Generic America

"Please forgive me, if I can't learn to live in Generic America, where the wedding fields got paved, the kids are out looking for a rave, and the rest of us sat on a big fat ass, watching the Rose Bowl parade" --Blue Mountain ("Generic America" from the album "Homegrown", 1997)

This is a rant, I think. I mean, when I think of generic America, I used to think of the Midwest, the South and other more rural and suburban parts of the country. New York and San Francisco? These places were/are supposed to represent diversity, not just in race, class, sexual orientation, but in the individuality of people, outside of just these simple ways of identifying folks. But I'm seeing less and less of it.

When I left New York City on January 1, 2005, a good part of my reasoning for trying San Francisco was that NYC had begun to lose its edge. I had written off Manhattan in around 2002 or so when the city's small districts became unbelievably predictable. Upper East Side? Post-grad frat boys. Upper West? The elites. The Village? Hipsters. Manhattan had turned into few block squares of people of the same ilk. But I still had Brooklyn. Oh, not Williamsburg. This community was even worse than Manhattan. Williamsburg was jam-packed with the "ultra hipsters". Ya know, the kids wearing the ironic t-shirts, big sunglasses, tight jeans and pretending that they knew shit about music, books and culture. They all had their apartments stacked with Vonnegut books and the new Strokes record (until they became "uncool"). I had Park Slope. But even the Slope was turning the corner. I felt the need for a change, because the change occuring throughout New York City was not a good change.

Before leaving New York, I spent about six months in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There's really no need to even comment on how vapid this town is. There's a Wal Mart on every corner, a Home Depot within arms reach, a McDonald's on every block and 90% of the people are the same: right wing, beer guzzling, truck driving morons.

And now onto San Francisco. This is supposed to be the most progressive and open-minded city in the country, right? Well, in many regards that may be the case. However, just like New York City, I see a lot of predictability throughout this city. Head to the Mission and you'll see the tight jeans, tattoos, Bukowski reading fools. Stroll on over to the Marina and good god; it's the Upper East side of Manhattan copied and pasted right next to the Golden Gate Bridge. Make your way to the Haight and there's the pot-smoking, change-grubbing dolts that adorned St. Marks Street in Manhattan. Hop on the bus and you'll see every girl in her big sunglasses, slipper shoes and trendy bag. These people aren't different, they're all the same. The people in the Mission/Williamsburg are the same as the people in the Marina/Upper East Side. They follow a look and attitude and fall right in line with the rest.

This country does enough to try and force homogenization upon us. The corporations get bigger and buy up the smaller guys. Drive from coast-to-coast and aside from the beautiful countryside, you'll see the same things over and over. And over.

I realize that I'm grossly generalizing and avoiding mention of the many folks who do represent individuality. I know that there are many exceptions. The owner of Fillmore Grind up my street is incredibly unique. He's a purely genuine Palestinian man named Mike. He's in his late-50s or early 60s and every trip into his shop is a treat. There's new music, new stories and a different Mike almost every time I'm there, yet he's still the same. I just want more of this. I want more people to avoid trends and walk to their own tune. This is a country that was built on individuality. Let's not lose sight of that. Or have we already?