July 27, 2007

Behind the gates

Here in Wonderland, we joke that a gated community is the kitchen Clover's Companion fences off with window screens so her puppy doesn't have a chance to have an accident someplace untoward, like the living room rug.

Other gated communities are homes, like the cage in which the off-White Rabbit lived, or the bars that separate the monkeys in the zoo. In short, gates are for the animals; however, Alice does realize that is within a microcosm of larger gates, ones that have no bearing on Christo's orange gate installation in Central Park a few years ago.

In Florida, from which Alice has just returned, gates are for people. She visited three people in three different communities, each of which had its own gate configuration for entry.

Assuming you are in a car, and if you're in Florida, that would be the main form of transportation available -- you must roll down the driver's side window, give your name to the gate lady, wait until it is accepted, then show an ID, all to get into the parking lot. If there's no gate guard, you need to know the magic code to punch into what would be the order-taker box at a drive-thru to allow you to enter. At the very least, your host must leave some indication that you are among the blessed and wanted.

Alice has encountered this before: in Arizona, she visited friends whose gate was controlled either by intercom or via swipe card. She can't imagine what a nuisance it would be to have the world shield her with a piece of metal. It generates as false a sense of security as the TSA does at the airport, waiting to seize a contraband lighter or a bottle with more than 3.4 ounces of liquid.

True, as Adrienne Rich wrote: "the door is simply a door. It makes no promises." In Wonderland, an entryway door begs to be rung, so that she who speaks into the intercom can be buzzed in to the building without other tenants assuming the worst.

If there is to be a gatekeeper, Alice prefers it be a person, like her doorman. While a good part of his job consists of determining who is allowed entry into the apartment building -- a guest arrives, he takes the guest's name, and rings Alice on the intercom or by telephone to get her blessing to send the person upstairs -- he provides a human touch.

The gate to Alice's abode is strictly for people, not for animals, unless the animal is a guest, like Clover's Companion's puppy. What goes on inside any apartment is basically his/her own business, so long as they meet the requisite percentage of rugs on their floor. Our "homeowners' association" is the co-op board, members of which Alice doesn't always recognize and whose control is primarily deadbeats and decibels.

At Alice's friend's house, one of about 100 meeting the architectural criteria for inclusion in Sea Breeze, or River Walk, or Atlantic Gardens, or whatever that particular gated assemblage is called, the homeowners' association clearly has too much time on their hands. Her friend, like 21 others in their compound, has received notice of fascia dysplasia.

Fascia has something to do with gutters or is connected with the roof in some way. In a "private community," the fascia police, like the dog-size/noise police in New York apartments, have the power. (Alice doesn't understand why the decibel police don't exist for crying babies. She is quite sure her mother would have shushed her but good, without raising a fist, if Alice's tantrums rose above the level her mother could tolerate.)

Whether co-op board nazis or fascia fascists, each requires that you must live up to a group standard that may or may not leave you with Constitutional rights . This is becoming a trend across more and more of the U.S. according to The New York Times.

Even when Big Brother, in the name of "homeland security," doesn't take away your right to free speech, you sign an agreement with the co-op board or the condo/homeowners' association in order to have a decent place to live. No wonder no one realizes our rights are melting away; they have already signed contracts spelling that out. We're all behind one gate or another.

Janis Joplin knew what she was singing: freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

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Blogger The Misanthrope said...

Until I am real older about another 15 to 20 years, I have no interest in living behind community gates. I hate to follow the rules. I want to break just because they are there.

1:35 AM  
Blogger scout said...

Since I, for better than a year after 9/11, found myself on one of the infamous "lists" that made the act of traveling just another circle of hell, I'm very pleased to live in Los Angeles proper, where most homes are from the '20s and '30s, not the '90s—otherwise, I'm certain I would be detained every time I dared call on a friend beyond guarded gates.

But having grown up in what the kids are calling "the O.C.," simply Orange County when I was but a girl, I knew the gated communities well, though only from the outside: They were located in a snootier, richer part of the county than my family cared to (i.e., could) afford. As an Orange Countian who grew up disdaining the lives lived behind the gates, the depiction of Weeds' Agrestic, the best fictitious name for a suburban community ever, gives me unending pleasure as a childish adult.

1:48 PM  

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