You'd never know to look at them, but most Minnesotans dream of plush burgundy carpets,

          white baby grand pianos, and televisions the size of garden sheds. Or so says this year's "Dream Home," the jewel in the crown of the annual Parade of Homes Fall Showcase, an event where people tromp barefoot through the best new houses presented by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), and which occurred this weekend.

          People dream of drawer-pulls shaped like twigs, chandeliers made of plaster-antlers, and the kind of crushing isolation and car-dependence that only a cul-de-sac off a rural road on a narrow highway in a third tier suburb can bring. People dream of spreading across wetlands. At least according to the slick Parade of Homes Magazine: "Carefully orchestrated to be in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings, the 1996 Parade
of Homes Dream Home spreads across its large homesite on Lake Lucy, and its adjacent wetlands."

          If spreading across wetlands seems like an irresponsible thing for a dream to do, don't worry. The BATC's on top of it: "You may notice that some of these homes are located in the far reaches of the metro area. And if you have heard BATC's recent message about the need to end urban sprawl and redevelop our core metro resources, you may wonder if we are ignoring our own advice. We are not. Current public policy has pushed us to build in the outlying metro areas where land is affordable and restrictions are few." (Like public policy restrictions about not spreading across wetlands?)

          In any event, there's a nice kitchen where those wetlands were. It's decorated with relief tiles of beavers, moose, bears, deer, and rabbits, representing all the animals whose habitat--well, never mind. As one woman remarked on entering the breakfast nook, "It's massive. Everything's massive. It just makes me feel so..." and she broke off, overcome with emotion. She trailed past the requisite baby grand, and found her companions in the master bedroom suite. "Can you imagine?" she asked. "Can you?" Her pals didn't answer. Perhaps because they were overcome by the peach divan decorated with pearl-covered pillows, scattered with pink satin marabou-feathered slippers--as if the divan were just vacated by a pillow-talking blonde and her champagne.

          Downstairs, in the multiple-use family room, a statue of a yellow lab puppy gnawed a milkbone on the couch. One wall boasted a television as big as the great outdoors. Maybe bigger. "You'd never leave the house," said a woman, nudging her husband. "You kidding?" he asked. "Everyone we know would never leave the house." Behind them, a pregnant woman in shorts looked out the picture windows to the lake below. She swung her toddler from one hip to the other (children are not allowed to roam free in the Dream Home) and said, "The mosquitos'd be bad. Real bad." Her husband followed her gaze down past the new sod to the water. "Oh yeah," he agreed. "You bet."

          Of course, a plush lawn abutting a beach is one of the things that can kill a lake quickest--the fertilizer leaches into the lake, feeding the water-plants, geometrically boosting their nitrogen production, driving the oxygen out of the water, and drowning all the fish and other oxygen-dependents. (But that's the provenance of public policy, which is dull and cumbersome, and not a concern of true dreamers.) Upstairs, a realtor played on the baby grand, and the music filtered through the house, unmuffled by the copious carpeting. Everything was dreamy and dreamier--for only $975,000.

          Meanwhile, in a different universe, eons away--but really only fifty miles north--all of the Parade of Homes' least expensive houses cuddled together on an old potato field in Big Lake. These are less sparkly dreams.

          The lots are sun-soaked, the trees negligible. Pickup trucks crowd the driveways, kids whoop, tearing around on bikes, and nearly every yard boasts a dog and a nice mailbox. The "Chayna" two-bedroom starts at $86,000, and comes with an unfinished basement and a hole where a deck should go. The "Amber" starts at $87,500 and boasts a garage big enough for a car and a work area. These are working homes, but if you jump up and down on the floor, they'll shake, and if someone shouts outside, you'll hear it loud and clear. Still, in the unfinished basement of "Amber," a little boy of about 5 told everyone who walked down the stairs, "This is my room. And the laundry." He stamped his foot. "And my tent goes here."

          His parents were upstairs talking to the realtor. When a woman asked him if he was going to live here, he became shy and squirmy. "I'm just thinking about it," he admitted, and pulled his shirt up over his face. Maybe he realized only then that while dreaming is free, the costs of realizing dreams can be very, very high.

--Dara Moskowitz


          Avid Star Tribune readers will remember the GENNY X scandal: the insipid and demographically correct advice column, it was revealed, was a fraud! Strib staffers actually faked the letters in the inaugural column. A friend,of average height, wished to carry on the tradition, so he wrote pretending to be an awkwardly tall guy with dreams of a surgical solution: "I know I can't change my body, but all that talk of 'being yourself' leaves me cold," he whined. "Who says I have to be myself? Do you? I know they can do all kinds of reductions these days. Is there a way to 'bring me down to earth?'" Well, not only did Genny X respond, she, uh, they gave him the headline: "Tall guy has started obsessing about his skyscraper physique!" After you read the inspiring excerpts of Genny X's response, we invite all of you to write your own fake letter to Genny X (c/o The Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Mpls., MN 55488). Send us a copy. If Genny X responds, we'll reprint the results.

          "Hey Mile-High Guy: Well, I'm of pretty average height, so I thought I'd ask some tall people about their story: Says Stretch (an alias), 6 feet, 5 inches: Think of it in more positive terms. Being tall does come in handy sometimes too. Such as getting things off high shelves, changing lightbulbs without a ladder, not having to go as high on a ladder because you're taller. It means being able to see over the crowd at certain events, and being 'head and shoulders' above everybody else all the time...."

          "According to a medical reporter at the Star Tribune, there is no sensible surgery to make a person shorter. There are procedures called 'femoral shortening' and 'tibial shortening,' but they are used only to even out legs that are not equal in length. The bottom line is that insurance would probably not finance a surgery for cosmetic reasons--only if it was medically necessary (altitude sickness?)--and the cost of these procedures probably would run to thousands of dollars."

          "Counseling might help chip away at the paranoia you describe. Meanwhile, maybe people are staring at, say, your fabulous shirt or perhaps they aren't even looking at you. Don't beat yourself up--you have no control over what gene pool you're swimming in. Body shame is an easy pit to fall into, especially with the advertising onslaught depicting 'perfect' bodies from every billboard, magazine, and commercial. However cheesy it may sound, accepting and 'being' yourself may bring you the peace of mind you deserve."

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