Saturday, Debtember 13, 2003
The non-communities of today
Locals joke that the way things are going, somebody will eventually have to build a Las Vegas, Las Vegas—a miniature version of the Strip inside a hotel on the Strip, so you can avoid the Strip and still experience it.
Which is something the casual visitor might dearly wish to do, because the experience of actually being on this gigantic motorway lined by buildings of such monstrous scale—or, at some stretches, vacant lots that appear to be the size of Rhode Island—is not apt to gratify many human beings with normal neurological equipment. In fact, if ever a setting was designed to ravage the central nervous system and induce acute agoraphobia, the Strip is it.
When I mentioned the bit about oneday someone will build Las Vegas, Las Vegas to Spring, she replied that she heard that it was already done.
Not that it surprises me about Las Vegas.
I've been there on several occasions (mostly with my Dad, once with a friend) and the place is insane. There is no other word to describe it. Each hotel is trying to out do Disney World on a three mile strip of land in the middle of the desert.
The author, James Kunstler, is an urban design specialist and doesn't have nice things to say about Las Vegas. Well, James Kunstler doesn't have many nice things to say about suburbia in general (and I agree with a lot of his points; in fact, I think zoning laws have destroyed our communities way more than sex, drugs or rock-n-roll).
Though the National Defense Interstate Highway System originally had been intended for just such mass evacuations, it had actually never been tested to this degree before. And, let.s face it, 1959 standards probably didn.t apply anymore. For one thing, the sheer number of motor vehicles was up exponentially. Not in forty-odd years, either, had a hurricane so large and fearsome behaved quite so erratically, and, what with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) all cranked up to grandstand for the CNN audience, and virtually every county and municipality along the southeast coast issuing official evacuation orders, the system had clogged up like the porkfat-lined vascular system of a baby boom Bubba behind the wheel of his beloved suburban utility vehicle (SUV), and, Lordy, the entire fretful coastal plain had become a united parking lot.
Last month, at the request of my friend Hoade, I drove around Margate (and Coral Springs, Coconut Creek and North Lauderdale), a town (towns) we grew up in) and took pictures. A CVS pharmacy (which used to be Wags, a Denny's-like restaurant). A pet store (which used to be a two-screen movie theater). A dying strip mall (which used to be this huge empty field twenty years ago). A pre-school (which used to be a restaurant). A bingo hall (which used to be a grocery store).
There are days when I really miss Brevard …