A corner store…

Resupply days: my least favorite of days. To the un-initiated they sound wonderful: not trudging all day over mountain after mountain, nearly unrestricted eating of rich town food, catching up with family, maybe a shower, maybe a bed, but to the hiker they spell trouble. Too many hikers find their bankrolls dwindling on town days, many cannot resist a night, or two, sometimes three renting a room… on and on the pitfalls go.

Yesterday I told myself I was making up time and committed myself to walking to the Brown Mountain Creek Shelter, 18.3 miles further than where I had stayed the previous night. By twilight I was nowhere close and then decided to stop and eat as I often do- but I was committed. I arrived at Brown Mountain after 8 hours and 55 minutes of walking over the course of the day, over the course of the “day”, by arriving not long after 4 AM. Not much sleep I awoke at 7 feeling refreshed and made the trek into town.


Stopping at the road to check my guidebook for which way to hitch a car pulled over and the driver rolled down the window. A two time thru-hiker he was going where I needed to go and though he normally runs a business charging for rides, he stops and picks up hikers he passes for free. I asked him about a locally owned greasy spoon/diner type resturant.

They’re all gone. Frank’s for the Memories, a favorite among hikers closed this last year, though it is yet in the guidebook it is no more. Another option, Hardee’s, not in town, of course, but on the road upon the outskirts so as to better funnell money out of the local economy was not an option for me. My next downtown option, Bluedogart Cafe was a bit too uppity for my taste. I want my breakfast heavy on the meat and cooked in lard, a wrap on the menu is almost a certain no go. No unlimited coffee, more than $1.50 for a cup of coffee? Passing Lewis’ Grocery and Deli I stopped in and was delighted to find and old school corner grocer, surprised they still exist and with a lunch counter. Unfortunatly, their fare was but burgers and the coffee machine was no more. Amazingly the purveyer said that he wished he had more at his home, living nearby, but that he had finished it all this morning and had no more to offer me. Nothing like an actual owner/operator business and not a multination mega-conglomerate, but more on that later. On speaking with many I heard a time of two that Kenny’s Burgers on the outskirts of town may fit the bill, so there I went.

Breakfast was over, and coffee wasn’t unlimited but at .50 cents a pop I ate what I gots and I wasn’t dissapointed, the equilivent of a whole chicken, 8 pieces, fried and a, okay, three large coffees. Time there finished, bird gone I left on my next errand, groceries. Wanting to support what is both a dying breed as well as likely the cornerstone of a sustainable future economy I first went to Lewis’ Grocery and Deli and I was not dissapointed.

I wasn’t able to do much of my grocery shopping, but they were both willing and able to sell me one stick of butter, not limited by packing or automated stocking systems and able to not sell but give me only the olive oil I needed, going home to get his own and filling my bottle for me. Hours I spent talking and fellowshiping, over the course of which I ate again and had a delightful time. If I hadn’t more to do I’d probably be there yet.

A new theme is emering over the course of this journey, the dying small town. It’s clear that Buena Vista once had a thriving downtown. Empty storefronts and little shops of varying eclectic character are now what populates the city center; populating, but by the skin of their teeth.

What is it about cheaper and faster that has so captured America? It’s like America’s on crack, which is only fitting after it flooded the ghetto’s with drugs in the 60’s and 70’s so as to styme the work of the civil rights movement- it may be fun for a minute but it only kills in the long run, like a self-checkout line for the soul. A moments convienance or a morning’s rush to save a second- and costs a job, or a life. Where do our priorites lie? Does the economic security of the Kroger cashier concern us at all, do the lives and livlihoods of the people of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia cause us a moments pause or is it only the number at the bottom of our KU bill that merits our concern?

I’m neither too neive or too cynical, I know these things matter to you, the issue is that you are left without a meaningful choice. This also isn’t a duality, it isn’t either black or white as so often there is no meaningful choice and no other viable option. Like a two-party system, bad and possibly worse are your only options and in an ever changing world even those offering an alternative are left without the luxury of offerring too much in the way of true choices in terms of sustainability and social responsibility given the constraints of their own viability. How is Lewis’ Grocery and Deli possibly going to compete with a Wal-Mart Supercenter – – – unless we all make a determined and concious choice to put our money where our mouths are.

I know these are hard words and I know it’s not easy to make a conscious decision to spend more for something you know you can get cheaper elsewhere; something that can be bought more conviently and in a way and place that can save you time and hassle, as well as money- but how often is the right thing to do the easy thing to do?

Everytime someone goes to a chain rather than support a local establishment 30% to 40% more of that money is leaving the local economy. Every time it happens it becomes a little harder for everyone to find a local establishment to support. Each time local establishments must not increase wages as they otherwise would without said bottom line focused competition. Every time your local options grow a little smaller, each time they become more like the chains to compete. Each time your own wages get brought down a little lower and each time your labor powere diminished.

What true sway does the local workforce have when labor can be given to younger and less experienced persons?

What power does an employee have when their job can be shipped to China at a moments notice?

People don’t often realize it, but the people have the power. These things can only occur so long as the social body lets it. The minute enough people say no to the corporations, to the governments then the powers of this world must quiver and quake.

The power isn’t in the vote, the vote is dead, what real choice is there? Did anything change after the 14th Amendment? Did anything change after women’s suffrage? Did anything change after the Voting Rights Act?

But did anything change after the Montgomery Bus Boycott?

Political, legal change only occurs because the change is already on it’s way. We’ve only had significant, substantial social changes because We, the People made the change and the powers that be were forced to change. It’s clear from the history of this great nation that that’s the way it’s always worked, and that it’s always been intended to work that way. Forget not that from the very beginning we were founded upon the following words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

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