Pulling Out the Savoy Truffle

Reflections on music, literature, politics, and pop culture from retired rock musician, writer, and college professor Jim Booth. Email comments to Jim at jim@jimbooth.org.

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Location: Advance, North Carolina, United States

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

"Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town..."
Paul Simon

Here's an important article my good buddy Steve, who's from my home town, sent me.

I look at what's happened to my home town of Eden, NC, and I want to cry. Sure, it was a hick town when I grew up there, but it was a nice place with local businesses run by people your parents knew and in whom you could trust. You could go to Eggleston Tires to retread your car, to the Town Squire if you needed a nice suit, to Chandler's Drugs to get your prescription filled, to Edwards' Grocery Store for food...and the folks there knew you - and your parents - and your grandparents....

It was, for all intents and purposes, a kind of Mayberry.

Now it's owned by Wal-Mart and whatever other chains choose to stick up cookie cutter boxes on Hwy. 14, the main road OUT of town. Downtown's dead, the textile manufacturing that supported the town has all fled offshore for $1 a week labor.

The only kids who stuck around after high school graduation (or returned after college) have a look of either resignation or desperation in their eyes that makes one back away from them during the occasional chat one has at the "mall" (I use the term advisedly - as I'm not sure where the demarcation line between 'mall' and 'failed business venture' lies - but I'm pretty sure that when as many stores stand empty as occupied that the endeavor stands at the brink of the latter) during visits home....

What bothers me most is that in buying into the nonsense our federal government broadcasts about "dangers" to us that the citizenry of Eden, NC, and the rest of our country's declining small towns worry about terrorists bombing them/gassing them /flying planes into local landmarks (what, they're gonna attack the DeMoLay building or St. Luke's church?) they're allowing themselves to be connived about their real enemies.

Corporate interests catered to by politicians they keep in their pockets through lobbyists and contributions effectively impoverish them and will eventually kill them (and their home towns) for the enrichment of - the Waltons of Bentonville AR? So I go home to Eden and watch McDonald's employees serve meals to Wal-Mart employees who sell groceries and clothes to McDonald's employees...and I grieve for a town where people had dignity and jobs they took some pride in and stability and a sense of purpose beyond surviving week to week.

This isn't just happening in Eden, of course, though like any good Southern boy from a small town in crisis I feel the most pain for those folks. This is happening all over America, as the writer of the article I suggested above points out.

Too bad I'm not a real religious guy. Maybe I could find some comfort in that. Or in the irony a writer like Tolstoy proffers in "How Much Land Does a Man Need?". Those who grab for too much will suffer the wages of their sin of greed....

But it doesn't seem to be playing out that way. The rich get richer and poor get - Wal-Mart....

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