on suburbia, godzilla, and briny beauty.

There is something about the suburbs, not the suburbs of television and ultra hip New York writers, not the suburbs of Suburgatory and The Stepford Wives. Not the suburbs of the writer I know who told a student (in workshop) that she could only write about her suburban home with irony, who implied authenticity only happens in cities and rural farmlands. And certainly not the suburbs of our mostly urban dwelling classmates who laughed and agreed.

There is something about MY suburbs, the liminal spaces between concrete and forest. The places that I, along with most of contemporary America live. There is something inherently interesting about them that gets missed in our deep desire to poke fun at the petty comfort they have come to represent in America.

Even if we forget what should be obvious, that real people with real lives, real struggles and triumphs, carve out their own spaces and stories in American suburbia (as much as anywhere else), and that dismissing their experiences according to some preconceived notion of grey banality is both shortsighted and self centered, even if we avoid that discussion completely, there is STILL something about suburbia.

For me, the most interesting spaces are the in-between spaces, and suburbia is brackish land. It is a mix of salty and fresh, a briny beauty. It is where water moccasins and Walmarts live simultaneous lives. And that is a good thing.

To be wild and civilized all at once, to be neither one thing or another. The suburbs are a land I understand and know, they are who I am.

Yet another iteration of Godzilla will be stomping across the globe in a couple of weeks, and a friend asked me about my fascination with the movie monster. With all creature features, really. One of the movie’s taglines is, “The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control.”

I grew up crossing canals to get from one set of manicured lawns to another. And every single time, I looked for alligators I knew might be there. For the suburban kid, it is an early lesson. No lawn is neat enough to be completely safe from snakes and hornets and poison oak and spying neighbors and raccoons and maybe even a bear or bobcat or alligator or two.  No matter how neatly squared, how nearly complete man’s footprint is, nature is there, waiting to stamp it out.

Godzilla may knock down cities, but in America, he speaks to a very suburban reality. He is a brackish beast, rising from the ocean to trample a coast.

He is the water moccasin on my back porch on a perfect lawn chair day.

He is the warning for those living in the in-between. He is what happens when you make your life wild and civilized all at once.

 

4 Responses

  1. Damena
    Reply
    3 May 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Love it! Here’s to being both wild and civilized.

  2. Stephanie
    Reply
    28 May 2014 at 2:34 pm

    “‘Complacent’ is what unhappy people call happy people.” Peter Sagel said that in his commencement speech at Warren Wilson College, and I thought of it when I read your post. People who look down on the suburbs are just trying to make themselves feel better about their own lives, which are likely a drag for reasons that have nothing to do with where they live.

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