Tread On Me Nursing Home
March 21, 2002
Theme Nursing Homes
New York Times Magazine
Sunday May 21, 2034
By Alex Byrdman
With the aging of the U.S. population in recent years the
traditional nursing home has undergone some striking changes.
It is now possible to choose a home that caters to the elderly
according to their ethnicity, their hobbies and in some cases
even their politics. Theme Homes Inc. a national corporation
runs over 100 nursing homes nation wide including one on Long
Island that provides care to those whose politics tend very
much to the right.
The first thing you notice as you walk up to the Don't Tread
on Me Nursing Home is the elderly man in the rocking chair
on the porch. He has a shot gun in his lap. As I walk up the
gun begins to point ominously in my direction.
"Don't worry. It isn't loaded," says Melissa Dawson, the
institutions head nurse who greets me, "it's really just a
prop. It makes him feel better to have it and he becomes downright
ornery if we try to take it away. I realize it's a bit unusual
but these little amenities that are the reasons people come
The "amenities" at "DTOM" as the staff and residents refer
to it would strike the average visitor as a tad unusual. There
is the huge mural behind the reception desk that is a reproduction
of the US Constitution. In deference to the feelings of the
residents the second amendment is written in bold letters
and the sixteenth (the income tax) does not appear at all.
"Some of our residents don't think it was properly ratified,"
Zack Davis, the 78 year-old ex-Marine and self-appointed
guardian of the porch in fact has the logo of the National
Rifle Association tattooed on his right cheek. "His daughter
Kimberly told me that the night he came home with the tattoo
she knew it was time to place him here," says Dawson.
All over DTOM are the symbols and causes of the American
right, at least the right as it was a couple of decades ago.
A thin white haired lady named Regina Mc Glone pressed a pamphlet
into my hand as we walked down a hallway. "I think you should
know," she said. It warned of the impending New World Order.
One residents room has a large sign over the door proclaiming
it a "UN Free Zone." Four others get together on the benches
outside the building at noon everyday for a "Black Helicopter
In the residents men's room pictures of Hillary Clinton and
Jane Fonda have been placed in the urinals and sounds of "Take
that, bitch" ring through the hallways as men who never quite
got over their anger at these women relieve themselves.
And then there is:
It is the only word that 86 year old Thomas Osborne ever
says but he says it at the top of his lungs about 20 times
a day. "Of course," says Dawson, "it's a reference to the
man who was President back in the '90s. So many of our residents
here have been holding grudges about him for decades."
Dawson took me to the library, known to the staff as the
Regnery room. "A publishing house named Regnery went out of
business a few years ago and donated their warehouses full
of books to places like this," says Dawson. A glance at the
shelves revealed that there were many books but multiple copies
with the same title. A lot of them are anti-Clinton books
or conspiracy theories. "We tried a couple of years back to
add some books on things like gardening and grandparenting
but they all they wanted were these books. Some almost have
As I prepared to leave there was the sudden outbreak of angry
screaming coming from the dining hall. I followed Dawson down
the hallway to see what the problem was. It seems that Osborne
had attempted to scream "KLINTOOOON" with a large mouthful
of macaroni and cheese causing large clumps of the food to
land on several of the other residents. Mc Glone and two other
women were attempting to hit him plates and roll baskets and
the infuriated Zack Davis was fumbling frantically trying
to get his fake rifle to fire a shot. Finally Davis screamed
"Semper Fi!" and turned the shotgun around to use it a club.
Dawson and two orderlies seized him and the shotgun before
he could do any damage to Osborne.
"This seems to happen every couple of weeks," said Dawson
when order was finally restored, "it's the one drawback of
the conservative homes. They never stop being combative."
But Dawson is getting a respite. "I'm being transferred to
one of the liberal homes next month. The worst they ever do
there is try to play their old scratched up Beatle records