I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, about four miles north of McKean Rehabilitation Center, a former leper colony established about 1910 when the King of Lamphun gave large parcel of land to the Church of Christ to operate as a leper colony. There still are a few lepers in residence, but mostly it’s an assisted-living facility, a hospital, a hospice, and emergency housing for poor refugees from Burma. The trees are enormous there because it’s never been logged.
I amuse myself by riding around on my motor cycle and taking pictures of tropical vegetation. That’s how I entertain myself when I’m not writing or practicing the piano. And in doing so, I found a back entrance to McKean that felt like one of those dreams where you find that a familiar place, say your family home, has a secret doorway that leads to places you’ve never before seen.
Today this happened. I was following the river road, turned off on a small lane, came across an abandoned gate and guard shack, and entered McKean from a side I’d never before seen. The style of the buildings is 1910 Tropical Colonial. The trees are enormous.
It so happens that in 1986, I made frequent trips to the 20th Century Fox Lot in Los Angeles. I was developing a children’s TV show based on Dr. Science, a character I co-created with Merle Kessler of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater, a comedy troupe we founded in our last year of graduate school at the University of Iowa. So I got to know the Fox lot quite well, those 1920’s Spanish style buildings set on lush lawns beneath large trees. Just like the McKean Center here in Thailand. Strange how things come around. Here I am on the other side of the world thirty-two years later.