Monday, November 15, 2010
Levis, Film and Corn
Some years ago I was gifted the Encyclopedia of Bad Taste - A Celebration of American Pop Culture at Its Most Joyfully Outrageous. Many of the entries were hilarious and the book provided many hours of entertainment. It's very easy to find things to complain about regarding America in a land of excess and absurdity with examples in virtually every facet of life - supersized meals, morbid obesity, SUVs, shopping malls, monster trucks, Elvisiana, fuzzy dice, lava lamps, aerosol cheese, etc.
The subject of the shortcomings of the USA was also frequent topic of conversation with a former coworker. On one occasion, rather discouraged, I quipped "what does the USA have of quality anyway apart from Levis and Film?" To which he replied, "Corn." That's true. So I included corn as a 3rd element in the list of quality American products. The trinity became a favorite private joke, included in conversations as we saw fit.
More and more, however, we find that many of the quality products we have in the USA are legacy products, whether they are Levi jeans, Corvettes, Broadway shows, and theme restaurants - such as diners. Many of these legacy products, however, are dusted off, remanufactured and repackaged in a shoddy way, riding on reputation, only to become another manifestation of the "triumph of image over substance" (see story here). Nostalgia is such a strong force and we are drawn to these things.
Diners. I want to love them all. But reality is that many have poor food. And beyond this, the standards for healthy food have risen, and much diner food is really out of step with what many want to eat. This is one element that perhaps accounts for such a staggering range of reviews for places like the Jackson Hole Diner in Bayside, Queens.
I recently made a visit, after only seeing the exterior on an excursion to Bayside (see All the Way here) in 2009. My companion and I were extremely excited - everything was so retro and perfectly agleam with chrome, steel, glass, neon, polished floors, shiny vinyl seating. The root beer ice cream float was encouraging. The rest of the meal was basic. As I have written before, at least as far as my New York City experience goes, if going to a diner, best to pick your battles and order accordingly. See my stories Diner Beware of the Diner and Greasy Spoon.
I hate to break up a trinity - they are so strong structurally, whether branches of government, tripods or the Catholic Triune God. So for now, the trinity of America's best stands - Levis, film and corn :)