The Very Linked Story

This New Town

My old roommate Roland came back into town for a visit last weekend. He has been living up north and going to school at the University of Oregon for six years. We had a lot of catching up to do, and not much time to do it.

I live across town, so we planned to stop downtown to pick up some wine and tofu at Safeway. He drove.

I caught him taking an unexpected route, but I guessed what he was up to.

"In case you are wondering, I am going to drive past Standard Mechanic, to see if my Alfa Romeo is still gathering dust."

I nodded my approval.

"Oh, man, Standard Mechanic is completely gone."

We both craned our necks as we drove past. What was the garage is now a Starbucks, with a new asphalt parking lot.

"How do mechanics go out of business? Don’t they charge like $100 an hour?" I exclaimed.

"That sucks. I wonder if the Alfa ever rolled again," Roland mused.

"It might have been worth more as parts on eBay." I regretted saying it as soon as the words were out of my mouth.

"You and eBay should Just sneak off to Las Vegas and get hitched.”

At the next red light, he let me in on another detail of his navigational assault. "Do you mind if we stop at a WaMu ATM before we get to the store? I didn't have a chance to deposit my check in Eugene."

"Not at all. Go for it."

The WaMu was a circus. A green Orion tour bus was poised at the curb, delivering lines of graying passengers to the ATM and to an overloaded Starbucks.

"Wow. Saucy closed?" The picture windows and facade was the same, but everything inside was Starbucks business casual.

It was like seeing a hermit crab taking refuge in the shell of an old friend.

"It would seem so. I stopped going after Stacy got pregnant."

That was kinda our place. We were at Saucy when Erica got the call."

Erica was Roland's ex-girlfriend. Her life had broken from his when she sold a screenplay and moved to Los Angeles.

We idled there for a minute. Saucy had had customers but never a tour bus.

"I can deposit this later. Let's get to the store."

I was getting hungry. Stacy was at home cooking dinner, but I wasn't sure how far along she would be able to make it without the tofu.

A few steps into the supermarket, Roland started to laugh. "I was just looking for rice crackers. It looks like they took out the bulk foods," he made a wide sweeping motion with his arm, stopping at a little tan kiosk, "and put in a Starbucks!"

Laughing, we strolled along the aisle caps toward the wine selection.

"After you left Sacramento, city leaders got together and conspired to erase your history here," I declared.

"I'm sure that Starbucks makes a lot more money in these buildings than whatever they replaced. They class up an area, albeit in a sterile, soulless kind of way.  It can't be bad for city tax revenue."

"Just don't form any poignant memories at places other than at Starbucks. Then you are safe.

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