retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There was a terrific piece in the Los Angeles Times the other day that taught me two important lessons.

The first one came from the subject of the story - a young woman named Jacquelyn Carr who came to Los Angeles to find fame and fortune. She had an apartment, a car and a job. Living the dream. But she lost her job, and her parents were unable to pitch in on her rent. She had to save money. So she did something radical for a resident of the City of Angeles - she sold her car and decided to start taking the bus. The change has meant that her life is both less convenient and far more textured - she has been exposed to different levels of the city’s population that might have been invisible before, and she has learned to appreciate these people. It is a terrific story and worth reading in its entirety; it reminded me how important it is for all of us to not allow ourselves to be trapped in any sort of bubble. Good lesson.

The other lesson is this. I have many times said here on MNB, not without considerable regret, that I feel strongly that the newspaper business is dying. But in reading that Times story, it occurred to me that when newspapers fade away, it will mean that these kinds of stories - simple and unhurried and thoughtful and unexpected - will not be written much anymore. We will be poorer when that happens.

Sunday night is the Academy Awards, so I might as well take a shot and do some predicting.

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

(I have not seen Precious yet, so that is just a guess based on what I’ve been reading.) But I’m good with all these movies and actors winning, if that’s what happens. We’ll see.

During my Pacific Northwest travels of the past week or so, I’ve had a wide range of different foods...

At Lola’s in Seattle, I had a wonderful breakfast - the green egg scramble (which I ordered in observance of Dr. Seuss’s birthday), scallions, dill, fontina, garlic fried potatoes, and bacon - which was hearty and delicious.

At Henry’s Tavern in Portland, Oregon, I had a terrific Wild Alaskan Coho Salmon sandwich washed down by a Widmer Drop Top Amber Ale.

At Deschutes Brewery & Public House, also in Portland, I had the excellent Cinder Cone Red Ale (which they say they are discontinuing from the menu, which is a shame), and balanced it out with the first Elk Burger I’ve ever eaten, served with Roasted Shallot and Thyme Aïoli, Gruyere Cheese and Sweet Field Greens. I hope it isn’t the last Elk Burger I eat, because it was fabulous.

And, at a Burgerville, still my favorite fast food joint, I had a Yukon & White Bean Basil Burger, topped with basil aioli, fresh tomato and leaf lettuce on a nine grain bun - unlike anything you’d get at Mickey D’s. I also had a delicious Triple Berry Blast smoothie - which was great.

A good week.

I was looking forward to Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, but must admit I was disappointed by it. It is amazing to look at, with nail-biting tension, and created with the skill and care that you’d expect from one of America’s great directors. But it left me empty somehow, like it was much ado about nothing. I’m not sure why, but it just didn’t turn me on.

I don’t read many celebrity-authored books, but I made an exception for Craig Ferguson’s “American on Purpose,” which is a memoir by the Scottish host of the late night television program. The book, which strikes me as painfully honest in the telling, takes Ferguson through a life filled with abusive teachers, crazy drug use, dysfunctional relationships, and alcoholic dementia. In doing so, he never loses his sense of humor - “American on Purpose” is frequently laugh out loud funny, and definitely worth reading.

Because of my travel schedule, I was unable to attend the public memorial for author Robert B. Parker in Boston, but the Washington Post website reprinted the eulogy delivered by his son, David. It is extraordinarily touching, but there was one passage in particular in which David Parker explained what he had learned and absorbed from his father. It is worth reprinting here, because it just seems like the definition of how to be a man...of how to be a complete person:

“Like his, my intimate relationships are abiding, loyal, deep and passionate. Like him, I think that what one does, one should do well. If we like eating we should eat well, we should cultivate our senses, we should dress well and learn what suits us, we should play at things that matter and not be idle or trivial.

We should travel and know something of the world, we should learn another language. We should view all things, except romantic love, skeptically. We should puncture piety, challenge orthodoxy, we should be secular. We should be cultured without being effete, erudite without being pompous, smart without being glib. We should follow our own law consistently. People we love should know that we won't let them down. We should be funny.”

Works for me. On every level.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: