Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America


The gap since my last post is explained by the fact that I've been away for a few days. Kathy and I went to McKinney, a town north of Dallas, although I think of it as part of Greater Dallas, since it's one of a string of towns grown together between the center of Dallas and the Oklahoma border.

The size of Greater Dallas is hard to comprehend and it grows all the time. Having joined with its neighboring city, Fort Worth, to form one enormous conurbation, it continues to swallow towns around it, turning them into suburbs as it does so. Only the roadside signs indicate the transition from one town to another; there is no empty space between them. Drive northwards on the 75 through Plano, Allen (surely a superior town with a name like that), Frisco, McKinney to Sherman and you will know that it is all Dallas. When you read that Dallas is not even the biggest city in Texas (that honor belongs to Houston), the mind begins to reel.

Where did all these people come from? Texas has been a state for less than 200 years yet somehow has developed these huge cities in so short a time. The little town of Allen already has a million inhabitants and this is just one suburb of Dallas. And then we have to consider that, apart from Dallas and Houston, there are so many other large cities in this state: Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Amarillo, Lubbock. Surely Europe must have been emptied to provide this burgeoning population.

But it's not just the size and population of Dallas that never ceases to amaze me; it's the wealth. New housing estates are being built all the time and every one of them consists of houses we would consider mansions in Britain. Acre upon acre of these estates spread northwards and westwards, every house different yet obviously expensive, mile upon mile of high class suburb. To drive from McKinney to Fort Worth and watch this endless procession passing by the windows is to be astounded, not just at the number of people; it's how much wealth is being shared amongst them.

I know that the people who buy these houses are not rich by American standards; in Texas, the rich buy ranches and pretend to be cowboys. Even leaving the truly rich aside, however, the wealth evidenced by the houses in Dallas is incredible; so many houses, each with a family earning far beyond what the vast majority in Europe can aspire to. Add it all together and one begins to get some idea of how rich America is.

The locals explained it away by pointing out that Texas has no state taxes. Housing is cheap in Texas too - these houses would cost twice as much were they in California or New York. Yet this cannot begin to account for such prosperity. The fact is that Texas and many other parts of America continue to be the land where the streets are paved with gold.

I can remember being amazed at the wealth in Britain when I first arrived from Africa. In Zimbabwe everything was recycled and nothing wasted. To see how British and other European governments wasted huge amounts of money was galling but also made one realize the vast reserves of wealth that could support such wastage. It's in what a country fritters away that its real prosperity becomes apparent; only fabulously rich nations can spend billions on fruitless projects and yet remain vaguely solvent.

Dallas always speaks to me of how the wealth of other nations is dwarfed by America. If we multiply the riches apparent in this one city to include all the great cities of the States, the figures become astronomical, far beyond what we can understand through personal experience. It is truly humbling.

As we returned to Lawton through the dry, flat and empty plains of western Oklahoma, with the clouded blue Wichita Mountains spiking the straight line of the horizon, I was reminded once again of how like Africa is the prairie. No signs of great wealth here; this is one of the poorer parts of America.

And I'm glad it is so. Perhaps I'm just a country hick at heart and all those riches and the complications they bring are too much for my backward soul to comprehend. It's good to be home.

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With all those large displays of wealth come great worries, sometimes when I visit my brother I see his house and long for it, but I also see how much stress it causes him. So I go back to visit my dad and I sit in a boat by the lake and I remember how truly fortunate I am with what I have. Going home has a way of doing that.
Date Added: 16/03/2006

Gone Away
And home is the best place to be, Janus. I wonder where mine is... ;)
Date Added: 17/03/2006

Ive given up on buying property, its a fools dream designed to keep us all knuckled down and working hard with the vague promise of prosperity in our old age when we sell the bricks we spent our lives striving for.

What a fabulous picture you paint of the ever expanding texan housing waistline. I imagine every neighbour is a Macdonald who works from 7 to 11 chasing his dream.

Id also like to thank you for the word of the day. Until now id always assumed a conurbation was a Concubines nap time. I feel enlightened :)
Date Added: 17/03/2006

Gone Away
I like your definition of the word better, Keef. Perhaps it's best that it has to do with cities, however - there aren't that many concubines around these days so the word might fall into disuse...
Date Added: 17/03/2006

Keef has seen the light, the bricks are chains!
Date Added: 17/03/2006

Gone Away
Be a nomad not a settler, huh, Mad? But wait a minute - how can a No-Mad be a Mad...?
Date Added: 17/03/2006

John (Syntagma)
What can I say but: "Is this the way to Amarillo ..."? :-)

The fly in the ointment of all that wealth is that the trade deficit of the US was more than $6 billion dollars last month, much of it going to China to buy cheap goods. At some stage this is going to impact on US wealth. Certainly the dollar must sink further. Already I can buy goods online from American sources at a fraction of the British price.

I must say, like Janus, I'm with Hucklberry Finn on this one. Corporate America is not a place to be happy in.
Date Added: 19/03/2006

Gone Away
I know nothing of trade deficits and dollar trading values, John; I merely report what I see. The wealth is very visible in a place like Dallas, even though I couldn't tell you where it comes from or whether it will still be there next week. Knowing that the boom in Dallas has lasted for years and shows no signs of slowing or stopping, however, I wonder if all the economic predictors are correct.

As for corporate America, I too am with Janus but, if you want to be rich, it certainly works. ;)
Date Added: 19/03/2006

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