- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

It apparently is not hip to live in the suburbs, according to many of the sophisticates who dispense their insights in big-city publications.
You see, they have too many strip malls in the suburbs. They have overcrowded roadways. They live in cookie-cutter structures, many of them modest.
Worse, their lawns are neatly manicured. Somehow the lawns are always neatly manicured. The lawns, it seems, have to be neatly manicured in the dispatches, perhaps because it implies a blandness, a sameness, a lack of creativity on the part of the dwellers.
They have 2.2 children in the suburbs, a dog and three or four vehicles, one of which is a gas-guzzling SUV, and their idea of a fun time on the weekend is a trip to Home Depot. They are not bad people. They are just hopelessly dull, out of it, unaware of the enlightenment in the city.
There is action in the city. There is vitality, a buzz. There also is the guy who will watch your vehicle while it is parked in exchange for a dollar bill. He is a hard-working guy with a deep entrepreneurial spirit. You park. He watches. He promises.
You do not have this guy in the suburbs or in the fashionable parts of the city. You pull into a strip mall in the suburbs, and your vehicle is bound to feel lonely while it is parked.
You do not have the spare-change brigade in the suburbs, either. In the city, you are a two-legged ATM, forever under assault, which is a small price to pay if you like to be around ultrasophisticated people and if you like to see where you are in the pecking order of a power lunch.
A parking space is a badge of honor in the city. You are somebody special if you have your very own parking space. You have made it big. You are so important, just so cool, worthy of a bow.
For the masses, parking in the city is a game of sorts that requires patience, luck and persistence. Otherwise, the city will get you, first with a ticket, then with a series of letters that turn nasty and then finally with the dreaded boot.
Never you mind about the game. They are saving lives in the city, starting with the tow-truck operators, and we thank them. We thank them so much. We also thank the city for its cameras. That comes out to a whole lot more lives being saved.
The suburbanites are too caught up in their youth-league soccer matches to understand. Their friends in the city have it all. They have interesting abodes, some with bars on the windows and doors, which reveal a certain architectural freedom, a commentary that life is fascinating.
The public schools in the city probably could be better, and one of these decades, the political leaders in town are going to make good on their promises to fix them. But not to worry. Those members of the cultural elite capable of reproduction are inclined to send their children to private schools.
This is how it works in the city. To live in a somewhat nice neighborhood, you need money, and lots of it to pay for the so-so city services, the private schools and the roof over your head.
Location, location, location. Real estate agents don't utter that mantra for nothing. Don't be taken aback by the sticker shock. The place has wood floors. That is another thing. It is all about wood floors wherever you go nowadays. People exchange business cards as well as pictures of their wood floors.
People often wind up in the suburbs because of no other consideration than schools and personal finances.
They don't necessarily want to commute an hour to work each day. They don't necessarily want to be part of Al Gore's sprawl. But they don't have a lot of choice, and they don't have the time or energy to be smug and condescending about it.
The attitude can cut both ways, if you insist. It is just as easy to mock those in the city as those in the suburbs.
Why, in the city, they are still trying to figure out how to resolve the clever resume of a public official. They have had an investigation, a petition drive, meetings and discussions, and still they are hard at work on this fairly simple matter.
Alas, even the easy stuff takes time in the city.


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