I mean #notAllSuburbia, but enough of the Eastern US along the highways was built around the same time and the same model that driving through upstate New York immediately conjures memories of driving though central North Carolina.
It feels like home. Home?
The houses with brick borders and vinyl siding in one of five pastels. The nearly identically-organized shopping center with a Michael’s, Dick’s, JoAnne’s, Marshall’s, WallMart, and Olive Garden. The half-thinned woods and the planted pear trees. If I let my sense of the present drown out in the flooding nostalgia, I could inaccurately and precisely pinpoint the location on an outdated map of my old neighborhood.
Then and now, it doesn’t seem particularly exciting, but the type of boring seems to have changed. Before, I had imagined that these mundane images were unbearably local, a terribly narrow view of the world. But now, stretched wide across unencountered space, they appear unbearably generic, a nondescript, placeless universality. Like maybe everywhere can be home, but nowhere really ever was.
Back then, when I thought about living beyond that the limits of my suburbia, I assumed that what was outside would be bigger, faster, more complicated, more sophisticated, unknown. That was a little bit true, but probably mostly false (in proportion of square-footage, anyway). If I haven’t that noticed until now, maybe it’s because I’ve fixated on little islands of flashy difference in an ocean of more of the same-ish.
I wonder if all the overhyped sea explorers of history realized that the oceans everywhere are mostly the same, when they committed their lives to sailing around the world. Or were they too caught up in their sparkly dreams of islands to see?
Placeless, familiar, unencountered, known, endless.
You could drown in it, or just keep floating.