Podcast: Eccentric communes go mainstream

Desert love, the original tiny houses and Joan Didion’s West.

 

In her memoir, Where I Was From, Joan Didion talks about her relatives who set out west with the Donner Party and she says, “They could accommodate any means in pursuit of an uncertain end.” If they needed to skin a bison, they’d do it, and if they needed to leave a family member behind, well, that's just how it goes. That ethos is alive and well in the West’s many desert communes, where the “wackos and rejects,” as Didion describes them, create their own versions of community. In many cases today, the “eccentrics” out in the desert no longer seem so outrageous, especially when viewed alongside planners who decided to pave the Los Angeles River. In this episode of Range, we look at some desert communities that got it right, and how the lessons they’ve learned can help all of us build thriving communities.

Range podcast produces stories of the New American West and is co-hosted by reporters Amy Westervelt and Julia Ritchey. Photo by Kyle Roerink/The Las Vegas Sun/AP. Illustration by James Guthman.