The Invasion of Wal-Mart in Them Thar Hills
Driving from California to Philadelphia, my husband and I were eager to explore quaint towns kissed with mom and pop stores and cafes. We conversed about the photos he would capture and the stories I would write—freshly uttered from the folks and heritage of each unique spot. I imagined old men playing chess and talking about the “good ole days” in Barbara shops with the twirling red and white signs, farmers pedaling their produce at local markets brimming with juicy home-grown melons and tomatoes, and age-old establishments that carved regional landscapes with charm and character. To our chagrin— we discovered there had been an invasion of franchises as far as the eye could see. Miles on end of Wal-Marts, Burger Kings, and KFC’s, like the sands of the Sahara, splayed over hills and valleys. Evil concrete people had ravaged the land and resurrected a monument to their franchise god—Wal-Mart sat king like planked by spawns of the franchise empire.
Crossing into southern Wyoming, I felt confident the invasion would have been averted by protesting town’s people who were proud of their rich western heritage. Like the pioneers of the past, Wyoming would stand guard against the defamation of its land. Years back when I had traveled to the Grand Tetons and marveled at their majestic stature, I knew no franchise could muscle down these mighty warriors.
Once again—I was disappointed by paved parking lots like grand entrances (lined with gold) to the looming cathedral in homage to the Wal-Mart clogging the skyline view. The people had tossed their saddles and drove in automobiles for their Starbucks double shot decaffeinated caramel macchiato with extra whip cream. They waddled in droves to the Burger Kings to slurp down shakes and whoppers. The trail heads lay weeping—alone no longer riddled with townspeople clamoring for exercise. Wal-Mart sneered as its aisles were stuffed with hikers who long ago hung up their boots.
We continued west seeking reprieve from the onslaught of the franchise front. Driving into Colorado—the highway dissolved into a dirt road and we celebrated with verve—screaming out of our windows—“we are free” like immigrants seeking new worlds. The oppression had ended or so we hoped. Creeping into the back side of small towns there appeared to be no evidence of franchise infiltration. We tiptoed into Grand Lake our eyes half closed afraid of a lone sighting but there was none. Rickety board sidewalks lined the old town, known for absolutely nothing except the grandeur of the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Skipping into shops I began to feel safe enough to speak with locals. We met George—a local of 43 years, who came from Houston one summer and never left. We ate lunch over bubbling rapids, hiked alongside Moose and Elk, and sipped wine on the porch of a historical restaurant nestled in the mountains. The sunset sprayed hues of orange and reds as the leaves of the aspens waved in the cool night air. Ah—indeed we had found a solace from the franchise militia—if even just for a day or two.
When it was time to continue east we bade Colorado good-bye with tears in our eyes—knowing the enemy was lurking. Pulling into the border of Kansas and Missouri—we waved a white flag—we were surrounded. Wal-Mart had defeated us in the land of strip malls where we were swallowed up. As I unpacked at my sister’s home in Overland Park—I realized I had forgotten my favorite bra and shorts—it was at that moment I knew I too would join the throes of shoppers wandering down the aisles searching, searching.
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.