Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Apologies to Jessica Lange, who is one of my secret girlfriends, which is why I was reading celebrity news about her to begin with. She’s just my age, but from what I’ve read (and remembered), she’s been fearlessly independent, living her beliefs. She’s not really my secret girlfriend…she’s one of my secret lives…living the life I would have lived if only I had more courage. And better hair.

In addition, apology-wise, about the quibble over the price of her house and the yuppie thing. With the housing bubble of the past few years, two million dollars is probably a reasonable house figure in an upscale neighborhood that has any kind of people-pleasing attraction, and is meager for a celebrity’s home. I’m sure Morgan Freeman’s home outside of Charleston, Mississippi, is much pricier, in a less saturated luxury-home market. Jessica did not invent fractional reserve banking, deregulate lending practices (subprime) to ensure minority participation, print money as a way of market control, nor shore up the resulting bad lending practices with governmental guarantees. While she is responsible for her success in her chosen field, she is not responsible for the speculative housing boom in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Several years ago my friend Barbara and I took a Florida Gulf Coast trip. “Seaside is up ahead,” she kept promising me. “just around the bend.” She started laughing when I finally spotted the little tinker toy Victorian village on the gulf and started screaming. “I knew it would scare you,” she said.

During that trip I was reminded of Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos, where (I think…I can’t find my copy, and I think this is where I read the idea) people consumed that which they professed to love. Find a quaint fishing village. Love it. Talk about it. In no time the real-estate locusts would follow, gobbling and spewing until only the new could survive. He should know…he had moved to Mandeville, Louisiana, that sleepy little fishing village outside of New Orleans. When I stayed for a few days in Mandeville in 2000, it was all gated communities, precious retail shops, and high-end eateries.

“The locusts are coming, the locusts are coming,” I chanted my way down the Gulf Coast the year I traveled with Barbara, stopping at all the beach dives along the way. Our end destination was Apalachicola, the sleepy fishing village our friends had discovered when they pulled in to rest on their voyage around the world in the sailboat they had built. They were charmed, settled in to build a river boat and enjoy Apalachicola’s eccentrics and Florida singularity. But by the time we arrived to visit, Apalachicola had been named one of the ten best kept secrets by Coastal Living, and the locusts were devouring it, buying second (or third homes) at inflated prices, taxing the fishermen and eccentrics out of their homes.

And ever since I read Misty of Chincoteague, and later, The Water is Wide I wanted to live on the Outer Banks, just like at one stage of my life I wanted to be Jessica Lange. I don’t know how many people wanted to be Jessica Lange, but apparently many, many shared my Outer Banks dream. And by the time I got there to visit, they were living it. I was too late. Honking pink McMansions and bumper to bumper traffic. Salt water in the water faucets because the population stressed the water supplies. Not a wild horse to be seen, because they ate the gentry’s geraniums and kept getting hit by cars. I wished somebody had passed a law that nobody got to live on the Outer Banks but me, though of course I would have all the amenities. And I would take good care of it. I wouldn’t share.

A couple of years ago I visited my daughter in Destin. Not only did Destin (once a what?…SLEEPY LITTLE FISHING VILLAGE) have bumper to bumper traffic, it had big box mall after big box mall. You could probably buy anything you wanted in Destin. I ate at a restaurant and looked out the window at the pier on the bay. “What kind of bird is that?” I asked the waitress, who lived in Destin. “Don’know,” she said, “some kind of water bird?” My daughter took me to this “beautiful” new housing development. It turned out to be the triplet to Seaside. On the way down, I looked for the coastal dives my friend and I had visited just a few years earlier. They were gone, replaced by high-end stores and fanicified restaurants.

What Jessica said in the AT&T news article I read was this: “In an interview earlier this year with the New York Daily News, Lange spoke with disappointment of changes in Stillwater. She says it went from a little town with lots of characters to a "yuppified" place with too many gift shops and condominiums.”

Let’s face it. No matter how conservatively Jessica Lange lived for the income she honestly earned, her two million dollar home was going to start taxing the characters out of town. And with a little help from Big Brother governmental practices, the folks who liked what she liked were going rush in to replace those characters, bringing along specialty coffee and la-de-da one-of-a-kind everything.

I read once, if you use something, you use it up. No way around it. But if I could find a way, I would stop the locusts. And make sure I got there first.


Suzanne said...

I came to your blog via Keetha at Write Kudzu, and I'm glad I did.

Today's article was a wonderful, thoughtful follow up to yesterday's. Being from South Florida and old enough to remember when it was safe for my parents to leave me and my brother alone at the beach for the day, I can relate to your thoughts on how rapidly, and unfortunetly, places get gobbled up.

Pamela said...

I've missed your posts while I've been gone! Another good one.

Silver Solo said...

My sister overheard some first-graders making fun of a little boy who lived in a rental home. One child chided, You don't even have a home of your own. The wise little fellow replied, We do so have a home! We just don't have a house to put it in.

Mental P Mama said...

Great post. I remember when Destin was a tiny fishing town. And I don't think I'm all that old...

Keetha said...

Yes, yes, yes. I was nodding the whole way through the post, except when I was laughing. Like about your screaming when you saw Seaside.

Another case in point is Oxford, Mississippi. Back in the day just folks could afford to live there. Now? Not so much.

Nicole said...


I live to read you.

Must have more.

Get there first and write to me. I won't tell the locusts.