Friday, April 18, 2008

Regional Vices

#387 Regional Vices

There aren't many left. Walking down Eighth Avenue in the 1980s, there was a hand lettered sign in a grocery store window, "Coors Beer." Wow! The great flavor of the Rockies, right here in Midtown. Previously, Coors was available only in Denver and a few other mountain western cities. Who, then could resist, especially since it was illegally transported across state lines? Guess what? Coors is no better than Bud, and, back then, a lot more expensive. Now, you can get it at any gas station, supermarket or beer hall within 10-thousand miles of the Rockies.

It tasted better when it was contraband.

Lone Star Beer is following in Coors' footsteps and it was no big deal to begin with, except to a few thousand Texans with a sense of local pride.

In New York, we had our own regional beers. Knickerbocker, Rheingold, Piels, Schaeffer. No more. Those brands that still are made are made nowhere near the original breweries. And if you ask the supermarket for Schaeffer today, they'll look at you funny.

Cigarettes? Same story. Try to find Wings or Picayunes anywhere these days. They've been bought out and destroyed. (Picayune was regional to Louisiana. It was kind of a cross between Camel and Gauloise. Gauloise itself is no longer made in France. Production has been moved to Spain.)

You can hardly find a TV show that's regional, anymore. Anyone heard from Ugly George lately? Nah.

Regional magazines still abound. But they're not vices. Nothing that lame is a vice.

Even the lowly burger. Long Island had a chain of fast food stands called Wetsons. Greasy, high-calorie, high-sodium and delicious. One day, the closed and soon after, magically become Dunkin' Donuts, just like the Dunkin' Donuts on your corner, no matter where you live.

We have no regional vices anymore.

Even the massage parlors are franchised.

Record stores? Out of business unless you think of Barnes & Noble as "regional."

Radio? It's the same junk no matter where you go.

It's surprising that no one has tried to franchise white lightnin' -- unless you count Fleischmann's. And even that's not the vice it used to be since they reduced the proof to 80.

Our vices have become as institutionalized as our virtues.

The United States has become one monotonous thing from sea to shining sea.

Political corruption is no different in Georgia than it is in Maine. The same people are fixing horse races, boxing matches and basketball games in the same way, regardless of venue.

Maybe we can blame this on the original anti-regionalists, the dairy industry. That's who put the term "homogenized" into our vocabulary. They meant milk, not beer, cigarettes or fixed sporting events. But they're the ones started this whole thing.

Regional differences are a throwback to an earlier time.

It's no wonder everyone has to undergo diversity training. Else, there'd be no diversity at all.

Now, pass me a Picayune and a Coors, please.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

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