If you’ve never heard of Bodie, it’s a ghost town in California where dozens of buildings are still standing. It’s sort of in the middle of nowhere (except I guess it wasn’t nowhere back in the day; it was Bodie).
Potholes pit the dirt streets, and ramshackle planks adorn the deteriorating buildings. (In that vein, it’s very similar to Reno.) You can peer through the windows and marvel over household items that our ancestors used in a bygone age, such as dial-up modems and VHS players.
When you walk through Bodie, you feel somehow connected to the past. It’s a connection that immediately gets severed when you see scores of tourists snapping pictures with their iPhones. You can see how people lived during a simpler time — a plainer time — when Internet speeds weren’t near what they are today.
An old two-seater outhouse is a stark reminder that we should have retiled the bathroom floor, instead of taking a vacation. (It also suggests families had a closer bond in those days. I know I can’t use the bathroom unless I’m alone in the house and the door is bolted shut. I’m all for efficiency, but I don’t think the outhouse is the ideal place for one-on-one conversation.)
Bodie juxtaposes the rough-and-tumble atmosphere of hard living with the fat-and-disgusting slovenliness of modern-day tourists. For every abandoned homestead, there’s a overweight guy wandering the street wearing sandals with socks. Bodie residents were a hardier breed. (But the visitors who flock here? Well, they shouldn’t be breeding.)
When you gaze across the barren landscape, you get an overwhelming sense of longing and desperation. It’s similar to standing in line at Disneyland and waiting for your turn. Looking at the forlorn, dilapidated buildings, you get a twinge in the pit of your stomach, as if you’ve been transported to a different time and place. (Or maybe it’s because the baloney sandwiches you and your family packed had been sitting in the car too long when you ate them.)
The wind rustles through the surrounding brush, creating a lonely-sounding breeze that stirs up dust and pollen. And right away, as you start sneezing your fool head off, you realize why all of Bodie’s residents abruptly left.
The town is surrounded by yellow rabbitbrush! Acres and acres of it, interwoven among the buildings. It’s early September, and the swirling pollen looks like a golden mist of allergy-inducing misery.
Clearly, the residents had to flee. Who could possibly live in this desolate place? Even the hardiest of pioneers would need a lifetime supply of Claritin just to stagger outside.
So one day, everyone loaded their belongings and hightailed it out of there. They didn’t know or care where they were going — as long that place had a drugstore and an ears, nose and throat doctor. They left tissues scattered in the brush — like breadcrumbs — in case someone needed to find his way back.
If you listen closely, you can still hear the wheezing and sneezing drifting in the wind, ghostly reminders of widespread bronchial despair. (Or maybe it’s just the overweight tourists plodding along the trails, gasping for air from all the exertion.)