Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

James Howard Kunstler on Linden Frederick

Orion > Orion Magazine > July | August 2004 > Linden Frederick | James Howard Kunstler

Kunstler wrote one of my favorite books, The Geography of Nowhere. That book is a scathing critique of the homogenous pile of refuse that is the urban/suburban/rural life in the United States. You've probably looked around your city and seen how difficult it was to find someplace that wasn't completely bereft of soul, artistry, and common humanity. And if you are lucky enough to find such a place, the cost of property is far, far out of your price range.

Here in Omaha, anyone with dollars and sense lives in the old neighborhood of Dundee, with a nice community center that has three of four excellent restaurants (depending on which one is switching owners), a great neighborhood bar, a mom and pop hardware store. A coffee shop. And nice old homes with front porches.

There's no way in hell we could live there.

Oak Park in Chicago was almost ideal. Although we lived in a smallish apartment on the edge of the village, we could still walk and bike to restaurants, stores, and the train. We rarely used our car during the week.

We left because the one condo we might have been able to afford was $125,000 for a very small, one bedroom.

In Louisville, its the Old Louisville area near Central Park, with the added insult of being expensive and a high-crime area.

And all of this is without even looking into school districts.

The gist of Kunstler's argument is that our town fathers are a bunch of greedy, short-sighted idiots that feed our basest desires. For all our country's economic wealth and parallel rhetoric of freedom, we have created a poor, imprisoned way of living. We are trapped figuratively in large mortgages and fear of difference, and trapped literally in gated communities, isolated suburbs and most ironically, in our engines of freedom, automobiles.

Edward Hopper captured the loneliness and isolation of the modern urban world in "Nighthawks." Frederick captures the wasteland of postmodern ex-urbia.


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