Wednesday Walk: Ghosts and Good Food
Who watches that TV, what was that motel, and what's hiding in our food?
Welcome to the Quarantine Creatives newsletter, a companion to my podcast of the same name, which explores creativity, art, and big ideas as we continue to live through this pandemic.
Every Wednesday, I share random thoughts and tidbits with links to let you do some exploring, which I hope generate interesting ideas.
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I was in the waiting room at a doctor’s office yesterday when I looked up and noticed something I hadn’t seen before, despite being in this waiting room dozens of times over the years- a wall-hung flatscreen TV.
I hadn’t seen it before because I realized it has never been turned on when I was there. In fact, a closer look reveals that it’s plugged into the wall, but is not hooked up to the cable line.
I became very intrigued by the whole idea of this TV. Who decided it should go there? What was the purpose? Did it once play a slideshow of tips from the hospital, did it have daytime TV running, or was it like an airport and had CNN on constant loop? And who made the programming decisions about what should be playing?
Most importantly, why was it turned off and why was it never taken down?
I remembered a similar flatscreen that was mounted in an office where I worked for almost 15 years, right in the reception area. When I first started there, it seemed very cool and high tech, although the TV was also never turned on. At one time, I thought about screening videos there, but it was so old that it didn’t even have standard inputs like HDMI (despite being a flatscreen) and used old VGA inputs for computers, requiring adapters to be modernized.
Strangely, that office TV was taken down for a time when the walls were being repainted, but it was promptly hung back in the exact same spot after the paint dried, maybe because without the TV, the outlet behind would have been visible?
At any rate, that little TV yesterday morning got me thinking about why we decided wall hung TVs were cool in the first place and wondering if they are still trendy. I don’t know the answer to the latter, but I want to give at least some credit for why they became a trend to MTV, and in particular TRL of the late 90s. Thank you, Carson Daly.
Maybe now that we all have our phones to occupy our minds in a waiting room, a common TV isn’t necessary. Or maybe we’ve moved past needing constant stimulation and realized a quiet waiting room is preferable (at least to me). It’s also interesting how rarely flat screens seem to be taken down, even if they’re no longer in use.
What are your thoughts on wall hung TVs?
Speaking of ghosts and strange artifacts, I snapped a photo of this motel sign from the interstate the other day. It’s clearly a Days Inn sign from the shape and font, but the “Days” and sunburst logo have been covered up with blue paint.
I have no idea what happened here. Did Days Inn chose to pull out of this location and the new owners couldn’t afford a proper sign change? Why did they choose blue paint?
If this were 20 years ago, seeing a sign like this on a road trip would be a fleeting moment. A funny thought might pass in your head as you speed by at 70 miles per hour and would be promptly forgotten with the next roadside oddity.
The ubiquity of the camera phone ensures our strange memories like this get preserved. Even stranger, our phones include all kinds of metadata, so when I saw this picture a week later, I was able to pull up the exact location where the photo was taken and do a little more research on the hotel.
Apparently, I was traveling on I-83 in New Cumberland, PA. The Red Carpet Inn on the map above is the second sign on the sign post. The Express Inn appears to be the former Days Inn site. The hotel has no website that I could easily find and is not listed in any news articles. Services like Booking.com appear to have online reservations and professional photos for this hotel, but that’s about all that I could uncover.
Not unlike that ghost TV, there’s a whole story behind why this hotel was built, it’s life as a Days Inn, and it’s life as a one-off private hotel now that we may never know and likely won’t give much thought to.
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Why Are We So Unhealthy?
Finally today, I wanted to share an Instagram post from Diana Rodgers, a registered dietician whom I interviewed on the podcast back in 2020 (she also directed the documentary Sacred Cow and co-wrote a book of the same title).
Diana has been speaking out about the problems with our industrial food system for a long time, and her post, citing a recent study from Tufts University begins with this startling line:
“In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, fewer than 1 in 15 adults are healthy.”
It’s worth reading the full post on Instagram. It’s remarkable just how quickly our country has fallen into poor health and just how awful much of our modern diet is. It’s easy to point fingers at fast food, but even so-called “healthier” foods are loaded with synthetic ingredients and additives that weren’t there a few decades ago.
Ending on a more positive note, I mentioned earlier this week on a call with my extended family that I am grateful to live in a time where we are able to prioritize good food. High quality, nutritious foods may not be the norm in a chain supermarket or a convenience store, but those options exist and are easier to find than ever before. I hope more people take the extra time to seek out local producers and artisan food makers, as I think it is well worth the effort.
When I first started traveling professionally almost two decades ago, a meal on the road often meant dinner at an Outback Steakhouse or an Applebee’s, but now amazing farm to table meals that celebrate local ingredients and eschew unnecessary additives can be found in most parts of the country, even it takes a little digging.
We still have a long way to go, but I’m glad there’s at least more awareness of where food comes from and people like Diana that are helping spread the word about the health concerns around our current food system.
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Other Wednesday Walks
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