I just love where I live, which has not always been the case. But over time, the things I appreciate about where I live have changed. And I’ve lived in a lot of places.
Since 1996, I’ve lived in a house, as opposed to an apartment or a duplex (semi-detached if you’re in England or Canada, a double if you live in New Orleans).
I liked apartment/duplex living way back when. You connect a lot more with your neighbors. But as time has passed, I find I don’t want to have that much of a connection any more. However, there is something about living in a house, especially if it’s in a suburb, that tends to isolate people. But it also gives you more privacy.
Let me contrast just two suburbs I’ve lived in. For about a year, I lived in a suburb of West Palm Beach (Royal Palm Beach, which is about 12 miles from the beach, go figure). I was thrilled. It was on a manmade lake. Officially that means it was a borrow pit. It was on the edge of the Everglades and in order to build there, they would dredge a big hole in the ground to pile up enough soil to build, leaving a lake (borrow pit).
It’s a despicable practice, but when I moved there, I didn’t know that. The birds didn’t care, it seems. If there was a water hole with fish and bugs in it, they didn’t much care how it got to be there. In the back yard, I grew a tiny vegetable garden. I had a plumeria bush in the back yard, a giant croton and some gardenias in the front, and on one side, a mango tree and a couple of tangerine trees. This did not turn out to be such a blessing, since I eventually learned that rats love fruit.
I bought a lawn mower of my very own, and mowed my tiny postage stamp front yard myself. (Trust me, this is relevant.)
Now this house was in a real subdivision with rules. I didn’t know what those rules were and nobody bothered to inform me, so I picked up things here and there. One rule I knew about early on was that if you had a work truck or van with a logo on the side, you weren’t permitted to park it in your driveway. I guess the idea was to keep the neighborhood from looking like a blue-collar, white-trash sort of place. It already was that kind of place, but they were making a valiant effort to hide it.
So one day in late winter I came home and there was a giant warning notice pasted to the door of the garage. A “courtesy” notice from Code Enforcement. It was too early to mow, but a few spindly weeds had sprouted that were apparently over 12″ in height (What? You brought a tape measure?) This is not permitted. So I got a weed-eater and whipped those offensive little weeds into submission.
As an aside, I’m also reminded of my neighborhood in New Orleans. I lived on a corner, and there was a rule that if you parked on the street (such as, right in front of your house), you had to park at least 8 feet from the corner. How are you supposed to know that? I learned it the way I almost always learn these rules, by breaking them. I got a ticket, and had the same reaction I had to the lawn police. You brought a tape measure?
Now contrast this to my current neighborhood. It too is a subdivision, but it’s one that time forgot. It used to have rules too, but no one enforces them and we are all pretty laid back unless there is some blatant issue. I cannot imagine anyone here calling code enforcement because you have three 12″ weeds. Your trash container is still at the curb 24 hours after pickup? Who cares! As usual, I discovered one of the rules after breaking it. “Fences may not extend past the back wall of the house”. Really? I don’t have a back door, only a side door, so I erected a fence around the side door so I could let the dog(s) out without having to put the dogs on a leash for the two foot walk to the back yard. However, no one has complained. I just read the rules long after I put up the fence.
Several of us did complain when my next door neighbor left a burned out, wrecked, hulk of a car in his yard for months. (“Vehicles may not be parked in yards and must be in the driveway or in a garage”. ) I also complained when the same neighbor left his three dogs outside rain or shine, with no shelter, food, or water. Chained to trees.
So the occasion is that yesterday I took a short drive through the neighborhood to the liquor store. Normally I leave that for Sundays, but I had a wine emergency. The liquor store is about a half mile away via the backstreet, dog-leg method of travel.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the speed limit sign announcing that it’s 30 mph because it’s a residential area. Or you might notice it if the wind is blowing just right, because the sign is completely obscured by a tree limb. But speeding is not a problem here. It’s a dead-end neighborhood. Nobody is rushing to get anywhere from here, because there’s no Where there.
Just around the corner from my house, I have a neighbor who owns twin Sea-Doos, which he parks on the street in a nifty twin trailer. Which takes up half the street. I just burst out laughing. One day I’m going to be tempted to knock on his door and say, You are so lucky not to live in Royal Palm Beach or New Orleans! We’re in Tallahassee, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!