Monday, July 11, 2011


This past Sunday, Deputy Dave and I dropped by a client's home, making sure it is ready for her return from Iraq. We've been handling her property needs for the past several years and her contract labor position overseas is finally coming to an end.

While in Iraq, she purchased this city-home in Houston, a two story attractive residence that resembles a townhome, but it is not a townhome.

For blocks and blocks, it looks this way in this area.

Pretty, but crowded!
This particular area of Houston has mixed housing. One house might be a huge four story mansion looking ungainly on a small plat of land with absolutely no yard space; and next door you might find a 90 year old resident sitting on the porch of a run-down house resting crookedly on crumbled bricks with years of visible neglect obvious as you wonder how the house is still standing; and the next address may hold a seemingly out of place four-plex, then again, across the street you might find a sprawling Victorian in prime condition. Yard space is not valued in this area and any views of downtown Houston are often hindered by other unsightly obstacles that the residents seem to ignore.

I can't imagine having this view from my Master Bedroom window.
The house next door is so ridiculously close that you can see the
siding very clearly. The neighbor's tiny "backyard" is also in view. 
For an area that considers itself "ritzy," the streets are not kept up very well. There are pot-holes in the road and too many areas of heavy erosion. On each side of all of the narrow asphalt roads through this neighborhood, there are deep culverts that are not covered except for small patches to allow for resident entrance parking. I understand that the country has open culvert ditches, our acreage has two entrances with culverts that are wide enough to give us plenty of wiggle room. However, this so-called spectacular area in downtown Houston is crammed with cars and traffic and damaged culverts, making it more daunting to navigate, unless you are driving a is nearly comical.

Even more amusing, is that about 10-15 years ago, this area of Houston became such a hotbed of real estate desire that developers began rushing in to put up anything they could conjure and the mish-mash of architecture and time-periods between each neighboring house actually made the neighborhood look confused and without much direction. I'll be kind and say that it looks "eclectic."

Here are a few houses, all in the same neighborhood.

Years ago, it seemed that this area would maintain a focus of historic architectural preservation, but that lofty ideal has passed by the wayside. Greedy development took over. Today, this area is congested to the hilt, yet there is a severe lack of space for traffic flow and parking. Many of the quaint historic homes of great beauty have morphed into gaudy monsters trying to gulp more square footage. After all, value in this area strictly comes from square footage, so the more they can get, the higher the value.

But, every time we drive into this area, I immediately begin to feel claustrophobic. I cannot understand WHY anyone would would WANT to live so close to others and live with the chaos of trying to maneuver your way through nearly impassable streets.

Once inside your home in this area, you have no peace. Harsh sounds from the world outside are constantly loud and intrusive. Sounds vary from Interstate traffic to trains to never-ending nearby construction, then you have the neighbor's music; it would make a nut-house seem peaceful.

Views from any window only highlight a neighbor's home. Everyone is jam-packed in together so that every tiny bit of real estate is capitalized upon. I look at this area and wonder...Why would anyone WANT come home to that kind of life?

View from a living room window downstairs.
Do these people feel as if they are in the epi-center of life because of the congestion and busy-ness that accompanies life in the downtown area? Does it make them feel more "alive" to be surrounded by constant buzzing energy and noise? Do they feel tucked inside a community, united with their neighbors as one of the "different"  people who like living out there?

Perhaps these personalities need this frantic, compressed kind of energy around them in order to remind them that they are "important" and "present" even when they aren't at work. Perhaps? Or, maybe they need to feel lost in the world and not as noticed, maybe this is more likely when you are stuffed into one place with so many others.

Pretty home - but guess what the view is from the front door?
Yep, the view is of the neighbor's garage door.

A closer look...the view from the front door - of the neighbor's garage.
I do get very claustrophobic just trying to absorb the jam-packed
homes in this area. I don't see this as "pretty."
These residents cannot claim that their location is all about convenience because I cannot be convinced that there is ANYTHING convenient about having to wait your turn to back out of your own driveway as ten other cars are blocking your way.

There was a time in my life when this kind of lifestyle could have been acceptable, but as I've grown wiser, I've learned that the frenetic pace of city life can leave you drained and feeling empty. The excitement of a city can be nice, but the best part is being able to step away from it after the excitement is finished.

On our way to a client's house located in the downtown Houston area.
First,  as we arrived at her place, we had all kinds of keys, remotes, codes and such to gain entrance. On the congested side street to her place, we seemed to be driving a tank. For some reason, people living on this side of the city, in the heart of Houston, pride themselves by squeezing alongside one another. The cars around us were smaller, yet very expensive. My husband, who is over six foot tall, would feel like a clown at the rodeo trying to get inside one of those death traps. Even so, this area of Houston is not receptive to vehicles such as a Dodge Ram.

Our huge Dodge truck could barely fit down the "roads" in this neighborhood. I shudder to think of how difficult it would be for emergency vehicles to respond in this area.

Again, my client's place is not considered a townhome. Can you believe it? Since these residences technically do not share any structure walls, they are considered single-family residences. But, they are built only within inches of one another. On the little drive-way that is directly in front of their homes, there is only enough room for one car. Sixteen homes must share that tiny drive-way for their collective comings and goings through the remote-controlled gate at the end of the drive-way.

To me, this is a typical example of how people love to state that they live in a "gated-community" but they ignore the fact that their criminal surroundings cannot be kept out by a pretty iron gate. Can you imagine the determined burglar deciding upon one of these homes as his target, then he encounters the gate...does he say, "Oh darn, this is an impossible task; an impenetrable, beautiful fence is blocking my way; I cannot rob any house behind a gated community." Well, if someone thinks this, then they need to do their criminal activity home-work. A gate gives a false sense of security. Period. Silly city and glorified suburbia thinking.

It's not that I have anything against gates. Gates do reduce traffic and this is a hindrance to a would-be burglar, but it is not a cure-all security feature. Usually, a determined criminal will find a way for him to get on the other side of that gate. However, for this area of my client's home in Houston, it is well known, but not openly discussed, that these gates are valued because they help keep out the heavy homeless population that roams this area.

Regardless, I like gates, especially the kind you find in the country at the entrance of your property. For us, a gate is to keep people from driving onto our property, but I know it won't keep out anyone who is determined to be inside the confines of the gate. At the client's place, over the years, many times I've stood here in this Houston neighborhood and have been amazed that these people paid BIG MONEY for this kind of cramped lifestyle AND they pay a VERY large monthly "maintenance" fee to their Homeowner's Association to that the gate can remain operational.

Since we were going to be at this client's house for a few hours, we had to park. Deputy Dave decided to use the garage for what it is made for...parking. In his expert truck driving mode, he backed into the "two-car" garage. I was on pins and needles, I could feel the walls and the ceiling pressing upon us. More claustrophobia. In fact, the garage was not large enough for him to park his truck fully inside the garage. Here, at this beautiful place smack in the middle of the city, the garage was rather tiny. The front end of our Dodge Truck had no choice other than to stick its powerful nose out at the edge of the garage. The garage door could not be closed. More importantly, not one neighbor in this sardine-packed neighborhood came out to see who we were or what was going on at this house. I guess people pretended to not see the huge Dodge suddenly protruding from the garage of this home. What's up with that?

The Dodge Ram backed in to the point of touching the back wall
inside the garage and there still isn't enough room for it to be contained.
When we left, I was thankful that we live in a Houston suburb. Living in a city just outside of the metropolitan area gives us a bit more room to breath. This is awesome. We may still be uncomfortably close to our neighbors, but at least we have our own driveway that is as wide and as long as the entire drive-way for sixteen of those inner-city residences. Regardless, I can't wait to move to our own little farm in the country --- the land is waiting for us, but I'm glad this stage in between is not with us stuck in the middle of chaos. Thank Goodness we don't have to wait for Biff to park his Porsche so we can go buy a carton of milk at the corner store for Gucci prices and this means stepping over the homeless guy on the store's sidewalk as his hungry pit bull sits next to him. Think this is a joke? I should have taken more pictures.

For some strange reason, that just isn't appealing to me.


It's so nice to be home and to enjoy the chickens in the backyard. I'm inching my way out of the city and my patience is wearing thin. One day, I'll not have to go to the city so often; I can't wait!


Mike said...

Zero lot lines. Gotta love em. When I was in the service I had to ocassionally live in Apts. Hated every minute of it and swore when I could afford it I'd never live in another. People all over you; stealing parking places. Double parking blocking you in. Hated it. I'll never understand why someone would want to pay a Homeowners fee. For one, they are outrageous...and for what? Not me, nope. I'll live in my own house. Big yard, small yard and do whatever I want to it without having to ask 'someone's permission.

LindaG said...

I know it's no joke. Sad but true.

There are places we would never consider living and working. Even for a moment. Don't know why anyone would want to live in a big city, either.

the best part is being able to step away from it after the excitement is finished.

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Mike, I'm with you. When my husband and I were living the military life, we had to live in an apartment. I never had any sense of being safe while living in an apartment. Every day, I hated walking back and forth to my car. Without a "back" door, I felt even more trapped. And the neighborhood association fees are a BIG deal all around Houston, our neighborhood has some fees that are about $200. for the year and it is to keep up maintenance on the neighborhood pool that we've never been to and some other things. I love the neighborhood associations that are put together by volunteer groups. Usually, people WILL be involved on some level to make sure their property values remain high, but these outside neighborhood associations that wield the power to foreclose upon a person's home because they didn't pay their $200. maintenance fee is sickening. Our last home did not have a fee and it was awesome! It was an older neighborhood, but people actually seemed to have MORE pride of ownership. I think it's great when people really enjoy their home and keep challenging themselves to make sure they are enjoying it to the fullest. It seems as if you are having a lot of fun right where you are.

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Linda, it's funny because I sometimes see an area of the city where I might consider living, only under certain conditions, but I still can't believe the area I just wrote about because it had such potential and it seems to be going downhill because of greed.

I could not live in the middle of an area that is obviously on a steady track to embrace careless growth. It is so sad. That area could have been so much better.

Vickie said...

Hello Lana - Nice to meet another Texas gal! Thanks for stopping by for a visit! Hey, you hang in there - it took us 4 years to finally get moved to the farm, but we made it!

Been doing some reading here this morning - you have a lovely family and I'm jealous of your chickens. My chicken friends have told me that I probably should wait til spring to get some chicks. I need to get my house in order since we've moved from 2600 sqft to about 1200 sqft (eeek!) and trying to find a place for everything is going to take a bit. Plus I don't have my coop ready yet, and I don't want to get into the colder months with chicks.

I'm so happy being on the farm. I, too, draw strength from being outside and being in a natural environment. Those zero lotlines in the Houston area would drive me absolutely bonkers. Not that bad in my hometown, but I just flat don't want to have close neighbors. I love my solitude - just me, my farm, my family, and my animals (which will come later).

Take care - I'm going to follow you so I can keep up with your transition to the farm life!

Lana at said...

Hey Vickie --- it's so great to see that you finally made it to the farm. Once you get chickens, you'll probably be like me and love it MORE than you imagined. As for the downsizing, it has to be a challenge. I, too, am just tired of living so close to our neighbors. We love our neighbors, but I crave nature. Our land is in a forested area, so it will be difficult to tame it, but I and up for the challenge! I wish I was close enough for us to do an animal swap later on...just for kicks!

Rae said...

Yuck yuck yuck. I can't imagine living in the city. Gives me the heebie jeebies. When we did live in town, we were in a 1940's house on 1/3 acre lot, and even that was a bit cramped.

Gates... We don't expect ours to necessarily keep everyone out. Best way I can put it... It's a deterrent to most, and at least it will keep the determined thieves from carrying off anything too big or heavy. :)