The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 November 2005

Town squares

It's been two years since I decided I'd had enough of sort-of-inner-ring suburbia and moved back into the city, and while I occasionally cry when I look at my checkbook, I have no regrets.

The big difference, of course, is that I own this place, subject to a mortgage the size of a small farm animal. But there are other factors in play, as the Warrior Monk notes:

[T]he bottom line is pretty simple, and it's what I suspect is the bottom line for most people: aesthetics. I just like the look and feel of our Minneapolis neighborhood better than I like most of what's in the suburbs. And I'm sure that most inhabitants of the suburbs feel the same way in reverse. The other factors — crime, taxes, schools, commuting times, etc. — are not negligible, but for me they are decidedly second-order. They work to push me toward or away from my aesthetic preference, but they don't determine that preference.

Of course, the definition of "suburbs" has changed over the years:

I realize that when 21st Century Twin Citians speak of the suburbs, they typically have newer, sprawling places like Eden Prairie and Lakeville and Woodbury, not older, distinct-from-the city-in-name-only places like Edina and St. Louis Park and Mendota Heights, in mind. Still, it's worth remembering that today's "inner city" neighborhood was yesterday's bucolic enclave.

I remind myself occasionally that in 1948, when this neighborhood was developed, it was way out in the sticks: 50th and May? It might as well have been 150th and May. (Of course, 150th and May is now just another intersection in town.)

Still, it doesn't look all that urban outside my door, and apparently the same goes for the Monk:

When our law school friends who now live in New York City or Chicago visit us, they don't see our neighborhood as urban at all. That's because they live in places that really are urban: bustling, high-density, apartment- and condo-dominated, and so on. Very little of Minneapolis and St. Paul is like that.

The working definition of "urban" around this neck of the woods seems to be "no parking except in assigned spaces." High-rise residences are few and far between, though the demand for them is starting to accelerate.

Finally, this question is perplexing:

Does anyone else find it odd that conservatives — the staunch upholders of history and tradition — typically live in and defend decidedly newfangled suburbs, while liberals — the bold advocates of progressive change — typically live in and defend decidedly old-fashioned neighborhoods? I've never been able to figure that one out.

Johnny Carson once boiled it down to this:

Democracy is people of all races, colors, and creeds united by a single dream: to get rich and move to the suburbs away from people of all races, colors, and creeds.

Tell me just what it is that conservatives conserve, and I suspect the answer lurks within. Me, I'll happily defend the 'burbs, but I have no intention of ever living in them again.

Addendum: It doesn't work quite that way in central Florida, apparently:

Okay, test, just how many dumb ideas are packed into that little rhetorical question? For the record, the yards of the homes in the rather older former suburb (as opposed to the "newfangled" ones) that I live in, which is now actually very near to the city centers of Orlando and Winter Park, mostly sported "Bush/Cheney" signs during the most recent presidential election. I did see a Kerry/Edwards sign — torn into three pieces by the side of the road. And there are a lot of Jewish people in the neighborhood too. One of the homes I walk past on my way to work had a Sukkot shelter in its yard during the week of that festival.

Here in the Big Breezy, you don't get into solid Republican territory until you get out of the city school district, which may say something in itself.

Additional addendum: The Monk strikes back:

[W]hat makes it more odd to me is that during this whole city vs. suburbs debate we've been having in our little network of blogs here, and that was the backdrop for my post, no one has argued along the lines of "you know, as a conservative I'd love to live in one of those older, traditional neighborhoods in Minneapolis or St. Paul, because it seems like it would fit well with my basic philosophical and tempermental outlook, but I can't because [fill in the blank]" — because it costs too much, or because there's too much crime, or because the schools suck, or because it's run by DFL weenies, or because whatever. That I would understand. What I don't understand is why a desire to live in an older neighborhood doesn't seem to have entered into anyone's calculus at all. It seems to have been a complete non-factor.

Why was it a factor for me? Because home sizes have been getting larger and larger over the years, and I didn't want anything more than about 1300 square feet — and very few new homes these days are that small.

Posted at 7:53 PM to Almost Yogurt


"Tell me just what it is that conservatives conserve"

Why nothing. We obviously believe in trashing a place thoroughly until we are done with it. As opposed to liberals, who are the only ones standing up for the Old Ways against the barbaric Mister ConservoRoboto.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go spill some crude oil on some baby ducks.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 11:18 PM on 14 November 2005

My wife and I would much rather live out in the actual, literal, now and for at least another 15 years sticks where the only thing newfangled is the DSL equipment in the nearest telephone switching office.

Since, y'know, you can't get cable out there.

But really, there's nothing odd or ironic about conservatives living in suburbs -- especially if one buys the notion that conservatives are always secretly rooting for the return of the 1950s, which is about when the lure of suburban living really hit its stride in popular culture.

If one doesn't buy that notion, though -- and I don't -- the best answer is simply that conservatives don't make decisions like where to live, based on what liberals think.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:50 AM on 15 November 2005