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The West - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
The West
One of the interesting things about spending time in Idaho is that it keeps reminding me of other places I've spent time west of the Rockies. The hills by my sister's house look a good deal like the ones south and east of San Jose or the drier areas on the leeward side of Mt. Diablo. The steep canyons cut by thin, forceful rivers and streams approximate ones you see throughout the Rockies and Sierras. The descent into Boise from the northeast is eerily like the descent into Chico in the Central Valley. And the higher mountains resembles their kin throughout the region.

It's not just the landscape I'm talking about, though. There's something about the way that major thoroughfares look, the mixture of independent businesses and chains that line them, that is evocative of the West even if the mountains in the distance are obscured by darkness. I suppose what makes Boise a nice place to live -- the people here seem pretty devoted to it -- is that it's a city, though a small one, that feels like an elaboration on the towns you see driving U.S. highways in California or Washington or even Arizona. The presence of the river in the middle of everything is telling, because it still feels semi-rural, despite the fact that the city's biggest buildings and busiest locales are only blocks away.

I realize, in writing this, that I'm projecting more than usual here. Boise was largely a blank space in my cognitive map of the United States until this trip. Being the cartography-obsessed person that I am, I have spent a great many hours researching various portions of the country. But southern Idaho was never one of them. If I readily perceive likeness here, then, it's at least in part because humans are metaphor-making creatures when they are confronted by the new. Nevertheless, I am convinced that you could drop someone in the hills behind my sister's neighborhood and tell them they were in rural California or Washington or Colorado without them perceiving the ruse. The most distinctive feature there is the silence, which belies their proximity to Boise. Aside from that, though, the place would be perfect for any number of generic location shots. If it were in Canada, I'm sure it would be used to that end.

Current Location: 83714

10 comments or Leave a comment
chefxh From: chefxh Date: August 7th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I like Boise a lot.

*grin* You're just not used to water on TOP of the ground anymore.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 8th, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
At least the sort that meanders peacefully!
flw From: flw Date: August 7th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
When I see the grid on gmaps, I assume it is going to be the same block by block tangle of minimalls and walmarts as anywhere else. The only place I've ever been where people do things differently from place to place is Appalachia. You really have to work hard to find a place where a national chain hasn't buried every local business yet.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 8th, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Well, that's true to an extent. But independent businesses still make it in some places. They do in Tucson, even. I don't want to sound like an optimist, but there is still difference to be discerned.
flw From: flw Date: August 8th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This is the 90% problem. If you aim to make 90% of the people happy, there will be twenty other stores doing the same thing. So, if you're lucky, you'll get 5% of the market. Now economics teaches us that the "wise" businessman should aim for the 10% that's left over, and corner the market on peculiarity. But guess what? Peculiar people are all peculiar for different reasons and in the end you only end up getting 5% of the 10% left over. So, what are we left with? 20 stores all with the exact same crap...
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 9th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Right. But sometimes it's not just the crap that matters, but how that crap is filtered by the recommendations of the people selling it. Most independent bookstores were lamer than B&N content-wise, yet the experience they provided was more rewarding.
flw From: flw Date: August 9th, 2008 05:35 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The B&N in Tucson is great. I was stunned, angry and intrigued.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 9th, 2008 06:36 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The one we hang out at, in Foothills Mall, has more Christian types. But the staff is smart, helpful and, as far as I can tell, full of people who are proudly out of the closet. And there are plenty of good books amid the Bible study guides.
flw From: flw Date: August 9th, 2008 07:12 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Agh! Don't get me started. We were trying to watch 30 Days the Morgan Spurlock show... and in this episode an atheist goes to live with Christians. I couldn't watch for five seconds. FIVE seconds. It is impossible for me to deal with Christians unless there is a total power imbalance in my favor. Like, if I had a UFO and I was watching them with "laser cameras" or some crap, I could listen to a Christian for hours. It'd be like watching chimpanzees or other wild animals, but if you throw a person in amongst the apes, and the apes are mauling the person... whose side are you on? The apes of course.
flw From: flw Date: August 9th, 2008 05:43 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The whole purpose of a store like B&N is to put all the small bookstores out of business by actually being better, now the question is, once they put everyone out of business, do they stay better, or do they slowly creep toward their ideal business model: 500 copies of Oprah's Book of the Week in front, and a "We can order that for you" for everything else.

Have you noticed this thingy... the "everyone's got the same crap" effect? Like every store has pens, and a largish variety of them, but they have the exact same largish variety of pens. No place has an oddball choice, they might have a weird pen, but you go to the next CVS/Fry's/Walmart/Target/K-mart down the street and they have exactly the same oddball choice. It's weird. It's really, really weird.

For so many things, it's like no one wants our business. They actively REJECT it, in fact.

We are resorting to just buying everything online. The problem is I like going out. There's just NO CHOICE anymore.
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