A Nation of Mediocrity

I don’t talk much about work in this blog. But something struck me today. We work so hard to get renewable energy into California. This is energy that comes from the sun, wind, geothermal, water and cow poop and other organic waste sources. Of course you need to get that energy TO people, via transmission lines. Because everyone so desperately needs several plasma TVs, and AC, and computers, and chargers — but they don’t quite understand how electrons get to these devices.

So people all have their panties in a twist about transmission lines for renewable energy running their neighborhoods — but why aren’t they up in arms about the Wal-Marts, the Cheesecake Factories, the Abercrombie & Fitches that mushroom overnight? I understand nature abhors a vacuum, and apparently, so do consumers.

These places make us, as a nation, as a people, mediocre. They are the path of least resistance. They are the beige in the spectrum of fabulousness and character. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve dashed into a Starbucks on numerous occasions, and certainly have shopped ’til I dropped at TJ Maxx. Perhaps I’m being pedantic here. But can’t we just put them in some urban center, or promote unique, human-based business, instead of treating the corporation as our parents, depending on them for our sustenence?

Used to be that when you were in an airport, you could tell from the great miasma of people who was from Texas, who the New York punks were, the ladies from Florida, the surfers, the hardcore bankers.

Now it just looks like everyone went to the Gap.

We have this awful place down the street called the Americana at Brand which is kind of like Disney and Vegas with a shopping theme. There’s a patch of grass and a fountain with spurts that dance to nonstop oldies music. The good thing is that it brings life to dusty old corny Glendale, with hipper-than-anyone Japanese teenagers; huge families pushing strollers, toting kids and one about to pop out any day; starry-eyed first daters who need somewhere to amble after dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

My sadness is this: that there isn’t the same kind of life or enthusiasm centered around a library, a sculpture garden, a gallery, a museum in this region. That the shrines we build and value as a nation are to consumerism.

Presidential hopefuls, are you out there? Can you help? Can you bring a little soul back into our spirit as a nation?

Vanessa McGradyA Nation of Mediocrity

Comments 1

  1. Paul

    You think transmission lines are hard, try convincing them to build power plants in the city. This was one of my first papers at RAND.


    I think that part of the problem with places like Americana at Brand, Third Street Promenade, and Old Town Pasadena, is that the rents on the spaces are so incredibly high, it is incredibly difficult for anything that isn’t instantly recognizable to survive there for long. Don’t get me started on the loss of Gotham Hall (one of the cooler bars/pool halls ever) and the Midnight Special bookstore from Third Street, only to be replaced by a fricking Forever 21 store and god-knows what else.

    It’s possible that some perception of what I can only call hoidy-toidyness is what keeps folks from congregating at galleries or libraries or museums. It’s not cool to hit the gallery, but American Apparel? Sure!

    As far as airports are concerned, the only people I can definitively recognize now are Brits coming back from the beach. They don’t tan well.

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