Saturday, June 30, 2007

This land is NOT their land

Barbara's Blog

Ms. Ehrenriech complains about rich people taking over the "good country." It's all a matter of perspective.

I experienced it in Jackson, Wyoming in the 70s and 80s. I lived in a teepee on the Gros Ventre and a fifty year-old cabin on Ditch Creek at the base of Blacktail Butte at East Moose. I rode my bike 14 miles into town where I made stained-glass mirrors and window lights.

During that time The Butte was covered with million-dollar homes, where movie stars and other rich folks (Dick Cheney, Robert Goulet...) called in home once or twice a year. The Huidekoper Ranch played host to Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger, complete with massive military helicopters, closed roads and be-suited hefty men in dark shades, inconspicuously talking into their lapels.

We didn't go into town much, just to the Safeway for groceries when absolutely necessary. It was not a pleasant place. Teton Village changed from an empty ski lodge in the summertime to a year-round party hamlet over night, thanks to the Chamber of Commerce types who wanted more than a "one-season" money-maker.

Now I live in another "destination community," on the Left Coast, on the Pacific Ocean, complete with Boardwalk, amusement park, surfer dudes and dudettes. The cost of living here is the fourth highest in the United States, largely due to the cost of housing. Modest one bedroom homes, beach shacks and anything resembling four walls and a roof go for $750,000. New construction tops $1,000,000 and an empty lot, if you can find one on flat land, goes for $600,000.

We live here simply and thriftily, in a mobile home park a mile from the beach, the good beach, not the Boardwalk beach, in a 1964 trailer house (not a fancy "manufactured home," such as the monstrosity next door). We work part-time jobs within walking distance of home. We walk to the market, to the library and the video boutique. We drive our 1972 VW Beetle once a week to stock up on "Two Buck Chuck" the award-winning wine that costs $1.99 a bottle. OK, twice a week, when we go downtown for a drink and a meal at the "old-timers" hang-out. Less than 20 miles a week, 1,000 miles a year.

Yes, houses are expensive here, and everything else is cheap. That is, if you reject the party-glitz, the chi-chi clothes, the entertainment whirl. If you live here, in this place, on its own terms, it's a cheap place to live. 2,000 homeless people will agree!

Yes, they come in droves, over the hill from the North American plate, driving their SUVs, their mini tanks, their hot rods and their Priuses. They play, they shop, they splash, they whine and they go back home.

I think we'll stay.

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