Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Lot From a Little

Finally a chance to peruse a few websites, and just in time: James Lileks spent some time here in South Dakota, hitting the standard stops. First up, the Corn Palace.

Mitchell has done a tremendous job of marketing itself, thanks entirely to the maize-smothered structure at the end of downtown.

The boosterism was strong, as you can expect, and stirring as well: for every twenty towns that never grew beyond a half-dozen streets and a post office, there’s a Mitchell, a town that grew big enough to think it could be much, much more.

Really, it is amazing that Mitchell is what it is - a regional shopping destination and a vibrant city - considering it's only about 60 miles from Sioux Falls. That boosterism has been wildly effective over the years at using a single mid-level (at best) attraction to create a community that really has no business being that successful.

Then, after stops in Murdo and the 1880 Town, Wall Drug.

We headed right for the 5 cent coffee and the ice water. Better coffee from an urn I’ve never had; colder, crisper, cleaner water can’t be found. I had three cups of coffee and tipped the box a dime. (It’s on the honor system.) We wandered through the gift shops - well, no, let me rephrase that. We wandered through Wall Drug, which is a gift shop. The quantity of kitsch is astonishing, and if the entire complex was buried by a layer of volcanic ash, archaeologists of the future would conclude we were a civilization based around the worship of wolves and lanky men in hats.

But after taking the usual tour, he came to realize something.

At that point I looked around at the walls, smothered from street to back with pictures and testimonials, thought of the laminated clips that lined the hallways, the old scarred statues, the signs that were old when I was young, and I thought, well. Nine, maybe ten years, a fellow could get to the bottom of all the secrets here.

Again, more than there should be.