As I’ve mentioned previously, my lack of posting in recent weeks has been due to a house move. My wife and I sold our 1950s style house in Maple Leaf and bought a larger and newer house in the outskirts of Renton. The primary motivations for the move were to get a home that better fit our growing family (my son just turned one) and to find a place that was quieter (for 6 years, we lived next to a rental property that had a number of late night gatherings). The latter issue became especially more difficult as the former issue became a reality. There’s nothing more infuriating than being woken up by a drunk college girl yelling “woooooooooo” outside your window at 2am when your baby is actually getting some sleep in.
We’re now nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac with a three car garage. No bus access, no ability to walk to the grocery store or the pizza place. Even with my wife so determined to leave the city behind, as the time approached, she began to think more and more about how hard it would be to let go of those niceties. Everything is a trade-off though, and you can’t go through life moping about the things you don’t have. You’ll never have everything, so it makes sense to just appreciate what you have. And despite all of the totally fucked up things I write about here – from war to corruption to our broken political culture – I don’t let that overwhelm the fact that a person in my shoes is luckier than most in this world.
That trade-off, between living in a dense walkable area and living in a spread out suburb, is one that sparks a lot of political judgments. I’ve never quite understood the passion behind those judgments. Urban vs. suburban living is a matter of personal choice. In the years previous, my desire to avoid having to drive to work outweighed just about all other factors in my choice of where to live. This time, other factors informed my choice and the outcome was completely different. As we did our house search, I became fascinated by the effect that the Growth Management Act had on the way we valued potential homes. While I don’t question the need for the GMA, it certainly made us more inclined to look at older homes with more of a yard. In the end, we still bought a house built after the GMA took effect, but we hardly looked at new construction at all, as most of them had hardly any yards at all.
The biggest change for me might also be the most politicized aspect of the trade-off. I’m now car-dependent again. Commuting across the 520 bridge to Microsoft in the early 2000s was my last straw then, and I now find myself with another notorious commute (although nowhere near as bad) – going from Renton to Bellevue. I recalled the old debates over roads and transit that occurred in years past, and I’ll soon recognize myself as someone who is the target of folks whose desire is to “get people out of their cars”, which I’d most likely do again – if there was a realistic alternative for me. But knowing that I’d end up in that boat had little effect on my valuation trade-off, and I’ve taken the bus for years. I’d imagine that few of my new neighbors would consider public transportation – even if it were available.
Other than that, I’m enjoying my new suburban paradise. I hooked up a toddler swing to the play area we inherited from the previous owners. I’ve baby-proofed my new kitchen cabinets and set up baby gates. And Sunday night, I watched from an upstairs window as what appeared to be bobcat sniffed our garbage. But I think the real fun starts when I start going door-to-door trying to get people to sign the I-1068 petition.