We keep hearing a lot about how the coronavirus is going to reshape the world we live in, and there’s no shortage of people predicting what those changes will look like, from an end to handshakes to the demise of movie theaters and events with large crowds of people packed closely together like concerts and sporting events. Personally, I’ve been wondering if life in rural America isn’t going to sound more appealing to folks who are currently riding out stay-at-home orders in their small apartments in big cities. Social distancing is a heckuva lot easier when you live a half-mile from your neighbors, and staying at home isn’t all that bad when you’ve got room to roam.
Hollywood producer Dana Brunetti has already made that change, leaving Los Angeles for a 40-acre spread in northern California, and he sounds like he’s happy with the decision. From The Hollywood Reporter:
The onetime Chateau Marmont regular is learning to live the rustic life with his fiancee of one and a half years, Alexandra Pakzad, a 32-year-old intellectual property attorney (and daughter of late Iranian menswear designer Bijan Pakzad and step-daughter of Dole Fruit billionaire David Murdock).
Brunetti bought a bulldozer, two skid steers, an excavator, a dump truck, an ATV, a farm truck, a crane and an amphibious vehicle and has been setting up not just a survivalist sanctuary but his very own one-man production facility. He’s already at work on his first project shot on the property, Gone Country, a reality show about his metamorphosis from sharky Hollywood producer to modern-day squire.
“It’s kind of like Green Acres 2.0,” is how he describes it. “Alex grew up in Beverly Hills, and now we’re out in the middle of nowhere living in an Airstream. If it’s a hit, I’d end up the Kim Kardashian of preppers.”
It turns out Brunetti and I have a lot more in common than I would have thought. Okay, I’ve never dated a supermodel, and I didn’t have anything to do with the making of House of Cards, but I too got fed up with life in a sprawling metroplex (in my case, the D.C. suburbs instead of Los Angeles), went searching for a better life, and found it on 40-acres. As it turns out, we also have an appreciation of the Second Amendment in common.
Brunetti’s own politics are hard to pin down. He’s a self-described moderate. “I’m not a MAGA hat-wearing Republican,” he insists, just before calling Hollywood liberals “total hypocrites. Some who would normally be anti-gun are now asking me how to get one.” In fact, he’s a big Second Amendment fan. “I have a shotgun and a pistol, and if anybody has a problem with it, f**k them,” he says. There’s an ammo store near here and I bought a thousand rounds. I’m teaching Alex how to shoot as well.”
Pakzad seems OK with it. “Our first Christmas together, he got me a handgun,” she says. “Being with him, I’ve definitely learned more.”
In northern California Brunetti’s also far more likely to be able to obtain a concealed carry license if he wants to exercise his right to bear arms than he would be in Los Angeles County, where Sheriff Alex Villanueva has approved only a few hundred permits, despite the fact that the county is home to more than 10-million people.
The Hollywood Reporter sounds unclear if the producer plans on staying in his rural abode permanently, but with quotes like this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brunetti’s home base remains in northern California.
“When I first started coming up here, I thought I could hear traffic,” he says. “I was super confused. Where was it coming from? The nearest interstate is miles away. Turns out it’s just the sound the wind makes blowing through the trees.”
For me, it’s the stars that really surprised me. I can look up on a clear night and see the Milky Way, which is impossible in Fairfax County. I never get tired of scoping out the night sky, and the memory of laying with my wife in the bed of her truck as we counted shooting stars during the Perseid meteor shower will stay with me forever. Even if the coronavirus never reached U.S. soil, I’d count myself blessed to live where I live, and I can’t help but wonder how many Americans will be looking for a little more space of their own after all this is over.
You don’t have to be a Hollywood producer to be the star of your own version of Green Acres. If telecommuting becomes more commonplace as a result of the coronavirus, there are going to be a lot of jobs that can soon be done from a home office in a farmhouse surrounded by cow pastures or rolling fields of cover crops. The coronavirus may actually enable millions of Americans to move to a small farm or even a small town and still be able to do the jobs that previously required them to drive downtown.
I’m obviously biased, but I hope that we do see an urban exodus towards the spaces between big cities. As my favorite feed store says in their commercials, life is better out here.