Where’s the birdbath?

Quite an amusing story in the News today, a variation on a timeless theme in suburbia: There goes the neighborhood:

GROSSE POINTE — When Joe Rippolone parked the lime-yellow fire truck on the cobblestones in front of his century-old carriage house on Washington Road, his well-heeled neighbors did not know quite what to make of it.

“It’s just not a property in the character of Grosse Pointe,” said Dick Doerer, who lived next door, until he sold that home to his son, John, a few weeks ago.

“Have you noticed the two concrete lions on the big rock pile? There are more rocks there than anywhere this side of Sing-Sing.”

Then, Rippolone — the plumber husband of Henry Ford’s great-great-granddaughter Elena Ford — put a life-size painted statue of a Clydesdale in the front yard. Its head stares over the fence — and neighbors’ heads wagged all the more.

“Well, I’m from the Bronx,” Rippolone says in his own defense. “I guess I’m used to doing things a little bit different.”

I encourage you to click through to the picture. The Clydesdale is hilarious. I guess I’m going to have to put Washington Road on my bike-riding route and see this for myself.

Now, there are two schools of thought on the neighbors’ decor: My Property, My Rules vs. Keep Up Your Lawn. The MPMR folks, when not filing fevered blog posts about “post-Kelo America,” are busy defending their right to paint their goddamn houses purple, and if you don’t like it, well, don’t look at it. Sometimes they do.

The KUYL types worry about every little detail of your property. (They don’t worry about their own; that’s your job.) Sometimes they live in communities where a committee led by bitchy queens decides what sort of window treatment you can use, because while they may not come into your house, they can see the backside of your drapes from the sidewalk, and they don’t like them.

I sit between the camps. If I were renting, I’d probably be happy to live in the MPMR neighborhood, on the very real chance the neighbors would be more fun, or at least interesting. If I were buying, I’d go with KUYL and turn the basement into a freak pad. The latter would be a better investment.

MPMR people like to think of themselves as proud individualists, flinty libertarians, the sort of people who made America great. Frequently this is a self-delusion covering for the fact they’re really too lazy to cut the grass more than once every six weeks, move the moldy couch off the porch and the auto parts off the front steps.

KUYL are incredibly sensitive to perceived changes in property values. They’re like a herd of nervous gazelles, ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble, in this case, the dandelions on your lawn. They like to “encourage neighborhood pride” by giving out monthly awards for Best Use of Geraniums (Window Box Division).

Oh, well. I could go on all day. I think the best single comment, though, was on the DetNews comment boards, and it captured a certain GP je nais sais quoi perfectly: It’s in bad taste. Period. And it would be in bad taste in any neighborhood in any city, except maybe Warren.

Also, that “the plumber husband of Henry Ford’s great-great-grandaughter” would be a great name for a band.

Share your tales of MPMR/KUYL types in the comments, if you wish.

Posted at 9:24 pm in Uncategorized |

14 responses to “Where’s the birdbath?”

  1. alex said on October 17, 2005 at 10:12 pm

    Nice thing about having an acre. I can Rippolone. Nobody hears or smells it.

    Seriously, I just did my individualist/lazy thing this past weekend. I transplanted hundreds of plugs of English Ivy and blue myrtle into my front lawn. I’m hoping (perhaps too optimistically) that it’ll take right away and I’ll have this fab scenic ‘scape come next spring. More likely scenario is it’ll be hidjus (as they say here in Hoosierland) for a coupla years while the ivy battles the lawn grass, which in the shade is never vigorous or even nice looking unless threatened by a more suitable species. Then the shit won’t die even if mega-dosed with Roundup Old Formula Chernobyl-Strength.

    Around here, letting things go back to nature is considered apostasy same as putting up a funky folk-art menagerie. In fact worse. I’m one of the few houses that doesn’t have fan-inflated, night-lighted goblins and jack-o-lanterns at this moment. But if I have a dandelion or ten in the spring then I’m the tackiest piece of shit on the face of God’s green earth, and the fact I’m not polluting the lake with ChemLawn/TruGreen runoff don’t mean jack shit to the neighbors who bitch incessantly about the vigorous pond scum our association dues can’t seem to get rid of.

    Can’t escape the suburban mentality no matter where you move, I guess. Especially in a red state.

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  2. ashley said on October 17, 2005 at 10:17 pm

    Purple is good.

    I’m deathly afraid that some Houston contractor is going to come to the 9th ward and try to put up a bunch of beige vinyl siding foursquares.

    I want purple.

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  3. Loulou said on October 17, 2005 at 11:05 pm

    Go, Joe! I love that horse. I wish I had one just like it. Rilly.

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  4. Mindy said on October 18, 2005 at 7:53 am

    Last year we sold our sweet little starter home to a couple who turned it into a hillbilly shack in a matter of weeks. Yard art was added the weekend they moved in and a large kiddie swing parked under the picture window. They clear-cut beautiful mature landscaping in the front yard and left the bodies to rot there all winter. More trees were chainsawed in the spring to provide room to park the pickup. I’ve bumped into former neighbors in the library and have been told “we miss you” and “the people who live in your house have their own ideas.”

    My architect cousin agreed to be on the board of his condo’s association in order to help out with updating the place. When eldery ladies began demanding that he referee arguments about white or red geranimums for the clubhouse windowbox, he put his place up for sale and started hunting for an apartment.

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  5. Pam said on October 18, 2005 at 8:12 am

    Maybe it’s because we’re from St. Louis, but I love the Clydesdale! He should buy the whole team! With a matching beer wagon!

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  6. Randy said on October 18, 2005 at 9:25 am

    A friend lives in a swanky subdivision of cookie-cutter homes, a lot of earth-tone stucco, with the occasional cedar-shake roof thrown in to make things interesting. His new neighbors just put a white marble fountain in their front yard, with an eight food angel as the centrepiece. Water flows from its mouth. And at night, multi-colored lighting adds dazzle to the water show, which is loder than a gurgle but quiter than a roar. I enjoy my visits.

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  7. Nance said on October 18, 2005 at 10:36 am

    Water flows from its MOUTH? That must be something to see.

    A few years ago one of the California papers did a story on the changes in one working-class neighborhood near San Francisco. A lot of Pacific Islanders were moving in — Samoans, I think — and were making the kind of changes they wanted in their property. In many cases, this included digging a barbecue pit in the FRONT yard, the better to host regular Sunday pig roasts for your 100 closest friends and family.

    I remember another California story, about Asians moving into a small city in L.A., and bringing their ideas of acceptable population density with them. If you grow up in Hong Kong, you don’t think 20 people living in a 1,500-square-foot house is all that unusual, and certainly not objectionable.

    Neighborhoods evolve all the time. Some subdivisions have laws banning overnight parking of cars on the street or in driveways. One I read about outlawed pickup trucks outside of business hours, the idea being that everyone needs a lawn service, but no one who lives HERE would actually OWN such a tacky thing.

    On the other hand, I loved my Fort Wayne neighborhood on weekdays, when there were only a few cars out front and the oak trees towered over the park strips. Then everyone got home, parked in front and it was uglified yet again.

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  8. Dorothy said on October 18, 2005 at 10:58 am

    Better that the water flows out of the angel’s mouth rather than about half way down its heavenly body…

    My niece lives in a little purple house in Athens, GA, a community called Addieville. I tried to paste a link to it but Nancy’s webmaster blocked it for some odd reason. Honest they are just a bunch of colorful little houses!! If you Google it you might see it. It’s at on line athens.com etc. etc. (Had to put separations in that because I”m getting bleeped once again!)

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  9. brian stouder said on October 18, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    Individuality in color choices and so on, such as purple houses, don’t bother me. It stands to reason that closely bunched homes will have either formal or in4mal ‘conventions’, and people who love to flout convention would be wise to find a community of iconoclasts – but I guess that comes dangerously close to being an oxymoronic concept!

    The only thing I have an objection to (and it just arose in the last week) is that we have some new neighbors who walk their large-breed dog without a leash. Aside from being illegal, it angers me that my children could be endangered – and I plan to speak to them….but the lovely wife thinks that would be unwise, and suggests a polite anonymous note, so as to avoid drawing their ire (long story short – the new home owner is about 22 years old and has a number of similarly aged roomies/kin folks with her)

    So now I am pondering the next move

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  10. joodyb said on October 18, 2005 at 3:16 pm

    I really do want the Clydesdale.

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  11. Dorothy said on October 18, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    Brian if it were me, I’d rather speak directly to the girl. She’s also creating a possible hazard to drivers if the dog would dart out in traffic. An anonymous note might tick her off rather than an honest face-to-face.

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  12. brian stouder said on October 18, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    “I’d rather speak directly to the girl.”

    Agreed – but my exceedingly beautiful, intelligent, outspoken, not-to-be-trifled-with wife is strongly opposed to that notion.

    But – Chloe (our 1.25 year old) and I go ’round the block all the time – and I occasionally see the young lady out (and often, her mom – who visits from Illinois all the time, and who I have spoken to before)…

    so the secret plan is to stall my ebiontbtw wife and her polite anonymous letter gambit, while actively seeking to casually run in to Mom or The Girl and have a little conversation….

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  13. Dorothy said on October 18, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    Ohhhh… you’re going to accidentally on purpose run into her. Gosh you and I must have been separated at birth! It’s exactly the way I would do it. My husband is very non-confrontational. He likes the easy way out too often. I’m more of an idealist and always hope for the best.

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  14. Carolyn said on October 18, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    The fire truck reference in the gp story took me right back to my childhood in the East Drive neighborhood of a certain summit city. Our nextdoor neighbor collected firetrucks. It was nothing for him to park four or five red rigs in front of his corner lot. My, to my mind, easy-going parents would mutter objections every time they passed the neighbor’s house. Looking back, it was a classic childhood divide: me enchanted by the idea that you could collect fire trucks/them nursing their anger at a realtor, no less, who they believed was bringing down their property value.

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