Friday, September 26, 2008


Ahab, from Chapter 36 of Moby Dick.
"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event – in the living act, the undoubted deed – there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!"

I keep a letter written from a volunteer that went to New Orleans after Katrina, and discovered that the real problem was deeper than hurricane force winds and storm surges.
Just like Ahab, the writer was loathe to describe the insidious nature of what the real problem was:
"I came here because of something very unbeautiful--something so cruel and vicious that, when unleashed, snapped all our bodies in half on August 29, 2005. As you might guess, such a monstrous thing is simply too difficult for God or nature or the winds to pull off successfully."
I'll post that entire letter tomorrow.
Its long, but I urge you to read it

Two years ago I did a post about a neighborhood destroyed to build a Strip Mall, and I described my brothers reaction to seeing the last house with its picket fence, sandbox, swingset and BBQ Grill, completely surrounded by the ubiquitous business esatblishments deemed more important than a 40 house neighborhood.
I showed that house to my brother, a retired colonel, while the homeowner was still holding out.
my brother just had one word for it:

The guy that held out finally sold that house for 2 million dollars.Over the next ten years, the nature of the business in that spot went downhill and according to my blog two years ago:
" They erected a Gateway Computer on the spot which was quickly replaced by CD Warehouse then a Tattoo Parlor or something."
I wanted to make a prediction when I wrote that, but I could not have outdone the facts.
The Gateway Computer eventually became a Pawnshop.

I passed that Strip mall last week. Out of the 40 businesses that were there at the start...
A more stunning example of riches to rags I have yet to see, though I do feel it coming.
Barnes and Noble, Fridays, Chase Bank, Best Buy, Bennigans, Ultra Beauty, Mattress Giant...all gone. Everything but three, gone.
And that man's house that was a Gateway computer, then a CD Warehouse, Tattoo Parlor and Pawn Shop?
It is taken over by the local street urchins, skateboarders and kids that are just plain bored. There are broken windows, and likely needles in the gutter.

But there is hope.
I saw yesterday the Orange and Black banner indicating that it is going to be a Halloween Haunted House.
Its more than a metaphor for the current economic crisis.
Its just like Katrina.
It is but a pasteboard mask.

"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event – in the living act, the undoubted deed – there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!"


Steve said...

The way developers are permitted to mow down neighborhoods and rural landscapes to build these USELESS strip malls is really appalling. Sprawl is a curse!

laughingattheslut said...

I hate that all those people over by North East Mall were run out of their homes to build a bigger parking lot and more stores, while just around the corner North Hills mall went out of business. Why didn't they just buy the other mall?

And I hate football, so of course they are building the new place for the Dallas Cowboys over in Arlington, and they threw people out of their homes for that too.

kissyface said...

Steve-o -

I spent quite a bit of energy studying urbanism and suburbanism in college from many points of view. I am working on a post to compliment what you've laid out here. I would direct you to James Howard Kunstler, journalist and civic planning autodidact, but a potent if cranky voice of the New Urbanism. (if you're so bold as to jump into the waters of the great civic historian, Lewis Mumford, I say more power to you, but Kunstler's more digestible.) I've been going over a couple of research papers I wrote at Brown. Part of the very many real problems with strip mall architecture and post WWII car culture civic structure (which is an oxymoron, to be sure), is that it privileges corporate structure. Mom and pop shops are an ideal because they cannot exist without a real investment in the neighborhoods they serve. Buying local isn't just about doing right by the planet, it's about keeping capital circulating within communities and not paying out to some distant empire that does not have interest in giving back to the community. It is about real relationship on every level.

Here's a quotoation from JHK that seems relevant to what you've expressed and what is probably floating about not yet fully formed:

"Community, as it once existed in the form of places worth caring about, supported by local economies, has been extirpated by an insidious corporate colonialism that doesn't care about the places from which it extracts its profits or the people subject to its operations. Without the underpinnings of genuine community and its institutions, family life alone cannot bear the burdens and perform all the functions itself. Spouses cannot fulfill each other's every need and marriages implode under the presumption that they ought to be able to. Children cannot acquire social skills unless they circulate in a real community among a variety of honorably occupied adults, not necessarily their parents, and are subject to the teachings and restraints of such adults."

more soon.

bulletholes said...

Steve- What bugs me is the way that they build a NEW onr right next to the BANKRUPT one
(hitting myself in the head now)just the way that laughing has described. she know the place, but we all do because its happening coast to coast (its a good guess, I haven't been coast to coast)and yes, Jerry Jones swallowed about 100 houses to build what is liablwe to be known as American Airlines Stadium" whom if we haven't bailed out already, we soon will be.

bulletholes said...

laughing-See the above... and why didn't they just buy another mall?
Because they already had 2 dead strip malls, and 1 dead major mall so why not plow the whole thing under and plant some Maize?
Well, you know that weon't work, but if we loan some money to a healthy business they can finance it until THEY go under, then it won't look like our fault.

bulletholes said...

KFC- you know me pretty well, and it was about three weeks asgo I put Ahab'sd quiote aqnd your letter into draft, bnut I promised a rant a few days ago and this is it.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't know shit about economics, and I flunked math 3 years in a row, and I really can't quite grasp what your last paragraph is saying...
b But your firrst is all about what I left out of my post because it was getting too long...

I was talking to my son last month and told him that what was wrong with the things we do, and with this country from the bottom up was this...
Right now there is a truck of tomatoes on its way to Dallas from Fort Worth and it qwill pass, going the other way, a truck of tomatoes on its way from Fort Worth to Dallas. The same thing is true for any product or service you can imagine.
My son like me is no scholar, but he about fell out of his seat when I said it.
Energy Crisis? You bet. How'd it happen? Give me a break?.

OK...i'm done for now.

laughingattheslut said...

Which haunted house were you talking about?

The Boneyard was at what used to be either a Sam's Club or a Walmart (near those malls we were just talking about), then moved to what used to be called Forum 303 mall (which has since been totally demolished), and last I heard it was at Six Flags Mall. They've only been in business about six years and they've moved at least three times.

Also there are the Halloween costume places that take over big empty spaces for the season. We've had Spirit Halloween stores for a while now, and the last two years or so there's been a few stores called Halloween Express, and now there's something called Halloween USA. They rent buildings that used to be really big stores like maybe electronic stores that went out of business or maybe where an MJDesigns used to be.

bulletholes said...

Haunted House is where the Blockbuster Music turned CD Warehouse turned CD's For ess used to be.
And there is another one that used to be COMP USA, right next to Abuelos Mexican Restaurant.
IT tech taken over by a boneyard Spookhouse.
Its givin' me chills and they ain't even open yet.

Mother of Invention said...

Good post! Right on! Was there a Tpm Thumb there? (That's all I know of Texas!)

"They paved paradise to put up...."

Yah, Joni.

Happy Hallowe'en. Trick or treat??!!

leslie said...

Great post, man.

I read the letter from a volunteer, and I am still gnashing my teeth. It has now been 3 years.

The strip malls, in a nut shell, are tax write off for the big companies. Build it, claim it's a 'bust', write it off as a 'loss'.

We keep forgetting that people don't matter to big corps(e). We are collateral damage, here, there, everywhere.

Now lets talk pleasantly about eminent domain...

I'm feeling extra crabby/spunky today :) Does it show?

leslie said...

Here's Kunstler's link.

rdg said...

too highbrow a convo for my lowbrow brain tonight - just wanted to point out that it 'appears' to be Moby Dick themed day everywhere i go ...

oh, and i met up with the good ship Albatross too ...


Barbara said...

Definitely a sign of the times. We are going to see a lot of businesses closing and more foreclosure signs than anyone can imagine. We are in for some interesting times.

kissyface said...

Hi Steve-

sorry if I got too heady. Leslie kind of sums it up neatly. The point really is that local interests serve local needs, and remote entities cannot really function that way, and rarely have much incentive to do so. They see an opportunity to make money, but have no reason to take care of those affected. It's an old old story.

However, market interests certainly DO repond to their consumers. If citizens are organized and smart, they can get corps to meet demands. Communicating can help, and boycotting works, because they see profits dry up. Enforcing good zoning laws protects neighborhoods. There are answers, but it's difficult for citizens to battle the big boys who have high priced attys. and are filling the pockets of your local commisioners.

You know all this, anyway.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...