MAD DOG: Dogestan, Part II

Two years ago I was thinking about buying my own town. Otis, a cute little 193-acre fixer-upper on the Oregon coast which has a gas station, Pronto Pup hot dog stand, two houses, and an empty 25-stall horse barn, was put up for sale. Vivian Lematta, who inherited the town, was trying to get $2.9 million for it, not a bad price when you figure her grandfather picked it up for 800 bucks in 1910. And you know he didn't have to throw in any stock options on the future Pronto Pup stand.

I was going to rename the town Dogestan and make Jose Cuervo the Official Liquor, Converse All-Star high-top black monochrome sneakers the Official Shoe, and of course I'd be the Official Columnist. But I had trouble qualifying for the loan. It seems writers aren't the world's best credit risks. Something about banks having a preference for people who have a steady income.

Well, it's still available. Not the mortgage, but Otis. Apparently the demand for used towns isn't as great as I thought it was and it's back on the market. This is particularly odd since you'd think it would have been snapped up during the dot-com boom when there were a zillion post-pubescent CEOs with more money than time to spend it. Wouldn't having their own town just have had so much cachet?

One company did make a move in this direction when they offered the city of Halfway, Oregon $75,000 and 22 computers if they'd change their name to, which of course they did. This potentially huge marketing trend died out quickly when Brazil turned down's offer to rename their river and Arkansas wanted too much money to change its name to Yahoo.

Otis, it turns out, was a trendsetter. In central Turkey 11 villages have recently been put up for sale, and the going rate is a bargain basement $1.3 million per village. Even though they're inland, are in a less developed country, are filled with farms that oddly don't raise turkeys, and don't have the first Pronto Pup stand, they're still a good deal. After all, each is less than half the price of Otis and includes about 120 families, which means you'd have more subjects--I mean, citizens--and after all, a high PPV (People Per Village ratio) is a good thing to look for when city shopping.

In Australia, the town of Jandowae is taking a little different approach--they're selling it off bit by bit. At $1 Australian (or 52-cents U.S.) it's a pretty sweet deal. Especially since for that you get a lot large enough to build a house. Buy two and you can put up a crocodile pond, dingo house, and kangaroo corral, call it a petting zoo, and attract tourists who don't realize that for the price of admission they could own most of the town.

They're selling it off because too many people have moved away, which should be a tip-off that the place isn't exactly heaven on earth. Besides, if you really wanted to buy a place that's uninhabited you could have your own island in the San Francisco Bay. It's called Red Rock, and it's a bit north of San Francisco--far enough to not have to worry about parking yet close enough to be able to commute to work. Well, as long as you have a boat or helicopter.

No one's ever lived there. Except some squatter in the 1850s who thought he was taking Alcatraz back for the Indians and, after he stopped wondering where the other protesters were, decided he liked living with birds better than living with people. They're asking $10 million for the place, which while over three times the cost of Otis and nearly eight times as much as a cute little Turkish village, is a good deal by San Francisco standards. Then again, being able to go out for an evening of dinner, a show, and a cab ride home without taking out a second mortgage is considered a good deal there.

If you're interested in any of these properties you'd better jump on it before someone snaps it up. Someone like, say, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. You might remember him from the Beatles years, when he giggled his way into their lives and put a ™ next to TM, which incidentally stands for Transcendental Meditation, not Transfer Money.

Not content with having their own incorporated town in Iowa named Guruville, they're looking to start a country in South America. Just kidding. Well, about the town in Iowa, anyway--it's actually called Vedic City. But yes, they really are looking to start their own country.

The Maharishi's followers have offered Surinam $1.3 billion plus one percent of the new country's money every year for the next 200 years if they can lease 3,500 acres to run as an independent country. So far Surinam hasn't gone for it. They're holding out for merchandising rights, foreign distribution, and final say on the director's cut of the Making of a Meditational Country documentary.

If the Maharishi doesn't get Surinam to go along with this he might consider Jandowae, which at its current price would save them lots of money, or Turkey, which would probably sell the whole country for $1.3 billion. As for Otis, I'm not too worried about their stealing it away from me. It's too small, it's named after a drunk on "Mayberry RFD", and besides, what would a bunch of vegetarians do with a Pronto Pup stand, convert it to Maharishi's Fried Tofu Dogs on a Stick? Yes, Otis is still mine to have. That is, of course, if my parents will loan me the down payment.


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