Navigation in this modern day and age is not what it used to be, now that we have High-Tech Gizmos like GPS systems and web-based tools like MapQuest, Google Maps, Google Earth, et alia.
Where all this High-Tech Crap falls flat on its face, however, is that it does not use landmarks. Exit numbers, route numbers, yes: landmarks, no. And, especially for us guys, landmarks are important.
It has something to do with the way the Male Brain works. Probably hard-wired right in there, along with the Extreme Reluctance to Ask Directions. But there’s no question that for most males - and possibly for most females as well - directions that include landmarks are far easier to deal with.
Here in Marietta, Georgia (pronounced “May-Retta” by the locals), we have the Ultimate Landmark, serving as both an Obvious Spot on the Map and as a Monument to American Restaurant Kitsch. I speak, of course, of the Big Chicken.
The Big Chicken was originally the brainchild of Tubby Davis, who owned a greasy spoon called Johnny Reb’s back in the early 1960’s. Casting about for a way to give his place an eye-catching Distinctive Look, he arranged to have one Hubert Puckett design and build what Atlanta Citysearch called “the world’s first and only postmodern cubist steel chicken,” soaring fifty feet above the roofline of the restaurant below it.
Over time, Johnny Reb’s became a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, and the Big Chicken remained. Over time, it fell into disrepair, and after a damaging storm in 1993, KFC was ready to pull the plug on The Great Cluckster. An outcry from the community resulted in the refurbishment of the Chicken, complete with fresh paint job, restored old-school Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pepsi-Cola logotypes, and revamped machinery that allowed the Big Bird to roll its eyes and open and close its beak.
But advertising and historical value aside, the real importance of the Big Chicken lies in its usefulness an a Directional Landmark, even today. A typical set of Navigational Instructions around here will include some reference to the Chicken:
“You wanna get to Harry’s? Just go up Cobb Parkway and hook a right at the Big Chicken - it’ll be on your right just past the freeway underpass.”
“We’re off of Roswell Road, about eight miles east of the Big Chicken.”
Und so weiter.
Hell, if they had torn the thing down in 1993, there would still be, a dozen years later, people wandering around North Georgia, unable to find their bearings and unwilling to ask.
Guys, of course.