I just can’t shake it. Whenever I go to the big box stores or to the large malls and begin to walk around; I just get depressed. In my mind, thoughts of emptiness and forced happiness abound all around me. All I can see is a hollowness and highly efficient commercial planning. And even the social interaction between customers and retailers seems so sterile. Then you put the added volume of holiday* shopping. You have cranky patrons and after receiving the brunt of a couple of hundred, now equally nasty sales staff.
After a bit, I just want to grab what I came in to get and get out!
Then you have Newburyport’s Invitation Nights. No wonder they want to repeat it a third time! First, because we have a majority of artsy, funky stores downtown –not assembly-line ‘franchises’. All this set in a genuine Currier & Ives historic setting that would make Charles Dickens envious. Because you don’t have sales staff that have been trampled to death by an avalanche of soulless consumers; the mood is one of intense, genuine enthusiasm – and the experiences, you never know what you’ll find around the corner. And friends – what a great place to meet them, or be with family – I went up and down a couple of streets and adults were talking amongst themselves in giddy excitement. You could feel the anticipation – they were going to experience something you CAN NOT find at the Burlington Mall or at the Loop or even at the Liberty Mall.
I loved the extra touches done by non-commercial enterprises. The local churches have concerts and Christmas choirs. The Firehouse has plays, the Newburyport Art Association has unique displays and galleries. And the most exciting: an historical play and museum open house at the Custom House. They had food there too but people were so entranced by the show and exhibits, many forgot to grab something. And of course, we have almost a dozen places where you can sit around in a comfortable restaurant to be with friends and family.
The message, “You don’t have to be trapped into a buy-buy consumer-vortex – you can taste real American society with all its complexities.”
PS. There was one tiny little ‘downer’ to all that success – the lack of parking – I saw visitor cars parking as far as Lime Street to the East and Kent Street to the West and still more cars going up and down and all around looking for a parking space in vain.
* If it isn’t Christmas shopping – and Christ means nothing – then what’s the point? What, family? We’re supposed to do Pre-packaged, highly-defined social experiences? Ugh!