August 1, 2006


The suburbs: Greying fringes: The original 'burbs were built for young families. The children are older now -- and so are their parents. (INGRID PERITZ, 8/01/06, Globe and Mail)

The shouts and laughter of children seeped away from the street around the Daoust bungalow. One day, Michel and Marie-Andrée Daoust woke up to realize that all the children had gone.

In the seventies and eighties, with their own young daughters underfoot, the Daousts' suburban neighbourhood crackled with the lively sounds of kids splashing out back, shooting pucks out front and playing tag on lawns everywhere.

Then the suburban soundscape started to go quiet.

"Only the parents remained, people our age," recalled Ms. Daoust, a retired lab technician. "Everything was so still. We used to hear children yelling and playing. But then there was nothing, nothing.

"It was so strange."

Their country can die off in peace and quiet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 1, 2006 10:09 AM

So, how would you characterize your neighborhood? Because, when I go to your house I flash back to growing up in suburban Connecticut. You even have a cute little hut out at the entrance so the kids don't have to wait for the bus in the rain.

Posted by: Bryan at August 1, 2006 10:24 AM

Young families are moving into old neighborhoods, but it still may not mean the sounds of kids playing because nowadays their lives are so uber-organized there's little time for the unstructured games we remember from the golden days of our youth.

Posted by: erp at August 1, 2006 11:54 AM

My old neighborhood in Manhattan was aging strikingly when I went back a few years ago -- having dinner in an Italian restaurant almost felt like walking into the dining area of a nursing home. But that was because the people, some of whom moved in after World War II -- felt safe and comfortable in the area and opted to stay there for the remainder of their lives. Now, many of those have died off, and when I was there in June, you're starting to see a new influx of young adults with children moving into the same apartments (albeit it, thanks to New York's skewered rent stablization rule for post-WWII dwellings, at a far higher market value than the former residents were paying).

Posted by: John at August 1, 2006 12:09 PM

And we have twenty kids under 10 in a 10 house cul-de-sac.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 12:39 PM

Yep, lots of turnover and younger families in our neighborhood, too.

Some details: after living in various places around the US and around the world, at about age 30 I returned to my home town and bought a house literally a block and a half from where I grew up. My parents have since moved to a new home on a nice view lot about 10 minutes away, but my next-door neighbors are an 80-something couple whose kids I went to school with, across the street lives another such couple, and my old next-door-neighbor lady still lives at home (though she's pushing 90 and doesn't drive any more, so oj will undoubtedly admire her.)

But interspersed among these old-timers are lots of new homeowners with younger familes. The crowds at the schoolbus stops vary from year to year, but significantly there are plenty of years when their numbers are up, not down--i.e. no monotonically-increasing median age around here.

In other words, just a typical, healthy, American suburb. No trains, though, fwiw. :-)

Posted by: Kirk Parker at August 1, 2006 12:41 PM

There's probably about 20 young kids on either side of the alley on my block. In the middle of a big city (Chicago)!

Of course by the time they reach middle school, many of their families will have moved to the North Shore in search of better public high schools.

Posted by: Rick T. at August 1, 2006 1:00 PM

I guess I'm just a little confused as to where you want people to live. You don't want them to live in apartment buildings because they're "anti-human." You don't want them to live in spread out rural areas because that necessitates owing a wicked evil car. You don't want them to live in suburbia because of whatever phoney-baloney reason you've cooked up for that. So, instead of making me guess, why not present your plan for the perfect living space and town (a la Buckminster Fuller) and then describe how you're going to force people to live in your planned communities. For an encore, you can explain how you're still a conservative and not a lefty social engineer. Because I'm not getting that either.

Posted by: Bryan at August 1, 2006 1:25 PM

Just make gasoline prohibitively expensive. People will live in neighborhoods near their jobs or find alternate means of transport.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 1:38 PM

So, just more lefty social engineering, eh?

Posted by: Bryan at August 1, 2006 2:07 PM

No, it's righty. You crush the evil and good follows.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 2:23 PM

My kids will miss having an elementary school right across the street - that's where I learned to play baseball, football, and even emergency fence-climbing (the mean Italian grandmother's even meaner dog). The cul-de-sac is fine, but both families right nearby with young children moved in the past year. Charlotte must be the transient capital of the USA (followed closely by Atlanta).

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 1, 2006 2:27 PM

That's lefty.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 1, 2006 2:27 PM

The Left doesn't believe that Evil exists, just that they know what's good for people. The Right understands that when you tackle Evil people will find their own good solutions. It took the Left to create the Highway problem and force them on society.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 2:31 PM

Ours walk, as we did.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 2:32 PM

Who decides what's evil? You?

Posted by: Bryan at August 1, 2006 2:53 PM

We do.

I can't raise gas taxes myself.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 3:09 PM

No, it's lefty to get so befuddled by words that you think you're tackling Evil when you tax people out of their vehicles, or that they are finding their own good solutions after you have taken away every choice except beating feet.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 1, 2006 4:26 PM

Burning gasoline is evil. The rest takes care of itself, as so often when you do the right thing.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 4:37 PM

I can't raise gas taxes myself.

Can I get a Hallelujah?

Posted by: David Cohen at August 1, 2006 4:40 PM
Burning gasoline is evil.
You know, oj, if I thought you were remotely serious about this, I'd never come back here. Fortunately, I don't, so I do. Posted by: Kirk Parker at August 1, 2006 4:41 PM


Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 4:51 PM

David: Hallelujah!
[now get over to the next thread and bail me out!]

Posted by: John Resnick at August 1, 2006 5:03 PM

Jim Hamlen:

Charlotte isn't even the transient capital of North Carolina. Been to Cary lately, nobody's from there. In fact the locals say that Cary is an acronym for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees".

Posted by: jeff at August 1, 2006 5:12 PM


You're probably right - I haven't been to Cary since 1993, when it was just taking off. And it was overpriced then.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 1, 2006 7:07 PM

"Burning gasoline is evil"

Does that make NASCAR the equivalent of an Aztec sacrifice?

Posted by: ratbert at August 1, 2006 7:21 PM

Ask Dale.

Posted by: oj at August 1, 2006 7:30 PM

I did, but his corner of the hot place is plagued by this eternal, infernally loud roaring sound. I don't think he ever heard me.

Plus, everyone there appears to be forced into this strange tight grimace, and they seem to be gripping an invisible being directly in front of them. They don't seem capable of noticing anything else. And they are forever running in oblong circles.

Nothing to report on the gasoline - who knows, it might be like nectar down there. I left before I ran into any of the odd bellowing creatures squatting in the middle of the circle (their mouths were always open, and their heads were swivelling around continuously).

Posted by: ratbert at August 1, 2006 11:59 PM