Sunday, December 02, 2007

Macy's ate my childhood memories

If anybody out here in Portland grew up going to Meier and Frank at Christmas time, I have some advice: stay far away from Macy's. It will break your heart.

I can remember taking my niece and my baby brother to the Downtown Meier and Frank to ride the rickety old monorail and cruise through the bizarre Christmas scenes. Just getting to the Christmas floor--okay, half a floor--was an adventure. We would always take the escalators, which reached a point around the eighth floor where they narrowed and grew squeakier, as if a sudden twist in time had taken us back to the building's birth in 1932. Then you had to pass through the toys and Christmas decor sections, which was a test of will power. And then! There it was! A football-field of a room, filled with Christmas, crowned by a lengthy line to a sort of stage where you could watch children taking their turn on the jolly fat man's lap.

Now the entirety of "Santaland" is cramped in a basement room the size of my front room, where a secret turn of the faux-North Pole dwelling hides Santa from any chance sighting. And the price of a chance at Saint Nick? $16, although fancy packages are available. (Who gets wallets of their kid wheeling and dealing for presents with a stranger? Jeez!)

Santaland itself is bad enough, but upon leaving the store, which, by the way, has been so thoroughly refurbished and "renovated" that it is indistinguishable from Nordstroms, just 1 block away, I felt my heart crack with the memory of M&F's Christmas windows of yore. The sweet mechanical "12 Days of Christmas" is gone. In its stead are heartless and artless displays of this year's fashions.

We all knew that Macy's would not be the kind of business that aimed to be a part of our community. But this year, it became real to me. Community, tradition, fun--trivial details to a corporation that believes that homogenized shopping experiences are the secret to commercial success. And maybe they're right. After all, they're the ones in the position to buy out our local stores.

But they still lost my dollar.

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