Sunday, July 6, 2008

That je ne se quoi

It seems that in US, the closer you are in proximity to your neighbors, the less likely you are to know them.  In every apartment I've ever lived in you went out of your way to never even make eye contact with the people that lived on the other side of your walls. 

I don't remember it always being that way.  In about 1970 my mom and dad moved us into the Deauville Apartments in the then-suburban outskirts of Omaha.  It was a faux French apartment community nestled into the cornfields. I still have fond memories of its swimming pool, putting green, the 4th of July and snowstorms there.  More importantly, I remember the people.  My parents seemed to know just about everyone in the complex, which was probably about 40 units. We have super 8 movie footage of our dad smoking Lucky Strikes while playing lawn darts with the men, while the women prepped the watermelon and jello salads.  I think my parents exchanged Christmas cards with old Deauville neighbors for many years.

I learned recently that this sense of community had nothing to do with the times; it had everything to do with pseudo-French community living.  Take a look at this recently discovered publication from Houston in 1972:

This was a magazine published by Houston's notorious real estate developer, Harold Farb. Here is the narcissistic back cover (note to self: get floor-to-ceiling drapes for powerful office look):

This edition of the magazine was printed for his premier property, Napoleon Square.  The architecture of this complex looks very similar to my Deauville in Omaha.  The apartment project still stands in the heart of the Gulfton Ghetto of Houston, now featuring the largest number of units and the highest crime rate per capita in the Houston area.  It wasn't so back in 1972.  It was a place for swingers to have a groovy good time in Bonaparte's Retreat.

The ladies of Napoleon Square enjoyed the latest fashions...

...and ultra-modern, ultra-white kitchens.

There was fun to be had at the swimming pool...

... where you could listen to the best bands Houston had to offer, including the "event-full" roots raggae sounds of The Gentrys.


Anonymous said...

The Gentrys ROCK!!!

tracy said...

I fear I'm too young to remember much about Deauville, but I do have fond memories of our later faux-french residence at Papillon! There was a mighty fine ditch to play in, as I recall.

Now it's all about the faux-Tuscan living. Get with the times, Farb!