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40 Greatest Stories

Misty Crest: On the Frontier of the New American Dream

Several hours ago, I didn’t know what a "kitchen island" was. Now I’d rather die than exist without one.
By John Bloom |
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I’m on my way to Misty Crest, and I’m losing control. All known landmarks have disappeared, and I’m steering my way through a jungle of privacy fences, a never-never shingled wood of Glades and Glens and Villages and Creeks. Occasionally, there appears a brick entrance announcing the gateway to Hidden Valley Vista Haven, or Heritage Point Highlands Estates, or some other place of wordy Latinate repose. But I push on, following my wood-stake signs, the ones that will lead me to the mecca of residential real estate.

[inline_image id=”1″ align=”r” crop=””]As I say, I’m headed for Misty Crest, and I refuse to be tempted by the phony subdivisions left over from last year. Misty Crest is brand new, grand opening today, model homes available. I’ve put 157 miles on my car searching for Misty Crest, running around to the frontiers of home ownership in Dallas, looking at a dozen versions of the middle-class dream. And the frontiers have expanded far beyond what I thought to be the limits of civilization.

Misty Crest, now, at this point in my travels, is sort of a last resort. For now that I have actually touched the built-in microwaves at the Oxford, the Centennial, and the Towne & Country, now that I have actually trod the ceramic-tiled foyers of the Murry and the Gemcraft, now that I have actually pushed open the swinging French doors on the wet bars of a Rosepoint, a Southwestern Classic, and a Quivira, I have completely forgotten which one is which. Has it been just a dozen or has it been 50? I can’t recall. Several hours ago, I didn’t even know what a “kitchen island” was. Now I would rather die than enter a house that is not equipped with a kitchen island, preferably one with decorator countertops with back splashes. What is a back splash? I’ve forgotten, but I’ll take three, please.

Every once in a while you’ll see a newspaper article about the “architecture of Dallas,” usually illustrated with a color photograph of a 187-story mirrored see-through building. This is not the architecture of Dallas, at least not the architecture that anyone beyond a few tycoons cares about. The architecture of the suburbs, the exalted single-family temple, is the only style that exemplifies the city. Bad economy in 1987? For office buildings, yes. For shopping centers, yes. For condos, yes. Not for homes. Home sales rose 5.2 percent during the first three months of this year. We can do without many things, but we can’t do without our god.

The allure of Misty Crest, I think, begins with the name. It has the air of Arthurian romance about it. It whispers, “Venture here if you dare, and find bliss.” It’s a quest, then, to find the true temple. It’s worth 157 miles. It’s worth the disorientation of entering this suburban maze. It’s the ultimate test, for it leads, I am told, to Southwest Arlington. Southwest Arlington, which didn’t exist 10 years ago, at least not as a psychological nirvana, is where things are “hot,” where everything is selling, where the world is coming to worship. Misty Crest beckons. I’m coming.

Misty Crest, true to its name, sits atop a slight crest before the road dips down toward the junior high and then branches into the out-there beyond of Mansfield. It is, in short, on the very edge of things, poised between the urban and the rural, the sophisticated and the pastoral, the balance every man desires—until the next subdivision goes in a mile farther out. For the time being, though, the mystery is intact.

Every home here is modeled after an ancient temple, with successive levels of holiness (privacy) as you get to the most revered rituals that take place here. For example, the first room in almost all of these new homes (and they are remarkably similar) is a “living area,” and it is purely decorative. It is not designed for comfort, for any particular activity, or even for television watching. It is designed for appearances. It is the equivalent of a Court of the Gentiles, a place to park people who really shouldn’t be allowed to see the holy of holies.

Plan 122, which retails for $96,850, almost precisely the median price of a new home in Dallas or Fort Worth, scored nicely on the Court-of-the-Gentiles scale. No leaded-glass doors, but the garden full of ground cover by the front door and the brick fireplace made up for it. Even better, Plan 122 has a French door leading directly from the living area to the patio, all the better to move the Gentiles through the house without allowing them to enter the holy of holies.

We now proceed to the next holiest court — the children’s rooms. You would actually expect these rooms to be much more exalted than they are, seeing as it’s the children who make the family a family, and make the temple-of-the-family a temple in fact. But, in truth, the children usually get the equivalent of warehouse space — square, boxy rooms, tiny closets, barely enough floor space for single beds and one other piece of furniture. Functional, small, no-nonsense. Two in this house, three in others. A truly fancy one might have a special touch, like a small study outfitted for computer equipment, but generally you have to get up into the $300,000 range to find that.

Now we can move in either of two directions. Depending on which particular god your family worships, the holy of holies can be one of two rooms. Let’s move first to the right. Around a corner, past the interior garage door, past the laundry room (an essential), through another doorway is — voila! — the “master bedroom.” It is always called the master bedroom, implying a lordly state. It is never called the parent’s bedroom or the husband-and-wife bedroom or the principal bedroom. The master bedroom. It is far, far removed from the front entrance, both physically, by a succession of doors, and psychologically, by having a different decor than the rest of the house. Here, you would think, is the temple’s principal sanctuary, where the marriage sacraments are consummated, where the husband and wife entertain each other in private bliss, where no stranger can enter. But if you judge by what people consider desirable in their temple, this is not the final holy of holies. You have to pass through one more barrier, enter one more door — to the master bathroom.

At least half of the “most desirable” options in new homes are in the bathroom. Here, not in mutual wedded bliss, but in solitary ablutions, are the most dearly held rituals. The first thing you’re going to need is a “garden tub.” A garden tub has an oversized window next to an oversized bathing area, so that you can relax in the sudsy water while idly gazing out at … well, probably at your neighbor’s oversized air conditioning unit. But in theory you would be gazing out at your garden. Next you need a separate, glass-enclosed shower. Then you need a separate room for the commode. This is probably the most ridiculous appearing feature of the master bathroom, so it is usually equipped with swinging French doors or some other artifice to disguise the fact that the actual holy of holies, the last room you can get to, the farthest from the front door, has nothing in it but a commode. And, unlike the garden tub, it’s usually a rather feeble, undersized john.

Lest you miss the point, the key word in the master bathroom is separate. He has his. She has hers. Even if the two of them are in there at the same time, they don’t have to actually look at each other. And there shall be no expense spared on the master bathroom, I’ll refrain from any further sociological comment on what this says about us.

But there’s a separate pathway we haven’t yet taken. Now we proceed to the sanctuary that is controlled, dominated, and ruled over by the woman only. I am speaking, of course, of the eternal roost of matriarchies — the kitchen.

In Plan 122, the kitchen is so far away from the front door that it actually protrudes out of the back of the house, like a chapel. Alas, it lacks the all-important “island,” but it more than makes up for it with the essential of sentimental food-worshipers everywhere — the breakfast nook. This particular breakfast nook has made its designers so proud, in fact, that they’ve decorated the table with lifelike pieces of polystyrene food, to complete the fantasy. What about microwaves? Hotpoint Counter Saver, of course. The oven is self-cleaning, the cabinets are Lazy Susan-style. There are box windows, a stainless steel double sink, a “five-cycle, double-arm dishwasher with energy-efficiency feature” — the list of gadgets and gewgaws goes on forever. Not being a devotee of kitchen appliances, I can’t give you a catalog. But the device that sums up the kitchen sanctuary for me — and seems to be in every house I examined — is the computer board control panel. Now some panels control the appliances. Other panels control the intercom or the lighting. But the more buttons you have on these things (especially when they’re combined with an AM/FM stereo radio or an outdoor floodlight dimmer), the more power has been vested in the high priestess, the queen of the kitchen. She is the one who wants the family to resemble the Jetsons. She is the one who insists on a “digital thermostat.” She is, undoubtedly, the buyer.

Nowhere have we discussed the materials with which the temple is made. Nowhere have we discussed the quality of the construction. All we have discussed is the fantasy. It works. It carried me, not only through Plan 122, but onward and upward through Plans 152, 166, 202, and 193 (four bedrooms, game room, two-and-a-half baths). Some lead us to the master bathroom sanctuary, some to the kitchen sanctuary. All lead to the desires of our hearts. The builders are not ignorant men. They know what we want. We want abundance in the kitchen, harmony in the master bedroom, children who are happy and obedient, and peace and communion under the soft whir of our family-room ceiling fan. Too bad we can’t find it in a house.

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