Monday, May 17, 2010
A Life More Ordinary
If someone had told me ten years ago that I would like life in an HOA controlled suburb, I'd have looked at them as if they had permanently parted company with their sanity. Yet, here we are, living the most conventional life imaginable, by all appearances, and happy in it.
Although Colorado carries with it a certain panache, bringing to mind hearty souls bounding up and down mountains effortlessly, hiking trails, plunging down ski slopes, the fact of the matter is it is the Midwest, with all the attendant cliches. It's impossible to escape the taint of a lack-of-cool that goes along with that.
When we lived in the metro area, in a house that was one hundred years old, and vaguely haunted to boot, there was a certain cool factor with that. I've come to discover that reliable electrical wiring may not carry with it any street cred, but it has a lot to recommend it. As does the peace, quiet, and unvarying atmosphere of a community where the houses look oddly similar, but the people turn out to have a wide range of viewpoints, despite needing to have their landscaping approved beforehand.
I was standing by a wrought iron fence, contemplating the beautiful morning, the pleasant wind, and the clear blue sky as my dog gave a shrub a rather thorough examination with her nose. The quiet neighborhood, with people departing for work, children shuffling off to school, garbage cans neatly lining the street awaiting pickup was strangely soothing, until a decidedly unfriendly growl caused me to turn to my left. About a foot away stood a black Great Dane, one I've encountered before, usually with a sullen teenager attached to his collar, hauling him away with admonishments not to eat the passerby. Said teenager was nowhere in evidence and the Dane rather elegantly cleared the fence in one fluid motion. It would have been quite impressive, that an animal so huge could move in such a delicate fashion, and clear a five foot fence if it wasn't for the fact that he was eying Puddles like she was a Scooby snack.
At the same moment, the House of Yorkie across the street suddenly deployed all four of their furry ballistic missiles when the garage door went up. I've met that pack before, and the first time I'd seen them I'd stared in amazement as the garage churned out a seemingly unending stream of yapping killers. As if they were being manufactured within. A vending machine of furry fury.
I had been so lulled by the quiet morning that the explosion of canine aggression around me caught me slightly off-guard, and instead of reacting in anyway, I stood helpfully gaping rather than actually doing anything. As the Great Dane decided to advance, and the Yorkies imperiled my ankles, the street came alive with owners shouting "No!" in various tones of alarm. Previously sullen teenager appeared as if from between blades of grass, urged into action, he cleared the fence in an ungainly manner that I'm afraid might cost him future generations. Clutching his sensitive bits, he still managed to grab hold of his mammoth dog before the Black Knight could devour my own. Team Yorkie froze solid, quivering with the anger peculiar to all tiny terriers, but locked in place by one command from their owner. Everyone concerned spared me a quick, "Sorry! Are you okay?" and then as quickly as the serene morning had been shattered, it was restored. All the residents of the area had sensed a disturbance in the Force and had hurled themselves forward to slap a containment lid on the proceedings.
That's what I like about the suburbs. Yes, I'm sure that long lives of repression don't do a body good, but they do make for more pleasant walks. My dearly departed Scotties and I would take a morning walk also and whereas tranquil mornings frequently had similar uproars, it was far rarer for something to be done about them. In particular there seemed to be no less than five pitbulls who were all wildly skilled at escaping their yards, a fact that thankfully never ended in bleeding tragedy but did have me practicing my canine command presence, regularly. The house that was covered in Christmas Tree stands attached to every available surface had indeed presented some visual interest, but it also housed a miserable drunk who would sometimes roll forth from the house, spouting obscenities at all hours of the day.
On no less than six occasions, I exited my metro home to a street alive with patrol cars, on two occasions officers had guns drawn. I'd retreated to the basement until an armistice of sorts had been declared on both occasions.
It turns out I suit a conventional life. As much as I'd like to think myself a free-thinker, a raging individual, and someone who could never be described as ordinary, I am fully content surrounded by rules and regulations. Fewer drunks, more Yorkie drill sergeants. I happily traded visual interest for tranquility.
Last weekend my friend Cynthia stopped by for a visit, and watched as I let my dog in and out, over and over, trying to teach her about being in the garden without me.
"You're the last person I thought would like the suburbs," she commented after asking if I'd gone to war with the HOA, and I replied that they'd yet to bother me in anyway, "this just doesn't seem like you."
There was always something happening around my house in Denver, some of it fun, some of it a nuisance, most of it disruptive. Strangely enough it wasn't a good area for anyone with a reclusive bent to their personality. We knew all of our neighbors, what they did, where they worked. If an ambulance was parked in front of someone's home, the neighborhood turned out, regardless of the hour, a horde of people all murmuring essentially the same sort of things, "Is Tom all right? Do you know what happened?"
At some point being a loner started to carry with it a vaguely alarming connotation, but like most people who favor reading as a pastime, I am frequently happiest when alone with a book. Neither social, nor anti-social. I like people a great deal, I find nearly everyone endlessly interesting. I think we are all only ordinary on the surface, concealing our very individual feelings, thoughts, hopes and dreams. Strangely enough, I have always believed that if you meet a person with purple hair, that individual is likely closer to ordinary than the guy in the golfing shorts. Purple hair is wearing his or her self-perceived difference as a badge of sorts, a contrived kind of personality. When you get to know people, get to know their stories, it seems no one is commonplace. They just wear clothes, drive cars, and live in houses that suggest that.
Maybe I give people too much credit. After all, I confess that by the standards of most, I am closer to being the wild-haired, oddly attired, lady in a cabin, talking to logs than I am a soccer mom. Whatever a soccer mom truly is, as opposed to what she is perceived to be.
I like the suburbs. It turns out they are less social. Although the Yorkie brigade tries to kill me on four mornings out of five, I've never exchanged more than a casual pleasantry with their owners. As far as I know each and every one of those dogs is actually named, "Nooooooo!". As I walked my dog past the recycling bins of the neighborhood, they all told a different story, but I've no names to attach to those bins, either.
I know why I like the suburbs, they are oddly distant, and surprisingly mysterious. I'm left guessing about more. It wasn't exactly a surprise the day I found out that the tree stand house in my old neighborhood contained someone consistently pickled. It made sense. It fit. Here, where so much looks the same, I know less about these distant people.
I like this life, in all its ordinary glory. The mild intrigue of a bin filled with champagne bottles, the ever watchful, distant-but-pleasant people who live here. I like guessing what is beneath the veneer of sameness.
The dog owners withdrew, and the picture of an unvaried life was restored. It is somehow more pleasant to guess at what goes on behind those doors than it is to know. Life, or perhaps Yorkies, teem.
I like the suburbs because they are strangely more intriguing.