Quit cussing, Crash

I just finished reading the current issue of your publication. It was the first time I had seen a copy and I was impressed by the graphics, writing, and even the ads.

One thing did not please me, however. I am not a prude. During my wartime military experience, my speech, like that of my comrades-in-arms, was comprised of about 75% blasphemy, fecal references and synonyms for fornication. In those days, one could spot someone who was due to be rotated stateside, separate from the Air Force or go home on leave by the sudden, conspicuous absence of profanity in his speech. This was not uncommon for 18 to 20–year-old immature boys facing adversity, danger and gross institutional stupidity for the first time in their lives.

In the decades since, I have learned that a more creative response when hammer meets thumb lessens the pain by distraction. Mr. Crash (Is that really his given name?) Barry writes well until it comes time to choose his expletives.

Two words are regarded as beyond the boundaries for prudent speech in print today — the “F-word” and the “N-Word” — and are designated by their initial letters. Mr. Barry shows his ignorance and immaturity by tossing the F-word into an essay that does not rise to the level of a cry against man’s institutional madness, repression, corruption or terrorism, and your publication, sir, does not do itself proud by printing the product of such childish judgment.

—Bob Jorgensen, Brunswick


U. F’n O.

A heartfelt unwelcome to Urban Outfitters, who opened the doors of their new location in the Old Port on December 8th, just in time to carve into local retailers’ make-or-break holiday revenues.

If you’ve been to other destinations where Urban Outfitters has descended, vulture-like, you’d know it signals the beginning of the end for local stores and the unique character of our local shopping district. They feed off the hard work, sacrifice and vision of local retailers and swoop in to take their market share. As with other cities where U.O. has sprung up — Boston, New York, Austin — this retailer heralds the McDisneyfication of local downtowns. Other chains are sure to follow.

This is no cause for celebration and no way to say thanks to those pioneering Old Port retailers who did the unimaginable and turned that once maligned section of town into a major northeastern tourist destination and revenue generator for Portland and Maine. Allowing U.O. to set up shop in the Old Port is like dumping a shark into the tank with goldfish and speeding up the race to the bottom. Our local retailers barely brave the quiet winters in that precarious retail ecosystem, and without our support some local stores may not survive this season up against that retail giant with its deep pockets.

If those local stores close, the storefronts they occupy are likely to remain vacant for a spell, as U.O.’s presence is sure to drive the cost of retail rental space out of reach of potential locally owned retail start-ups. Without protections, the Old Port will continue its slide into becoming a vapid outdoor mall people can get in Anywhere, USA. Why visit Portland then?

Since Portland’s anti-formula-business law was reversed in 2006, more chains have moved into the Old Port. Now we can see what having no protections against the onslaught of chains will surely manifest. During the mayoral race, several of the candidates said, here in these pages, that they were concerned about the corporate/chain takeover of the Old Port.

When David Marshall took office in 2006, one of his first actions as a councilor was to introduce the resolution that overturned the anti-formula-business ordinance and, with it, any protections for local businesses. However, during the election, Councilor Marshall commented here in The Bollard that he was now open to discussing limits on chains.

Hold Dave Marshall to his word. Ask him to do what the task force he chaired after reversing the ordinance failed to do. Ask him to work honestly to create some sort of limits to the amount of square footage national chains can occupy in the Old Port. Other localities have said no to chains and sustained similar laws against legal challenges. We should join those towns again. That is Portland’s local ethos too.

Meanwhile, you can do your part by skipping U.O. and the other chains and shopping at local retailers to keep your money moving around longer here in town. Buy Portland, buy local!

— John Eder, Portland

The writer was a candidate for mayor in last year’s election.