Nowhere, USA

Our hotel is a perfectly square box in the middle of nowhere.  Bloomfield, Minnesota.  Population: Who Fucking Cares.  I stare out of the window of my room at another airport hotel – the same building with a different neon sign – and a gray parking lot filled with sad-colored cars.  In the distance, just off the highway, a sign advertises the state Lotto.  “What is Your Dream?” it asks, touting the opportunity to win 48 million dollars.  If winning that money meant I had to stay here another day, I’d still go home.  I look down at the windowsill, a fallen army of dead bugs resting on the air conditioning unit.  Everywhere here is dying to escape.  It’s only been thirty minutes and I am clawing at the walls.

I share an elevator down to the lobby with two doughy businessmen who I will later listen to tout the benefits of Big Box centers like Wal Mart as their female coworker discusses the New Yorker’s seemingly confounding attachment to their local bodegas, stores, restaurants.  “They’re very protective of their little communities over there,” she says, sounding confused, as though we New Yorkers are a bizarre species of humans meant to be studied and not the other way around.  These are the people destroying our country, filling every nook and cranny with the same configuration of shops.  A Best Buy, a Macaroni Grill, a Crate and Barrel, and a Starbucks.  Everything always packaged and always the same, routinely pleasing and similarly disappointing.

The clouds are coming in as I walk the black asphalt road through Minnesota fields, passing more airport hotels and a Hertz rental parking lot.  “Auntie M!  Auntie M!” I hear Dorothy calling out before the tornado comes.  In fact, it would sort of be nice if a tornado came, as it would give me something to do for the next three days, something to talk about with my bored coworkers instead of what they’ve recently learned in the latest issue of Shape Magazine.

I look back from where I came, the Mall of America distancing itself from me with each step forward.  I spent two hours there this morning, waiting for a fitting to start and then having the fitting and then waiting for a shuttle to come and take me back to the hotel, a distance I could have easily walked.  I sat there in front of the giant looming behemoth, the words MALL OF AMERICA plastered on the side in patriotic shades.  Hotel shuttles came in and out, dropping off the eager and out of shape for a day spent consuming food and other things they don’t need in 80,000 feet of recirculating air.  They sell shirts here with the mall’s logo on the front.  And hats.  People buy them.  This is what’s wrong with America.

Get me the fuck out of here.

I take Hiawatha Line 55 down American Boulevard, sitting across from a little boy with a Mohawk afro, an early rebel, dying to get out.  I’d want out, too, if I were him.  His feet can barely touch the floor from his seat on the train and he’s already contemplating how to run away.

We move through suburbs: green neighborhoods with houses featuring Victorian gingerbread porches.  The suburbs give way to industry, brick replaces wood, trees turn into telephone poles.  The periphery of downtown Minneapolis is quite beautiful, though it has been obviously abandoned for bigger, better, newer things.  Weird triangular buildings made of brick stand empty, no longer servicing the railroads so inefficiently snaking around them.

Finally, something redeeming about this place.  And, of course, no one seems to care.

Photo courtesy of Time

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