Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More time in Danville, the hope and the reality

In September here a post, "A hopeful look at hometown Danville, VA", received some attention. The reality on the ground seems to say, at least anecdotally and with the experience of over a month here recently, that the fulfillment of hope can't come too soon. The will is here but the race is not a long one.

Anecdote: Running around town today, almost literally, I stopped at a McDonalds in one of the centers of this rural city for a quick lunch. Not being a McDonald's afficionado I defaulted when asked what I wanted to "Big Mac meal", a habit dating from 2am's at college many years ago. It took ten minutes to get my Big Mac, a ten second process in Penn Station. In the interim the manager came out and asked me if I was the one who ordered a Big Mac, no explanation just wanted to know I guess. As I waited I watched person after person hit the dollar menu---McDouble and free water---Chicken sandwich and coffee---Cheeseburger and cookies---Chicken sandwich and McDouble, water. Forget the new Angus selection, forget the new stylized coffees, forget as I found out the Big Mac, the only thing in play is the dollar meal. I may as well have ordered Chateaubriand if I could spell and say it. The point is that this is a town with mostly really poor people. The guy that ordered the McDouble and water went out and got into a truck that he drove as the representive of a reputable roofing company so he works and, as I couldn't help but notice standing there waiting for my extravagence, that left one dollar in his wallet.

On this visit the other major head rattler has been the number of Cash Advance, Payday Loan, or whatever all these stores call themselves. They are everywhere, like locusts. On one stretch of a double lane road through a commercial area of fast food, strip malls, tans salons, and video stores I counted eight of these quasi- bank/loan shark businesses in no more than a three mile stretch. There were several pawn shops on the stretch as well not including a sort of megastore of pawn shops soon to be opening in a large space, gates almost installed. Most of these have large lighted signs, a corridor of debt, a sign of our times, not one to be accepted.

Just my opinion, there is great potential in Danville but there is limited time and the people who make a profession of preying on troubled communities must be shut down. Whether the cash advance crowd, bad mortgage broker or disingenuous car dealer in small communities or the CDS vultures in the global economy(see last post for Finney's comment), it's all the same. If conditions are such that predators can exacerbate a decline for their benefit there will be people who do that. Maybe some local governments or state governments can come up with some kick-ass tactics that deal with these scum and show the national and global authorities that it can be done.

Wouldn't that be interesting. Let Main Street set an example for Wall Street and Washington on what is allowed for the general welfare.


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