Monday, December 5, 2011

h-pop made so much more sense to me almost the minute i moved to Southern California

like JFerraro's remark in the Wire hypnagogic piece about KFCs as "dark energy temples"... my response reading that, as someone then living in New York, was woah stoned hippie drivel alert... but you know what, out here as you're driving along the endless strip malls, the fast food outlets and name-brand retailers and supermarkets like Bristol Farms can look a bit like ecclesiastical buildings what with their out-size frontages and spire-like constructions calling out to you from a distance, beacons for the faithful in the church of consumerism ... for that matter the modern-look (or even outright Modernist) churches and synagogues and Scientology temples in this town often look like megastores or flashy corporate buildings (if it's a poor neighbourhood, the churches look commercial in a different sense: like bodegas or repair shop shacks)... but yeah, unlike in new york or london, where fast food places are bunched together with other buildings, in LA your KFCs and McDs and In-N-Out Burgers are separated off (cos there's so much more realty space here) and with often wacky ziggurat-like or pagoda-ish shapes, they can look like queer plastic temples glowing with too much artificial light... there's a trippy-creepy kitschadelic aura pulsing around them


  1. Which is why, some would argue, southern CA so epitomizes the direction American culture was heading in the latter half of the 20th century.

    But yeah, makes total sense what you're talking about. A vast difference between that and the landscape of more traditional urban center. And it's that way, in varying degree, in many places throughout the country. The contrast tends to be even more ironically, starkly pronounced in the SE region. Driving through the South, in many places you get the feeling that almost the entire part of the country is a sprawling "food desert," with nothing but an endless array of the same offerings -- McDonalds, KFC, Arbys, Subway, Waffle House, etc., all of them repeating again and again in some long modular, recombinant sequence. Odd when you consider that you're in a part of the country where the primary economy is agriculture. Odder still how it contrasts with the surrounding culture of the "Bible Belt." You have all the churches everywhere, some of them small and traditionally humble affairs, as well as a few of the contemporary mega- variety (or aspiring to be so). And while the churches might often dwarf the fast-food outlets, the latter have come to overwhelmingly outnumber the former. Were it not for the sight of the occasional farmers' produce stand or mom-n-pop BBQ joint, you'd have the impression that some colonial presence had swept the place, supplanting the indigenous culture with its own.

    Not to get all Ruskinian about it or anything. Just speaking from observation.

  2. one of the worst breakfasts i ever had in america was at brunch place in rural pennysylvania

    cos of the location i'd imagined it would be all mom'n'pop homecooked but it was industrialised agribiz type produce - tasteless flabby pancackes, glucose-sickly non-maple syrup, uniform rectangles of questionable bacon that tasted only of salt

    the place was packed though and a large proportion of the clientele were obese

    you're probably more likely to get proper rural-type american made-with-love type food in a chi-chi quarter of new york

  3. I can imagine. Driving through something that often looks so definitively "heartland" -- like something out of a calendar shoot, or a Wyeth painting. Then you pull over, only to find that certain things are just as dodgy as they are anyplace else.