Friday, May 19, 2006


86 Malled

It took about an hour to get by car from Moote Pointe PA to Los Angeles the other day.

No, wait. Maybe it wasn’t Los Angeles. It might have been Toronto. Or maybe Miami.

Arrived there (wherever “there” is,) and couldn’t figure out where we all were. The landmarks were all familiar: The Gap, Old Navy, McDonald’s. Sears. A high rise parking garage. Moderate weather.

So where was “there?”

Finally figured it out: Altoona.

A great railroad town with a rich and storied history. None of which was evident.

Mall. Car dealer. Fast food cluster. Looked exactly like everywhere else.

So, what happens when we loose our sense of geography and the uniqueness of an area?

First we get the preservationist/capitalist types who insist on building either an amusement park or historic site (can you tell the difference?) commemorating the rich and storied history.

This is how we got Colonial Williamsburg. And Dollywood.

Then we get the ads. Come to Colonial Dollywood and visit the America that used to never was.

The ultimate expression of this idea: restoring Colonial Coney Island, Brookyn, New York.

Ah, yes, the rich and storied history of the boardwalk.

How many illegal beers, illegal smokes, illegal drugs were made under that boardwalk. And how many babies?

How many gallons of bile were either retained or not retained on that grotesque wooden cyclone.

How long were YOU stuck on the parachute jump?

How many critical decisions were made while eating a hotdog at the original Nathan’s?

Brooklyn was always a schtetleboro. But it did have a rich and storied history. And make no mistake about it, that IS what history’s made of.

Not great acts, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence or the ratification of the US Constitution. Not the declaration of WWII or the surrenders that ended it.

No, guys. History is what happened at the Mall yesterday, right there between the Sears in Los Angeles and the Sears in Altoona. Hardly any distance at all.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

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