And now, a word about Landmark Decisions: Boxy.
(No, not like the hyper vlogger, nor like those who boil down everything to thinking in-or-outside of that very same box -- but, well, squarish. You know, like a box -- not, um, square-ish, like not being hip or very uncool. Uh, to quote a Monty Python sketch: Wait, I'll come in again...)
As I began: Landmark Decisions -- no, wait, hang on, hang on. No running away in panic is required here. There'll be no airing of legal briefs, or any other kind, here today -- much to the relief of all concerned.
No, I was starting to warm up on the weirdly interwoven subjects of Time, Change, Culture, Cars, and Architecture.
Cars changed everything. (The vehicles, I mean -- although "Just What I Needed" surely shifted the landscape of the time a bit.)
As more Americans bought cars and became mobile, a sudden need bloomed for service providers all along their expanding driving routes -- restaurants, gas stations, places to sleep. The country went from sedate and, well, country-fied, to urgently urban, if not yet urbane.
The pace of change then was the beginning sign of just how quickly things were to continue changing in the decades and century ahead. Almost overnight, entrepreneurs and speculators streamed in to fill the need of these wandering carloads of spend-thrifts.
Here and there, a sense of advertising and brand identity took hold -- although it would be a very long time before anyone would define the notions as such, mostly because the need to defend a $699.99 pricetag on a pair of sneakers was still decades away.
As competition grew among roadway service providers, the occasional good humor of the snack bar building shaped like a hot dog or ice cream bar grew, too. Such architectural shout-outs were no longer done simply to humor grandpa's idea of amusing artistic statement and tourism draw -- they were being done to stand out and to be seen, apart from all the rest of the hash-slingers who also hoped to snag a few bucks worth of business from the waterfalls of customers hurtling past in early land yachts.
That was then: the birth of the Roadside Attraction. You've seen them in movies (probably a hut which looks like a doughnut or a hot dog), or books (milk-bottle-shaped cafes), or in history books (jug taverns or even tacky wigwam motor courts) -- even in cartoons (the Brown Derby, anyone?).
Then, the nation decided we needed to go a whole faster, and cars kept up with that speed of thought -- but, the roads didn't. So, we abandoned a wealth of Americana along what became the back roads and scenic routes, and we slid into the fast lane of freeways.
We're going faster, and arriving faster, and are no happier for it, I would argue.
Of course, this may be a Zen thing, where the journey is at least as important (if not more so) as arriving at the destination. I imagine it depends if you're into the hurry-scurry, helter-skelter sort of a constantly-electrocuted-living lifestyle or not.
Looking out the window on the freeway now at -- there is nothing, or worse, these long, low squashed-flat boxes of buildings with all the invitation and charm of a rusted-through, bent-up tent peg. Less, even.
No time for art, or for buildings shaped like food, or what is sold inside. Utility is king, as is flexibility, for today's thriving business is tomorrow's pension-fund-drained bankruptcy, and XYZ Corp., which makes bovine and dairy calipers and grips will not want to house its headquarters inside a giant, scary-not-funny clown's head.
No, the first right of refusal on a building shaped like an enormous psycho-clown head? That should absolutely belong to the Republican National Committee, then, if they turn down such a righteous opportunity for truth in advertising, the offers should go even further downhill -- hey, it is possible, you've seen the proof yourself -- from there, to Koch Industries, say, the Heritage Foundation, to Fox, and so on, all the way down to the toadstool-dregs such as fifth-tier right-wingnut radio talk-show hosts, GOP Congresspeople, and useless dipsticks like Frank Luntz.
No, the only visual interruption or enrichment from the freeway is from what I call the Disney-World of ConsumptionLand -- what other people call Factory Outlet Stores and Malls. If you've never seen these acre-gulping sprawls, it appears they landed as intact fleets, as MotherShips to Capitalism, BOOM, landed, set explosive anchors and turn on the plumbing.
From the outside, the variety of architecture at these spots is arresting, eye-grabbing, but diabetic -- too saccharine-sweet, and too high a dose all at once. After the flatlands of natural growth, or the specific intentions of box-shaped buildings, ConsumptionLand leaves your eyeballs, brain, and spirit gasping for insulin and Dramamine.
These festive buildings of turreted towers and crenelated battlements are impressive, albeit in a stage-prop, false-front way, perfectly mirroring our Consumption Economy.