Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I never liked bowling anyway

It began early, as our parents got us up to be taken to the neighbors to spend the day. I remember asking what my parents were doing, but the answer did not register. Then, I would guess, about 7:00 PM Mom and Dad arrived to retrieve us. We were ready to go home to our own familiar rooms.

Except, we were not going home. Traveling out from the city on slow roads as the new fast highways were not finished, we were headed to ......The Burbs. No more living in apartments, neighbor upon neighbor. Now we would live in a house that we owned (subject for a short while to a mortgage). For a time, the big change did not appear positive to me. I and my sibs had a network of friends in the apartments and missed them. In fact, for a few years I would wish to move back. As other relatives lingered in the city for some years, we would travel by our old place and visit. The memories faded, though as families of the old friends made their hegiras out of the city in the great post war migration. When the highway building was done and had taken fast roads to the suburbs, our trips bypassed the old digs. The next time I saw the old apartments, they looked long in the tooth and now I felt more the escapee than the exile.

My memories of my new hometown are not perfect, but, on balance they are positive. My new friends and I would travel all over town on our bicycles, going further all the time. It was a feeling of freedom that I don't know if I would have had had we stayed put. People, as owners, become house proud and though this is lampooned, I kind of liked living in a neat neighborhood. However, I did a lot of lawn mowing as a child and that was not a fond memory and I have vowed never to mow another lawn and have kept that promise, even though I live on a much larger piece of land now.

Of course, you are not cool unless you hated your life in that narrow universe outside of the metropolis. That is what we are all supposed to believe. Oh, the isolation, the alienation, the anomie. Whatever. This is really just evidence of the eternal adolescence at least of Americans.

No matter how happy your home life was, you were ecstatic to go off to college. It was all new. So free. No one telling you to do your homework, go to bed. What is more, no matter how old the school is you have the false feeling that you are the first to experience all this. Or at least to experience it in a new and unique way.

The life with mom and dad and sis and rover is gone. One recoils from the memory with horror. Yes, there is a better way. You may not find it, but you know it is not suburbia, even if you end up living there yourself. Still, you know that bourgeois life is a living death and how can your unenlightened neighbors stand it?

Well, grow up. No, I mean it. Literally. Grow up, put down the bong and enjoy life in the burbs. You are wrong. Life out beyond the city limits is better and more fulfilling than in the loft where you plan to start writing the book with the movie rights in mind about how the suburbs eat one's soul. Just as soon as you save enough money delivering pizzas, if you are not shot first.

How have I come to this epiphany? Moi, I could not have come up with it in a thousand years. I live out in the "exurbs" and have to watch out that my Swamp Yankee neighbors don't shoot each other up at church suppers as they must be even more alienated.

No, Randall Parker over at Parapundit links to an article about how high density living is the enemy of friendly communities where people socialize and interact with their neighbors. as proposed by economist Jan Brueckner.

Take that Robert Putnam, Mr. Bowling alone. Just because no one likes his favorite sport anymore does not mean people are not enjoying each others company. Most suburbs seem empty during the weekday, but, on weekends just walk down any street and you can smell the barbeque as neighbors gather to eat ribs and feed the obesity crisis. In Fact,

"Among their specific findings were that for every 10-percent decrease in density, the likelihood of residents talking to their neighbors at least once a week jumps by 10 percent. And involvement in hobby-oriented clubs increases even more significantly -- by 15 percent for every 10 percent decline in density. To measure these and other social interactions, researchers used data from the Social Capital Benchmark Survey and controlled for other factors such as income, education and marital status."

So, get a life and get a lawnmower.

I do have a friend who went to trade school and now has a electrical contracting business where he makes more than partners at prestigious big city law firms. If I ever asked him about his level of alienation, I am sure he would not regard me as sane. Poor soul never got to college. Does some mean barbecue, though.

One of Randall's posters, Fred, sums it all up,

"Critics of suburban sprawl often try to argue that it's the result of collusion between the evil forces of developers, zoning officials, the oil companies, and . . . you name it, paving contractors, tire companies, aluminum siding salesman. All of this disregards the fact that for families of normal income, and probably for people generally, a detached suburban home is overwhelmingly their housing preference. That's why those evil residential developers keep building those faceless, sprawling suburbs. Demand.

I have a book about the evolution and development of the city of Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries. I remember that it makes reference to a survey conducted asking Parisians to select their preferred type of home, disregarding the factor of cost. In other words, if price were no object, would you prefer a townhouse, a penthouse, a flat in a high rise, etc. The overwhelming favorite: a single family detached home. This is the City of Light!"


Anonymous said...

<< Take that Robert Putnam, Mr. Bowling alone. Just because no one likes his favorite sport anymore does not mean people are not enjoying each others company. >>

Although I detect a hint of failed sarcasm; and although you tried to balance it with a clever reference to the obesity epidemic; you obviously didn't read "Bowling Alone".

Like many bloggers, you don't speak to the subtleties of a complex argument. You dismiss "Bowling Alone" out of hand because you want to sound sophisticated.

Good luck, dude.

tvoh said...

Dear anonymous,

I am certainly guilty of not getting into Mr. Putnam's subtleties. Hey, I'm not a curmudgeon, I'm mainly having fun.

I would have been grateful if you had pointed out more specifically where I went off the rails here. Still, if anyone needs to slam me rather than enlighten, not a problem.