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Wal-margeddon: How I learned to stop worrying and love the savings

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO ZANE SPARLING

In my time here at the Lake Oswego Review, I've written about a lot of different subjects. (No, really, I swear!) But in reflection, it feels like everything comes back to the same darn thing. Call them paradigms, binary choices or conflicts, but most of what makes my writing interesting is finding a virtuous 'this' to compare to a dastardly 'that.' (You do find me interesting, right?) Some of my favorites have included Paper versus Plastic, Antiquity Mercantilism of the Proto-Balkans versus Real Housewives of New Jersey and 'Here is my New Column' versus 'Hey! Where are you going? Don't skip right to the police blotter! Wait, please, think of that as a reward for finishing my story!'

So it's funny when people assume that we limp-wristed writer-types form some kind of 'Fourth Estate' protecting 'Truth' and 'Beauty' from, like, the Huns or whatever. 'Cause, in actuality, we're more of the Pour-Arsenic-Into-The-Water-Supply-Because-We-Think-It'd-Make-For-A-Good-Op-Ed type of people. To put it in a different way, it's not in any journalist's best interest for anything to get resolved, ever. (And that's why writers make such good boyfriends, laaaadies.)

But, of course, the dream can't last forever. When I heard with absolute 100 percent certainty that Walmart was coming to Lake Oswego (i.e., when my 'friend' 'Geraldo' tweeted to me that he kinda, sorta had a dream about Walmart potentially glancing at L.O. for a half-second), I was happy. Just another 'problem' for me to 'solve' through 'insightful pun-based humor.' (And quotation marks. Lots and lots of quotation marks.) Little did I know that the columnist was about to become the, uh, thing the column was written about.

Ya see, word just came through on the AP Wire that Walmart, that epic big-box consolidator, has just signed an even bigger contract with Lake Oswego than expected. The Walmart MegaStore will now be built in a different location, so as to combine with the newly commissioned Grand Central Station for the Wal-Oswego-Streetcar-Line, and the now repurposed Walmart Interceptor Sewage Project and Diet Splenda Decanting Station. Oh yeah, and the location of this new complex?

The West End Building. (Deal with it.)

I always knew that, as a Mom-and-Pop-style commentator, I couldn't compete economically with the larger players. But now that Walmart's consolidated all the potential conflicts I could have used as inspiration for new articles (inspiracles?) into one mega-conflict, it looks like I may have hit my final deadline. Sure, I can still finish this article, but those countless plumbing jokes I had saved up for my 'Mario Brothers Five: Your Interceptor is in Another Castle' Extravaganza in late February? There's less hope for them than an octogenarian greeter with union sympathies.

Sigh. So it goes. Anyhow, the thing about Walmart is this. I could express my thoughts about Walmart. All my fanciful little 'opinions' about predatory pricing, the harms of de-unionization and whatnot. But isn't it so much more satisfying to make fun of others for expressing their opinions? Now, if you're like me, you've been rushing home every Thursday to get out the scissors, glue and tape so you can cut out all the 'Letters' in the L.O. Review and use them to help finish construction of the giant papier-mâché model of Rush Limbaugh you're building in your garage. Luckily, the glue hasn't quite dried on most of Rush-bo's left ear, and I was able to decipher part of what has been said about Walmart in the letters section of the Review.

As far as I can ascertain, the kerfuffle started when a certain Oswego-ite had the effrontery to suggest that people in L.O. might, just possibly, have a tad more discretionary income than other people around the globe. (Which they might enjoy spending on gilded stockings and extra-ruffle-y sleeves or whatever.) Which means we might not really need the 'savings' Walmart brings, and furthermore, that Walmart's irresponsible social and fiscal policies didn't really 'jive' with what we in Lake Oswego are 'all about.'

Thankfully, the lock-step populist army of the South Shore Street Gang was ready to quickly respond, and let everybody know that everything wasn't coming up roses on the Upper Lower East Side of Country Club.

One such correspondence read: 'Yo,' I don't know how they do it on the Nine Seven Oh Three Five - but here in da' Three Four, things be ruff all over da barrio. Real Talk.' - James D. Wuthersford the Third (July 28th).

In all seriousness, many of the letters pointed out the truism that the recession has affected all of us, and that all kinds of people live in L.O. Admittedly, the writers seemed suspiciously well employed to speak for the disenfranchised (perhaps the downtrodden were too busy standing in bread lines to write in?), and it's a tad, uh, amusing to hear 15 or so Oswegans simultaneously insist how different we all are, but hey, beggars can't be choosers, right?

But, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters to columnists is the future of column-writing, and, as such, it looks like I'm out of a job. With all the potential causes of civil disharmony and unrest squarely resting in the hands of a malevolent Sam's Club, I just won't have enough topics to write about.

Looks like the last conflict I'll be writing about is 'C'mon Zane, you need to be a productive member of society, and that usually involves putting on pants' vs. 'But there's a James Bond Movie Marathon on Spike, and this is only the tenth time I've seen it!'

Unless I change my mind.

Zane Sparling, a recent graduate from Lake Oswego High School, writes a twice-a-month column for the Lake Oswego Review.