I had my first taste of a collapsing exurb last night. On our way home from the beach, a friend and I decided to put the GPS through its paces and have the thing find us a grocery store close to our route. It put us at a Giant slightly north of Baltimore. Or rather, the ghost of a Giant, with the outline of the logo still visible where it had been ripped away. We passed through spectral scenes of shiny, empty office parks nestled between country bars and thriving tattoo parlors. For some reason, the eeriest most melancholy sight was the boarded up IHOP. When IHOP has left you, you really have been abandonned.
This is the housing bubble made visible--the hope with which developers built shiny new communities for people with modest incomes, and the swift ferocity with which credit contraction and high gas prices crushed those happy hopes.