Surlywood, my "palatial estate" since the fall of 2003, is of course a fairly modest sort of place: a little L-shaped house, barely a thousand square feet, in the middle of a trapezoid of land covering a bit more than a quarter-acre. Its very contradictions smallest house on the block, yet sitting on the largest lot became its selling points; the entrance is framed with stained wood, there's a brick front on the near edge, but the rest of it is painted a just-shy-of-hot pink, a weird sort of gay-hunting-lodge vibe that always makes me smile when I see it, despite the fact that it could use a serious freshening, especially around the entrance. All this and trees, trees, trees: a pair of redbuds out front (one a mutant white one, the occasional mulberry, elms front and back, a brace of sweetgums, a couple of evergreens, stretches of yaupon holly, a pair of chaste trees, and one lone cottonwood which won't make nice with the mulberry that wants its space. Way out in the 'burbs, right? Wrong: go three miles east and four miles south if you're a crow, or Pythagoras, go five miles and you're downtown.
I've never been there at least, not knowingly, though I have wandered around the town but I suspect James Lileks' corner of Minneapolis is much like my section of Oklahoma City. For one thing, it's walkable, but so what?
[A]s a city dweller, I root for the urban core, but the idea that people will abandon en masse the space and freedom allowed by the suburbs and exurbs for tight crammed condos is a dream. En masse is the key I'm sure there are people who, like myself, will chose to live in the city for many reasons, although I don't live where I live because I can walk to the co-op and carry my curds home in a hemp sack. I drive. I drive because I don't have the time or desire to schlep home the groceries every day. Jasperwood is on a hill that's at the top of a hill, below which is a ravine, and if you want to carry two 1.5 liters of wine and two gallons of milk and [a] gallon of orange juice and a rotisserie chicken up the road, you're welcome to it.
Yep, sounds like my place. (Did I rip off "Surlywood" from Lileks' Jasperwood? Probably.) The rise is not so high, but it's enough to make me shrug when they forecast "urban flooding," and enough to make me cringe when they forecast any amount of ice, since my driveway is seriously steep.
Not that I don't walk anywhere; at the very least, I have to tend to the grounds, which are rather expansive for a lot in town, and in my capacity as Block Minion of the Neighborhood Association, I get to fasten the newsletter to everyone's doorknobs on a regular basis. But the thrill lies elsewhere, as Lileks explains:
I live here because the convenience and ease of living outweighs the drawbacks, and because I like the history, the solid houses, the settled nature of things. But that's me. Once upon a time I lived in a condo in DC, and every time I walked i