I live in Ipswich, I love Ipswich, I chose Ipswich, I prefer not to leave Ipswich.
In fact, I prefer not to leave my bedroom.
Working from home as a writer, my chosen commute is bed to toilet and back. Work uniform: bathrobe.
But my work takes me out of town, out of state, out of the country, and far too often.
This past week, I found myself in Los Angeles. That’s California, if you’re not familiar with U.S. geography. California, which, if not technically “out of the country,” is pretty darn close to it.
On the other hand, in this globalized world of ours, far-flung cultures have mushed together, so that one place is more and more like the next place, and the previous place, and every other place. In the iPhone age, you can visit the Taj Mahal while sitting on the toilet. And someone living near the Taj Mahal may be looking at you as well.
Apparently, we’re all in this together.
Over time, each culture bleeds into all the others. Have you recently spent the night in a hotel? They give you lotion. Squint at the bottle. What do they call it? “Sage and avocado”? “Citrus and gasoline”? It doesn’t matter. All hotel lotion smells the same, from Motel 6 to the Ritz. Forget about uniqueness. The world is global now.
Our cultural mashup didn’t start with the Internet. No, we have Dwight Eisenhower to blame for this mass mess. He’s the president who gave us the interstate highway system, with its standardized rectangular green interchange signs and square yellow “Exit 25 mph” signs. Thanks to Dwight, every mile of the United States looks like every other mile of the United States. Drive Montana, and the signage makes it practically Massachusetts.
So this past week, when I was on the West Coast, I had to pinch myself each morning to get reoriented to the new reality, because L.A. is virtually indistinguishable from Ipswich. If I didn’t keep my wits about me, I might go down the skyscraper elevator and out the automatic hotel doors and into the world of castoff syringes and crazies chanting end-of-the-world warnings and mistakenly think I was at a Planning Board meeting.
(There was a guy on the sidewalk selling Universal Studios tour tickets. He seemed familiar. I think I may have seen him on the Ipswich Community Giving page on Facebook.)
Getting through the day in L.A. was a challenge, I confess, as I repeatedly lost track of where I was. I stood paralyzed at Hollywood & Vine, trying to figure out how to get to Zumi’s. And why is the ocean on the wrong side? Oh, wait. It’s L.A. Not Ipswich. L.A. But how to tell them apart?
Here is there. There is here. Everywhere is everywhere.
You can get “Ipswich clams” at Connie & Ted’s, in West Hollywood. And you can get a “California burger” at Rudy’s in Somerville. If I type a casual preference for Caffeine-Free Diet Coke in a note to a friend via my laptop keyboard, a dozen ads for Caffeine-Free Diet Coke delivery services roar into my life.
The utter equivalence of every environment — every phone, every screen, every tweet, every conversation — is turning us into robots. We have no unique experiences. We have only corporate experiences.
So, see? Why bother with travel?
“Cinnamon and asphalt.” Smells like the Hilton to me. Or the Ipswich Inn.
Exit 70A, 25 mph.
See you there. Or here. Wherever.
(Doug Brendel, intrepid road warrior, officially lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, although he spends far too little time there. Track him down, please, by following NewThing.net.)