The United States is the land of extremes: an education system which produces both the brightest and the most shamefully unprepared and ignorant students of any advanced nation on earth, McMansions dotting the increasingly homogenized landscape, super-sized fast food meals, croissants the size of salad plates, "family-sized" pizzas the size of an auto tire. I once read somewhere that living in this culture makes it almost impossible not to be overweight. Today while eating brunch, I overheard on the television news that McDonald's is now changing the way they prepare their french fries so that there will be no trans-fatty acids, making it easier for McDonald's french fries to be a part "a balanced diet." My first thought was, Americans are just going to hear this and justify eating super-sized fries as "being healthy for me"--or at the very least, "guilt-free." Whatever happened to moderation and eating wholesome, minimally processed foods? My second thought was how poor the quality was of this so-called broadcast journalism. In so many ways the segment sounded like an advertisement for McDonald's. I've never really noticed how poor reporting is on television, mostly because I rarely watch television, but this quality was espeically noticeable to me on this trip. But I digress.
Just moving about this bit of L.A. I'm struck by how large so many Americans are. While at Old Navy today, I first mistook the "performance fleece vests" for blankets--they were so large! But I'm not entirely surprised. I had some shopping that I wanted to do, and REI turned out to be a quick fifteen minutes away from my home--but that's fifteen minutes by car, including time spent on the freeway. Certainly quite a different experience than my life back in Taipei, where a fifteen minute walk from my home takes me to the gym, past a couple of lively street markets and stalls...or my life back when I lived in Cambridge, MA, where a fifteen minute walk from my apartment led through the quiet, tree-lined paths of Julia Child's former neighborhood and Harvard University on my way to the T. Southern California seems to be so embedded in its car culture.