Thursday, July 17, 2003

Letter from Suburbia

One of the last farmhouses in Midlothian, the one in between those hills on Route 60, between the village and Huguenot Road, has been demolished. The roof lies there in a heap, and a huge ornamental tree has been pushed over. Beyond the scruffy shrubs and trees lining the shoulder, I glimpsed red clay exposed by earthmovers and a pile of big, fresh, shiny metal culverts. My gaze turned left, today, only because I looked away from the new car dealership going up on the right. The big boxy retail spaces, with towering light fixtures, hover close to the road.

Way back in the 1980s, our high school government teacher, Mr. Dugan, had us attend a handful of meetings of the County Board of Supervisors. I distinctly remember citizens and supervisors agreeing to preserve the look of the Midlothian part of the county by passing zoning ordinaces filled with setbacks and requirements to make new buildings fit the “colonial” character of the area. Clearly somebody threw that out the window when that Wal-Mart went up 8 or 10 years ago. The suburb in which I grew up now officially looks like everywhere else in the county. Sure, it has its quirks (as does “everyplace else”), but you would have to squint hard for local shop names, as you zipped by at 50 m.p.h., or drive all the way out to the old village to see them.

My business concluded, and my being in no particular hurry, I came home all the way along 147. Feeling safely “at home” by Windsor Farms, I decided to go on through Carytown. (Other Options: take a right and zig over to Grayland Ave.; hop on the Downtown Expressway for 45 seconds.) I immediately found myself trapped behind an “Excursion.” I couldn’t see around it or over it, and figured someone ahead was parking or unparking just ahead and I could wait. Finally, the monstrous vehicle moved ahead, and put on its blinker: it wanted the newly vacant space. I was far back enough. I sat and waited. It tried once and failed (actually, I bet the driver’s nerve failed, it looked like a good angle to me) and pulled away in a huff. Cary was clear for the next five blocks and I shot towards home.

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