There’s a beauty to the American suburbs too often unappreciated by the coastal cultural critics. Yet it is there, in the cookie-cutter homes, the nine-to-five jobs, the weekend cookouts, the happy birthday parties. Sometimes, you have to look carefully to discover it.

For the next few weeks, I’m staying in a nameless subdivision in Phoenix, and we are having those cookouts and birthday parties. We’re in a house that’s almost indistinguishable from the one next to it.

Who would suspect there’s a contrarian consumer advocate living inside one of those nondescript homes, who does not keep normal office hours, whose kids are home schooled, who thinks, eats, and votes differently than the other red-staters here?

I’ve been wandering through these master-planned communities for the better part of a week, observing the ebb and flow of people. They leave at 8 a.m., return at 5:30 p.m., they mow their lawns and hang Christmas decorations on their windows. They are friendly but they keep to themselves.

I love the architecture. It’s rows upon rows of identical houses, mesmerizing patterns that can only be appreciated from afar. The facades feature incomplete arches, Greek revival columns that support nothing, and enormous garages. What do they say about the people who live in them? Is this the fulfillment of the American dream or is the design an unwitting admission about aspirations that are only half-met? Maybe it is not a dream at all. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

One thing is certain: If there is an opposite of traveling, an opposite of adventure, this is it. The suburbs are safe, predictable, unchallenging. That can be comforting to some people but frightening to others.

Here are this week’s subversive consumer advocacy stories:

See you next week.

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