Ivan's Place
In honor of the greatest moralist who never lived
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Becker



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REFLECTIONS ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON BICYCLE RIDE
Copyright © 1991, by Bill Becker



After church this morning I went out for a bike ride, and found myself on Parkway Calabasas, south of here. The roadway shares a valley bottom with a golf course, flanked by two giant gated communities on the hillsides Westridge on the north, and Calabasas Park Estates on the south. The Estates, which I had pedaled through while they were still under construction a year or so ago, were now complete, and rows of white banners waved an invitation to stop by and check them out. Large fountains marked the two entrances, where centered guard kiosks stood separated from the gates by just enough space for a confused non-resident to turn around.

The fountains were beautiful 10-15 feet high, and covered with azure tiles. Ample water, sounding like a riparian brook, cascaded down stepped sections to a barely turbulent pool below.

Across the golf course to the north, Westridge, now several years old, more than approached the horizon, it was the horizon. The homes, large and appearing pure white, and in stark contrast to the deep blue sky behind them, seemed literally to march along the ridge-top.

The only flaw in the whole scene was the golf course itself. It being winter, much of the grass had turned brown, although there were a few patches of green. Two young girls on motor scooters waved on their way back from a sight-seeing adventure. I rode to where they had come from, and stopped at a fence. Behind it, I guessed, would be built the next phase of this redoubt.

I imagined what it must be like to live here. In contrast to the low self-esteem suffered by Americans in our lower socio-economic classes (who were themselves the subject of a blue-ribbon study of why they allowed their circumstances to stop them from achieving the American Dream), the odds are that feelings of pride, virtue, gratitude, maybe even a little smugness, are dominant in Westridge and Estate homeowners as they nod in friendly recognition to the guards who allow them access to their homes.

As the gate swings open, some friendly banter between the guard and the homeowner is likely perhaps a question about the kids to deepen the bond between the protectors and those whom they protect. And why not? Hasn't this bond, once a lynchpin of America's virtue, long ago been broken in the society outside the gates?

I'll wager, too, that the guards themselves are proud to press the buttons that activate the gates; so too must the gardeners and other service workers feel pride at being among the select few to be allowed in. If they are lucky, those who built the complex are now working somewhere else, but my own experience tells me that they are still swapping stories about the expensive tile in this house, or the huge sunken tub in that, or comparing notes on the layout of this development versus another, perhaps even more impressive one that they were once privileged to work on.

Finally, the gate closes behind the homeowner. The world has been left behind, and the houses standing on each side of the street, sentinel-like in their essential uniformity, proclaim that here, as perhaps nowhere else in the world, is SAFETY.

"God's in his heaven and all's well with the world" might well express my own sense of well-being were I to complete this final leg of the journey home. Would I could I risk losing my place in this heaven-on-earth, especially for the sake of such ill-defined and poorly conceived goals as are proposed by our well-meaning, but decidedly amateur, economists? (A "fairer" distribution of wealth, for example.) Would anyone?


January 27, 1991
West Hills, California




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Posted May 19, 2004