Shelter (part 5)

From a cave, to a thatched roof jungle hut, to an igloo in the frozen North, everybody needs to get out of the weather and into a shelter of some sort in order to survive on this planet. Here in the US we live in houses.

Even though they are very expensive, and probably the most costly item we will ever buy, we joyfully borrow the money and sign on the dotted line for the privilege to own our own home. Not only will we buy, but we are prone to  purchasing the largest house we can get our hands on,  not necessarily one we can afford.

In the beginnings of this nation, when we were still counting on the locals to save our asses from starvation, we lived in small, bunched up cabins built out of logs. Once we learned our way around this new land, we took it away from the locals and spread out across the landscape like a virus. We first formed villages and farmed the countryside, then we formed cities where we bunched up in large clusters called apartments, and lived on top of each other like birds in a tiered cage.

As time went on both land and apartments became more expensive than many could afford. The house soon became a status cymbal. The bigger and fancier it was the more admired it’s occupant became, whether he deserved it or not.

The wealthy built larger and larger homes until, in today’s world, you have two people living in 20 room McMansions actually believing they deserve to use up that many natural resources and good farmland just because they could afford to.

Then, right after WW2, industry boomed, a burgeoning middle class was born, and the housing allotment was created. Street after street of mid sized, look alike houses became the new home of the middle class. Each home had a garage because in order to live there it was a necessity to own a vehicle. First one (and later two or three) because shopping was no longer a short walk, but many times a long drive. Welcome to “suburbia.”  . . . or as some would call Ken and Barbieville.

Allotments come in various form, but one thing they all seem to have in common is that the homes within them are pretty much the same. I’ve built a bunch of houses in various allotments and I know that to be true. Built the same, using the same materials, same size lots, same price range and so forth.

The modern housing allotment in my opinion is not much different in essence than all other allotments. Prices may vary, but regardless of the homes price it is a sad place to live if a person has any love of independently doing his own thing.

To live in the big city can be exciting, to live in the country can be peaceful and spiritually fulfilling, to live in an allotment is just plain boring. . . AND not the best place to be living when things get rough.

The Allotment

Eleven o’clock on a summer morning and the place was seemingly deserted, no dogs, nothing. Where’s everybody at? Where’s the kids? I thought as I slowly drove past one house after another in the upscale housing development.

I gazed upon one perfectly manicured lawn after another, each bisected by ribbons of clean concrete drives and sidewalks. There probably wasn’t one dandelion in the whole well manicured allotment.

The carefully designed scene, instead of evoking envy, made me feel a little sad, especially for the chubby kids I envisioned huddling around their TV’s and computers breathing stale, conditioned air. Kids who’ve never heard of kick the can, or knew the pleasure of playing hide and seek outside after dark. Kids who’ve never danced in the warm summer rain or gotten into a good fist fight. To me, this atmosphere was cold, sterile, and alien.

Day after day, aside from the occasional guy who still mowed his own lawn, or his wife coming and going in her new S.U.V., I rarely saw anyone. The only noise in the neighborhood was the sound of construction around the new over-priced home we were building.

I thought about my own childhood days growing up in the housing project and realized how lucky I’d been. There, in the summer, small dandelion-cluttered yards would be full of barefooted kids playing games in the grass. On the blacktop sidewalks they’d be riding bikes, or skipping ropes while their mothers huddled together on the front porch stoops gabbing amongst themselves.

I remembered the laughter, crying, barking dogs, smells of food cooking, back yards full of clothes hanging on lines drying in the hot sun. We were a tribe of poor, noisy, blue collar common folk, but we were alive, and we had fun.

No music blared from boom boxes, no guns, gangs, or drugs. That would all come later, after corporate greed, TV, and welfare had taken their toll on the working class and stripped us of our pride.

***

I’ve created a stereotype here to prove the point that as we’ve sought to better ourselves by improving our social position we have also lost the need for each other. We have perverted our natural herding instinct by choosing to live in close proximity to, yet totally separate from, our neighbors. We’ve broken away from the tribe and have decided to go it alone.

These modern developments are a shining example of our separation. We surround ourselves with every modern convenience we can afford, close the doors to our large, self contained homes and spend our days locked within our mini-castles.

Instead of a moat and drawbridge, we have a security system. Instead of Knights in shining armor to protect us, we have a uniformed police force waiting close by to apprehend any neighbor foolish enough to break the thin red line. Have we created a modern version of Camelot and are regressing back to the Middle Ages?

I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old, but I sure do miss my friends and those lovely, sunny bright medicinal flowers that have become a curse, as have their neighbors, to so many.

. . . . end . . . (to be continued)

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