Drop City and the significance of a book

The spring play this year is The Crucible.  It just so happens that two sections of English 10 are studying the play.  Rather than just writing your traditional research paper, the students in those two classes researched the play and the history and then interviewed the acting class.  The actors discussed their interpretations of the characters.  A few scenes were performed.

In a discussion on Puritan communities, one of the teachers said:

Who would choose a Puritan life?  It’s like people living in Alaska.  Has anybody been to Alaska?  I spent a summer there, and I loved it, but it’s like not dark except for two hours a day during the summer, and it’s not light except for three or four hours a day during the winter.  Why would you choose to live there?  It’s so oppressive.  It’s so bizarre.  And the people I met there I think they’re all running from something.  They’re running from the law or they’re running from their families.  It’s like a colony of exiles.  It’s an amazing place, but I don’t know why you would live there.

Never having been to Alaska, I immediately thought about two things: (1) Into the Wild and (2) T.C. Boyle’s Drop Citya novel my sister handed me back in 2004, when I befriended two hippie brothers who lived on a farm near Yogaville in Buckingham County.  By farm, I mean this and a garden:

Hippie compound

Quaint.

Drop City, like 30 or 40 other books that I own, has been sitting in a box in my living room for the past three months.

Books for the used book store

Books for the used book store

My intent was to take these books to Chop Suey, a local used book store.  That hasn’t happened yet.

I thought about passing Drop City on to the teacher who mentioned the bits about Alaska, but I’m having a hard time letting the book go.  Apparently books, like tattoos, are markers for watershed moments in my life.  Despite my desire to practice non-attachment, especially when it comes to physical artifacts like books, CDs, DVDs, etc., I cannot give Drop City away.

If you’re not familiar with the book, it is a tale of a group of hippies who flee their commune in California for Alaska’s wilderness.  Chaos ensues.

My sister suggested that I read it, because many of the stories I told her about the brothers and their “farm” reeked of the naïveté one would expect from two affluent, Connecticut boys (they were actually in their mid and late 30s) deciding to settle in rural Virginia.  One brother was a gentle, certified yoga teacher, who practiced and taught yoga and a did variety of odd jobs to supplement whatever trust fund that paid for daily expenses and trips to Costa Rica.  The other was an entitled, emotional hot mess looking for a life without hassle.

Both brothers were distractions from home–20 minutes away in Cumberland, the next county over–where my mom was fighting a fucking good fight against ovarian cancer.

The hippie brothers made for a good anthropological study and good stories.  They had a solar shower and an outhouse for god’s sake.

It was 2004.

While Buckingham and Cumberland counties are no Alaska, they are still remote.  Isolated.  I think Yogaville is very much a place people go when they want to hide.  Unfortunately there’s no hiding from one’s demons in such a quiet place.

So here’s this book. Drop City.  It reminds me of being an inadequate daughter.  It reminds me of being lonely.  It reminds me to be thankful for what I have and that every day with my husband and son count.  It reminds me that I don’t have to fill the quiet with noise and that sometimes you really do need to just sit down and have a cup of coffee with the demons in order to sort things out.

 

 

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