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The Un-Escapable Grasp of Corporate Culture

Friends, comrades, uninvited guests, and quasi auto-erotic associations in a Freudian sort-of-way,

This is a bit of a memoire, spliced with a sentimentalist sob-story, with a keen amount of standing-on-my-soapbox-and-shouting- to-the-moon thrown in to consummate the following affair. In many ways, it could best be described as the Wrath of Joe, now that I think of it...

From the ages of 13/14 to roughly 18, maybe 17 actually, I had mastered, in no uncertain terms, Harvard Square and its immediate vicinity. It all started when I asked Harry Skegis, the single most Metal kid in highschool (at least until I usurped power with the advent of a particularly blasphemous shirt featuring a masturbating nun---but that's another matter entirely!), and he was a senior, and he had an awesome car, and when I asked him where I could find some obscure CDs, by some obscure bands. He knew, of course, and the answer was Second Coming in "Harvard Square." Later, Second Coming would gradually change to more mainstream bootlegs, and is now on some kind of vinyl only wave as of late, but then it was still pretty useful...'course, things change.

That was the beginning, of a lot of things, actually. It was the first time that the "goth girl" became a private fetish of mine, the first time a girl a little bit older than myself wanted to hookup (that's been an unchanged pattern!), the first time I was offered pot (which I don't recall if I accepted or not...hmmm...maybe it did fry some brain cells...), and the first time I began creeping my way through the city. Now, I found my store, picked up some stuff, Harry wondered if a cop had caught him stuffing his pot into his jacket, and we all wanted to get something to eat as we had left school around fourth period, right before lunch. We eventually made our way into what I then-and basically still do-considered to be a rat-hole of a building (the Garage), went to the left of both the escalator and the ramp, passing the stairs to the restrooms, and up the stairs to a nicely tucked pizza place. We all got some pizza, and it was quite good.

At that moment began a tradition I had kept up to January 2003: every trip into the city-excluding when I'm having lunch or supper with friends-concludes with two slices of pizza and a drink from Cafe Aventura. This is significant, as Cafe Aventura was the only thing that consistently guaranteed getting off of the T at Harvard Square. Yes, there's the bookstores, but they're not without difficulties.

You see, the Harvard Bookstore never quite has much of anything I'm looking for, it's actually quite rare that I find something, although, I must admit to giving them a fair amount of foot traffic in support of their war against Barnes and Noble. Schoenhof's is absolutely essential, but so is money in my bank account, so I therefore must avoid having more than twenty dollars on me anytime I go in there! Grolier's (when you've got that poetry craving) is a well deserved respite from the glut of corporate literary (and I use that term loosely) ventures, such as "Yellow Fields-A Novel", "The River Midnight, A Novel" and "Merric: The Vampire Chronicles, A Novel"...

Woe, woe, f**king woe...I just want to say, Anne Rice should disappear, literally! One moment she should wake-up, slip on her underwear, and phew, sucked into some unreachable dimension...which reminds me, dear Lord, if you suck Anne rice into the darkest threshold of the abyss, I promise to build several churches in your name, or drink a glass of Pepsi, whatever comes first......anyway, you get what I'm saying, Grolier's is a small oasis in the desert, but it doesn't help that there's a certain condescending quality to the owner every time I walk in, although I got a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye when I bought a copy of Keats's poems, so...

There's also Tea-luxe, but that's more of a treat, and you don't want to over do it. It was a preponderance of Tea-luxe that eventually lead my friend Cody and I into Curious Liquids before it closed down. So, striking my book shops and Tea-luxe, the only sustained reason to go into Harvard Square was Cafe Aventura. That's it folks; everything else has either closed down (an estimated 6 percent) or I've out grown (the decided majority). There's not all that much to Harvard Square, and it's becoming more so every passing year. With each year, the distinctive New England city culture gradually moves out of the Square and is replaced by this corporate "counter" culture synthesis, designed to cater to students living near by, or within, for seven or eight months out of the year-for the next four years, tourists, who you can always spot without bating a lash-they're the guys wearing the "Harvard" shirts and not jaywalking...bunch of wimps...and reject teenage boys and girls, and this is not the goth crowd. Firstly, the goths all managed to get college degrees of some sort, so they only come out for Manray's hell night, secondly, the goths actually have a coherent dress sense. The trilobites hanging around HS these days are some forsaken mismatch ensemble of every marketable "counter culture" image.

This said, I think you should be able to see why with the passage of time it has become gradually more difficult to justify going into HS. Today, I found the difficult turned up a notch, or two. I went into the Garage for my usual Aventura fix, as I turned to go up the stairs, I noticed a strange metal plating decorating the walls of "Aventura". Unswayed, I continued up the stairs, irking an eyebrow when I noticed the Panasonic Flat Screen TV mounted to the wall and the clear dividing of the "step down" that divide the two eating areas...but it still hadn't resonated yet; I had coerced myself into thinking that Cafe Aventura must have been making enough money to justify some renovating. I really didn't understand the cruel fate destiny had so chosen to lay before me until I looked towards the counter, the either Italian or Brazilian girl who worked behind the counter, who I immensely wanted to bone, was gone. In her place: some dumb Abercrombie and Fitch reject wearing a shirt that had the name Crazy Dough on it....

Torrents of disappointment came raining down. Still, the food looked exactly the same-pizza wise, they had all of Aventura's menu. So, I ordered two cheese and a pepsi, thinking that perhaps they copied Aventura's recipe too. They did not. This was substandard mall/suburb quality pizza. It was as bland as the state of Missouri and less cheesey (not in a good way). This is a-typical f**king pizza, they same you can get anywhere else, even Saint Louis University's cafeterias. The Latinos and Latina ( <3 sigh...) talking about Christ knows what, gone. The owners, with the vintage "Na`th" End Boston accent talking about the Red Sox, gone. Did I mention the chic behind the counter? Well she was gone too. Cafe Aventura is no more and in its place is another monument raised by the corporate fascists stabbing their way into the hearts of our cities for the sake of destroying all ethnic and regional distinctiveness and creating a mass marketable cattle, I mean, cash base, that they can heard into Abercrombie and Fitch.

No offense to anyone not from around here, but the beautiful thing about Boston is that a guy from, lets say, oh, somewhere in the mid-west (I'm thinking St. Louis, because I've grown to hate that city), well this guy comes here and feels horrendously out of place, perhaps even out of his league, when he gets into our city. Conversely though, that is what makes another state so appealing, so that when I guy from Boston goes to Arizona, aside from noticing the propensity of beautiful women, he also feels out of place. Okay, folks, that's why we travel, to go to a place different from home. But, in the grand design that is Nazism, I mean, American Capitalism, "we must homogenize the nation, that way we can increase corporate profits. "

Think I'm out of line? Consider this: corporations generally have to develop and then market several different advertising campaigns for one product, at least five due to the basic divisions of regions in the country, but even this isn't exact. For instance, New York and Massachusetts would be considered North East, however, there are glaring regional differences between Massachusetts and New York by virtue of Massachusetts being a part of New England, as such, New England itself will get a different (sometimes major, sometimes minor) marketing campaign than New York and the rest of the North East, and that's not too much. Companies don't like having to spend more money on advertising than they have too and the New York/New England difference cuts into the initial profits, as such it has been the goal of many national corporations to minimize the regional distinctions in the country and part of this is to stabilize "taste". Go to any mall, east to west, north to south, and increasingly you'll find the same ensemble of stores greeting you, either the same store, or owned by the same company with similar layout and product. This isn't just a matter of national stores, it's the SAME stores monopolizing EVERY mall trying to establish a national "taste", be it in food, clothing, types of music, whatever. This said, the biggest markets in any state are its big cities, and now the concentrated attempt to establish these national "tastes", these odes to the homogenized man, in the vestiges of individual expression in this country, our cities, has begun.

Our independent and individual businesses are fleeing to more obscure sectors of the city. Granted they're building said sectors up, but only to have the cattle culture move on in once they know the neighborhood is safe....essentially, the working class does its job, and still gets screwed in the end...although I think we've all come to accept this news quite matter-of-factly.

So where the hell am I going with this? Well, if you don't frequent the city all that much, or have never frequented a city all that much, then I suppose nowhere, really. But for those of you who have, for those of you who can read Walt Whitman's Mannahatta and see his words in your own metropolis, or not see them and wonder why, less you're lamenting the loss of those halcyon days, then you fully understand my present state of mild dismay.

King Joe