Screw Big Chain Franchises: Support Your Local Bar!
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I recently passed a Manhattan milestone; the death of my local bar. In a daze, I watched workmen plunge buzz saws into the old oak bar, rip up the green sofa, toss out antique etchings of Ireland and Yankees of yore. When I beheld the new tenant, Dunkin' Donuts, I hallucinated a horror from the dark annals of urbanicide; the wrecking ball crashing into the old Pennsylvania Station, a soulless sea of franchises desecrating its ignoble grave.
In the years that followed 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, Washington and Wall Street operated with a deranged disconnect from reality. Prudence and thrift were mocked, the poor and middle class were trounced, and luxury condominiums, supermalls and sports stadia came first. The franchise mafia declared war on every precinct within striking range, cocked their weapons and went in for the kill.
My Manhattan neighborhood is scarred with wreckage from the war at home. The post 9/11 casualty list includes brownstones, boutiques, theatres, schools, lots of Irish bars, churches and synagogues for Crissakes! Apparently nothing is scared except market value. As deficits ballooned, as our men and women suffered and perished in foreign wars far from home, our civic elders willingly acquired perilous levels of debt to raze city blocks for glass towers proffering "luxury lifestyles." Looks good on paper, you know, swimming pool, high tech gym, red velvet settees and faux Warhols in the lobby, and enormous Hi-Def flat screen TV's in every laundry room. I walk by this stuff every day, and may I report, it's not exactly The Carlyle. Envision a set from "The Apprentice."
This building boom was fueled by the investment banks that are going broke and begging for a bailout. In the last gilded age before the Crash of '29, bank lobbies were swank, with marble floors, Corinthian columns and gilded ironwork. Now they're as tacky as a carwash. Considering the wealth of the franchise mafia, you'd think they'd build decent stuff that people might actually like, but no, they build junk, tons of it, made from toxic plastics, the preferred design choice of corporate planners. Huge swaths of New York have been devoured by WaMu, Dunkin' Donuts and Duane Reade, as another great city falls victim to the tragic Malling of America.