Friday, November 15, 2002

Fast Food Future?
Noah Wardrip-Fruin voices a concern for what happens to the culture of cities, and among other things he refers to Fast Food Nation. This is a very interesting book, and yes, it is relevant, but I don't think the connection is quite as obvious to as it might seem.

I see the disappearance of the smaller stores as a result not of mail-order shopping, but of the automobile culture. I live in a place where I can walk to the library, walk to the stores as well as to most of the social events. OK, so I need to be a little fit to reach some of the more remote parts of Volda, but it's really not a problem. There's no MacDonalds here, the fast-food joint is called "Naustet" (the boathouse) and is run by a local couple who offer some extremely local specialities right along the selection of taco-burgers and small cheese menus.... The "city" I come from has the "mall-problem" though. Despite the amazing beauty of the center of Ålesund, it's being abandoned for Moa, where the riding-school I used to visit and watch the horses and dream about riding has been sold to make space for shopping-centres.

This is a little sad, and I do feel a certain nostalgia for the bakeries and the small pretty stores in the lovely art-noveau houses. What I feel absolutely no nostalgia about is spending an hour in traffic on a distance that took me 10 minutes on a bike when I wanted to get to school in the morning. I feel no nostalgia about saturday rush, trying to get in and out of town on one narrow road serving all the people living in town and all the ones who came into town from the wide farmland about Ålesund. When the tall ships' race was in Ålesund it became quite obvious that it was a town made for boats, not cars, and 90 years ago going to Ålesund from Volda meant getting on a steamer and spending a day or two on the trip. Today we drive to the shopping-centres just outside the center in 90 minutes.

While I would like to have the small elegant stores in Bergen center here in Volda, I know that it won't happen. And I also know that there is no space in Ålesund center, a lovely center built on three islands, for all the cars that would need to get in and out if Moa didn't exist as a shopping center. If I want to have cars, which I do as a lazy air-polluting and non-renewable fuel-consuming daughter of the 20th century, I have to accept changes. We can't both have the convenience of driving where we like and the luxury of little stores within walking distance.

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