When my neighbor, Tea Party Slim, came to the door, I thought he was belatedly going to rub my face in the election results.
But I was wrong.
"I guess you won," I said, extending my hand.
He shook it. "We did. But that’s water under the bridge. Got a few minutes?"
Slim didn’t wait for an invitation. He breezed right past me and sat on the couch. He held a sheaf of papers in his right hand. He shook them at me. "America’s suburbs are threatened with a gigantic conspiracy."
"Want some coffee?" I asked.
"Not if it’s that shade-tree grown farmer-friendly commie goop they sell at farmer’s markets and serve at trendy city coffee shops."
I was taken aback. Slim had never refused coffee before.
"That’s what I’m saying. The cities are talking over, trying to push us suburbanites into U.N.-mandated human habitation zones."
I had many questions. But first, I had to set the record straight. "Slim, we don’t live in the suburbs."
"We do too. We’re not in the city. That’s downtown."
"We’re in the city limits. The suburbs ring a city. Suburbanites have to drive to work."
"I drive to work. So do you."
"True, but sometimes I walk -- it's only two miles. Sometimes I ride my bike. I could ride the bus if I wanted."
"That’s what they want – public transportation."
During the past year, I’ve had similar one-sided conversations with Slim. Socialized health care. Missing birth certificates. Elitists in Washington. It was best to get a cup of commie coffee and let it play out. So I did.
"You’ve heard of Agenda 21?" He was shaking the papers at me again.
He smiled. "I knew it." There followed a long convoluted explanation, so long, in fact, that it forced me back to the coffee pot. When I returned, Slim was still talking. It was peppered with references to "compact development" and "smart growth" and "sustainable development" and "New Urbanism" and "transit-oriented development" and "creative economy" and "livable communities."
"These all lead to the same thing – the U.N. forcing us to live in Hobbit homes."
"You mean Hobbit like in the movie? Those nifty little houses in Hobbiton with the round doors?"
"Not so nifty if you’re 6-foot-2 like I am and are forced to live in one and give up your two-car garage and three bathrooms and big kitchen and back porch with the gas grill." He looked like he was going to cry.
"Don’t worry, Slim. None of that is going to happen. Hobbiton is just an imaginary place."
His face took on the rosy red glare of Tea Party outrage. "You’re darn right it’s not going to happen. Americans have the Constitutional right to live in any kinds of houses we want and drive any kind of truck we want."
"I couldn’t agree more," I said.
"Trucks are our ‘personal mobility machines" – that’s what Ed Braddy of the American Dream Coalition calls them. He’s a real trailblazer – you should look him up. A true visionary."
"I drive a Prius, but you know that. But I’m thinking of buying that new electric car. Just plug it in at night – no more gas stations."
He laughed. "Agenda 21 already has you by the balls. Next thing you’re going to tell me is that you and your wife are going to retire to a cramped city condo instead of a sprawling retirement community in Arizona with a golf course."
"Yes, Slim, that’s exactly what I’m saying. The misses and I already have a cool condo picked out in Denver. It’s close to stores and museums and relatives. We can walk everywhere or take the light rail. No lawns to mow and water. The apartment complex even has its own roof garden where I can plant my veggies. It’s close to a bikepath and .....
Slim stood. He’d heard enough. "You go ahead and live in a Hobbit home, Frodo." He shook his papers. "We’re going to fight this at city hall. No human habitation zones for us Wyomingites."
I stood. "Good luck, man. You’ve had some recent successes so best to strike while the iron’s hot."
"Join us, Mike. Join the rising tide of outrage against nearly everything."
I saw him to the door. "I’d love to, Slim, but I have to ride my bike to the winter farmer’s market in the renovated historic Cheyenne Depot downtown to buy my locally produced food and locally made Christmas presents. That’s all part of sustainable development, Slim."
I thought his head would explode. But he calmed himself and smiled. "We’re on a winning streak, you said so yourself."
"True, but streaks don’t last forever. Just ask a baseball player. Or a Democrat. Even a Republican."
With that, he said his farewells, got in his truck and drove to his house two doors down.
Cross-posted on hummingbirdminds. Inspiration for this piece came from the recent article by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones, "The Tea Party Targets... Sustainable Development?"