Monday, March 24, 2008

Somewhere in America...

From there, 36 hours ago,

to here:

From moosehead soup to Midwest corn-fed, feedlot beef. It's the town at trail's end of the great cattle drives, it's the place that birthed Hallmark Cards and H&R Block. It's the place where every restaurant sells, and every hotel room stocks, Starbucks coffee, even though you can watch 18-wheelers rotate belly up and dump their loads of coffee beans into the Folger's coffee plant.

Transitioning from village potlatch to America rapidly is a good thing, because at least there is a recognizable difference. Even if it engenders dislocation at least I know I have traveled - gone from one place to another. Outside of Alaska, it is only the destination on my boarding pass that tells me where in monochromatic McCulture I presently am: LA, Phoenix, Kansas City, Chicago, or Boston.

Land in any one of the mega-ports, with their miles and miles of gates all stuffed, sausage-like, with people rushing about, talking earnestly to themselves, blue lights winking in their ears. There's oxymoronic Wolfgang Puck selling gourmet fast food; kiosks hawking the little U-shaped neck rolls , the five-minute chair massage, and the more intriguing, but always empty, aqua-massage units ("You Don't Get Wet!!!" proclaim the signs).

Sure, palm trees, cacti, mountains, ports, or architecture help orient and anchor, but these cultural and geographic icons, once dominant in the landscape, are obscured by the ubiquitous Starbucks, Old Navies, Victoria Secrets, Walden Books - to say nothing of the Lego-plexes of neo-country, neo-Italianate McMansions, business parks and mall sprawls that cram all available acreage between air port and fading urban cores where once architecture and businesses strove for individuality, innovation, and interest.

Nowadays, it takes a lot of work to travel in the US and ferret out visual and experiential diversity - it doesn't happen on a business trip, which guarantees a stay at a convention center in any one of the cookie cutter big hotels - Westin, Hyatt, Marriott (all that changes there is the color of the wallpaper and the awfulness of the wall art).

Perhaps the majority are reassured by this reality: that no matter where they travel, there they are - never far away from an Olive Garden, an Applebees, a Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware.

Me, I'm counting the days til I leave America and head for home.

1 comment:

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

And the air always stinks too! Blech!