Sunday, December 23, 2007

Visual Polution

We have never been here before, but we have been here before.

To the left, the Wendy’s, like a gingerbread house from a child’s nightmare.

To the right, the Burger King, like a highway restroom that sells hamburgers. And everywhere, the billboards and neon, the strip malls and parking lots, urging us to look here, here, no here, drive up, drive thru and, remember, drive safely.

The gift of this column has taken the Times photographer Ángel Franco and Dan Barry to dots on the map wondrously distinct in look and feel. The snow-blown journey over the moonscape of the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota does not blur in mind with the snow-blown journey beside the rushing Rio Grande in New Mexico. The relatively short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge in California does not blend into the 24-mile drive across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana.

Quite often, though, the two find themselves forging through familiar and hideous commercial stretches that all but dare them to guess the state they are in. True, it can be comforting to know that up ahead there must be, there has to be, a Subway sandwich shop.

But why are these stretches almost uniformly ugly, so much so that most of us have conditioned ourselves not to notice?

Read the rest of Dan Barry's New York Times column: A Place Just Like Every Other Place. Only Not.

Watch the slideshow: This Land: Visual Pollution

That's Right,


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