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Will Durst's Almanac

You hear it all the time. Over and over and over. To the point no one would fault you for assuming Xeroxed copies had been handed out as a mantra by the American Curmudgeon Society- Seniors Division. I'm talking about the trendy bemoaning of the so called malling of America. "Everything has been so homogenized", they whine. They snivel on, "When I'm on the road the only way to tell what state I'm in is to keep checking the license plate on my rental car."

Usually it's ultra skinny media folks in black rubber pants who consider the space between the East and West Coasts as nothing but fly over country, miffed they can't find the perfect weekend hideaway for under half a million. Droning the same old claptrap: "All our regional flavors have been washed away by the pale deluge of life sucking franchises, cable TV and John Tesh recordings." Blah. Blah blah. I am here to tell you my friends, this statement is less apt than liquid steel eyedrops.

America is still as diverse as plaid flip flops and curried Chinese Hungarian food to- go, and it's changing faster than the LED digits on the right of the National Debt Clock. Every town in this country of ours has a singular imprint. A DNA signature. An identity burned into the consciousness like a cheerleading brand that refuses to fade no matter how many times you've seen Paree. Small towns. Big towns. Detroit. Home. The places Americans live to work and the ones where they work to live. Where work has died and where it has been reborn. And they're all as different as nuclear radiated mutated snowflakes.

A strong work ethic tempered with an equally strong party ethic is still essential to fully exercise the big shoulders of Chicago. For better or worse, really pretty people tend to gravitate towards Los Angeles. Maybe because most of the LA exams are of an oral nature rather than written. Try and find ribs as good as Kansas City's anywhere else in the country. Okay, the world. You'd have better odds of uncovering a fully equipped Ford Crown Victoria in your ice cube tray. In Mason City, Illinois, you are recognized by your patented wave. Boston is not a good place to raise sheep, and if you're looking for a Type A, can- do, have- it- to- you- by- morning atmosphere, perhaps you might look for a town not named New Orleans. Seattle has nice weather if you're a stream, and the Four Corners area of the Southwest is as peaceful as Milwaukee's Summerfest on a Saturday night isn't.

For the most part we gravitate to towns based on what we do, or we learn to get good at what the town we want to live in does. Grow up on the Gulf of Mexico and either you will learn to like the smell of dead fish or you move. The same is true with Iowa and pork. Vegas and sin. Utah and Mormons. Admittedly, a town is only as good as the people you know in it. Meet the right group, and even a Lawrence Welk loving septuagenarian could fashion a wicked hang in the lower East Side of Manhattan. Just as a post neo punk performance artist specializing in cheese by products could blend in nicely in St. Petersburg, Florida, if the appropriate 99 seat equity waiver theater were found.

Thornton Wilder was right: you can find America on every block of every one of our towns. They hold the promise of our future and the comforting shadow of our past. And if you've been lucky enough to escape the burning of your collective municipal retinas by the blinding media spotlight, be content with the thought it will only take that much longer for us antsy Yuppies to seek out your piece of unspoiled paradise and move there, thereby spoiling it. With a bunch of malls. I hate to admit it, but I like malls; they're convenient and a lot of times you can get Hot Dogs On A Stick.

Will Durst is the host Livelyhood.


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