Friday, June 09, 2006

Incident At Las Cruces

Back around 1970, I was doing radio near Cape Cod. Just east of New Bedford, a new mall opened -- a big one, judging by its sign: "72 Stores, All Indoors." Seventy-two stores! What more could one ask for? What would you need that was not carried by six dozen shops?

Not big enough, I see. They became larger and larger. The Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota (near Minneapolis/St. Paul) has 520 stores, over 12,000 parking spaces --not counting those for the 12,000 employees-- can fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside (258 Statue of Liberty laying down, or 32 Boeing 747's parked). How big is big enough? Is big enough measured only by the maximum loading of the steel we can raise? The number of stores we think will buy into, and stay with, the place? And after a disaster of any possible origin, does the building withstand and do the customers continue?

Cruise ships are becoming larger and larger. 45,000-ton displacement, 1200-passenger comfortable ships are now the small fry of the industry. One popular ship, in the size becoming common (110,000 tons) holds 3,000 passengers and a crew of 1150; that's 4150 people onboard. The Queen Mary 2 may not hold quite as many people (3870), but it's probably the biggest at 151,400 tons. At least for now. What happens to the cruise industry if one of these goes down? It's hardly possible, given the way they are designed and built, but it sure is possible; you've heard of rogue waves and what can happen if a very large one hits a ship broadside. Highly unlikely, but the Titanic's sinking was also highly unlikely; a number of conditions just happened to add up the wrong way that night.

In 1957, musical satirist and radio comedian Stan Freberg did a skit on his show, which he called "Incident At Las Cruces." It was about two or three casinos in an imaginary gambling city in, perhaps, Nevada. Each tried to outdo the other in the size and drama of its stage show. Finally, to top all the others, one casino announced that it would detonate an H-bomb on its stage. That was the end of the casino, of all casinos, of Las Cruces. Greed and its manifestation in "bigger will earn us more" ended up with nothing.

I'm not afraid of growth. Let us have fast, steep roller coasters; but not so fast and steep that one comes crashing down because it had to be faster and steeper for no good reason than the cash register. A megachurch certainly looks impressive, especially if you are the pastor preaching to the crowd; but it can end up being little more than someone doing stand-up with no personal touch to these thousands.

We don't yearn for big cities, you know. We yearn for the small towns, the mom and pop stores.


Blogger Cold Josh Vail said...

Timely, this blog of yours.

Some years ago (another) unholy politician, the mayor here owned a parcel of land which was zoned ''Agriculture''. They built a major highway and another road connecting the town below us and al points south which bisected his property. Promptly he changed the zoning to ''Commercial'' and up went a sand and gravel place.

Today they are building a restaurant there, Normandin, a medium-sized chain. Next to this is are a Burger King and a Tim Horton's.

Now what with the syndrome of wanting to be the biggest and most attractive that we see today, cruise ships, casinos, and even hot dog stands, I see disaster.

Up here if Mom and Pop set up a hot dog stand, you can bet what you're sitting on that next year another Mom & Pop will build one across the street. Jealousy undoubtedly. ''I won't make any money, but I'll shut you down''.

Let me say a word about cruise ships. The St. Lawrence River is navigable for any ships under 750' all the way to the Lakes. That means that cruise ships can go no further than Montréal. Montréal to the eastern end of the mouth of the St. Lawrence is a ''fur piece''. In between that there are no dry docks big enough to accomodate these ships. There might be one floating drydock, but the width is only 120'.

So we have here a deal where a ship is built and outfitted to fit into the utmost desires of those who want to cruise at ease. However, passengers might not be aware that in any emergency, there are few places these ships can go to be repaired.

With this in mind, back we go to Mom & Pop who set up a hot dog stand. ''I will sell my hot dogs at cost if I have to, but you will not survive, and I do not care if my franks are of low quality either''.

Like the malls who shut down ''in town'' shopping and now Wal-Mart is shutting down malls.....Where will it end?

On a off-topic thread here, but I saw a documentary on Taiwan the other night and was wondering if people in Taiwan have their own style of Wal-Mart and sell Made in U.S.A. merchandise.

June 11, 2006 6:37 AM  

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