Evil meets Fear and Loathing, or flophouse meets rave. It’s been a while since I’ve been back.

It turns out the people who run this classy fête have children—yes, biological children—of their very own. And they’re so proud of their new-wave child-rearing skills that they want to share them with you and yours. Future parents, welcome to Kids’ Rubulad, a monthly party for the less-than-inhibited toddler. As Vienna, a laid-back mom from Queens, said, “It’s really great to have a space for parents to hang out with their kids and relax without the pressure to con- form to anything.”

Resistance to societal constructs aside, the space is pretty great, especially for children. Rubulad’s standard sultry red light bulbs—so perfect for concealing the wages of age and substance abuse—had been replaced by the wholesome schoolhouse fluorescent variety, casting a charming daycare glow over the kids. The kitchen counters—by night used to sell absinthe shots and pot brownies at the discount rate of $5 a pop—now boasted a buffet of non-dairy vegetarian snacks, juice, and marijuana-free chocolate chip cookies.

Since Rubulad technically functions as an “art collective” while recovering from its collective hangover, there are lots of opportunities for kids to learn about free expression. The walls are covered in fluorescent paint and mixed-media murals that look like they were designed by Lewis Carroll on peyote. From the ceilings, plastic severed limbs and surrealist paper-maché sculptures hang, no doubt capable of stimulating the right brain of even the most bookish youth. A sign in front of a canvas depicting Johnny Cash-as-John Paul II-covered-in-feces reads: “Dude! I just got funding from the NRA to make my giant explicit anal sex sculpture at Ground Zero!” But all of the sexually explicit conspiracy theory-themed psychedelia goes unnoticed by the Rubulad Jr. party guest. Illiteracy is bliss.

Commune-resident Ben—who had emerged from a bedroom behind an enormous cardboard airplane—described some of the afternoon’s excitement. “You guys should have gotten here an hour earlier,” he said. “Shit is so Lord of the Flies, it was ridiculous.” When we arrived, the kindergarten-age kids who remained were more than content with just plain old Play-Doh. Burnt-out parents sat on the periphery of the crafts circle and discussed how childhood phobias about mixing different colors of doh may or may not have contributed to their current personality disorders.

One parent, Young, kept the kids entertained by making swords for them out of clown balloons, but he was careful to keep the environment safe and respectful. “If you guys are going to be swinging swords at one another, you’re going to have to do it away from the baby,” he chastised. Realizing what he had said, he turned to the infant sitting next to him and quickly apologized. “Not that you’re a baby. I didn’t mean to say that.”

While the parents bravely confronted their childhood anxieties by finally mixing the red and green clay, the Rubulad kids settled into their future roles as archetypal post-collegiate Brooklyn-dwellers. Sammy, who is eleven, plays the djambo for the Hungry March Band (a 25-piece street band that made an appearance during last semester’s hunger strike) and likes to DJ in his spare time. Though for now he’s content bopping around Williamsburg with his buddies Nula, Liberty, and Illya, Sammy says he’s “not sure if the City of Dreams is for him.” He’s thinking about moving to California, where he can just hang out on the beach and meet people to play rock with.

This week’s Kids’ Rubulad was complimented by the volunteer efforts of Dr. Ben Dublin-Thaler, who earned his Ph.D. in cellular biology from fair Alma Mater a few years back. These days Ben spends his days running the BioBus, a converted San Francisco city bus that a prior owner had engineered to run on vegetable oil (“6 miles to the gallon”), and had outfitted with a bathroom and a cast iron woodburning stove. After the bus fell into Ben’s hands—by means unknown in South Dakota—he installed a high-powered microscope, bought some lab supplies, and plastered the walls of the bus with information about cells.

Though the value of his scientific inquiries to society at large (not to mention the necessity of his Columbia Ph.D.) may be questionable, the kids seemed to love venturing out to the parked bus. “You guys want to watch me torture some goldfish?” he asked with a boyish gleam in his eyes as he snapped on a pair of yellow kitchen gloves. Ben reached into a blue saucepan that had been sitting on the stove, promptly removed a wiggling goldfish, and placed the ill-fated creature in a Petri dish on the counter. Tweezer gleaming, Ben steadied the animal. The small crowd around him was stunned into a silent revulsion as Ben plucked a scale from the fish’s torso. “I’ve never heard any of them scream,” he shrugged.

If anyone could be said to be in charge of Kids’ Rubulad, it’s Jessica. A free-spirit and a loving mother, Jessica was wearing a Peter Pan outfit and had just been dancing in circles amongst a throng of adoring, gyrating tots—for some, it seems, the difference between Big Person Rubulad and Baby Rubulad is negligible. Jessica got started a few years ago by throwing parties for her own son, now eight, out of their Brooklyn loft. For the past year she has held them at Rubulad, where she also helps out as the commune’s plumber. Jessica tries to create a theme for each of the parties based on the most recent holidays, which sometimes leads to slightly awkward combinations. As she spoke to her enraptured audience of candy-hungry treasure seekers about to embark on an epic scavenger hunt, Jessica helpfully reminded them that “those who discover the special containers will get to do some very special science in the spirit of the Irish Easter Bunny!”

As we chatted, one especially enthusiastic boy ran up to Jessica clutching a strange frog-like plastic trinket. “I found one! I found one!” he squealed. Jessica poked at the completely unidentifiable object. “That’s… not part of the scavenger hunt.” She glanced around. “But you can probably keep it.”

Most months the organizers make a piñata for the kids to take a smack at. Ben was kind enough to show us last month’s, which hung proudly from the ceiling, right next to a plywood rendering of a woman’s spread legs featuring ankle socks and a red thong. “It’s, like, crazy fucked up and beautiful,” he said, gesturing to the piñata. “Some nice psychedelic shit for the kids to stare at.”

— Joseph Meyers

Illustration by Maxine Keyes

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  1. haha

    is this from the onion?

  2. real brooklynite  

    Unfortunately the hipsters who move into Brooklyn are actually like this. This is another reason why I am loathe to move back there after graduation.

    • Shut up  

      jeezus, you've made your irritating little opinion known already.

    • ...  

      hah! i rode an elevator with that biobus dude about 3 hours ago... i heard something to the effect that it was out on college walk...

      • whoah

        is THAT what it was? the old white bus? that was DRIPPING MOTOR OIL ON COLLEGE WALK? He was kind enough to stick a green pan under the bus to catch oil once he'd parked, but there was a trail leading from the gates...

        • Bus Lover  

          That bus WAS at Columbia a few weeks ago - i didn't see the oil trail, but inside it was awesome and the guy had cells you could watch crawling on the microscope! i would have loved to have that bus when i was a kid, and it sounds like i would have loved to have those parties too instead of boring away in the suburbs.

  3. welfare state

    does child services know about these people?

  4. Jason BK

    I'm not sure what overpriviledged Columbia students know about parenting, or Brooklyn art culture, but I can see this "reporter" knows very little about how to write a balanced, well-researched article. This slanderous rant is full of half-truths and misquotes from beginning to end.

    Please do us a favor and stay in your dorm next time you are thinking of coming to Rubulad, or to any underground art or music event in Brooklyn!
    Columbia and its students (or rather, the rich parents of the students) are already doing a fine job of destroying what remains of genuine New York art and music culture. The last thing we need here is the opinion of some self-righteous spoiled teenager.

  5. Anonymous

    Hey! This article is artfully misleading and imaginatively inaccurate! But maybe the author should spend more time at kids Rubulad learning how to play nice.

  6. Amok

    I like how you deleted my comment. I will restate: What are you doing in NYC? Your Orwellian mind set, brain washed and set in pre comunist times pseudo thoughts belong mid west, where you are probably from. Go back to your small town to grow corn. Rubulad has been a pillar of art and music for over 15 years in NYC community, what have you done? Let me guess, Absinthe filled vomit on the way to "pay by mom and pops" dorm room.
    What would you rather have these kids do? Watch tv? I guess that's how you were raised, shows in this so called "article". These kids get to play and interact with each other in an environment that is SAFE, FUN and filled with imagination... something that you obviously lack. It's a Brave new World where you come from... make sure to go back to it... and don't let the door hit you on the ass....

  7. Amok

    the hipsters? How old are you? These people have been providing Brooklyn with some of the best art and music shows when you still couldn't tell the difference between your diaper and a plate of steaming food.

  8. Cloudbuster

    Rubulad is so much fun!

  9. spongekill

    HAH Columbia student meets Rubulad... go figure. Don't stain your polo shirt!

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