lynn eschbach


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Dream Neighborhood . . . do you live in one?

Alex Steffen suggested a dream neighborhood instead of a dream home. I love the concept!

I'm curious to know who lives in a dream neighborhood and what makes it so?

A secondary question would be what is the major drawback and do you see a solution?

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    Aug 19 2011: I have lived in one when I was young.
    I remember people knocking on our door, bringing rice cakes (in Korean culture, this means wishing good luck for the household) and coming in for a cup of tee. Endless conversations my mom had with the fellow mothers in the neighborhood.. cooking more than necessary to share with the old couple living on the upper floor.
    The neighborhood was small, but closely-knit; people loved to share, and the community was full of life, even though you could eavesdrop on the occasional quarrels.

    Now, I live in a dorm. It is lovely here, but not as much sharing. People come in and out, always asking for more personal space, when I frankly think we have way too much.
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    Aug 15 2011: I've always said I will not live in a neighborhood where I have to lock my door.

    So far, so good. It is a relatively peaceful town just outside Boston, one of it's oldest suburbs. I came upon it by chance long ago when I began dating the girl I married. We both were from other places and it was really a stab in the dark. Truth is, we had lucked out renting a tiny cottage in the back of a farm house for next to nothing, so we stayed, started a family and never found a reason to leave (except briefly, long story). The town itself has great schools and a very small commercial base, which I think is good. It is also one of the most diverse towns you'd find anywhere. But people are peaceful and respectful, so there are rarely any issues.

    We live in an old house next to a private park (but the park is the town's most valuable community resource). There are only a few houses on our street, so it's very private. Lots of trees - sometimes too many - and a large community garden across the way. I like to think of it as my own private plantation, though I haven't worked a patch in years. Our only neighbors have lived there forever and we are friendly, but not friends. We like it that way, to be honest.

    Someday we will sell the old house. It's getting too expensive and we don't need all the space. But when we do I'll miss it for it's privacy and the fact that there are more trees than people for neighbors.
  • Aug 19 2011: I have lived in a dream neighborhood - a dream community - also known as a simple eco village.
    To me, living the dream is living simply. As the yogic monk at my eco village puts it, "live simply so that others may simply live."
    To hear him speak (or the visiting yogic nun) see also (these are outstanding talks - there are 77 short talks in all, e.g.):
    Also note there are many, many of us:

    The path is my home,
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    Aug 18 2011: In response to mariam: In your dreams . . . : ) Acutally, to some extent, except for the 'smiles all the time', I'm sure this neighborhood exists in many places and those that live there are fortunate indeed. Like Debra below!
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    Aug 18 2011: I think that in comparison to most of the world I probably do live in a dream neighbourhood. It is safe, clean, friendly, and healthy. I am not afraid to walk the street in the middle of the night if I cannot sleep. There are lots of trees and green space. There is a park across the street with free tennis courts. While we do lock our doors it is more because of media and common sense than experience. I can walk to get almost anything I need within 10 minutes. The best thing I think is that it is an average neighbourhood for my area of Canada.
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    Aug 18 2011: A dream neighborhood... Wow!! I
    Dream can mean different thing to different people. For me, a dream neighborhood would first of all be a place where you feel completely safe (where going out at 3 am is not a risk at all). Second, it's an area clean and tidy (nothing that can threaten your health or no buildings that are falling down). Third, it's a place where you can find all the things you like in proximity (this could be a grocery store, a lake, a restaurant, etc.) Last, it's an area where neighbors live in harmony (kids playing with each other, adults enjoying to chat or walk together). All in all, a place where people smile all the time. I don't think this really exists. Does it?
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      Aug 18 2011: I had not read this when I wrote my entry Mariam.
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        Aug 18 2011: I have a good neighborhood, too, Debra. Wouldn't have to have a car. It's safe. It's clean.

        I couldn't ask for more because there are those with so much less . . . I think that's a line from somewhere.
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      Aug 19 2011: Mariam: You are describing many if not most neighborhoods in Tokyo. My son lives in Musashi-Kosugi (Kawasaki) it's exactly as you describe.... a great place for my two grandsons to grow up in :-)
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        Aug 19 2011: Really!!?? I envy you guys... Living in an area where people smile all the time, where you can walk at 3 am with no worry, where you have everything you like in proximity, and where all your neighbors live in harmony... Wow! Still surprised that that exists, but if you say so, I better move right now :-)
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          Aug 19 2011: Mariam, I think this is an important point. There are places where life is good and kind and fairly healthy but the world and the media are obsessed with violence and crime and report it until we all believe that humanity cannot make it work. WE CAN! We can live in peace. Canada is normally a pretty good example of that. We have had waves of immigrants from all over and bit by bit they join our society and we are enriched by them. We take on their foods and their better ideas and they take on our ideas and ways if it suits them better. It is not perfect everywhere here but in general life is good and life is peaceful. Human beings can live this way. The good people just have to inisist that those who want to take it all or those who want violence do not prevail.
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    Aug 18 2011: I live in a dream neighborhood - there's a underlying sense of kindness, patience and tolerance. We look out for each other.
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    Aug 16 2011: Dreams come in all varieties -- ranging from the prosaic to nightmares. Frankly, I'm always most at home when I'm in my tent, lying near a hiking trail high in the mountains on top of my sleeping pad, warmly wrapped up in my quilt. I sleep fine after five or six hours of hiking and having eaten some rehydrated food cooked over my alcohol stove. My neighbors (for the most part) stay in the woods, though an occasional owl may sometimes fly through. There are nightmare nights... big storms with driving rain and nearby lightning come to mind.... but eventually Lethe conquers. And often the best dreams are those dreamt when one's warm and dry -- separated from reality by a thin wall of nylon.
  • Aug 14 2011: I have crackheads knocking on my door at midnight looking for change, perverts trying to abduct my kids of my front porch (that really happened), prostitutes in the motel across the street and a loud bar that frequently has fights spill into the alley way behind my house. Other than that everything is great. Every house on my street retails for 500k plus, has at least a 1/4 acre lot, and we're walking distance to schools, amenities and the highway. Strange I tell you.
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      Aug 15 2011: Strange, indeed! Wretched meets the rich I guess.
      • Aug 15 2011: Yeah, it's one of those transitional areas where to the east you have pure ghetto, and to the west you have genuine affluence. We're the middle class buffer.
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      Aug 18 2011: Wow, Jason what an interesting posting. Is it a sort of comment on American Society?
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        Aug 19 2011: I hope not
      • Aug 19 2011: Actually Debra, it's not nearly that artistic. It's just reality. You'll find it all over the place. It's quite pervasive, that damned reality. I live in a middle class pocket between two neighborhoods known as "New Toronto" (pure ghetto) and "Port Credit" (very snazzy). As a result, we get the overflow from New Toronto coming into our area and plying their trade. Not pleasant, but occasionally it has some superb entertainment value.
  • Sep 7 2011: While I love my "hood" the biggest drawback is you really have to drive everywhere. Most everything we could want is within a 30 minute drive. Daily errands are 5 minute rides and can be a walk but the roads do not lend themselves to walking, no sidewalks or intermittent sidewalks make a for a very tough time on foot. But there aren't too many other places with the diversity and quality of life we enjoy ...and besides it hasn't flooded, tornadoed or caught on fire in over 200 years! A huge selling point!
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    Sep 1 2011: ...having some project, a purpose in life, etc.).
    I love the idea of 'do I see my kids growing in this place? is it good enough for them?'.
    I think neighbourhood should be studied by the yardstick of projects neighbours have for themselves or the community.
    Of course, the most diverse the neighbours' background are, the most creative the projects will be.
    Inhabitant diversity is the first step.
    Then comes interaction between people: the more interaction will occur among the 'crowd', the most innovative the community will be.
    ...And eventually, the most brilliant/powerful/breathtaking the dreams will be (which can only have a good impact on people serenity and achievement in life and in their communities I guess).

    Last, but not least, all those interactions I'm foreseeing need to be hosted somewhere/somehow.
    Do they require physical infrastructures such as community buildings?
    Do they require political support from the community itself?
    Do they need to be celebrated via several events through the year?
    I guess a bit of all of the above… and my 'Dream Neighbourhood' would of course be capable of enabling all these solution.

    "I love my 'Dream Neighbourhood' " that's not what I would probably say if were asked about the place I live.
    Instead I would say "I love my neighbours"!
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    Sep 1 2011: What is a 'Dream Neighbourhood' ?
    Well, I would say the first quality of my 'Dream Neighbourhood' is to be meaningful.
    Secondly, it would be a place where I can dream.
    And finally, it would be a place able to host the relationship that a meaningful place where I can dream would enhance.

    In my 'Dream Neighbourhood' I feel like a human being, not a slave of capitalism or any other deviance of our time, not a cartoon of individualism that is characteristic of our western societies.
    People are the pillars of my 'Dream Neighbourhood' and their relationship are the bond. So it can be pretty strong.

    Meaningful means to me that it has an history: mankind has been living there for a while and we can see (as much in the architecture than in the inhabitant habits or the urban plan) the evolution of the place (what James H Kunstler refers to as the PAST in his 'Suburbia Dissection' at TED 2004).
    My Dream Neighbourhood must also display exterior signs of plans for the futures (smelly construction sites are not too bad in that sense). As James H Kunstler said, to be able to live the present a neighbourhood and its inhabitants have to know where the come from but also have an idea of where they are going.
    Then 'immigration' (a migrant here is someone who comes from outside the neighbourhood) is also a key: I want people to be able to come and settle in my Dream Neighbourhood. For this, my promise land, needs to be secure, and attractive in term of price (homogeneous also) as described by Mariam Sambe. Today's migrations participate to the building of neighbourhoods identity; for that reason they play a consistent role in its history.

    Then, what would look like a so called 'Dream Neighbourhood' if dreaming is not part of the picture?
    Once again, the basic physiological and security needs, previously described by Mariam, are essential: if those needs are not satisfied, then people won't be able to fulfil the other needs such as building relationships and dreaming (i.e. ...
  • Aug 31 2011: I would also be concerned about the implications of such an idea. History is littered with examples of case studies in idealistic cities rooted in economic, racial, etc... segregation. Clearly, this is not what Mr. Steffen was referring to of course.

    I would view a dream neighborhood as green, self sufficient to a degree (isolationism is just bad news) and evolving. I think that to put too many restrictions on a dream would make it my dream only. It would be hard to fill a city with people of exactly the same vision and keep it the same for long. Ideas don't stay our own for long. They are impossible to control. Building a dream city/ neighborhood should be viewed the same way.
  • Aug 19 2011: As for problems, I think Albert Einstein said it well, "current problems must be solved at a higher level of consciousness than the level that created them.

    Let's us rise to a higher, simpler purpose - i.e. let each of us aspire to our highest, best version of ourselves, be more creative problem solvers than we ever thought possible, and we'll all be amazed at the positive results and how quickly things can change for the better.

    "I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element - that I alone can make or break the world."
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    Aug 18 2011: I live in an amazing neighbourhood, so yes, it could be described as a dream one. We live on the Green belt, National Capital land which will never be built on. Across the street is a path that one can walk or bike on that, on one side twists and turns through a forest and on the other, is built around a small lake. Behind us is a ravine and creek and we're surrounded by white pines. We're about 12 minutes from the Hill and downtown Ottawa. Everyone know everyone. We chip in to help, talk while we rake and garden, know each other's kids and support them in their school projects and charity events. We walk into the neighbourhood stores and they know us by name or at least by face and take the time to ask how we and our kids are.

    Doesn't get much better than that. Safe, clean, green, nourishing, friendly and supportive. A great question as it reminded me just how lucky we are.
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    Aug 15 2011: Now that I read those comments I believe my neighborhood to be quite peaceful although I can describe a basically similar situation about it. Still we have flower gardens and nice neighbors that I know so it seems like a good place to live.
  • Aug 14 2011: Well, if I don't consider that I walk by my neighborhood afraid of the violence, that many people don't care about cleaning it, that my neighborhood doesn't have good basic sanitation, that I don't know my neighbors very much (I know only one, that's my aunt), that many other things, yes I live in a dream neighborhood. The problem is that I consider everything. This is sad.

    Well, the big drawback is violence. Solution? Yes, all the problems have solution. What is needed to solve them is that all the people don't want them to be solved, but all the people solve them!
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      Aug 15 2011: I guess you'd move if you could. And take your aunt with you.
      • Aug 19 2011: Yes, if I had money I would be able to live where you live. :-)