Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Can't Sleep

Its 3:52 in the morning and for the tenth straight day I am awake at this ungodly hour. Every night it’s the same, I fall asleep quick enough, but right around 2 am, my eyes open and I spend the next three hours wide awake. I may as well make semi-productive use of this time.

A few observations:

# I read somewhere that if all human intelligence were plotted on a bell curve; you would find that there are very few geniuses and very few sand-pounding idiots among us. The fact that geniuses are so rare is something we should instinctively know. The fact that so few of us are tragically stupid comes as a surprise to me. Most of us then would fall somewhere on either the ascending or descending curve of the bell, with the largest number of us at the flat place at the top of the curve in that most dreaded of all descriptions…a person of average intelligence.

# Looking back over this blog, the last couple of weeks have made for some pretty depressing reading and for this I feel an apology is in order. I have always assumed that most of you read this blog because it is reasonably entertaining. But with everything that has happened to my Dad since April 11, my writing has gotten thick and leaden with something close to grief. When I sit down to write, it’s always about whatever happens to be on my mind that day. Sometimes its politics, other times its sports or something interesting in the news. Well, for the last two weeks or so, the only thing on my mind has been Dad. Nobody wants to be beaten over the head with mortality and the frailty of life, so I’ll try to lighten things up in the future.

# There’s a great scene in the movie Memphis Belle where the crew start talking about what they plan on doing if they survive the war. One guy starts talking about how he has this idea of building a string of restaurants all across the country that are identical and serve the exact same food. The other guys start giving him the business, “That sounds terrible! Who the hell would want to go to the same restaurant and eat the same food all over the country?” they ask. The kid says, “It’s not a terrible idea. It’s comforting.” The thing is, I used to agree with him. There is something oddly comforting to be a thousand miles from home and see a Chick-Fil-A sign on the interstate. But as I have gotten older, chain stores have started to bother me. Short Pump is a perfect illustration of the problem. Drive down Broad Street from Gaskins to Lauderdale and you can count on one hand the number of unique, individually owned businesses. From the big box retailers down to practically all of the restaurants, everything is a national chain. We are being franchised to death.

Quick show of hands from everyone out there who thinks Richmond is a better place since Ukrop’s sold out to Martin’s? How about the fact that there isn’t room for Pleasant’s Hardware now that the big box stores command the retail heights? The worst part is Sports Bars. Why would anyone go to Buffalo Wild Wings, when Big Al’s is right down the street? I don’t know who owns BWW. For all I know, the place could be owned by some oil sheik from Saudi Arabia, or worse, somebody from New Jersey! We all know Al because he’s right there in the place greeting you by name when you walk in. He’s a Richmond guy. His kids went to school here. His son played Little League with my son. If he’s lucky enough to make a profit at the bar, he doesn’t stuff it in an off shore account or wire it back to Riyadh. He spends it right here in Richmond. Knowing him, he probably spends it on Redskin memorabilia, but the point is the money stays right here. I happen to think that that matters to a community. And yes, yes…I know that we all benefit from lower prices that come from the presence of the Walmarts of the world, so save me the economics lecture. But, the presence of Walmart doesn’t make Richmond a better place, it just makes us like every place else. I’m done with homogenization. I don’t want Richmond to look like every other city in America.

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