It’s why your children are moving away…REALLY???

Downtown Atlanta

By Kenneth Justice

“They want something unique; they are tired of apple pie…they are tired of every exit looking the same” He said

~ This past weekend I decided to turn my coffeehouse weekend in Atlanta into a road trip. I’ve booked enough Airline flights and Train trips for the coming year to satisfy any mass-transit bug that was in me and I thought it might be fun to drive down to Atlanta and stop at coffee shops along the way.

If you’ve ever traveled through the United States via our “sophisticated” Highway System then you will have most likely noticed what I saw mile after mile; every Highway exit looks the same;

—-) Every exit is littered with gas stations

—-) Every exit has McDonalds

—-) Every exit down south has Cracker Barrel & Waffle House

The United States has become one big melting pot of sameness. Not that anything is wrong with Target, Costco, and all of the other replicated retails stores that plague our shores…..but don’t you find it strange how so much of America looks exactly the same?

Sometimes it can be comforting to get the same thing over and over; driving 720 miles to Atlanta, after experimenting a few times with some strange-looking Indie coffee houses off of a few exits, I soon found myself gravitating to Starbucks with each stop because I knew I could expect fast WiFi, hot coffee, and a warm little environment to sit down and chat with people.

I realize a lot of people hate the corporate-ness of Starbucks; I totally understand. It’s also annoying that with the exception of their Verona roast, Starbucks tends to over-roast all of their various blends. Yet nonetheless, when you get off of a Highway Exit in middle-of-the-nowhere USA and have the Waffle House to choose from or Starbucks……let’s just say there are only so many waffles one can eat in a day.

At least four different people over the weekend mentioned to me the homogeneity of the United States; the way that all of the United States is beginning to look the same (If you want to look cool at a coffee house just mention the word “homogeneity” and you’ll instantly fit in with the hipster coffee crowd). The owner of Café Intermezzo (who happens to be a really cool guy) explained it this way,

If you blindfold someone and drop them off at a highway exit anywhere in the United States they won’t know where they are by looking at the stores; because every exit looks the same, they’ve all lost their uniqueness that they once had” he said

It’s this ‘sameness’ that has driven many young adults away from their childhood suburban neighborhoods and into more urban environments. Yet sadly, as Urban Cities have seen massive spurts of growth over the past twenty years; the cost of living in them has increased as well…..and little Indie coffee shops which were the staple of so many of the cities, now can’t afford the cost of rent downtown to stay in business.

I once saw a lengthy interview with Prince Charles (from the UK) in which he explained a project of his which had been designed to try and prevent the ‘sameness culture’ of the United States from intruding into the United Kingdom. He was worried that if the Brit’s didn’t make a conscious effort to do something about it; that homogeneity would soon swoop through the British Isles and destroy all of its unique character.

Many of my hardcore-Christian friends think it is stupid that I think about subjects like this, “All that matters is talking about heaven and death and where we will spend eternity” they argue with me, “All of these temporal philosophical issues you talk about simply don’t matter” they say

Thankfully, not all Christians feel the same way. There were great Christians in the past who really did care about things like architecture, art and music. Michelangelo, Bach, and writers like C.S. Lewis understood the importance of creating beauty in the here-and-now. They believed that because nature is filled with so much beautiful diversity; that the buildings, art, and music we create should involve great amounts of diversity as well.

—-) Sameness gets old

—-) Sameness can get stale

—-) Sameness can feel repetitive and boring

And so I go back-and-a-forth. I appreciate Starbucks always being there for me at each exit. I appreciate how they offer a great environment to connect with strangers and to turn on my laptop and connect with readers and bloggers all over the world.

Yet I also lament the uniqueness of the United States that is slowly slipping away…..that is fading to grey before our very eyes……I really need my morning coffee right now,


This year I’ve embarked on my Drinking in the Culture Tour in which I’m visiting 100 coffee houses throughout the United States, Europe and Canada to meet with readers, bloggers, and everyone else in-between. Check out my homepage for more dates and locations. I will be in CHICAGO in less than two weeks!!!

Categories: Culture & Society

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86 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Human Relationships.

  2. Having lived on the road in an RV for a few years, I appreciate what you’re saying about exits on the highways. But all you need do to find the differences still vibrant is get off those interstates. We did. Even so, some people need even more. You started by saying our children are moving away. Yes. Our son lives in France, but it’s not because of the homogeneity of American culture. He went to school at Tulane in New Orleans first, and that’s a wonderfully different city in itself. However, the reason he’s happier in France has less to do with exterior culture and much more to do with his character. The owner of a place we stayed when we visited him last said it well: American men are described in France as being of “the long tooth,” that is, agressive and proudly so. Our son isn’t like that. He’s happier in Europe where a quieter but still strong nature is more at home.

    • As another American more at home in French culture, I understand where your son is coming from! I think it’s great that he’s been able to make a life for himself in a country where he feels more at home.

    • Thank you. We are glad he’s there, though it’s so far away. The French government fortunately appreciates his gifts as a neuroscientist as well, and his French fiancée clinches it…we know we will use every available penny to travel to see them!

    • Mrs Slocum, I think one of the other things that sucks about our HWY system is that to venture off of the HWY and look for little towns can often times be a hassle because they are so far off the beaten trail. I appreciate our HWY system for what it is…. but it could have been designed so much better in order to not have hurt so many small towns.

    • Perhaps this is an advantage to those small towns. Being on the beaten path means, like you’ve said, conforming to the expectations of those passing through, meeting the needs of the uninterested traveler who wants to grab his Big Gulp and keep trekking. Isolation of small towns allows them to continue to meet the needs of their residents, only. It might take that Walmart a little longer to plow its way in over old Joe’s Market.

    • You have written about Pura Vida before, Kenneth. One of the reasons why I like traveling the “off the beaten path” highways is because here– at least from I-82 all the way out to I-5– people are WAY TOO MUCH IN A HURRY. Posted speed limit is 70 MPH? Everyone will easily be doing 80 or more and have very little patience for anyone travelling slower. Drivers will do this even during adverse road conditions– there will reports of people in the ditch and troopers urging motorists to slow down over the Cascades, like clockwork, every single year.

      It WILL take me much longer to get places oftentimes, but *shrug* being on disability, I guess, and pinching every penny, I guess I can afford the time (and save the fuel) to drive 60MPH on average on some back highway.

    • Jaklumen, yea its like six of one half a dozen of the other; HYW’s are great because they can get us from one place to another quickly, but on the other hand its like you say it can cause a lot of us to be ‘way too much in a hurry’.

      When I was in college I wrote numerous essay’s on car related deaths and it was alarming to do the research and learn how high the number was of people who die via car-crashes. Its all really sad to say the least

  3. You pretty much explained the reason for our homogeneity in the USA in the first paragraph, and the lack of in the UK. Of course I remember my English friend explaining the close mindedness of the English when it comes to their neighboring towns.

  4. If you’re into this sort of cultural criticism, have you ever checked out Wendell Berry? He’s a Christian with definite views on the importance of the here-and-now. But adored by Christian and non-Christian alike.

  5. Strip malls and franchised stores are about the ugliest ways to develop land. I think it does play on our psyche, sort of bland pre-digested landscape that induces boredom.
    Worse, though, is the fact that most of those franchises represent a few wealthy people and many talented creative folks working for poverty wages and not getting much satisfaction from their work. (Sure, it has its place and those jobs can be a leg up, but they can also pin people down)

  6. It isn’t just the US of A that homogenous. Our lowest-common-denominator retail culture has invaded most of the world. In El Progresso, Honduras, we asked for the best restaurant in town, and were told by the locals that it was Applebees. In Antigua, Guatemala, tourists from America (and many Guatemaltecos) shun the fine local restaurants in favor of Burger King or McDonalds. In India, you can buy Pizza Hut right in the central historic square of Simla. McDonalds has just opened in VietNam, and when I was in Myanmar last October, open to the West for only a couple years, Coca Cola was giving out free samples at the most popular temple in Mandalay.

    • David, yea, when I was in Costa Rica last month it was always annoying to see so many fast food restaurants littered over the country… but what was more annoying is how many people from the States I met who weren’t eating local cuisine; but only wanted U.S. food i.e. hamburgers and fries.

  7. I can’t drink Starbucks coffee. Too harsh. But, I know why you pick a place that is everywhere and uniform. It is just uniformly bad in my mouth.

    Agree that so much looks alike at the interchanges and exits. Not everywhere, tho. While in Kansas City two weeks ago, our 25 yr old son was incharge of selecting eateries after we picked Arthur Bryant’s BBQ for the first dinner. He picked a S. American cuisine at a tiny restaurant in the Mexican part of town. Another was the Vietnam Cafe in the oldest part of town with streets so narrow only one car at a time fits.

    One needs to get off the beaten path to see more variety. We try to do that when possible.

  8. I have to admit that except for the outer suburban large shopping malls/centres in Australia, the inner suburbs & major cities all have a uniqueness in themselves in Australia.

    Must be something to do with the shortness of our western settlement, the multi-cultural society and the efforts to retain our historical architecture.

    We seem to have a cross between English, European, Asian with a wee smattering of the US thrown in to the mix. Actually I think its our huge contact with our Asian neighbours that are bringing a vibrant mix of restaurants and culture to our shores that make our cities and towns so fascinating. Sure, we have the odd suburb where racial, gang and underworld abound, but that’s pretty rare in general. There’s KFC, MacDonalds, Red Rooster, Dominos Pizza etc but since I don’t have a car and don’t eat that kind of take-away food, I rarely notice them. I’m sure there’s a Starbucks somewhere in Melbourne too, but I can’t remember where it might be.

    The typical Aussie pub (Hotel) is more a feature in the country towns, than a MacDonalds or KFC. My friends and family would never (97%) go to a McDonalds – we’d rather eat Vietnamese, Indian or Japanese. Our coffee shops are based on their European counterparts in the inner suburbs & Melbourne CBD. I suppose it also depends on our social & financial status. Maybe poorer people do eat fast food, but you can generally get an authentic Vietnamese meal for not much more than a ‘Happy Meal.’

    • Vicki, its been YEARS since I last ate at a McDonald or Burger King…. its just not my cup of tea, i’d much rather eat at a locally owned restaurant or at least a restaurant that actually takes the time to cook the food…… maybe it makes me a snob, but I’m with you; Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese, etc, are all things I would rather eat than McDonald’s.

  9. As a human with a love of reading and writing, your interest in culture is more than criticism. Yes, our psyches are vibrant and creative when we explore these patterns in our world. It was raining yesterday and my kid chose a movie I would never have gone to. It was all analogies about our society and how sameness is seen as “safe”. Wake up and follow “instructions” on how to live. Well, as you can imagine the hero finds out that he has great ideas. They are just very different from others. That there is a specialness to all of us. That is a road trip that we have to take the time to take.

    • Okay Ellen…. now you’ve made me want to see the movie!!! Spill the beans, what was the title?

    • I would only embarrass myself for you. The Lego movie. Will Farrell fears imperfection. He micro manages even his child to keep his “Lego World” all snapped in and super glued. The illusion that creativity and free thinking would be dangerous in our society. Michelangelo, Bach, CS Lewis and You and Me. (I saw several hipster couples with No children with them enjoying the Capitalist farce).

    • OMG! You put such a HUGE smile on my face…I NEVER would have guessed that all those thoughts of yours came from the Lego movie! Too CUTE! But when I took my little one to see the film CARS a few years ago, the whole movie was one big philosophical statement about how the U.S. Highways killed so many small towns throughout America so I’m with ya 🙂

    • You have to get adults in to pay $10 a ticket somehow! Spread the word. Unique coffee house with live music and really good strong coffee are what we subversives want.

    • See my earlier comment– going off the freeway may take longer, but I think it’s worth it. “Cars” merely reinforced this idea in my mind.

  10. I live in Beijing, and many of the big US food chains (Burger King, Starbucks, Pappa John’s, Pizza Hut, MacDonalds etc etc) are making heavy inroads into the ‘1st tier cities’. Because of the long years that China was closed to the outside world thanks to Mao, anything American – and to a lesser extent European – is thought to be ‘better’, more ‘modern’, more ‘sophisticated and up-to-date’, so people flock to these eateries. It is ironic that China has it’s own, far healthier, fast-food culture which is being ignored by young Chinese who wish to be fashionable. Ironically, Starbucks in China has just admitted that it has been adding azodicarbonamide (a potential carcinogenic) to the foods it sells here – this would not be tolerated in the USA.
    Having said all that, there are some great coffee shops here in BJ – and of course traditional Tea Houses abound. There is a mini-chain from New Zealand which only uses ethically sourced coffee – Esquires is the name and their coffee is excellent – they do a wonderful Flat White!!

    • I keep reading about how China is finally importing coffee and getting into the whole coffee house scene. Its a very interesting move on the part of china for sure.

  11. People say exactly the same thing in the UK. Every High Street looks the same. And yet … those chains really do meet the needs of their customers rather well. Otherwise, how could they afford to pay the rent?

    Here are 3 things that we think are the same, but are actually different:
    1. What we say we want.
    2. What we think we want.
    3. What we actually want.

    • Steve, AWESOME….I love those three bullet points.

    • Agree – I think I prefer independent businesses, and I really do love them, and choose them when I can. But I can’t say I hate the safety and familiarity of a familiar chain when I’m traveling and don’t know an area well. In a strange place where I don’t want to get too far from the highway, I’ll choose a Cracker Barrel over a hole in the wall diner – when with some research and knowledge, it’s possible I’d prefer the latter. But it’s also possible it would be terrible, so I don’t take the risk.

      So it’s sort of a loop – I think I want the indie diner, but what I actually want is something I’ll know is going to be good – which might be the indie diner, but it might not. So I choose the chain, which ends up being what I really want, until there really is a good diner, which is what I actually want when I say I want Cracker Barrel.

  12. I remember arriving in Tokyo and being disappointed how much even that ended up feeling like Just Another Big Town, Anywhere in the World. It was moving away from that and toward the rural areas I’d call home that I felt like I was really, identifiably in Japan. That’s how I feel now many years back in the US. There are little bits of unique culture throughout even these big cities, but they can be harder to find. It’s in the more rural areas where I get to savor a feeling of life a little more like the one my forebears would have known. I know there can be a sense of homogeneity from within, but from without, the distinction can be felt and savored.

  13. Sameness or lack of uniqueness is making us tired and lazy.Not having to think just knowing.
    We can say something on that. It is mind boggeling how well we have taught ourselves to be so predictable.

  14. Kenneth, you have to stop with these awesome posts! My mind is whirring again!

    It’s a trajedy what is happening in the urban areas. When raising the rents, the cities are hurting themselves…cannabalising the very thing that makes their city attractive. Sure the big corporations can afford those higher rents. What corporation would turn down an opportunity to be in the center of a large consumer base? But as big corporations move in, character moves out…appeal lost.

    They did a similar thing where I live. In the 70’s and 80’s there was a fantastic beachside amusement area, great for families. During the 90’s and early 2000’s other cities rose in popularity and economy, becoming the place where wealthier people went to live and vacation. Our city just saw dollar signs and wanted to be just like them. So they allowed a big corporate hotelier to come in and approved plans for hotel and beachside shopping district, promising big tourism, upscale toursits, etc. At the same time they raised all the local rents and taxes for beach side property.

    To build this mega hotel, they kicked out all the current businesses and tore down the amusement park, leaving visitors nothing to do but shop. It did not increase tourism. Nor did it bring a higher scaled tourist to the area. What it did was rob the locals of their businesses and created an even greater divide between locals and politicians within the community. So, twenty years after tearing down the amusement area, they are starting to rebuild it.

    While it courted those with higher financial credentials, it snubbed the middle class visitors who faithfully poured millions into the city. One of those being an annual biker event that routinely poured more than a hundred million into the city for a ten day event. An event that carried most local businesses through the rest of the year. Yet the newspaper promoted the fact that the city wanted to ban the event….Duh! Like people from out of state won’t read the newspapers for our local events.

    Our town had a newspaper campaign that lasted almost a decade…attacking the event, spouting all the horrors of “those kind of people”. I attended the event once, just to see what all the ruckus was about. All I saw was a lot of people having a great time. Sure there were a few who got out of hand but when you are talking about 300,000 people being in one place at the same time, there is bound to be an incident or two. That event alone supported the economy of our city for the year!

    Perhaps this was all just politics and the city was getting back at someone who with drew their business. The city had taxed the major sponsor of this event, heavy and hard for so many years that he moved his business to another nearby city and just left a shell of a business in order to retain the name. He expanded his business a hundred times the size it had been.

    I can only imagine what it would be like if we had embraced those things that made people want to come see us, instead of changing to be something that we really never were going to be. For the past twenty years my city has struggled with it’s own identity. Perhaps greed and desire to play in the big leagues is what is causing this to occur throughout America.

    • It’s a trajedy what is happening in the urban areas. When raising the rents, the cities are hurting themselves…cannabalising the very thing that makes their city attractive. Sure the big corporations can afford those higher rents. What corporation would turn down an opportunity to be in the center of a large consumer base? But as big corporations move in, character moves out…appeal lost

      I get annoyed when people say, “Well, all it takes is hard work and saving up your money and then you can afford to rent out a building in a high-rent district”…. because lets face it; if an aspiring coffee shop owner sweats blood to save up $150,000 cash savings to start their own place; it becomes a HUGE risk for them to blow all that money on a ‘chance’….. whereas a millionaire can blow the money and if it doesn’t work out, well, they haven’t lost very much.

      They did a similar thing where I live. In the 70′s and 80′s there was a fantastic beachside amusement area, great for families. During the 90′s and early 2000′s other cities rose in popularity and economy, becoming the place where wealthier people went to live and vacation

      It drives me nuts that the average person can’t afford to live near the Ocean in the United States. Your down in Florida where only the super-wealthy can afford the rent/mortgage/and taxes of ocean front living. But in places like Costa Rica, the poor can live within a block of the ocean…the country does a good job preventing the corporations from taking over all the ocean front property.

    • That’s quite interesting about anyone being able to live near the ocean in Costa Rica.

  15. It’s funny you mentioned the waffles, because I just ordered a pecan waffle/wipcream @ Wild Flower Cafe..Delicious, but I don’t remember last time I had a waffle. I agree with “sameness” no wonder I have hard time finding new places, every bld, every shopping plaza look alike. Here in MI I heard a lot : can’t eat steak everyday” but I like to say : want to see the rainbow? Must have the rain and the sun! I really want the sun right now 😃

    • lol actually I’m not into waffles at all! Lol its funny driving down south and seeing a waffle place off of every exit!

      Well, we’ve actually had a lot of sun this year compared to a typical winter so I’m happy about that 🙂

  16. I think from a Christian theological perspective, your friends’ responses are puzzling. One of the things that’s so attractive about a Christian perspective as distinct from a pure philosophical perspective is it emphasis on human individuality and particularity. It matters to be a unique person in a Christian view in a way that it doesn’t for pure Platonism or Kantianism.

    • Its not the view of all Christians; but there is a good percentage of Baptists, Charismatics, and non-denominational Christians (to mention a few) that believe all that matters is the afterlife….and they put little to no stock in the here-and-now….

      Its very troubling since its definitely not a ‘godly’ view of living in the here and now at all.

  17. I actually live in the small town off of route 66 that the character “Mater” was “discovered”. It is the quintessential small town that died because highway 44 now bypasses the town. We have a couple of small restaurants and even a small coffee shop but, honestly, the food and coffee suck. I find myself driving to the next big town to go to Starbucks because that is my only other choice. I don’t like the “sameness” that is happening around the country either, but there is not always a lot of great things going on in small towns. They are fun to drive through, as many people drive through my town, but it is another thing to live here.

    And I’m with you on the Verona, it rocks.

    • Oddly enough; the Movie Cars did a lot for me in reminding me of things I studied about back in the day, and I got out a lot of old books on the subject I hadn’t read in awhile after I saw that movie!

  18. I was just talking about this with my hubby. It’s only a matter of time that the entire earth will be the same. America represents a melting pot in the first place, so we set our selves up to have that kind of thinking….what can we provide that everyone will like. It’s natural that it will spill over into other countries especially since companies here want to screw us out of jobs and move overseas. Oops, sorry, did I say that? lol But I too miss those cute little towns….try coming to Berkeley! There are very (if any) fast food places. San Francisco has some big box stores but it mainly doesn’t have much in the way of chains except, yes, Starbucks and a McDonalds…somewhere. I know I’ve seen it. It’s a shame that it’s all so strip-mall like in most places in the country. Even worse is when I go to a state that is totally flat like Indiana. I look around and I can’t even tell where I am unlike the bay area where I can gauge it based on topography.

  19. We have driven across the country many times, and we often take a parallel route to the main interstates. That’s where we find the cool, little junk shops, and the unique privately owned businesses.
    I much prefer that to the generic, cookie cutter exits you speak of. Of course, if we ever get a hankering for a consistent cup of coffee, or a fast food hamburger, we know where to get it!


    • One of my problems is that I don’t usually have enough time to meander too far off the highway, that’s probably why I get annoyed so easily. Its like to do a trip you need twice your vacation time if you want to check out the little towns along the way.

  20. Our society is becoming more mundane do to corporate expansion. At times, I say to myself,” Why travel. Same shit here. Same shit there.” I ask myself all the time, “What happened to anti-trust laws?”

    • I’ve written massive volumes in my private essay’s on my frustrations with the lack of enforcement regarding anti-trust laws and monopolies. Even though the laws exist; the government rarely enforces them and it is VERY Frustrating to say the least.

  21. I hear you on the sameness aspect….I am everything but wallpaper..and people see that..are drawn to it..and then damn if they do not try and spend their time breaking it down and changing I blend like the rest…and they get vicious..and withdraw from you question yourself for things you did not do…
    We are a people who love to see difference..but when we see it..and it shines light into our darkness..I’ll be dammed if they do not try and kill it…
    So..why is someone who threatening…especially if it is a woman…?

    • I can so relate to everything you’ve written……. and I guess what it comes down to is whether your a man or a woman; people find anyone who thinks differently or says something they don’t like as a threat and to use your word; they respond ‘viciously’

  22. Sameness has it’s merits. If you dropped a person off in the middle of no where, chances are they’d know where they had the best chance of finding a map, a phone and a bathroom. When I went on vacation with my boyfriend’s family and my swim suit broke (whoops) it was nice to know there was a WalMart near by where I could pick up something cheap to get me through the weekend.

    That said, I love experiencing different cultures, which is why one of my life goals is to see all seven continents. My parents often wonder why I feel this way. They say there is so much to see within the United States. Why go anywhere else? Culture is why. I already know my own culture. I want to experience someone else’s.

    Now, while that may be an argument against sameness, it would still be a comfort to know where I could find a map while backpacking through Europe.

    • Isn’t it funny how many people’s swimsuit’s break while on vacation? I swear I’ve heard of that happening to at least a couple dozen people; hmmm…i wonder if its a conspiracy on the part of swimsuit manufacturers to create swimsuits that break after so many times wearing it…..

      But I’m totally with you on having a retail place nearby where you can buy that swimsuit in a pinch….. they really do come in handy.

  23. I’m totally with you on this one. And this is one big advantage Europe has over the US. Our philosophy seems to be, if it works let’s make a million of them! Reminds me of how man makes bricks (they’re all the same size, look the same) and God made stones (no two are alike.) I think that the God who created millions of different kinds of bugs likes diversity. And we’re like that too.

    • Exactly; Francis Schaefer wrote a little book about art and the bible and explained that god LOVES art and loves it when we create art and take the time to build and create beautifully intricate things .

    • Amen. We have lost the art and beauty in our theology as well as in our culture. It’s been replaced with the expedient and duplicable.

  24. Generally, things which aren’t the same take longer. You want to get somewhere fast, everything being the same is a great help. But if you like to wander, it’s best to ditch the schedule and leave the main road. There’s usually a back road.

    • You are so right….. lately though the last few trips I was on, i simply didn’t have the time to wander off onto the back roads. That is what was great about my Costa Rica trip though because I had the time to drive off the beaten path and explore 🙂

  25. “Many of my hardcore-Christian friends think it is stupid that I think about subjects like this, “All that matters is talking about heaven and death and where we will spend eternity” they argue with me, “All of these temporal philosophical issues you talk about simply don’t matter” they say”

    I follow your blog because these philosophical issues have interested me so much in my life that I no longer have an interest in heaven.

    • Chandler,

      Yea…. its a sad indictment on the Christian church that they turn people off from being interested about heaven 😦 but thank you for the kind words

    • Thank you for helping to bridge the gap by blogging about stuff that matters. It also means a lot when you reply to some of my comments. I know you’re a busy man.

  26. I like how you address the topic of sameness here – and I agree with you on the over roasting of Starbuck;s coffee – and well, “if” I go there at all, I get tea – like their London Fog – which I guess they dropped the name for this because a different company was using the name – but I do not like their coffee – however, I do enjoy it when we brew it at home.
    and my favorite take away from today’s post:

    “They believed that because nature is filled with so much beautiful diversity; that the buildings, art, and music we create should involve great amounts of diversity as well.”

    Bien dicho mi amigo…. bien dicho!

    • Yea, perhaps I have a stronger stomach than some people because I don’t mind drinking Starbucks… but I do prefer their Verona blend when I make it at home.

  27. Ahhh! Those McDonalds are everywhere!!

    Nothing better than a road trip! 700 miles of conversation now that sounds like a plan. I can rattle some beliefs behind the wheel. Imagine how long the trip would have taken had I made you stop at every little museum along the way. I’m a sucker for historical road sites, as well. Torture for everyone in the car. 🙂

    Now I need coffee and a road trip. Thanks alot. 🙂

  28. The last time I traveled to Europe I was so very disappointed with the myriad fast food and clothing chain stores I found there. Sameness is a valid issue! I don’t think we are just supposed to think of God and heaven; He wants us to LIVE on this earth. He wants us to show the gifts and the humanity we can manifest. P.S. My favorite coffee hang-out is a local Starbucks with the best staff you’ll ever meet!

  29. I hear this one. I miss the small-business aesthetic of the individual towns I grew up in. Or maybe I work too much to appreciate what we have here . . .

  30. “All that matters is talking about heaven and death and where we will spend eternity” …. as you would say – seriously????

    For some reason my brain instantly connected that thought with those who might say “forget this world, let’s just hang out and get high and chill together, that’s all that matters.”

    Addiction comes in many varieties – and it tends to result in a lot of sameness in one’s life.

    With that notion, did I just suggest that the sameness in America is a result of a culture of addiction? Hmm …

    • “For some reason my brain instantly connected that thought with those who might say “forget this world, let’s just hang out and get high and chill together, that’s all that matters.”

      Jason, I read that comment of yours last night and sat in bed thinking about it….. its a really good and interesting observation, I honestly had never equated the two but you are totally spot on.

  31. This has slowly been taking place for very LONG time. We used to complain about it as kids and I lived in Chicago. As we shop on line and put bookstores out of business, as well as other small independent businesses, it’s only going to get worse. To have a diverse culture people have to SUPPORT individual businesses. It will cost more to shop at an independent bookstore or coffee shop because they do not get the deep discounts that huge box stores or on line sites get. They can’t compete and people are not willing to pay the extra few dollars to keep them in business. We may complain but the system is set up to favor the box stores and the boring, cheaper stores. I was part owner of a fabulous bookstore. Very different than your run of the mill shop but we couldn’t compete with the low prices of the stores that ordered 30,00- copies of a book when we only ordered 10. Ours was a cozy, independent that catered to the individual and offered a wide range of books that were harder to get at your standard shop. But we just couldn’t keep up with the price differences. We did everything right and had a loyal customer base but our books cost more and we couldn’t do anything about it. It was great, while it lasted but independent business cannot compete and customers are not willing to pay to keep unique and interesting shops in business so they should not complain about them going under if they were never willing to support their local independent business establishments. Barnes is the LAST bookshop standing and people tell me I’m crazy for shopping there when I could pay far less on line. But I don’t want them to go under and I try to do my small part in helping them stay alive. It’s our fault things are the way they are. Like everything else …there is no one to blame but us. People support huge, cheap stores that have treat their employees unfairly, that have terrible political agendas and pour their profit into causes that are disgusting. They are anti pretty much everything. Yet people support them but still complain. Well, we all make choices and this is what those choices have given us. All the uniques and special places that existed went away because of the choices people made by shopping somewhere cheaper. So welcome to your choices.

    • Back in the 1990’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan did that movie “YOU’ve got Mail” in which Ryan’s little bookstore is put out of business by the big-box chain that Hanks was CEO of……. now, nearly twenty years later; Borders was put out of business, and Barnes and Nobles is on the precipice of being put under by the Online Retailer Amazon.Com…… its like they are now on the receiving end of what they did to all those indie bookstores back in the day…..

  32. In 2008, my wife and I took a belated honeymoon, and drove across country. The ‘sameness’ that you mention was obvious. Very much so. And any uniqueness or distinctions might very well have been missed if we weren’t traveling hundreds of miles a day. there were some, though not many. Most of the differences that I did notice that were lasting were cultural. While the places and the shops and the view might all be the same, there is sort of a cultural identity that is fiercely held onto, so while the familiar might be taking over no matter where you go in terms of physicality, I don’t think uniqueness will ever be totally shed.

  33. Lots of great material in this post. Not only we’ve got more of the same everywhere in the US, but the phenomenon is happening in the rest of the world, too. Even Paris where I lived before is becoming more similar to other cities. In addition to sameness there is the disparition of some stores that make places to others. Art galleries and bookshops for example are closing and being replaced by clothing stores and restaurants. Nothing against clothes and food, but do they provide the same meaningful role in our cities and societies than art and books?
    Cheers to you and your coffee visits!

  34. We’re seeing the same thing happening here in Canada as well. In Toronto we have lots of small communities within our big city but the little independent stores are disappearing and being replaced by chains. Today we went for coffee in one of our favourite neighbourhoods and sadly we discovered that all the small bakeries and coffee pubs have all but vanished. The street is starting to look like other streets in the city core. Starbucks, Timothy’s, Second Cup, Tim Horton’s, etc..

  35. I really feel what you wrote here, I wonder if anywhere this is not the case? I am hopefully going to travel around the world next year and I hope I won’t find simply the same things in a different climate.
    I do have to mention a coffee shop I visited on a roadtrip a few years ago. Bella’s…. It was somewhere in the middle of Western USA, Where? I have no idea. I was sleeping across a few states. Inside was a selection of wines, cheeses, handcrafted food items, and a coffee bar. They had the best coffee ever!! I really wish I could find it again. Maybe ill go on a tour of coffee houses trying to find it……


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