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To begin with, Jake Tapper’s “A Fine Mess” (12/12) starts, “The first thing you should know is that it doesn’t stink….[T]he back yard…isn’t littered with fecal matter or decomposing bodies.” Nothing in Tapper’s messy article indicates that Berger’s property is a health hazard, and the inventory Tapper cites does not suggest any fire hazard.
“‘A bloody eyesore, and you can quote me on that,’ says Walter Wells, whose own back yard abuts” Berger’s pile of practical parts. “‘We’ve always tried to be polite about it,’ says the grandfatherly Wells. ‘And they’ve always been very affable, very agreeable.’”
Except for an unexceptional, metaphorical inventory of articles on the porch, which, he forgot to mention, is surrounded by a brick wall, Tapper didn’t have much to say about Berger’s nicely manicured front yard. Certainly, the affable, grandfatherly Mr. Wells may be concerned about his property rights, but, hell, this is the back yard you’re talking about. It abuts an alley, not a thoroughfare visitors or tourists are likely to encounter, or a situation which would adversely affect property rights.
The conflict is between Berger’s property rights and Wells’ right not to be aesthetically challenged. This case pits an anal-retentive, grandfatherly Walter Wells, backed by a mindless D.C. bureaucracy and a few of neatness Nazis, against an attention challenged, nitty-gritty Allen Berger, backing good old ecologically responsible entrepreneurial frugality. Allen Berger saves; America wastes.
“I have a collector philosophy,” Berger says. The philosophy has a nice, practical, real-world dimension to it. My philosophy is similar to Berger’s. I figure it’s better to use resources wisely than to toss things on the trash heap just as soon as they’re tarnished. As it happens, I owe my stove, kitchen sink, and toilet to Berger’s Veazey Street backyard social salvation station. Wells seems to have an aesthetics-based philosophy: “Waste now, and judge by outward appearances.”
Over the years, Berger hasn’t changed much, but a couple of his neighbors have become noticeably less tolerant, and civilization has been embodied in the malls.
via the Internet