The Familiarity of Unfamiliarity
Had to visit the storage unit today. I wasn't looking forward to the trip (it was cold, and part of the trip involves a half-mile trek on foot) but decided to just up and "git-r-done".
While on the bus I noticed that the Wal-Mart they had been promising for the northeast side of town finally was well underway. The northeast sector is currently experiencing a dearth of jobs and shopping opportunities, and Wal-Mart's presence there is badly needed. Say what you will about them good or bad, they do tend to revitalize depressed areas.
Got off the bus near our old neighborhood in order to buy a small bin to store some of Nessie's clothes in*. This neccessitated walking past our old neighborhood to get to the storage unit. I was tempted to swing by the old house and take a look, but the Beast shifted in his sleep at the back of my mind. No point in giving him any ammunition. I moved on.
A train was crossing the overpass to Cone Boulevard as I approached. The trains typically hit that bridge doing about 40-45 mph, and of course, you can hear them coming. As I went under the bridge, I looked up. Yep, there was an old blanket up there; looked to have been there for a while, but I can't imagine anyone sleeping under that bridge when a train passes overhead. They cross with some frequency and make quite a bit of racket.
As I passed an old abandoned grocery store, I grabbed a shopping cart that someone had taken from the store up the street and left there for my own use. I realized that this now made me look homeless, but I had no choice. I'd probably need the wheels to cart some of the items back to the bus stop.
The strange juxtaposition of familiarity and unfamiliarity hit again as I opened the unit to our possessions, crammed into a strange space. Letting the feeling pass, I spent an hour gathering what I'd come for and repacking some items to take up less room.
When I returned to the Day Center, a crew from one of the local churches was remodeling the living areas. I thought for a moment that maybe we'd all been evicted, but that wasn't the case -- they apparently just wanted to spruce things up. They did a good job. The space looks more open than it did.
*Lots of people have given Nessie clothing since we've been homeless. Most are from friends and relatives, but some are from staffers and volunteers in IHN and some have been from well-meaning strangers. She now has more clothes than she had at the beginning of the year.
I hope the best for you and your family. I was ten when my family was living in a run down hotel and eating graham crackers with marshmallows. I can tell you my family is very close and we wouldn't change a thing.
My parents managed to put my brother and I through college and give us the skills for a better life. I appreciate just having a home and car, more then most people. I am always telling my daughter not to be a consumer but to take the time to appreciate what you have.
If I can just teach her life is not fair and things are not giving to you because it's fair or right, I feel she will be a stronger person.
Since everyone else has inundated the internet with what makes Wal-Mart bad, I'll give you just a couple of things off the top of my head that makes them good.
1. They have given 1.3 million U.S. citizens a job.
2. They have revitalized the dead or stagnant economies of numerous cities in the United States.
3. As of 2004 they ranked 9th in the Most Charitable Companies in American at the tune of $200 million dollars. That was 1% of their 2003 income. To put that 1% into perspective; if your 2003 household income was $100,000 then you'd have to donate $10,000.01 to be more charitable than Wal-Mart DOLLAR-WISE*. This doesn't include the thousands of hours of volunteer work the Wal-Mart employees do.
4. They enable the poor to actually buy the necessities that other "less ridiculed" corporations could care less about.
5. Simple Economics... In order to have a good economy you need a lot of money to circulate. That means you need people who work and spend. Can't work if there are no jobs. Can't spend if there are no stores. Can't have jobs or stores if there are no people to work. Wal-Mart provides hundreds of jobs to towns and cities that have few jobs available and a lot of people to fill them. Those same people as well as the rest of the citizens spend their money at Wal-Mart. But, here's the AMAZING thing... Wal-Mart ATTRACTS other stores! It is a little-known fact, apparently, that mega malls and those cute and convienent little mini-malls (or strips) wouldn't exist without a Wal-Mart, Target or any other major retailer opening up shop there. And why is that? Well, first off, the rent would be astronomical and no Mom and Pop or mid-sized retailer would be able to afford it. So what does the landlord do to make it affordable and attractive to all stores big and small? They get a Wal-Mart or a Target to move in and make it the CORNERSTONE of the mall. Take a quick drive past some of those strip malls in your neighborhood and see if you notice how the mega-retailer is right smack-dab in the middle or some other high-profile location. Also notice how the BEST BUY sign is HUGE and at the top of the entrance sign compared to the barely visible "Bob's Comics" or "Tony's Pizza" signs below it. Also notice how the further you look down the line of stores starting from next to Best Buy down to the last store in the strip the stores are less popular and more of a niche rather than a general type of store? For example, the first store next to Best Buy might be something like a Radio Shack or mini Barnes & Noble, while the last store might be something like "Bob's Comics" or "Tony's Pizza". The reason for this is that the landlord gets a HUGE monthly rent from Best Buy to cover their entire space as well as a percentage of the rents for the other spaces as well in an ascending scale. So, they might pay only 3% of Radio Shack's rent and pay almost 90% of "Bob's Comics" rent. Sounds like Best Buy is getting the short end of the stick, right? Not exactly, actually. The landlord knows that without Best Buy he has nothing but an empty lot. He knows that the bigger the name the more other smaller stores are dying to get in. So, to make it attractive for both Best Buy and the Mom and Pops, he gets the big stores to pay most of the rent. Here's the BIG KEY to this arrangement... The less rent a store pays, the MORE they owe to the landlord in percentage of monthly income payments! For "Tony's Pizza" to operate practically rent-free in his strip mall, the owner takes a percentage of income instead. If Tony's Pizza had a great month, they pay a higher fee and if they had a shitty month they pay a lower fee.
6. To make #5 clearer, contrary to popular belief, Wal-Mart is the reason these smaller stores ARE STILL IN BUSINESS! Yeah, some get pushed out or taken over or whatever else, but Wal-Mart couldn't survive without them and vice-versa.
Those are my facts to counter your emotional and false tirades. If you wish to provide actual facts as I have done, I encourage you to do so. If you wish to pick apart my facts with more emotionally fictious statements than please spare all of us with your comments.
By the way, am I really the only person (that I know of! ;) ) that knows how this type of economy works (regarding points 5 & 6)? I am amazed at how a lot of people really don't know this.
* Source: http://www.forbes.com/business/2005/11/11/charities-corporations-giving-cx_lm_1114charity.html
I think most cities had stagnant economies as a matter of neglect and incompetence. It was destined to be disregarded by business interests and forlorn by city leaders who couldnt see past the next election.
5. was ok, but you cant have a stable economy based on consumption. It is unreliable. Service sector employment will not give you enough financial gain to get past that corridor or home ownership(which you know is a veritable road to wealth) or anything beneficial.
Still unclear, there are strip malls and malls(indoor & outdoor) that do exist without a Walmart or any other large 'big box' retailer. Sure there are. Try Jersey. They are all over the place. I mean Shop Rite is a smaller operation, as is Pathmark, ACME, Home Depot, Giant Foods, ALDI, Payless Shoe Stores, Rite Aid, CVS Pharms., but they do manage to open a location and have other retailers participate in the prosperity.
6. assumes that before Walmart the community had ABSOLUTELY no business. Thats odd, because up until maybe 1990 there were no Walmarts in NY State, nor New England. But people still bought laundry detergent, and jeans, car tires, and milk. Odd?
And in closing, "Fuck the Wally Wiggle!" I brought the cyanide. Did someone bring the Kool-Aid?