My friend A. once said that he would feel funny about buying a house just like all the other cookie-cutter houses in a suburban tract like all the other tracts, but noted that at the same time he doesn’t feel funny about living in a cookie-cutter apartment just like all the others in a rental complex just like all the other complexes.

We were driving through the northwest suburbs of Chicago last December, and J. practically shivered as she said “Can you imagine living in one of these houses?” Puzzled, I looked up the residential street — two-story houses with peaked roofs, fronting on snow-dusted lawns with bare trees — it all looked pretty normal to me for a Midwestern winter. Cosy even. But she persuaded me that if you’ve never lived in a house with an attic and basement, the idea can seem pretty creepy. Who’s living up in those attics? Think Charles Addams, Psycho, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

All of which helped me come to terms with the California ranch house, and it’s a good thing too, since about 97% of houses in our area and price range are ranchers. At first they seemed strange, flat, boxy, and (most of all) flimsy. But now I can see them as … regionally appropriate construction. Yeah, that’s it. No need for roofs that can dump huge volumes of snow, for walls and windows that genuinely block cold wind; just enough wallage to keep the whole thing standing, and an open airy feeling.

So now we do own our own regionally appropriate dwelling, which is also an admission that we’re probably Silicon Valley lifers. The original plan was to stay for only a couple of years, and that plus the crazy housing market made buying a place seem foolhardy. But although we can easily imagine living somewhere else, working somewhere else seems really improbable. (And which is more important for borderline workaholics anyway: life or work?) If we were going to jump, we would have done it already. So a wildly overpriced yet very modest wifi-enabled South Bay ranch house is perfect for us. At least until the tornadoes come.

2 thoughts on “Houses”

  1. How funny — I was just joking, and had no idea that tornadoes had come to Sunnyvale! We will start digging our basement immediately.

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