Becoming an Urban Planner – Curse #8877

Posted on March 30, 2011


When I was six I was kidnapped by a homeless man and driven around the country to hunt what he called the sprawl monster. We found the sprawl monster everywhere we went, even in the rural states like Maine. The sprawl monster had a complex anatomy that consisted of asphalt and strip malls and subdivisions and tears. I learned that the sprawl monster liked to eat land and trees and, according to the homeless man, even people who the monster would force into cars, a place they would spend most of their life.

The monster is like Kudzu, the homeless man said. Grows just like Kudzu.

I miss my family, I said.

There is  no easy way to stop it. No easy way to kill it, he said.

I’m hungry, I said.

The monster eats and eats and eats, he said.

I’m bored, I said. Are we there yet?

We have get out of this car, he said. We’re relying on this damn car.

I said, what will we do?

You will be my replacement, he said. We will stop the sprawl monster together.

We parted ways in North Carolina. The police caught got us at an Exxon and took the homeless man away.  I tried to tell my parents about the sprawl monster, but it’s difficult for adults to listen to children in any rational way. When I was older, I found out that the homeless man had been something called an Urban Planner, an esoteric type of profession with a checkered past of infamy and insanity.

This being the case, I decided to become one.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t been able to kill the sprawl monster. Most of my time is spent helping people fill out permits, or measuring the distance of a building to some arbitrary, imaginary line.  The thing that reminds me of the homeless man the most isn’t some brave campaign to kill the sprawl monster, or the comprehensive urban plan, but the way the inside of a car smells when I commute back and forth to work.