Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Column #24: I always shop local, except when I don't

Congratulations, fellow residents of the hottest city in the country. It’s Thanksgiving, it’s cold, and it’s about time we started thinking about buying dumb, useless presents for those friends, relatives and coworkers whom we don’t care much about or know very well.

Regular readers hopefully think of me as a proud and fervent supporter of all things local, independent, handmade, ethical, fair trade, organic and/or Socialist. Despite our recent election results, I am still Kentucky Proud, and have not yet applied for French citizenship.

There’s little than can excite me faster than a market full of cheeses grown by old hippie ladies, earrings depicting a child literally hugging a tree, and soaps made with hemp drained from Willie Nelson’s beard.

I hope that, during this year’s sprint of mindless consumerism and consumption, we can agree that there are many reasons why we should all be making gifts, or discovering them at one of the locally-owned boutiques around town that do so much to keep Louisville weird or, at least, less dull.

Recently, shops like The Green Haus, Acorn, Hey Tiger, Revelry, Consider and Creative have joined proven favorites The Makery, WHY Louisville, Dot Fox, Cherry Bomb, Ultra Pop and Work the Metal. We now have a Dandelion and a The Dandy Lion. We have two Regalos, and now we also have a Rigolo.

I also love our grand antique malls, home design shops and used bookstores.

So, should I be troubled by my growing awareness that there are some corporate chains whose goods I find equally desirable?

These chains fall into two categories: clothing or food. These are also categories that fall into the life-or-death section; though, if you asked me what my essential needs where, I’d probably list books, vinyl records and paintings of angry clowns before stopping to think that, well, no, those aren’t technically essential needs.

When it comes to clothing, it can be tough, in a town this size, to find clothes that I can call comfortable, relatively stylish, and affordable. When I lived in bigger cities, I was able to stock my drawers with thrift and vintage store finds. Not only is that tougher here, but, at 36, I also have to deal with the fact that some of my past choices are no longer quite so age-appropriate.

(As I age, I’ve realized that I’ll never be old enough for my older relatives. To them, I will always be 8. Anyone under 20, however, already seems to think that I’m “old”, 40 or 50, and “so weird.”)

So, to solve my essential clothing needs, I have found myself augmenting my locally handmade organic clothes with items from Banana Republic, The Gap and J. Crew. I have found clothing at Target, and I know that I’m not alone in that decision.

This month, I made my first ever trip to The Summit, the outdoor shopping plaza so far north of my neighborhood that I thought I had traveled to Canada. It wasn’t as painful as I had expected. The natives were polite, and on a brisk fall day, it’s more life-affirming to walk outside than to be stuck in an endless indoor mall.

The Summit is also home to Five Guys Burgers & Fries, whose fresh deliciousness thrills me every time. If the other fast food chains turned out products like this, I would visit them, too. Out West, I loved In-n-Out, and have missed them dearly.

On a healthier note, I am thankful for Subway, especially while on the road. What a concept – a chain where one can find relatively healthy food. Imagine if that caught on…

That’s about it: A handful of clothing stores, and a handful of fast food stops. I will be buying my people presents from my favorite local boutiques this year, again, as well as making some lovingly selected mix CDs.

But I will also be back up North soon, because that new frozen yogurt chain, 32 Degrees, is fantastic.

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