24. June 2005 · Comments Off on Home & Castle · Categories: Ain't That America?, General

It’s a quiet day, today in the neighborhood; the paper was late, it seems most of the town was caught up in some sort of basketball final last night. I assume it was important because of all the little “Spurs” flags flying from car windows over the last few days, and venders of banners and tee-shirts setting up kiosks on various vacant corners. Myself, I was more taken up with transporting buckets of mulched tree-limbs to spread over the plantings in front and back. My neighbor the roofing contractor had two of his trees severely cut back, two weeks ago, and the guys doing the work were feeding the cut limbs into a chipper: I went at asked for half the truck-load, if they had no other calls on it, so they obligingly dumped a goodly pile in the middle of the driveway. There is enough to mulch everything the requisite four inches deep, against evaporation in the summer heat. It is not the no-float cypress stuff, of course— but you can’t beat the price. The gardens are recovering from the colossal hail storm in April, which left shredded leaves like green confetti all over my yard, and stripped the leaves off the firespike and the potted plants along the south side of my house. I have hardly any damage left to show now, and the new roof is right and tight and just about paid for.

The re-roofing continues, at a slower pace in the neighborhood now; at any one time two or three houses have a crew on the roof, peeling off the old, and nailing on the new, with a peculiar slap/thump sound that the mechanical nailers make reverberating over several blocks. I notice that many residents, now that they have a new roof, are painting, and sprucing up otherwise. A bit of fresh new color to the siding between the brickwork, touching up the trim with sparkling fresh paint, planting new flower beds in front. A couple of fancy new fences and decks have gone in also; I think of the storm as the Spring Creek Roofing and General Contractor’s Full Employment Act of 2005. It was always an attractive little neighborhood where most residents owned their homes, and now it just looks that much better.

Our homes, our own little suburban castles… for someone who owns their own little patch of paradise the Supreme Court decision as regards the Kelo case is as a patch of cloud against the sun. Eminent domain? Well, my parents lost the first home they owned, Redwood House, to a freeway, after a long and protracted fight, at the end of which we were about the only family left in a neighborhood that slowly reverted to chaparral covered hillside, but at least we could assume that the freeway was to the greater good of the public. (Yuppified the hell out of what used to be a blue-collar, out of the way little neighborhood way up in the hills once people discovered that it was only half an hour from downtown, instead of two hours, but that’s a side issue.)

Perhaps the municipality of New London will be revived, and new jobs and a solid tax base may take away the bitter taste of having steamrollered over people who had the misfortune to own property which stood in the way of the greater good. It seems that in this one case, a good enough argument was made for the “greater good”, but the precedent is horrifying: Either we own our houses, our businesses and our lands, free and clear… or we own them only temporarily, at the pleasure of a municipal establishment who can suddenly decide one day that someone else can make better use of them.

And it is not so much the big projects like the New London scheme which afford the greater danger to property rights; I think rather it will be the thousand smaller, little civic actions, picking off a small business here, a block of modest homes here, to benefit a slightly larger business, or a local plan by a city council to “fix up” a slightly less than top-drawer neighborhood— nothing so spectacular as outright confiscation as practiced by such experts as Stalin and Mugabe… just the death of a thousand little cuts, insidious, local… and practically unnoticed

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