Letters to Holly

Tuesday, April 8


A few days ago, I began cleaning the lawnmower for the new season. I enjoy it; it's a pleasant checklist of simple tasks that even my limited mechanical experience can manage:
  • Clean out the oil filter, soak it in oil, and replace. I keep a spare and swap them out each year.
  • Sharpen the blade.
  • Change the sparkplug.
  • Drain the oilpan and put in new oil.
The neighborhood is suddenly buzzing with mower noise, and I noticed that our next-door neighbor mowed his lawn last night not long after I went into my workshed. This happens almost every time, and I imagine his wife pestering him to mow the lawn after seeing me walk out of the house with my iPod and work jeans.

Those folks are moving and trying to sell their house themselves. Because affordable housing is rare in the county these days, Your Sister called them up to ask their price to pass the info along to co-workers. They called back and left a message with the asking price, and she almost dropped the phone in shock. It's more than twice what we paid for our house, and it's just shy of a half-million. I don't think this is the market value, although I have heard how much our house's value has increased since we bought it. But this is because all local prices have soared.

The new subdivisions -- built on promises of low prices -- are all beyond the resources of many local employees. A chunk of teachers have to live outside the city limits (and the accompanying city utilities), and some live outside the county. Their taxes go to school systems other than their own, and of course they have to travel farther in these days of high gas prices.

The county high chiefs have debated affordable housing and living wages, and it's a crucial matter: This county has already shooed away middle-class residents as companies closed left and right, leaving retiree subdivisions and gated communities. Clearly, if not for the teaching gig, we wouldn't live here. While the restaurants are nice, the store selection is weak, and there's nothing to do at night. Thank God we like to walk; the forest is right there. But we are assuredly living in a retirement locale and tourist trap, and the economy is ever-more leaning that way. Convenient downtown stores are replaced by year-round Christmas shops and expensive craft-jewelry galleries. These ain't for the locals.

Anyway, I'm sure the neighbors appreciate us planting new flowers and working on our garden and mowing our lawns as this can only help their sales pitches. Any potential buyers will see what the neighborhood features, and we're part of that. We're quiet folks, usually, and I have refrained from installing a basketball goal on the house. But it's almost certain we'll have another retiree couple living next to us; no one else could afford that house.

Picture of the Day
A moon of Saturn.

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