Monday, August 28, 2006

Talking In A Hole

I am up early today. Not by choice really. I just woke up to relieve some pressure on my bladder (TMI?) and then couldn't get back to sleep. It happens to the best of us. I found myself laying in bed with my mind racing faster than my dad cruising around those racetracks of my youth. Said mind, however, was not reminiscing about days spent at the speedway, rather about a particular architectural phenomena of the 70's.

You see, when I was 13 years old, we lived in Tucson, AZ. That's not entirely correct. We lived outside of Tucson in a secluded subdivision in the middle of the desert called "Corona De Tucson." Having moved less than a year before from Western New York, one might imagine the culture shock. We went from a town where the newest house I'd ever been in was built sometime in the mid '50's to a place where most of the houses were still under construction.

This particular subdivision was not all that unlike any subdivision you might wander into today. There were a string of immaculately decorated "model homes" fronted by brightly colored, attention getting flags right off the main road. As you wound your way through the newly paved streets, the landscape was peppered by house after house that all looked basically the same save an occasional shift in block color from gray to tan that pale shade of "southwestern" pink.

One particular model contained a very special feature. The feature which has disrupted my slumber this morning. As you walked in the front door, you were greeted with a spacious formal living room appointed with plush wall to wall carpet. About 15 feet or so into that room there was a double sided fireplace (the other side of which warmed the family room / den). Directly in front of said fireplace was something that I found eternally fascinating. The conversation pit.

Now, over the years I've come to realize that things that I knew from my youth, like objects in a rear view mirror, are somewhat distorted. So you will forgive me if my measurements are a bit off. As far as I can tell this pit was about 6 feet square and about 4 feet deep. I'm guessing this because I could stand in the bottom of the pit and just see over the top and if I was to lay on any of the 3 sides, I would have to bend my knees to accommodate my entire 13 year old self.

The pit, like the living room, was lined with plush carpet. Not really shag, but I'll say deep pile. It had two steps going down in and a "bench" on three sides. Imagine a hot-tub lined with carpet rather than tile.

I was lucky enough to have 2 close friends in the subdivision who each lived in that particular model of home. That meant I had my fair share of access to the conversation pit. And, frankly, I can't say that too very much conversing went on in this pit. Granted, I was 13 and my friends were 11, but I don't actually remember their parents making use of the pits either. In fact, more often than not, the pits remained empty. Occasionally, my friend Jenny would stick her little brother in the pit to get him out of our way while we played pool in the family room. But other than that, I honestly don't remember anyone ever hunkering down in the pit for a heated conversation about anything.

I suppose that might be why that particular design feature has all but disappeared from homes today. With houses priced upwards of $250 / square foot, who wants to sink a couple of grand into a hole in the floor?

Anyway, that's what I was thinking about this morning. A hole in the floor.

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