Sunday, November 8, 2009

Far End of Suburb America

There's something about images of neighborhoods with cookie-cutter homes and nicely mowed and manicured green lawns that make me feel a bit squeamish. Some people might feel that moving into a large, two-story home that looks identical to their neighbors' homes is comforting and a symbol of success you're supposed to achieve by a certain age. For me, it brings a completely different sentiment. It evokes feelings of sterileness, banality, commonality, and entrapment. I'm not being melodramatic here, it's just how I feel.

Films like Edward Scissorhands, Poltergeist and American Beauty are films that illustrate a sort of nightmare on Suburban street. Powerless feelings of being tied to the house/tied to the job were so eloquently and realistically portrayed by characters Jack and Norma Arnold in The Wonder Years. After watching that show for years, I was left feeling I wanted to get as far away from domestic suburb life as I could.

And perhaps that's why I felt so free living in New York City, despite living in an apartment the size of a closet or on dirty streets cluttered with dog poo and scum (we were very lucky to have avoided the bed bugs). I felt I was able to finally breathe on the streets of New York. Each building has its own story and temperament. Old buildings that once housed new immigrants stand right next to new condos. The same building could contain a new wide-eyed transplant that's shelling out $3,000/mo in rent and an elderly woman that's paying 1970s prices. There's an interesting mix of transience and solid history. Just walk a few blocks and you'll see stories unfold.