Here in the heart of my middle age, I keep thinking about living in suburbia. I remember as a college student being sure that’s what I didn’t want to do, but now I have to admit that I find it largely satisfying. That is substantially just the lived difference between being a college student and a middle-aged man. But I’m also minded of how I was prompted, as someone who aspired to be an intellectual, to think that the suburbs were dead and sterile, the cities were cultural and cutting-edge, and the rural was a sort of last bastion of authenticity (but also supposedly boring). There was a whole subgenre of films and novels about the repellent and artificial character of suburban life that flourished between the 1960s and 1980s. It’s a trope which I think has declined in influence but which still has some punch to it.
It’s a densely historical and layered vision, and it’s more than just a weapon in a long-running culture war. The suburbs didn’t happen by accident and they aren’t a pure expression of the natural market desires of postwar Americans. But they aren’t the spiritually and culturally vacated wasteland of The Ice Storm or American Beauty, either. Or maybe that’s just what the Fred Flintstones and Harry Angstroms think when they look about, mere heartbeats before thwarted desire or disease or failure come for a visit?
So at least I suppose those who write fiction from the peak of Mount Olympus may think when they gaze down on the tract-house mortals in their folly. But Saint Steven of the Extra-Terrestrial is there to bless the Big Wheels and Habitrails of yesteryear, so all may be well.
Me? I dunno, my cup doesn’t quite runneth over, but it’s pretty full. Yesterday, before the rains fell, I prowled around my little half-acre world and was happy.
And hey, the bench I’ve been working on is coming along pretty well.