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.