Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Happy Hour Chronicles, No. 4: Read All About It
In casting the happy hour net this week, the issue that stuck was an article on the retail travails of Laredo, Texas. It seems that Laredo, a city of over 200,000, has lost its last actual bookstore--a B. Dalton Bookseller in the Mall del Norte. Things are tough all over, so of course, CNN.com has elevated this minor event into a sign that Laredo will (continue to) spiral into some kind of cultural abyss. Naturally, I have a few relevant observations.
I think it's reasonable to surmise that there is a village of 200,000 people in China where the entire industrial base is dedicated to the production and distribution of yak dung.* Good people of Laredo, we're all about positive thinking here at the weekly happy hour. The Fates could be worse to you.
In addition, despite the foreboding tone of CNN's article, I thought it wise to look into the overall mood in Laredo by checking the city's promotional website. I was immediately heartened by the fact that Laredo's recent motto seems to have been "Gateway to Mexico." See how they cleverly turned their historic gateway to America image right on its head? Now that's a glass half full attitude that I can appreciate!
Unfortunately, I also spotted a crack in the cheery facade when I opened this open letter/cry for help from the Acting Director of the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau. There's plenty of fodder here for a good editor, but it seems to hit a real nadir in the penultimate paragraph, where a stalwart effort to push the Gateway to Mexico theme takes an ill-advised turn into a gateway to Mexico's "harsh realities" and "great tragedy." That's not going to bring in the American Dental Association's Annual Session (this year in Orlando!).
In all actuality, citizens of Laredo, forget the whole B. Dalton incident. You won't miss it, as Amazon, Kindle 3, the Sony Reader, and the Apple tablet will quickly ease your suffering. What you really need is a cultural path forward, and here it is. To go with your lack of a bookstore, I note from your website that you have three minor/independent league sports franchises. This really throws off your athlete-to-geek ratio to a degree that no city could overcome. You need geeks and lots of them.
And if you're in town for happy hour this Friday, January 29, please report to Matchbox Bistro, which is located near the Chinatown gate at 713 H Street, NW (Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station). Matchbox has excellent food and a beer on tap that will boost anyone's spirits--Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. I will see you there, starting at 6:30.
* I admit that I was unable to verify that fact, because I don't have ready access to a powerful research tool like a B. Dalton Bookseller at the moment. All I have is the Internet, and what good is that to an inquiring mind?