the (too) united states of america
We set out before dawn, giddy with escapist ecstasy as we crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge. Yes indeed, Margaret, the boys, and I were ready for something different. We were saturated with Long Island, our nomadic tendencies having been stifled by expressways and franchises. We were off to New England.
As we rolled through hills and forests, beneath cloudy canopies that seemed as if set upon a single sheet of glass, I wondered to myself “What be the fare of the local folk in these yonder worlds- what type of ale drinketh they? What sumptuous repast awaits my palette? What are the cheeses which no Long Island tongue has henceforth tasted, the carnivorious delights which no man from my world hast ever partaken of?” And so with the trepidation of Marco Polo in the unknown seas, we turned off the interstate in a most scenic patch of sylvan, emerald coniferous rapture, interspersed with deciduous arboreal delight. And amongst these watchful trees, we entered the town.
The first store was a Target, the second was a Staples, the third was a Home Depot, the fourth was a Borders, the fifth was a McDonalds, the sixth was a Dunkin Donuts, the seventh was a Burger King, the eighth was a Cracker Barrell, the…
I’m sure you get it.
Who killed all the mom and pop’s- the small shop? And following the genoocide of this most important cell structure of the American identity, why did these towns allow these hulking franchise carcasses to mar the remaining beautiful American terrain?
I’m sorry, I’m pretty frustrated. Emily Dickinson’s Massachusetts, Thoreau’s Walden Pond, have been deconsecrated.
In order to stay awake, I got a cup of coffee in Islip at Dunkin Donuts. It was the only place open at 4:30 in the morning. In order to stay awake, I turned off the interstate at random intervals, only to find that the coffee venues were exactly the same. Not only that, the buildings housing the Dunkin Donuts were exactly the same. Not only that, the bathrooms were in the same spot. We wound through one hillside town after another, happening upon chain after chain, and all that I thought is: this can’t be healthy for our national mental health.
Sometimes I think that America is too united, that we could do with a little inefficiency, and division. I know that Abe Lincoln would not be keen with me uttering this, but this united country can be too united. So united it’s homogenous. So homogenous it’s monoculture. So one that it is all too susceptible to systemic viruses. I found myself wishing that, instead of Dunkin Donuts serving the same cup of coffee in fifty states, I wish that we had fifty different regions with fifty different severe dialects serving travelers fifty different cups of coffee.
I’m secretly wishing for the dissolution of the EU, so that they might be spared coffee conformity.
But now, I sit in the hills of blessed New Hampshire. Far from the saddening sameness of the interstate, I am in a cabin, in the woods. And I had some really good soup that some guy made with vegetables from his own garden. So, I guess it’s not all that bad.