They Paved Paradise, Put Up a Parking Lot


When we moved into our house 25 years ago, we were one of only a few houses in the neighborhood with a gravel driveway. The look was less formal than blacktop. It fit the cottagey character of our house.

But I’ve spent all these years struggling with the gravel. To shovel snow, you must master a special technique of carefully sliding the shovel along the gravel so as not to pick up too much stone. For a boy from Buffalo for whom shoveling snow is as natural as flying is for a bird, the task proved tedious and slow, a real spirit crusher and back breaker. And still every spring I’d be raking stones off the lawn back onto the driveway.

In warmer months the weeds and grass come up through the gravel. I wouldn’t spray weed killer so we had to pull them (more back-breaking labor), but it was impossible to keep up. The front would begin to look shabby. I don’t like the word shabby applied to my property. Next thing you know I’d be putting a car up on cinder blocks.

In the fall, you couldn’t rake leaves off the gravel. You had to wait for them to blow away. I couldn’t have a basketball court. The kids couldn’t play with chalk. We couldn’t walk barefoot.

Still we held onto our gravel driveway. Until today.

I’ve finally surrendered to the asphalt world. I tried to find a contractor to install a porous asphalt that would allow water to drain through to the ground, but no one would do it for a residential property. I considered a technique called chip and seal, which used a mix of asphalt and stone and wouldn’t absorb as much heat, but that would still leave a layer of loose stone on top. I thought of just putting more gravel on the driveway, but that only kicked the problem down the road for another year or two.

So today is paving day. I have a lot of angst and even a little grief. I’m worried the asphalt will make the front of my house too hot. I’m worried I will hate the look. It’s not an environmentally friendly solution. I wonder if the contractor I hired will do a good job.

On the other hand, bring on the winter snows—I’ll show you how to shovel. Let me write poems on my driveway in chalk. Maybe I’ll even install a basketball hoop?

Hey, they’re done! It doesn’t look bad. But as Joni Mitchell sang:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot 

Joni Mitchell
By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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