10. A top ten list of reasons to go to Wal-Mart should include some comment about the way their business model acts like a virus, latching onto a community and sucking it dry. But I don't want to begin there, because really, what more could be said than has been shouted from so many other blogs, books, and documentary exposés. What good would it do to mention how sad it seems to me that so much of the county's (and our own) Christmas shopping was done under the watchful eye of the big yellow smile. Or that I feel like a miner forced to shop at the company store, or a communist in a bread line, except that instead of standing in line at the only place in town that has bread, I'm standing in line at the only place in town that has anything.
9. Grover mentioned this in his blog last month, but there is the whole "degradation of food quality" issue at Wal-Mart, like the abominable donuts with their three and four layers of glaze, frosting, striping and sprinkles, colored in neon greens and blues and filled with a corn syrup/Crisco cocktail that can scarcely be considered "food." I mentioned the donuts to a woman behind the cake counter once, being careful to sound neutral and disinterested when I asked her if she was the one who decorated the donuts.
"Noooo," she said, with a sideways glance at the mutant pastries in the cases against the wall. "Those are done by the night people."
The "night people," are apparently a group of second class (or maybe third class) citizens who work all hours of the night wreaking havoc on what would other-wise be a fairly tame donut case at Wal-Mart. I picture frosting zombies holding pastry tubes in stiff outstretched arms, layering sprinkles through glazed-over eyes and limp lower lips.)
8. And its not just donuts. Produce at Wal-Mart, while priced fairly reasonably, is often either over-ripe, or green, hard, and woody. Anemic tomatoes, limp spinach, and bitter cucumbers make for sad salads.
7. Which, of course, is not a really fair argument against Wal-Mart, at least not in Athens, a hippie town with a year-round farmers market that sells the freshest of produce. But unless your schedule and your budget line up with the Market's, then your only other real alternative is the Kroger, which is open late, but suffers from the same price problems that the farmer's market does.
6. So we find ourselves going to Wal-Mart at least three times a week for food, light bulbs, feminine products, tooth paste, batteries, diapers, etc etc etc and we're getting to know some of the regular clerks who are glad to have work where they can get it, and we shop next to the same people every week and you can just tell how pleased so many of them are with the sheer size of the carts, the shelves, the selection, the falling prices, and of course, the mutant donuts.
5. And I'm beginning to think that I am too hard on Wal-Mart, too hypocritical, too holier than thou ("thou," of course being everyone else pushing a cart in the store, holier than the other poor families sitting in line to take family photos with cheap film in dated lighting that will be printed on cheap paper with sickly color values, and certainly holier than the rag-tag teenagers playing guitar hero in the back end of Seasonal).
4. And maybe there's a service Wal-Mart provides even to the self-righteous. By monopolizing the economy Wal-Mart maintains a steady enough level of odiouosity (get it? state of being odious) to keep the noses of customers like me sufficiently turned up in disgust, even as we are pushing our carts down the aisle. Thus we somehow justify our patronage with the negative feelings conjured up by being in the store.
3. In other words We get to feel self-righteous, holier than thou, and perfectly disgusted, and Wal-Mart still gets our money.
2. And so much of what we buy at Wal-Mart ends up breaking--mirrors, chairs, dishes, hangers--because we bought the "Great Value" brand at $2.42, instead of buying the national brand at $2.72, and the savings we supposedly see end up a wash anyway because we've got to go back and replace all the broken stuff.
1. Which was the case this year, with our own Wal-Mart portrait studio pictures, which we spent too much on, because we wanted the package deal that gave us enough little photos to send to our families. After spending 30$ and waiting two weeks for the prints to come back, we were left with what amounted to poorly developed snapshots of our boys that looked like bad school pictures. So, in frustration with Wal-Mart, I dressed the boys up in their Christmas best and took them and a camera to the park to have my own photo shoot, which turned out fairly well. And, then, thank heaven for Wal-Mart, I was able to print order them online at the one hour photo booth and we got the new photos sent off to our families on Christmas eve.
So, here they are. I don't know what to say, except that this is life in Athens. When Wal-Mart gives you unripe lemons, make Lemonade, extra high fructose corn syrup.
Wal-Mart aside, (and actually, thanks in-part to Wal-mart) we did have a fabulous Christmas--two days of relaxed playtime with the boys, just enough really good food, and lots of thoughtful gifts given and received.
We made a Japanese Christmas Cake for Christmas Eve, read the Christmas Story with Callan, and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. We also made Sour Cream Twists (amazing Fitzgerald tradition!) and Mel and I had just about all the gifts taken care of by midnight.
The one gift that proved problematic was a rocking chair that Callan and I refinished for Melissa. We salvaged it from a move-out a week ago and it had a lot of cigarette smoke damage. Long story short--Callan and I sanded and stripped the chair and refinished it and bought new cushions for it, but the final coat of finish was still tacky on Christmas eve and the fumes were too much so we couldn't have it in the house. Luckily our neighbors were out of town and they had given me a key so I put it in their kitchen until the day after Christmas when we finally brought the chair inside.
The new seat in the house is everyone's favorite. Callan and Nolan probably spend a half an hour each sitting in it, reading books, and trying to make the rocker glide back and forth. Nolan in particular is fond of it.