National Geographic : 2005 Aug
TECUMSEH, MISSOURI commune's kitchen, dining room, pool hall, poker parlor, and 24-hour hangout-Deborah sips a glass of merlot, rolls yet another cigarette, and ponders what went wrong. "We thought we had the numbers," she says, "people ready to join us in the belly of the beast." Amused by the image, two young women sit ting nearby curl their fingers, bare their teeth, roar like wild animals-then burst out laughing. "We failed," says Deborah, lamenting the demise of the counterculture. East Winders, though, keep on going. Seeking a healthier, happier lifestyle, they still wrestle with familiar problems. The freedom to do your own thing, for instance, can eat away at group solidarity. Apart from two hours a week of required kitchen tasks, members are free to round out their 40-hour work quotas as they choose-gardening, doing laundry, making nut butter. "We've organized the nut-butter business so all we do is insert labor," says Woody, 46, one of the managers. "The problem is how to get people to care about what we're doing." Several members feel trapped. Despite years of work for the community, many feel they don't have enough money or equity to begin a new life elsewhere. Beer, wine, and cigarettes provide welcome diversions for some. "We talk a lot about ideals," says Lynn, "but by the next morning no one can remember what we said." Despite these difficulties, East Wind retains a coun tercultural allure, attracting a handful of new members each year. They come because they're sick of life "out there"-the time-sucking commutes, endless bills, and a culture where greasy take-out passes as dinner. Some seek security-three meals a day, clean clothes and a warm bed, health insurance and dental care. Others come to make new friends, to dance and dream, drink and party, have sex and fall in love. All in the comfort of knowing that if they start drinking themselves sick, 50 people might come together on a Sunday afternoon to help them wrestle with their demons. Arriving at a high-ceilinged workshop to discuss the fate of Yarrow, people sit on the floor or climb into the loft, its graffiti conveying decades of hippie wit and wis dom. ("Even if you win the race, you're still a rat") For three hours the discussion focuses on whether Yarrow should be asked to leave, reflecting the conflicting intentions for this intentional community. "We're not East Wind doesn't work unless everyone pitches in (top to bottom): Barry launders "commie cloz"-shared shirts, pants, lingerie, and more; Cara Jars fresh peanut butter for shipment; Otto squeezes wheatgrass juice to drink; and Linda gives a friend a bit of Relkl therapy after a tense community meeting.