Monday, February 14, 2011

Tasty Meadows

Tasty Meadows 16, 2011

There are several memorable moments in of the 1981 movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman, not the least of which is Lily Tomlin’s performance as the aforementioned shrinking woman and Charles Grodin’s performance as her harried husband.

But the part my wife and I always chuckle about when we remember that movie is how the neighborhood Tomlin and her husband lived in was called Tasty Meadows. The only thing that distinguished the houses of Tasty Meadows from one another was that they were all painted in different pastel colors.

I mention this because I took a ride through my own city yesterday, particularly the part that has been developed since 1980, and was taken aback at how lacking these neighborhoods are in color. Whenever my wife and I drive past one of those neighborhoods where hundreds of homes are built from the same three or four templates and the colors are all within three shades of beige, we look at each other conspiratorially and whisper, “Tasty Meadows.”

I suspect this palette had more to do with the limited range of colors available in vinyl siding in the 1980s than with a desire of the developers to create mind numbingly dull looking neighborhoods. It certainly says nothing of the people who live in these homes. They were looking for good space and value in their purchases and these homes undoubtedly fit the bill.

Tasty Meadows 42, 2008

Yesterday I revisited a new subdivision I lasted visited just over two years ago. It’s built at the site of what used to be a string of immense and deep sand borrow pits. When I last visited, the sides of the largest of the old pits, an eighty-five acre monster of a hole that looks to be every bit of 50– 60 feet in depth, had been graded to such a sharp pitch that while attempting to photograph it I nearly tumbled down the hill into the water at the bottom. Since then, the pit has filled almost completely with water.

That much water is impressive, although given its depth it’s not the kind of body of water I’d have built a children’s playground right next to. But what really caught my eye about this subdivision were the colors of the homes. The first home built there were in same dull shades of beige you see everywhere. But the more recent additions have been bolder with color.

It’s a strange project. On the one hand, it reminds one of Celebration, Florida, the Disney Corporation’s attempt to merge New Urbanism with a Potemkin-like sheen of traditional conservative values. All of the houses have front porches big enough for people to sit on and observe their neighbors and the life of the community. Some of the houses are even arranged around broad common lawns, with vehicle access and parking diverted to alleys in the rear.

Tasty Meadows 45, 2008

But that’s as far as it goes. Nearly all of the newer additions to the neighborhood are being built with 8’ vinyl fences that not only cast deep shadows across yards at all hours of the day but noon, but also mitigate the safety value of having all those people sitting on their front porches observing the life of the community. The fences as much as announce: “We may be neighborly, but what goes on within this wall is none of your damned business!”

Tasty Meadows 12, 2011


  1. Isn't that interesting! Funny. I don't know how I feel about vinyl fences. Hmmmmmm...I'd forgotten all about "Tasty Meadows." That is a riot. Charles Grodin always makes me laugh--I loved him in that movie with him and DeNiro--what the heck is it called--anyway, it makes me cry I laugh so hard.

    These photos are gorgeous colors, anyway!

  2. My wife and I refer to many of those newer neighborhoods in Va. Beach as "big houses on the prairie". My personal design peeve are the airport tarmacs that take up most of the front yard, leading to double car garages - the main feature of the house.