LIKE SHOOTING FISH IN A McMANSION

Astute commentators have been pointing out since November the massive flaw inherent in the "white working class" (in media usage, read: hillbillies, white trash) argument to explain the most recent election: lower income people of any race tend not to vote much, and nothing about the demographics of Trump voters as a whole suggests that poverty is among their defining characteristics. The median income among voters – not mere "Hey I like that guy!" supporters, but actual cast-a-ballot voters – is well over the national average. Hell, according to the stated figure the median Trump voter is out-earning me considerably. And I'm not a poor person.

The reality is that no amount of think pieces about Appalachia can obscure the fact that Trump is a phenomenon of white suburbanites (combined with poor turnout among people most likely to support a Democratic candidate). If you are like me and spent any portion of your formative years in the suburbs, you have known this in the marrow of your bones and don't need any data to prove it to you. In truly poor areas, white conservatism is mixed with a healthy dose of apathy and indifference. In rural areas it is mitigated by the remnant fumes of agrarian populism (and a total dependence on government subsidies). But the suburbs…the flame burns clean there. Don't go to small town Appalachia if you want to see pure, mindless adherence to the Fox News version of reality. Pick a big city and head for its newest New Money suburbs.

Jesse Myerson offers a useful take on why this is. Suburbanites have just enough wealth to convince themselves that they are just one step away from cartoonish one-percenter wealth (Just don't ask too many questions about debt!) and therefore are not only susceptible to Horatio Alger "hard work is all you need" narratives but also to scapegoating groups perceived to be the last obstacle between oneself and True Wealth. Gosh, just think of how much better everything would be if only my money wasn't being given to Welfare Queens / Immigrants / Chinamen / Etc.

The second factor he points out is that suburbanites, having engaged in a pattern of increasing their spending every time income increased, are overwhelmingly dependent on the value of their homes as the foundation of wealth. Many have borrowed huge amounts against their property, and many more rely on selling it and using the proceeds (the mortgage long since having been paid off) for retirement. If non-white people move into the area, home values will fall. Nothing will turn a suburbanite into a white-hot ball of rage more quickly than the prospect of losing some of the equity in their home. These are not good homes, objectively. They are flimsy, expensive to heat and cool, and ugly. They have no inherent value, so the value of their location (i.e., far away from Those People) and sheer size determine their worth on the market.

These are valid points. To them I would add two more that Myerson missed.

One is that suburbanites are, as a group, unhappy people. I swear to god, you will never meet people who have more but are less happy than your random South Suburbs of Chicago people. These are people who – to engage in a little cheap armchair psychoanalysis – have spent their whole lives believing that the next purchase would finally make them happy and it didn't work out. If only I had a bigger house, or the 5-series BMW instead of the 3-series, or more jewelry, or just MORE of everything…then surely happiness would be here. So they are unhappy despite in material terms having nothing really to be unhappy about.

Second, and related tangentially, is that the design of suburbs combined with the huge amount of time suburban adults spend alone in their own homes divorces them fairly effectively from reality. They don't see much of the real world. They see a gated community of white people with big houses, and perhaps some glimpses of the rest of the world out of a window during a commute. They use the media to inform them what cities and rural areas are like in the same way that you and I rely on the news to tell us what is going on in China. Chicago might as well be China to someone living in its suburbs. They are as likely to form an opinion of it based on what Bill O'Reilly says as they are by driving 15 or 20 miles to do anything there.

I try not to go back to visit family unless I absolutely can't help it. Kunstler was right; we built a landscape of crappy places and became crappy people.

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77 Responses to “LIKE SHOOTING FISH IN A McMANSION”

  1. Major Kong Says:

    If my rural in-laws are any indication:

    The Trump voters were the ones that are relatively well off. Everyone else went for Clinton.

  2. Leslee Says:

    I am on the board of the HOA in a north Austin suburb. I used to live on the southside of Chicago. The amount of alienation and disconnect I feel living here is almost unbearable. I jokingly refer to my neighbors' conservative paranoia as "White Panic in the Suburbs".

  3. April Says:

    And a bonny good morning to you, too, Katy!

    I'm aware that a lot of the people here ARE active participants in our electoral process. Of course they are – that's why there is so much vibrant discussion about it! And, like the rest of you, I spent plenty of time discussing, and analyzing and reading and dissecting the last election. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that.

    But I think it's time to move on from the blame game. (Except for Russia. Let's get to the bottom of THAT and put all those fuckers involved in a damp, dark jail from whence they will never emerge!)

    And Ed, you are exactly right. It's my middle and upper class white relatives and "friends" who are trumpistas. Since they are successful due to being white and born in the 40's and 50's when we still had a good and cheap education system and before outsourcing, they are convinced of their own superiority and they emphatically don't wanna share. And yes, Katy, you can't talk to THEM. I've tried too.

  4. democommie Says:

    I left this comment over @ Dispatches from the Culture Wars over the weekend:

    "Veteran, here. Sane, but still…

    When I talk to people and they say, "Thank you for your service!" (which is pretty much said in the same way, "Have a nice day" is said–iow, without any concious thought) I think I'll just start asking them if they voted for Trumpligula. And if the answer is yes, well, I'll try hard not to tell that they're fucking morons–I might fail.".

    I have a hard time not screaming at complacent fuckheads who think that the world is okay, if THEY'RE okay.

  5. Garry Says:

    "America's drug of choice is *more*" – Jason Ricci

  6. Steve Holt! Says:

    My father in law and his weird little live in girl friend are evidence items #1 and #2 in this cult. After a military financed engineering education and three wives he is finally where he wants to be – head of his regional office and living in a fucking McMansion just outside of one of the South's most progressive (i.e. nice to live in) cities. He and his neighbors trade Ann Coulter and Limbaugh books and watch the Fox Nooze and laugh at people like his kooky daughter and son in law for being "naive" and "trendy". Ask any of them two questions about the Koch brothers or Jason Kuchner and they literally have no fucking idea what you are talking about. They just know that they are right about everything.

  7. Linda Says:

    The second point especially. So many Trump people I know are cut off from reality. Lots of them have shit tons of weapons, even though there is nothing objectively to be afraid of. And they live within 20 miles of the biggest concentration of Arabs in North America (suburban Detroit) and know nothing about the Arabs living right next to them. At least people in Idaho have a legit reason to be ignorant, but these people?

  8. Jess Says:

    This may be true, but in my corner of Appalachia Trump support was 70% of the voting population with 71% voter turn out. Now to fair, the poorest areas only had 49% turnout, but the area isn't generally wealthy. I don't know enough to parse out what the varying districts median income is. Fox News is on all day if you go the local YMCA and it's the place even my registered Democrat cousins get their news.

  9. gromet Says:

    Chicago might as well be China to someone living in its suburbs

    This. I grew up 30 miles outside NYC and my parents organized one family trip to Ice Capades one to Ringling Bros. That was it. I grew up literally in view of the capital of the known universe, and it was totally normal in my very white (and a bit Asian) suburb to never, ever go there. That didn't stagger me until I turned 17 and started creeping in on my own to sample the place… and then I was like: What a miscarriage! To have lived so close to this amazing resource but experienced it mainly as a daily "who got shot/stabbed/pushed in front of a train [by black youths]" segment on the nightly news.

    The suburbs are a strange echo chamber and even people who knew better (my parents lived in Brooklyn till age ~10 and lived in Manhattan in ~1964) ended up seeing the city as alien. Well — alien? Let's come out and say it: as a suspect hotbed of your more violent minorities. (Of course, full disclosure: the crime rates changed a bit between 1964 and 1990, so there's that.)

  10. srsly? Says:

    "Kunstler was right; we built a landscape of crappy places and became crappy people."

    TEN THOUSAND FIRE EMOJIS.

  11. jcdenton Says:

    The suburbs is where you go to die.

  12. democommie Says:

    @srsly:

    srsly? that's it, srsly? Idiotic and cryptic are not synonyms–you're not being cryptic.

  13. srsly? Says:

    ok old man

    let me break it down to you

    "fire" means "hot" means "good"

    when young people like things, they respond with the fire emoji and the underlined 100 emoji. (that one means (100%," which means "good.")

  14. Gary Pavela Says:

    Who am I going to believe, you or my lying eyes? Just look at an electoral map. There sure must be a lot of "suburbs" throughout the rural South and Midwest. In any event, the key distinction (according to Pew and the New York Times and countless others) was in levels of education. Less educated people tended to vote for Trump. More educated tended to vote for Clinton. There's nothing in your commentary to suggest otherwise. Let's stop the fake news, shall we? Apparently it occurs on the left as well as the right.

  15. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    Your depiction of these unfortunate characters reminds me of a descriptive phrase in one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. A certain class of urbanites were too far down to be movers and shakers, but too far up to be easily moved or shaken.

    They don't realize that the Powers That Be are in favor of diminishing their significance. The economic elite recognize two classes – the rulers and the ruled.

  16. define and redefine Says:

    I grew in East Cobb County, GA, part of Georgia's 6th, which produced, among others, Congressmen Newt Gingrich and Tom Price.

    There's a reason I try to never go back, and when I do, I spend a lot of my time in Atlanta.

    Incidentally, in light of this post and the giant Trump sign with the words "We Win!" emblazoned across the front I saw one time when I went home, Mr Ossof's near victory in the recent election really is that much more remarkable.

  17. Nolamama Says:

    The first part of my childhood was in a southern Illinois university town where whites in my schools were in the minority. African American, middle eastern, Asian kids out numbered us. That felt normal. Moved to a suburb 30 miles west of Chicago and there were exactly 2 kids of color in my entire 1200 student high school. That did *not* feel normal. As an adult I moved to New Orleans (yeah, diversity and lost of it!) and have raised my kids in a very small town outside the city (again, lots of diversity!). The suburbs of Chicago are some of the most racist, right wing areas I've ever been in. And certainly the most homogenous. People bad mouth the Deep South and we definitely have our crazy confederate flag waving crackers, but we also live and work side by side people who are not white a helluva lot more than I ever did living in the Midwest.

  18. US in the EU Says:

    I always enjoy pointing out that the hard-working little boys of Alger (hard working = usually begging) often improved their lives by being simply in the right place at the right time (i.e.: begging in front of the right hotel when just the right genteel and wealthy benefactor passed by).

    IOW: luck.

    I think my favorite personal moment of this past election was talking to a proud Trump voter – retired, middle class – who said, and i quote, "Well, if they had had any proof that he said 'grab 'em by the ….', they would have shown it".

  19. democommie Says:

    @srsly:

    It still doesn't tell me anything.

    Good, that Kunstler said it?

    Good that Ed quoted it and anecdotally supported it?

    Good that we're crappy people?

    I am definitely an old man but I still understand plain english and its use as a means of communication.

    If I've mischaracterized your intent due to a lack of understanding, my apologies. If not, time will tell.

  20. democommie Says:

    @ Gary Pavela:

    "Less educated people tended to vote for Trump. More educated tended to vote for Clinton. There's nothing in your commentary to suggest otherwise."

    Attainment of a degree doesn't = being educated. It does equal being educated in one area, the area of concentration.

    I play trivia every week with people who are college educated, with Masters and PhD's in some cases. There are also a number of college students from the local campus. Many of them know little or nothing outside of the area for which they are working towards a degree or even TEACH. Just a fact.

    There are tons of well-to-do low-information voters out there.

  21. Emerson Dameron Says:

    Related reading:

    https://hyperallergic.com/376182/the-worst-mcmansion-sins-from-useless-pilasters-to-hellish-transom-windows/

  22. Safety Man! Says:

    @define

    Oh god, East Cobb County…

    For everyone else, that is literally synonymous with snobbery in GA…

  23. GunstarGreen Says:

    Anecdata, but at least in the one case I can pretty much confirm that this is the case.

    My father is a fairly typical middle class suburbanite: Middle-management job, decent home (though not a McMansion by far), substantial mortgage and other debt, pretty firm Republican and not fond of "the handouts". Then there's me, his child, also middle class, with an IT job and a homeowner (though not exactly suburban: modest ranch-style home in a non-HOA neighborhood).

    It utterly baffles my father, and the rest of my family, that I am in no rush to increase my debt load despite being able to afford it. They keep prodding me to trade up my home for a newer, more expensive one for which I have no use, and they keep balking when I explain that I am perfectly happy living where I am right now and I have zero intentions of getting further into debt. I point out to them that even this much was touch-and-go; after a year living at home and four years in a tiny apartment, putting off buying a home until the rent became untenable, I got laid off a week after signing on the house. Thankfully, my field is in high enough demand, and I'm good enough at it, that I was able to pick up another job inside of a week, so it all worked out, but it could have just as easily gone very, very bad.

    They keep pointing to the "it all worked out" bit and seem entirely incapable of seeing the just-as-real "skin of my teeth" nature of the incident. Let alone understanding my unyielding refusal to put myself in that kind of situation ever again.

    They truly believe that they are on the cusp of True Wealth, and are some kind of invincible economic demi-gods for whom the prospect of sudden financial disaster simply does not exist. They don't plan for it. They don't anticipate it. They don't budget their lives around the possibility that their employer can and just might screw them at any particular moment (Georgia is, after all, a """"right to work"""" state).

    Their political beliefs are largely based in similar ideology. They're one step away from being on the top of the heap, so they need to make sure the top is taken care of and try to get rid of The Gub'Mint's "handouts" that are keeping that one last door closed to them.

  24. US in the EU Says:

    @GunstarGreen

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/05/08/researchers-have-answered-a-big-question-about-the-decline-of-the-middle-class/?utm_term=.792632a29aae

  25. Matt Says:

    Trump good. No like Obama. No like cucks. We no want socialism. You jealous we have house and wrestling. Trump hair.. gooood hair.

  26. democommie Says:

    "They keep pointing to the "it all worked out" bit and seem entirely incapable of seeing the just-as-real "skin of my teeth" nature of the incident. Let alone understanding my unyielding refusal to put myself in that kind of situation ever again."

    You would think that people whose parents lived in or immediately after the Great Depression and had seen, at minimun, 5 or 6 recessions since the early 70's would have some caution…you are correct, they often don't.

  27. Chase Johnson Says:

    @democommie

    As someone a bit closer in age to the "kids these days" than you are, srsly?'s comments make sense to me. I don't think they're being intentional obtuse, so much as overly cute. But to translate into other pithy cute phrasings for various age groups: "Quoted for truth", "So much this", "So true", "Hit the nail on the head", etc.

    None of which are objectively any more comprehensible, of course. But all of which mean, "This line from Ed's piece is extremely pertinent to and representative of my reality," i.e., srsly? is communicating that they too believe Kunstler was right and that it's important and/or awesome that Ed said it.

  28. define and redefine Says:

    @Safety Man!

    That it is.

  29. Brian M Says:

    US in the EU: The difference is the modern middle class, as Gunstar points out, is completely ready, even EAGER, to use debt to maintain an ever increasing level of consumer spending, despite stagnant incomes. And, just as with heroin addicts, we have a shark-like population of pushers and dealers eager to provide that sweet, sweet hit of easy cash.

    Moral culpability is on both sides. Of course, the sharks get bailed out when things go bad a la 2008. The chum sinks into the surf.

    Given the debt loads and the further consolidation of TBTF banks, who is going to bail us out next time? Is the United States the biggest Greece in history?

  30. GunstarGreen Says:

    Oh, make no mistake, there is a financial reckoning coming. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not five years from now… but at some point, the house of cards is going to collapse. The middle class in this country only has the illusion of prosperity: their material comfort is built upon an ever-growing mountain of debt and liability, and nearly every one of those families is just one major medical incident or job loss away from losing everything.

    Most people in my current position would be lounging in much nicer accoutrements, enjoying far more gadgets and goo-gaws and completely superfluous tech-for-the-sake-of-tech than I am ("Internet of Things" is one of the most disgusting examples of profligate consumerism I've ever witnessed; do you really need to spend thousands on a fridge that lets you connect over the internet to look at what's inside via camera, when you could just open the damned door before you leave for work in the morning and note down what you need?). But I am keenly aware of the perils of debt-backed lifestyles, and refuse to fall into that trap. I live like an ascetic hermit compared to most of my peers… yet I also wake up each morning with zero fear about what might happen if I get hit by a car or I walk in to a pink slip.

    I have always said that, if you want to see a French-style revolution in the USA, all you have to do is cut off the spigot of consumer debt. Force the 98th-to-50th percentile to live purely off of their paychecks, without any of the predatory loaning institutions they currently lean on to finance the gap between what they actually make and how they're comfortable living.

    There'd be guillotines set up on the street corners within a month.

  31. Jude Says:

    These are people who think Judgment Night is a goddamn documentary. Except that all the scary urban gang members are black, and Denis Leary is nowhere to be found.

  32. Jude Says:

    It *did* have a kick-ass soundtrack, though.

  33. Mo Says:

    Apropos of nothing … found myself thinking about emojis the other day, and how they morphed from LOL, ROFLMAO, punctuation emojis into cute tiny pictures.

    Drew a mental grid of Immature/Mature/Dumb/Smart, and the high-Dunning-Kruger corner seems to be the home of the highest emoji use.

    Just a personal observation from local Facebook groups, nuthin' scientific.

  34. Major Kong Says:

    I make damn good money for what I do.

    I could certainly afford to live in a McMansion, at least here in Columbus OH which is pretty average housing market.

    I still live in my 1,500 sq foot condo that I bought in 1994 for the princely sum of $89,000.

    I have no desire to pay the mortgage, property taxes, heating and cooling on one of those 4,000 sq foot monstrosities. I also try to avoid debt like the plague.

    Mind you it's easy for me to say "avoid debt" at my income level. Not so much for the person who's barely scraping by.

  35. Delbort Says:

    @Gary Pavela

    I don't know anything about the Midwest, having lived nearly my entire life in the Deep South. Yes, there are tons of "suburbs" in rural areas and they are crammed full of exactly the kind of people we're talking about: middle class, middle management types with a professional degree who make enough money to finance a McMansion, but didn't inherit 3000 acres of "family land". A developer buys up a plot of land out in godforsaken nowhere, builds 30 to 40 houses on it as close to each other as possible and then sells them for $200-300k a piece.

    People buy them because they don't want to live hip deep in Minorities and they are otherwise indistinguishable from a regular suburb besides being stuck on the end of a state highway in Nowhere illegal.

  36. Delbort Says:

    Nowheresville, damn autocorrect

  37. democommie Says:

    @Delbert:

    Either way, works just fine. I kinda like, "Nowhere Illegal", good prog rock band name.

  38. Major Kong Says:

    Based on my experience working in cubicle-land back when I was an IT developer:

    Middle management are usually the first to get downsized when the company starts having trouble. When the money gets tight suddenly they realize they don't need four Assistant Vice Presidents of Marketing or some such.

  39. mago Says:

    Nothing to add except to remark about those hillside bedroom burbs outside Denver where I used to mountain bike pre-development, and that is, you wouldn't want to drive home drunk at night because you couldn't figure out which house is yours.

  40. Katydid Says:

    OMG, GunstarGreen, are you me? You just ranted far more coherently about that than I normally do. Who needs a hackable refrigerator? At the very least, having something controlled by an app over a smartphone is just one more $#%$%# thing to break. Then there's the matter of needing an unlimited data plan just to run all the smart phones controlling the television, refrigerator, thermostat, light bulbs, bathtub, etc. etc. Also, what exactly are all these apps everyone's constantly downloading? They're executable programs. What data are they collecting? What data are they selling? To whom are they selling it? WHO KNOWS?!?!

    As for the housing market; my area is full of crappy, poorly-built McMansions that I just didn't want. When I got out of the service, I had 2 small kids, 4 cats, and a dog. I needed a house where I could keep track of who was doing what, a house that didn't require an entire weekend to clean, a house that was reasonably okay on utilities. I live in a crapt-tastic starter hovel not a whole lot bigger than Major Kong's condo…but now that the kids are mostly out of the house, we still use every room every day. We have one living room, so we have one television. And so forth and so on; the point is we're not mindlessly buying ever-more consumer products to fill up our living space. I'm 6 miles from my job and at various times have carpooled with the spouse so the teens could share the other car (wanted to ride my bike, but I'd promptly be run over by the idiots in Canyoneros furiously texting and snapchatting pictures of their junk while driving 50 mph in a 30 mph zone).

  41. GunstarGreen Says:

    I suspect we are of similar mind as far as lifestyle is concerned, though we seem to differ on many other topics.

    My wife and I don't quite use every room in the house — there is a side room that is dedicated mostly to storage and half-realized, never-utilized dreams of a space to indulge in video-game-related nostalgia and historical preservation, and it's a "bath and a half" setup where the half goes unused because the toilet in the proper bathroom is perfectly serviceable (the half being a toilet and sink attached to the "master" bedroom, for what little that means in this house). The basement was to be used for a purpose that we now realize wouldn't be worth the expense and hassle, and so now is just an oversized laundry room. But for the most part, it fits our needs, is easily maintainable, and was cheap enough to not keep us in debt for more than a couple of years.

    We both boggle that anyone would ever spend the royal-league sums that are demanded for much larger houses, full of rooms that will never be used except to store junk that will never be touched or even so much as looked at.

    As passe as it may be to reference Fight Club in this day and age, I still feel that it summarizes the American condition with remarkable succinctness. Most people are working jobs they hate, to buy shit they don't need, to impress people they don't like. And it leads them to embrace bad ideologies in a futile attempt to keep that cycle rolling.

  42. Major Kong Says:

    @Katydid

    I would love to be able to ride my bike for small errands. One of my bikes is set up with panniers and saddlebags and could easily be used for small grocery runs.

    Unfortunately where I live out in suburbia there are few places I can get to without getting on a major road and taking my life in my hands.

    That puts me in the rather silly position of having to put my bike on the car and drive somewhere to ride the bike.

  43. democommie Says:

    "don't need four Assistant Vice Presidents of Marketing or some such…"

    Well, one has to hope that they are at least NOT the Acting Assistant Associate VP–they always go first.

    I used to live in the Boston area and KNEW I could never afford a house in that market. I moved to Oswego, NY (Yes, I knew about the snow and REDness of it all) and bought a 1600-1700+ (depends on how you measure) sq. ft. dump that was sorta gutted when I got it and completely gutted a few months later–6 fucking tons of plaster and lath and trash out of 1/2 the first floor. Since then my body has pretty much decided to pack it in for all but the important stuff like riding the bike downhill to the bar and, as long as I don't stay too late, throwing it on the bus for the ride back up the hill.

    The house is weather tight and structurally sound with new mechanicals, no plumbing above the first floor, as yet. It's not painted or even finish sanded. Buddy the Wonderdog has a seizure disorder and every time he has one of his episodes I'm reminded that interior decorating is not all that. I would love to be in about 800 sq ft or less. But I would still need a big ass garage for all the tools and other crap.

  44. Katydid Says:

    @Gunstar; we repurposed my son's former bedroom to the videogame palace (we had a head start since his system and games were in there before he left). I highly recommend a dedicated videogame room, since it has a door that shuts. The spouse and the neighbor play games in there–if not every day, then at least several times a week.

    Being career military was useful as far as accumulating stuff went–not only was there a weight limit for household goods, but at certain bases, it was a guarantee that anything you had of value would be 'lost' in the move. We rattled around our 1200-square-foot house for the first few years.

    @Major Kong; I'm like you: I hook my bike to my trunk-rack so I can take it someplace safe(r) to ride because the roads are woefully too small for the traffic and the folks around here would rather have organ removal without anaesthesia than put up with a bike lane on the roads.

  45. Katydid Says:

    @Demo; does your dog lose control of all bodily fluids when he seizes?

  46. Katydid Says:

    @Major Kong; when the money runs dry in IT, first to go are the hardest-working-but-not-politically-connected. I don't know why this is (it seems to fly against all sense to lay off your workhorses), then your middle-of-the-road women and minorties, and then the middle management. Last to go are the kids of the big boss, particularly so if said kids are freakin' incompetent, and the politically-connected (usually family of the big boss, but not always).

  47. Katydid Says:

    @Everyone; the USA depends on the consumers spending money. People starting out with very little–like post-war soldiers and their wives settling in Levvittowns all over the USA–could be counted on to buy endless amounts of crap to fill their homes. They could be counted on to buy their children the endless parade of toys and junk foods advertised on tv in the 1950s and 1960s. The women stuck at home with nothing better to do with their time were ripe for the plucking as in-home sales "consultants", selling each other more crap nobody actually needed.

    I'm always getting coupons in the mail for various department stores and other places, and I'm not immune to the siren call of Something New! Something Fun! When the urge hits, I go clean out my closet and bureau, which convinces me I've got entirely too many clothes as it is, but some people see that as an excuse to buy a bigger house, with his-n-hers walk-in closets.

  48. mothra Says:

    Emerson Dawson: thanks for the link to McMansions From Hell. What fun. Although I bet that woman could tear apart my non-McMansion house in a heartbeat.

  49. mrearl Says:

    G. Pavela, actually there are a lot of suburbs in the South and in my upclose and personal experience they are pretty much as Ed describes them. Bless their hearts.

  50. democommie Says:

    @ Katydid:

    They're Gran Mal and he pretty much loses control of everything. He doesn't usually poop but if he's got anything in his bladder it usually gets distributed. He has to be nourished after a couple of seizures as he burns a shitload of calories and electrolytes when he has them. I just try to keep him from whacking his head on stuff or falling off of his bed.

  51. HoosierPoli Says:

    "Chicago might as well be China to someone living in its suburbs."

    This is a much broader point than its application here, and is possibly the single most dangerous thing about the mass media generally: it creates the ILLUSION of knowledge without creating any real understanding. 500 years ago if you asked a Bavarian peasant what he thought about Syria, he's say "No fucking idea, where's that?" But thanks to mass media, the same guy now has a REALLY STRONG OPINION about something that he still knows essentially nothing about.

  52. Safety Man! Says:

    When I was first exiled to Maryland I lived all of 1.5 miles from my first job. I tried riding my bike to work once, almost got froggered at the one and only traffic light, and never tried it again.

    I did go on an overnight bike trip to York, PA a couple of years back on a dedicated bike trail, and that was a blast.

  53. democommie Says:

    I ride most of the year, so long as the streets are clear and de-iced and it's not snowing/raining too hard.

    I don't ride far and I ride Walmart expendable bikes that I buy for <$1C. The bikes are 18 or 21 speed (I go through about one per year) and they either wear out or get replaced under warranty. I ride because it's quicker most days to get from a-b-c-d, etc., that way and because it's easier on my knees and feet.

    I ride against traffic, often on sidewalks–especially on the two bridges over the Oswego River, which bridges bisect the city. I go through intersections with or without the light–being careful not to underestimate the stupidity/rage of drivers who are doing illegal shit themselves but feel that I'm being a bad person.

    The riding against traffic thing is REALLY unnerving for a lot of people, both the cyclists and the drivers. Thing is, I've had people tell me that they had to move over because of me doing that. I always tell them that I was precisely the same distance from the curb–tire less than one foot from curb, frame no more than 10-12 inches from curb–and the reason that they moved over is that I made eye contact with them. When there are bike lanes and people follow the rules as they apply to cyclists' right-of-way and other rules of the road, I'll worry about following the letter of the law myself. I'd rather be vilified than eulogized.

    People

  54. Major Kong Says:

    @demo

    Speaking as a long term rider who puts about 1500 miles a year on his road bike:

    I don't know your local situation but I generally advise against riding opposite direction. For one it's illegal in most places. Drivers hate us enough as it is and it just puts fuel on the "damn cyclists won't follow the rules!" fire.

    Likewise it's illegal in most places to ride on the sidewalk and generally hazardous to pedestrians. If I feel I have to take the sidewalk I will generally get off and walk the bike at that point.

    Like I said, I don't know your situation. I'm normally riding in suburban/exurban Ohio. I used to be on the very edge of the suburbs, but the suburbs have since extended past me.

    When I go out on the road I run strobe lights front and back. You can get them pretty cheap these days and the better ones are highly visible in daylight. I also have one of those dorky mirrors on my helmet so I can see what's coming up behind me.

    If I notice a line of cars starting to back up behind me I'll pull off on the shoulder and let them get by. I don't like to incite road-rage.

  55. Katydid Says:

    Here's a grim story: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-cook-parole-hearing-daily-20170509-story.html

    Synopsis; bike rider, riding in a bike lane, run over by a woman driving drunk and texting…who had a *previous conviction* for hitting someone while drunk and stoned…who fled the scene with the man's helmet stuck in her shattered windshield.

    Bike riders; be safe out there. People in vehicles are not necessarily paying attention to what they're doing.

  56. Katydid Says:

    @Demo; sorry to hear about your grand-mal-having hairy roommate. My rescue doggie is currently fascinated by people singing–he finds it endlessly amusing and will come begging you to sing to him. We have to crate him when we're not around because otherwise he'd turn into the Tasmanian Devil in the house. Can you crate your hairy roommate?

  57. democommie Says:

    Major Kong:

    All good points.

    There are no bike lanes that I'm aware of in the city. numerous streets allow parking on both sides when they are only about 30 feet wide and for some reason, a lot of people will park a foot away from the curb–when they're parked directly opposite someone who is parked the same way on those 30' wide streets.

    The cops see me on the sidewalk all hours of the day and night and wave to me–if they see me at al (texting, talking on cell, talking to dispatch, sending 10KFireemojis, etc.,.

    Bridge Street, SR104 runs from Rochester to Williamstown, NY (Intersecting with SR 3, I-81 & US 11–all heading towards Canada or NYC and points south. Most of the cities commercial development is on or within a few hundred feet of that road. There are trucks with scrap heading into the Novellis plant on the east side of the city and heading out of the plant with aluminum billets and coils bound for a lot of destinations. With three nukes in a 10 mile radius there are lots of heavy trucks bringing materials and laborers to those locations plus a shitload of goods are trucked along the lake. Add that up with all of the leisure traffic, household errands and shopping and it can get kinda nuts.

    I have an astigmatism which makes it difficult to use a mirror (I have tried it, very disorienting). Since I see people running into huge SUV's, buses and all manner of vehicles on a daily basis around here–who are often at traffic lights–well, trusting them to see me, with or without a light show, is a bad idea. FWIW, I'm a photographer and I photograph a lot of musicians in really shitty lighting situations. I used to suffer with it but now I just put the SB-800 Speedlight on my Nikon D-90 and fire 3-400 flashes in as little as 5-10 minutes. Very rarely, someone gets upset about it. When I ask the bands most say they didn't really notice it that much. So, the banality of strobe lights….{;>)!!

    I probably average something north of 25 miles a week, during the period of April–November. During the nasty part of winter I might not ride at all for a week or two. I used to ride 150-200 miles a week, back in the early 90's on unlit country roads with scant or absent breakdown lanes and I always followed the law if possible. Where I live now, that would be suicidal at times. I come home late at night and I ride on sidewalks unless I'm on a street where I can hear anything coming (except something like a Leaf) and I'm not quite hyper vigilant, but pretty damned near.

    Happy riding.

  58. Safety Man! Says:

    As someone who's almost hit cyclists who blow through stop signs and red lights… not all the cyclist hate is unjustified. Sidewalks and stuff sure, but I wouldn't do those two.

  59. Katydid Says:

    @Safety Man! I hear ya. In my immediate neighborhood all the roads are twisty, bendy country roads with no sightlines, sudden dips and hills. Naturally this is where the bicyclists love to ride. The speed limit is 35, but even if you slow down to 30, if you're coming around a bend or down a hill, you can be sure of coming upon a bicyclist doing 20, right smack-dab in the middle of the road.

  60. mothra Says:

    As someone who's almost hit cyclists who blow through stop signs and red lights… not all the cyclist hate is unjustified. Sidewalks and stuff sure, but I wouldn't do those two.

    What. In. The. Fuck. No, cyclist hate is not justified because you or some other motorist sees some run red lights or stop signs. Some cyclists are scofflaw assholes. Surprise: so are some motorists. Just because there are jerks cycling, ambulating or driving on the roads doesn't mean all should be hated or banned from the roads. Katydid: that annoying cyclist is smackdab in the middle of the road so you can see him or her and also so you don't try to pass dangerously. Now, whether that cyclist has picked the wisest route is another story, but that's why they ride there.

    Democommie: PLEASE don't ride the wrong way in the roadway and on sidewalks. Please. It is the NUMBER ONE way to get yourself run over. Why? Because cars are not looking for a bike going the wrong way and certainly not at that speed on a sidewalk. This becomes really crucial at intersections. Yes, I know you will argue vehemently that you got to look at that motorist in the eye just before he or she ran you over, but it just is not the safe way to ride.

  61. democommie Says:

    Mothra:

    I've been riding for over 40 years. I obey the rules of the road when I'm pretty sure it WON'T get me killed. In the area I live in, riding a bike is dangerous, I prefer to see it coming. You will argue vehemently that I'm an idiot for doing what I do. I will be alive to listen to your argument–until I get run over by a drunk or someone who's just pissed off DRIVING the wrong way and that has happened on one street I use more than a couple of times.

    @ Safety Man!:

    I don't "blow through" stop signs or red lights. I go through them when I know it's as safe to proceed as it can be. No cars turning into a lane I'm crossing–and yes they can break the law but they are less prone to do so from a stop than when they are already rolling, in my experience. I'm not law abiding all of the time, I try to be stupid none of the time, when it comes to traffic.

    I have gotten to intersections with "pedestrian" buttons, pressed one and waited for the signal and then nearly been run over by somebody who either doesn't see the signal or knows that my time–and life–is less valuable than theirs. A few months back I was waiting for a bus and saw a guy come up, press the button, wait for the signal which is audible (pretty fucking loud, actually) and visual and then proceed. When he was in the middle of the 4 lane wide intersection, some asshole driving a beer delivery truck turned left–against the signal and nearly ran the poor guy down. I was too far away to get his license number and the guy he almost hit–he was fucking blind with a folding red & white cane.

  62. democommie Says:

    @ Katydid:

    Buddy doesn't like him some crate but I will put him in the bathroom with a few treats, a blanket and pad and his water dish if he's having issues and I'm going to be gone for a while. It's as safe as anyplace I can put him.

    If he's in a crate he'll cry until he gets let out.

  63. Katydid Says:

    @Demo; okay, some dogs (like my first one, who died many years ago) simply will not tolerate being crated. Others, like my current happy-go-lucky guy, will tolerate it (not his first choice).

    Currently my hairy roommate is creeping across the floor GI Joe commando style because I ordered him into his bed (not crate) and he thinks I won't notice if he's down low and creeping along. He's currently got the tip of one foot in his bed–think that counts as "in your bed"? LOL

  64. democommie Says:

    Buddy is quiet, even with his dogtags on because he knows that I can hear him when I can't see him–he really gets freaked out when I'm in the cellar and, hearing nis little nails clicking on the floor, yell at him to go back o his bed.

    He sneaks around the kitchen island while i'm sitting here, typing or watching tv and I often don't hear him till he starts licking the floor.

  65. evodevo Says:

    I live i one of the wealthiest counties in Ky – Scott – home of Toyota. 7000 very well-off employees – especially as compared with the rest of the state – and thousands more jobs available at satellite industries. And you are right. 30 – or even 20 – years ago this was a reliably Dem county. It has been trending Repub at an increasing rate, until this last election when parity was reached. And the Repub voters are overwhelmingly middle class and comfortable, and mostly evangelical. They will back Trump all the way to hell.

  66. democommie Says:

    @ evodevo:

    I'm pretty sure that until Nixon started the ball rolling in 1967 and Reagan kicked the "Southern Strategy" into high gear in 1981, the "Solid South" was as solidly racist as it was democratic. The racism stayed when they switched parties.

    People are racist as hell where I live in the Northeast, too, but they were never democrats because of having their asses handed to them during the War of Southern Treachery. The republicans have won the South and are making huge inroads in former dem enclaves because they don't PERMIT racism, they DEMAND it.

  67. quixote Says:

    Bike stories! Well, if we're going to go off into bike stories, I gotta jump in. Not that I have a story, but I wanted to say I'm kinda with democommie on the riding against traffic thing. If you're the driver, the cyclist is a lot easier to spot, not sure why, and the amount of time you spend on the same bit of road is a split second instead of what feels like forever.

    Now, I know that at least in SoCal the drivers like to put themselves on autopilot and sleep while they drive. Or, more likely, text and watch videos. And then suddenly noticing an oncoming cyclist would probably give them a conniption and take the car over the cliff.

    Can't win 'em all, I guess.

  68. Katydid Says:

    @mothra; it really doesn't matter if the object going way below the speed limit on a twisty, bendy country road is a bike, a child, or a dog–if it's in the middle of the road, it's going to get hit by cars driving at normal speed coming around the bend or cresting the hill that simply can't stop in time. It's why I don't ride my bike in my neighborhood–it simply isn't safe even with the best, most-attentive drivers. Which many drivers just plain…aren't.

    I was nearly in a wreck the other evening on a one-lane, low-speed (35) road; an idiot texting while driving (yes, it's illegal where I am, but even the cops do it) drifted across the double-yellow and nearly slammed into me head-on. I simultaneously hit the horn to alert EmojiKing that he was not in his living room or in a darkened movie theater, slammed on my brakes, and jerked the car over onto the shoulder to avoid being hit. The guy behind me–also on his cellphone–was tailgating me and had to stand on his brakes to avoid rear-ending me. The woman behind HIM had to slam on HER brakes.

    With these kinds of dumb-asses on the road, what chance does a bicylist have?

  69. Katydid Says:

    It occurs to me that one of the things I miss about living overseas is the easy, cheap, and convenient public transportation. Wouldn't that be great, to do all your texting, tv-live-streaming, and movie-watching *on a bus or train* where you can focus on your phone all you want without impacting the lives of others?

    P.S. Recent news story from the UK: police met a train of drunken passengers at the station, found them singing, "He's got a bagel on his head" about one of their cohort, who indeed, had a bagel on his head. In contrast, here in the USA, an Episcopal priest was denied early-release after she drove drunk and felt the need to text, and slammed into a guy minding his own business in a dedicated bike lane. After killing him, she drove away (probably still texting).

  70. R E G Says:

    More bike stories! Part of being safe is knowing the limits of the drivers around you. It's no fun to be right if you are also dead. Our county is starting to put wide paved shoulders onto county roads. It's real treat for a cyclist to practically have their own lane. I'll happily ride miles out of my way to use those roads rather than the old narrow ones that force me into the gravel or the cars into oncoming traffic.
    I'm happy to share the road when I drive, but the closest I have ever come to killing a cyclist is when I have crossed a sidewalk. You are watching for slow-moving pedestrians, not speedy fireflies.
    Next class of near misses is teenagers at night, wearing black hoodies, on bikes with no lights or reflectors. I wish I could hand them a nice fluorescent t-shirt with "Future organ donor" emblazoned accross the back.

  71. democommie Says:

    I'm all about being safe. I give drivers who are sitting with their foot on the brake, waiting for me to cross in front of them, a wave to go on. Sometimes it takes me actually turning my bike around to let them know that I'm not crossing until they clear the intersection–even if I have the light.

  72. Major Kong Says:

    I almost got shwacked by an SUV while crossing the street a while back:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/28/1388610/-I-almost-died-just-now

  73. Katydid Says:

    @Major Kong; that was YOU? I remember reading that "back in the day", but I don't think I knew you from this blog yet. Glad you didn't die.

  74. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    One of the things I like about life here in Oakland California is the functioning public transit system. Among other features, they offer a five dollar day pass; since one ride is $2.10, if you're making three trips or more it actually costs less. Since I don't drive and have no bicycle, it's the bus or shank's mare.

    As a pedestrian, I am acutely aware of the ability of a misdirected automobile to ruin my day. As a bus rider, I am usually occupied with a book.

  75. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    One of the things I like about life here in Oakland California is the functioning public transit system. Among other features, they offer a five dollar day pass; since one ride is $2.10, if you're making three trips or more it actually costs less. Since I don't drive and have no bicycle, it's the bus or shank's mare.

    As a pedestrian, I am acutely aware of the ability of a misdirected automobile to ruin my day. As a bus rider, I am usually occupied with a book. I always thank the driver on exiting.

  76. Katydid Says:

    @Robert; New York City also has a robust network of subways, trains, buses, and –in an emergency– taxis. Washington DC had a functioning (if limited) transit system, but decades of neglect have sunk it into randomly catching on fire, and the trains tend to break in rain, heat, or snow. One of my kids is attending a college where you can see the Capitol dome from windows on the upper floors of any west-facing building; that's how close they are. There's even a metro stop about a mile from campus (barely walkable, but do-able if you're motivated enough). The ride cost $3 each way and takes 45 minutes IF there are no problems on the track that close it down and IF the trains run on time. Or you could walk it in an hour and save the $6.

  77. democommie Says:

    One of the things about McMansions that I meant to touch on earlier…

    Y'know who else kinda had McMansions? All of the folks who were releived of their goods, liberty and life by Madame Guillotine. Nothing sez "Enemy of the People" like a mini-Versailles–even if it all OSB and foam mouldings.

    @ Major Kong:

    Exactly so. Attributing our skills and attentiveness to the increasingly large number of drivers who don't even know where the fuck they are half the time–from over reliance on their wikiwebgooglefumapperz–is a dangerous mistake.

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