More, more, still not satisfied.....
July 21, 2004 8:54 PM   Subscribe

The Great American 'Garage Mahal' - cars, houses and garages of the American super-sized new affluent class grow ever larger : "three separate two-car garages attached to his $750,000 brick abode: one for his son Brandon, one for his wife, Janice, and one for him. His garages' many amenities include carpeting, cable TV, speakers wired to the home stereo system and a bathroom. "I've always liked garages and I don't think you can have enough of them," " Mr. Bernard said."
posted by troutfishing (25 comments total)
Giant garages and their own language (maybe). How long before the very rich - world wide - can no longer interbreed ?
posted by troutfishing at 9:11 PM on July 21, 2004

Think of the Eloi and the Morlocks.
posted by troutfishing at 9:25 PM on July 21, 2004

"You have to build your garage first and your home second," he said. "It's like the old saying: the guy who dies with the most toys wins."

Something tells me he doesn't quite get the sarcasm behind that phrase.
posted by Poagao at 9:27 PM on July 21, 2004

Fuckin' suburbia and it's breeding of car-culture!
posted by blasdelf at 9:33 PM on July 21, 2004

(Garaj Mahal)
posted by muckster at 9:38 PM on July 21, 2004

It's ok, blasdelf...

I like to think of these guys starving in the wake of the oil collapse because they haven't the strength to bicycle from their homes to civilization...
posted by kaibutsu at 11:50 PM on July 21, 2004

You know, I just feel sorry for them.
posted by rotifer at 12:56 AM on July 22, 2004

rotifer - Nice bikes.

I think the garage fetishists are sort of like suburban models of Barbies who are much more heavily accessorized.
posted by troutfishing at 3:53 AM on July 22, 2004

We have started to see this trend in new homes here in Australia over the past year or so, with the standard garage in mid-level and above new homes becoming triple instead of double (Americans always do things bigger than everyone else, so the comparison is valid).

On the surface, it seems like a ridiculous thing to do, but the garage has, as the article notes, become more of a multi-purpose space that is used not only for storage of cars and accumulations of crap, but for all sorts of activities that can't be done in the house. It seems to be mainly a male-driven thing (of course), but becomes a space that the whole family can use. Just a few things that come to mind, all of which I have used the garage for recently:
  • Great for somewhere for young kids to have a splash in a wading pool out of the sun, given that it is almost considered a crime here to let your kids outside in summer during the middle of the day;
  • Ideal for kids to go wild with paint and similar craft activities with the same protection as above and without the constraints that doing these things inside the house have;
  • Working on DIY projects, where the car ends up sitting outside for a week or so while a building/repairing/restoring/painting project is underway;
  • A place to relax while watching the kids play out in front of the house. The days of letting kids roam the neighbourhood unsupervised are long gone, but they still need to be able to socialise. With the modern trends of building homes with all the living areas at the back of the house, the garage has become the place where parents can do this;
  • You can just generally hang out without having to worry too much about taking your shoes off or checking that your pants are clean before you sit down, given the trend towards more sophisticated interior decor at all income levels - somewhere you can just flop down in a folding chair with your gardening clothes on and relax with a cold drink.
There is, no doubt, a certain level of one-upmanship at work here, but I find that the garage is a very useful place and my experience has been that it becomes, in our modern world of distrust of everyone around us, a "middle ground" where neighbours meet and catch up without affecting the sanctity of our homes. As we retreat more and more into our homes, with our home theatre systems and specialised living areas to cater for our every leisure need, I think that this is also an unconscious rebellion against the way we have imprisoned ourselves in our homes.

You will have to pry my garage from my cold, dead hands.
posted by dg at 5:17 AM on July 22, 2004

Hey, who got all this motor oil on the carpet?!

posted by agregoli at 6:40 AM on July 22, 2004

Hey Trout, would you care to fix that link?
posted by PigAlien at 7:56 AM on July 22, 2004

You don't like? Ignore those who like this stuff...why bother with that which you either do not have, do not want, or are unable to alter? Go your own way since you are so happy and content with what you have, own like.
I have found that just about everyone who disses the suburbs are writers etc who live in the city...Gee, ma, they don't live My Way
posted by Postroad at 8:31 AM on July 22, 2004

You don't like? Ignore those who like this stuff...

I love how laissez faire right-wingers use this argument to justify things like excessive consumption, but god forbid they apply the same reasoning to, oh, say, something like gay marriage.

Building several big garages has a two-pronged effect:
1) requires much more land to accomodate the same family unit, meaning houses need to be spread further apart, meaning it will take everyone longer to drive to and from their house. Also, since the houses are so far apart, walking and even cycling quickly become impractical.
2) encourages a personal-automotive-centric cultural solution to transportation, eschewing public transportation and other, more efficeint mobility solutions.

Both of which result in increased driving, which increases pollution, which affects us all.

Why bother with it, you ask? Because irresponsible building practices like this aern't just about having 'stuff'; society and culture are massively complex things, and something so seemingly simple as building a bigger garage in Peoria may just cause lung cancer in Tallahasee. Why do you think it takes 5 years to get a degree in architecture?
posted by ChasFile at 9:57 AM on July 22, 2004

ChasFile, I think that what annoys you is not that "building a bigger garage in Peoria may just cause lung cancer in Tallahassee," but that building a bigger garage in Peoria causes happiness in Peoria. It kills you to think that these fat, happy Americans are enjoying their toys, and their houses and their lives without a care in the world for "society" -- which is clearly your name for the dark, vengeful god of the puritans.
posted by Faze at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2004

Yeah, that's exactly what it is. You got me.

On the other hand, maybe money and possesions don't lead to happiness, only the desire to acquire more money: a well documented phenomenon called the hedonic treadmill. It is equally well document that going out of one's way to do something good for society does increase happiness. Maybe, just maybe, not building that garage in a small gesture of environmental altruism will bring more satisfaction than having slightly more room to store your crap will.

As for the dark, vengeful gods you refer to, I believe you meant to say "zoning laws," which are already much more draconian and punitive than any puritan god, even without the addition of increased limitations in residential neighborhoods on the construction of uninhabitable structures. Many laws exist to ensure that residential areas don't become commercial zones. It now appears nescessary to write some laws to ensure they don't become warehouse districts, as well.
posted by ChasFile at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2004

troutfishing has forgotten that the Morlocks were the smart ones.
And that they fed on the children of paradise.

But I'm sure he'd be wholly in favor of the revival of sumptuary laws. Or perhaps just good old-fashioned confiscation.
posted by darukaru at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2004

troutfishing has forgotten that the Morlocks were the smart ones. And that they fed on the children of paradise.

posted by ChasFile at 11:23 AM on July 22, 2004

Apparently building a bigger garage in Peoria may just cause idiocy in Ithaca.
posted by foot at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2004

So, ChazFile, you would prefer that we all lived cheek-by-jowl in little homogenised boxes, listening to each other fart at night and not being able to get out from under each other? Have fun, but I will be out in the suburbs enjoying a little bit of space, a little bit of privacy and, while you may not like to believe it, walking to and from places such as parks and the local shops or tavern. Just because the suburban lifestyle doesn't suit you, don't try and throw that tired old guilt-trip out that suburbanites are destroying the world.
posted by dg at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2004

darakaru - you make assumptions about what I think.

The Morlocks have been feeding on the children of paradise for thousands of years now. What else is old ?

What is this "good old fashioned confiscation" you mention ? Is that like Enron energy traders shoving jacked up electricity bills up Grandma Millies' ass ?
posted by troutfishing at 9:22 PM on July 22, 2004

dg - have you ever heard this song ?

"Little Boxes"

by Malvina Reynolds (Copyright 1974, Schroder Music Co. )

"Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of tickytacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one.
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and there's lawyers, and business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same."

30 years later, the boxes are now constructed from the ideas infesting human heads.
posted by troutfishing at 9:27 PM on July 22, 2004

But, your suburban vision of the good life won't address the "China mind puzzle" that's barreling down at us.
posted by troutfishing at 9:30 PM on July 22, 2004

Apparently building a bigger garage in Peoria may just cause idiocy in Ithaca.

I must admit that made me laugh.

So, ChazFile, you would prefer that we all lived cheek-by-jowl in little homogenised boxes, listening to each other fart at night and not being able to get out from under each other?

When did I say that? I merely objected to the idea of 3 seperate 3-car garages used to store 2 cars. And what is the suburbs but rows of homogenised boxes? And while I would love to believe that you walk to the park or the tavern, the plain fact of the matter is that the vast majority of suburban dwellers don't. And don't pretend that just because the suburban life "doesn't suit me" that all my arguments about it are wrong. And don't pretend that just because the suburban life does suit you that as a societal habitation system it is beyond reproach.

Your whole response to my post was awful knee-jerky, dg, and rather than offer reasoned responces you went for straw-man tactics, false dilemas, ad hominem attacks, and offered personal annecdotes as conclusivly exonerating evidence. Perhaps I touched a nerve? The guilt trip you describe may be tired and old, but it appears that its still effective. Or maybe just too many people farted on you when you lived in the city.
posted by ChasFile at 8:52 AM on July 23, 2004

yes! finally, someone mentions "old-fashioned confiscation!" if anyone's serious, i'll even buy my first gun! (didn't sumptuary laws mostly restrict what type of clothing you could wear?)

this isn't a case of mimetic desire. i'm all for hedonism and "living large," as long as it's sustainable.

this style of life is not sustainable. they might be fine for now, but their children or grandchildren will bear the brunt of their irresponsible behavior.

suburbanites are killing our country (the US) and the planet. i can grudgingly respect those who will admit it and say "so what" or "go fuck yourself." i can only feel scorn for those that pretend there's nothing wrong with the suburban style of life.

the end of suburbia.

on preview: yes, "cheek-by-jowl in little homogenised boxes" describes most of the modern suburbs. perhaps they were once a place to roam free (and escape all those black people), but now they're as or more congested than the cities.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:56 AM on July 23, 2004

troutfishing, yes I have heard that song and it could be almost equally applied to modern city living. Regardless of where you live, the dwelling that you live in is more than likely very similar to the one that your neighbour lives in. This is more a function of the continued growth in population than anything else and is certainly not a new phenomenon - houses and apartments in the 20s, 30s, 40s and right up to the present day have always and will always tend to be similar - anything else is an exception no matter where you live. From what I have heard, this is more of a problem in the US than in other countries, where homeowner associations wield ridiculous levels of power over the way your house looks.

ChasFile, I made no personal attacks on you or anyone else, nor did I pretend "just because the suburban life "doesn't suit me" that all my arguments about it are wrong". I used personal experience to put forward my point that living in the suburbs is not necessarily a wrong choice for those who prefer that lifestyle, but this doesn't mean I think that city living is wrong for those who prefer it. I can certainly see the attractions of living in the city, but it's not for me. I don't think that houses with six-car garages are typical of suburban living, though - the article has taken an extreme and presented it in a way that makes it sound like it is (shock, horror, a journalist presented an unbalanced view - how unusual).

No, suburban living is not beyond reproach, given the strain that it places on the infrastructure needed to run a city by extending the size of the city beyond what it would be if it were comprised solely of higher-density living. City living has its own problems, of course, with the high density creating social problems that are different to the suburbs, but no less present. Form what I have seen and heard, the "suburban sprawl" problem is worse in the US than other countries, perhaps because of the sheer size of the population. In the city where I live, serious attempts have been made to address these problems with comprehensive, long-term planning carried out to find the best compromise between providing people with the space they want while minimising the sprawl and the resultant strain on infrastructure. Developers of any new suburban areas (such as mine) are required to provide a complete range of services to the area, including land for schools and community facilities as well as a percentage of the total land area for parks, wildlife corridors and the retention and protection of vital wetlands. Perhaps it is different in the US and other countries, but that is the way it is done here.

The one problem that has not been able to be addressed in this city is the economic barriers to creating a viable public transport system to a city that covers the largest land area of any city in Australia with a population of only 500,000. This, in my opinion, is the biggest down-side of suburban living and the main contributor to the excessive use of low-occupancy motor vehicle use which is prevalent in suburban areas. Yes, I do walk to local facilities, as do my neighbours and whether you believe that or not is neither here nor there as far as I am concerned.

On the other hand, have a a look at many cities in the world where high-density housing is the norm and you will observe that, rather than encouraging pedestrian traffic, they have become concrete jungles where pedestrian access to anything is almost impossible. Think about cities like Jakarta if you think that high-density living is the cure, because the pendulum has truly swung the other way there - it is almost impossible to walk anywhere because the road infrastructure needed to move that many people around has taken over the city completely. This is an extreme, of course and more an example of poor city planning than anything, but it is what happens when you neglect to allow for a diversity of housing in favour of maximising the "compactness" of the city. Diversity of housing types and densities is the key, allowing those who desire a faster-paced lifestyle to have it while those who want quiet get what they want also. Capping the population of cities is one alternative to halting the suburban sprawl (as Noosa Heads has done), but this would be almost impossible to do in most places and has a drastic effect on real-estate values with the result that the capped area becomes too expensive for most people and you end up with skewed socio-economic pockets of population.

Diversity in living spaces is the key, to my mind. It is possible for all of us to live the lifestyle we want, but it takes careful planning and the willingness to stand up to money-grubbing developers on the part of governments, which is mostly lacking.
posted by dg at 5:03 PM on July 23, 2004

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