Sunday, January 15, 2012

Free to Be Decidedly Different

Our neighbors, the Walkers, have been in the news again lately. The local Fox affiliate had a team out in front of the Walker compound on Thursday and on the web there soon appeared a report about the dispute between them and the City of Winter Park. Apparently, the right to free speech does not override some city code, like the one against having billboards in your front yard.

I have to admit to a degree of sympathy for the Walker family. It’s true that they are kind of unusual. This was made apparent by the U.S. Air Force’s maintaining back in the 1960s that the Walker patriarch, Grover Cleveland Walker, was paranoid. This diagnosis has not been undone by his family’s subsequent behavior: They went on a 45-year rampage claiming they were being unjustifiably persecuted by their enemies, and publicizing their claim with huge front-yard flagpoles featuring upside-down flags and gigantic words of defiance painted on the front and roof of their house. When accumulated fines resulted in Orange County threatening to evict them from their home, Mr. Walker said that should that happen, he would fill his entire house with concrete. The Walkers also publicized their version of their persecution by stamping it in abbreviated form on dollar bills. I once came across one of their “We-are-not-paranoid-bills,” but, foolishly, I spent it. Wish I had it now.

The Walkers were probably helpful to us when we were house-hunting in 1989, since, by turning their front yard into a carnival of pseudo-patriotic defiance, they lowered the property values of the nearby homes, including the one we eventually bought. When we were looking over our soon-to-be new home, the seller told us that every potential buyer that drove away in the direction of Tyree Lane turned into a lost cause once they saw the Walkers’ yard. One look at the display there and they would never come back. So, the Walkers made it possible for us to afford our little bungalow when other Winter Park homes were beyond our reach.

Yesterday we received a notice from the City of Winter Park asking us to contact them about an issue in our neighborhood. No doubt that issue is the Walkers. But what will I say when I respond? I really don’t mind the Walkers, but they are three or four houses away from us. What if they lived right next door? That might make their ostentatious displays just irritating enough for me to want them to cease and desist.

Their current notion is that Barack Obama’s health care reforms are communist tyranny. That, in itself, is a bit off center, but notice how many Americans share that particular version of off-centeredness. Do we want Rush Limbaugh and the entire Fox News team declared officially beyond the pale of reason because they say or imply that Obama is a communist or a socialist? Well, yes, I suppose we do, but I’m afraid we’re gonna have to file that wish under Impossible Dreams.

Food for Thought:

Is It Crazy to Think That Obligatory Health Insurance is Tyranny?

Is It Wrong to Undermine Your Neighbors' Property Values with Nutty Billboards?

I don’t think it’s likely that the Walkers will ever give up using front-yard billboards in a desperate effort to prove that they’re normal. But, should that happen, or should they move out, I wonder how much our little bungalow might suddenly be worth on the Winter Park real estate market.

(3/2 easy access to shopping, good schools)