In 15 square miles of abandoned land, about 400 misfits—aging hippies, disillusioned veterans, teenage runaways—have built a community where no one cares if you smoke pot, fire your rifle all day, let your kids drive your car, or walk around naked in the desert heat. It's a landscape of beat-up old trailers, shacks jerry-rigged from recycled materials, solar panels, little farms, greenhouses, and at least one tipi. "Where I live is the last remaining land of America that is left," says Dreadie Jeff, a Mesa resident.
The local culture defies easy stereotypes. "Going into this community with this traditional mainstream liberal ideology," Jeremy says, "we realized all our preconceived notions were bull$t. These people were extremely into their Second Amendment rights, and they were also into marijuana legalization. They don't fit into these molds." There's a touch of madness to the place as well. Mama Phyllis, a Mesa woman who used to be a psychiatric nurse ("I couldn't do that anymore," she says, and leaves it at that), calls it "the largest outdoor insane asylum." The governing philosophy is a mix of anarchism, patriotism, New Age stoner wisdom, and a militia-style distrust of the state.
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