Billboard Boulevards

It struck me on the way back from Manchester to York, after a recent vacation in Florida, that there was one fundamental difference between where I was and where I had just been. Soul.

Looking back I think the majority of the urban areas I observed whilst driving around Florida lacked soul. Street after street, and mile after mile, of the arterial network of roads in that sunny state were over decorated in billboards.

I saw "Finding Jesus" beside "Breast Augmentation" beside "Who can I sue?". No theme... no coherency... simply space sold to the highest bidder.... content not important.

It became impossible to work out where you were. There were no real landmarks. Pre-fabricated buildings designed in a corporate image hid behind or below the billboards. The buildings themselves adorned with logos broadcasting to the world the colours carried by the tenants.

After several days of this you get the overall impression that some towns have no character, no identity, but simply provide advertising space to business. It's soul less and quite disturbing.

Now I'm not talking about the whole of the United States. I've driven down the west coast and spent some time in the New England and many, many places are gorgeous. So why do parts of Florida sell their soul to the world of 1-800-?

I wonder what it must be like to live in a town with no identity? Would a child growing up in such an area spend their adult life chasing branded / named products such as Nike, or would they think suing your neighbour is akin to loving them?

But the flip side is everyone is generally so happy and pleasant. "How are you today?", "Have a great day" and nothing is too much bother. The general demeanour of our US cousins simply makes ones day happier.

My return journey from Manchester required a caffeine stop at a motorway services, the dining area was wall to wall grey businessmen, either climbing in or out of their grey company cars or typing away on their grey laptops (I think grey is the new black). All the while the soundtrack was one of a small childs arcade ride blinking away in the corner. Inspiration for another Dantes Inferno.

Which side of the Atlantic hosts the worse hell?

The last time I visited the US I penned "big cars". But this dichotomy of happiness and soulness is definitely taking residence in my mind. Or is my jet-lag interfering with my rationale?

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