Letter From California
07/22/07 0429.51 pst
San Jose, California
I was surprised to recently learn, 10 years after purchase, that my little house was classified as a desirable “starter property” in the market, a launch pad to even greater American material gain of two bathrooms and two car garages. It felt like an amazing miracle to me a $200,000 mortgage had been secured for the place, still does, and if this is a starter it’s also a finisher, ‘cause I’m not going anywhere. Even if I could finance $800,000 (that’s correct) minimum to another house here I wouldn’t, I fiercely love my little place, this is where I’m supposed to be.
One can always find me here when not employed, reading, coding, cooking, cleaning, gardening, renovating, maintaining, often lolling in a glory of American suburbia. I’m not exaggerating, I have it very well here with everything I could possibly need with amazing technology, nine gardens, 10 fruit trees, three cats and a glorious kitchen.
Why go anywhere? I’ve been in the outside world quite a bit, an amazing amount by historical standards, and I always noticed that whenever one leaves home one is inexorably drawn back. Why fuss with leaving in the first place?
Another reason I was surprised my tiny plot (an absurd but still accepted gringo notion I could “own” part of the earth) was desirable on the market is because it sits merely 20 yards from an “avenue,” an amazing thoroughfare of technology horror that could only happen in America.
It is not an avenue, whatever it is it’s six lanes of two-way traffic with shoulder parking and even a merge lane right in the middle. Nine freaking lanes of asphalt for 20,000 cars and trucks a day, an amazing expanse of pavement for polluting, speeding trauma machines that no mother ever dares to allow her children to cross, under any circumstances. Never mind the noise, my mortgage dealer said impatiently, it’s a starter lot in the Valley!
One gets used to it most days (only a tiny amount of homes were in our price range when we bought, so this trashed renter was bought 15 minutes after first sight, many bids coming in just a few minutes after the handshake; it was the rookie realtor’s first sale ever, she didn’t realize or care she could bid up the price, she had her buyers and would not them go), and with insulated walls’n ceilings, along with double-paned windows, why, the noise is hardly present at all.
I often still find it jarring, and I’ll never get used to the casual acceptance of these killer machines whizzing by so proficiently so close by. I’ve seen and heard many terrific crashes on the “avenue,” the poor battered and crushed humans whisked quickly away, one time a car even crashing through the living room of a house next to the “avenue.”
One looks at it enough, lives next to it enough years, worries about the cops whizzing by in the dark early mornings to some trouble with that unique sound from their roof lights enough times, well, one finally knows with all certainty this can never last. Seems normal enough now, but this is “unsustainable,” as they say, meaning one day change must happen.
Perhaps in my lifetime I’ll see this “avenue” replaced with non-polluting transport that doesn’t routinely kill and horribly maim humans while warming the planet, doesn’t seem likely most days, yet one day it must change, variables beyond anyone’s control will force it to, and the polluting maiming death will stop. One way or another.
As I renovate the watering system, refinish wooden countertops, spray paint interior doors and then paint the rest of the house with the cool $80 power roller attachment this year I often wonder how I could have possibly earned this. The state department of agriculture sets fruit fly traps in the plum tree next to gardens of fifty rose plants (for starters), so there’s always a fresh bouquet of flowers and candles for the dinner table, plus a lover’s vase and full silver petal bowl for her nightstand. Children throng the place, you’d have to see it to believe how beautiful they are.
All I truly worry about it is the country, really, and my political party, if we can’t keep it together future generations will never get a chance at what can be an amazing journey of life, and we will have squandered the duty to uphold what was given to us. We are on paths as a country as unsustainable as the “avenue” 20 yards from me, of that there is no doubt, but there is still time to wrest initiative from the insanity of our behavior in Iraq.
One way or another, change is coming, we will completely leave Iraq, and it would be far better if we defined our terms with it instead of being eventually helplessly nailed with whatever result fate eventually hands us. Contrary to what most “adults” perceive in Washington, DC, that is indeed within our capability as thinking, moral Americans.