When I travel the country these days I'm struck by the crushing sameness of the towns. There's always the exact same strip mall on the same main drag with the same stores and restaurants: McDonald's, Wendy's, WalMart, CVS, Lowe's, Home Depot etc. Now that banks have gone national those are all the same too. Increasingly we live in a generic world.
I think the measure of a quality resort is the degree to which they've resisted the perfidious encroachment of bland corporate chains. I had heard that the Outer Banks wasn't overly commercialized, but that isn't what I saw. They had Lowe's, Food Lion, even a Next Day Blinds for those who simply must have blinds ASAP. Blinds!! I saw a sad, local mom n, pop grocery stored being shuttered. When my wife wanted to get me a new Kodak dig-cam and this handy-dandy printer she shuttled between WalMart and K-Mart. She got ripped off cuz neither sold the stuff as a set. One day I will try to figure out how it works.
It's not just the stores either. Every burg has its own zany Morning Zoo on the radio. Every so often the prerecorded traffic message comes on, featuring someone with a silly name like Vera Bruptly. She recites the rubbernecking delays in the exact same bottlenecks as the day before. The DJs and traffic reporters all sound the same, with nary a trace of regional accent like they're all from LA or something.
I don't know why this bothers me so. I mean, let's face it, the familiar is also convenient and it is a known quantity. You know what you're getting at Wendy's: inexplicably square, greasy burgers with way too much fixings and cheese that isn't fully melted.
But it does. And that's why it was so uplifting to hear an extended edition of Fishing Today as we made the trek north from the beach. Men's men from bait and tackle shops would come on and talk about fishing. They'd discuss lures, bait and the best fishing spots and techniques without a trace of irony or self-consciousness. More amazing still, they sounded like people who were actually from that area. Their patter, unfortunately, was punctuated by the generic song list in use on every station in the nation. Nothing like a discussion about squid vs. chicken necks as bait followed by the whiny stylings of millionaire Alanis Morisette. Bah!
The one place I've been to that seems to have retained its unique regional flair is NYC. There you still have mom n' pop operations and distinct ethnic neighborhoods. They pour like a pound of sugar in your coffee without you even having to ask. When you protest, they look at you like you're crazy. You wave for pedestrians to cross and they eye you with suspicion, as if it's some kind of trick.
Yet everyone seems to be in a mad rush to flee out to Long Eye Land, with its strip malls a-growing and manicured lawns boring everyone to tears. Go figure.
Well I gotta get on up to Lowe's. There's a fake Tiffany lamp I've been eying that's just gone on sale.
The phenomenon of each town looking the same is especially disturbing here in Los Angeles. If you elect to go somewhere, say 15 miles away and elect to use the ground streets instead of the freeway, you'll drive through the exact same town four or five times. It's a little disturbing.
Worse, if you are in a part of town that you don't know and you get lost at night ... well, you'd better pitch a tent and wait for one the locals to stroll by in the morning so you can ask them for directions to the freeway, because it's impossible to navigate through these identi-towns when you can't see any major landmarks.
by Mike Sheffler at July 28, 2004 8:14 PM
Mike, I think the phenomenon you're talking about is the worst in the San Fernando Valley. I hate driving on surface streets there. There are big chunks of L.A. that are characterless and anonymous, and it seems like the good chunks are found in between.
When I was in Chicago, my Birkenstocks got soaked in a rainstorm, so I went looking for a cheapie pair of shoes to wear until they dried. I was elated but a little repulsed that I ended up getting something at a Payless Shoe Source that had exactly the same shoes on display that the Payless by my house did.
by jean at July 29, 2004 3:52 AM
Ah, the valley. Like the creatures and the villagers in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, the valley and I have always had a gentle understanding: I don't venture into the valley, and the valley doesn't paint strange marks on my door and then kill my family. Seriously.
by Mike Sheffler at July 29, 2004 7:08 AM
Actually there is (or was) another place that seemed unique to me---a part of LA. My estranged brother used to live in a hip commune up in Topanga Canyon. Definitely local, provincial even, and probably long since overrun by yuppies and the like.
by anna at July 29, 2004 7:58 AM
In some ways, living in Manhattan makes you have a nostalgia for the strip malls and the lower to middle class socioeconomics that preside out there in surburban America. On a trip to D.C., my fiancee and I stopped at a strip mall, I had a cigarette next to a walmart, and heck, I always have fun at walmart playing with all the plush dolls that make funny noises, and never buying a damn thing, since I'm going under hard, trading away all my remaining capital, can't seem to get a real fucking job, do you really think John Kerry will create new fucking jobs? He better fucking get me a job or I'll bitchslap the motherfucker hardcore and his faggot VP Edwards. those fuckers if they win had better get me a real fucking salaried job.
by LOCKHEED at July 29, 2004 3:45 PM
Lockheed lives. You were here and didn't look me up? O well, life chugs on. But just let me say that I don't do Walmart, ever. I will go there when they get up off that multibillion $ Walton fortune and hire real actors for their cheesy-ass commercials. I particularly hate than one where this dried-up hag is talking about how "everybody's pinchin' pinnies." I'm sure as hell not, so that's a lie.
by anna at July 29, 2004 6:24 PM
As far as I know, most of Topanga Canyon is still awesome like that; people living in their little place behind a creek and powering everything with propane. They are always worrying about development, though.
by jean at July 30, 2004 2:27 AM
Ah the memories of my brother in that canyon. One day I will tell y'all about this guy. I already have a woprking title: Should I fly to Los Angeles, find my asshole brother?
by anna at July 30, 2004 7:38 AM
When I heard the internal McDonalds corporate slogan, "One taste, worldwide." I was left with two questions: What, about any taste at McD's, is good enough that it deserves world propagation? How can people work happily at homogenizing the globe via cheeze-whiz hamburgers and fried potatoes? Unknown quantities bring sweetness to life. Yet we seem to have a co-dependent relationship with franchise. It thrives because our security depends on it, rather than repulsing us through cloying familiarity. What do we find so appealing about the idea that ketchup is the only vegetable?
by chris at July 30, 2004 12:35 PM
I've been living in Long Island for a couple of months now, and I've decided that even though I only live 10 minutes away from my office, it's worth it to move to Queens if only to escape the monotony.
by Adam at July 30, 2004 1:27 PM
Good point as always Chris. I don't get it either.
Adam, my in-laws live in N Babylon. It's the worst because not only is the same corporate-infested sameness as the rest of suburbia, but a miniature version. Smaller lots, smaller stores and smaller rooms but definitely bigger hair. I once went to a brunch there and sat eavesdropping on the superficial banter about handbags, eyeliner and shoes. What fun.
by anna at July 30, 2004 7:35 PM
hey, just wanna tell you bout how much i hate yer web site! I was just kidding if yer still reading... I just wanted to tell you something... It's spawning time and i wanna go fishing really bad but i'm sitting here at school and have nothing to do but wish i was back at the house fishing my tail off... I just caught a couple bass yesterday on a white strike king spinnerbait with a willow leafed spinnerbait and it's still tied on the old rod and this morning I wanted to play hookie and go fishing but my ma wouldn't believe me cause i pulled the ole MY STOMACH HURTS but she said she didn't give a s**t how bad i wanted to go fishing i was still going to school and i am so bored because it's nine oclock and i just wanna go fishing... they should make a song like that...I just wanna go fishing but i cant...I just wanna go fishing but i can't...the ole lady's got me in school and not on the lake ... sorry, did you like the song...me neither...sorry if i'm bothering you but i have nothing better to do or i'd think about the fishing hole and i'll really wanna leave here and not be here... that makes no sense... anyways the bass are really biting on those white spinnerbaits... if you take my advice and get one , then buy a big one... not one that you deep sea fish with, but a big one and fish it shallow...like next to the shore, because the bass are really spawning right now, so practice catch and release because i don't want you catching all the fish so my little kiddies will have no fish to catch when they become a better fisherman than me...they better or i'll beat them with the ole ugly stick...anywho, back on subject, me and a friend went fishing about a week ago at a mans property back at my ole maw maw's house and he was wuping my butt... he caught a huge sacalait, and a nice bass on a white spinnerbait , and i was about to cry...not really, but i was about to push him in the waterand throw his pole and his fish in with him... until the man who owns the pond came and hollered at us because we didnt ask him to fish...but you also godda understand where he's coming from because alodda people fish in his pond and take all his big bass and he has nothing to catch and he has a management program going on and he wants LSU to come and survey his pond or something like that anywho, I'm at school right now and I dont think i have much time left and my fingers are going at the speed of light and they are gonna throw off my casting and if it does i'm gonna be really mad at you.... sorry my anger sometimes gets the best of me and i can be like the hulk... not really, anywho i was getting ready for school this morning on the day of march 16, 2005 and i was eying my fishing pole and wanted to just cast just a few times but couldn't and i was really bored because the radio was going stacky and i was getting really angry because it cost a hunddred bucks and i shoulddda just got a fishing pole with that money because with that much i couldda bought a abu garcia reel and lightning rod combo that i wanted so badly but anywho what kinda string do you use...really, I use powerpro, because it is great and i can feel when the lures have gotten messed up on those weeds and can get it oudda the water before it scares away the bass that i am gonna catch hey! I caught about a 3.5 pounder at my favroite fishing hole about two weeks ago and i caught it on a secret bait that i would tell you if i didn't like so darned much and mabey is like it too much and should stop liking it so much and use something else for a change ...today we have testing and since i am a junoir, i couldda stayed home until ten thirty, but my mom said that she thought i just might stay out at the pond all freakin day long, but i told her i wouldnt but she didnt believe me and i was a little angry with her but what are you gonna do, she is my mom and she carried me for nine months and she raised me for seventeen years and she keeps making up excuses for me to love her and WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I TYPED A CRAP LOAD OF STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sorry if i'm boring you, i have been sitting here typing since 9:30 and it's ten oclock now so in thirty minutes everyone else is gonna come here and be talking about stuff other than fishing and i wanna talk about fishing and my best friend is being a loser and he thinks he caught a 4 , yes I said 4 pound sac a lait but it is only a maximum of three... he didnt wegh it but it measured 15.5 inches long before he mounted it ... he thinks he is the crap because he got in the paper for it and the denham springs paper said that it weighed 4 pounds and he says that i'm just jealous, but i know he is wrong about this fish and i just wanna take the 100 dollar piece of crap and throw it off the grand canyon cliff and watch as the stupid thing breaks into a million pieces and he crys his freakin eyes out as i laugh at his stupid retarted self and say 4 pounds my butt...anywho he is a great kid and a good friend when he is not at school trying to act like he is the shit and he thinks he is the coolest person in the whole school and he is too cool to bring me home , saying that he dosen't have enough gas but his car is a honda civic and those freakin imports get like 564684649 miles to one gallon and it only costs ten bucks to fill up the darned thing and i only live 4.95 miles awaw according to the GPS and he says he is not spoiled because he gets a car and a 150 dollar cd player for his car and free wheels for it and his grandmaw fills it up for him every two weeks for free...yep, thats the life of me... nothing much here and i think its strange that theres only like 7 people in this room besides me and i'm the only one typing and there's like 30000000000000 dollars worth of computer stuff in here and no bodyis using it usefully exept the 4.0 girl next to me, and she is researching crap about the ACT that We have to take on April 4 and it is prolly gonna kick my butt, but my cool spoiled friend got a 16 on is which is pretty bad but then again he is really freakin dumb and everyone says that he is but he insist that he is not and he has only outfished me twice oudda the 8465198465496 times that we have gone fishing , and that is saying a lot and i have even outfished him on a pond that he has fished almost his whole life and knows all of the hot spots and the not so hot spots and i still kicked his rear and he says it's just luck that i am catching 45621238 more fish than he is and i really don't like talking about it , but the only reason that he is my friend is because i am borrowing his shotgun and dont intend to give it back any time soon and he dosent care because he has two more at his house..... any who...i wanna go fishing so bad and cant but what are you gonna do...WHAT rain again ...thats what they just said about this afternoon oh well i caught bass when it was raining yesterday afternoon so it shouldn't make much of a differance if we get a little more rain... well at 10:25 I godda Go but who knows one day i might wright to you again bad samaritan, what the heck does that mean anywhys...are you making a threat...anywho i hope you have fun on your future fishing trips and good luck hey mabey youll see me famous one day,well, I godda go to french class, oh by the way, my last name means best in french and my first name is JOHN, mabey if you cared you'd find out what best means in french and you'll call me one day so we can talk about the ways of the world any who it's time to go, the people in the class are starting to think that i am a nerd because i have been typing for the last hour... my number is (225)665 0572 Just in case you wanna call Me, and it'll proally be long distance because I live in walker, Louisiana which is just east of denham springs which is just east of Baton Rouge the capitol of Louisiana... anywho... I'll see you later, and you have a great rest of your life because I know I will because I will become a great fisherman... mabey not as good as kevin van dam, or any of those professional fisherman who make a crap load of money just for throwing a few baits in the water...anytime
by john at March 16, 2005 11:31 AM
FUCKER dick sucking pussy, asshole
by billie at March 24, 2005 12:42 PM
Hey i heard there alot of french canadian chicks hanging out at the outer banks who wanna get on a 3-some... does anyone know anything bout this?
by Jimmy at July 31, 2005 10:43 PM