August 18, 2008
Nothing but Clear Skies & Floating Clouds
This week I helped move my 19 year old brother into his new digs in Thousand Oaks, CA. I'll admit he scored a pretty great deal by renting a room from a friend whose wealthy parents bought him a house (!) to live in while in school. And it's not just any house, but a three bedroom, ranch style house complete with back yard, dishwasher, plentiful space for a giant flat screen TV, and two fridges. Two. Not the typical setting for a bro-tel.
My life in the City of Dreams has prepared me for the inevitable tinge of jealously I feel whenever I see the homes of my peers who live elsewhere, but this house seemed especially cosmically unbalanced. I couldn't get over the fact that, at age 19, my brother is taking up residence in the suburbs. To me, suburbs are to be avoided at all costs. Sure I fantasize about moving out of my doll house size Brooklyn apartment someday, but I imagine a loft in a converted school house, or a farm house in New England. Unless we're talking about Agrestic, CA, I really don't enjoy the suburbs or their creature comforts. I felt somewhat queasy as we drove past golf course after golf course, horse stables, perfectly manicured lawns that have no business looking so green in the dry chapparal ecosystem. Streets had names like "Clear Sky," "Floating Cloud," and, I'm totally serious, "Easy Street".
I worry that my brother is going to have a totally warped sense of what it means to live on one's own as a twenty-something. Moving into my current apartment, my roommate and I shrieked with glee upon discovering it had a sink in the bathroom and not just in the kitchen; brother-of-mine bemoaned the difficulty in hooking up the cable box to the TV in his room. One of my first orders of business was dragging a futon mattress up to my loft bed, while his was buying a second set of sheets to have on hand for the days the maids come to change them.
For said set of sheets, we journeyed to the neighborhood Target. Oh Target, I must confess, this is perhaps the one exception to my hatred of the suburbs. How I long for a source of affordable and stylish home furnishings just a GPS-guided car drive away. Those Martha Stewart throw pillows would so nicely accent the slightly broken chair I rescued from the curb. After Target, we got back in the car to drive across the parking lot to lunch (a phenomenon recently noted by one of my most favorite bloggers). America! I'm part of the problem!
After cobbling together some trusty wire frame shelves, and helping my brother organize his comic books and complete collection of Star Wars novels, my mom and I drove off, leaving him at home in suburbs. I felt smug in my big city lifestyle, my hip zip code. I am content with Target.com. On the other hand, I felt a hint of worry. Five years younger, and not yet through college, my brother had reached a sort of life milestone most don't experience until further down the road. It was as if, through a lucky turn of events, he had snuck into the exclusive, sought-after white picket fenced American Dream. Though I struggle to understand the allure of the suburban dream, it's undeniably there. Now it will be part of my brother's life, and part of my visits home to California. Who knows, after a year there, he might be done with the suburbs forever, and this new house is just a matter of a great deal and the chance to live with a best friend. Yet I kept recalling the time when he was about nine, and my mom drove him down to Tijuana for a weekend adventure. They stayed with a family friend in San Diego. Upon pulling into their neighborhood, my brother gasped, "Mom, what is this place?" to which she answered, "it's the suburbs, honey". Wide-eyed, he dreamily sighed, "I love The Suburbs".