Dear Dirty America

DDA

The Postmodern Jamestown

March 08
06:42 2012
Dan Rudy
 PORTLAND, OR
          Driving all over the Portland area today (as work generally takes me), I was struck by an unsavory feeling of déjà vu.  Ordinarily I greatly enjoy the scenery, the architecture, and the general ‘vibe’ of the city and surrounding countryside.  The Portland ambience is one of lift bridges, gritty industrial stretches, colorful gentrified neighborhoods, community greenspace, and distant mountains.  But today, running the Beaverton-Vancouver-Gresham circuit, I felt haunted by the vague sensation of being back in North Dakota.
            Not that North Dakota is a bad place; rather, its scenery and subtlety I remember with fondness.  But there’s something about its towns that reminds me (again, unsavorily) of Fargo, of St. Cloud, of Coon Rapids and Olympia, Des Moines and Madison (Alabama) and Madison (Wisconsin).  Of Anywhere, USA, the bland cut-and-paste vinyl coated placebo for variety of choice and culture.  I mean corporate suburbia, the eyesore stretches of asphalt-spread chains that loom together like a string of prison hulks mouldering on the Dickensian Thames.
            Very little by way of use or novelty catches my eye, passing the Old Navy, the Chilis, the Best Buy; Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Penney’s; Target, Walmart, and (to a lesser extent) K-Mart; Olive Garden, Red Lobster, any number of T.G.I.Friday’s, Ruby Tuesdays, Perkins, Denny’s and such.  Money pits to the last, overpriced (even when throwing sales) gaudy shops and catch-alls that cater to the modern suburbanite (living in big box cardboard-carpet mansions outside the city and its property taxes) palate.  Unsavory, these neighborhoods and structures that date at the earliest from 1990-on, so similar to any other ball shatteringly bland gathering to be found in any (and every) corner of the country.
            Corporate colonies to the last, really.  It’s the mass-production of the American Dream (which those of my fellow Dear Dirty Americans must by now be well acquainted with as a grand theme) in its greatest form; whole swathes of pin-up houses by which the banking, realty, and insurance industries can profit, collecting workers like flies in a jar of Mountain Dew to earn outside money and spend it on the Strip, at the malls and shops and restaurants.  Living big (as it seems), siphoning money from real places into the coffers of the multinational corporate entities.  That’s where urban decay comes from, why so many cities are in a state of budget crisis.  (Well, not entirely; but it sounds plausible, yeah?)
            It’s an enormous grift, our Anywhere, USA.  People buying homes (often with the intention of selling them for a hefty profit a few years down the road), filling them with crap, paying into funding schemes so that everything will remain just so in stasis (i.e. insurance, which is another rant entirely), and like as not vote for status quo, lower taxes, et cetera and et al.  It’s a tremendous generalization on my part, surely, but it’s the sort of thing I’m tending to notice on a daily basis, the sort of trends that begin to make a sort of sense when considering how it is the country votes (county for county, and why).
            Perhaps I’m miffed with the pretenses to opulence, the waste and gaudy luxuries.  I had to tear up moistened rainforest hardwood floors today, simply so a homeowner could cash in on the insurance money.  To keep everything just so, characterless and bland and utterly for the sake of being able to say These floors- Brazilian cherry, $6,000 for the whole room.  Contemptible asshole.
Dan Rudy is a professional deconstructionalist, occasional writer, and odious raff at times prone to sangria-blinded flurries of rage.  He keeps a blog at howrudian.blogspot.com

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