Sunday, December 5, 2010

Now All We Need Up Here Is a Dave and Buster’s

Thanks to big-box retail, living in Upper Manhattan has recently become more affordable/bearable. Since the last thing I want is to risk losing my born-again bohemian street cred, I buy locally as often as I can. But I’m on a budget and can’t afford to get the bulk of my produce, fish, and pre-made baked goods from farmers’ markets, nor can I bring myself to pay $45 for a lamp at the family-owned neighborhood housewares store when I can now trot across town to get a comparable-quality one from Target for $24.99.

Out of all these glorious new uptown chain stores, the apple of my eye is Costco (which one of my Upper East Side friends once said has “transformed [her] life”). It’s the best club I’ve ever belonged to, as it saves me some cash-money and reminds me of the merry bulk-shopping trips to Sam’s Club I used to take with my parents when I was coming of age.

Being inside of a Costco (or its equivalent) is like being inside of a casino – you’re surrounded by every walk of life. Women and men (of every race and color) from every age bracket, education level, and nearly every socioeconomic status are represented. Suburban soccer moms, blue-collar workers, prep-school jocks, the tattooed and body pierced, immigrants who don’t speak English, immigrants who are English. It’s what America is supposed to look like. Women with Chanel purses respectfully debate the merits of competing brands of detergent with women wearing glasses held together with scotch tape. You can bump into a couple with matching cable-knit “Yale Alumni” sweaters joshing around with men in bandanas and gold chains, as they all come together to sample paper cups of red lentils or chunks of whole-grain bread. I haven’t seen a melting pot (all at once) this deep in a mom-and-pop store or at the average local strip mall. And this is something I’ve noticed in Costcos/Sam’s Clubs/BJ’s that are located outside of the New York metropolitan area.

Whenever I’m in my new Costco I don’t end up buying all that much. Whenever I’m in a casino I end up hardly gambling at all. Somehow, subconsciously, I’m in it for the atmosphere.

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