Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Asphalt & Vinyl

A few days back I hinted that Katrina and her aftermath weren't the only things causing psychic tsuris chez Jingo. Now I've calmed down enough to talk about it.

My tiny little corner of Loudoun County was once a truly rural place -- one of the last remaining rural spots in Eretz Washington, DC. When I moved here last year I was proud not to have caused a home to be built out here. Instead we moved into an existing home, increasing the pressure on poor Loudoun by a factor of precisely zero.

There is in the American breast a shame in buying something somebody else has already owned. I remember the first time I heard the term "used house," somewhere back in the late Eighties: It was a the husband of a friend of Wonder Woman's, a man not given, let's say, to deep introspection. He had just bought, in the sarcastically named Countryside, what was at the time a rather magnificent house -- but one that in today's absurdly (clownishly! comically!) inflated architectural fashion would be considered pretty modest -- and he convulsed with horror at the idea of moving into a "used house." Someone else's germs might crawl on the toilet seat, the very thought!

This White Flight attitude -- that one must without exception buy new and farther out -- has led to a situation in my little corner that is ripe for conflagration.

We have on the one hand the newly arrived, who live in (I'm sorry, but it's true) ridiculously grandiose boxes less than a year old made of warping two-by-fours, Tyvek insulation, and vinyl siding on three sides. Brick fronts boast such a degraded sense of vernacularity that Queen Anne gables crown Georgian fan windows over Federal porticoes, vinyl skirts ersatz chimney stacks, false gables create the ego-inflating impression of yet more house. These ridiculous piles, sited in relation to the road rather than natural factors like southern light, seasonal winds or natural snowdrift patterns, sit with their windowless sides turned blindly against some of Virginia's most beautiful views. And of course, not a tree or bush or blade of native ryegrass shades these idiot-boxes that bake in the September sun while running three heat pumps to cool them enough for habitation.

The "used houses" around here -- the ones that preceded White Flight -- tend to tuck themselves away, back in the woods away from the elements, modest in scale, situated according to the wisdom of those who lived much more intimately with the weather than we do now. Many of them have been here for 200 years and even more. Many a wing or bedroom or cookhouse or outbuilding is made of logs that predate Valley Forge.

A very good indicator of the nature of the growing conflict came when I was doing some neighborhood canvassing this weekend. Someone in one of the Vinyl Homes expressed surprise that my home even existed: "You mean, there are houses back there? I've never looked!"

Terrific. You've lived here a year and you've never once had the intellectual curiosity to drive past your piss-elegant subdivision entrance to see what else you share a planet with. Boy, I sure do love you.

Well, what's giving me heartburn, then, is that the People of the Vinyl want to get our tiny little gravel road paved. The tiny gravel road is one I spoke about in this post. The same road down which John Mobberly led remnants of the 35th Virginia to attack Gen. Devin's Sixth New York on the night of January 17th, 1865, as he entertained local loyalist claimants for recompense for General Sheridan's Burning Raid of 1864.

They've submitted a petition to the local government, utterly mendaciously claiming that it represented the consensus of the neighborhood. The Virginia Department of Transportation has issued an edict that says that the response to the petition -- despite the petitioners' explicit request to the contrary -- will be to emplace a 30-foot-wide road (if not the 44-foot-wide model), taking farmland to straighten curves, killing countless ancient oak trees and destroying 250-year-old stone farmers' walls.

All for the privilege of driving 35 MPH instead of a dusty 25 MPH.

That's what's got me a trifle upset, these days.

That, and of kourse, Katrina.

So the last few days I've been actively reminding myself just how much dead bear I blow as a door-to-door canvasser. Standing on porches, soliciting signatures on a counterpetition, trying hard to "make the sale"and failing completely. My first job out of college was with NYPIRG, and I quit before I was fired. I just couldn't make poor people give me money. And now, I just can't force fence-sitters to just sign the goddamned petition. Even when their quality of life, the future value of their homes, the safety of their roads, is at stake. I suck.

I'm a lot better at whining.


Anonymous said...

Whine away Ned. Many's the horror story back in Old Blighty, of townies moving to the countryside and objecting to the smell, the very fact that keeps the countryside at least a little bit productive. We swore that if our neighbours ever succeeded in getting streetlights installed, that would be the perfect excuse to buy the .22 rifle I've always wanted. But, on the bright side, maybe Katrina will absorb all the road-paving budget, even state moneys. That'd be nice.

XTCfan said...

You may suck as a door-to-door canvasser, but at least you're trying. Keep at it. If you lose, at least you'll be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Fake their signatures.

Neil Shakespeare said...

hey neddie, you soung like me! my father once turned to me in disgust and said, "You couldn't sell a rope to a drowning man!"

To which, of course, I replied: "Jesus, Dad! Who would ever THINK of such a thing!

Linkmeister said...

Keep going, but get a nice blown-up photo of I-95 or the Beltway (even, or maybe deliberately, empty) and show that to them while asking for the signature.

The Millionaire Playboy said...

Neddie, this task is noble. Can those historical artifact finding folks you consort with help out?

Neddie said...

Millie: oh, yeah, they're as incensed as me. They're doing the even-numbered addresses, I'm doing the odds.

We're actually making some decent progress, although I don't want to say any more, given the ublic-pay ature-nay of the orum-fay.

Employee of the Month said...

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