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Dear Matt:

We've been driving around in Baja lately and wondered how come there are so many empty shell houses, most of them with no roofs, some with rebar sticking out the top of the walls, some look totally abandoned. We noticed this all over, near the beach next to finished houses, out in the middle of nowhere, like on the road to San Felipe...

-- Ruth, Encinitas

Sounds like Pa Alice's big plans for Shadyglen by the Whispering Pines at Brookside Stoutly Gated Chateau Estates. That was a golden-agers pleasuredome he planned to build once he'd squeezed all the tax shelter he could out of 100 acres of kumquats and bulldozed them into oblivion. Five hundred absolutely identical white stucco duplexes, 20 golf courses, and a strip mall. He got things to the cinderblock-and-rebar stage and was called away to the phone one day and accidentally got caught up in All My Children and he's been in front of the TV ever since. Ma planted kudzu to stop the mud slides, but she may not live long enough to turn the whole fleet of golf carts into planters. But all the guys with Donald Trump dreams aren't confined to Alice Acres. Baja has a few. According to my TJ-born-and-raised source, the buildings you see are probably second homes being built slowly, as the families have the money and the time. Or maybe they're building bigger houses to move into. Construction proceeds at a different pace in Baja. Along the coast there are a couple of failed resort properties that were abandoned before they were completed and look like Rebar Beach, but slowly, slowly, most of the others will be finished. Which is more than we can say for Pa Alice's crazy dream.

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