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Alive in the Suburbs (PM op-ed)

September 22, 2010

A few weeks ago, I was standing within a police barricade watching dozens of Los Angeles police officers examining a crime scene that contained a recently murdered body; a body that was laying a mere 10 feet or so from where I was standing with my close friends and band mates. One of the first things I realize as we start to discuss how what went down is that we are
all lucky to live in the suburbs.

That’s right, lucky.

As some of you may know, I love criticizing and challenging the suburban cultural establishment; I don’t get paid to write these columns, this stuff is just fun to do! And I think someone has to do it, so why not take a crack at it every few months in this magazine or on our blog?

On a serious note, I am happy to be living in Santa Clarita, California (our headquarters). I would never choose to live where this man was gunned down; I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere near that area, When it comes down to it, anyone that says they would rather live in a shitty apartment near Echo Park over a nice house in the suburbs is just full of it. I know it’s really cool and hip to live that independent artist’s life away from the corporate conformist lifestyle of suburbanism (Is that a word? It is now). But everyone that is dying to leave the suburbs is throwing out reality when dreaming about the glorious city living.

Now, I am not saying we need to live our lives in fear, to never visit the city, and to stop having dreams of escaping whatever your version of Pleasantville may be. But I really think most of us don’t like where we are—wherever that is—just because it is too familiar, too known, and it’s hard to dream about something that is so real to us. We all secretly hate that we know exactly where every restaurant, store, friend’s house, school, etc. is. We always want to experience and explore the unknown; and I get that.

I received some knowledge about city life dropped in the form of seven bullets ending a man’s life. The city became a little less unknown to me that night. When is the last time you heard of a suburban town with a high murder or crime rate? That’s what we secretly love about suburbia; it’s safe (sometimes too safe for our liking)!

But why do we have to make a trade-off? Why do we have to trade in security for creativity and culture? Why do we have to flee suburbanism (this needs to be a word) and enter a dangerous and violent world just to feel a little creative? Or a little refined? Or even just a little bit hardened and more mature?

I usually end with a challenge to the readers, and here is this article’s challenge: Create art where you are, especially if you live in suburbia. Create culture and community. Create whatever you want wherever you are. Improve your surroundings from within. Let’s do what we can to change our suburban environment so we can have both safety and creativity.

I don’t want any of you reading this lying on the sidewalk like the man who inspired this article. I had never met this person, and I hope he was/is at peace. I wish he had lived in the suburbs so that he could have lived.

Let us feel alive in the suburbs so we can actually be alive.

This post was written by Zachary Hill for Proxart Magazine: Fall 2010Download or purchase your copy of the magazine here.



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