Yesterday in The Refuge and Expansion, we explored its house, barn, and the house’s upstairs work area.
In the cramped confines of the house’s attic, we find a boy’s desperate attempts to reach out to an outside world that, before radio, television, and finally the internet, was hopelessly unreachable to a farm boy who craved more stimulus than what his farming community offered. On two sheets of plywood laid over the bare joists and illuminated by a single bare light bulb, there is a basic radio and headphones, the sort of rig that a boy around World War I might have built. It reminded me of an aspect of my own youth, in an attic similar to this, trying to escape the confines of my own small town life by finding broken surplus Army radio equipment and cobbling it together to build a functioning ham radio I could use for communicating with people far away.
Going back outside to the road and walking past the stop light, we find ourselves at a Texaco station, the sort of gas station where local guys could be found chewing the breeze on the chairs set outside. Inside the garage is a hot rod – here call a “Rat Rod”, which you can buy and, suspended from an engine hoist, an optional higher performance engine that you can buy for your Rat Rod,. This is another aspect of rural creativity, finding its expression in taking garden variety cars, stripping them down, and converting them into magnificently performing beasts.
When we leave the gas station and walk a little further down the road, we see an ancient railroad locomotive rusting in a field and next to it, a shocking disruption to the carefully laid out reality we have seen until now. It’s unexpected. Everything else we’ve seen can be understood. It’s all part of our culture, our background, a past that we know if only by reading about it and seeing it on film and TV.
But now cracks break through the façade of normalcy. Big cracks. near the locomotive, a large tree grows in the middle of the road. It has obviously been here many years. Even more incongruously, something unidentifiable, a tube of some kind, jabs into the road at the tree’s base. At first I thought it was a missile, representing the fears of nuclear war that dominated the 1950s. But that’s not it at all. Not even close.
Click on the “missile” and you are teleported without warning underground, to under the tree, and suddenly this well ordered simulation of the past turns surreal. Hammers and instrument dials float freely in the air. A rowboat is moored to a table. On the table, we see radio like the one we saw in the cramped attic of the house. But this is not a cramped attic. Far from it. This chamber is how the boy in that attic sees his world. This is where he finds his freedom. Instead of walls and piles of limit his world in the house, down here in this subterranean chamber, the walls all open to the stars. In every direction, we see the vastness of the universe. Looking up, we see the roots of that mysterious tree in the road and among them, we see what that mysterious “missile” really is: a telescope, the same telescope we saw in the house, but huge. This chamber is the imagination of that solitary boy struggling to expand his mind in a small town where the best minds are more likely to build planes and modify cars. This is where his mind roams free.
Is it also madness? Perhaps. I don’t know message the creator, AM Radio, intends with these two sims that mimic rural America of the past. For me however, having grown up in a smallish town with some of the same constraints of the boy I imagine in that house’s attic, it evokes memories and feelings of my own childhood.
This is what I suspect AM Radio means by the place’s name, The Refuge and Expansion. I might be totally off base, but to me, the upstairs room and attic are the boy’s refuge, and the subterranean chamber is the expansion, where he can let his mind run free, where he can expand, totally leaving behind the limitations of his small town world.
If you buy the Rat Rod or any of the other items for sale here, proceeds go to Heifer International Charity (www.Heifer.org), a 65 year old charity group that donates animals to poor families in developing countries.
AM Radio has created a well done and thought-provoking pair of sims. If you’re a Second Life member, you can teleport there by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Wales%20Springs/251/113/24.