THE WAY WE LIVE The Shock of the New

I like old. New suburbs, to me, are like Space Station Alpha.

An old friend and former colleague from many moons ago now has a daughter who is a tycoon. She has a big job with a Fortune 100 corporation. She and her husband, an artist, live in one of those cities the crooners sing about-a beautiful, sophisticated place with ocean.

This gets complicated: My friend. the old dad, called me because his daughter had been offered a very hot job in Dallas. She and her hus- band were about to come to Dallas so that she could be wooed. She obviously already wanted to take the job. But her husband (my friend’s son-in-law) was not at all enthusiastic.

My friend obviously wanted his daughter to take the job because it was a terrific job. He is of the generation that believes basing such decisions on whether or not you like the community or the underlying terrain is lame, limp, unwarlike and why this country is going to hell in a hand basket. But he is of the generation that would never say that to the son-in-law.

When he called me, he was trying to be decorous about the problem with the son-in-law. I tried to ease his embarrassment and perhaps even hurry, things along.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said, “your son-in-law thinks Dallas is the buckle on the Bible belt in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert and it’s run by a bunch of fascist, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophobic Jimmy Swaggart-types whose wives all have big hair.”

He was silent for a moment on the other end.

“What’s xylophobic?” he asked.

“Bigoted against xylophones.”

He made an indulgent sound in his throat.

I asked my friend to ask his daughter and son-in-law to have dinner with me and my wife while they were in Dallas being wooed by the company with the hot job. You know: You hate for somebody to have a bad impression, even if it’s accurate.

By the time we heard from the young couple, they had been in town two days husband were considering not showing up for dinner with us because they were thinking about killing themselves instead.

I did my best hurt-feelings act. They arrived an hour later at our home in East Dallas.

agent to see all the best places to live. When my friend’s daughter called me from their hotel in Extreme North Dallas, I could tell from her tone that she and her husband were considering not showing up for dinner with us because they were thinking about killing themselves instead.

I did my best hurt-feelings act. They arrived an hour later at our home in East Dallas.

wide-eyed “Are these neighborhoods really old?” he asked.

“Yeah. It’s true oldness. It’s not just a look.”

We took them to a great place in Deep Ellum for dinner. She said: “We asked the Realtor if Dallas had any historic areas, and she said, ’Sort of, but they have a crime problem.’ “

“She’s right,” I said. “We do, but so does America. The numbers show that this area and places like my neighborhood are much safer than any of the malls and many of the suburban residential areas.”

My wife gave them an earful about the arts scene in the city, both formal and underground. I asked what the real estate agent had shown them.

“Miles and miles of new subdivisions,” the husband said.

He stared at me, very bleakly, and then, in a hollow whisper said, “I would rather die.” I just knew what they had been thinking. Brand-new subdivisions do that to me. too.

After our meal, we walked the crowded sidewalks in search of dessert, through Deep El-lum’s wonderful mélange of punks, rockers, middle-aged corporate types, cosmopolitesand xylophobes. Then we took a starlight drive through Lakewood. down Tokalon (with which they were absolutely enchanted) and at last, on the way home, we drove along Swiss Avenue and mentioned a few asking prices we had heard about from the people doing the asking.

“You are kidding me,” she whispered, staring out the car window at a big, red Tudor type of a deal. She squeezed his hand. I thought I saw a glimmer of passion pass between them.

Nothin’ like those asking prices.

That’s all I will tell you of that story. Frankly. I’m not sure how it ends, myself. Haven’t heard yet. And it’s not intended as a diatribe against the new world north of Dallas. Some of my best friends live up there. Some people just love it.

You know how you know if somebody really has it bad for the suburban area north of the city? They start telling you how new their 7-Eleven is. And their Exxon.

“I’m telling you, Schutze, even my 7-Eleven store is brand-new. The curbs, the streets, even the trees. Even my Exxon station is brand-new!”

Some people love that stuff. Many people associate brand-newness with health.

But the point is, other people hate it. I don’t know why. I don’t know what the difference is. It’s not a question of virtue. I know part of what sets me back when I drive through a brand-new stretch of homes and stores in some place like Frisco is the Space Station Alpha aspect. I sometimes think to myself, “Gee, this is really nice. I hope it works.”

But I couldn’t go home to it. I need a place where I can tell that a lot of other people before me have managed to survive.

I used to subscribe to the conspiracy theory by which all of the real estate agents had a big secret meeting every year in Oklahoma where they received their instructions on how to steer corporate newcomers to the north suburban fringe. But at some point I realized I had met an awful lot of Realtors in my life and had never yet met one I considered capable of intrigue.

I think Realtors show people what Realtors like. The Realtors in my part of town like old houses. They live in old houses. Their daughters and sons-in-law live in old houses. So they show people old houses.

The ones in the north suburban tier just love brand-new 7-Eleven stores. So they show the guy who’s the artist from me distant romantic city the 7-Eleven in Frisco and say, “Look, even your 7-Eleven will be brand-new,” and the artist sits in the back of the Benz and smiles and way down deep inside he mutters to himself, “I am going to fake my own death at sea.”

So mat’s it. The end of my story. If you were hoping for a moral, I’m sorry, but we really don’t do morals in this department.

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