Wal-Mart has come to town and my esteemed (intermittent) colleague Andrew Goff has been inspired to new heights in his coverage of the momentous event. As the county’s top chronicler – and defender – of all things Humboldt goodness, Goff writes with a less-tempered edge than usual:
But it was then that the day’s most precious spectacle occurred. Roll call! A giant Pepsi bottle, a grinning polar bear in a chef’s hat, and a piece of white bread in a cape enthusiastically wiggled and spun around — some might call this “dancing” — while the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started” blared. Many a camera phone was satiated, even if the choreography lacked.
The arrival of Wal-Mart has, of course, occasioned fierce debate between those who view it as the signifier of End Times and those who see it as a sort of Savings Galore! salvation. Unfortunately most of the debate bounces around between mocking the butt girth of the stereotypical Wal-Mart shopper and exclamation-heavy advice “don’t shop there if you don’t like it!”. (With the occasional thoughtful defense of the store and rational explanation of how Wal-Mart injures communities sandwiched between.) Goff rose to the occasion of covering all this by rising above the fray – people would do well to note how much farther a sense of humor takes you.
Which is not to dismiss the sadness that comes along with this whole dancing, blessed package. People are elitist assholes – that’s sad. People once voted to keep Wal-Mart out of Eureka and it’s here anyway – that’s sad. Every chain store and big box makes Humboldt a little less unique – that’s sad. But you know what’s sadder? That K-Mart down the way. Jesus. Have you been in there? Like a lonely withered old woman in a rundown senior home. You know the nurses aren’t nice and no one ever visits her.
So we have K-Mart and Target and Costco and Walgreen’s and Staples and all that stuff sold in those places is a helluva lot like the stuff they’re selling at Wal-Mart – I don’t see the war as being between the small businesses and Wal-Mart, but more of a big box death match. Nothing irks people like Wal-Mart, though (except maybe Starbucks). The chain symbolizes all that’s wrong with America in a way the other stores don’t. Aggressive retailer of cheap imported crap that withholds decent pay and benefits from its employees and is patronized by fat, sweatpant-wearing, red-state shoppers with bad hair and worse voting records – oh, they make us so mad! We hate those people! They brought us George W. Bush – twice! – and they’re standing in the way of gay marriage and they fail to see how they’re the victims of their own politics and thank god we have Stephen Colbert and high-end whiskey to make it through the night.
But I used to shop at Wal-Mart. It was the only place open at 3 a.m. when I wrapped up my bartending shift. I’d take my cash tips and stop to buy diapers (yeah, I would’ve liked to use cloth, but we were broke and living with my mother-in-law at the time and point is, maybe you shouldn’t think you know everything about a person’s life or get to judge it) on the way home. And shampoo. People need stuff. Wal-Mart is an absolutely imperfect solution to fulfilling those needs, and I doubt I’ll be trekking over (especially as Target is right over the bridges), but vilifying your neighbors isn’t helpful. “Don’t shop there!” isn’t any better than “Don’t like it? Don’t shop there!” You can substitute “work” for “shop” and it holds true.
See, the argument shouldn’t be about who’s more right about Wal-Mart, the haters or the lovers. The question at hand should be, always: How can we hold close the dearness of Humboldt, together? And all the while remembering to celebrate the absurd. I’m dismayed over Wal-Mart’s arrival, but I’m so very pleased with what Goff’s served up:
Henceforth, Wal-Mart is open in Humboldt. Adjust accordingly.