Monday, July 26, 2010

In between the bright lights and the far unlit unknown...

I spent the first half of my life living in the 'burbs. Subdivisions and garden apartment complexes, strip malls and big box stores; these were the navigation landmarks of youth. They have since grown stale.

In the years since then I have lived far enough out in the country to have a pistol range on the property and livestock in the neighborhood, as well as down in town where I could order Mexican food delivered at 3AM and walk to the nearest brewpub.

Both these latter lifestyles suit me fine. I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to be equally happy whether I can bicycle to the nearest Thai joint or sushi bar or, on the other hand, live far enough out in the sticks that I can shoot in my back yard. It's the boundary layer between those two states that holds no charms for me anymore.

But what I don't get are the people who have a virulent loathing for the 'burbs. The same Coexist-bumper-sticker-havin' Broad Ripple hippie who can be all live-and-let-live one minute can wind up with a Carmel delenda est rant that will make you think he wishes to sow the intersection of Main Street and Rangeline Road with salt.

There's a reason families wind up there, you know: Unlike the Big City, crime is low, and taxes are reasonable, and unlike the Distant Sticks, you don't have to drive ten miles to get diapers and Cap'n Crunch or to get the kid to school.


Brian J. said...

There are some cities that like to think of themselves as revitalizing and trendy where you still have to drive a ways to get the staples. St. Louis comes to mind.

It hasn't, in the past, had enough of a resident base to support grocery stores downtown. Now that the lofties are moving in, you have a couple of shops specializing in wine, cheese, and organic produce, but not what you'd want to eat every day. We'll see how long they last.

Anonymous said...

So, this means you don't want to go to "Carmelfest" this year?

But, but we'll miss the stroller drill team, the "duck, duck, Jared" competition, the mini van parade and the running of the mid-level managers.

Shootin' Buddy

Boat Guy said...

Many of those same people find themselves in the burbs if/when they start droppin kids - which hopefully few of them do, unless of course parenthood causes the attendant "growing up" that it should.
As for "urban/rural"; Bride and I ahve had similar experiences and come to similar conclusions.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Not so much Carmel delenda est, but definitely Brainard delenda est.

Also, you have to understand that some of us North Central grads would be more than pleased to see Carmel sink into the ground. :)

Borepatch said...

... you don't have to drive ten miles to get diapers and Cap'n Crunch or to get the kid to school.

Sounds like that's a reason not to build that expensive Light Rail project. Another reason to hate the 'burbs!

Just My 2¢ said...

I agree! Up here at 7200' elevation, there are drawbacks. I can't get a watch battery put in my watch, and I have to go to the big town to buy non-western clothing. However... we can walk to everything worth going to, folks smile and wave, and the police reports are invariably comic. It's what America was...

Unknown said...

My generality about the mouthy I-hate-burbs folks is that they're jealous. They couldn't put a deal together to be able to afford it, so the refuge for the ego is the bad-mouthing. That's based on a fair number of years of hearing that crap, anyway.

I don't like the burbs, but I figure that they're fine for folks who do--and other folks' druthers aren't my business, anyhow.

Revolver Rob said...

and other folks' druthers aren't my business, anyhow.

If we could only get our politicians to agree.

I don't know that I have much of an opinion one way or the other. I grew up in the country, then the city, then the burbs. I live in the city now, but if you offered me 25 acres outside of town, I'd get up early for the commute and live with it. If on the flipside you offered me a condo within walking distance of the downtown night life scene, I would take it too.

I'm not too particular, but that's me.


Bram said...

Real Americans are anti-social, stand-offish, grouches. I want my elbow room.

I've lived in Boston and LA - and was claustrophobic the entire time. The rare occasions I venture into NYC, I feel like I’m holding my breath. Out in the sticks I can relax and breathe.

Tam said...

"Real Americans are anti-social, stand-offish, grouches..."

...who don't let other people tell them what in the hell constitutes a "real American", dammit. ;)

Bubblehead Les. said...

Funny, as a 'Burb dweller, even though half my neighbors are vapid, empty-headed Sports nuts( "Oh My God, Lebron left for Miami! The World has come to an end!), I take a strange comfort in knowing that , if I need an Ambulance, I won't be stuck in Downtown Gridlock, nor do I have to wait for a Lifeflight Rescue Chopper to be at my place "in a couple of hours". But I'm funny that way.

Laughingdog said...

When I see people get so outraged over the suburbs, it just strikes me as another variant of the "Macs are better than PCs" or "Glocks are better than 1911s" tirades. Regardless of the choice, some people aren't happy unless they can get others to agree that their choice is the most super awesome choice.

Ken said...

I used to be anti-suburb, but I've gotten to where I like the one I live in. It's an "inner ring" suburb; I know most of my neighbors, swap baked goods with some of 'em, there are stores and places to eat (okay, it ain't Broad Ripple for restaurants around here, but there's a Crackpotle I can get to) in easy walking distance.

Old Grouch said...

The BR hippie rants are YA example of Conspicuous Consumption Envy: "How DARE those people live in McMansions, have more than 1.2 children, and drive SUVs! They should be living in hovels and saving Gaia (or at least contributing to the Joyce Foundation or the Democratic Party)!"

Still, there IS a "Carmel attitude" that can rub us natives the wrong way. Many Carmelites are transplated easterners, cursed with an assumed superiority coupled with the colossal ignorance of the Truly Enlightened. (Fortunately it mostly rubs off after a few years.)

Bram said...

I love my fellow Americans as long as I can't see any of them from by back deck and they all stay off my lawn.

Andrew said...

In nearby Minneapolis, "shots fired" 911 calls sometimes result in an hours-later police response, and sometimes none at all.

Here in my little suburb, when I called to report that the neighbor's teenage son was having a party and drunk kids were getting into cars, I had three county squads on scene in a few minutes, and they stayed 45 minutes -- long enough to round up the would-be drunk drivers who ran into the nearby park.

My city/county property tax rate hasn't gone up more than a pinch in ten years.

My neighbors are good for a cup of sugar, a jump start, the loan of a landscape trailer, or a 12-gauge.

I work in the near part of the far "twin" of the Twin Cities, and my 23-mile commute takes about 25 minutes (boss lets me flex an hour or so late to avoid most traffic).

Sometimes, when I want to see more restaurants, garbage, or crime, I like to visit the city. But that's not too often.

Maybe I'm just 40, but there's not much that I miss.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Well, you know, those suburb-dwellers, they're also breeders and SUV-owners (unlike those of us eco-conscious people who live downtown with our mass transit and gave up on cars after the fifteenth parking ticket when we didn't move it in time to avoid the "only park for a maximum of 72 hours" or "street cleaning hours").

And our tax base would be so much lower and schools so much better if they hadn't left and taken their money with them so we don't have enough to do all the things we want to for urban renewal.

And besides, since they had kids and left, they got absolutely boring. They don't want to go to protests or rant about those backward redneck moneygrubbing retardlicans - they start talking about property taxes instead of building light rail so they can come back! And they care more about their kids than the hip stores, and school choice instead of the clubs!

They grew up and got dull! It must have been the suburbs that did it to them! (Because in victim-mode, everything happens to you - it's hard to grasp the concept of assuming responsibility.) So the suburbs are evil!

Yeah, I've heard that rant before.

Eric said...

Every time I see a "Coexist" sticker, I say to myself, "Hippie please!"

Love the Rush reference... Caught our 10th show in KC, shows 11 and 12 will be in October.

Crucis said...

I grew up in the country and now live in the 'burbs. I'd move back to the country if for nothing more than to get some elbow-room. I'm jealous of Frank's personal range.

Even here in the 'burbs, you have to travel. When I still went into the office, it was a 35mile drive one-way. Add a short drive for lunch and you're soon looking at a daily mileage of 80 miles or more. After years of that regimen, driving 10 miles to the grocery or Wally World is like a neighbor hood stroll.

(BTW, I parked next to one of the Coexist stickered hippiemobiles ourside the brewpub. I hadn't seen once since we ran the last hippie outa town here near KC.)

Now, I've come to realize that home is where your friends are. Be it in the urbs, suburbs or in white-tail territory.

Steve Skubinna said...

Every time I see a "Coexist" sticker, I think "there is one symbol there that makes the message a lie."

But I live in rural WA, and for some reason such stickers are scarce - as are Smart cars and the rest of the ultra-hip urban trappings. Sure, we have lefties - many of them drive pickups, which are often used to haul topsoil or manure.

I used to wonder why, if they are intent on convincing us, they are so damn arrogant and contemptuous and insulting. Then I realized they aren't trying to convince us - they're trying to convince themselves.

LabRat said...

I grew up and was educated in big cities (Phoenix and NO) and have had enough. I do miss having a vibrant array of restaurants and not having to drive to a city for anything more esoteric than groceries and dry goods, but I adore being able to see the Pleiades from my backyard if I turn off the porch light and tapwater that tastes better than bottled. We're too small to quite make "suburban" because there simply isn't enough urb.

Of course, driving by a particle accelerator on the way into town does distinguish it from "any small town, USA".

As for the sneerers, the only people I have any sort of contempt for are the ones that move out here and are then simply outraged that it isn't more urban. Yes, that is an elk. Yes, it will eat your fruit off your trees. No, animal control will not get rid of it. You want fruit trees, you get things other than you that eat fruit.

Blackwing1 said...

Your comment, ""Real Americans are anti-social, stand-offish, grouches..." who don't let other people tell them what in the hell constitutes a "real American", dammit." reminded me instantly of one of Heinlein's from Time Enough for Love:

"The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort."

FWIW, my niece refers to me as her curmudgeonly uncle.

Jayson said...

Went to have dinner with friends on Friday night. Saw a "Coexist" sticker, and made a face...until i saw it was the GUNNY "Coexist" sticker! Kinda proud of that.

Glenn Kelley said...

One of the advantages of the burbs is that they have enough yard space for a self respecting Italian to grow a years worth of food.Some day that may be a major selling point.

Glenn Kelley

Aaron said...

Thanks for the Tamalanche!

The City v Suburb thing here in Michigan goes beyond location and gets magnified into a racial white/black - corruption/honest government - Democrat/Republican free for all.

Yes, cities have some good things going for them in terms of density and attractions, but they also have things against them like density and dis-attractions to coin a word.

Typically a city is a nice place when you're young and not worrying about education for your kids and not longing for a yard. once you get a family your view of what's a preferred lifestyle changes.

A buddy of mine loved living in Detroit (back when he had to as a paramedic and you had to live there to work there). of course he was in the Cass corridor with multipe burglaries nightly. Another buddy was in downtown Lansing and his apartment still had the pry marks from when they home invaded the last occupant. Exciting (and cheap) locales are cool when you're single, butirresponsible as all get out when you have kids.

To each their own, but for Detroiters to be smug about living in Detroit you have to wonder whats in the water.