Today a local donut and coffee shop will put up a "closed" sign that won't turn to "open" tomorrow. The owners of that independent purveyor of jelly donuts and joe are looking at the end of a 30 year era, one characterized by friendships forged at the counter and a quality, no-nonsense menu. The good stuff.
We all know how franchises are sucking up the little guys into a vacuum powered by the cheap electricity of convenience. Here, it's Dunkin Donuts. In other realms, it's WalMart or Barnes and Noble or Home Depot. They uniformly lack history, a deficit from which it is hard to salvage good service or community ties.
The Boss and I put over 15,000 miles on my car in the short year she's been alive as we traversed this small corner of our state, taking in the realities of rural New England. There's a quiet beauty in farms, orchards, wineries and fruit stands. There's melancholy in abandoned mills. The hills roll with the lilt of a practiced storyteller.
Then there are the strip malls, the coffee chains and the sprawling stations of convenient fuel that dot the Interstate. If those places have tales, they don't have the patience to tell them. And, anyway, their customers don't have listening ears.
Nostalgia has an important place in my world view, which dictates that nothing ever changes, not in the grand scheme of things. We evolve, we grow, we ascend and we transcend. I know we can't go back. Yet there are certain truths that fall in and out of favor, but can never be lost. Here in New England, there are elements of the impersonal chain store phemonemon that appeal to our thrifty stoicism. There is a convenience to the drive-thru that speaks to our fast walking, fast talking ways. But when wintertime comes, there's a need for warm familiarity that can't be replaced by something new.
And it's getting chilly out, right about now.