"Some rich men came and raped the land,
Nobody caught 'em
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and jesus, people bought 'em
And they called it paradise
The place to be... "
- The Eagles, "The Last Resort"
When you live in Massachusetts, you need an escape plan. For many it is
New Hampshire, Florida, the Carolinas, Arizona or Maine.
My dream has been northern Nevada. Not just because my grand-twins live
there, but because I fell in love with it when my son moved there in
1991: The Sierra Nevada rising behind his house, the Pinenut Mountains
across the valley, the river and wide-open spaces in between. Lake Tahoe
to the west, "the loneliest road in America" to the east. Ranches with
cattle, wild horses, llamas, deer without ticks, mountain blue jays, and
The ads ask, "Why Nevada?" and answer their own question: "No state
income tax, low property taxes, no inheritance tax, no franchise tax."
I myself have no interest in the slot machines or, for that matter, Las
Vegas, not to mention legalized prostitution. But I like the fact that
other people's vices pay much of the government's bill. Also like having
the Legislature in session every other year instead of annoying the
populace all the time.
When the Nevada state government raises taxes "temporarily" during an
economic downturn, which usually affects gambling revenues, the
government cuts taxes as soon as the crisis is over. Wow, in the Wild
West, a man's word is his bond, just like in the Zane Grey novels I read
as a kid.
But now I'm not so sure about moving there. For one thing, why exchange
Ted Kennedy for Harry Reid? The woman running for the other Senate seat
in Nevada is also putting a property-tax limit on the ballot; my
retirement would become a busman's holiday!
Also, there were wildfires across Nevada when I was there in June. We
could watch two of them from the front yard, and the air was filled with
smoke. Volunteer firefighters risked their lives, while World War II
bombers dropped animal blood from slaughterhouses on the flames. I think
I prefer nor'easters.
I didn't go out last year because my family came here instead. The
changes, after my hiatus, were startling.
There were always new housing developments, including two sadly named
Wildhorse and Wildflower Ridge, after the wonderful fauna and flora that
once lived free there. But the wide-open spaces are filling up with
these developments, many with walls that are high enough to block the
mountain views. And new tax legislation sharply reduces the property tax
for golf courses around which the new McMansions cluster. Italianate
seems to be the latest trend in architecture, replacing the low-slung
The highway to Reno goes through downtown Carson City, past the
often-quiet Statehouse. You can park and visit the State Museum with its
gun collection and reconstructed dinosaur. But a new highway bypasses
the city. Someone has sculpted "mountains" on the barrier walls that
block the view.
Long-time residents write letters to the editor, complaining that the
natives can no longer afford to buy there. Seems there's an immigration
problem: No, not Mexicans, but Californians and people from back East
who sell their houses in a hot market, then drive up the prices in
Nevada, which compare to the prices in Marblehead. So "more" homes
doesn't necessarily mean more "affordable" homes.
One big new house on a mountain slope is so ugly that one notes, with
optimism, that it is sitting on an earthquake fault. One hopes, of
course, that no one is home when the land shifts: bad taste isn't a
But you wonder, as you wonder sometimes here, why people squeeze so much
house onto tiny lots. Then you imagine good reasons: They are planning
big families, making space for the in-laws, creating home offices so
they don't have to commute to Boston. Some like to entertain indoors, or
have art and antique collections to display.
Someone recently shared an interesting and amusing theory: The only way
some baby boomers can stand their spouses and kids is if they have
separate living spaces in the same building! I myself can no longer
imagine living in a house with even one other person, and only one bath
and television. Are we spoiled or what?
Another problem with my escape plan is that if I move, my own little
cottage in Marblehead with its front porch will be torn down, and a
McMansion built over it and my wildflower garden. The coreopsis,
daisies, columbine, yarrow and echinaceas will never again enjoy the
sunlight. Like the Little Prince with his rose, I feel responsible
somehow for what is mine.
I'm aware, of course, that the land on which my house sits was once the
edge of an Indian village. My entire yard would be a meadow if I stopped
I don't really mind being crowded and tamed here. But somehow it seems
that the West should still be wild.
"They call it paradise
I don't know why.
You call someplace paradise,
Kiss it good-bye."
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.