rough notes

The California Green Zone

with one comment

It is not without a sense of contentment that I have been living in southern California for the past several weeks. The long days of 30-35 degree weather, in a desert valley-turned-into-a-palm-tree oasis really does change one’s sense of being. California, you may be plastic and fake, but you complete me.

Life in southern California has mostly been a life-of-privilege in a gated community complete with condos, golf courses, tennis courses, heated pools and hot tubs. The gated community in which my hosts live is non-descript relative to its neighbouring communities – there is an iron gate for cars, which protect the denizens of the community from the perils of the world outside. Only Community residents, authorized guests, and the immigrant Mexican landscaping crews are permitted inside.

The community offers not only a sense of neighbourhood (an odd sense, mind you, of too many old retirees and not enough young adults/families), but a sense of protection. The community is an enclosure. Its walls, made of brick, may only stand three-feet tall, but they are subtly landscaped with dense five-feet-tall shrubbery, and large palms every ten feet or so. Those who live on the inside may hear the traffic outside and see the planes overhead, but until they desire/are forced to move beyond the pale, there is nothing to fear; the community protects their interests, for a reasonable monthly condo-fee of course. While not tending to their beautifully manicured lawns, the denizens may go play a round of golf, hit the courts, or just lounge by the pool with their G&Ts. It is warm and inviting. It is the realized American Dream.

Outside the wall, however, things change. What would be an ordinary street in any other community to is 4 1/2 lane expressway, with speed limits traditionally reserved for highways as opposed to municipal thoroughfares. Sidewalks are hard to come by, as are the local grocery stores, corner shops, coffee shops and video stores. Everything is bought in bulk from the local Big Bulk Box Store, conveniently located at the intersection of one highway and another, twenty-five minutes away (free samples of commodified tex-mex inside!) from home. Days are planned around The Trips to the stores, to maximize buying time before the midday sun peels back the skin or turns the asphalt to goo. Get in, get out, hope you don’t have to cross the wire until the next day.

Southern California’s gated communities work, in principle, for those who live on the inside. The personalized green zones do manage to protect the interests of those who are willing, and can afford to pay for the privelege. Those who do pay, however, seem to give little thought to the labourers who serve to make their days better, from the cheap immigrant workers, to the clerks at the Big Bulk Box Stores who check their tags. Thankfully, my hosts have reason enough to understand The Big Picture and acknowledge the economic disparity in their society, and do work to fix it as they can. Its a crying shame that the majority of the green zones inhabitants, however, are too busy looking for the best deals on four quarts of gin in-between their venti mocha lattes and fast-fried-Amero-burritos (“they really do taste like the rural recipes!”) to care.

You are commodified.


Written by mitchellirons

May 3, 2007 at 2:48 am

One Response

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  1. Nice work! You may want to comment in the gristmill thread on the new suburban inner city exurban problem. Degenerating into war torn suburbia.


    February 22, 2008 at 1:53 pm

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