1. Dr. Pat Deneen regards David Brooks’ repudiation of the suburbs as a Porcher victory, as Mr. Pomocon reports below.
2. But every pomocon must know that I repudiated David’s (my sort-of friend’s) account of the suburbs in his fairly bizarre flop PARADISE DRIVE. He tried to give theological significance–quoting Moltmann on the theology of hope–to the restless striving of Patio Man and other Americans on “paradise drive.” I said–as you can read in my STUCK WITH VIRTUE–that the book failed to describe accurately suburban and especially exurban life. David didn’t find real Christianity in the megachurches, for example, but that’s because it’s not something he would have been looking for. So in my own descriptions of southern exurban life (in, say, Kennesaw or Woodstock, GA) I explain that people are more at home with their families and in their churches (not to mention in their country) than David seems to think. It’s no wonder David would become disenchanted with the eschatology of consumerism, just as the most perceptive Porchers will become disenchanted with the eschatology they find implicit in the fantasy of exurb as wasteland. The Brooks of PARADISE DRIVE and the Porchers tend to be opposed forms of extremists about America. Now that Brooks has sobered up, can Deneen be far behind?
3. Dr. Pat Deneen lives in the family-friendly suburb of Waynewood in Fairfax County, VA. What makes DC suburbs more rootless than most (of course) is that they’re popoulated by people made extra-mobile by their employment by the government (political appointees, military people, foreign service officers, etc). Still Waynewood is a very nice place, with a very strong sense of place among its unusually large number of long-time residents. My family almost moved to Waynewood (my dad worked for the CIA) when I was around 11, but he couldn’t quite swing the 40K asking price of a nice house. I hear prices have gone up some.
4. Mr. Poulos’s description of Shirlington filled me with the Porchers’ favorite emotion–selective nostalgia. I lived in Parkfairfax in Alexandria–across the Shirley Highway from Shirlington–until I was 11. We had breakfast after church at the Hot Shoppe in Shirlington. There was a great Jewish deli with the best pickles I’ve ever tasted. And there was a middlebrow department store (Hecht’s) and some modest retail stores. We used the barber shop and often visited the soda fountain of the People’s drug store. I don’t think it was possible to get a real drink in “my” Shirlington. Needly to say, my neighborly Shirlington has been transformed any number of times in the last 40 some years in the hyper-bobo direction, and nothing I remember from ‘dem days is left. Alexandria has changed a little too, of course. My own view is that Shirlington has gotten worse, but Alexandria has gotten better. The new Delray is probably better than the old, and my St. Rita’s church has certainly improved.
5. I don’t live in a suburb (or anywhere near DC or Georgetown or Alexandria or Arlington etc.) now.