Friday, June 18, 2010

America revisited

The USA shopping list is long, months in the making. Perusing the stores reveals subtle cultural shifts that have taken place since last year, e.g. two new categories of greeting card: "cancer support" and "recession".
As we hit the States, I notice as before the many many signs, starting as we exit the airplane and continuing on to every hallway, street, building, elevator--e v e r y w h e r e! Signs saying what to do and, mostly what not to do. Makes me uneasy and makes me feel flattened.

In LA, I am struck by the stark familiarity of shopping centers there, same as WA, same as, presumably, every other state. The same few stores. Mom and pop stores have been effectively replaced. Plowed over, plowed under. Could a child now grow up, a refugee arrive, hoping to open a small business, a unique start-up, in this world? It is the mentality that rankles--individuality squelched, uniqueness, ambition dimmed. There is a kind of dullness, flabby dullness about the place.

A few days in it becomes more clear that the middle class is in a withered state, beaten up. A "repo sale" of cars in the mall parking lot. True, there are six cashiers working non stop at Nordstrom Rack, but there seem to be more have nots, and general uneasiness. Where is the hope, the promise of a better future, in this economy, this place we have gotten to where growth raged toward some inevitable cliff's end? The short-sighted, corner-cutting, profit motive that led to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf is evidence of fundamentally skewed priorities.

Where I live may be largely lawless, but people with drive (and connections) know they can work for a more comfortable life. Here, it seems insurmountable to have to get past all the signage, bank fees, credit reports, liability laws, entrenched fears ("if we do it for you we'd have to do it for everyone")??

Here, clean[er]. lovely, crisp air. There is it hot now, and the air is heavy, both with humidity and diesel fumes

Here, wild foxglove by the roadside; there hollyhocks--same colors!