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closer proximity with the material spaces and
non-places (Augé, 1995) of the city, and with
the transitory zones of interconnection (or local
'slippage') that frame the de-localized globality
of Frank and Benny's urban tour.
In terms of its intrinsic homogeneity, the
city which the businessmen traverse bears
close resemblance to what the architect Rem
Koolhaas' describes as the 'Generic City': 'the
city without history . . . like a Hollywood studio
lot, it can produce a new identity every Monday
morning' (in Abbas, 2003, p. 147). Adaptive to
the fi ckle and ever-shifting demands of the
global consumer, Liverpool: Generic City is a
place where everyone, irrespective of national-
ity, domicile or culture, becomes a tourist, where
the material and virtual merge in global con-
sumerscapes that are increasingly diffi cult to
differentiate from the transitory spaces which
connect the city to other cityscapes and urban
locations. In Three Businessmen , the interstitial
zones of public transportation that punctuate
Frank and Benny's urban odyssey become the
points of transition between various global loca-
tions: Liverpool to Rotterdam (one metro stop);
Rotterdam to Hong Kong (a short tram ride); a
ferry trip 'back across the Mersey' (Frank rea-
sons they have unwittingly crossed the river and
are somewhere in Birkenhead, rather than, as is
the case, Hong Kong harbour); a bus or tram to
Tokyo; and a taxi ride from Tokyo to the Spanish
desert region of Almería.
Equipped with a tourist guidebook to
Liverpool (their 'master narrative'), Frank and
Benny's culturally myopic orientations prevent
them from confronting the state of existential
homelessless (Berger et al ., 1973) which has
engulfed them, casting them adrift in a feature-
less corporate world from which they have
grown evermore alienated. In a curious inversion
of Kevin Lynch's arguments on the importance
of 'imageability' and 'legibility' in the framing of
a coherent (i.e. marketable) 'image of the city'
(1960), the sheer overabundance of imagery
and visual stimuli in representations of the
postmodern city has rendered these spaces all
too legible or, indeed, illegible : as interchange-
able with or undistinguishable from any other
global Generic City (Cairns, 2006, p. 201; Rob-
erts and Koeck, 2007, p. 8). Finding distraction
amongst the various miscellany and props that
structure their day-to-day lives (Frank's newspa-
per and computer; Benny's Plutonium Card, the
ultimate in customer loyalty cards, offering 'dis-
memberment insurance', 'product replacement
guarantee' and 'total salvation') the (three) busi-
nessmen wander the cityscapes of the world with-
out ever knowing exactly where they are, their
desires for consumption never fully satisfi ed:
Benny and Frank walk and take public transport
all the way around the world, in total igno-
rance. They think Rotterdam is Liverpool. They
think Shinjuku in Tokyo is Liverpool's famed
'Japanese Garden'. 14 They think the desert is a
city. They wake up in generic hotel rooms, with
no idea where they are, or why they're there.
One of Three Businessmen 's earliest enthusiasts
was a United Airlines fl ight attendant: he
understood exactly what was going on.
(Cox, 2008, p. 242)
The geographer David Harvey argues that '[t]
ime-space compression always exacts its toll on
our capacity to grapple with the realities unfold-
ing around us' (1990, p. 306). The shrinkage of
geographical scale through innovations in trans-
port and telecommunications technology has,
according to Harvey, precipitated a growing
sense of anxiety and disorientation:
As space appears to shrink to a 'global village'
of telecommunications and a 'spaceship earth'
of economic and ecological interdependen-
ces . . . and as time horizons shorten to the
point where the present is all there is . . . so we
have to learn how to cope with an overwhelm-
ing sense of compression of our spatial and
temporal worlds.
(Harvey, 1990, p. 240, emphasis in original)
If sight-seeing in Liverpool is akin to visiting the
'world in one city' then the idea of tourism as a
geographic practice begins to fall apart. The
14 Referring to his Liverpool tourist guide, Frank mistakes a fl oral landscape in Tokyo for the Japanese Garden
that was designed for the Liverpool International Garden Festival in 1984. The site of the festival (at Dingle in
the south docks area of Liverpool) has long since fallen into dereliction, and all that remains of the Japanese
Garden is an old tourist map, with Japanese and English text, which is still visible amongst the overgrown trees
and fl ora which have consumed the abandoned spaces of the festival site. For a discussion of the 1984 Garden
Festival and culture-led regeneration in Liverpool, see Roberts (2010b).
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