This week, we’ve been staying in Mohegan Lake, New York, which is a suburb of Peekskill, New York. Probably people commute into the city from here, but it’s not a short trip. We’re staying with a friend of Will’s in what was his grandmother’s house until recently. It’s kind of an odd place for some 20-somethings to be living: all the neighbors are families, or at the very least, actual adults, and there are no coffee shops, bars, or brunch places within walking distance. It’s also probably the only time we’ll crash with a friend who has an actual spare bedroom.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably know me, and if you know me, it’s not unlikely you’ve heard me go on and on about the American Urbanism class I took last year (American Urbanism with Greggor Mattson, if you’re at Oberlin). Really great class; will probably quote it at cocktail parties for the rest of my life. In particular, the class covered the growth of American suburbs, a topic that I find peculiarly intriguing. I didn’t grow up in a suburb–despite what Manhattanite Oberlin students will have you believe, there is a difference between a suburb and a small town–so I didn’t have much personal buy-in to them. I suppose I thought they were the height of inauthenticity and I was a much more interesting person because I was from a real place (the kind of person who’d make arch comments pointedly distancing herself from them, maybe?), but the opinion was both passive and unexamined.
The neighborhood we’re staying in has an interesting (to me) mix of house styles. The one we’re in is an old one–a split level with one bathroom. I’m guessing late ’40’s or ’50’s, though I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. Many of the other houses on its street are along the same lines: Sears catalogue homes, probably, or other comparatively small, older houses. Today, we noticed a line of them that were from the same design, with a long, asymmetrical roof. Then there are a couple of cross streets with much newer (and bigger) development, which Will characterized by “his & hers sports cars,” although I’ve also been seeing a strong contingent of large, shiny, black SUV’s. They haven’t been made on the same designs, although they share a lot of features, notably one enormous feature window with a rounded top that I imagine looks into some kind of grand foyer. I’ve seen at least one chandelier near the top.
One of the chief reasons I want to drive across the country is to see parts of the country I either don’t know or haven’t seen in years. In short, I’m going to be a tourist for the next few months of my life. And yes, that does mean seeing cities and mountains and national parks and unsettlingly large versions of household objects, but it also means overpasses and gas stations and grocery stores, and yes, suburbs. Anyway, next stop is Oberlin, which I’m sure will be an interesting ride in many ways.