Category Archives: Places

Business Comes & Goes, So Does a Culture

There were days when we would go downtown to shop. It wasn’t like going to the grocery or hardware store. No, this was something special, and we would dress for the occasion.  Mother would take her dress gloves out of the drawer, and along with her dress and high heels, she would take out a hat from a box. I would wear dress slacks, shiny shoes, and a sport coat. There were times when I too would wear a hat.

We rode the bus from uptown to downtown, and we weren’t all that out of place in the way we dressed. Most of the other people riding would be dressed in what we might now refer to as business casual.

Minneapolis_downtown_Powers_dept_store_1950sUpon arriving downtown, we might walk down the street and look in various store windows to see what was on display. Most of them of course were pitching their current sales, but there was competition among the variety of retailers as to who might have the most attractive window display.


Emporium tea room 1940-50s Minneapolis

Eventually we would enter a store, either through double doors which we would pull open, or by entering a revolving door which you or someone else would push to rotate your part of the large glass triangle, until you could enter the store. What awaited your eyes were a couple of things. Usually a store greeter, but not the disinterested couch potatoes who might greet you at Walmart. No, these would be smartly dressed people that knew how to smile. The other thing immediately noticed were the row upon row, of neatly arranged aisles with well placed merchandise on shelves, in displays, or on mannequins. As you made your way to the center of the store, there would be several elevators. Each elevator had a person inside the elevator who would open up the doors, or gate and doors for you to enter. They would then close the doors after everyone that could or wanted to get on. You then would tell them your floor, and they would make the selection for you. Each of these ‘operators’, wore some type of uniform, some with hats, most also wore gloves.

Sears_Tower_1988_1All that changed quickly as the suburbs began to erect large enclosed shopping malls. There were of course what we call strip malls. Stores that shared a large common parking lot and each retailer store were aligned side by side. That didn’t nearly have the impact of the enclosed shopping mall. Once they were constructed, many of the downtown stores simple opened their store in the new mall. This took a big toll on downtown retailers. They typically paid higher rates for taxes, most didn’t have convenient parking. They relied on nearby parking decks and lots, or those like us, who took city transportation. The downtown retailers didn’t maintain their greeters, elevator operators. Even their display windows became less interesting, a far simpler asthetic became the norm.

Those times seem strange to people unfamiliar with that era. Most downtowns have morphed into high rise condominiums, or permanent apartments. Either that or they were torn down as if part of a failed social experiment.

All that has changed again. Many shopping malls are skeletons of what they once were. Some malls have closed entirely. All this due to the evolution brought on by the Internet. The Amazon shopping model has become the new norm. First it was mail order. The big retailers like Sears, JC Penny adapted well. Then the Internet became a ready made 24/7 sales facility. Display windows are now the Internet tabs to click and expand. People still shop, the delivery times are quick and you might not even get out of your night clothes. Social interaction is minimized.


Oldest department store company in the US is disappearing entirely from Fifth Avenue after 104 years

The New York Post just came out with a lament on how much the retail store front is disappearing, and how it’s changing the character of the city.


Sears closed last store in Chicago Illinois

The Chicago Tribune opines over the loss of the last Chicago Sears store. The once mighty retail giant, headquartered in Chicago is gone. There building tower still stands, but was sold off years before.

It’s fundamentally changing business, but furthermore, it’s removing us from personal interaction and social restraint. If social media is the replacement for the way friends might meet at the mall, or take day trips downtown, it’s a poor substitute.

Along with the loss of social skills comes another challenge, the need for fewer people. Just like the elevator operators, greeters and floor persons, all will disappear when picking and delivery become fully automated.

Retail has indeed changed, and so too has the culture.

Another Life Lesson to Be Learned

I recently finished reading a book which I found profound and insightful, “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz.The Four Agreements
Of course there are innumerable books on human understanding, self-help and boisterous guides and DVD’s on becoming a better you. I’ve read several and there are good and wise words in many, however I find myself continually seeking practical solutions for everyday living which I either don’t get from these texts or unable to apply in my life.

Then along comes this book, which I must admit, the 4 topics of focus are things I’ve heard one way or another before. Perhaps this time, I get it because of the way he explains. Here are the topics he writes on and then explains in examples.

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

These all seem simple enough until you try to apply them. I’m going to use this as a structure to examine a current event of which some people are familiar. For others not aware of Jeremy Clarkson as a presenter for the BBC program “Top Gear“, or are unaware of the use of political correctness in society, I suggest you skip the rest of my post and click on this link for an explanation of The Four Agreements.

Being offended is practically a national past time for a lot of people. I routinely read or hear how this person is a racist or homophobic because of what they said. It’s usually a charge pronounced against someone who has notoriety or to dismiss someone’s point of view that another disagrees. Of course it’s a special dividend when this verbal offense can be litigated for significant sums of money as in the case for Clarkson and the BBC.

Top Gear BBC presentersAfter all the years of being a presenter, Clarkson and his form of humor should be well understood by his employers and the public at large who view or listen to his public diatribes.

Clarkson may have grown out of short pants, but he still speaks as though a school boy, thinking everything he says is clever even if it sounds stupid. This is part of what attracts viewing audience to the Top Gear automotive review program as part of his normal prevarication. I can only imagine how far he may stray with his unfiltered mouth after intoxication.

Is Clarkson clever? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. He throws out lines of thought without considering who might be sensitive receptors. You can witness repeated topics or names are used because he has special disdain for anyone connected with said topic.

Here’s why he’s still around.
✔ – He’s a big lout that does have a sense of humor.
✔ – He’s not boring, clever enough to attract a large audience.
✔ – He’s a train wreck in motion and people seem to be attracted to this as much as their tabloid news.

The thing that prompts his lack of sensitivity is the reaction he gets when he pokes fun at people or their beliefs. Mel Brooks produced a movie called, “Blazing Saddles“, which probably couldn’t be made now, but expressly used almost every pejorative he knew to illustrate the stupidity of racism, bigotry and hatred for others. The society around Clarkson has changed into complainers who have managed to use the law and courts to censor people like him. It’s as if they can create a magical world of everyone holding hands and singing “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing . . “, while ignoring very serious societal problems of far greater magnitude.

I understand people want everyone to be treated fairly, but the truth is, people think whatever they want in spite of someone else and if we want to mature as a society we need to expect people will say things without our consideration. Perhaps its time we get on with our business and stop worrying what the Clarkson’s of the world say or think, because in the end it shouldn’t matter.

Miguel Ruiz states it better; There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.”

Example of his non-sensitive nature humor:
Jeremy Clarkson Twitter @JeremyClarkson
I’m not a racist. I am currently sitting in a bar with a man who lives quite near Wales.

The Reasons to Go to War

I don’t pretend to be a learned scholar, however this is what I believe to be correct. Your opinion may vary from mine on this topic.

My rational for participating in any international conflict are simply my own. I’m a Marine Corps veteran during the Viet Nam war, but not a combat veteran. I don’t offer this opinion as some do that are heroes or have special expertise on the subject. I do have the benefit of reasonable perspective. If you don’t have principles by which you stand then obviously you have no principles. That shouldn’t suggest being stubborn is right, it just means you won’t be goaded or intimidated into making bad decisions despite all of the variety of public opinion. Polls shouldn’t inform your principles, they just indicate a popular opinion. Remember this example, public opinion used to support slavery.

MCB Twentynine PalmsI’m a General Smedley Butler type of Marine. He became a pariah for politicians because he said this; “war is a racket“. I tend to side with him. He didn’t say that to be clever, he knew it from first hand experience and was honest. If you care to read more honest assessment as to why we’re in Afghanistan, go to this link. Why We Fight II.

In almost any conflict, foreign or domestic, I think 3 basic questions need to be raised and answered with certainty.
  1. Can I avoid this fight or is this fight inevitable? If inevitable, get the best data and answer with facts as to why this is the situation. Emotional reactions tend to be the worst solutions.
  2. Is avoiding this conflict life threatening for my country, family or I, or are there peaceful options to prevent this fight?
  3. Assuming, leaders have struggled, agonized and sought viable options and remedies, then what will it take to win the war?

– a) What resources are necessary?
– b) How devastating will this conflict be?
– c) How committed is your support and logistics for the long-term struggle and the frequent reversals of fortune that are part of a war?
– d) Were we invited to this conflict? If so, what are the motivations of those making the request?

Notice when you get to questions contained in number 3, there isn’t anything about exit strategy, purpose, or duration. Why do you think those questions aren’t necessary? Well here’s the ugly truth about war or any global conflict, duration and exit strategy are something invoked by the media or politicians that know very little about the nature of a war. You don’t win wars with the strategies of Korea, Viet Nam, or what we did in Iraq. All or nothing has to be the aim. If you can’t commit 100% as we did in WWII, then you haven’t satisfactorily and truthfully answered the 1st question let alone any of the others. Don’t send inadequate resources of men and material, because you think that you can limit losses by employing that type of strategy. Your enemy won’t adjust their goals based on weak commitment. If anything, it emboldens them to be even more aggressive. Only when the opposition has been totally brought to their knees, when they are willing to sign an armistice without pre-conditions, have you got an exit strategy that works.

WWII became necessary because WWI wasn’t settled. It seems there are historians still arguing over that one. People might also say Viet Nam is peaceful now and we didn’t win that war. That’s true because our answers to questions 1 & 2 were wrong. We weren’t required to be there to save our country from more aggressive conflict(s) despite the answers some of our politicians decided and explained to the public. False data gives you Viet Nam and Iraq as well as I believe, Afghanistan. I don’t entertain the debate about whether George Bush lied about the war in Iraq. Why don’t we need to know if he lied? Here’s the answer based on logic, you get the same answer when you know the right questions to ask. What’s important is the answers to the questions previously stated, not whether he lied or told the truth. Obama with leaders meeting on SyriaIf the data is wrong and the answers to questions 1 & 2 were false, you get the same results as if he lied. I think he believed it was the right thing to do and so did the vast majority of each political party at that time. Only when hindsight and public opinion turned against their decisions, did one party almost unilaterally decide it was wrong. Problems originate and so does endless debate when you don’t have the right answers to those first 3 questions.

I know some who read this will misunderstand and perceive me as too certain or with answers too simple. Believe me these aren’t simple questions and neither are the answers trivial. The questions asked require long thought, and lengthy debate. If you believe in God, then it’s time for some serious prayer. Those prayers shouldn’t be about asking for God’s support or approval. They should be about what’s the best course of action and be open to the thought that you might be wrong. Lincoln answered this type of question best; .. my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right“. Getting that answer is the most difficult problem and may not come in the form expected.

The genuine struggle for anyone required to make this type of decision, is in trying to get the best information from every source possible and not base a response on the pressure that something must be done. It’s not a hawk or dove or ideology type of decision.

Chosin ResevoirMaking a choice one way or another shouldn’t be about political party affiliation or successful victory at the ballot box. Sometimes doing nothing at all is the best and most circumspect course of action. That can be easily misunderstood by the public as procrastination, but in point of fact, rushing into a bad decision doesn’t improve the decision.

Click on this link: Bill Moyer’s Extended Interview with Andrew Bacevich