Saturday, June 28, 2008

The more things change...

The following sentences describing late 1930's France were part of an article written by A. J. Liebling and published in The New Yorker in 1959.

"By 1939, the shiny new "medieval' joints along the equally new highways had begun to supplant the old hotels, across the road from the railroad stations, that in the first quarter of the century had been the centers of good, solid provincial eating." The newly motorized traveling salesmen "lunched in a hurry-'like Americans'-and the rural hotels also began to die. When the peasants , too, started to become motorized, the small towns themselves began to die. The small-town and small-city merchants had pushed a bill through the Chamber of Deputies prohibiting the great retail chains, like Monoprix, from opening stores in cities of less than ten thousand population, and one result was to accelerate the desertion of the small towns by shoppers; to get the variety and lower prices of the chain stores, they passed up the old centers altogether. By 1939, the country coyness of the auberge and relais, with their pastiche medieval decors and their menus edited with fake-archaic whimsey--the equivalent of 'ye' and 'shoppe'--had even invaded the capital."

Trends are long term and not necessarily begun in Bentonville, Skokie, Seattle or Minneapolis or even in the USA. That said, with energy prices the way they are now, and may be trending long term, it might again be nice to have a hotel and restaurant or two near the train station or bus station. Maybe it would again seem fine to walk to the nearest main street and have dinner at the neighborhood cafe or diner rather than drive to a mall, enclosed or strip. Getting local again could be interesting, the more things change...


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