Vanity Fair profiles The eXile: "Gutsy...visceral...serious journalism...abusive, defamatory...poignant...paranoid...and right!"
MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
www.exiledonline.com
Dispatch / April 12, 2009

My McMansion

My name is Yasha and I live in a McMansion. As far as I can tell, I have three bedrooms and a master bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, which I’m now filling up for a bubble bath. But life wasn’t always like this—I had a real struggling journalist’s life, once. No real job and lived in a cramped apartment with my friend and his girlfriend. Then one day my life took a turn for the best. I packed everything I own—a couple of couches, a desk, two guns, some books and a few garbage bags worth of clothes—into an orange U-haul truck and drove the rig at a top speed to a suburban blob called Victorville, in the middle of the desert 100 miles away from Los Angeles. And I stepped right into the American Dream. It wasn’t my dream; I’m here undercover.

Victorville is what they call an “exurb,” one of thousands of new sub-suburban sprawls all around the country built for poor Americans. To flocking homeowners, Victorville must have seemed like a glorious reaffirmation about everything good and right about American values, a place where the poor could finally afford a home of their own. Instead, it turned into just one more slaughtering ground in the the biggest scam of the century, a place where tens of thousands were lured to be ripped off and set adrift.

victorville-11

View from the master bedroom: Tiny backyard, huge high-voltage tower and a whole lotta undeveloped land.

It was somewhere past 2 a.m. when I finally pulled up to my new home sitting in a cul-de-sac at the very edge of town. The neighborhood was dark and deserted. Boxy homes with plastered-on facades and cheesy nine-foot arches spookily towered over me. A couple of Joshua trees could be seen just beyond the street. The houses here looked like they had been vacant for months. There were too many dark windows to feel at ease, and I started getting paranoid that someone was watching me as I was unloading my truck.

Victorville was never meant for the world of the living. Out on the horizon,  you could make outlines of lofty snow-capped mountains. But under your feet, it’s nothing but a patch of dried-out dirt. These houses were built here at the whim of WaMu and Countrywide Financial executive types just so they could have a product to push, a part of a complicated system of speculator fraud meant to do only one thing: transfer money from the lower-class suckers straight into executive bonuses. For that they needed a constant supply of fresh meat, and Victorville performed exceedingly well. In 2007, a year in which five million Americans migrated to shitholes just like this, Victorville was the second-fastest growing one of them.

When I looked at the house two weeks ago, the real estate agent couldn’t tell me much about its history. All she knew was that it had one previous owner, a family that moved here from somewhere south of LA. They didn’t get to enjoy the American splendor of their new digs for long, though.  One year is all they had before the bank seized their home and flipped it to someone insane enough to invest in this city’s toxic real estate market.

The house itself is about as standard as they come in Victorville. Even by McMansion standards, most of them are low-quality, but they do come with luxury-class features. You won’t find a house without a master bedroom and bathroom complete with his-and-hers sinks. On top of the master suite, my house is equipped with a huge laundry room big enough for a servant to live in, central heating/AC, a center-island counter in the kitchen, a living room with a recessed wall for a huge flat-panel TV and entertainment system, and a fake fireplace that fires up with a light switch. And it was mine to rent for just $1,150 a month, the price for a studio in Los Angeles. It was budget-minded opulence, like a Hyundai. The landlord even threw in a hi-tech security system, equipped with motion-tracking sensors in every room, at no extra charge.

“Safety, I think, is a major part of feeling comfortable. It can get pretty deserted out here sometimes,” the real estate agent said. “And you are going to be living alone, are you not?”

She was right about the need for extra security, I thought as I sat in my upstairs office, overlooking the darkness of the mile-long stretch of desert separating me from the next neighborhood. Four days here and I still can’t get used to the emptiness. I don’t even trust the one neighbor I have. Luckily I have those guns with me . . . I loaded the 357 magnum with hollow-points as soon as I moved in, and plan on keeping it that way. In fact, it sits right here on my desk, shiny and clean.

Neighborhood Driving Tour, Victorville, CA

Taking a drive through the neighborhood. Don’t it make you feel cozy?

Victorville is the embodiment of the housing bubble. In 2007, its population grew by 9.5%, and nearly doubled in the past eight years. Now there are just over 100,000 people living here. The growth wasn’t related to anything tangible; no KIA auto-plant opened up. The Air Force base here, which employed thousands of civilians, closed down more than a decade ago. There were barely enough jobs to support the pre-boom population. But the people didn’t move here for the jobs. Victorville was a commuter development and proud of it. According to official city data, most of the adults here commute at least two hours each way—some make the 100-mile trip out to Los Angeles, others trek 200 miles east all the way out to Las Vegas.

Read more: , , , , , , Yasha Levine, Dispatch

Got something to say to us? Then send us a letter.

Want us to stick around? Donate to The eXiled.

Twitter twerps can follow us at twitter.com/exiledonline

56 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Simeon  |  February 27th, 2010 at 4:30 am

    Wow! I reside in Victorville. I guess I really should leave for Vegas, huh?

  • 2. Obbop  |  August 27th, 2010 at 7:49 am

    “There’s class warfare, all right, Mr. (Warren) Buffett said, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

  • 3. SCTW  |  November 17th, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I was born in Nor Cal, and moved here when I was about 5. I’ve been here in V-Ville for 23 years and I enjoy it here. As of 2010, the population is 115,000. And if you take into account the population of the entire High Desert it’s much more than that. So a “ghost town”, most definitely not! Just because we have Joshua Trees, dirt, and amazing sunsets doesn’t automatically qualify for a ghost town. Are there foreclosed homes, sure are, just like everywhere else. It was all these morons coming up here from “down the hill” and LA. When you get down to the roots of the natives that live here, they are good and responsible people that care about the town they live in. And FYI, the photos you took of the road are on Mojave Dr. just short of HWY 395, so of course it’s empty right there you idiot! The entire High Desert has boomed with new businesses and more jobs :)

  • 4. Calirodan  |  May 12th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I grew up in the mountains near Victorville. It was an OK town until self-absorbed assholes like Levine started moving there. Instead of seeing the beauty of the desert, they just viewed it as a “shithole” full of “hicks” that they could commute to L.A. from. When they moved in, the town got rough.

    A lot of people on the desert would probably prefer it if the flatlanders stayed in L.A. People who don’t get the desert or the people who choose to live there shouldn’t move there, and they shouldn’t bitch about it if they do.

    Personally, I’ve always found it ironic when people from L.A. go on about how dangerous, poorly-developed, or unlivable other cities are.

  • 5. BandungBaby  |  May 13th, 2011 at 3:28 am

    The whole “corporations are bad” angle is a bit tiresome. I really would like to know the stat that figures out how many Americans walked on homes they could afford. My condo is worth 20% of its original value, but I still pay the mortgage. They bought them because they were cheap and then walked because they were worth less then they paid.
    I’m also a bit confused with the article. You act like a hero of the poor; yet, you criticize the jobs they work. I’m sure if they weren’t working and collecting free state money they too would be heroes and victims. So why are the builders horrible people? Why do “poor people”, as you call them always get “duped”? Frankly, that’s offensive; I think poor people are smart enough to make bad decisions.

  • 6. Bill  |  May 13th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Good article. Except those rich swine didn’t rip off the poor, as the poor had nothing before and still have nothing. They’ve ripped off the great American tax-paying middle class.


Leave a Comment

(Open to all. Comments can and will be censored at whim and without warning.)

Required

Required, hidden

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed