Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Exurban Nightmare
David Brooks describes the so-called "exurbs":

Ninety percent of the office space built in America in the 1990's was built in suburbia, usually in low office parks along the interstates. Now you have a tribe of people who not only don't work in cities, they don't commute to cities or go to the movies in cities or have any contact with urban life. You have these huge, sprawling communities with no center.
I cannot think of anything less appealing this side of the Taliban. No wonder people are afraid of gays, liberals, feminists, and secular humanists -- they've probably never met any! I lived in a kind of exurb in 2000-2001, a place called Mahwah, New Jersey, about an hour's drive from New York City. Mahwah also had "no center." Major office parks were clustered along the freeway and the state highway. Nothing could be reached on foot and there was no community to speak of.

The closest I came to making a friend in that place was at the New York Sports Club, which charged such an outrageous fee that I always entered and left the place in a huff. I can say unequivocably that my year in that fun-forsaken "exurb" was the most unpleasant 12 months of my entire life. The only saving grace was Mahwah's proximity to a few patches of wilderness. But I've always felt that if you're going to forsake the pleasures of city life, you may as well live in a rural area, where you at least are compensated by the pleasure of having no one around and by having nature close at hand. I am completely mystified by the exurb phenomenon. Perhaps I should hold my nose and buy Mr. Brooks' book.


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