Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can Everywhere Be Home?

For a country as individualist as America, we sure do labor and strive for "sameness." I've written about suburban housing, but here I want to ask questions about what we're giving up to support suburban businesses.

Over lunch a couple weeks ago, several friends announced that a favorite restaurant from back home was opening soon in Colorado. Their excitement was contagious, but as they described their favorite meals, I realized that this restaurant would no longer be associated only with home. Every time they eat there, it will be less a reminder of another place and more a part of their life here in Colorado.

I crave a piece of coconut cake from Aroma Cafe and fondly remember the originality and class at Gjelina, but I don't wish those places were also in Colorado Springs. They are some of the things I anticipate in a visit to California. They are some of the things that make the California experience what it is. If I could get the same things here, California wouldn't seem so special, and neither would those places.

Think of your favorite place to be and then think of all the reasons why. It's most likely your favorite place because it doesn't stir a single emotion in you and inspires you to do absolutely nothing. No?

When consistency and convenience are at the top of the list, the chain idea is a good one. When an unusual, memorable experience is at the top, chains are a bad idea. The second tends to be at the top of my list more frequently than the first. I'm not suggesting doing business only at local places, but when given the choice, wouldn't you rather have the experience over the convenience?

And I have to say, I've made friends at all my favorite local places. I have yet to make a friend at a chain store or restaurant. I don't snarl at chain employees (although maybe I should), but their employers have a different feel and purpose: Get 'em in, get 'em out, don't care who ya are, just don't hold up the line. I've never walked into Wal-Mart and been delighted to do so. Some people must prefer this method because big box stores keep showing up.

Chains have a way of sucking culture right out of a perfectly decent town. I don't want to get off the plane in Kalamazoo and wonder if I accidentally flew to Salem. People go bananas in a place that is void of expression. It's what we were made for.

For all you Colorado Springs dwellers, my next few posts will highlight some of my favorite spots around town, and maybe give the out-of-towners some motivation to visit!

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