Olympic Chicken

At Chicago O'Hare International Airport the paradoxes begin. Faced with a four-hour layover before my connecting flight to Beijing, I answer to the calls of either hunger, relentless promotion and distribution, or perhaps both. I stroll the entire length of the concourse several times, alternately fighting my inner pavlovian instinct and taking inventory of the various eateries available once I inevitably declare an uneasy truce.

Golden Arches

I see the world-famous signifier everywhere I turn as Chinese kids on their way to Shanghai hungrily clutch bags full of McDonald's — an official Olympic sponsor, no less. Hmmm. But I pass up the golden arches in favour of the food court and Manchu Wok — not an Olympic sponsor — which features "Olympic Chicken" as its August special of the month. Why not? Take the two-item platter, add some "Orange Chicken" and "Fried Rice" please, and complete the meal with a bottled water to dilute the lipids and sodium and make things more healthy. Xie xie. The nuclear family of five seated in front of me, a veritable poster for neo-aryan consumption, eats theirs with chopsticks, perhaps in search of an ever-elusive authenticity.

Buyong xie.

To whom or what may these paradoxical relations with food, culture and identity be attributed? The Olympic Games and their sponsors? The vagaries of travel and the impenetrable mysteries of the Middle Kingdom? Global capitalism? All and none.

Paradox is perhaps a poor choice of words in this context. What I am really trying to articulate is the permeability of the control society magnified, mirrored and refracted by the fluxes of global culture such that it induces a state of the unheimlich in undermining the expectations of the observer.

Olympic Chicken

Full? Satiated? Neurotransmitters switched on by marketing codes now switched off? Though the brain crackles with signal and noise, the meal itself must be considered a desultory event: once purchased only snatches of sensuality punctuate the otherwise bland fare, and one cannot help but wonder in the glycolytic afterglow if the various Olympic stakeholders would be happy with an equivalent result during the Eights.

This East-meets-West at the borderlinks of global fast food cuisine is fully consummated as the garbage from both franchises ends up on a conduit towards the same landfill, while the airport itself continues its functionary role processing objects of information to, from, and in between. I am hundreds of miles closer to and one time zone further from an accelerating present.

Beijing and its promises are still fourteen hours away.

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  1. sportsBabel » (down the rabbit) holey space says:

    [...] it was not projected through the partition but rather reflected upon the building’s facade. closer, yet further away. oh, i *do* remember our identity tourism in tucson. there were cast-iron sculptures of lisa [...]