The Urban Sherpa - a blog by Christopher DeWan

(proof of scientific materialism)

Read Work and Other Essays, a collection of nonfiction by Christopher DeWan.

Stay on Target rating=2

Atlantic TerminalCity Councilman David Yassky, who represents Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO and Park Slope, was asked about the opening (today) of the new Atlantic Terminal shopping center, and whether it "contradicts the spirit of Brooklyn" by siding with national chains Target, McDonald's, and Chuck E. Cheese's, rather than support local businesses.

He replied "The goal is retail that serves the customers well. I don't think government should be trying to pick between local and national businesses." This is a local politician, one of those probably least impacted by t he big corporations and one of those with the most actual contact with the local businesses themselves, saying, in effect, McDonald's and Target are better.

So... are they?

Though I think the politician might have been more ... politic, it's not a simple issue. When I go out, I consistently want to support the small book shops, the clothing boutiques, and the independent grocers — and in practice, I spend my money at Barnes and Noble, the Gap, and Pathmark. Why is that? Is it that their stuff is better? The last pair of Gap jeans I wore split top to bottom within two weeks; the produce at Pathmark is just as likely to rot at the bottom of my fridge in the first 48 hours as the produce I buy anywhere; and it's usually a matter of seconds, not minutes, before I regret eating at McDonald's. Yet there I was at Target, because it is the place to go for kitchen and bath supplies, for bulk toilet paper and new bed sheets, for discount DVDs and replacement batteries and Tiki torches and corn chips and, well, just about everything. Some of it is of questionable quality and some of it is downright ugly, but there I am, on the front line, fighting my way through the hoards so that I can get to that last "Home Salsa Kit," that last "Dirty Dancing Havana Nights" DVD, that last shopping cart and that last slice of pizza, to go. Me and the rest of Brooklyn we ransacked Target.

And I think it's because we're lazy. Or maybe just busy. The convenience of finding everything under one roof is too powerful. It's so powerful that if I find only three of the five items I wanted, I'll put all three back and try my luck another day, rather than wait in line twice, rather than shop in two separate stores. Never happen. For this convenience I will sacrifice not only quality, but the friendly grocer who runs my neighborhood bodega, the loud but happy restaurateur who runs the taqueria, the quiet reedy man sitting behind the counter at the homely bookshop. Ah, Target, how I love thee. Let me count the ways — while you dictate for me the things I should buy, the things I should eat, the things I should watch and listen to, even the things I should like, without me having to do any work at all.

Now that's convenience.