Village People

Three Towns: Sudden Slumber,
Aging Dreams & Cozy Oblivion

In one, people are falling asleep without warning. In another, they’ve dropped out long ago. And yet, the other shelters the mentally afflicted. There are places we move to, and places we’d rather stay clear of. And then there are the ones we visit for a life-changing experience.
This being the first day of Spring in the northeast, despite the snow forecast, discerning globetrotters would be already pressed to plan that skew, cultural-enhancing time off. Let us introduce them to three places capable of matching their inquisitive minds. Still with us?
There would be little sense in talking about the blue of the Caribbean sea, or the gusts of the Mongolian steppes. There’s even less to tell to those seeking the familiarity of pool attendants and the exotic sway of foreign shores. Let them go and pray that they keep their memories for themselves.
It’d also be unsound to send light-headed travelers to places where daily gunfire chases away beauty, and extreme poverty strips locals of dignity. Let’s let that to unsavory tourist guides, with their slick packages and greased brochures, and take a moment to mourn those stranded in bloody beaches.
Still, it’s a vast and mostly uncovered world, if one cares enough to learn while traveling, and leave a gentle impression before returning. Just like Sahara sands cross the Atlantic and fertilize the Amazon Rainforest, a journey should sow some seeds for every root uncovered.
Then again, why invoke a haboob, or a bad pun, to make a cross-pollination point? A trip is often worthier for the places it opens up within the traveler’s mind than the ones visited by the body. Thus our urge to introduce these towns, where residents may have something to uncover within you.

Few outside this town of less than 700 people in Kazakhstan had heard of it before 2010. That’s when the outbreak of a still unidentified malady was first reported: people would suddenly fall asleep and remain like that for hours and even days. It continues to happen.
Five years later, and countless outbreaks since then, officials are now taking a radical measure, short of finding the actual cause for it: they’re evacuating the whole village. Which sounds more like a charm than sound policy, since other nearby towns also reported the problem.
Many wouldn’t wait the authorities to come by, and are already on the move, which is fine, considering that there’s no much else besides land to go to, 150 miles from the Russian border. With waves of the mysterious illness coming and going, who can blame them?
In fact, Kalachians are terrified that they’ll fall asleep and never wake up, indeed a nightmare fit for any Freddy Klueger worth his fictitious claws. Thus a perfect place to visit and, perhaps, land a hand preventing people from doing just that, falling asleep. Coffee anyone?

Since the 1960s, Timothy Leary‘s ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out’ motto seems to have endured in no other place but Slab City, California, an arid settlement of aging rebels, former hippies, and people who simply got off the grid for a variety of reasons. Now things may change.
With no power, running water, or any other homey comforts, it’s appeal to 150-plus year-round residents rests mostly on what’s not: a suburban camp for partying millionaires, as the annual Burning Man event in Nevada has unfortunately become. But it’s their place to keep.
Or it was: talk about the state selling the unregulated dustbowl has Slabbers and snowbirds up in (almost) arms, wondering whether they could buy it themselves, or let the chips fall where they may. We bet you may have some contribution for just such a discussion.
Being a part of the thousand fairweathers, who show up between October and April (yes, now), or at anytime in a dare, you too could be welcome to ‘The Last Free Place in America.’ And if it goes out on a bust, at least, there won’t be a light switch to be turned off.

There are moments when to live becomes overrated. If one develops dementia, for instance. As we live longer, our software may betray us, and simply go into irreversible, and at times long, decay mode. For those with means, the best case scenario is the nursing home.
But, alas, those dreadful places can turn an already bad situation into a heartbreaking experience. An experiment in a town outside Amsterdam may be pointing to a possible solution: the nursing facility as an entire village, with town square, theater, garden, and post office.
To be sure, the 152 Hogewey residents all have Alzheimer’s disease, or some kind of dementia, and can’t care for themselves. But instead of being confined to an impersonal ward, or bed, they can move around and relate to each other, in a safe environment. Plus, the medicines.
For the visitor, it’s no walk in the park. But it’s uplifting seeing that’s possible to give back some level of human dignity to those lost to the disease. Besides, of course, prepping yourself to become a better person while you still have the free will to do whatever pleases you.

Want to know what else is overrated these days? traveling. It’s great on paper, but the logistics and financial hangups can be daunting, and the rewards may come up short. No wonder that alternatives often skip moving your tired bones across uncaring borders.
Yes, it’s much easier now than ever before, and again for those with means, it can add years of enlightenment concentrated into a few-weeks package. It’s also a tool for social promotion, as long as travelers won’t insist in throwing parties afterwards to show the videos.
But books, movies, art in general, and life in particular, all can open doors to unsuspecting worlds, without having your luggage being sent to another continent. Just like shopping for tickets and lodging, all it takes is training, in this case, of your own imagination.
Some may go to Paris and complain about the cigarettes. In fact, many do. Or stay home, and never lift eyes from their phones. Fortunately, there are other ways of doing such things. For it may be Spring and snow, but for a tastemaker of your caliber, there’s always another one ready in the chamber. Just don’t forget to pack a towel.
Read Also:
* Train of Moths
* Off the Grid
* Ah, the Dutch

2 thoughts on “Village People

  1. I stopped travelling to get away from things when I ran into someone from my past, I’d just managed to forget, sitting a small shop, situated on a little sidestreet, in a remote part ot Turkey.

    Liked by 1 person

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