October 20, 2008

I had a very American Weekend. Saturday morning we left our comfortable  safe-as-milk suburban house in our Japanese car and set off on the six lane freeway, exiting over the hills to Small Town USA, a.k.a Half Moon Bay. This weekend Small Town came to life, thousands of visitors descending for the annual Pumpkin Festival. We had pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, gawped at the champion pumpkin (1528 lbs !!), and cheered our favourites at the pumpkin pie eating contest. Grand Marshall was Baseball Hero Will “The Thrill” Clark. Then we wandered down to the beach (still warm enough with your clothes on) where we saw bottlenose dolphins leaping in the surf. Finally we went back to town for a cheap Mexican dinner and then got in our car and returned through hyperspace to Palo Alto.

So, as the Chamber of Commerce will explain, Half Moon Bay is the Pumpkin Capital of the World. Last week on our roadtrip home from the City of the Angels, we passed through several other Capitals. Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world and yes indeedy it has an annual Garlic Festival. Lompoc it seems is the Flower Seed Capital of the World – see nice pictures here –  although maybe it could also have been the mural capital of the world. Even more appealing, Buelleton is  the split-pea soup capital of the world.

I began to find this interesting, so Googled for some more. Of course, I have been thoroughly beaten to it. There is a list of “capital of” places here and a more general list of town nicknames here.  My favourite is Fort Payne Alabama. This is apparently the Sock Capital of the World. I think our friends in Nottingham may contest that.

For many decades, the USA has been able to claim that it is the Scientific Capital of the world. This it seems to me is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you turn up at Stanford or MIT or Caltech or whatever, it can be quite hard to find a genuine American. The corridors are full of Poles and Brits and Italians and Japanese and Russians. Its the best because everybody is here. Thats why they come. Because everybody is here. Because this is where they come …

If Western Capitalism falls about our ears, will they all go home ?