Merlin: You have broken what could not be broken! Now, hope is broken.
Arthur: My pride broke it. My rage broke it! This excellent knight, who fought with fairness and grace, was meant to win. I used Excalibur to change that verdict. I’ve lost, for all time, the ancient sword of my fathers, whose power was meant to unite all men… not to serve the vanity of a single man. I am… nothing.
I read a shocking and disturbing article from Rolling Stone on the consequences of fracking on a small city in southern Utah, and then happened upon a small bookkeeping item from the local paper which mentioned a neighborhood council’s successful attempts to zone out multi family dwellings in their neighborhood and thus “protect” it.
I also had an unusual morning ahead of me in that, with summer vacation having just begun I was taking LuLu to one of her favorite destinations: “Interskate 91”. To get to there I have to drive up State Street/Boston Road, Springfield’s oldest, longest, and most fully developed “stroad”. Last year Jim Kumon and Chuck Marohn laughed when we drove up State Street noting that, If this is as bad as our stroads get, then we are in pretty good shape. We didn’t have time to continue, and there was really no point in doing so as further up the thoroughfare becomes indistinguishable from any other in the United States with its Taco Bells, Wal-Marts, and Sonics.
I thought of Chuck’s recent essay on road design regarding the protection of child care facilities from rampaging motorists when I saw that the mattress store had bollards protecting it; I couldn’t help but find it funny for two reasons. First, it reminded me of an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer falls out of a plane, lands on the roof of a mattress factory and then gets run over by an 18 wheeler delivering a load of marshmallows (or was it the other way around?); and second that a more safety conscious configuration of the merchandise in a mattress store could allow them to forego the bollards!
In any case, in a move which was unusual I wasn’t going to come straight home after dropping LuLu off at skate camp (Yes, skate camp!). I was headed to a friend’s farm where he had some locally produced foodstuffs for me to purchase. In doing so I exited stroadville and had to pass through genuine suburbia before arriving in the rural area where Copper Hill Farm is located.
To be honest, the prosperity was what shocked me. The drive from downtown Springfield up State Street/Boston Road is consistently inconsistent and extremely jarring. The contrast between its grand ornamental architecture and its late 20th century slap dash pseudo-buildings is one thing, the juxtaposition of shiny, new, and (sometimes if rarely) bustling car oriented spaces with the either abandoned or sadly repurposed remaining shitscape keeps one guessing as to the direction the place is going economically, though I think Kunstler is right to think that the pervasive ugliness of most of what we have built in America is such that we are inured to it. The drive through the haunts of the western Mass and northern Connecticut Nouveau Riche, on the other hand, was consistent in its suburban perfection.
Every lawn was manicured, and every house was occupied. These are the homes I see for sale for $350,000 or more in the local paper. Being a Springfield guy at heart anything in the six figures seems outlandishly expensive to me, but this drive reminds me of how much larger in acreage the region’s prosperous zone is than its relatively tiny areas of impoverishment, whatever the ratio of the people living in wealth or poverty. I simply can’t fathom how people get by with the cost of these homes, especially when the taxes, cost of maintenance, and the cost of “keeping up with the Joneses” and the “Joneses’ Lexuses” is added into the mix.
On this drive home home from Copper Hill Farm I witnessed how the decline in prosperity so closely mirrors relative density, and the efforts of the East Springfield Neighborhood Council sprang to mind. It’s clear that sprawl so obviously and so consistently existing in conjunction with wealth doesn’t leave room for debate. Couldn’t a “granny flat” added to a neighbors house, or an owner occupied duplex add disposable income to the neighborhood and generate prosperity?
No. Density bad. Sprawl good.
I guarantee no one spoke against the idea restricting multi family housing in any case, sprawl so obviously MEANS wealth, and density IS poverty. As a matter of fact one does not run into the first sign of decay, of impoverishment, of societal illness driving back into the city UNTIL one comes to a walkable place. There is nothing but apparent prosperity, wealth, and well being as long as there are no sidewalks and no one can walk anywhere to do anything. The first time walkable mixed use is apparent, so are social dysfunction, poverty, and decline.
And that brings us back to Vernal, Utah. It is Gehenna, the gate of Moloch, where, quite literally, children are sacrificed so that the true believers in the drive through utopia can perpetuate their system of inefficiency and over-consumption. In the struggle between the well designed space organized so as to function efficiently, walkably, (even beautifully) and with minimal fossil fuel inputs, and the place where literally no thought is given to energy consumption, the victory only goes to the inefficient because it tosses its externalities upon all of the world’s Vernals. And Vernal’s children on the fire of the God of the automobile: