Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Moving toward McCulture

A lament:

Barnies was not my favorite coffee shop – that distinction goes to the Pleasant Perk. Nicely situated around the corner from our home, the Perk is the quintessential neighborhood shop – great coffee served in a quirky and clever atmosphere with local art on the walls and haphazard chic décor. Barnies, by contrast, was a mall chain store. I liked Barnies because it reminded me of our days in Orlando (where Barnies is based). I liked buying good flavored coffee there (yes, you coffee purists, I do from time to time drink flavored coffee – mainly because I like it, and I overcame food snobbery long ago). I liked that they sold Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, not that I would ever shell out $40 per pound for any coffee, but I liked knowing that the Lexus of Coffee beans was available.

Now, Barnies is no more -- and Starbucks has moved in. I enjoy Starbucks – I truly enjoy their coffee. But there is something that saddens me about this change. There are Starbucks all over town, and this to my knowledge, was the only Barnies. Now I have to live with the encroaching presence of the Wal-Mart of coffee – a behemoth that actually limits my “coffee experience” by spreading their brand across the cultural landscape like some kind of Seattle Kudzu or hyper caffeinated Borg.

It happens all about us – the homogenization of culture. I knew our family vacation spot at Litchfield beach was in trouble when a McDonalds sprouted up down there. I predict that many of the quaint locally owned seafood restaurants will be replaced by “American corner restaurant” chains like TGIAppleBenniganFridays or “pseudo Italian” chains like CarrabOliveMacaroniGardenGrill. How long can it be before the distinctive local bookstore with piles of unshelved books and the spaced out counter attendant will be replaced by WaldenBordersandNoble.

So I beg of you – celebrate the local. Find that which is unique, flavorful, odd, and only served up in your area. Not just food – but record shops, comic book stores, garden centers. Buy produce from local farmer’s markets (or even, if you dare, purchase a share of a local farmer’s crop – I’ve still not worked up the courage to do this, but I’m longing to). By all means, don’t be a slave to fashon, trends, and “the next big thing” –