Alice Eats the Cookie and Grows Bigger and So Does Her House

Wine and cheese can definitely improve with age. On the other hand, wine and cheese can also turn into vinegar and casu marzu! The difference is not just how the product is marketed. It is the use of careful technique and pre-determined end purpose.

European buildings were built by those skilled graduate tradesmen who revered craftsmanship and devised the precision tools to shape the sticks and stones of their environment into the finely honed enduring edifices that have stood for centuries. Recyclable America is different. Our houses were never palaces. Our sense of history has been no longer than last month’s comic book. Bulldozers and cranes are the lofty tools with which we have destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly. The canvas has been larger, more vulgar and unrefined.

So, it comes as no surprise that small houses on small lots are being wiped from the slate of our housing inventory for lot-line to lot-line mega-houses. But, while bigger is better brings the highest coin to the builder, the seller doesn’t generally maximize his own profit, and the replacement houses are mostly of mediocre quality and generally lacking “character”. Expensive doesn’t usually equate to having “character”.

Will these big houses become run-down boarding houses of 2035 because they will be too expensive to knock down and exorbitant to maintain? Will foreign investors use them as pieds-a-terre? Will groups of single buyers gather to purchase one home? Or will they lose enough value to be knocked down and replaced with smaller, entry level homes?

Perhaps, more importantly, what is the social implication of bringing physical life more completely inside the walls…no backyards, no front porches, …hiding in plain sight? Will Pizza, Peapod and Pharmacy deliveries create lone wolves (or wolf packs) with micro-territories and virtual realities? Do you think these self-imposed, supposed shelter sanctuaries will become our intellectual graves or a nutrient-rich environment that fertilizes our creativity?

Perhaps next month I’ll muse on Alice’s cookie’s causing her and her house to shrink! (For you pedantic grammarians, like me, I just used the possessive before the gerund properly!)

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2 Comments on "Alice Eats the Cookie and Grows Bigger and So Does Her House"

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Bob Jampol

You have written an enjoyable piece filled with both insight and humor. You are also quite correct to employ a possessive before a gerund, a rule more honored in the breach than in the observance.
I also wonder about the fate of the new wave of monstrous houses. What will Ward 8 be like in twenty years? What happens if a future recession decimates the rising upper class, forcing bankrupt biotech entrepreneurs and the like to abandon their mansions? All things must pass, perhaps even the prefab palaces blighting our city’s landscape.

Matt Yospin

I think a likely outcome for many of these mega-houses is what happened in Brookline: the giant houses will continue to increase in value until they are too expensive for the number of buyers, at which point owners and developers will begin splitting them into condos. And for some of the giant houses, especially with “great rooms” on the first floor, they will become rentals. My guess.