Friday, August 25, 2006

A Thought to Consider

*Today, in conclusion, three unconnected and brutally abridged (by me) passages that make a point...

Now here's a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week. For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average the total walking of an American these days - that's walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls - adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. That's ridiculous.

Nobody knows how many people hike the Appalachian Trail, but most estimates put the number at around three or four million a year. That four million include[s] a high proportion of what you might call Reebok hikers - people who park their car, walk 400 yards, get back in their car, drive off, and never do anything as breathtaking again.

There may be more demanding and exciting summits to reach along the Appalachian Trail than Mount Washington but none can be more startling. You labour up the last steep stretch of rocky slope to what is afterall a considerable eminence and pop your head over the edge, and there you are greeted by, of all things, a vast, terraced parking lot, full of automobiles gleaming hotly in the sun. Beyond stand a scattered complex of buildings among which move crowds of people in shorts and baseball caps. It has the air of a world's fair bizarrely transferred to a mountain top. I felt for some minutes like a visitor from another planet. I loved it. It was a nightmare, of course, and a desecration of the highest mountain in the northeast, but I was delighted it existed in one place. It made the rest of the trail seem perfect.

This week; illustrations selected to accompany short passages from A Walk in the Woods © Bill Bryson 1997.


  1. This week has been a nice series, Leif. I love the Bryson book-- my wife read it to me on one of our car trips together, and I had forgotten how funny and insightful it was. Your excerpts brought it all back.

    But mainly I wanted to comment on today's art. It shows how quickly and completely Bernie Fuchs transformed car illustration in America. Just a few years before these ads came out, Fuchs challenged the rigid code for all car ads by taking cars off the pedestal and integrating them into everyday settings painted in a modern, impressionistic style. In 1956, auto manufacturers were indignant at his insolence. By 1959, they were all converted, which unleashed a stampede of Bernie Fuchs wannabes all trying desperately to mimic his style. As you can see from these illustrations, many tried to follow his secret recipe but none succeeded.

  2. Thanks for that, David. I must say, I'm anxious to read more of Bryson's books after enjoying that one so much. As to Fuchs' influence, so right - but its nice to see the efforts of others as well. I attributed the top piece to the famous team of AF/VK (Art Fitzpatrick & Van Kaufman) though it might not be them. Nevertheless, they deserve credit for their long run and influence on automotive art as well. They created a fantastic vairety of styles and techniques to surround their always stunning car paintings.

  3. As an OLD admirer of Bernie Fuchs talents I want to be diplomatic about correcting somebody. In an earlier showing you erred, with this Olds ad among a group of our Pontiac ads. Van and I were doing our thing a few years before Bernie ever did a car ad. I started in'45 on the '46 Mercury account, got Van in on it in'49, I had 5 car accounts at one time in '52, signed an exclusive deal with Buick in '53, brought Van along on that. Olds and Mercury were instructing ad agencies to copy Pontiac. I'm 89, doing my paintings on a MAC G5. I just finished 2nd set of 5 USPS stamps, consulted on PIXAR'S film "CARS", and co-authored and did 15 illustrations for book with Jim Wangers … "Pontiac PIZAZZ". Art Fitzpatrick