December 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE FRONT YARD – Across the street from me a new house is rising where, a short time ago, an old house stood. There was nothing particularly wrong with the old house except that it was an old house. In today’s vernacular, that ancient (20 years) dwelling was a tear-down. (In Texas, any structure that gets a second coat of paint warrants a historical plaque.) Out with the old, in with the new — the new being the real estate equivalent of trophy wives. Indeed, my neighborhood, Running Rats Acres, has been mostly rebuilt over the past few years with tear-downs and build-ups, but my own street, Dismal Drive, had been spared. Until now.

The first clue came when tear-down terrorists stripped the house of anything and everything of value, including the grass, garbage cans and those little spools that hold the roll of toilet paper. I hope the workers were legit rather than copper robbers. I mean, they had matching ski masks and only worked late at night. Next, we heard the deathly rumble of a flatbed, which came down our sleepy cul-de-sac carrying a machine that looked very much like Steven Spielberg’s version of a prehistoric meat-eater. It was almost as big as the house it attacked.

With a mighty blow, the bucket in front of the metal monster became a huge hammer, systematically smashing the roof into the upstairs which fell into the downstairs which fell into the basement. I didn’t know my former neighbors had a bomb shelter with space for survival gear. Wonder why they didn’t tell me? In case of a nuclear bomb or another presidential campaign, whichever came first, there would be room for my family, too.

In any event, the destroyer slammed, smashed, leveled. Have you noticed how long it takes to build a house and how quickly it can be destroyed? In no more than one day my neighbor’s rather large house, with four or maybe five bedrooms, became a pile of rubble. Next came the dumpsters the length and depth of Palo Duro Canyon. At dawn, big gobblers scooped up the debris, dumped it into the dumpsters, which were hauled away.

At this point, if you have ever witnessed such an event in your own neighborhood, you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned the dreadful, non-stop noise. That’s because I didn’t think you could hear me. From before the birds wake until dark, various machines make various loud noises. I wake to the banging of jackhammers, pile drivers, scoopers and saws, and go to sleep with concrete trucks loudly pouring gray goo. The worst decibels come from putting on a roof, with those nail-drivers making my street sound like the gunfight at the OK Coral. It’s bad enough for us, but how do the workers survive that daily routine? Mostly on junk food sold from the visiting taco trucks.

Generally, residential developments are created at the same time, with houses and streets and bunkers all going up within the same span, so there are no residents to bother. My neighborhood’s developer, Cookie Cutter Construction, could run up a block of houses in an afternoon. But this is tear-down time, when the tearing and building take place amidst a calm neighborhood, where the only excitement is the occasional rabid dog.

Anyway, after the destruction comes the construction, which means a convoy of trucks and pickups wander down my street to disgorge the new house in bales and bundles. During the day the block is jammed with vans and flatbeds, making the area one big mud slide. What a mess, and nothing says “class” like a Port-O-John in the front yard.

They are now putting up that McMansion. First on the front is brick the color of pig drool, then beige stucco, stones of brown and black and purple and wooden beams — a rainbow of mismatched materials. The front of this house looks like Walt Disney threw up on it. This must be the fad in home building these days: cover the exterior with as many different materials as possible, making sure nothing goes together. Are gargoyles coming back? How many pink flamingoes do you need? This sucker blends in with the rest of the houses on this block like George W. Bush at a Mensa convention. My new neighbors have the taste of a rodeo clown.

After the workers have left for the day, I sneak over to the construction site to inspect it for structural flaws, mainly, are they putting in a swimming pool and basement bunker? Prior to the next Hurricane LeRoy, it would be the neighborly thing to invite us over. The door is not open, but after bounced brick or two, I enter and look around. Here is a half-finished gun rack for pistols, rifles and a howitzer. A wet bar, which is nice, but in the bathroom? This must be the owner’s man cave, complete with descending rows for seats with cup-holders, all facing a 120-inch TV. The walls are ready for hunting trophies with the spots, already marked: deer, wildcat, wild boar, wild Democrat. Upstairs, his-and-her walk-in medicine cabinets.

Wandering around, I see that the wine cellar has shelves for the boxes of Thunderbird. The kitchen has granite counter tops; it must be used granite – the slabs have names and life spans chiseled in them. The six-slot garage has the Mitt Romney Elevator System for boats, NASCAR racers and at least one armored car. Why don’t they just put the cars up on cinder blocks like everybody else on Dismal Drive?

Around the yard, it looks as though the new neighbors are installing barbed wire fences topped by concertina. This crate is marked “land mines.” TV surveillance cameras, flood lights, is that a guard tower? OK, but at least the neighborhood kids can swim in the moat. It’s a shame they don’t have big picture windows along the front so they could look across the street at my satellite dish.


Ashby rebuilds at

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