There are people who scan the radio and stop when they hear something they know, and people who scan the radio looking for something they’ve never heard before. The joy of vacations should be living in that second mind-set for a while. Yet more and more, a sameness is creeping across our country. As much as I love Starbucks, seeing one in New Orleans made me angry.
I guarantee when you get home from vacation, no one says, “I love Portland! Did you check out their Target?”
The axiom “no matter where you go, there you are” is starting to mean more than just a statement of the human condition. Now everywhere you go, you’ll find you can’t escape yourself, Payless Shoes, and Olive Garden. You can't escape strip malls. You can’t escape retail villages, huge feeding troughs of consumerism which look like children resulting from a corporate gang-rape of Norman Rockwell.
Working at an Indie bookstore, it's easy for me to get upset. I wonder what I’d do if a Café Du Monde opened across the street from Books & Books. Turn my nose up at it because it wasn’t in New Orleans, or gain five pounds the first week it opened from grubbing on those sweet beignets?
I often say your money is your message, as in, if you like Books & Books quit spending your money someplace else. But as incomes dwindle, our buying choices have little to do with what we like and everything to do with what we can afford.
Coral Gables, Bal Harbour, Grand Cayman Island, these places aren’t hurting for money. Miami Beach is a captive audience, since they’d have to leave the island to browse. We’re opening a Hampton store in July. Is Books & Books only standing because of the zip codes we choose?
If my money is my message, then I love me some Swedish modular furniture. I Ikea’d the hell out of the Treehouse when I moved in. It looks amazing in pictures, but none of this furniture will become heirlooms. It’s made to be disposable, as different from the weighty dresser I helped a friend pick up and move from Biltmore Way as Ke$ha is from Leonard Cohen.
I had a bed. Should I have lived from boxes while I slowly built up enough money to buy the right “pieces?” Maybe. It would have been tougher to bring myself back from being emotionally devastated by the break down of my marriage if I’d been surrounded by more mess in my home, but maybe the process would have built character.
That’s what America (and Americans) is losing (and lacking) – character.