Ostensibly, I’m writing this in a Starbucks in Broomfield, Colorado. I’m here for the week in this exurb turning suburb between Denver and Boulder, where the prairie slams into the Rockies. It could be quite beautiful, but it’s ugliness is only starker because of the natural beauty in the backdrop. In reality, I’m anywhere.
California is oft lambasted for its endless stream of generica, and cookie cutter homes, and deja vu strip mall extending over literally thousands of square miles. Indeed, regional pride is chimerical in California. What’s the basis? Our Home Depot is nicer than yours? Our Carl’s Jr. gets the orders correct more often? For all of the Norcal/Socal rivalry, there is very little difference between the places. San Francisco, the city itself, is perhaps the only exception to this rule.
But we’ve long accepted this about California. We’re even blamed for the export of these blights, and their mutant cousins, the condominium association–doing everything to keep the entire Bizzaro-Potemkin Village looking pastel and unoffensive to country club Golwaterites of every age and of only one color. (I can’t get the intro to Weeds out of my head at this moment–that’s Agrestic, this is, well, Aggro overdevelopment).
But it’s worse in the Outlands. It’s terrifying to be sitting here 1,000 miles from the Pacific, in a Starbucks, next to a Pier 1, next to a Subway, near a mall with a Macy’s et al. When I got here a few hours too early to check into my hotel (a likewise instantiation of generica, a Marriot Courtyard) I headed for the wi-fi haven of Starbucks (after I ate my usual dish at the nearby Chili’s). I used my car’s navigation to find it, but because there were so many, I just had to follow my nose. I knew I would find one sooner or later.
Colorado and its culture are ironically founded on a uniquely western schizophrenia of pride in natural beauty (everything here is named Rocky Mountain this or Mile High that) and a tireless pursuit of paving it. They look down their noses at other places here because they have these natural treasures (and behind closed doors because they have more white people), all the while they are paving over what they treasure, and replacing it with what their intranational xenophobia pretends to hate: Generica Californica.
I feel like the Dennis Leary hiding under a sewer hatch in some mountain version of Demolition Man. Not every restaurant is Taco Bell–it’s an oligopoly, not a monopoly.
Please, God, give our people the wisdom to accept the New Urbanism, Smart Growth, and some modicum of creativity before I’m fucking Sandra Bullock with a VR helmet on.