The future of America
The Disgruntled Chemist had reason to be disgruntled last weekend, as he visited Phoenix. That would piss anyone off, let me tell you. He mentioned that it was "not all that interesting." A more understated view of the Basin I cannot imagine. Back in April, when my father-in-law was visiting, he found it also not very interesting. I bring these two people up because, folk, if you want to see the future of America, come to Phoenix. It's here, people!
I don't like Phoenix. Many people do. I understand that. (Well, maybe I don't understand it, because I hate it so much. But lots of people like it here. We'll leave it at that.) The future of America goes beyond politics. It's all about culture and what people want, regardless of their political persuasion. And what they want is Phoenix.
Ah, Phoenix. It's growing by leaps and bounds. The people who come here want some things, and those things will change America in its image. So what do they want?
Sun. Phoenix enjoys a ridiculous amount of sunny days. It's probably something like 340 per year, although I don't feel like checking the statistics, so you'll just have to trust me. Every August/September we get what is laughingly referred to as the "monsoon season," when it rains a bit, and it will get yucky occasionally in the winter - this past winter was actually kind of crappy - so maybe we should take that down to 330 days. Whatever. It's deadly dull. Right now it's well over 100 and should stay there until late September/early October. People love this. The only time it's nice to be in Phoenix is about from Christmas until March. The weather is gorgeous - in the 70s, chilly nights, occasional rain - absolutely wonderful. Is it worth the hellhole the rest of the year is? Not for me, but obviously for others it is. People are migrating away from winter. I don't know why. If it's just a question of more discretionary income when these senior citizens are getting older, then that might explain why Phoenix has become a destination. It's partly that, but there are other reasons too.
How about golf? The future of America lies partly with golf. Every-freakin'-one is golfing, including that lovely lady sitting with me at the bar in the previous post. And she's Australian! Sweet Jesus, my cousin is obsessed with golf, some of my best friends have been for a long time, and Arizona is a golfer's paradise. You can't swing a dead illegal immigrant (okay, cheap shot) without hitting a golf course. They squeeze them in wherever there's an acre of unused land, and manage to fit nine holes on that acre! If there's some pristine desert out there, you know someone's looking at it thinking, "It's a damned shame there ain't a golf course on this here land." I hate golf, by the way. Arizona, because of its weather, attracts golfers. They flock here. Women at Krys's work used to talk about taking up golfing just so they could spend time with their husbands. Think about the insanity of that statement for a while. Do you like golf? Move to Arizona. You will not be disappointed.
The other future sport of America is NASCAR. Why? Beats the living fuck out of me. NASCAR recently passed baseball as the fourth-most-popular sport in the country. Well, Phoenix has gotten onto the NASCAR circuit, so if you dig watching cars go around and around, we have you covered. I happen to dislike it, but if it's your deal, welcome to Phoenix!
Okay, weather and sports. What else? Phoenix is the model for the country in terms of transportation. What? say you. Does it have light rail and excellent buses and a super-duper train system? For shame, people! I'm talking about the future! Okay, we're getting a light rail system - a little late, but still. However, the future of America lies with big, wide, straight roads, easy access to freeways, and lots of space for your SUV or pick-up truck. (These are the vehicles of choice here, despite the fact that nobody goes off-road because, well, it no longer exists. They've paved it all.) We have all that. Americans don't want to be cramped, man! Here in Phoenix, if a road curves, it's just because the designer thought it would be quaint. There's no reason for the roads to curve - there's nothing standing in their way! There are gas stations on every corner, too, so the fact that your SUV gets only 6 miles to the gallon doesn't matter - just fill it up at the next corner! Whoo-hoo! But wait a minute, Greg. If the weather is so nice there, why don't people walk? You, my good reader, have obviously never been to Phoenix. In fact, I might question your Americanism! You don't walk anywhere in Phoenix. Only Commies walk! The streets are ridiculously wide, as I may have mentioned, and nothing is built to be pedestrian-friendly. Plus, between April and September, if you try to walk anywhere, you may die. I'm not joking. Bring lots of bottled water!
Americans also like convenience. Boy howdy, if it ain't convenient, we don't want it! So here in Phoenix, if it's not a chain or big box store, get outta town! Go back to Russia, you Commie! I'm serious. I live near a big intersection in Mesa. A mile north is another big intersection (that's how the streets are laid out here - every mile is a big road, and that's how you tell people where you live). At this big intersection is a Walgreens. Fine and dandy. Guess what is almost open at my intersection, less than a mile distant? If you said a Walgreens, you're ready to move to Phoenix. It does not appear that the other one is going to close. So here in Phoenix, people are too lazy to drive a mile for their overpriced prescription drugs. Mull that over for a bit. We also have pretty much nothing but big box stores and chains. You can find an independent store, but it's pretty dang hard. Everything is packed together into one place, and Applebee's is considered fine dining. Even if you can find someplace independent, it's in a strip mall. Everything in Phoenix is in a strip mall. The school I used to teach at was in a strip mall. At the major intersections in town (see above), if there aren't two strip malls out of the four corners, you can bet someone (the same someone above who wanted a golf course in the desert) is thinking, "Now that's a damned shame. These poor people living here have to drive a mile to get their hair cut at Supercuts and buy a sub at Quizno's. That ain't right. Hey, let's build a strip mall!" It's convenient, you see. When your SUV gets only 6 mpg you don't want to be driving far in it. Convenience is the wave of the future, people - it's as American as apple pie and baseb - Whoops, I mean NASCAR.
So where do people go to hang out in the future America? Well, I'm dang glad you asked. If everything is built around convenience, and chains are King, and it's really hot most of the time, where would you hang out? If you said the mall, give yourself a gold star! Yes, in the future we will all spend time at the mall, roaming the wide palisades and stopping into Abercrombie and Fitch and Aeropostale and getting all our food at the food court. (The visionary movie of the future? Mallrats. Chilling.) It's the only place to go, really. Here in the future it's largely because of the summer heat, but it's also the wonderful conformity of it all. We're all equal at the mall, man! And if you want to be "quirky," well, you can safely do it at Hot Topic, where all the other non-conformists look just like you do! How bold and daring is that? And guess what - your mom bought her Green Day T-shirt there too! Malls are plentiful here in Phoenix, because they are the future, and so is Phoenix.
You must have a lot of churches here in the future. Despite some evidence that Americans don't attend church as often as they say they do (hypocrisy? in America? never!), you still need a lot of churches. All those Jews and Muslims might want to convert any day now, you know! The churches aren't often on the major intersections, but they are scattered liberally throughout the area. The future is now in many sections of the country on this point, I would imagine.
So what kind of people live in the future? Well, that's what's so fascinating about the future. The people in Phoenix desire this kind of landscape. They made it that way. I'm going to generalize A LOT now, so if you live in Phoenix and aren't this way, I apologize. I'm only going by what I see. The people in Phoenix are all-American family-type people. Families want everything comfortable and the same. Anything that doesn't conform must be excised out. Therefore, all the houses look alike. I cannot stress this enough. All the homes look alike. And they have cinder-block walls dividing every back yard, because we don't want to get to know our neighbors. We have enough friends! Families like things normal. That's why we have the malls. That's why there's a Walgreens on every corner. That's why we have Wal-Mart. That's why people who come here plant grass in their front yard in the middle of the desert. They move here from parts north and east for the fabulous weather, but they miss their yard. So they plant grass and waste gallons of water to remind them of home. Forgetting, of course, that they're in the desert and they should deal with it. Families also want to do things with kids. That's why there's a Peter Piper Pizza joint on every corner (okay, not really, but still). Families want to take their children everywhere. Out to restaurants, out to the mall, out to the theater (theater in Phoenix - bad), out to the movies. This is the future, America. Babysitters are stinky and parents work so much they want to spend every second with their kids, so they think nothing of taking them to see Sin City at 10 o'clock at night. Of course, every movie theater must be a "megaplex" near a mall, so that you can make it a whole day and see a nice, wholesome G-rated movie. I just saw that G-rated movies make more money than R-rated ones. Well, shit, of course they do. Every movie must be made for families, because families are the big demographic in this country and they must do everything together. So that's not surprising. No wonder fine dining means Applebee's. A few years ago, when I lived in Portland, the people in the renovated Pearl District were whining. They had moved downtown and bought trendy lofts and hung out at art galleries and saw shows at Darcelle's and wanted to live their hip single lifestyle. And then families wanted to move in (to lofts, mind you) and wanted everything "kid-friendly." So the hipsters whined. They didn't realize that in the future of America, everything will be "kid-friendly," even drag shows. Take that, hipsters!
Speaking of kids, well, Phoenicians don't think it's their job to educate them. But I've already written about that.
In America of the future, ethnicity will be welcomed, as long as it knows its place. We love Hispanics here - they're cute and they celebrate Cinco de Mayo, which gives everyone a chance to eat spicy food and drink beer. But they better know their place! And God forbid they ask their employers to, you know, help them become citizens. In Phoenix we like our landscaping prices low low low, and if we had to hire companies that used citizens and had to pay them a fair wage, we wouldn't have that! Phoenix is also pretty conservative - the churches testify to that. We like our sheriffs to be hard-ass, and we like our gay marriages not only illegal, but constitutionally illegal (if we get to vote on that next year). We like things to work smoothly - if anything's wrong, just go along; don't rock the boat. That would upset us all.
The future of America will also, almost as a contradiction, be hedonistic. We have a lot of college kids here, and they like to party. The sun gives plenty of people ample opportunity to tan, so beautiful people flock here. They go to Lake Havasu to drink and fuck random people, and then they come back to Tempe and wander the streets and party some more. Of course, they all say they go to church on Sunday, so it's okay to party the rest of the week. And once they get out of school, they will all go to work at Motorola or Intel or one of the other massive corporations that call the Basin home because they don't pay any taxes. Phoenicians like big business over big government, because big business provides jobs and doesn't ask questions, while big government levies taxes and asks uncomfortable questions like where will all the water come from in twenty years?
This, then, is the future. Personally, I don't like it. I'm not making a judgment on it, however - if this is your style, move to Phoenix. We have plenty of room - we'll just bulldoze more of the desert, put in artificial lakes, and voila! instant development! We'll find water somewhere! The future awaits!