Untitled: America goes big.

Trip Start Jul 04, 2007
Trip End Sep 04, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another unexpected field day for me today, with lots of interesting events happening. Definitely worth living and recording on these pages, as it turned out to be a balanced and healthy mixture of work, fast food, live music and anthropological wonders.

To back up my statement, here's a break down of my day:

    1.    Did some research at the office for the article I'll be writing for NEED magazine    and drew an outline of story and angle.
    2.    Had Taco Bell for lunch, while driving on a freeway.
    3.    Visited the Mall of America, an insane collection of shops, arcades, and fast food joints in the outskirts  of Minneapolis.
    4.    Watched a couple of bands playing at the 400 Bar.  

Does it sound like fun? Well, I can't say it wasn't...Skipping the details regarding work - you can find out more about it when the next issue of the magazine comes out - it all really started when Stephanie, my editor, had the brilliant idea to show me the Mall of America.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Mall of America is the biggest complex of its kind anywhere in the US, beaten in North America only by a bigger one in Canada. It's also probably one of the biggest malls in the worlds, but plans have already been discussed to expand it.

Now, you got to see this place to understand how massive it is, and I hope the pictures I took will give you an idea of its scale. On its five floors, it houses hundreds of stores, endless restaurants, it has two huge parking lots and an amusement park. Indoor. If it wasn't for Stephanie I would have easily gotten lost. Anthropological speaking, I was mesmerised.

But the truly interesting part of my day, the one that gave me the inspiration to write what I'm writing, was the drive from the office to the mall. As I mentioned we had burritos on the go, and as a friend told me: "You can't get more American than eating Taco Bell while you're driving." It was exciting and not too bad, as far as fast food goes, but this is not the focus of my story.

While wolfing down our food and driving along the freeway, Stephanie and I had an extremely captivating conversation about American society, its government, and its many twisted sides and addictions.    

In this context, the Mall of America was in one the cause and the end of our chat, as it highlighted the fact that in the US size matters. Almost everything, and everybody, seems carved to match and sustain a widespread larger-than-life attitude.

What follows is a loose summary of some of Stephanie's best comments on this topic:

         "This nation is too big, its government is too big, its population and its people are too big.

"Everything, from construction materials to fabric for kids' clothing, is strictly uniform and regulated, so that people can feel safe and at home wherever they are.  

"These microcosms are created so that they can understand what's going on without losing their mind in the wider picture."

That reminded me of something I had read earlier on Minneapolis City Pages while having breakfast. It was an article on terrorism, and security checks that are supposed to be preventing it, but that have also become totally disproportionate, especially in airports.  

The main interviewee, Bruce Schneier, a security systems expert, is quoted as saying that government bodies are implementing nothing more than a "cover your ass"  kind of strategy, whereas you check and scan shoes after somebody tried to smuggle a bomb in that way; you ban liquids after the London security threat; and so on and so forth.    

He also suggest that the situation today is a "security theater", a farce being played so that people can feel safe, and that won't actually have any tangible effect - as far as prevention goes at least - if a serious terroristic ordeal was to take place.   

Furthermore, an attack could not only happen in airports, but also in bus terminals, train station, and, well, shopping malls. I was at the Port Authority and Grand Central in New York recently, and at the Mall of America today, and there were probably as many people there as you could find in a smallish international airport.

So why bother for the latter while it's obviously a free-for-all in the former? Does it really matter the location where people may be slaughtered? The journalist in me tells me that we might all know the answer to that, but it's extremely sad....and totally coherent with our show-biz-hungry society.

Stay Tuned.  

ps: I was almost forgetting the last part of the day...Back in Minneapolis, Steph and I went to the 400 Bar, a music venue renowned for gigs, dinky atmosphere, rude staff and pricey drinks - quoting another friend of mine: "The 400 is the place that everybody in town loathe, but where everybody ends up going at some stage."

Check their website here.
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