Dunkin’ Dunkin’ Dunkin’

From a “Letter to the Editor” published in 2014 in the West Essex Tribune

Dunkin’, Dunkin’, Dunkin’, let’s build another Dunkin’ Donuts. Or another frozen yogurt shop. Or another 7-Eleven. Do we build seven or eleven? And do we put one on the Oval or next to the pool?

Big-box store, big-box store, big-box store, go approve that new 42,000 square feet of retail space on Route 10. Asphalt, asphalt, asphalt — don’t forget parking. And honk, honk, honk, there’s just not enough traffic on that bridge.

Parking, traffic, driving. Driving, traffic, parking. Is there any hope at all? Can’t walk because seas of parking lots buffer store entrances. Can’t walk because you don’t want to get hit by a Suburban driving Fast and Furious out of a parking lot.

Corporate, corporate, corporate — Times Square has nothing on the number of new chain store signs all over town. We have become a Nordstrom Rack™, an off-price town selling itself out to distant corporate overlords. We have become a Circuit City™ — our last-ditch effort to save that haunted strip mall will only leave us with greater failure when these new stores close in a few years’ time. We have become a Borders™, failing to recognize the future of development, failing to raze and rezone.

Is Livingston’s worth measured by the number of Big Gulps or Coolattas or fat-free frozen yogurts found within a ten minute drive? Three points for every strip mall you pass. Five for every ton of carbon dioxide you emit. Extra credit if you’re not actually moving at all in Route 10 weekend traffic. Welcome to the Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la. Welcome to Arcade Fire’s mountain beyond mountains of dead shopping malls.

A few days ago, I was walking around somewhere and I was terrified. The place was desolate and abandoned, devoid of human life and spirit, exactly like that Bane haunted house that has come and gone. But this wasn’t a pop-up place; it was a permanent place; it was South Livingston Avenue. Walking on the street, I saw no signs of life. The streets are dying, the (real) stores are dying, the town is dying. Blue blue blue blue blue blue blue blue blue blue blue blue.