Unreal Nature

October 29, 2018

A World We Hardly Knew

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… ‘It was only the appearance of vitality that mattered.’

This is from ‘Foreclosed Homes’ by Geoff Manaugh found in issue #20 of the independent quarterly magazine, Volume (2009):

In the otherwise unwatchable 2005 film Fun with Dick and Jane actors Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni watch in dismay as their front lawn is repossessed. The turf if literally peeled off the surface of the earth, rolled up like wallpaper and carted away in the back of a pick-up truck. The natural landscape of their suburban world is revealed as very literally superficial.

[line break added] It is not a landscape at all, you could say, but a commercial product whose lifespan has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with affordability. The couple has fallen behind on their payments so their prosthetic terrain is taken away. ‘Not everybody could afford a landscape like that, eh?’ says Hector, the gardener, as he packs an armful of turn onto his truck. Not everybody, indeed.

I’m reminded of an article by Charles Montgomery from the October/November 2008 issue of The Walrus. On a visit to Stockton, California, a town particularly hard-hit by foreclosures, Montgomery stumbled upon a bizarre growth industry: painting the dead lawns of foreclosed homes green using athletic turf dyes.

[line break added] ‘It seemed fitting that realtors in Stockton should consider it normal to paint these lawns green,’ he explained to me by email. ‘It was only the appearance of vitality that mattered. Homes that looked palatial from the street were fragile inside: thin walls, cheap lights, shelves pinned to cardboard-thin drywall. Everything about Stockton’s suburbs felt temporary, as though the place was a movie set — built to be consumed and abandoned.’

[ … ]

… There is no moment in the end when it will all make sense. We’ll evacuate a world we hardly knew, a purgatory of broken drywall and reclaimed lawns constructed by ancestors we will pretend not to understand.

-Julie

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