Burb Sweet Burb

A lot of people I know are building or moving into new houses, and almost every single one of these houses is in a development. It got me thinking about our first house, also in a development, and why I would never, ever live in one again. (A development, not a house.)

This place was called Laurel Acres*, and it started out as a bankrupt dairy farm. When we moved in, there wasn't an effing tree in sight that was over 4 feet tall. The builder made a half-assed attempt to put trees in, and every house got the same treatment - one in front, two in back. It was insanely cookie-cutter. There were only 2 types of houses available -- Ranch and Colonial -- and you could have either of them in a mirror image floorplan, so basically every fourth house was exactly the same as yours. Maybe, if you were lucky, it would be a different color.

Put it this way, it was a definite bitch if you came home drunk. After about 2 months of trying to pick my house out of a lineup, I put a blue bulb in the lamppost out front. Problem solved. I would tell people coming over at night -- look for the blue light. It made it easy for me as well.

That worked great until the douchebag three houses down from me thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing.

With the same color bulb.

So from then on, I had to tell people that we were the FIRST blue light.


But I'm not bitter.

Anyway, it was a new development, and it was full of new families -- as in lots of people with many little kids. Nobody could afford a fence, or more likely, didn't care if they had one, and the backyards all connected. You could look right down the line at about 30 back yards, and it was like some sort of surreal farm where the crops were swing sets, above-ground pools and sheds. The kids pretty much ran amok, and there was no such thing as private property.

Our house was a ranch, and it was a pretty common occurence to wake up and find the little monster who lived next door with his face against our bedroom window, or discover him sitting in the rocking chair on our porch at 7am. Or even digging up my wife's flowers for no apparent reason.

Development Rule Number One: When you live in one, you have zero privacy. Get used to it. You will most likely find that you had more privacy in your old apartment.

We had some good friends on one side of us -- and the Addams family on the other. We called them Gomez and Morticia, and they totally looked the part. She had long black hair, and pale skin, and I think I saw her outside about 3 times the entire time we were there. They had two kids, and I swear to christ they came from a pod. They just...appeared --at an approximate age of 4 or 5. We are pretty sure they either grew them in the basement or abducted them from somewhere. We always leaned toward the "growing in the basement" theory, because they looked just like her -- hellspawn vampires, only with sunlight resistance.

The parents and the kids had this incredibly annoying New Yawk City accent that scraped little curls of bone from your skull when you were forced to listen to it. And you pretty much had to listen to it all the time, at top volume. Either she was yelling at him, he was yelling at her, they were both screaming at the kids, or sometimes they were all going at the same time. They would smack the kids and drag them into the house by the arm, hair, shorts -- whatever was handy. It was like having our very own Walmart right next door.

Right about then I figured out what the deal was. The houses were pretty cheap, which is why we snapped it up. We looked at it as a stepping stone. This was a house to live in for a couple years, then flip for some quick cash, and then build the house we wanted. We figured it beat paying rent, and it would cost about the same.

What we didn't count on was the fact that most people in this development were at their pinnacle, and here for life. They had moved out of the trailer park straight into the Merkin Dream. As a result, we soon realized we were living in the biggest trailer park without wheels that anyone had ever seen. That gives you some background on most of the neighborhood.

Right around this time, a few people in the neighborhood noticed a curious thing: Their backyards were slightly squishy. It seemed that in certain instances, the mud pies that little suzie had been baking were composed entirely of her own family's shit. It turns out that the septic tanks were faulty, and raw sewage was seeping up through the ground. Good times.

We didn't have a problem, but we were instructed to dig up our tank to make sure it was installed to code. So that was my first neighborhood chore that was forced upon me. Turns out our tank was fine.

The next thing I know, some loudmouth freakjob with bad hair and a kid on each hip is knocking on my door with a petition. They are suing the builder, the real estate company, the engineer who put the septic tanks in, the realtor who said that we would most likely have city sewer and water within 3 years -- you name it. If it moved, they were suing it. They wanted us to join the class action suit. At first, I thought it might be a good idea, since if anything went wrong with the septic system, at least there would be money to cover it.

It didn't take us long to realize that these people had dollar signs in their eyes, and you could easily see that they were banking on getting rich off this shit. They had visions of putting junior through clown college and buying a kickass pontoon boat with their share of the booty. We got smart pretty quickly and bailed out of the entire mess, which caused a lot of people to get pissed at us.

Development Rule Number Two: When you live in a development, you inherit the development's problems. You will become sucked into them against your will. Be prepared.

Finally, when we couldn't take it anymore, we decided to sell. It was a bad time, with the lawsuit going on and all the bad press, but we still managed to make a few bucks on it. We then overreacted a bit and drove too far north in search of peace and quiet. The first time my boss came over to the house for dinner, he was convinced I was taking him somewhere to kill him and hide his body.

So the net result of our move to the new house is that now I have a killer commute, and callouses on my ass from sitting in my car for two hours a day. On the plus side, you would not believe our gasoline bill every month.

Every time I think about moving closer to work, I look around. We have ten acres of woods. We can't see or hear our neighbors, the closest of which is a few hundred feet away through the woods. There are 5 houses on the entire street. On a weekend, you don't hear 30 lawn mowers going all at once. There are no screaming pool parties. No blaring rap music.

In other words, it is sweet.

As long as I am able, I will live in a place like this.

I've narrowed down my house hunting needs to a few essentials -- First, wherever I live has to have a porch. Second, that porch has three requirements. You have to be able to piss off of it, shoot a gun off of it, and screw on it without getting arrested -- or even noticed.

If you can do that, there's not much else you need.

Lastly, a word of advice for my newly 'burbed friends:

Development Rule Number Three: Buy a SHITLOAD of candy on Halloween. Those little bastards are insatiable.


* Did you ever notice the names they give these places? Wandering Stream, Fox Run, Meadowland Estates, Luther's Forest.....basically, they name it after whatever they bulldozed into oblivion in order to slap up the houses.


  1. Heh, there's no getting out of the burbs when you grow up in so cal. Maybe Morticia didn't want to deal with the neighbors either. The only thing worse than developments are those with associations. They are Nazi's. Lucky for you, you had a place to escape to.

  2. I've heard that! I've seen articles about associations that can actually seize your property if youdon't follow the bylaws. That is amazingly insane.

  3. Yo Paul, tell me you're just gettin' home from the pub when I'm just gettin up for work. Let me live vicariously through you.

  4. Those pesky New Yawkiz, they breed and spread all over the damned country now. What a mess.

    My sister lives in one of those development jobbies where they have an "association." She calls it the "coven" which if you think about it, is a more appropriate title. The first time she and her waste-of-life husband skipped an association meeting, three couples were at their door and the only thing missing were the torches and hoods.

    I'm with you. I'll take my humble country abode in the middle of nowhere.

  5. What the hell kind of suburbs do you have up there in NY. They're not trailer parks! I have spent my entire life in the suburbs, and they are effing awesome. I will never leave them. I don't care about a cookie cutter house if it's effing awesome inside. So what if the guy a few houses down from me (in my case now-next door) has the same house? At least mine is still awesome. You're right about the names, though. My development growing up was called Deerfield Lake. Across the street was Hunting Meadows. Now I'm in Crystal Lake. Awesome.

  6. I live in a development with the association. I have very little problems with it. One of my coworkers lives in the boonies with 15 acres. He's into these highland (scottish) games. He wakes up early everyday to throw a caber which is pretty much like a smaller utility pole. His neighbors I'm sure love this at 6 am 4 days a week. In the burbs he'd be thrown in jail.

  7. Ah are they still hitting kids in Walmart? I used to live in the States it was always a sight that made us wince when some poor snotty nosed child was walloped for no good reason. We found Walmart, Ames and K-mart were the best for this.

    We also lived on a development when we are out there the developer who lived about 10 doors down had put the windows in the wrong way round in almost every single house!

    Mind you I live in an apartment now, in an old building which was converted about 20 years ago with no regard to the laws of the land, there are too many flats for the building, we had gas fires which were illegal as they had no backs and no fire escape!

    Developers scum of the earth?

  8. the only thing wromg with being 'out in the country'...is...no cable, no cable modem for your computer, no city sewer, water, etc...it just takes getting a house in a good neighborhood, and then...live like a "helmet"!

  9. Anonymous9:39 AM

    I grew up in a NYC housing project called Eastwood. Maybe because there was a tiny tree on the east side of the building.

  10. This answers my previous question on several of your past posts about your trash neighbors, "Why would you live in a place like that?" Thanks, now I understand your thinking. We just bought a brand new house in an old neighborhood, but not a development. It saved us at least $30,000, maybe 50, over the same house in a development down the street. But my neighbors are pissed that our bigass house resides in their once open backyard and they put up stupid Private Property signs all along the 20 foot long border of their yard. Freaks.

  11. That would actually be my second choice MLM. I would love an old victorian in a small town.

  12. Anonymous10:04 AM

    Lots of people are suffering to supply you folks all the oil you burn everyday.

  13. Anonymous10:38 AM

    dunno about you, but I pay for my gas.

  14. Anonymous12:13 PM

    Let me spell it out for you. This country can produce less than 10% of the oil it consumes. Most of this oil is used in cars. In order to supply all you assholes plenty of cheap gas, our navy follows each tanker through the gulf and in order to secure this cheap fuel we are in a war. We have attempted to overthrow the government of Venuzuala, and Nigeria. We stay friendly with Saudia Arabia, even though they continue to export terrorist. All so you can live your stupid lazy isolated life on your estate in the country. This country is full of over-fed grown up crybabies in SUV's who know only what they can see through the TV or windshield. Grow up and live responsibly.

  15. Ooooh, we have a live one. Trust me, I am aware of the problems with our oil consumption. I am aware of the political climate that requires our military to safeguard the production and transportation of oil. I am aware that alternative fuel sources are needed desperately. I am also aware of what a troll looks like. This blog is supposed to be humorous, not solve world issues. If you would like to debate me, or have issues with where I live or what I drive (a fuel efficient car, thank you very much) please send mail to johnnyvirgil@myway.com, and I'll be glad to go one on one with you in a political debate. The problem with people like you -- you know everything that is wrong, and love to tell other people to grow up and be responsible, but you offer up no viable solutions. Peace out.

  16. yeah. Just like I thought.

  17. Damn trolls. I hate developments, absolutely hate them and the cookie-cutterness of them all - see Edward Scissorhands. I live in an old apt bldg (almost 100 years old) in the suburbs and that's the way I like it. The walls are solid as rocks and I never hear anything from my neighbors, although we are always asking each other, "Did I bother you this morning when I left for work? Watched TV? Etc.?" I walk to work and marvel at the people who drive an hour in. I think they're crazy, but it's all in what makes you happy. Everybody is different and that's is generally the beauty of life.

  18. I like this one too JV. Your new place reminds me of our place. We live at the end of a dead end street with 5 total houses. It is technically a sub-division, but the lots are 3-5 acres. And my husband pisses off of our porch all the time.