Sunday, August 23, 2009

I just finished reading Drop City. It's about Dirty Stinkin' Hippies. A whole commune of them in Northern California at the butt end of the Sixties. They're supposedly bent on following the enlightened path of living off the land and giving up all the materialistic hang-ups of the straight world and peace and love and whatever. But the reality, in T. C. Boyle's engrossing tale, is quite different. It's all about the drugs and the booze and the 'ballin.

By page 30, there's a teenage, wanna-be hippie chick being gang-raped by a multicultural crew of drugged-out punks.

Then there's the feces problem.

All the enlightened hippies are just too busy getting high and 'ballin to maintain a functioning septic tank. Instead they've taken to shitting anywhere and everywhere, turning their bucolic hippie nirvana into a giant, festering toilet. Ooh ooh that smell.

These problems -- coupled with a LSD-induced bus accident that leads to the grisly demise of a horse (and some unwelcome probing by the cops) -- result in the hippies seeking out a new redoubt. Welcome to Alaska!

And not Fairbanks or Anchorage or some other town offering at least a modicum of amenities generally associated with modern civilization. But rather bumfuck, kill-or-be-killed, savage nowhere Alaska. Where living off the land is the only option. The hippies don't adjust too well. By the time winter starts to set in, the brothers and sisters of Drop City North are in full-on Lord of the Flies mode: hoarding food, forming alliances, spreading crabs.

Then there's the bumfuck Alaska locals they encounter. These folks are certainly living off the land. But their ethos is more militia than hippy commune. The two cultures collide and combust in surprising (and often violent) ways. Some of the hippies survive, adjust and prosper. Others flee back to civilization. At least one dies a rather grizzly death.

It's entertaining stuff.