McMansion on the Hill

I live in a neighborhood that’s probably too good for me. I moved here when I still had a chunk of savings from my high-paying but loathsome retail management job; I’d found a house available from a very, very nice landlord who could’ve charged a couple hundred dollars’ more rent than he wanted for it. It’s a small 2-bedroom house in an area where, less than a mile away, several football players whose summer training camp is in town have put up lovely mansions, with the team flags flying out front. Closer to home are more modest but still well-appointed houses of stone and brick, with Lexuses (Lexi?) and Mercedes Benzes in their driveways. These houses are clearly expensive, but not flashy or gauche: whoever owns them knows where the line lies between tacky and tasteful.

Except one.

Last year, one street uphill from mine, someone bought one or two of the smaller lots available, which had brick homes about the size of mine on them, with pretty white picket fences and gardens of tulips and irises out front. These houses were promptly razed to the ground, and then the grass was dug up with them, as if the new owner wanted to salt the earth to make sure no evil traces remained of the former owners and their relative broke-assedness.

It lay as a huge lot of red dirt, which swam onto the sidewalks when it rained; when I ran in the mornings, I left red footprints for half a block. Then the new foundation was laid, and Holy Saint Joseph was it huge. It was about the size of the pro football players’ homes, except it was on a street of more modest buildings. It looked like a gigantic ring on the finger of a street that normally wore little jewelry.

The framework went up, and clearly you could take my home and my next-door neighbor’s home (we rent from the same landlord; his house is about the same size as mine) and set them down inside this place, with a little border garden to spare. It stood for months on its garish swath of red dirt before the walls — stone, natch — went up over it.

I once mentioned it to an across-the-street neighbor, whose back yard borders the new monstrosity’s. He told me they’re putting in a pool.

“Where?” I asked. I couldn’t see any place for it, and frankly, if it had gone indoors I would not have been shocked.

“Practically in my back yard,” he said.

The house went up. The roof went on. Expensive window frames were put in. A stone walkway was laid in the front yard, where a fine dust of red earth covers it every morning. The construction company building the place stuck a sign in the front yard, which will probably have the effect of putting everybody else on the street off the business if they ever need anything built.

Last week I ran by it one morning and noticed a circular path in the front yard. What the hell? I thought. Then the next day a fountain went in. No fucking kidding. In keeping with everything else I’ve come to assume about these new homeowners, they chose the tackiest, cheesiest fountain available: a couple of bronze cherubs emptying an ewer. I ran by that with my mouth hanging open in shock. A little more cash, I thought, and they could do what that WorldCom jackass did and put in a sculpture of Michelangelo’s David, pissing water into the air.

From my living room window, my view, which was once of clouds above my neighbor’s house, is now almost entirely of the monstrosity home. I walk around my house naked or nearly so at times; now, if they want, these homeowners will be able to look out their decorative window and watch me do it. (I may end up on the internet in some non-written capacity.) I look at the roof and think of Sting’s song, “Island of Souls,” in which he describes a ship built in Newcastle, so large that “its great hull would block out the light of the sun.” In fact, I bet Sting’s house isn’t as big as this one. I feel certain it’s in better taste.

I don’t know the homeowners, but I have plenty of reasons not to like them. They planted this cuckoo’s egg in a street that could’ve been flashy but chose not to. Why didn’t they spend a little more money and live down the road, near the football players? Haven’t they seen that a fountain on this street will be as unnatural and ill-fitting as lipstick on a toddler? In fact, have they even seen the street they’re building on? It’s understated, quietly wealthy but not ostentatious. Now this tacky McMansion will dominate it like a giant pimple on the end of its nose.

Sometimes when I run past the house, there are men walking its red-dirt yard who are obviously not workmen. They look like they’re dressed for an executive job, or, on the weekends, a round of golf. They’re always yapping into cell phones, checking their watches, consulting their Day Runners. I don’t know if they’re the owners or the realtors. But when I pass the house, I usually smile and nod to the workmen, who reciprocate, and these business-boy types do not. That’s fine with me. These aren’t people I’m going to want to know.

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20 Responses to “McMansion on the Hill”

  1. They should be shot.

  2. tigereye Says:

    Unfortunately I think they’ve prepared for that. They’ve already installed an alarm system.

    John suggests putting detergent in the fountain, which I may not be able to resist…

  3. The nouveau riche can ruin *any* neighborhood, but this sounds tons more like they won’t even move in — they’re just spending their money shamelessly. I bet the hideous thing sits empty after construction ends.

  4. Kathleen L Says:

    But did they build the swimming pool? 😉
    In some of the older neighborhoods here people will buy a home raze it to the ground and then build a whole brand new house… once in a while it will be a McMansion. I guess it’s cheaper than buying in one of the upstart nouveau richê gated communities…

  5. pandemonic Says:

    Holy Jesus! Can I come to visit? I mean, a tacky fountain, and you practically naked next door, lots of red clay footprints and football players down the street… what more could a girl ask for?

  6. Golf is the fourth most popular sport in the world and everyone can play. The only thing that gets in the way of great golf is the mind.Real golfers know that golf is not just a sport, but it is a way of living

  7. madamedonna Says:

    We’ve been seeing this phenomena in our area. Dozens of mall beach houses with a lifetime of character and charm are being bulldozed. In their place now stand concrete erections styled as if they belonged in Florida (pink even) pointing toward the sky and blocking everyones view of the ocean and horizon. Horrible. I empathize.

  8. madamedonna Says:

    That should say “small” not “mall.”

  9. Bunny Dixonjugs Is Daners' Bond Girl Name Says:

    I agree with Wanda. Shot. Repeatedly.

  10. tigereye Says:

    Hey, I’m all for shooting them, but obviously these people have more money than they know what to (tastefully) do with. Who knows what kind of slimeball would end up prosecuting me? I’d end up on either 48 Hours or Dateline, and not in a good way.

  11. Bunny Dixonjugs Is Daners' Bond Girl Name Says:

    Could I get your autograph if you did, though?

  12. TheOtherIvy Says:

    Wow. A fountain.
    “It looked like a gigantic ring on the finger of a street that normally wore little jewelry.” Perfect image.

    I don’t think this species of people has the awareness required for seeing what they are doing to the neighborhood community. They might even imagine they are making it better somehow…because their concept is skewed. Urgh. Gross materialist status gestures.

    A friend of mine that I had known since high school moved into a too big house in a cul-de-sac years ago with other new too big houses. I worried that she would become her environment. She did for a while. There were creepy Stepford barbeques there where the neighbors got together and chattered about their acquisitions. Well, there was that one. The last time I visited.

  13. TheOtherIvy Says:

    Yow. Clunky syntax brought to you by corticosteroids.
    Please rearrange as necessary for optimum sensible smoothocity.

  14. tigereye Says:

    Trust me, Ivy — you’re talking to someone whose syntax is regularly brought to you by Demerol and all his cousins. I understand the smoothocity perfectly (even if it sounds like a Bushism!).

  15. Anners Scribonia Says:

    You should pull a Howard Roark and blow that shit up.

  16. Anners Scribonia, you read my mind. Muwahaha!

    Tigereye, I’m digging your blog, and wanted to chime in.

    I experienced a similar phenomenon in a little part of Los Angeles called Tujunga (ET was filmed there). I used to own a beautiful craftsman-style house on a double-lot for a number of years… I liked my neighborhood, it was funky and inconsistent because there were several styles, from log cabins to small ranch-style homes (Tujunga bumps right up against the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains). Most were built on lots close to the size of mine. Well, in the mid-90s, folks started coming in and knocking down the old stuff and building between one to three monstrosities on the same size lot, with no architectural integrity (your fountain and cherubs comment resonated with me, BTW). They looked like hell, and while there were often several members of the same family living there, there was very little maintenance or upkeep done once they got there, so things would fall apart quickly.

    I must admit, I did take advantage of this at one point during the winter months when the nasty, garish fountain water was cold and stagnant… I got a large, commercial-sized bag of lime gelatin (so it would match their house) and went to town. The next morning as one of their many dogs attempted to drink, everyone got a big ol’ surprise. Giant wiggly green fountain water! Totally worth it… they never found out who did it either, since all the other disgusted neighbors (and there were several) alternately played dumb or took the credit.

    As they say, I guess there is always room for Jell-O. 😀

  17. Anners Scribonia Says:

    Sorry for reading yer mind, Nice Melons.

    Actually the tearing down of modest, respectable houses and the erecting of big, stupid houses is going on all over L.A. and has been for some time. A drive down any residential street is a potential gagfest. They call them Stucco Colossi. Hideous Creatures, them houses.

    You should have taken a picture of the jell-o! That would have been cool beans.

  18. tigereye Says:

    Now there’s an idea. I bet if I did it in the morning, the workmen wouldn’t even mind — the kind of dolts who would put this house up can’t possibly be pleasant to work for. Cool, Melons and Anners!

  19. TheOtherIvy Says:

    A jello fountain pool…that is beautiful. I so want to do that now.

  20. It’s happening here too, just a few streets over, stupidly big homes built for people who taste is all in their mouths.

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