47. Dream Street

The housing crisis had thousands of starting places on hundreds of streets of someone's dreams, on some piece of unremarkable former farmland just past the edge of earlier aspirations. In a house built by the marginalized and sold to those among them who didn't notice that they were.

I live on one of those streets. At the end of which, precisely 60 years ago almost to the day, bulldozers ripped into the lunar gray soil of former lima bean fields prone to flooding and gangs of young men assembled, waiting to begin assembly line tasks that required no more skill "? in most cases "? than swinging a hammer for eight hours a day.

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On my street, the story was the usual redemptive mix of joy and tragedy, made possible by the long post-war boom. The boom sputtered to an end on my block with the gutting of Douglas Aircraft and the closure of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in the 1990s.

Photographer Douglas McCulloh has updated that story on another, newer street of raw longing. Only there the boom was brief, and the take down after was even more harsh. Dream Street is his book of photographs, interviews, and reportage that distills the abstractions of "subprime mortgage collapse" and "housing crisis" into the sweat of men building 40 acres of infill development outside of Ontario. Poorly made houses for poorly paid men and women and their modest dreams.

(I wrote an introduction to Dream Street, which is due on bookstore shelves this month.)

The marketing of Californian dreams always involves mutual deception. On Dream Street it was "no document" loan applications and the resale of tens of thousands of these loans on Wall Street. Dodges that made the dream possible.

McCulloh is rightfully sympathetic toward the men and women of Dream Street. He's angry about the process that put them there. His photographs and stories expand the emotional range of suburban narratives, which are often mired in either ironic contempt or hollow sentimentality.

For those of us who live on one of California's streets of dreams, the history of how this one was made is of enormous importance as a warning and a guide.

The image on this page was taken by Douglas McCulloh. It is used by permission.

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