As you can imagine, I see a lot of things from the road. And yesterday I was thinking about housing. I know that might sound boring but I don’t think it is. I just think tract housing with lookalike houses is boring.
Yesterday I was all over the place as I drove through three counties way out in the sticks and then into the city. I know people need housing and places to live but these suburban developments with all these houses, a lot of crammed in together don’t hold any appeal for me. Why?
The houses are for the most part thrown up pretty quickly so in about ten years the foundations will shift and crack (they’re mostly slab foundations and since the soil here in South Texas is really loamy and goopy, they will shift eventually). Also, most of these developments are governed by HOA’s (Homeowners Associations) and these organizations can be flat-out nuts at times. Ostensibly they’re to maintain the community amenities like playgrounds and pools along with the streets and stuff. In reality a lot of them turn into nit-picky heaven and enforce all kinds of bullshit deed restrictions (no pink houses or pink flamingo in the yard for example).
I had a passenger who I picked up a few times on my early morning runs who managed a nightclub for two guys who according to him were morons and he also had staffing issues that would give anyone a lot of gray hair. But what he bitched to me about the most was having to go home to a tract-housing development and get dirty looks from his old-fart neighbors for not mowing the grass every week like these heart-attacks-just-waiting-to-happen did. He told me his wife wanted to live in this suburban nightmare but I don’t think he did.
The conformity of cookie-cutter subdivisions amuses me because I still can’t figure out the appeal of living in something so conformist. I grew up in subdivisions as a kid but that was back in the 80’s when you could ride your bike around the place and go outside and listen to music. When I drive through these cookie-cutterville’s I don’t see kids out and about very much. It’s rare for me to see kids on bicycles or hanging out on front driveways or anything like that. I know it’s a different time and all that but I also have to wonder: are a good number of parents class-A ninnies who don’t want their little darlings to scrape a knee and get bitten by a bug? Granted, my generation, Generation X, could walk out injuries that would send anyone else to the hospital but I just don’t see a lot of kids out and about these days.
I still look for them when I’m driving and yes in some neighborhoods I see kids out and about. In 2020, I saw a lot of families out walking in the afternoons during lockdown and I thought that was great. I know it was probably just a case of cabin-fever for a lot of people but jeez, the great outdoors aren’t so bad.
Another thing I’ve thought about is how my job enables me to see so much. Most people just go to work, run errands, and maybe venture out of their little bubbles from time to time to go to an event or something. I love the fact my job has taken me over every inch of San Antonio, Bexar County (the county San Antonio is in that is pronounced by us locals as ‘Bear’ county and not its’ proper Spanish pronunciation of ‘bey har’) and the surrounding counties.
For example, yesterday was one of those days where I was all over the place. I was in three counties, drove by the state jail on the far west side of Bexar County, and got to take a passenger on the scenic route through some pretty undeveloped land north of the city. As I drove by all that undeveloped land all I could think of was that I kind of hoped they put the tract-housing crap-villes somewhere else. I like driving by farms and seeing cows, horses, goats, and two young burros like I did yesterday. I like driving on two-lane country roads through a canopy of big green trees and houses tucked back from the road. I know that kind of life in the sticks isn’t for everyone but the tract-housing ideal sold to Americans since the end of World War II can’t be the ideal either.
Old neighborhoods built before suburbia are colorful because no two houses are exactly alike. Before zoning laws and crap like that people just bought a piece of land and built what they wanted. Now I know old houses are money pits but newer ones are, too. I like old neighborhoods that are a mix of huge mansions then the cottage next door where the poorer folk lived. And I like seeing houses painted blue, purple, or pink. In the past, some uptight-asshole types used to freak out over those colors and I wondered why. I mean, those aren’t ugly colors and here in South Texas the sun will bleach them out in about five years or so.
In the end, I’m not one for settling down as I don’t think it would have worked out for me. I like being on the road too much and I like the thought of living in a house-on-wheels and seeing the world. And also not having to pay HOA dues and dealing with dirty looks from the neighbors about lawn-mowing.