Escape

ANDREI CODRESCU

April 13, 1992|By ANDREI CODRESCU

NEW ORLEANS. — New Orleans -- If you want to run away, now there is a book full of places to run away to. It's called, ''Intentional Communities: a Guide to Cooperative Living.'' It's a book of communes, hundreds of them, all over the United States.

I was surprised to see that so many active communes are left. The conventional wisdom is that after the '60s everybody was poured into a suit behind a desk and forced to live with a mate in front of a TV set. It certainly seemed that way to me, because all the communes I knew back in those mythical days broke up on the jagged rocks of poverty, jealousy and whose turn it was to wash the dishes.

Not so, according so this directory. If your taste is for the simple life and you like plants, for instance, you can join the Adirondack Herbal community where you can gather medicines, work with bees and greenhouses, and eat vegetarian food. If you think feeding the homeless is a good idea, check out Casa Maria in Milwaukee. For the Platonic groves of philosophy there is the Krotons institute in Ojai, California. If you love the pleasures of the flesh, check out the Kerista society in San Francisco. They practice orthodox polyfidelity. Whatever that is.

Almost all these utopias and would-be utopias are located in or near paradise. Looking at the map, I see that every state has communes -- except Utah. I'm sure that there are communes in Utah but maybe their lifestyle philosophies are too startling to be listed here. There is also no word in the book on what any of these places do about washing dishes. But -- it's reassuring that they are still around. It means that not everyone in this country is in the army, in school or in prison. State communism may be dead but the communal urge is not.

A friend of mine, once a commune addict, now a software designer, told me wistfully: ''It's not the high principles I miss . . . it's the smell of soy and cayenne . . . and the pitty-patter of many naked feet in the morning.'' In other words, the comfort of family. He has something there.

Andrei Codrescu is editor of ''The Exquisite Corpse.''

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