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If the fronts of our houses provide insights into how we wish to be seen, then the backs of our houses are unapologetic statements about who we really are. Today I got to know my neighbors by trolling the alley behind my house and was alternately charmed and puzzled by what I found. I saw ramshackle garages, peeling paint, toppled garbage cans. But I also saw tidy and well-maintained rear areas, like this one above. There are people who paint behind the radiator, and people who don't. One can guess which group this homeowner belongs to.

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April 2005