(This is the sixth excerpt from "Lunch Bucket Paradise," East Bay author Fred Setterberg's fictionalized account of growing up in San Leandro's Washington Manor -- Jefferson Manor in the novel. See links to prior excerpts below.)
The suburbs thrive and then quickly spread, new homes fixing a fresh grid of rectangles atop the bracken and duck sloughs, the oceans of stucco washing over acres of cherry orchards.
Men laboring weekends in their yards and gardens witness their dreams come to fruition: a sycamore seedling now arching across the front sidewalk, the shade splashed upon a small patch of emerald lawn, the homeowner lolling under the fluttering canopy with a bottle of Lucky Lager clasped in hand.
Men patch up their old canvas hunting jackets with iron-gray duct tape and sell their .308 Winchesters and 16-gauges, declaring themselves partisans of the Canada geese that now wing their way north since the sacrifice of their marsh. Weekend gardeners and carpenters settle down to the business of propagation and improvement.
All this is to say that they cannot believe the good fortune that has come their way.
“The reasons for the rapid growth of suburbia are easy to understand,” explains a lavish color supplement to the Sunday paper. “They are but the fulfillment of the unyielding rules of economics and the inexorable laws of supply and demand.”
“First Advantage—Strategic location.” (The newspaper calls the new suburbs “irresistible to the industrious man and woman who seek an affordable house, an opportunity to labor honestly, and a good, decent place to raise a family.”
“Second—All the year-round climate and the low city tax rate.” (As though weather and taxes are twined together in an aspect of natural selection.)
“Third—Splendid opportunities for employment, and unexcelled potential for the opening of even more factories.”
Sooner or later, it all comes down to jobs for working people—but something else, too. Something hardly ever mentioned.
If you’re halfway honest, you’ve got to thank God for the sheer dumb luck of being born in such a time and place. You can tell yourself that hard work and smart choices made all the difference, but why lie?
For those acquainted with Thomas Jefferson—and every subdivision has a few citizens equipped with curiosity and a library card—there is a passage in Notes on the State of Virginia that feels pleasant to ponder at the foot of a blossoming pear tree when Saturday afternoons turn too hot to work. The homeowner sinks into the foam pad of his chaise lounge and reflects, as had Jefferson, on the landed yeoman as the ideal citizen of the new nation. He reflects upon his neighbors and himself.
“I view large cities,” Jefferson declared in a revelatory passage that any sly burgher will pounce on, “as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberty of man. True, they nourish the elegant arts, but the useful ones can thrive elsewhere…”
They’re thriving right here, wrested from the ground and pieced together at the workbench. Maybe you could pat yourself on the back just a little for everything that seems to be going right.
Also on Patch:
If this is your first exposure to "Lunch Bucket Paradise," check out these prior excerpts.
- Meet the .
- The enjoyed by working families.
- The .
- The .
- A carefree tramp .
(Publisher Heyday Books in Berkeley has offered San Leandro Patch readers a 30 percent discount off the $15.95 cover price of "Lunch Bucket Paradise." To order call 510-549-3564 (extension 304) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to mention "PATCH" to get the discount.)
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