The house at the top of the next street over is for sale. Again. Built in spot where no one in their right mind would want to live – the driveway is so steep you practically have to repel down it if you are on foot and in winter requires nothing short of a Humvee. It is a four bedroom McMansion monstrosity built at the bottom of a steep incline next to a busy state highway. A spec house colonial with a palladium window slapped over the front door, the view from every front window is of the weedy retaining wall that supports the busy road 100 feet above. The other side faces a lovely little pond, but because it is a spec house none of the windows on that side were properly modified to take advantage of that view. Inside, real estate agent photos show a lifeless box with some nice wood floors and trendy paint along with the ubiquitous granite kitchen. No photos of the views because the windows are in all the wrong places.
This dwelling – if you can call it that – epitomizes the crass greed of the housing bubble. The developer sold it to someone coming off an ugly divorce in the midwest who thought she could redecorate it and flip it, not realizing that once the snow fell she’d be virtually housebound. After the bank foreclosed and sold it at auction in 2007 the second buyer still didn’t understand how overvalued the house remained and how living under a highway would set her and her dogs on the slow and inexorable road to insanity. Eventually she put in some geraniums and put up the for sale sign.
I drive by the entrance to this house in a hole several times each day and cannot help but think of a person imprisoned down there – it’s like Horton Hears a Who, I imagine a voice coming up from the pit: “We are here, we are here, we are here!!” Another strange thing is that both owners have been single people living alone. What gives with the four bedroom house for one person?
The whole thing feels wrong, and this sense of unbalance irks me every day because, well, this cannot end happily for someone, perhaps anyone, who chooses to live in this home. Whoever lives there is trapped in the cycle of bleak, icy New England winters, even darker down in the hole, and social isolation. Or if the house is left empty – as it was for over a year at one point – it becomes blighted and sad. It is either abandoned or for sale for over a half million dollars. The best fit for this house – as a starter home for a young family that can enjoy the water and make the trek up the hill – is unlikely because the outstanding mortgage is so high and the taxes are based on the pre-crash value of the house.
I want us to remake this house, this nation, on a scale in keeping with its place in nature. It could have been a little cottage on a pond; now it’s an eyesore next to the highway and destined to stay that way.