Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

America Subdivided

I live in suburbia. Around here, people hold their little half acre piece of the promised land very dear. They tend it with an almost maniacal zeal. And they expect others to do so as well. Why? Because they worship at the altar of property values in the church of HOA, where they preach the gospel of compliance.

  • Thou shalt not paint thy house any color but taupe.

  • Thou shalt not allow thy grass to exceed 3" in length.

  • Thou shalt not make thy property unique and interesting.

  • Thou shalt consult the HOA on all matters pertaining to any dwelling or property contained under the auspices of said HOA.

  • Thou shalt not, under any circumstances, undertake that which could result in lower property values for thy neighbor.

To be fair, I do realize that HOA's serve a purpose; and one for which I am grateful. We bought an older home in an established neighborhood when this area was not terribly desirable. An explosion of growth here has resulted in our neighborhood being one of the lower priced in area which is becoming almost exclusively populated by McMansions in the 400k to 700K range. An area that was once considered "the middle of nowhere" is now very trendy. All that, along with the fact that we have some of the best schools in the county, has caused an influx of lower income families to our neighborhood.

This is not a bad thing. And the increased diversity in a formerly homogenous enclave has been pleasing.

But. You also get a lot of flakes and losers that way. And we have.

You know the kind of folks I'm talking about...

They usually have three or four vehicles, only one of which is running at any given time. None of them is the same color all over. It appears that their definition of "landscaping" is relying on the dogs that are kept chained in the yard to discourage any from grass from growing, which eliminates the need for mowing. There seems to be a proliferation of household appliances, which results in the surplus being stored on the front porch. They believe that rebel flags make mighty fine window dressing. And there is still a sizeable scorch mark on the back deck from last year's deep fried Turkey fiasco.

Obviously, I'm grateful that our HOA has a number of commandments standards in place to prevent that kind of thing.

But I don't particularly care if the guy next door wants to paint his front door chartreuse. I don't particularly care if the lady accross the street wants 27 flamingos and a gazing ball on her front lawn. I don't particularly care if the young gal down the street wants to hang cloth diapers on a clothesline. I don't care if someone wants to build a pergola or put in a koi pond and I don't even really care if there is a washing machine on somebody's front porch, as long as it's only one.

America has lost it's character to Homeowner's Associations and subdivided sameness. We've lost a sense of community in these little rabbit warrens of cul-de-sacs and bends and chases. We've been cut off from one another and from the establishments that tie a community together; The Post Office, The Corner Store, The Coffee Shop....we've allowed ourselves to be impressed into a solitary existence by a precept which still mystifies me - Subdivided living. I don't know how or where this idea gained support, but it seems like a perfectly utilitarian and hygienic way of living, which, perhaps, was the point.

But I long for the color and character of the neighborhood in which I grew up. Sure, occasionally, a screwball neighbor would paint his house turquoise. And sometimes the neighborhood eccentric had a few too many lawn ornaments. And maybe a harried young mother would leave her laundry on the line for days on end. So what? People get a sense of one another from those things. They begin to know one another in way that can't be communicated through variegated shades of taupe and pre-approved varieties of heliotrope.

There was a sense of community then and there that is increasingly rare. People walked places. People talked over back fences. People encountered one another as they went about their lives. They nodded and smiled and knew the mailman, the grocer, the librarian by name. It's a way of life that is quickly disappearing in the pursuit of a sanitized American Dream.

Strangely, what prompted my thoughts on this issue, was the fistfight that almost occurred between two neighbors yesterday. One neighbor was blowing leaves into the yard of another. The leaf blowing neighbor tends to his property with a zeal that borders on obsesssive. He blew leaves for seven hours yesterday (Dude...ever hear of a rake??). The other party is not quite so tidy, and in fact often lets his yard get pretty bedraggled before taking matters in hand. This of course, infuriates the leaf blowing neighbor. I have no doubt that the leaf blowing was an act of retaliation. And understandably, this irritated the blowee to no end, especially since he had hired a lawn crew just a few days prior to come out and spruce things up. They argued, and only the intervention of the blowee's elderly father prevented things from getting physical.

What has it come to when grown men will come to blows over a few leaves?

Let's bring back neighborhoods. Let's act like neighbors again.

I'm biding my time here in suburbia and towing the HOA line. That neighborhood I grew up in? It's still there. And amazingly, it's still very much the same. And just as soon as I can, I'm taking my kids there to learn what the word "neighbor" really means.


  • At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rebel In Ontario said…

    HEAR HEAR! I totally agree. What happened to neighbours being neighbours? We only see the neighbours on one side of us if they want something (ie DH help moving something) and the others I think are reclusive as we have only seen them three times in the seven years we have lived here! I too long for my childhood community...

  • At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm the president of our HOA (I have no idea how it happened, I went to a meeting to meet my neighbors and left with a binder full of crap and a receipt book) and my philosphy is :
    Just pay your freakin' dues so we can keep the street lights turned on. Otherwise, if we can't see it, smell it, or hear it, it's fine. Damn the covenants.

    We'll definitely make sure not to by another home in an HOA neighborhood again. Like you, I think we give up too much in the name of the almightly HOA.

  • At 1:04 PM, Blogger Bea said…

    I've traveled in the opposite direction in my life: in the neighbourhood I grew up in, people kept pretty much to themselves: the lots were huge and there just weren't a lot of opportunities to chat. Now I live in a street full of semi-detached homes where all the neighbours seem to know one another. Early Saturday morning, hubby was out in the backyard racing to bag leaves before the truck arrived to pick them up, and when I looked out the window to check his progress, I saw our next-door neighbour holding the bag open. That's just the kind of thing people do around here, and I find it so refreshing. (That's what comes of living in one of the cheapest neighbourhoods in town!)

  • At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Part of me is with you on this, the part of me that reminisces fondly about the neighborhood where I grew up, where my parents have lived for 50 years, where people like their lawn ornaments and turquoise doors, where people have known each other their entire lives.

    Then there's the other part of me that lives next door to a guy whose fence is falling down, who does not mow his yard until the HOA comes down on him, whose lawn and bushes are dead because he never waters. He knew these things were expected of him when he moved here, so why does he live here when he would be more suited to a condo. It's not fair to those of us who are trying to keep things looking nice. I would not want to try to sell my house right now with the property next door looking the way it does.

  • At 8:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ooops! I first read that as "Homo's Association" and thought,
    "FINALLY something I can sink my teeth into!"

    I typed out a very long and excited tome about how I wished I belonged to one and how much nicer it would be at the bi-annual meetings. I mean we could vote on new resolutions, who's the snappiest dresser AND watch a musical afterwards... alas, I read it wrong.


  • At 12:31 AM, Blogger Cristina said…

    Great topic. I've never lived in a subdivision, but I think it would be hard to live in such a sterile environment. I love seeing character in homes. On the other hand, it DOES get annoying when neighbors don't keep their houses up. I live in a 1960s suburb so the homes have a little bit of diversity and there definitely aren't any rules about what you can and can't do to your house. Our neighbors are great for the most part, but we do have one neighbor that rents his house and some new renters just moved in with the largest motor home I've ever seen. And they parked it in their driveway. Ugh. Luckily, we just found out that they are making room for it on the side of their house. Pheww. It really only takes one neighbor to ruin housing values. I guess that's the upside to the HOAs - they keep everyone in check, though there can definitely be a social cost to that, as you pointed out!

  • At 5:49 AM, Blogger JChevais said…

    I live in a very old neighborhood where every house is different and most of my neighbors are... quite elderly. Most of the time I never see my neighbors though because in France, everyone puts a fence around the entire yard AND 2 meter hedges so you can't actually see into the yard.

    This being said, we're the only house that has an enclosure but no hedge so everyone and his dog can see our entire yard from the street (corner house).

    I planted hedges just this past weekend.

    The curiosity of my elderly neighbors was driving me spare. Even though it's meant to be friendly, I'm not a fan of people yelling out "Bon Appetit" while picnicking out back.

  • At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I live in a cookie cutter neighborhood. My siding? Taupe. My shutters? Dark blue, as is my door. It was a color from a choice of colors from the builder who built all the houses in my subdivision. We all look the same. Except some of us have brick and some have none. I have a couple neighbors with whom I talk, but that's about it. I don't know my mailman because I have to work all day to be able to afford my cookie cutter house. I wish it were different.

    Once, when my husband accidentally broke our sliding glass door when he weed whacked a rock into it, we had cardboard up on it to make sure the glass didn't shatter further and cover our patio where our dogs could cut their paws. One of my dogs took the opportunity of our obstructed view of her to climb up on our hot tub cover so she could see over the fence and she spent about twenty minutes barking at the neighbors who were out in their backyard. I couldn't see her because of the cardboard and my husband was watching Band of Brothers in surround sound, so I didn't hear her until after she'd been at it awhile. Our neighbor? Called the police on us instead of coming over to find out if we could stop the dog by putting her in the garage or in the house while they had their family reunion. We just got a warning from the cop, but it was stupid. It could have been resolved with a simple push of a doorbell, and a hey, your dog's barking at our family reunion. Can you do something about her? No. They called the police. Needless to say, that's one neighbor we aren't incredibly warm hearted over.

  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger Pendullum said…

    I have never lived in the suburbs but all of my family do... and I get to hear at nauseum about the various neighbours and how they do not even cut their grass....
    There are many more pressing things in life than paint chips and the like but my family is immersed in it...
    I have always opted for city living...
    I walk everywhere with my daughter... and my sisters just love to think about how rough I have it living in such a ethnic diverse neighbourhood with NO CAR...
    Different strokes for different folks...

  • At 3:40 PM, Blogger Sandra said…

    I hear you loud and clear. SOunds just liek the suburban neighbourhood I moved from a few years ago. Stiffling. But I guess there are benefits.

  • At 1:56 PM, Blogger Kendra said…

    HOA's are one of the reasons we don't live in a subdivision/neighborhood. I understand that they do some good things and such, but some of the restrictions would drive me crazy. I didn't want to buy a house and our own little patch of ground to turn around and be told what we can and cannot do to/with it!
    But then again, a HOA policy regarding dogs running loose would have come in handy when we were "battling" Mr. and Mrs. Idiot Neighbor...


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