Monday, February 12, 2007

Same Shit, Different Street

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Among the many, many things about commercialized and corporatized America that I detest is the mundane and over-hyped 'sameness' that pervades every strip mall, storefront, warehouse, gas station, and restaurant throughout the US and Canada. The uniqueness and colloquial variety of small town America is just about gone, along with the family businesses and farms that sprouted up alongside the road stops, truck stops, and greasy spoons. Prefabricated shopping malls, tech centers, and warehouses pop up everywhere and anywhere a few lonely trees dare to remain upright. Fucking greedy developers can't leave us one blade of grass!

The latest trend in sameness is the growth and spreading of condominiums. Everywhere you go these days, formerly undeveloped parcels of trees and grass are turning into high priced complexes with the same landscaping, same roofing, same windows, and the same low occupancy rates. Even when you thought a city had used up all its available land to kiss the ass of some greedy developer and increase its own tax base, city planners are seeking out ways to sell off public parks and community gardens for top dollar. Usually, as in NYC, this is a direct result of major campaign donations. (That means you Rudy! You asshole!)

Sterling Heights is nothing like Detroit. I kind of feel lost here in a way. I had become accustomed to the smaller family-owned, stand-alone, restaurants of my old neighborhood where they knew my name and what I was having for breakfast. Mega-corporations aren't trying to muscle in on my old turf. Nobody wants to be there I guess. Sterling Heights, however, in spite of being well established, is still a wide open tract of commercial building frenzy and, if one travels along Hall Rd., the miles and miles of rank commercialism stretch endlessly to the 94 Fwy. and beyond, with plenty of room left for more. The problem is, there isn't much along Hall Rd. that one could not see while driving along any other major artery in any major American city. It's all the fucking same. Augh!

Many of my friends don't seem to mind it as much as I do. If we do gather for dinner or some other special event, these occasions are typically arranged to be held at one of the 50 billion chain restaurants in town. Now I have eaten in some of those, and though Red Robin makes a good burger, it's not anything so special that I would wake up drooling for it. It's just a fucking burger that costs twenty bucks when all is said and done. The Macaroni Grill has excellent food as well, but after having eaten in thirty of them in various cities and not found even one tiny bit of difference between them, the chances of me ever setting foot again inside a Macaroni Grill are slim to none, and 'Slim' left town. The Applebee's, Coney Islands, Chili's, and Friday's of the world can go straight to burning Hell. They won't get any of my money. I am sick and fucking tired of the same old shit every fucking where I go in America. If I see another damn WalMart go up I might start killing people. Don't even get me started on Walgreen's, Rite Aid, and CVS. The individual character of states, cities, towns, and villages is disappearing under the commercial might of the mega-corporations in league with tax hungry local governments and greedy developers.

One would think that the Chinese restaurants would be different, and though they are family owned, they pretty much serve the same rancid, run of the mill pseudo-Cantonese fare. There are two Chinese places I enjoy; one in Ferndale near my office, and the other in my old neighborhood. I knew that establishment was different because when Janice and I first discovered it, we turned out to be the only Anglos there. Everyone else was Chinese! And yes, the food was awesome. In Sterling Heights, we have a famous Polish restaurant called "Two Sisters" and it's fantastic. I fear that soon it will be gone, too. Ma and Pa establishments can't keep up with rising costs, corporate competition, and higher taxes. As soon as Starbuck's opens up in your neighborhood, the taxes will rise for everyone. Look at what happened in Harlem when certain sections were redeveloped; the rising rents forced out families that had lived there for generations, and the apartments were now only affordable to those who wouldn't live in Harlem to begin with. (I regret to say that my alma mater is also involved in some unethical land-dealing.)

Our local character will soon be nothing more than a stamped out, prefabricated, low quality, monotony with zero personality. America, the land of the individual (or so we are told), will be no more. Everything we see, everything we need, and everything we dream of will be commercialized, corporatized, and we will be forced to purchase the same exact things everywhere we go no matter how far away from 'home' we end up. It's just sickening.

In America, we have the right to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". Unfortunately, there are soon to only be two corporations still supplying those commodities and your personal preferred form of "Happiness" will soon be discontinued in favor of a more stream-lined and popular Chinese-made version. I used to wonder why foreigners saw Americans as one dimensional caricatures. I think now I know the reason.

Kol Tuv

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