Sunday, March 15, 2009

Home Sweet Home

This is our neighborhood: we're trapped in a subdivision of three streets and we live on the middle one. The houses, though not completely identical, are pretty much identical. You'd have to live here to be able to tell the minute differences between one exterior elevation and another. Let's just say that there's a lot of stucco and mission tile roofs, Mesquite trees and gravel front yards.

One of the reasons why the houses look the same is because we have an approved color palette for our exteriors and we aren't allowed to change anything without submitting it to the architectural board. Even, like, if we wanted to switch from grass to gravel. I know I'm supposed to be very reassured by this firm control - after all, no one can suddenly come along and paint their house flamingo pink. But we can't even have a garage door different from the others, and they're starting to look dated, like we're a time capsule from 1993. I'm all for historical accuracy, I'm just not sure about anachronism.

Since we live in Arizona, I have neighbors I've never met. For some reason - the heat maybe? - people don't leave their houses here, they hide inside, or they open their garage, hop in their car and drive away. Kids don't play outside because of those gravel front yards and because every one of them goes to a different school and they don't know each other. Anyway, with lots as small as ours, a good neighbor is always a quiet neighbor, and a good neighbor driver is the one who doesn't try to run over my kids if they do wander outside.

Our neighborhood is also gated, which means that everytime I try to get in here the gate malfunctions in some way and starts slamming shut on my car. Sometimes the gates break on both ends - the in and the out - and I'm trapped in here like a jail cell. The gates weren't original to our neighborhood, rather they were voted in and not by us, because we're Democrats and don't believe in such exclusionary nonsense. Cars get stuck trying to get in or out of the gates or they just lurk around a while and get in following someone else. After all, these are not security gates; they're just for show. And they're only supposed to show the world that we're richer than everyone outside the gates.

But the neighborhood looks good - it's very neat. It has to be. About once a week a tiny white pickup truck from the Homeowner's Police drives through here with a guy inside holding a clip board. He stops in front of each house, carefully examining our home for any infractions of our HOA rules, like leaves left in our gravel front yards or garbage cans left out on non-garbage days. Within a few days we'll have a letter titled "Friendly Reminder," which is not friendly nor is it a reminder, it's a violation notice. I head outside to rake, I haul in errant garbage cans.

It's Arizona, it's our house, and we've been living here for 16 years.

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