It was my first time out. I had just received my brand new State of Illinois driver’s license. After initially flunking the state road test on my birthday I had finally made it; boy-oh-boy-oh-boy was I glad! In those days one passed the state driver’s examination and within weeks the paper document arrived through the mails. You cut it out, placed it in your wallet/purse then hit the road. Today you receive the valued photo document incased in plastic at the test site within an hour after successfully passing the test.
That particular weekend our professor led our party of four on a field trip to Twin Oaks commune in Louisa County Virginia on the East Coast. The commune was a utopian community modeled on the tenants of behaviorist-novelist B. F. Skinner’s epic work Walden Two. We were to take turns driving in shifts.
The Twin Oaks ecovillage is a utopian community. A member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, it was founded in 1967 at the onset of the ‘days of rage’ when the fabric of American ‘democracy’ was being blown all to hell despite a booming economy. With the Vietnam War raging, bloody riots in city streets, the Cold War that nearly grew hot only six years hence, the opening salvos of the Women’s Movement, the implosion of the Catholic Church, the Stonewall riots two years down the road, Dr. King’s assassination a year away and minority racial/economic oppression killing the country some people wanted out or an alternative way to make a positive impact on the human community the Twin Oaks commune seemed an answer.
It was my inaugural drive; my first time behind the wheel. And since I never do anything easy always two the hard way there was a horrific hurricane brewing out east. I was going to drive from Chicago to the sovereign state of Virginia mostly solo. As I remember there were four of us using one car including our Sociology professor a venerable old soul who was bucking for canonization. Our teacher was very active in church activities, the Civil Rights Movement as a foot soldier and at the organizational level plus a community organizer. I think his fantasy was to earn a Nobel Prize in Sociology his chosen profession.
Then there was this girl who didn’t talk much not that she was a snob in love with her dynamite looks, the woman just didn’t have much to say to any of us. Lastly we had another young lady who reminded me of the sister I wished I had. She wasn’t a looker. You could talk with her about anything. Her replies were so profound I racked my brain asking myself how on earth she knew about things imbedded so deep inside me I never knew existed but she knew. I could only assume this exceptional young woman eventually became a psychologist. If so she would have made a damn good one.
It was still sunny when we drove through Indiana. We stopped in Warrenville, Ohio in my opinion one…weird…place; they had state liquor stores. They ‘hid’ the booze under lock and key. We got hungry; our party of four had lunch at a diner. The locals stared us down as though we were creatures from another planet. Eventually their uneasiness got the better of us; we paid our bills then left.
We stopped at a pool hall to ask for directions. There was this old man laying on a battered bed with his piss pot nearby for easy access. He gave us the desired directions to get back to the interstate. There was a fight brewing in the hall. As we made our way towards the front door some good ole’ boy almost cleaned my clock with the fat end of a pool stick as I tried to get by him! After our mid-morning madness we skipped grocery shopping and beat a hasty retreat back towards the highway towards our goal. After that near miss we had to endure the hurricane that had ravaged the East Coast and roared its way towards us. Driving through a fierce storm wasn’t the ideal situation for new drivers. The girls made the long drive tolerable. Our professor slept through the storm. Intense rain and hail made driving difficult and dangerous. Those long and winding roads didn’t help our situation any. Like Chicago weather most of the year we rarely saw the sun.
Just our bad luck Pennsylvania’s interstate was undergoing heavy construction. The long drive though beautiful Pennsylvania could have been pleasant if it wasn’t for the damn rain and road crews. I narrowly missed causing an accident! When it got dark we had to park and sleep on the shoulder. The downpour never let up. The rain was coming down so hard I couldn’t see ahead of me. We couldn’t find lodging; the fog was soupy thick. With four people all practically lying in each others arms sleep came hard. What should have been a pleasant experience (two men/two women) the horrendous downpour nixed all prospects for pleasure. We were forced to urinate in little paper cups and pass the piss to the end person who deposited it out of the window letting it mingle with the incessant downpour.
The next morning we woke up alongside the road. It had rained all night but by morning it stopped. We poured out of the vehicle to stretch our legs made stiff by the cramped way in which we slept. Once outside we paid Nature’s call; we dropped our drawers/panties and pissed along the side of the road regardless of who saw us as they sped by. Picture four people standing/squatting alongside a busy highway as streams of yellow poured from them adding color to the rain soaked soil. After we answered nature’s call we piled back into the car and drove on.
A few hours later we entered Virginia then had lunch at a local Howard-Johnson’s. It was in the restaurant I fell in love with fried claims. If we had more time instead of a single holiday weekend and if the weather wasn’t so adverse the drive would have been a pleasant experience instead of one of patient endurance; such is life.
Hours later we finally arrived at Twin Oaks. The rain had stopped, the sun shone brightly in the sky. The warmth of the sun sent our spirits soaring. We parked our car and entered the main building. I was surprised by the orderliness of the place. This commune was a contradiction to what I’ve always read and heard from friends and associates that such places were dirty, disorganized and peopled by morally loose hippie types; Twin Oaks appeared quite the contrary.
Twin Oaks is one of America’s longest running secular intentional communities. There are currently 100 adults and 17 children in residence according to some news sources. To ensure quality clientele the commune’s managing body only select people they deem suitable for community life. Laziness, hostility, freeloading, disorganization and other community killing attributes aren’t allowed. In 1967 when the farm was formed only the desire to create the ideal community kept the dream alive; now the farm is a self-sustaining enterprise a veritable factory a beehive of industry. Anybody who’s serious about joining must undergo an intensive three week probationary period.
Though the community stresses communitarian and secularist values Twin Oaks isn’t hostile towards religionists as I discovered. One Sunday morning I asked one of the residents where she was going in the course of our conversation; she replied “to church.” When I was there I found life in an equalitarian society could even be fun. Point—sharing the bathroom with two pretty girls!
–To be continued—