Saturday, September 3, 2011
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida -- More and more now, when I go north to visit the 48 contiguous United States I experience culture shock.
I guess it's due to two things. First, I spent a lot of time living in small-town Alaska, in itself very different from a lot of what you find in the rest of the U. S. Add to that the fact that I have lived in Yucatán full time since 2005.
I just spent a week in this well-to-do area of South Florida, living for that time much as a resident there might. I woke and got ready each morning, climbed into a car and merged with commuters on eight lanes of highway traffic. I negotiated congestion, a great many parking lots, and chilly, air-conditioned malls. Later each day I returned to the highways for the commute home.
Oh yeah, how about the Kardashian sex tape?
What I can't stop noticing in areas like this is that much of the human-made environment puts the convenience of automobiles before that of people. Public transportation is not very good. In many areas it's hard to be a pedestrian. At one point I decided to walk over to a nearby mall, craving exercise and thinking it was silly to drive the car only a few blocks. What I discovered in an area that looked like an inviting and likely area for footpaths, with luscious greenbelts and plantings all around, is that there were not always sidewalks, crosswalks or pedestrian signals.
...of course you know the latest on Justin and Selena...
I found that because cars are king, it is difficult and a little dangerous to walk in this neighborhood. I began to wonder why. Is it because, in this area where Bentleys, BMWs and Mercedes seem to be typical family cars, no one walks? Or is the intention to keep pedestrians (read: poor people) out? I noticed that a lot of people stared at me from their cars as I walked in the greenbelt alongside the "parkway." I would not have been surprised if a police patrol had stopped and told me that pedestrians are prohibited there. I guess, in this area where even the lawn maintenance guys seem to be driving shiny new $50,000 pickups and the whole environment and culture is designed for the convenience of motorized transport, that someone walking along the street seems a little strange.
...and everyone's talking about Beyonce's "bump."
Despite the beautifully-maintained greenbelts and some lovely natural areas and parks, what I cannot stop seeing everywhere here is huge expanses of intentionally-created desert. I'm mostly talking about pavement, but even some of the green part, that which is sprinklered, fertilized, mulched and beautifully manicured, is apparently largely devoid of wildlife. It's all remarkably clean. Clean to the point of sterility.
...Tiger's house is behind that wall...
I feel a bit out of place here. The car and shopping culture is something I never embraced, the facades of ostentatious wealth are something I don't really understand, and since I don't watch television or read celebrity news I feel pretty much like a foreigner to much of the pop culture up north.
I arrived home in Mérida two days ago. I am always relieved to return to the human-scale, less ordered, and much less artificial world of Yucatán.