There are many advantages to living in a neighborhood known nationwide as the Chernobyl of American real estate. Movie directors like our barren, graffiti-decorated streets for post-Apocalypse scenes and zombie movies. You can park anywhere and so many stores keep closing that there are sales galore. You never have to worry about irresponsible neighbors who borrow things and forget to return them. Except for the occasional teen-age all-night rave party in a rotting foreclosure, there’s lots of peace and quiet around the clock.
In my town of Mirage Mills nearly everybody bought their homes with funny mortgages that had funny names like Optional Arms and Legs, the Low Down No Down, No Worries No Docs and the popular Alt-A Plan B Cellblock C.
By 2008, they were all in foreclosure and my wife and I had the whole place pretty much to ourselves until ten days ago when three new young families moved in within earshot. They were the first newcomers in years. At first I resented losing our serenity, but then I realized the significance of what I was witnessing and I stopped feeling selfish. A comatose neighborhood was coming back to life. These were the pioneers, the first to see the potential of rebuilding Mirage Mills and turning it into the bustling, happy place it once was. Best of all, it wouldn’t be long before other families followed them and home values, especially mine, would percolate upwards like clockwork just the way they used to. The magic of homeownership was at work right before my eyes.
It took me a week to get up the gumption to knock on the door of the nearest newcomer. The door was answered by a short man in his twenties who looked distracted. Inside I could hear two young children playing.
“Sorry,” he said. “I don’t want any.”
“Oh, I’m not selling anything,” I smiled. “Just here to introduce myself and welcome you to the neighborhood. And by the way, do you think I could borrow a can of lawnmower gas?”
“Don’t have any. Don’t cut the grass.”
“Oh, really? I see. Well, you know I could also use an eight foot ladder if you have one to spare. ”
“Don’t have one of those either. Anything breaks, I just call to get it fixed.”