Friday, February 4, 2011


Once upon a time, people believed the world was flat, square and symmetrical.
City planners, to make best use of world space, planned and built cities on a grid system.
Some streets ran north and south. Others ran east and west. And they were all perpendicular to each other and anyone out for a stroll could easily make their way out of the city by heading straight in one direction.
They would eventually fall off the edge of earth, but they would have made record time.

City streets were organized on a grid and they made sense. A good and proper city could easily be designed on an Etch-a-Sketch.
Neighborhood designed on Etch-a-Sketch

Then someone suggested the world was round.
The idea caught on.

Soon city planners began to think outside the box.
“Why,” they pondered, “are we still building cities to fit in a square world? The world is rounded, in a tipsy-egg sort of way! Let’s get creative with our city planning!”
So they tossed their Etch-a-Sketches, dipped the tip of a top into ink and set it spinning.
The resulting whirls, squiggles and spirals became the prototype for city planning.
Example of Spin-the-Top design

And now The Prude can wander for days in an unfamiliar neighborhood wondering why her compass just spins around and around.

Please don’t think she is against creativity. The Prude can take a ball of yarn to knit a hat and wind up with something resembling a sea scallop convention.

But her formative years were spent in a grid-type city.
Walk straight west and there was the prairie.
Straight north? Several more cities and then the north woods.
Head south and eventually you would be sucked into the Black Hole of Chicago, straight east and you would fall into Lake Michigan (in record time).
It wasn’t a very inventive city, but a slug with a lobotomy could find its way out.

Now The Prude lives in a town built on the Spin-the-Top principle.
The Prude doesn’t live on a block, she lives on a kidney.
Streets are designed so that a person looking out his front door sees thousands upon thousands of yards of concrete curb and gutter and road doubling back on themselves. If that same person looks out the backdoor he will see his cauliflower-shaped yard converging with at least 7 other back yards.
The Prude and her husband, lost in one such neighborhood, saw a house so confused that its backdoor faced the street and its ornate front door looked over the neighbor’s compost heap.

And The Prude wonders- just how much proof do we have that the world is round, anyway?


Sue said...

The two that made me burst out laughing..."a slug with a lobotomy"...(I relate well to this imagery!)...and "she doesn't live on a block she lives on a kidney"...Nice Work! Now I can face my day with a chuck and a roar.

dljatj said...

I also live on a kidney shaped block although it has one straight side. I love "a slug with a lobotomy"! Thanks for your great analysis of the forces that have created these twisted neighborhood plans. The only advantage I can see in having no straight roads is that it slows down the high school hot rodders.