Friday, May 30, 2008

Everything That Rises Must Converge

A few weeks ago I held an open house on Mother's Day. I'd always had good luck that day and I thought this particular house - 130 Raspberry in Camillus - was pefect for the day because it had a potential in-law apartment. I pictured people taking Sunday drives with "Mom" and stopping in to start the conversation about how she should move in and then maybe finish the conversation with an eventual offer. I am an optomist, but I visualized it all right down the line. Unfortunately, no one came.

Bob and I discussed it going in to Syracuse later that day to his mother's house for the annual family gathering. I said that possibly people didn't take Sunday drives like they used to because of the gas prices (then about $3.65, I think) and he told me about life in the Czech Republic. There, the villages are closer together, people ride bikes, the amenities are not far. My friend Eva who is from Ehrlangen in Germany has always talked about the village life.

So what does that mean for the housing market? Does it mean that people won't drive as far from work? My cousins chose not to buy a home farther out of the city because it would mean driving more. They would have had to purchase another car and they didn't want that, but driving in 10 miles four times a day added up in gas costs.

But what will happen as people adjust? I met a man yesterday who went to the Adirondacks over the Memorial Day weekend and he told me Old Forge was like a ghost town - no perpetual line of cars winding their way up into the mountains as they had other years. People are staying home.

I've seen more people walking, especially around Elbridge. Bikes are becoming more noticeable on the roads. I've adjusted by driving slower, amazingly enough. But I also park the car and walk to places in the village, and think twice about running errands.

So at the same time the gas prices are bloating, we have an obesity crisis as well. Maybe our love affair with the car has something to do with that. I know that when I worked in the garden over the weekend I felt great and slept soundly. I ate more healthily, too. The week before I had averaged three hours each day in the car driving - and sitting.

This summer I see people cutting back on driving and eating and increasing their walking and biking. We are suited here in Central New York for the life of the Bavarian villages. Skaneateles actually has been compared to Ehrlangen. Maybe there's no Wegman's, but everything else is there and within walking distance. Elbridge, also! Park the car - get coffee at Creekside or The Red and White Creamery - and walk to P&C or the Big M. Sit by the lake, or marvel at the lovely old homes on Main Street.

And what happens to the homes like Raspberry, not in villages? They are still very, very close to the major highways and only 15 minutes from Syracuse. The subdivisions are excellent walking "trails." Take the dog, meet the neighbors instead of driving off to be with strangers in some other town.

The pendulum swings, always, and what might seem like crisis is always opportunity.