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Cul-de-Sac Dreams


What is it about cul-de-sacs that create a real estate frenzy? Whenever you see a house that is listed on a cul-de-sac it receives its own special billing. “Colossal Cape Cod on a Cul-De-Sac!” Well, I live on a cul-de-sac and I will tell you a secret. It’s really a dead end.

Viewing a typical cul-de-sac from the top you can see they are designed to trap anything that floats by. Cars, pets, people, ice cream trucks. Perhaps you went out for a stroll one night and before you knew it you were swept away in the adorable architecture of the houses, the absence of traffic, the quaint name of the street or the idea that you are living on your own private island. This might be true initially. This is the lure of the suburbs.

After a while, and once you’ve seen the subdivision planning, you realize that cul-de-sacs are really a way to squeeze more houses in where they don’t belong. They are the creation of a mad genius. Cul-de-sac houses are crammed together so tight that it makes me claustrophobic looking at it from way far away in an aerial photograph. They are a modern solution for using up every available scrap of land – no matter how oddly shaped – to create more tax revenue. Yes, I’m sure this is true. Who else would want to have their house facing six or so other houses head on? Or dedicate their lives to living on a lot that is shaped like an exhausted pizza slice? This is serious.

Even going out to get the mail, or unloading your car, can cause undue stress if you aren’t dressed to the nines. Heaven help you if you stumble or drop something. You are on stage and the critics are taking notes. Or at least that is what you might be doing to them if you have a few minutes to peer out the window as you backtrack in your mind to figure out why the hell you are living here.

Walking along a cul-de-sac is a lot like the way some people live their lives. They go in a circle. Distracted by the view and not realizing it is repeating itself. This could also be similar to the carrot on a stick. Round and round they go, becoming dizzy and tired. No longer having the energy to break free from the circle to find an escape route.

After a while of living on a cul-de-sac you start comparing your life with a tide pool that has trapped various forms of aquatic life. You and your neighbors are growing together in an aquarium. If there is harmony then it is a beautiful microcosm of society. But, if your neighbors are snooty, or like sports too much, then it can become a stage for dysfunction to play out. Every house faces each other. There is no room or tolerance for sub par landscaping, poor home maintenance or garish roofing choices. If you want to go with the flow than you will do what everyone else does and hope to slip under the radar unnoticed until you are someday ready for the nursing home.

Some cul-de-sac folks elect themselves to set an example for the rest of the dead end residents. In their world, if they could be king for a day, here is what they would do: They would wash their brand new SUV in the middle of their front yard, with flood lights on it, while cranking bland eighties hair band music as loud as their stereo would allow. And they would be singing along and taking periodic air guitar breaks. In actuality, they truck in expensive landscaping services every week. The landscapers must be sure and to cut their grass as loudly and thoroughly as possible. Once the lawn is completely mowed they then turn the mower on a 90 degree angle and repeat mowing again over the whole lawn once more.

Furthermore, any new home renovations are always done loudly starting at 7:00 a.m. sharp. Preferably with as many machines and tools and contractors that can be involved as possible. No sense skimping here. It’s almost like a play is being staged called, “The Life and Times of a Cul-De-Sac Dynasty.” I say “Dynasty” because these residents grow their cul-de-sac roots deep. Wish on as many four-leaf shamrocks as you can find, but they will never move. As long as their home can weather the passage of time, plan on their name being on that adorably painted mailbox for a thousand years.

The best way to cope with cul-de-sac life is to go big or go home. If you live here then you are already home, so your next option is to go big. By that I mean be true to yourself. If you want to paint your front door yellow then do so! If you want to turn your front yard into a pile of red rocks and red dirt as your salute to the Mars landing then do it. Just do it well and have pride in your individuality. You might just find other neighbors will start showing their true selves as well. But maybe not –  it depends where you live and who your neighbors are. Well, you can at least always hope it might happen someday. And just like in the end of any great movie, the underdog wins when you are finally recognized and hailed as the real Hero of the Dead End.


About Fortyteen Candles

oh, let's see...distinguished Gen-X'er, frustrated writer, suffocating in the confines of a small town that thinks it's a big deal. A few years ago we were home to the second largest Walmart in our state, don-cha-know. Oh, and I was voted "Most New Wave" in my senior high school year book. Actually, that last sentence alone is really everything you need to know about me.

40 responses »

  1. Very funny! But there is no escaping from the noise. I live in exurbia — 3-5 acre lots. And oh the noise noise noise noise. Because everybody thinks they are in the country. My dog’s barking? It won’t bother anyone. I’m living on a wooded lot and hate seeing leaves on the ground? Who will mind if I turn on the leaf blower when the neighbors are having Thanksgiving Dinner?

    Oy. I think you hit a nerve, so I’ll shut up. But it must be fun when you’re on the night shift!

    • Exurbia…I love it! How do I get there? Barking dogs are among the worst. Maybe I should invent a sound proof dome to fit over houses? Ha ha ha…Thanks for your comments 🙂

      • I will buy the first soundproof house dome you make. My husband has Misophonia, “literally “hatred of sound,” is a form of decreased sound tolerance” as Wikipedia so nicely describes it.

        That’s why we live out here in Bumfuck. To get here, drive forever. Turn right. 😉

      • Ha Ha Ha…This is uncanny! I was born and raised in Bumfuck, but now live in WEST Bumfuck after being tragically sucked into a cul de sac that I can’t find my way out of. We’re practically neighbors!

        I’ll let you know when my soundproof dome web page is up. I’ll give it to you wholesale.

        Now I’m going to convince myself that I, too, have Misophonia.

      • Here’s the website so you get the symptoms right:

  2. I live in the circle portion of the Cu-de-sac with no property at the very end. That puts us on the end of one side. Our mission, teamed with the family across the street, is to form a barrier to keep others away from our end. My kids are like Kryptonite to the other older people on our street.

  3. Very creative and equally scary, I have never lived on a cul-de-sac, but I have visited many a friend who has lived on them. What PIA it is to park if the driveway is already full. Thanks for your post. — Bill

    • Yes, parking is a whole other story. Three cars in a circle and you’ll never find the road. And all mailboxes are blocked. You have the right idea.. it’s best being a visitor. Thanks for your comments!

  4. I agree – just because they gave it a fancy sounding name doesn’t change the fact that it’s a dead end.

  5. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    “If you want to turn your front yard into a pile of red rocks and red dirt as your salute to the Mars landing then do it. Just do it well and have pride in your individuality.”
    This is one of your best posts. Such great comparisons! I love that one of my neighbors has turned his front yard into a salute to the Mars landing. Another has xeri-scaped his, and grows nothing but local weeds. I applaud such neighbors because they’ll never complain about my lawn that I intentionally seeded in clover.

  6. Love your blog. Try going from Island life to hillbilly-now THAT is a rough transition to make!

  7. So true!
    Thanks for the follow!

  8. Ha, love it. I live at the “top” of a street with a cul-de-sac and the neighbors that live at the very bottom…well, I only see them once each year, on Halloween when they bring their children “out of the cul-de-sac” to go trick-or-treating. I think they must have all groceries and necessities shipped down there. Love your wit. I’m glad I found your blog : )

  9. Ha, love it, several years back, we lived very close to the end of a Cul-de-sac until said Rental caught Fire one Night due to a faulty electrical Outlet outside the Backdoor. And let me tell you, after having lived there for @ 7 Years we finally met all the Parents of the Kids that grew up on our End of the Road outside, at 4am in the Morning after barely enough Time to climb out a Window before the Roof collapsed, as you can imagine, we were not dressed to socialize. Once ready to look for another Rental we decided on an old 1930 build Farm House with a huge Front Yard and Driveway long enough that you feel like you went for a Walk when you get your Mail! We do live on a fairly busy Road but the other 3 Sides are surrounded by Woods……. lets just say we both needed the distance of Cul-de-Sacs…… : )

  10. It’s just a dead end tooo funny and go big or go home….you are a classic. Haaaaaaaa

  11. Another great subcategory of subdivisionism! Enjoyed it!

  12. This may have already been said in the 32 previous comments (which I didn’t read, I confess), but the primary reason culs-de-sac (the correct pluralization, by the way, not cul-de-sacs) create a real estate frenzy and are so popular may in part be land optimization, but is mostly very simple:

    No through traffic.

    In an age when the television (and these days the Internet) does the babysitting, parents love to know that their child can go play in the street unattended with zero concern for traffic, because there simply won’t be any.

    The increased value per lot for a house with no through traffic far out-strips the increased value of getting a handful of additional units into a subdivision. In fact, if you look at most sub-divisions from the air, they clearly were not optimized at all, but were done to make an amusing shape or to follow terrain.

    But one thing is very clear. Both culs-de-sac and suburban living in general, is deeply, subversively evil. 😉

    • LOL..yes. Evil. And conveniently low in traffic. You’ve given me a lot to ponder. Parents do just let their kids run about. I’m a little more observent of my kids. Even on a street with low traffic. I’m haunted still by your closing word…evil.

      • The more I learn about consumerism, capitalism, corporatism, and suburbanism, the more apt that word [evil] seems to become. It isn’t a word I use often. I describe schism within The Church as evil. At this point I describe “The American Dream” as evil — because it is about every comfort I could want for myself at the expense of every other person on the planet, the pure antithesis of a moral and ethical life.

        Bread for myself is a physical matter. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual matter.

      • Very philosophical. Your concept of “The American Dream” has a lot of truth in it. Most wants do come at the expense of others. How many people “want” enlightenment? More likely they “want” to win “American Idol.”

  13. Beautiful. I knew I was going to like your writing just by your bio…which describes me to a T. I don’t live on a cul de sac, but I do live in suburbia, and this post is a nicely summarizes my suffering. If it weren’t for the kids, we would move to the city…at least you know what you are getting into.

    • Well, I’m so glad to meet another like minded person. How many of us are stuck out here in suburbia, anyway? Once my kids hit 18 I’m heading for the bright lights of the big(er) city. Thanks for the follow 🙂

      • Thanks (likewise) for the follow. Totally agreed…once the kids graduate, we are hell and gone from here. Write on – looking forward to more posts from you.

      • LOL…I look forward to learning about your own struggles with suburban misery! I hold nothing back. My suitcase is waiting (not so) patiently.

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