I live in a town home in the suburbs of Chicago. It's somewhat difficult and even a little embarrassing to admit this because, by this stage of my life, I always thought I'd be living in a secret volcano lair or a fabulous underground bunker with nuclear capability.

Clearly I have failed at life.

Still, there are some advantages to living in a townhome. During the spring and summer months, I never have to mow or do any landscaping. During the winter months, people shovel my driveway and sidewalk for me. Once a year, the exterior wood on my house is repainted and the driveway is coated with sealant. And if the roof or aluminum siding needs to be replaced, it just happens, like magic.

There are also downsides. One might even call them "dark sides." The biggest downside is that my neighborhood is populated with a bunch of crotchety, joyless, late-middle-aged white people who haven't had fun in so long they've actually forgotten it exists. Either that or they think it's the work of Satan. This leads to fun little situations such as:

1. A few years ago, I was building a screen-accurate Ghostbusters proton pack in my garage. Usually, I did my work with the garage door closed, but one day I had the garage door open because I was painting and had recently given up inhaling toxic chemicals in enclosed spaces. I also had music playing on my car stereo for entertainment. As I was bent over my work, a neighbor from across the shared driveway strolled over with a big old smile on her face. By this point, I had lived in my town home for a couple years but hadn't met this neighbor, so I assumed she was taking the opportunity to introduce herself.

Au contraire, mon frère!

I said, "Hi there, I'm..."

But she cut me off, saying, "Excuse me, but I really need you to turn your music down."

"...Matt McH...huh, oh, uhm, what?" I stammered.

"Your music," she repeated, "I need you to turn it down. I'm trying to sleep."

"What? It's only," I checked my watch, "6:25 p.m."

Without missing a beat, she said, "Well, I get up early. And I can only sleep with my window open, and my window faces your house, and I really need you to turn your music down."

"Uhm, okay," I said. "I guess I'll do that."

"And I don't mean just right now," she continued. "Your music is always too loud."


"When you come home from work, you're playing your music too loud. In fact, any time you come into the driveway, your music is too loud."

I grimaced.

"Oh," she said, sounding genuinely saddened, "you're mad at me."

"Well," I said, "I've been living here for years and the only time you've ever bothered to come over here is when you're upset about how loud my music is. You didn't even say 'hello' or introduce yourself."

"Oh, right, I'm [whatever he name is]."

"Kind if late for that now," I replied.

"You don't understand," she said, "I'm a really nice person. I can loan you some tools if you need them, and I could even share some recipes with you."


"Do you need any tools?"

"I'll turn my music down," I said. "Nice to meet you."

2. There's an older man in my neighborhood who hates it when people speed. I mean, he really, really hates it. So much so that he posted a "Slow Down" sign in his side yard near the street and he regularly patrols the sidewalk while walking his miniature poodle. He uses his eyesight to determine whether people are speeding -- apparently his mind was replaced by a highly calibrated radar gun -- and then actually steps out into the street in front of moving traffic, raises the hand not holding his poodle's leash in a stopping gesture, and yells, "SLOOOOW DOOOWN!!"

And it gets better. He has actually laid speed traps in the road. Sticks, or debris, and one time he actually laid a board of old wood, all to slow people down. The free community newspaper has a police blotter, and an unnamed resident of my neighborhood is often listed as having called police about speeding motorists on his street. And one time there was a town meeting, and an unnamed resident of my neighborhood requested an increased police presence in the area to catch speeding motorists. I'm sure it was him. I'm also sure that every time there's a damn cop sitting in my neighborhood -- which is often -- he's the reason they're there.

So this is the garbage I have to deal with in suburbia. But wait. There's more. A few months back, I made the serious mistake of attending a town home association meeting. Supposedly, they were going to discuss the replacement of the deck / balcony structures attached to each home, which is something residents have to pay for themselves, so I wanted to find out how much I was going to have to pay and how soon. Not only did they not talk about the deck replacement -- it had been shelved until another meeting -- the entire meeting was spent discussing the "misuse" of a large grassy area in the neighborhood.

Here's the deal. There's a large grassy field in my neighborhood. For years, this area has been used by local kids as a soccer field. However, from the association's standpoint, there were two problems with this: 1) "local" did not mean "from the neighborhood" and 2) these children were Hispanic.

There was a lot of bullshit talk about how the kids were causing problems by leaving trash and "recklessly" kicking their soccer ball around. One woman said, "I was pushing my baby stroller, and their soccer ball almost hit me! They didn't even apologize!"

At this point, some guy stood up and said, "How would we know if they did apologize? A lot of those kids don't even speak English."

Note that he said "A lot of those kids don't even speak English" in the same way someone would say "That man supports the dark art of necromancy by eating babies! Live babies!"

This statement was followed up by someone grumbling, "If they're going to come to our country, they should be speaking our language." This idiot comment was met with murmurs of agreement.

All I could do was sit there in amazement at the ignorance of these people. We are in the 21st century, right? I didn't accidentally hop into a time machine and go back to the 1960s did I?

Eventually, the discussion moved into how to stop these Hispanic desperados from using our valuable resource, and I got up and walked out. I wanted no part of that. Within a week or so, signs went up all along the road next to this grassy field stating that it was for the use of town home association residents only. And these signs were combined with police enforcement. By month's end, that nice, lush, grassy field was being used by...

...absolutely nobody.

You know what? I liked seeing those kids playing soccer. There was a sense of community and real joy among them. Unfortunately, there were no white kids, and that apparently became a problem for the mostly white residents of my neighborhood. Now we have an empty field and a bunch of kids had to find another place to play. I wonder if they found one. I also wonder how long before somebody kicks them out of their new play space.

When I moved to this area, another apparent benefit was an outdoor basketball court nestled in a little park that has a playground and drinking fountain. I could walk three minutes and be playing basketball. Now, admittedly, I didn't play there very often. Obviously, it was only useful from late spring to early autumn, and I do prefer to play indoors at my gym or pickup league. But still, I went there occasionally.

The court was almost always full of kids playing basketball. Those kids were usually all black. And although that never mattered to me, it must have mattered to somebody. While driving by the court several times on my way here or there, I was surprised to see nobody playing pickup. One afternoon, I was going for a run and I stopped by to use the drinking fountain when I noticed...

...the basketball goals were gone. The court was still there, but the poles and baskets had been removed. At first I wondered if they were being replaced, until I noticed that the holes where the posts had been were filled in with concrete.

I did some calling around and found out that there had been so many complaints about the kids playing in that area -- they were loud and left too much litter around the court -- that the goals were removed. This was done, of course, to remove the kids.

Would the basketball goals had been removed if those noisy, littering kids had been white? There's no way to know, but I highly doubt it. This isn't the first time I've encountered something like this. When I first moved to the Chicago area, I got an apartment in Oak Park on the advice of Evil Ted. We discovered, to our dismay, that there were no outdoor courts in Oak Park, and that this was had been a conscious choice by the village government to keep out urban youths. And, as well all know, "urban youths" really meant "black youths."

I hate that fear and prejudice is slowly creating a world in which children aren't allowed or encouraged to play.
Anonymous DJ Highlife said...
Goddamn world... "Excuse me? I can't get an erection with your grass so long, and my wife is hounding me about it. Would you please mow it every few days? I'm a nice person, by the way."

Anonymous flip said...
For white kids, there are lots of encouragement and space. I doubt that what you face in IL is not happening across the country. I've run into that same thing in Northern CA and in the VA/DC area.

It is another step in the slow but sure march to complete moronization of society...

It will be a sad day when Idiocracy is no longer fiction...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
there's this park near my house with a basketball court as well. except instead of taking down the poles and stuff, all they did was remove the rims... so now there are poles and backboards for no reason whatsoever. it's so stupid. it's probably because the people in the houses that back on the park complained. but those people fully chose to buy a house there knowing that it backed onto a park (and school too actually). It's not like they bought their house and one day, an entire park spawned and a bunch of kids appeared. morons...

Anonymous Pablo said...
Facepalming, financial crash style!


Blogger chris said...
Of all the things that suck about society, homeowners associations have to be much higher on the list than people give it credit for.

Kids should be outside experiencing the world, and adults who intentionally take away those opportunities clearly have bigger issues than they're willing to admit.

Who's the mature one here?

Rhetorical question of course.

Blogger Dan B. said...
1) What's the point of having a playground if kids can't, you know, play? I despise these NIMBY ("Not In My Backyard!") people of the world so much. They're the ones who do this stuff, and they're the ones who knowingly move into a house a quarter of a mile down the road from a famous, historic auto racing track that's been there for 50 or 70 years, but then immediately complain "We need to shut down this track! I can't stand all the noise!" Because everything is all about me me me me me me! Fucking self-absorbed, narcissistic society...
2) We are in the 21st century, right? I didn't accidentally hop into a time machine and go back to the 1960s did I?
If you're in the 1960s, there's a hell of a lot more wi-fi hotspots than I would have imagined.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Pablo -- That is a great Tumblr.

Blogger Sturla said...
This statement was followed up by someone grumbling, "If they're going to come to our country, they should be speaking our language." This idiot comment was met with murmurs of agreement.

Well then those idiots should all be speaking some native indian language because after all its their country.

There was a simular situation in my country a few months back, some homeowners complained about a basketball court and got the city to remove it. But the kids held a protest (without the looting and burning) with a help from couple of members of the basketball national team. That led to the involvement of the National Basketball Federation who supported the protest, which in turn led to a media frenzy and within a week the city caved and put the baskets back up.

Blogger Mean1 said...
A couple things that I have always appreciated about sports is that is breaks cultural barriers and keeps youth actively doing something constructive. My father use to tell me as a kid, "idle hands are the devil's playthings." Although I never fully understood what it meant when I was a kid but have come to realize that it is a very true statement. During my teen years, I lived to play basketball. We had a whole group of us that would play for eight hours a day on various courts throughout the city. Although we had gotten into some trouble throughout those years, none of us did anything serious and I think that we can attribute that to our love of pickup ball keeping us occupied.

We can't keep taking away these types of oppurtunities from the youth.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I work with HOAs all of the time and I completely endorse this post. The only people with the time to serve on the HOA Boards, are either 1) busy-bodies who want to stick their nose into everything to make up for the lack of power in their own lives; and 2) retirees who just want to complain.

The result is HOAs that respond by eliminating anything that is even a minor annoyance - essentially sterlizing the neighborhood, which I think you characterized very well. And often there is an strong undercurrent of racial/class animus. Twice I had to eliminate basketball hoops on projects because of noise complaints and/or "attracting the wrong element."

And I really don't blame the HOAs either, because they are all volunteers, they want to avoid conflict with their neighbors, and they are poor property managers. Sigh.

Blogger Mean1 said...
And I have always thought "basketball goals" sounded funny.

Anonymous broken_teacup said...
Damn, I can attest to this kind of shit. Even in the very southern tip of New Hampshire, which is 30-45 minute drive from Boston, you can see people with bumper stickers like "You're in America, speak English!!"

As you might expect, these people tend to be on the less educated side. Having an infinitely better grasp of the English language(as the Latino son of two Latino parents, with Spanish as my first language) than they do gives me an almost sick level of satisfaction. In a weird way, I owe those racist bastards my interest in linguistics :)

Anonymous spinetingler said...
HOAs/POAs are the work of Satan.

I hate mine.

Don't buy a home in Dunes West, SC. You'll hate it.

(hopefully that shows up in google searches from now on).

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
Best thing is that those black and hispanic kids are now robbing and killing people or making babies while jumping on unemployment/welfare.

It is a fact that without anything to do kids will tend to be more destructive, no matter what the race.

Anonymous Theodore said...
Oak Park is 35% black and there are outside hoops. Drive south on Ridgeland past Lake street. It's been there for at least 3 decades, and they recently improved the surface and the hoop. There are others too.

I can't fact check the rest of your article, but hopefully it is not as woefully inaccurate as your penultimate paragraph. No need to invent cases of latent racism when there are plenty of actual examples.

Blogger ChrisH said...
they put some club like apparatus over the rims at a lincoln park court many years ago (clover playlot). now the hoops are gone. it's not just the suburbs

Anonymous D. said...
Not just America, either. Most of the outdoor courts in my English town have had the basketball hoops and soccer goalposts removed to stop kids hanging out there - even though they were installed to give the kids something to do in the first place. It was supposed to prevent anti-social behaviour, but has only pushed the kids into the town, where there's more trouble than ever...

Anonymous Tree said...
This is not limited to HOA and townhouses/condos, unfortunately. I live on a street lined with single family homes in a mid-town Toronto neighbourhood, and since we bought last summer I have become a lightning rod for my neighbours' hatred of children. They decided that street hockey was 'too dangerous and disruptive' to the neighbourhood (read: too loud and no one likes having to slow your car for 2 seconds until the kids move), and had our local councilor draft a bylaw banning it on public streets (in Canada, for chris'sakes). When I defended the kids, saying things like "we all did this growing up", I was nailed by my neighbours with bullshit justifications like: "yeah, but we were more responsible", "we respected people's property", "yeah, but we were all good kids - not like the terrors today", "yeah, but ..." Keep in mind these were neighbourhood kids, not kids from other places.

Look winded point - I don't think it's strictly about race. In my neighbourhood, it's about 'no good young'uns that have no respect' ... so adults teach them about respect by completely and unfairly disrespecting them in a severely hypocratic manner. I fear for my childrens' future - we live in a society of 'rules-are-rules-and-must-be-followed-even-if-they-fly-in-the-face-of-common-sense-or-decency'. I'm in my 30's, but I've come to learn that too many people in their 50s-60s are rule Nazis ... and do not like to be questioned.

Blogger J. O. Applegate said...
I've come across this as well. Growing up in an 'older', 'urban' neighborhood there were still places to play- but the problem there was that thugs/pranksters would occasionally tear down the rims for some reason. (Never could figure that one out.)
Anyways I moved out to the burbs with my family as a teenager because of rising violence (early 90's crack/starter jacket violence), there I saw tons of hoops in driveways- but not many kids playing on them.
There was a park at the top of the hill in my new neighborhood with tennis courts and a basketball court. Well when someone tagged some out-buildings in the park one day, they decided to pull out the basketball rims, of course the tennis nets stayed.
Recently (ten years later) they put in a disc golf course, but the basketball hoops are still just empty poles pointing nowhere.
Funny thing is, I always knew who tagged it, and he was definitely more of the disc golf type.

Anonymous Ted M said...
now this....this is bawful :(

Anonymous Tree said...
Completely unrelated (would have been good for yesterday's post, but I wasn't around): Ron Artest is smitten with Celine Dion ... even shed a tear as she sang 'My Heart Will Go On'. This guy is rapidly becoming my favourite NBA player. Twitter was created for people like Artest.

Anonymous Tom said...
I noticed a similar trend when I lived in New Jersey. Newer parks (and renovated older ones) seem to suspiciously omit basketball courts from the plans. The main park in Dunellen (my 1-square-mile hometown) had a major overhaul a couple of years ago, and when I went back to visit it for the first time, it was flagrantly obvious that there was a conscious decision NOT to have a court. In this park there is a football field and 2 baseball fields (used by the schools), tennis, swings & jungle gym stuff for kids, even spaces for shot-put, discus, long jump, etc... There used a to be a basketball court, but it is just a patch of land now. They didn't even repurpose the space.

I can only imagine what kind of coded talk went on during the board meetings.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You know if not that this blog is in English I would've sworn you were talking about Germany Lol. The worst thing is that most of the kids that actually do play in playgrounds are white German kids no lie.
In Munich where I used to live is a very popular playground, its situated in the backyard of a catholic schools boarding house ie the courts are on private property but since it belongs to the local church its open for everyone. Well this Court is situated slap bang in the middle of some apartment blocks.
Well at the beginning just as the Court was getting the reputation as the place to get high quality competitive runs games used to go on till it was dark. The janitor would come around(really cool dude actually but "no hanging on the rims or dunking allowed) and put on the floodlights for the games to go on. Eventually that practise was stopped and playing times were reduced from all day to just 4-7 pm daily because some unknown person filed a complaint in Court because "all the ball playing and loud children were disturbing the peace". Yup you read that right, some one who decided to move into a neighborhood of apartment blocks was disturbed by kids playing.... Sure to say after a while the good ballers stopped coming and the runs dried up...n you were talking about Germany Lol. The worst thing is that most of the kids that actually do play in playgrounds are white German kids no lie.
In Munich where I used to live is a very popular playground, its situated in the backyard of a catholic schools boarding house ie the courts are on private property but since it belongs to the local church its open for everyone. Well this Court is situated slap bang in the middle of some apartment blocks.
Well at the beginning just as the Court was getting the reputation as the place to get high quality competitive runs games used to go on till it was dark. The janitor would come around(really cool dude actually but "no hanging on the rims or dunking allowed) and put on the floodlights for the games to go on. Eventually that practise was stopped and playing times were reduced from all day to just 4-7 pm daily because some unknown person filed a complaint in Court because "all the ball playing and loud children were disturbing the peace". Yup you read that right, some one who decided to move into a neighborhood of apartment blocks was disturbed by kids playing.... Sure to say after a while the good ballers stopped coming and the runs dried up...

Anonymous Flud said...
Music too loud.... at 6:30pm? F*** that. You should speed straight to the park dressed as a Klansman and absolutely deafen the neighbours with and old school mixtape.

Blogger Rhett said...
The idea of police kicking kids off an empty field is gut wrentching.
I spent 10 years working as a remodeler and then a bit of time as a manager at home depot. HOAs are frightening illogical creations. I have a hard time understanding why they so often go straight to the nuclear option. Why not just walk out there and ask the kids to pick up behind themselves?
The american sense of community seems to be dying away. I've lived in places for years and never spoken to nieghbors. Cable tv, soft furniture, and climate control have made something foul of us.

Anonymous JJ said...
I agree with your community's decision to ban non-residents. The fact is that when kids play somewhere, regardless of their nationality, it will get messy over time (they'll leave empty cans, trash, etc). Then, someone will have to pay for the clean up and maintenance and it certainly won't be those kids' parents. Sure, they can be nice and let those kids use it. Or maybe they can offer a purchasable permit to use the field to non-residents. But, that would be an act of generosity. They certainly don't owe it to anyone to do so. Bringing race/language of those kids into the argument is tasteless and using police to enforce a ban against kids is extreme. But, otherwise, your community's decision seems to be justified - logical, even.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I grew up in Oak Park, actually. I feel your pain about the lack of outdoor basketball courts. Though they do have ones in the some of the parks -- I live right near Stevensen Park on Lake and that place hops in warm weather. But I agree that it's absurd how children are constantly roped off from more and more potential play areas. No wonder they're all couch potatoes...

Anonymous The Other Chris said...
but I've come to learn that too many people in their 50s-60s are rule Nazis

Tree, I think you hit the nail on the head here. Older people just have this attitude of "RESPECT MAH AUTHORITY!!!" (and that of so-called authority figures like cops, politicians etc.) regardless of any rational or common-sense basis for that "authority".

Reading this thread and these comments, I'm ever more glad I live in a condo downtown and don't have to put up with any of this shit. People are playing basketball all the time in the park near my house (Stanley Park downtown), not to mention all sorts of other sports in all of the other sports, and no one gives a flying F.

And yeah fuck HOA's. They should be illegal. Ship the old cranky people off to special colonies whether they can passive-aggressively spray their malaise over each other and leave the rest of us alone.

Blogger Michael said...
If you aren't willing to fight for it, it's not very important.

They want you to get discouraged and let them do what they want. They are bullies and will back down when confronted.

Read the HOA's rules.
Go to the meetings.
Find other neighbors who agree with you. (for example, your neighbor across the street, she owes you).

It's your neighborhood as well, you have a right to say how it is.

Blogger JimmySlattery said...
Nice one - it's a shitty world in many ways

Anonymous Ignarus said...
This will be a bit long, but I think the topic is good enough that's it's worth exploring.


Admission: I categorically *hate* having to hear other people's music unless I'm at a party and drunk. But there's a way to not be a dick about it and from what I can see, this lady totally crossed the line.

Now, right away, I want to point out that I don't think the stuff you brought up was particularly reasonable, but she started the irrational angry crapfest as soon as she said your music was "always too loud."

1) First, "too loud" is very often a matter of opinion and almost *always* in need of expansion to "too loud for X." So she picks a fight right off the bat by asserting that her opinion of proper conduct is inherently right while you are wrong. She's stating that this is an issue of right and wrong and you are morally inferior.

2) She ALSO does this in a rhetorically insidious way by upping the stakes *after* you've offered to turn the music down as an act of kindness. She's *literally* teaching you that taking an accomodating stance with this woman will be exploited; if you give this jerk an inch, she is going to try to take a mile.

3) Pretty much any time you say "always" in anger, you're going to be seriously overreaching. First, if you appologize NOW, you're admitting not only that it was a moral issue, but that it's a moral issue about which you've NEVER, EVER had appropriate judgment.

So *every* time you've *ever* had music on in your life, you've been a complete and utter asshole about it because it's ALWAYS BEEN TOO LOUD.

4) Finally, she's NEVER talked to you before about being upset about your music. By trying to take you to task when she's never said anything about it, she's acting like you've been consistently refusing requests to turn it down. That might have been a jerk move on your part, but she never gave you the opportunity to be nice or reasonable about it.

Yeah, it's uncomfortable to go up to someone you don't know and ask them a favor, but that's how life works when you live in close proximity with other human beings.
So, it really might be worth mending the fence with this lady if you're going to be living next to her for awhile. She probably doesn't even realize how much of a jerk she was and that probably didn't bring out the best in you, either. By treating you like an asshole, she got what she deserved, but now you've both got a deteriorated neighbor relationship when she didn't have to a jerk and you probably don't have a big problem accomodating the reasonable sleep needs of the people living around you.

If you honestly would have turned it down the first time she said something, it's possibly worth pointing it out to her that you'd have been ok doing it but if you don't mind something, you're not going to naturally assume that it's bothering somebody else.

People tend to tolerate noxious stimuli more when they feel like they can control it when it gets unbearable (it's the same principle behind some of the more recent developments in hospital-setting pain management; people tend to use less opiates when they have more control over the IV drip)-- likewise, your neighbor is likely to put up with music more if she feels like it's not going to be a big deal to get it turned down when she needs it.

So *theoretically,* that might be your win-win goal in this.

And if she's a complete shit about the whole thing, fuck it -- at least you tried.


Of course, this is unsolicited internet advice from an uninvolved stranger, so I'll admit that YMMV.

Anonymous Ignarus said...
I get the feeling that people are not hardwired to interact with that many other folks in a serious way. So I guess it's not that surprising that people go overboard trying to protect stuff that may not actually need protecting.

That sucks about the basketball court and the soccer field. It's like people don't realize that giving kids stuff to do that's *not* criminal isn't a bad thing.

Then again, I'm firmly in the get-off-my-lawn crowd when people are on my lawn.

I'd like to think that it was less of a racial issue, but racial stuff tends to make things that'd otherwise be ok much more emotional an irrational. Sad.

Anonymous Keir said...
So you go to a Home Owners meeting where they propose to deny a bunch of Hispanic kids access to where they play soccer and you walk out? Ever heard of standing up for something you believe in?

Blogger Dave B said...
I agree with the sentiment about kids not being allowed to play anymore...black or white.

I think it is a bit reckless for people to immediately go to the "black" vs. "white" card. It is so hard to sort through the myriad of variables. And as you kind of pointed out when you spoke generally of "children" getting shut out of play, it isn't just a black problem. Go ask a bunch of white, emo skateboarders how discriminated aagainst they feel...those poor kids at the ball court have nothing on those guys. People treat them like they are there to pillage the parking lots and sidewalks.

The underlying tension is - people don't like the unknown. Also, people just like controversy. Sometimes it seems "black" and "white", but that is probably a cheap answer.

When I was in college, I and a couple of friends use to play on some courts that you could say were in neighborhood predominantly black (and I and said friends am pasty white). We were just looking for a game...the courts close to our college campus had no action in the summers, so we went deeper into the city. The neighborhood fellas were *brutal* to us. Clearly, we weren't welcome - obvious from body language, and from the multitude of clothelines we took on layups...not to mention the general menacing and gamesmanship in terms of "whos got next" etc. After a couple of weeks, we were part of the "regulars" and got along great. It wasn't about color of our skins. It was just the color of our skins was what made it obvious we weren't from their neighborhood...and that fact created some tension and resentment...3 outsiders taking up court time while three of them had to virtually sit for "next game". On the surface, it was racial...dig in, and it was just "we don't know you". I am glad we stuck it out, because it was great ball and they were a great group of guys.

Anyhow, nice article...I am hoping you are wrong, and it wasn't racial.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Dave B - Awesome comment.

Blogger Wormboy said...
Wow, thought-provoking post. I love it!

Yes, I loathe HOAs. Unfortunately, most modern developments have them. Here's how I view them: they are an expression of unbridled greed disguised as civility. Their sole purpose is to increase the perceived property value of the members. The obvious points in favor are the rusted hulk on cinder blocks or the crack house, and OK, it's good that there is some legal recourse for neighborhoods in those situations. But the same color mailboxes and siding? And the neighborhood reaction to your court was entirely predictable and grotesque. A bunch of greedy rat bastards endlessly fussing over tiny details that in some strange parallel universe could have some incremental impact on their property values.

As for "if you don't like them, don't move there," in many communities there aren't many affordable options. We ended up in a neighborhood with an unusually mellow HOA, still against my wishes, because those were the only kinds of places where we could afford the mortgage. Yeah, we could move farther out, and sell our souls in a different way. We lucked out, and I don't think our HOA is repressive barring major transgressions. And yet still it makes me very uncomfortable, like I live amongst a bunch of lemmings. Thing is, none of my neighbors want an HOA either. We're just all stuck there, and counting ourselves lucky because most HOAs are far worse.

As for the NIMBY thing, well, that's pretty universal now in America, isn't it? I can understand it with, say, a chemical plant that might spew toxins. I sort of get it for a homeless shelter, though we're going to have to put one somewhere, aren't we? But playgrounds? Gah, it makes me nauseous.

As for the race thing, your quotes argue that the motivation behind at least some of your neighbors' reactions was racism. But it can be just as easily be interpreted as classism and animosity towards poor people and their problems, which sadly in America still frequently comes down to race. Not excusing their statements, but there it is.

And I think silently walking out sends little or no message. A diplomatically expressed, but strong demurral might have carried far more weight. That said, how many of us have the balls to actually do something in that situation. Much easier to claim we would. :)

Blogger Jelger said...
I enjoyed reading this story. Smiles and greetings from Holland!

Blogger BJ said...
I live in an apartment and keep an irregular schedule. My bedroom is right next to an iron lattice. The kids like to kick soccer balls into it and yell over the loud clanging noises. It's very annoying.

My solution? Put in earplugs, buy a louder alarm clock, and resign myself to living in the real world in which kids have every right to play games during the afternoons and evenings.

Race is part of it, of course. But another question worth asking, I think, is why don't people with problems like these look to themselves first for solutions? In the long run, slat fences and good insulation are cheaper than harassing your neighbors and increasing police presence.

Blogger Philip said...
I'm with Dave B and Wormboy. The HOA (or more likely, the few most vocal members that regularly attend meetings) are probably a bit xenophobic. But there's another explanation which isn't exclusive.

They must hate poor people.

I reckon it's a bit of both.