Friday, December 8, 2017

Nine trucks

    Nine trucks. Mack trucks, mostly, with a couple Peterbilts thrown in for variety. Five parked on Center Avenue, four more around the corner. I counted. 
    Kitty and I were on the dawn patrol last week, making our eight block circuit of the neighborhood, when we turned a corner and were confronted with them. A sight that, in 17 years of stomping our quiet suburban streets, I had never seen. 
   A knot of drivers stood chatting with one another. 
    "Scheduling mishap?" I ventured—nine trucks seemed like a lot of trucks to park at 7 a.m. on a single block. I instantly imagined some computer snafu where nine trucks had been sent to do the job of one. It seemed the premise for a children's story: Nine Trucks. Kids love trucks. I know I do. 
     I couldn't imagine why so many were there. The drivers, holding their coffees, looked at me but didn't respond. A civilian. Or perhaps a language issue. Kitty and I moved on, admiring the brawny trucks, designed for hauling dirt.
     It didn't take long to realize they were there for the house that had been razed a few days earlier. It had seemed a not-particularly-decrepit house, new enough that I snapped a photo of it. But obviously not to contemporary standards of luxurious living. They've been building these lot-line crowding mansions lately. 
     Twenty years ago faux Norman chateaux were all the rage, with round towers and limestone details. I particularly scorned those. Now Burgundian behemoths are out and we are seeing what I think of as Little Sag Harbours, Atlantic coast edifices with wood shingles on the walls and lots of little windows scattered about, homes that should be on some sprawling estate in the Hamptons, not jammed into a suburban lot on the former prairie of Illinois. Their windows, instead of looking out on Oyster Bay, gaze through the windows of their neighbors. Some are six feet apart.
    The trucks obviously weren't bringing anything—the truck beds were empty. They were taking something away. The dirt from the foundation of the new house.
    Kitty and I came around again that afternoon—the afternoon walk. We are creatures of habit, the both of us. If I try to deflect from our routine she will stop in her tracks and stare at me, indignant. 
     The trucks were gone. But something new was there. A hole. And not just any hole. A foundation, the deepest basement I've seen on a new house--it looked 10 feet deep. For a moment I wondered if they could be building an apartment building in the middle of that residential block. It was that deep. And wide, it was as if they had dug up the entire lot; there would be no yard at all. I stopped to gawp at hole, and a guy in a hard hat wandered by, and I struck up a conversation—I'm good at that. 
     There had actually been 11 trucks, he said. Two more arrived after I left.  "That's all I could get," said the foreman. "I asked for 20."  He said deep, wide foundations are the new thing, all the rage.
    "It's even dug under the garage," he said. "We use re-enforced concrete for the garage floor."
    Maybe class envy is involved—the mere upper 10 percent gazing at the upper 5 percent. Whoever dug the basement of my house, 100 years ago, made it just tall enough for a man of medium height to stand, and then he has to dip his head to avoid heating ducts in a spot or two. I wish that farmer had gone for an extra six inches, but he was probably digging by hand, and having done that myself, I know how tempting it is to stop at Just Deep Enough and not an inch more.
    Now they dig to China, and span the lot. I can't imagine what kind of Hyde Park horror is going up, but I don't have to; we'll find out soon enough. A lot of money in the world, concentrated in an ever narrowing band atop our society, and they want every cubic inch of basement they have coming to them. It won't be pretty to look at, but that isn't much of a concern anymore. Maybe it never was.


  1. It might be that they're building a fallout shelter under the house, you know, what with our fearless leader making America great again and all.

  2. maybe they are also installing a geothermal HVAC system beneath this home? reducing the old carbon footprint in the midst of conspicuous consumption

  3. How other people spend their money is none of my business, but I couldn't fathom paying through the nose for a house and not having a yard. To me the whole point of living in the suburbs is to have a yard for the kids to play in.

  4. Where else are they going to put their full-size basketball court?

  5. In a discussion this morning, a real estate agent and friend mentioned that people doing similar projects were spending monopoly money -- it wasn't real to buy a perfectly good 2-flat for a couple hundred thousand, tear it down and build a million and a half monstrosity. Which reminds me of Rahm, going off to a short-term job to make a few million to tide him over while he's making peanuts as mayor. Is that "real money"? Or is that an alternate world inhabited only by super beings, who demand and receive compensation for a job well or ill done at a rate that would satisfy 100 ordinary people for their lifetimes. Every base hit some mediocre infielder makes earns him what would be a princely monthly salary for most of us. And of course not one of those super beings wants to pay tax at the rate we ordinary people pay and usually seek out the help of lawyers and accountants, who either rob him/her blind or set up complicated estate plans that make sure that none of his/her descendants need work for at least 5 generations. I once knew a hard working bar owner who was intent on making his daughter into a princess. I told him he was cheating her by failing to pass on the energy and drive that made him successful. He did not understand a word I said.


  6. It looked like a nice mid-west farm house. Some of peons would love to have that. I hope they don't big too big a McMansion there.


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