Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

I am Anywhere

(Note: Please force your browser to refresh this page to get the new banner, if you don’t see it. I caught that guy on film back in the mid-1980’s from a canoe on the Little Red River. My dad was paddling upstream like a madman to give me a chance for a shot.)

I sit in my car in a McDonald’s parking lot as I type this. A Chevron convenience store sits slightly ahead of me to my right, its fenced-in Dumpster straight ahead. A crow stands atop the wooden fence, pacing back and forth three steps at a time, hoping to find a morsel amongst the detritus. He caws, but it sounds nothing like “Nevermore.”

My car windows down a few inches, the shifting breeze brings in scents alternating between burgers and gasoline. Fine mist from the Chevron’s drive-thru car wash floats in and lands on my right arm. The sounds of vehicles zinging past on the Interstate, at inhuman speeds, fill my right ear. My left ear hears the tinny, electronic voice of a McDonald’s employee repeatedly saying, “Hello, can you hear me?” They’ve done some remodeling and currently have two ordering speakers, confusing everyone.

I’m accessing the Internet by intercepting a signal spewed forth from a wireless router somewhere inside the restaurant. AT&T and McDonald’s — two mega-corporations working together to make this the ultimate consumption station.

My darker side flips the restaurant manager an imaginary bird as I eat the food I brought from home. I pay $1.99/month for this wifi, and if I have to occupy one of your parking spots to use it, then I will. I take a bite of my Gala apple, only to realize just how inferior the variety is to Pink Lady. One thing I’ll concede to McDonald’s — their apple pie tastes good every time (although not as good as when they were fried and had to cool for 30 minutes prior to eating).

The processional of drive-thru diners inches forward behind me, anticipating that first bite of a Quarter Pounder, a Big Mac, or some other Godforsaken delectable.

A Comerica Bank lies in front of me, to my left. What the hell is a “Comerica?” Some bastardization of the word “America,” the implication being that we should trust anything that ends in “merica.”

Souper!Salad! lies behind and to the left. The name is half funny, part lame.

Also in view are The Home Depot, a Mobil station with a Golden Chick restaurant inside, Target, Re/Max Realty, and a Tom Thumb grocery store. Oh, wait, there’s a Chili’s restaurant.

The funny thing is, everything I’ve typed above still gives the reader no clue as to my location. I am in Anywhere, USA (above a certain population), a town anyone living in or visiting this country has seen. When we’re not storing our money at the bank, we’re spending it at the places surrounding me. We consume. We drive. We want it all now, now, now.

Were someone to put me asleep and transport me to another town, I could see exactly the same things. It’s what makes America great and depressing in the same breath.

14 Responses to I am Anywhere

  1. But big box stores on every corner are what make America great! Love it or leave it!

    On a more serious note, I remember reading one time the unofficial Wal-Mart motto. Note: this was not in a Wal-Mart publication.

    “Stack it deep, sell it cheap, watch the other merchants weep.”

    Much as I love some of the big box stores, they do seem to rob American towns of their character.

    Of course, it is the almighty dollar that has led to the proliferation of such stores.

  2. Mark, I’d be willing to bed you’re not in Seattle right now. Probably somewhere in Texas. Alarmingly close to Dallas, unless I miss my guess. I won’t take a shot at the street address though. I don’t want to scare you with my ability to see with my mind’s eye.

    (Gorgeous shot of the owl. Your dad’s effort and your own went to good use that day. If anything, it shows that the ’80s weren’t a total waste.)

    The “-merica” suffix down south there is replaced up here by boldly emblazoning your product with the maple leaf. Like somehow plastering the national symbol on a sweater made in Cambodia will drive sales. And it seems to work. I look for ‘Made in Canada’ labels on lots of random things… rarely do I find them.

    Tangentially, I really badly want a laptop with wireless capability. At home and at work I have to be tied to the cable snaking from the wall. I want my freedom. (I think I also want a Mac, but I just got a new computer last year, so I’ll have to wait a bit.)

  3. First, the banner photo is like something out of National Geographic. Did you know they put a reader’s photo in each month now?

    Second, I really need to get a laptop. Half of the time I can’t read what I write in my notebook.

    The stores I miss most are the Mom and Pop hardware stores that sell everything from nails to pretzel rods. My favorite back home had shelves so high they had one of those rolling ladders installed along the wall.

  4. Alvis – Yeah, I perpetuate the big-box store about as much as the next guy, although I prefer locally owned restaurants to chains.

    Simon – What an amazing guess.

    That’s interesting about the maple leaf branding. Of course, the American flag is slapped on some pretty ridiculous things down here.

    The laptop idea’s a good one, if you have use for it. I hear the Mac notebooks are good, but I’ve never used one. A friend who has one likes it a lot, and he and his less-techy wife have no problem using it for all their computing needs. (boy, that sounded corny)

    Blitz and Simon – Thanks for the words about the pic. It benefited greatly from my having to resize and proportion it for the banner. I was far enough away, and had only a 135mm telephoto lens, that the original picture finds the owl a small spot in a green leafy landscape. It probably is better cropped as a vertical shot, showing more of the old, dead tree trunk the owl used as his perch, but I like it as a panorama, too.

    That said, I rarely crop my photos, and I point it out when it’s not obvious.

    Blitz, I know what you mean about those hardware stores. We had one in my hometown that I’ll never forget (he had a rolling ladder, too).

  5. Mark, you can tell from the grain on the leaves that the banner is zoomed and cropped. Still looks awesome though. I can see that owl thinking, “F–king tourists.”

    And a thought struck me about yesterday’s post. The title sounds an awful lot like part of a nursery rhyme I remember. Goes something like, “mare see doh, and doh see doh.” Or something. Anyway, if it was intentional, I wanted to laud the subtle reference. If not, take the credit — nobody will be the wiser.

  6. Simon – The nerve of that owl. We were in our hometown! But I suppose humans did build the dam that made that river so blasted cold all year long, and no doubt interfered with some ecological process caused by natural flooding. Okay, so maybe he had a point.

    I remember the phrase from a song my mom sang when I was little. “Mares eat oats and goats eat oats, but little lambs eat ivy. I’d eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?”

    Or something along those lines.

  7. I must correct the nursery rhyme at once.

    Mares eat oats
    And does eat oats
    And little lambs eat ivy
    A kid’ll eat ivy too
    wouldn’t you?

    Now the words may sound queer
    Or funny to your ear
    A little bit jumbled and jivey

    mare – female horse
    doe – female deer
    kid – baby goat

    Granny used to sing this like it was going out of style.

    Also liked…

    Be kind to your fine feathered friends
    Because they may be somebody’s mother
    Be kind to your friends in the swamp
    Where it’s always cloudy and damp [rhyme with swamp]
    Well you may think that this is the end
    Well it is

  8. When I was traveling quite a bit for work, I came to the sad realization that the cities had been homogenized. The only difference I could really ever tell were the sports teams. And I’d like to say I frequented the small local chains while I traveled…but I never did I trusted the names I knew and gave my money to the big ol’ companies.

    When Moonshot and I travel, we always make a point to visit a local brew pub to sample regional beer makers. And I try to buy my hardware at a hardware store much like the small one you described. And I almost never shop at Wal-Mart. But other than that…color me a mass commerce shopper.

    Also…allow me to add my complement onto the heaps of praise you’ve been getting for the owl…it really is beautiful.

    You almost never crop? Really? I crop all the time and never really considered that manipulation. I’d take a lot longer to line up my shot if I couldn’t crop em later ;)

  9. Every SINGLE thing I wanted to say has already been said here. Nice banner, correct words to nursery rhyme, etc, etc, including but not exactly this : WALMART SUCKS.
    I will emphasize this though, the owl is awesome.

  10. Markus…Funny, mom was singing that song to LC just this past weekend. I couldn’t remember the words after the first two lines either, but she does.

    Amanda and I shop less and less at Wal-Mart, and it’s primariliy for two reasons.

    1. Their new store in our hometown is TOO FREAKIN’ BIG now, and it takes forever just to navigate from food to hardware.
    2. The other reason is that their beef is terrible. Just buying a pound to cook in spaghetti isn’t acceptable. Forget buying steaks there unless you enjoy chewing three times as long as usual.

    So…now we shop at the much smaller Kroger and K-Mart, and we haven’t noticed much drop-off. Even though it requires two different destinations, I still think it’s faster than one trip to Wal-Mart.

    But I still loves me some Sam’s Club…great “man” store.

  11. Josh – Thanks for the right words. I had a feeling I wasn’t quite right on that. A Google search quickly confirmed. My opening line only got 26 hits, while yours got 686. Based on that alone I still could have been skeptical, but you’re a fairly smart guy, so I went with the majority.

    MG – Brew pubs seem to be the one stong remaining vestige of local flair in many towns. But, then a place like “The Flying Saucer” comes in and takes over. Still, it’s good to pull for the little guy. I just don’t like monopolies and bullies and overwhelmers (not a word, maybe, but point made).

    On the cropping thing… I try to do all my composing before pressing the shutter, just as a personal challenge to keep improving. However, circumstances don’t always allow it. Cropping in itself is an art, because it gives the photographer complete creative control, and the right tools don’t always guarantee a good image. I like the quote, “If I get the same kind of piano Mozart had, won’t I play like him?”

    Thanks again for the nice words about the owl shot, folks. For the record, Charles (above) was on that canoe trip.

    Linda – Wal-Mart is a juggernaut, and for about 5 or so years, we lived in the city of it’s international headquarters. Saying “Wal-Mart sucks” would have been akin to walking into Vatican City and saying, “The Pope sucks.”

    I can say it now with reckless abandon. But, I still shop there sometimes.

    Charles – That’s great that Mom pulled that song out of her repertoire.

    Also, I agree that Wal-Mart stores are too big. It’s crazy.

  12. Sorry I missed this yesterday…

    BTW, you can still get the old McDonalds Apple pies, everywhere in Europe!

    Every time I go to Europe now, I make sure I find a Mickey D’s to get one or two….

  13. Speaking of Mickey D’s in Europe, you can get a draft beer there. How is that fair? We invent McDonalds over here and they get to perfect it by serving cold beer? What’s wrong with this country?

  14. Josh, not only beer, but wine too!
    I have a picture of the menu in Paris, with wine and beer on the menu! *LOL*


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