Thursday, January 17, 2008

America! - the gift shop

Apolgies, a small tangent from the Costa Rica trip for an amusiveration (an amusing observation)

I have a secret infatuation with tacky gift shops.  In New York, this is the shop that sells the ever-popular "I (heart) NY" tshirt.  In Paris it sells cheap Eiffel Tower replica statues.  You get the idea.  I like tacky gift shops because the merchandise in most of these stores do an insanely horrible job of reflecting the spirit of the people who live in the city.  Rather they do an excellent job of reflecting the spirt of the tourists who visit. 

I have never seen a New Yorker wear an "I (heart) NY" tshirt ... ever.  

It came as a surprise to me when I flew out of Newark Liberty airport that there is a gift shopped simply named "America!".  Imagine my giddy excitement when I saw that on the departure terminal store directory.  How do foriegn tourists who visit, not just New York, but AMERICA see the country?  What does an Italian who drives cross-country throughout the great continent buy to commemorate his long journey through America?  What does he take back to Italy to say (heavy Italian accent.  lots of hand gestures) "See Mama!  See Papa!  Your son.  He a gone to America!"  Not just Chicago, or L.A. or New York - but America!

I look upon "America!" the gift shop and it is exactly as I would imagine it to look like.  Fake, really fake, facade full of eagles and red white and blue.   However, I go inside and I am a little dissappointed.  Sure they have the American flag leather jacket displayed prominently out in front (all the rage in Europe, I'm sure), but most of the gift items have a decidedly NY-NJ theme to them.  The store defintely appeals not to foriegners but to other - namely midwestern - Americans looking for an east coast experience.  Also prominently displayed in this Newark NJ airport - you guessed it - the "Bada Bing" shirt. 

There are a few saving graces to the gift shop including a presidential mouse pad and replica copies of the "Declaration of Independance" (what Brit wouldn't want a copy of that?) but all in all "America!" dissappoints.  In fact I told the cashier explicitely that the exclamation point at the end of the name - dude that has got to go!

I travel to Puerto Viejo tomorrow.  Nice.

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