Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 23, 2005

Unruliness Among the Unruled, or When Cribs Collide

So this guy we know, a major (sports figure)-type, comes into a few million in signing bonus.

Time to pack up the bling bling, the collection of big-ass rides and the Rottweilers from the gates of Hell, plunk down a mil or two and drop it all into a couple of acres right in the middle of WASP utopia in a suburb called something like Freedomville, USA.

This is primo real estate. Not quite on the shore or in horsy country with the old money, but 10 minutes from the team facility and two minutes from the Tollway, while in a rare for these parts deep oak forest of a minor river valley. The kind of place where people like more than anything else to be left alone, or at least as close to such a place anyone can be and still take the train to the office in the Loop in 45 minutes.

This is the kind of place where people can afford good enough lawyers to keep their enclave out of the greedy little clutches of developers and the grubby little fingers of the neighboring tax-hungry municipalities, and so the authority in these parts remains the county. It's a little piece of libertarian heaven where you can park your travel bus or your cigarette boat, have a horse, whatever.

And build all the fences you want, and that's where we literally come in with hundreds of feet of cedar stockade and a front line of ornamental aluminum wrought iron looking kind of stuff. Right here through the arboreal ambience of Gentrified Oaks, somewhere in between the staged mulch bins and the herbal garden.

No one else had dared to do such a thing, though at least our guy didn't pull a Mr T and cut down every last oak tree on the property. The patrician etiquette heretofore practiced in these parts would certainly preclude such a garish display of, well, pretty much anything. Upon those awkward moments when their paths might collide whilst walking or running their spaniels and sheepdogs and Irish Wolfthings, a violator of the unspoken code might come to bear the awful Disdainful Eye, whereupon the shame of it all would force a relocation.

Ah, but the beady little evil eye shone over the impeccably shaven high-cheekboned rosiness framing the pursed, nearly non-existent lips of the impossibly perfectly silver haired gent in the lightly starched Polo shirt, cords and slightly worn but never dirty Topsiders ain't gonna shame our dude. Neighbors? Close the gates and release the hounds!

In the process of scouting the outer realms of this little sultanate, I'd noticed that in one spot the boundary ran fairly close to one of the neighbor's houses, within about 50' or so. "Trouble," I thought.

In the second day of the job I began to think, "So far, so good." As with those early results in New Orleans, I thought we'd dodged a bullet. Not so. Along 3 pm or so came the call, announced by the secretary, "Line two, (X's) neighbor."

Oh, boy! Now, the boss handles the VIP stuff, especially the (sports figure)-types, and so it was his call. I only listened to one end of the ensuing conversation, but I've done enough of these to gather the gist.

First comes the fishing. "I understand there's an ordinance that fences have to be built off the easements, or two feet (or some such) off the property line." Not true, except in certain cases, most of them having to do with exposures along streets and sidewalks. In one such conversation with a neighbor he told me that he was certain of such a rule, and that he ought to know, because he is a LAWYER. The unsaid part of that was that I, being a hippie-looking and somewhat begrimed by midday working class joe, was probably clueless and someone who might be intimidated by such an identification. Having dealt with these issues for twenty years or so by that time I was quite confident that I knew more about them than nearly any lawyer, and so my response was, "Ahhh, but are you a FENCE lawyer?"

He got the point and off he went, hopefully to reflect upon the ease with which his self-realized mystique had led him to judge a book by its cover.

Back to the crank de jour.

Having exhausted the only contrived argument he could come up with on the spot, our neighbor has nothing left to assert but emotion. "We've never had the need for fences before. I hate fences! I can't believe I have to look out of my kitchen window at this hideous fence every day!"

I recognize that these moments of uncharacteristic emotion represent breakthroughs for these folk, and at such times I might feel a twinge of sympathy. I don't like fences either. I think a far greater portion of the land should be common. I think we should live in clustered population centers of a more vertical design with centralized transportation and employment zones, and that the the greater portion of the land should be parklands, rather than the sprawling suburban nightmare of parceled isolation. But then I remember that these are the guys who zone the most attractive and accessible land for themselves, while stiffs like me have to move to the exurbs and buy more gas and waste away more of our lives driving past their pristine little hideaways on our way to work. Sympathy quickly wanes.

With no courage to confront the second party and having spent his enthusiasm for browbeating the third party, the first party gives up, no doubt feeling incredibly foolish in the utter spectacle of it all. The inevitable despoiling of his Hobbit hole continues.

Looks the same either way from my house.


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