It is easy to get lost in both Eastern rural and suburban America. Everywhere looks the same. Everything is trees, trees, trees, or possibly track home, track, home, track home. Gps can be helpful here but the fine lady in my Garmin was once absolutely convinced that an Amish farm was really a Walmart.
Cities are distinguishable, the Empire State Building lets you know you are in New York, the tower formerly known as Sears is Chicago, and the Golden Gate Bridge lets you know you are somehow on the West Coast. Suburban architecture is no help at all.
Lets say I’ve been driving through the night in a land with no signs or streetlights. As dawn arrives I find I am at an intersection with a Walmart on one corner, Target on another, Lowe’s to my left, Depot to my right. Where am I? Sandy? White Plains? Ahhh, maybe I’m in Orange Grove! Truth is I could be in any one of them. What to do?
The secret lies within the sterile aisles of Walmart. Do not doubt me, I have tested this out. You see, the marketing minds at Corporate Consumerland have researched where you are and left you clues.
You may not be able to see Pittsburgh from the parking lot, but now you know where you are.
Now granted, you don’t know if you are in Dorchester or Quincy, but lets be honest, all those places only exist because of Beentown. You are close, and that’s close enough.
One can learn a lot by this. Most obvious lesson is that basketball does not exist or has in some way been deemed evil. If you know the map by the NBA, you will be lost.
Of course the professional teams of the heavenly game do not represent all areas, but not to worry; the local institution of higher education is a close second place.
DO not let yourself be lulled into thinking the sports section is just there to help you. It is not. There is an institution called NASCAR and it is everywhere and it is no help at all.
On the other hand, these uniforms can be more helpful than cartographers, elected officials, and newscasters. All the above have been unable to distinguish the dividing line between north and south Jersey. This is important as New Jersey exists entirely as the leftovers of cities along its borders.
Walmart has the answer. The line is Trenton. The above was taken in Trenton. Below was taken just north of Trenton.
Now to my previous point, and in case some in Jersey are offended, may I just point out that of all the teams that play in Jersey, only one bears the state name, and you will not find that jersey in a Walmart.
There are other signs as well. If you would like to know the ethnic makeup of the area, visit the DVD section. In Philly I saw a stack of Cosby Show discs, thought of picking it up, but procrastinated. When I finally decided to pull the trigger, I was out of luck. All they had was Full House.
I was in Harrisburg.