The last thing I want to do when I get home is be surrounded by chit-chatting neighbors. Recently I've been content to curl up on the couch with some warm mammals (one wife, two dogs), listening to Mahler and reading Herodotus. The other folks in my cul-de-sac can get along just fine without me.

I'm part of what's wrong with America.

For a long time there's been lots of talk about how we've lost our sense of community. We barricade ourselves in our single-family homes, ignore our neighbors and step into the street only to roll out the garbage bins twice a week. To socialize, we pick up the phone, or drive for miles to meet friends who live across town.

And so we don't watch out for each other, lend a hand, act before some part of the neighborhood starts to go to hell. We race down our 25-mile-per-hour streets, occasionally swerving to avoid the rare clump of kids throwing a ball around, and lock ourselves into our own little private paradises before the world has a chance to impinge on our sacred privacy.

Sounds reasonable to me, but a growing number of people want more from life, and want to give more to society. They're behind the cohousing movement. Whether you think of cohousing as middle-class communes, a return to traditional values or the first step toward Paolo Soleri's vision of "arcologies" and the tight-knit communities they entail, the movement is gaining momentum.

Margaret Regan inspects Tucson's first, attractive cohousing efforts in this week's feature. Read it on your front porch.

More by James Reel

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    • Jul 1, 2010
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