Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Our Harvest Being Gotten In

Thanksgiving, 2005

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

-- Edward Winslow, recounting the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving, Mourt's Relation

As Madeline and I drove up through the Emerald City-like gate to the private driveway, I had an overwhelming realization: Buck was sick rich like nobody I'd ever seen before. I felt like one of the nuns who vomited when witnessing the disparity between the Papa Doc Duvalier palace and the mud shacks of the Haitian poor.

-- Cintra Wilson, A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined as a Grotesque Crippling Disease

In the two years since they moved into their voluminous 8,000-square-footer on the edge of Virginia's suburbs, the Bennett family has not once used their formal dining room, where the table is eternally set for eight with crystal, an empty tea set and two unlighted candles.

-- Stephanie McCrummen,
Washington Post Staff Writer, "Taste for Space Is Spawning Mansions Fit for a Commoner: Hot Housing Market Opens Doors to Mini-Taj Mahals" Washington Post, November 20, 2005

"Oh my fucking god."

-- Neddie Jingo, on a casual drive this morning, taking photographs of a neighborhood in the western suburbs of Leesburg, Virginia

Not even guests use the palmy, bamboo morning room beyond it; and the museum-like space Bonnie Bennett calls the Oriental Room -- all black lacquer and inlaid pearl, fur, satin and swirling mahogany -- is also gloriously superfluous.

"It's kind of stupid, because we never sit in here," said Bennett, 32, who bought the largest house she could for the investment.

But she carried around a crumpled photo of the furniture for eight years, and now that she has space for it, she admires it as others might a work of art.

"It's just me," she said.

-- Washington Post, Ibid.

Meanwhile, in Dranesville, Waterford Custom Homes has found a niche building what sales director Debra King, 47, calls "affordable mansions for regular people" in the $2 million-to-$4 million range.

To advertise, King and her husband, Michael Iacovacci II, built their own 14,000-square-foot home on Route 7 near the Loudoun County border, a formidable cultured-stone mansion with turrets and fountains and iron gates with roaring black lions.

Inside, the foyer soars three stories to a small dome that is being painted with cherubs but is now just chubby heads floating in a cloud of blue.

Iacovacci, 42, a down-to-earth man who recently threw a party for 100 people with a full orchestra, thinks it's a gas.

"Look in here!" he said, waving toward the dining room and its reproduction of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. "You ever seen seating for 20?!"

They figured that their house, which is still under construction, would represent the high end of what people wanted -- until a client recently requested a 23,000-square-foot rambler, a size approaching that of the Taj Mahal, which is about 35,000 square feet.

-- Washington Post, Ibid.

There was a palm-studded island sculpted out of textured cement around the ultra-blue waters of Buck's vast, many-laned, cloverleaf-interchange-esque swimming arena. You could almost see the ghostly echoes of past poolside action in your third eye: women with 13-inch waists in vinyl G-strings and breasts the size of speaker cabinets discussing pilot options, ooutrageously bombed on hunger and Chardonnay and vitamin B and the kind of screaming pink self-loathing that burns supersonically through all psyches in L.A. like a dated racing stripe.

-- Cintra Wilson

There are two exits from this Gilded Ghetto; both empty directly out onto Route 7, which is one of the busiest highways in the United States. To go in the eastward direction (toward Washington and their jobs), people leaving this neighborhood have to cross the westbound lane and merge eastbound. During rush hour this must be simply impossible. There are no breaks in the traffic. You drive past at 8 AM; queues of Hummers ten deep wait in vain for a break in traffic, gallons of gas burning away as they idle fruitlessly. One is tempted to salute them with a finger. Or worse.

-- Neddie Jingo

"We have a media room in the basement, a pool table and a moon bounce, so I don't have to take the kids out and fight traffic," said Skinner, 32, a former art director who lives there with her husband; their two children; and, at times, family and friends who come on weekends. "We enjoy it more when the kids come here and play. Specifically, I'm weird, but I'm supersensitive to the kids getting snatched. Like at Chuck E. Cheese, I have to constantly watch them." --

Washington Post, Ibid.

Did you catch that? A moon bounce in the basement, so she doesn't have to worry about her kid getting snatched at Chuck E. Cheese.

-- Neddie Jingo

As the Psihases saw it, moving into a bigger house was not something to be questioned, but something to be accepted, an axiom of American life.

"Bigger bigger, better better," Georgia Psihas said. "It's just a part of life."

And one that builders understand very well.

In Orlando, workers are busy finishing up the New American Dream Home, the showpiece of the annual national conference of home builders.

It will be 9,506 square feet, a place Alex Hannigan, the builder, calls "an all-about-me home."

It has a guest wing, five fireplaces, three laundries, a hobby room, an elevator, a spa, a home theater, a summer kitchen, a chandelier lift -- not things that the average American can necessarily afford at the moment, Hannigan said.

But, he added, "we figured we'd make this home in keeping with where our country's going."

-- Washington Post, Ibid.

"For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned by true reports."

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation

All photographs taken by me this morning.


fgfdsg said...

Fantastic post - I was thinking much the same thing this afternoon as I walked home from visiting my sister and looked up on the hill above my house that's gradually being overtaken by enormous homes built by city people who've come to a country town because they get more square footage for their dollar, and can lord their position over us scum, but they're nothing on that scale.

Incidentally, I think this kind of selfish attitude comes from one simple thing: These people think they are too good to clean up their own shit, and would hire someone else to do it. Once you believe you're above scrubbing your own toilet with some Domestos and a brush, you truly cease to be a useful member of society.

How quickly their little empires would fall apart if the garbageman simply stopped coming to collect their rubbish, or the plumbing backed up and there was no-one to call to fix it.

I suddenly feel so very, very poor.

Keont - Where I'd Like To Kick These People

Anonymous said...

Fuck me down dead.

Astonishingly interesting post Neddie.

I Give Thanks.

XTCfan said...

Simon says:
I suddenly feel so very, very poor.

I don't know, reading this, I suddenly feel as if they're the poor, pathetic people, while we remain rich with perspective.

As you rightly point out, what happens to them when their servants -- both the people they directly hire, and the ones their taxes (which they're constantly trying to reduce, natch) pay for -- stop showing up? What happens if the electricity goes off, and there's no more compressed air for the moon bounce, or juice for the Xbox or the Internet? Will they all have to talk to each other, to actually rely on non-material things? Heaven forbid.

I have the grim satisfaction of knowing that they'll freeze in the dark a lot faster than I and my family in our little house will (being closer together will help us to conserve body heat).

Eye-opening piece, Ned.

XTCfan said...

Also, because I work in a company related to the mortgage industry, I have the grim satisfaction of knowing that these people are probably financing these idiotic McMansions with exotic financing instruments that -- like everything else in their short-sighted lives -- they've assumed will not change, but in fact will get much more expensive once interest rates go up. And they are going up, and will continue to, just like the price of energy.

When rates spike to double digits because of the administration's ill-begotten fiscal policy, suddenly that interest-only, option-based adjustable-rate jumbo mortgage ain't going to look so good (just like the Hummer in the driveway). Life will get VERY expensive, and Darwinian forces (take that, IDiots!) will start to cull the affluent herd.

And they'll be left with fvlpyipk.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

What can I say? Jesus loves them more.

And he should, man. He should. They're clearly better.

Me, I just keep re-reading "In Cold Blood", over and over and and and over. I can recite whole passages now.

It makes me feel kind of itchy and funny.

I don't feel like there's anything wrong with Manson. I mean mansions.

vrura- the new religion I'm starting.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

Excellent post Ned. I can add a couple of things that I am thankful for: People like you and Simon and Bobby and Xtcfan, and that none of us are anything like them!

"affordable mansions for regular people" in the $2 million-to-$4 million range.

On which planet?

cilsmf - what they would say after Simon kicked them!

Kevin Wolf said...

I should not have read this on Thanksgiving morn. I am literally amost sick to my stomach. The only thing keeping the bile down is the knowledge that they are the ones who are sick.

odqdwhin - Where we're all going to have to move to escape this nonsense

Linkmeister said...

Take heart, all. The turkeys are fighting back. Maybe soon they will invade the McMansions.

"The explosion of the wild-turkey population to nearly 7 million from just 30,000 in the 1930s has a growing number of humans facing angry gobblers."

Anonymous said...

Delurking to say that that post made me laugh and laugh, and not in a nice way. Excellent.

Verification word: hegqqf. Which is the noise a person with aesthetic sense makes when looking at that last McMansion in particular.

H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

And not a decent billiard room among 'em. Fans should reread Le Gran Luxe chapter in William Burroughs' The Wild Boys.

Neil Shakespeare said...

Looks like you've been scouting locations for the next 'Hell House' movie.

Anonymous said...

Holy freaking shit -- that was a fucking fantastic post, Neddie. Wow.

Anonymous said...

... mine enemies compass me round about, to take away my soul.
They are inclosed in their own fat, and their mouth speaketh proud things.

--Psalm 17

So many, many ways this is wrong.
Such a waste of land. Such a waste of resources: what's it cost, in terms of cu. ft. of natural gas, to heat those whited sepulchres, with rooms they never even use, when people in the Northeast may be freezing in a month or two? What does it cost to run a couple of Hummers the round trip to work, or the mall, or the big box retailer, or the megachurch? What effect does it have on a kid to grow up hearing that Chuck E. Cheese, for chrissakes, is too dangerous because somebody [dark-skinned, I'm guessing] might snatch kids? What kind of toxic, xenophobic, racist Republicanism do you foster when you send your kids to a lily-white suburban Christian school that was founded in direct reaction to Brown v. Board?
It's enough to bring out my inner Marxist. Or Jeremiah.

Anonymous said...

Hey Neddie,
I drive by those poor desperate souls trying to merge every weekday morn and afternoon. They do take chances. Maybe that's why they have so much moola. I'm sure a traffic light will make their lives so much easier... for everybody...Right?.ˇ

Anonymous said...

eat the rich!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wild turkey and the Passenger Pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts

thanks for a Continent to despoil and poison —

thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger —

thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving the carcass to rot —

thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes —

thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through —

thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces —

thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers —

thanks for laboratory AIDS —

thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs —

thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business —

thanks for a nation of finks — yes, thanks for all the memories... all right, let's see your arms... you always were a headache and you always were a bore —

thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.
- william s. burroughs

Anonymous said...

I drive by these McPosts about these McMansions you drive by and have a McComment. Oy. Not McOy. Just Oy. What a load of McKrap TM. People McFooling themselves at every turn. Except the left against traffic. Oy. Very McNice.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up, Neddie. You're failing to see the good side.

Come the Glorious Day, when these folks fall subject to The People's revolutionary justice, it won't be hard to find them.

mkggyu (just clearing my throat)

The Siren said...

Oh my good goodness. Some posts are so traffic-stoppingly brilliant a lurker just has to emerge from the shadows. Up to $4 million to live where you can't even make a goddamn left turn, and people are terrified of Chuck E. Cheese? And these people would suggest that *I* am putting my kids at a disadvantage by insisting that we live in actual cities with, you know, museums and sidewalks and stuff. Xtcfan is right, too. Remember Paul Volcker telling us the U.S. has a 75% chance of an Argentine-style debt meltdown in the next five years (and he said that a couple of years ago)? As a person soweth his adjustable-rate-jumbo mortgage, so shall he reap.

Anonymous said...

Those houses make some people feel poor. The people who barely have enough to pay thier interest-only-supermortage on thier McHouse thats only 4000 sq feet. Like the kind near me in south florida where a sea wall seperates them from the ever more polluted everglades.

aimai said...

Hi, I've never visited here before. I came over by way of Suburban Guerilla--although I think she has a new name now--. I just wanted to say what a fantastic post this was, really excellent. My daughter's school forbore to read from the early pilgrim diary that you posted from first this year and I was really sad to miss it beccause it does put so much in perspective.

also, the houses you describe make me feel a whole lot better about our house which desn't seem nearly as big and wasteful as I thought it was.

thanks for the fascinating string of posts.


handdrummer said...

But think what a great headquarters for the People's Brigades these places will make come the revolution.

Eat the Rich.

uptqinc: Uppity Pushah's Timely Quaaludes, Inc, the new personal pharmaceutical customization and delivery service just for those living in our local McGated McMansion McCommunities.

Anonymous said...
It is easier to pass a camel through an eye of a needle, than for a rich man to get into heaven.....God I hope this is true. The decadence is what makes me ashamed on the US.

Anonymous said...

See, this is exactly the kind of conspicuous consumption, the kind of elitism, the kind of isolationism and xenophobia that got poor Marie Antoinnette's head chopped off.

Not that I want to chop off anyone's head, or anything. I'm just saying.

Anonymous said...

Now, see, this is a perfect example of why I quit blogging - even when I did have it in mind to aim for something as good as this post, I never hit it.

Nice work, Neddie.

empty candidate said...
eat the rich!


Nah - too stringy.

Anonymous said...

Something I find hilarious about suburban mansions is that they are oftentimes very poorly built.

Here is an extreme example of this, from Mother Jones magazine:

Anonymous said...

Such hateful comments you all make! You know little about these people except that they have big homes and items in their homes they don't always use. And here I see comments about wanton greed, xenophobia, laziness, megachurch hypocrasy. Isn't that unfair?

Wealth is always relative. I have far more money and far nicer things than some of my friends, but that doesn't make me evil. And some of my friend have far more money and far nicer things than me, but that doesn't make them evil. The pilgrim quoted in the original piece was thankful for his bounty--but it was certainly more than he needed, and certainly more than others have had. That doesn't make him evil!

Abraham was blessed by God and became very rich--having literally hundreds of servants and sons. Surely he didn't need all of that wealth! Yet he was so willing to give it up that he didn't withhold his very son from God.

Solomon, too, was incredibly rich--even world-famous for his wealth. His palace took many years to build, and was surely magnificent. Yet when God asked him what he desired, he demonstrated his distance from those riches by asking for wisdom, and he is still remembered as righteous for that decision.

I've known a multi-millionaire who worked alongside me in a minimum wage job for the love of it, and was one of the sweetest ladies I've ever known. And I've known a guy who lives on social security income and housing vouchers who is thoroughly enslaved to material posessions and toys. It's not how much you have, it's how you treat it. And it's not whether you have things you don't need, it's whether you give thanks for them or jealously clasp them.

Such large houses do seem wasteful, but I don't know the people who live in them, and I can't comment on their character. But I am quite repulsed by the hatred, anger, self-righteousness, and outright bigotry I witness in the comments here.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous apparently doesnt understand how hoarding is theft, nor what the early church fathers meant when they said "It's the bread of the hungry and the cloak of the naked turning to dust in your closet" nor the parable of Dives and Lazarus nor the bit about giving all you have to the poor and following...

I'm sure that the people chastised by Isaiah and Amos and Micah for lying on soft beds and offering expensive sacrifices to the temples while beggars starved and foreigners died in wars of aggression to feed their greed - were all *very nice people* too.

Aristocrats can afford to be, and never think about the riff-raff whose suffering enables their wealth...just like in the 1400s or the 1700s or the Gilded Age or today...

Anonymous said...

I hate to be shallow, but I can't help thinking how one of those houses would enable me to buy more bookshelves and store all my books a little more comfortably. Sigh, if only.

Mr. Natural said...

Thank you for posting a well done story on what is evidently bothering a LOT of us. I left my home town in Washington state 40 years ago, and it pains me now to return and see the march of the mc-mansions (I refuse to capitalise things I dislike). I have posted a link back here, as I think this is important reading for all Americans who believe (or don't think at all about) dwindling resources on our garden planet.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Perfect juxtaposition!

b said...

I grew up in western Loudoun County 25 years ago, when it was still farm and horse country. It was a charming landscape that abides in my heart still.

But whenever I go back to visit my parents there now, I see these giant houses (they call them 'homes') on the hillsides outside of our hometown - they look so lonely and cold and desolate, just like I imagine the people inside must feel.

I used to dream of living in an old stone Quaker shack on the edge of the forest in Loudoun County, but I can't even bare to go back to that place anymore. It's so...soul-less {{shiver}}

Neddie said...

Actually, Medjool, I have managed to live out your dream -- I live in a renovated Pennsylvania Dutch log cabin at the foot of the north end of Short Hill, and while the Horror does creep slowly this way, for the time being I can walk down my dirt road to the ruin of the River Mill on the Potomac without a single reminder that I live in the spiritually bereft Twenty-First Century. A guy can pretend, can't he?

ozzhc -- Mr. Osbourne introduces himself.

Anonymous said...

What a cavernous void these poor devils have in their souls that it takes so much to TRY to fill it.

Anonymous said...

My house is much, much smaller. It sits mere feet from the other old houses on our street, as it has for much of the past century. I visit my neighbors on their front porches to drink beer and converse. Sometimes I play baseball in the park among friends, of whom there are usually enough to field two full teams. At night I can hear the endless cargo trains wail at the stopped traffic. During the day dogs bark at the letter carrier, or each other. Such things are soothing. I have no servants, nor want any.

I ponder these things on occasion, and realize I would't have it any other way. I feel sorry for those people in their fake mansions, their deceptively dangerous SUVs, chasing their American Dream as fast as they can in their vast, walled gardens. Pampered in perfect isolation, they are chasing so fast they have overtaken their goal and yet, even so, they run on. Or so it seems, but perhaps I do not understand.

The American Dream, for me, still remains in the places the yuppy has long abandoned, in the old neighborhoods, among good friends and honest neighbors. Inside the loop.

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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I left Northern VA due the tragedy that NVA had become. Of course, I was one of the invaders, moving to that area in 1984 and living in a small townhouse. As the McMansions popped up and eradicating dandelions became a way of life, I had to depart for my own for sanity, Now living in upstate NY, in the small town I should have grown up in and that really isn't my home town anymore, I'm beset by "small town values". There doesn't seem to be any escape, except within your own personal values and principles.

CT said...

I think you should post an update to this entry, given our "troubled economic times." Would be fascinating to read.

I think this is one of your best posts ever.

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