Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he's going to look for America. His New Year's "personal challenge" is to have visited all 50 states by the end of the year. How will he travel, I wonder? Will he hop a Greyhound bus, like Simon and Garfunkel? Will he find himself a 1949 Hudson Commodore, like the one in "On the Road"?
I like to imagine Zuckerberg traveling as royals once did when the palace needed airing and they wanted to view their kingdom: They'd snap their fingers and an ornate palanquin would appear -- you know, the open carriage carried on poles by swarthy manservants. I imagine the King of Social Media reclining in velvet draped splendor, drawing back the curtains occasionally to wave at his subjects as he's toted around the countryside.
Of course the speculation is that enter politics. He posted that he wants to "talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future," and his plans include visits to Facebook offices, universities, and "trips to fun places you recommend along the way." Maybe he'll discover there's more to "flyover country" than is dreamt of in Silicon Valley.Zuckerberg is laying the groundwork to
Personally, as someone who's traveled on business to hellholes and hoity-toity enclaves across this great land, I have one suggestion for Zuckerberg: Stop for lunch. Stop for lunch in big-city watering holes and cow-town diners, and for good measure, throw in a Flying J Travel Center on the interstate.
For instance, say your plans include Little Rock. Go to a restaurant in the River Market district, not far from the Clinton library, which I'm guessing you'll visit as a friend of Bill. Sit down and contemplate how people in Little Rock are not as different as you'd imagined out in Palo Alto.
But don't leave Arkansas yet. Checking off a whole state by stopping in its capital is like saying you've been to Iceland because your flight stopped there. Head up US 167 to Beebe. It made the national news a few years back when 18 million blackbirds died in its airspace and covered the streets. It's also got a university, something you're keen to visit. Ask around for Martha Jean's Diner. It can be hard to see from the road. Or, take US 165 down to Stuttgart, the Duck Capital of the World. Try The Country Gossip. Its chicken salad comes highly recommended on Facebook. Listen to what's on people's minds while you contemplate how different the people are from the people eating lunch in Little Rock.
Then take off down the road, through Texarkana to the Big D. In Dallas, try Javier's or S&D Oyster Company. Observe citified Texans at the trough before tipping your waitress and your ball cap and heading to Buffalo Gap, pop. 465. The place I remember may be out of business now, but the Perini Ranch Steakhouse is a good bet, and everyone will give you a big Texas welcome even if they don't recognize you. You may discover that some of the people wearing jeans and talking soybeans are in fact millionaires. But they're different from the ones who live in Palo Alto, so it's good you came.
After you and your new friends have added one another on Facebook, it'll be time to head to Abilene for your flight home. Your baby misses you, and the contractor needs your OK on the kitchen remodel. It's time to start planning your next adventure.
The America I knew as a child has changed dramatically, and in more than 40 years of business and personal travel, I've seen places become more homogenized and regional accents largely disappear. But differences still exist, and you'll find them in the right lunch spots.
Which leads me to one last suggestion: Why not come to our Big Ass lunchroom in Kentucky? It's a "fun place," and you might be surprised by what you find: Kentuckians sitting with New Englanders, Marylanders, Ohioans, Californians and more than a dozen other nationalities, from Congo to Brazil to Ukraine.
To quote the singer, "Ain't that America?" I think so.