Monday, March 21, 2005

Support your local family owned restaurants - screw the chains

I will never move to Phoenix, AZ as long as I live. I came home on Friday and nearly kissed the damp moldy ground as I stepped out of the airport. After weeks of uncommonly dry weather we'd finally received a few days of rain, and the dampness welcomed me home on the day I returned.

I have nothing against the Arizona desert, the majesty, the rock formations, the canyons, and the beautiful and alien fauna and flora native to the state. I found the desert to be a tranquil and at times a wonderfully unsettling place, but most of my stay found me in the suburban outskirts of town surrounded by long stretches of shopping malls and chain restaurants punctuated occasionally with a golf course or industrial park. Houses and apartment complexes mimicked the look of the Alamo in suburban developments that all stand in uniform and replicated styles. The developers didn't even disguise this fact with slighly different colored facades. I wanted to find one restaurant that did not remind me of an SnappleMees or at least an ethnic or themepark rendition of one. I suppose that's a step though... that people are now exposed to ethnicized versions of food outside of Mexican and Chinese. Maybe there was less diversity of choices in the past, but at least "Eat at Joes" was actually owned by a Joe, or a Carl, or an Edith and not a company listed on Salomon Smith Barney's Restaurant Composite. A favorite place frequented by my co-workers was the Cheesecake Factory, which I initially mistook for a male strip bar, as it apparently featured endless servings and a dessert menu that included 30 different types of cheesecake. As the mere mention of 30 kinds of cheesecake nearly clogged my arteries on the spot, I voted not to go instead dining at some chain Mexican restaurant instead. Of course, we all had to focus on convenience and location instead. Most disturbing of all, was the fact that there seemed to be very few storefronts which belonged to small businesses or individuals. Maybe I just wasn't seeing the real town? I regretted the fact that I didn't rent my own car so that I could explore outside of the suburban plain. Next time, if I do travel here, I will make it a point to do so.

The first night I was there I had a nightmare that I was lost in the mall and being chased by Dalek robots. Exterminate! Exterminate any form of self-ownership or individuality. Laugh, if you will, but I guess there is something nightmarish about suburbia that will always freak me out. I am a child of suburbia, chewed up and spit out because it didn't like the way I tasted: slightly tangy, a little too spicy and somewhat well-done. In this day and age Suburbia and all the values that built it reign king. Suburban Arizona is an exaggerated example of what has happened to most of America. The general populus is appeased by adequate and easily accessible, easily duplicable and cheap consumer objects. They are content to swallow a daily diet of adulterated uniformity in their culture and existence as long as it's fluffed up a bit with an illusion of choice and freedom packaged in clever ways or in theme-styled restaurants (all owned by the same corporations). While I was in AZ, it really felt like I was experiencing some plot in one of the old campy Star Treks. And why has it become so politically incorrect to say these things? Conservatives like to play anyone down who criticizes the state of consumerism today as being snotty or hoity-toity? Is it so classist to insist that people have to right to many choices when it comes to consumerism? Freedom to buy from whomever they please? Freedom to own a business that does not have to compete with a Meglo-Mart.

Am I being pessimistic?
Commie-Pinko Bitch.
Am I a freak for saying and thinking these things?
Why can't you just fit in, instead of complaining like a real pain in the ass? Why can't you just eat your "Just in Quesedillas" or your "TONS OF FUN BURGER" without pointing out how inane or ironic the menu titles are? Why can't you just get in line at the buffet and pick all the croutons and carbs out of your food just like everyone else?

Am I wrong for feeling that this sort of atmosphere isn't exactly conducive to true individualism? (Think about it -Suburbia spawned the Mod (black wearing)/Goth Movements in which youth declares to be different and non-confirmist, yet they remain confirmist in their non-conformity, even to the extent that counter-culture had become pre-packaged for sale in the Mall at shops like "Fat Topic." (Ooops... I meant Hot Topic))


I will never criticize my hometown again. I love the crazy street I live next to with the neon motel signs (which insinuate a little shadiness), the MAX stops. I love the neighborhoods with little novelty and gift shops, the privately owned restaurants where the owner chooses the menu and the specials. We have our Hawthorne and Mississipppi Streets here in Portland. Maybe I just wasn't exposed to the Phoenix equivalent.

Articles and other Rants:

"More Local Restaurants Struggle As Big Chains Eat Their Lunch"
http://www.santheo.com/restaurant/etc/wsj-chains.html

"Death to Chain Restaurants"
http://www.lewbryson.com/other_chains.htm

For those who want to fight the scourge of Fast food here's an idea - "Slow Food"
http://www.slowfoodusa.org/education/index.html

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