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The Cost of Living in a Suburban Paradise

I live in a peculiar town. A friend refers to it as the most "unreal" place she's ever been. It is not that its residents are particularly different from those elsewhere—on the contrary, they are much like anyone else. Rather, it is peculiar because those who live here have been successful in creating a place that looks to many of them like utopia.

I was reminded of this recently after taking a tour of my town with my daughter's Girl Scout troop. As we drove by the sprawling police facility, we were informed that our police are efficient in catching those criminals who dare to enter our town. One envisions ancient city walls lined with valiant sentries keeping the enemy at bay, while peace and harmony reign within. To some in my town, this vision is real.

But our peculiarities do not stem solely from our view of the outside world. A unique and fascinating culture has evolved within our city walls. We are the land of "Soccer Moms," that potent political force of the 1996 election. The political influence we were supposed to have was lost on us—we were spending too much time carpooling to have any meaningful involvement in the political process. My family's recent attempt to enjoy a relaxing summer was squelched when we couldn't find any free time in between day camps, swimming lessons, and soccer.

We are a town where cats must be kept on leashes. A town where we cry "taxation without representation" when our cul-de-sac isn't snowplowed in a timely manner. We are a town where the planning commission prefers to see groundbreaking on yet another strip mall rather than a church. A town whose motto might just as well be nimby—"Not in my back yard!"

We are what Joel Garreau writes of in his book Edge Cities: Life on the New Frontier. Edge Cities, according to Garreau, are more a state of mind than a physical place. Our boundaries might not be clearly defined on a map, but we know what we are. We are a self-contained suburban ...

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