Friday, January 4, 2008

Wildhorse Ridge

I was in the back seat of a 10-passenger airport shuttle (somewhere between a van and a bus), speeding with suicidal recklessness from The Timbers Hotel to Denver International Airport, gripping the head-rest in front of me and rediscovering the power of prayer. The vehicle slewed sickeningly around corners at speeds in excess of my digestive tract, threatening to overbalance or to skid on the snowy pavement. The brakes, too, were put to the test every time we swerved into a turn lane, pulled up sharply behind a stopped car, or both.

At one point, perhaps hysterically, I began to laugh. I realized that this, too, could be a blessing. For it is hard to fear flying when the dangers of ground transportation are so vividly demonstrated. All the same, I gripped the seat and prayed.

Between repeat broadcasts of "Your Life in 60 Seconds," brought to my mind's eye commercial-free by a driver who evidently aspired to be an airline pilot, I looked out the window and marveled at a condo development we passed. It was called Wildhorse Ridge, but unless my judgment was impaired by imminent death, nothing could be less like the image of wild, wide-open country this name suggests.

My stomach actually forgot to be upset as I tried to imagine what insufferably daft people would pay top dollar to live in such "condos." From my motion-blurred perspective, the word "tenements" seemed more fitting. Narrow streets separated long, straight rows of tall townhouses, squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder above their own garages so that hardly a glint of sunlight could reach their windows. Denizens of that soulless sameness must keep their curtains shut a lot, since the view from their front window is mainly of their neighbors' front window.

This is the type of community where no one leans over the porch railing to gossip with passersby, knocks on the front door to offer a word of welcome and a warm pie, or exchanges gardening tips over the backyard fence. Wildhorse Ridge is for people who pull out of their garage before sunrise, into it after sunset, and are never seen entering or leaving in any other way. Their front door is for decorating with wreaths and signs proclaiming the owners' individuality. Their window on the world is an electronic device plugged into an interior wall. No kids play stickball in the street because (a) the street is so dark you can't see the ball; (b) the street is so narrow that you break windows with your elbow just turning around; and (c) no one who lives there has kids anyway. They probably aren't allowed.

I should talk. I live pretty much the same way. But at least sunlight can get in my front window...whether I'm there to see it or not.

1 comment:

Marie N. said...

When our family traveled out west we say many developments like this as we not-so-recklessly zipped passed on the highway.

Rick and I got that sick, soulless feeling as we were saddened by the size and frequency of these neighborhoods. How do you give directions to friends, I'm in the 278th house on 53rd street? What if you don't like taupe shutters? No wonder the tattoos and body piercings abound. There is no individuality anywhere to be seen. The rebellion has to come out somewhere.