To appease my curiosity I was blessed with a copy of Confederates in the Attic as I made my way to the airport the other day. Since then I have had this book randomly referenced twice in conversation, and as a salve for my concern and have found it factually satisfying. I couldn’t help but pick out this passage for being so dead on the nail about what I had seen:
Awakening the next morning in a $27 room at Salisbury’s Econo Lodge (“Spend a Night, Not a Fortune!”), I recognized the appeal of dwelling on the South’s past rather than its present. Stepping from my room into the motel parking lot, I gazed out at a low-slung horseshoe of ferroconcrete called Towne Mall, a metal-and-cement forest of humming electricity pylons, a Kmart, a garish yellow Waffle House, a pink-striped Dunkin’ Donuts, plus Taco Bell, Bojoangles, Burger King, the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and the equally gaudy signs for Exxon, BP, and Shell hoisted like battle flags above the melee of competing brands. A few exhaust-choked bushes poked from the greasy asphalt.
I’d gone to bed reading about the Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston, who urged his men into battle at Shiloh by declaring, “Remember the fair, broad, abounding land, the happy homes and ties that would be desolated by your defeat!” I wondered sleepily what Johnston would make of the view from the Econo Lodge.
-Tony Horwitz, page 27
However, as I was reminded by one of my students who has lived here (in Seattle), that we have our own “what the fuck” peculiarities that probably do not jive with the rest of the country including incessant bike lanes, extremist thought on organic food and other items that have us slotted into the frivolous liberal category. She reminded me of this after I returned from Dollywood and was appalled by what I thought was a catastrophic health care disaster written all over a population that was greedily consuming deep fried Twinkies and Snickers, football field sized powder sugar funnel cakes and showed a complete lack of shame for riding those mall scooters in caravans instead of walking the amusement park.
But we do have our strip malls and mall wastelands out here too, which I was abruptly reminded of as I got lost on a strip in Burien on my first day back. Just different signs and a severe lack of Waffle Houses.