Thursday, September 13, 2007

Something of a rant

I am 37 years old. I don't think that is that old, yet I feel old. Why do I feel old? It has nothing to do with joint pain or gray hair (although those are appearing with greater frequency). I feel old because I am just not understanding people anymore. Not like hearing wise, but why people do what they do.

What do I mean?

Okay, I've been going to the 'beach' for vacation all of my life pretty much. When I was a little kid, my aunt and uncle lived in Stone Harbor, NJ. My parents and I went frequently to visit. I don't remember much about those days, but I do remember lots of beach going, taking walks, cooking seafood, and just hanging out. As an older child, we went to beaches at the southern end of North Carolina. There were three kids, my parents, and usually my grandfather. We swam, we fished, we rode rafts (there were no boogie boards then), built sand castles, etc. In the evening, we played cards or other games or walked on the beach with a flashlight to find ghost crabs, scaring the crap out of my brother by finding really big ones and then turning off the light. We didn't watch television, although there always was one in the living room. These were fun times. The houses we stayed in had modest bedrooms, a big living area, a functional kitchen. The things we most cared about were the view, decks, and screened porches. We wanted to be outside as much as possible.

So, fast forward to about ten or twelve years ago when I started going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My husband and I pretty much do the same. Swim, kayak, sit on the beach, read, cook lots of seafood, maybe fish or crab or dig for clams. We don't need much. The first year we went together we stayed in a little two-bedroom beach cottage on Pamlico Sound in Ocracoke. It was perfect. There was a screened porch you could ballroom dance in. But someone bought it and made it private so we had to find a new house. Since then, there are no more two bedroom cottages. People buy them and tear them down and build monstrosities. We rattle around in a four bedroom place simply because that is the smallest there is with a great location that accepts dogs. But four bedrooms is fine, because that is what most people need. Location is, to us, the most important thing. And privacy. The house we've been renting was perfect for both location and privacy.

Until this year. The photo is of a house under construction next to where we stay. It will have 8 master suites and 10 bathrooms (all on septic I might add) and sleep 16-20 people (also a bunk room for the children). The little building next to it is an auxillary cooking and eating area. That's right. A separate kitchen and eating BUILDING!

This isn't an anomaly though. There are several under construction up and down the Buxton area. And this is just the next step in what has been going on for the last several years. The constant construction of these giant vacation homes. Realty ads down there now picture 4 or 5 bedroom homes for sale and mention that you could buy it and tear down cause the lot is permitted for up to 9 bedrooms.

So we won't rent the house we love anymore because I really don't want to be next door to this. I just imagine a lot of noise, and lights, and cars and not a very relaxing vacation. And I am confused. Maybe it is just me, but I really don't consider going on vacation with up to 19 other people relaxing. I just don't understand these huge homes. And then I pick up a little informational package for homeowners that rent their homes, prepared by out realty agency. It provided a list of what today's vacation home renter wants and needs. It mentioned a pool (almost every oceanfront and soundfront home now has a pool), foosball table or pool table, Xbox or Wii system, flatscreen and DVD IN EVERY ROOM, wireless internet and some kind of computer, multiple kitchen appliances (like two refrigerators, two dishwashers, etc.), a hot tub, DVD library, etc. There are even multiple beachfront homes with private, stadium style movie theaters in the house. Am I alone in thinking this is crazy?

The house we stayed in was situated at the end of a dead end road with two other rentals. One of these rentals is an outrageously equipped home like I just described. It is on the sound and comes with canoes and kayaks and has a great dock. We rarely saw the people staying there the first week of out vacation. They simply never came outside. On the day they left, there were children getting into cars that I had never seen before. Because they had never come outside. What the hell has happened in the last 10 or 15 years? I feel like an 80 year-old railing against push-button phones. I seriously don't get it.


Blogger Kitt said...

You are not alone. This is happening everywhere, and it's baffling. The two-bedroom beach cabin I grew up visiting is now in the minority, surrounded up and down the shore by monster luxury palaces, yet the beach itself remains largely empty of people. They're all inside watching their large-screen TVs.

12:42 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

That makes me sad, but I kind of suspected that it was going on everywhere. I wonder why this is taking place? I really don't understand.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Graber said...

yes we are growing up here and that is sad... one of my biggest fears is that we will lose the things that make the Outer anks such a special place to live.

1:25 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Hi Paula,

Yes, from the way things are going, it looks like a few more years and Hatteras Island at least will be no different from most other beach resorts, with the exception of the NPS land of course. That is the only saving grace. I just don't understand. When you are a resort popular for your remoteness and undeveloped feel, why rush to develop everything? And every single piece of land that isn't built on has a 'for sale' sign stuck in it. So very sad.

1:35 PM  
Blogger BettyWestern said...

It's Ok to say it, it doesn't make you old. I am 39 and know exactly how you feel about our changing landscapes and ruination of life's simple pleasures.

Not sure where the answer lies. My own feeling is that the 'MTV generation' have no concept of what it is to have little or no tailor-made entertainment and so lack the imagination to create it for themselves.

Agree totally that holidaying with 19 other people is my idea of hell!

4:28 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

You'd just be a middle child in my family, Meresy! When our 4 kids were young we went to similar cabins in Wisconsin and did a lot of hiking, swimming and playing on the beach. But even at that time, many of the other family groups spent their days at the tourist attractions and shopping of the Dells rather than in the state park.

We also stayed half-a-dozen times in the South Brunswick Islands in NC during the late 70's, 80's & early 90's and had a lowkey experience much like yours seems to have been.

In 2006 we went back to NC and took one of the group houses. We now need the 4 bedrooms & 4 and 1/2 bathrooms and sleeping alcove, because we're no longer one set of parents with kids, but grandparents with adult married children and grandchildren, who traveled there from cities across the US.

The big house was a wonderful way to be together, and we liked taking turns cooking for each other. We didn't hibernate, however - and the island where we stayed was not too commercial. There was beachcombing, body surfing, bike riding, shell hunting sand volleyball, shuffleboard, making sand castles and watching sea turtle hatchlings walk to the sea.

I don't know whether the builders have family reunions like ours in mind, but we were glad to find a place where we could all be together at the ocean once again.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

5:07 PM  
Blogger Entangled said...

That picture was taken in Buxton? Arghhhhhhh.......

We've been going to Buxton for about 18 years now, but we didn't make it there this year. We go there exactly because there's no movie theater or outlet mall or any of those things that people seem to require up in Nag's Head. We like to walk on the beach, sit on the beach, watch the waves, and that's all.

6:01 PM  
Blogger kris said...

How you describe your "ideal" vacation would describe ours too - very sad that it's getting harder to find that. I can see a big house if you vacationed with your extended family. And a friend of mine just spent a week in Costa Rica with 12 college friends, all staying in one house. But how on earth could you spend a week at the beach watching DVD's????? I don't get it either.

We used to take our sons to Colorado every winter to ski. We stayed at a small Mom&Pop motel with a small kitchenette. It didn't have to be fancy because we skied all day, went out for dinner, and crashed for the night. Now all you see there are huge houses and condos on the mountainside. The place people stay has become more important than the ski runs.

And don't even get me started on what's happening to all the lake cottages and cabins that used to dot our lake. It's ridiculous.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

We stopped going to LBI (when we still lived in NJ) for many of the same reasons. All the sweet little capes that were right on the water were being torn down to build monstrosities with no beach access. We would have to walk 1/4 mi down the road to get to the public access from James' parents bay-side house.

I guess people crave luxury after seeing all those MTV and other shows that show people living it up. Simplicity is such a step down, I guess.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely feel for you. And sadly, it is happening everywhere, not just vacation areas. Whenever we travel closer to the big cities (I'm a rural girl) the mcmansons going up everywhere make me feel sick to my stomach. And the sad thing is there are perfectly nice, smaller homes that seem to blend into the landscape instead of dominate it, just down the road for sale that no one buys. I'm 32, and I feel old too. I just don't get it! Why does everyone want/need such excess?!

Even here, in my rural county, if someone builds, it seems they build some gaudy monstrosity with multi-peaked roofs and huge arched doorways, a coloseum for a garage, with a pond in front and a pool out back. They build next to an old farm, and start complaining about the wood smoke and animal smells coming from the neighbor's. It's a clash of "country folk" and "city folk" around here.

I don't know about you, but it makes me feel hopeless. Like there is no hope of communal change in the face of such wanton excess. Sorry! Now I'm ranting too!! :)

8:06 AM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

I have nothing against having some larger homes available for large groups, its just that it seems that is all that is being built. Every new home constructed (many on sites where a smaller home was torn down) has at least 6 bedrooms. Most have 8. It is just too much. And yes, that picture is from Buxton, at the end of Rocky Rollinson Road, which is a single lane sand road at the end where this house is being built. Imagine 8 or 10 cars in and out every day.

And I know it is happening everywhere, but it just seems particularly foul at the seashore.

10:48 AM  
Blogger woof nanny said...

This struck a nerve with me, because I consider these monstrosities also. And to even bring another element into it, from an architectural or historic standpoint, it's sad to lose perfectly good structures in a continual pursuit of 'newer and larger'. There's a community in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, that is called Bungalow Heaven. It is a protected historic area--no demolishing the old to bring in the new and supposedly improved. In the 80's, owners of cute turn-of-the-century Arts & Craft bungalows were seeing neighboring homes demolished to make way for cookie cutter box apartment building. No character, no integrity, no blending into the environment...
Anyway, the area rallied together and stopped it. They saved what remains.
I don't understand an entire generation that only communicates via texting, only plays via electronic games. Why go to the beach or mountains and blast your boom box? I for one want quiet, thank you very much.

3:44 PM  
Blogger EFB said...

here mersey,

haven't been blogging much (er at all) lateley either. got a new job and it's eating up all my free time. but you are not alone in thinking that is crazy. it's not a way i'd want to vacation.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

I don't get it either, and I don't WANT to get it ever.

I am so lucky to live in Maine where I can still find some undeveloped waterfront.

I've always wanted to go to the outer banks and after reading this I don't know if I can bear to.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


My former best friend (from high school) built one of those McMansion type houses about 3 years out of college with her new husband. She was so proud of it when she took us through the place, and all I could think was: 1) Wow... they could actually get through a whole week without having to see each other at all in this huge cave. And, 2) This would be a monstrosity to heat for just two people--no wonder she said she can't afford to put anything on the windows for a year or two.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Meresy--I hear you! What I can't understand in this day & age is why people are building so irresponsibly and getting away with it? My dream house would be as energy efficient as possible, #1. I wish I could re-build the house I live in now to relieve it of bad energy design. The McMansions remind me of gas guzzling cars. "Big" in America is big deal, people want to spread out nowadays in their houses, cars, vacation homes, even put their babies in big, big baby strollers.

You bring up more than one point--size of house and the spooky list from the real estate agent saying what renters want in a house they rent (no wonder rents are so high!). I raised two kids with no TV summering in a renovated fisherman's cottage on a small island that cannot boast of having stores (however, there are 2 penny candy-milk-vegetable stores for convenience) and there are no restaurants, malls, movie theaters, yacht clubs, bars, public bathrooms, nothing,'s still that way. People who visit us either love it or hate it--some wonder how we could stand having "nothing to do, no place to go"... I worship the experience! Salt air & gravel roads and nowhere to go but for a walk or to sit on a stony beach, swim, bicycle, read a book....there still are gems hiding out there but you have to look far and wide. BTW: our one bathroom tiny cottage has slept up to 13 without luxury or room to move and we still have had memorable great times--ya just don't flush the toilet every time....

1:24 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

you are not alone...but yes, we are getting older...(no escaping it)
I used to go to the beach to shed my skin...packed very little, ate what we caught, and didn't wear shoes the entire time. The beach "house" had a hand pump, no running water, no electric...and no neighbors--now that was a vacation!!

4:32 PM  
Blogger Robbyn said...

It's happening all over, I think...when I moved here to Florida, I thought there might be a few backwaters with beach houses along the lines of what you're describing, but even the smallest ones I've seen are wedged between monstrosity resorts, elbow-to-elbow hotels/condos, or walled and gated multimillion dollar mansions. What happened to sunburns, an ice cream cone, a bucket of bait and a fishing pole and safety enough to walk down the road?

When it comes to houses in general, it amazes me what succeeding generations believe are "needs"...there are actually people who think it's odd to have children share a room (girls' bedroom, boys' bedroom)anymore, to have a kitchen without granite countertops, or a living room arrangement not centered around multimedia equipment. And the other interesting thing is that it seems those very folks are seldom home nearly as much as past generations were to enjoy it.

But I rant...

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:29 AM  

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