Friday, December 09, 2005

A room with a perfectly acceptable view

I have been living in California now for just over six months, and I am still in the throes of culture shock. There's this philosophy that everyone has to be first all the time. Unfortunately, not everyone can be first at the same time. In fact, only one person can be first in any given situation. That's, um, kind of part and parcel of being first.

This is why I hate the highways.

I am, however, getting used to the skylines out here. I like being up in the hills sometimes, where if it's not too hazy and my eyes and brain are getting along with each other, I can see the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm not so sure about the bone-dry hills dotted with scrub. They look like armpits. Giant human armpits. With green hair.

And every so often there is a kerfuffle about something ruining someone's view. In this particular case, some people are concerned about power lines blocking their view of the bay. They're trying to get the lines put underground, a project to be funded by additional property taxes. All those homes are worth a lot of money, you know, and apparently, imperfect views decrease their value. But many of these homes are owned by retirees, who bought them a long time ago for a lot less than their current worth, and who can't afford any more property taxes.

The old-timers don't mind the power lines. It's the newer residents who do, the ones who bought their multimillion-dollar houses for millions of dollars... and who must not be very happy with their houses. Because hy worry about how much you can get for your house, unless you're planning to sell it?

I grew up in a little itty bitty historic town on the other side of the country, whose two claims to fame are 1) it was founded by William Penn and 2) pretty much the entirety of downtown appears in the movie "Signs." My hometown has regulations about what color you can paint your house. (At least in San Francisco, Victorian houses are pink and purple, the way God intended--not colonial red, forest green, and Chesapeake blue.) I like rolling hills that are green in the summer, red in the fall, and spiky with bare branches the rest of the time. I like rivers and creeks. I like snow. Um, I really like snow. A lot. Also thunderstorms. I miss severe weather.

I also miss the view out of my bedroom window. Until a few months ago, the view was of the lumberyard. The main building was on the other side of our next-door neighbors' house. When I was little, we used to jump off the weird 3-foot ledges that stuck out of it. We decorated that white wall with flying rotten walnuts and muddy balls. From my window I could also see some of the other buildings, like the mill and the sketchy storage building.

Then the developers came and knocked it all down. In its place will be a "traditional neighborhood development" that is anything but traditional.

When I went back for Thanksgiving, I could look out my window and see houses two blocks away. I could see cars on other streets. I could see a lot of things I'd never seen from there before, things that had always been there. It was very disturbing. I wanted my old view back--which is to say, I wanted no view at all.

Sure, I was upset when the cell phone tower went up behind the old Acme grocery. It's tall and ugly. But I like being able to use my cell phone when I visit my parents, and they like using their cell phones. And I bet those people who fret about the power lines enjoy using their cell phones, too. How do we get all this lovely cellular reception? By having tall, ugly cell phone towers. Just like we get electricity in our homes by having heavy, ugly wires strung between tall, ugly poles.

So, go ahead. Put those wires underground. Then start thinking about subterranean cell phone towers. Because the more cell phones there are, the more towers we need--and the more likely one will wind up in your backyard.

Oh, and I'll take my lumberyard back now, please.

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