Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I arrived at Newport's Walmart with full intent to continue my One Man Revolution, and barrage the frozen cryogenic corpse of Sam Walton into submission with my Shop-Shifting assault upon his freezer-burnt senses. Merely moving a yellow lemon into a green avocado bin, for example, would send a clear message of pigmented protest, that with repeated incidents of viral solidarity, would bring Walmart to its knees. Such was my hope. I also had photos that I had taken 20 years earlier, when Walmart had basically raped the environment of my Oregon home town, and erected their windowless big box with an ocean view, on the dunes and old growth, where my kid played. I wanted to compare then and now.
I was not prepared for what I saw, outside the store: envoys of the homeless huddled masses on every corner. I would have to put off my revolution and investigate.
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Everything looked different, of course--the asphalt parking lot had flattened the previous fir, spruce, and cedar-covered dunes and ravines, and buried a small wetland stream. Walmart had broken their promise that they would replace Newport's scenic buffer trees that they bulldozed on Highway 101. Now the first thing visitors see when driving into town on Newport's coastal highway is dead Walmart grass. However, they did a good job in their parking lot, with lots of trees planted.
The people pan-handling on every corner--I am not sure if they are part of Walmart's master plan. By only buying Chinese goods, however, and shutting down U.S. factories, Walmart is surely the poster store of unemployed Americans, that they foster with minimum-wage, anti-union mentality. With few jobs available, Walmart workers have little choice but to accept life with no future, and even less health care. Walmart keeps its overhead low, because workers have no choice but to submit, just to feed their children, and depend on taxpayers, to the tune of untold millions, to pay for Medicaid and food stamps. Meanwhile, Walmart heirs inherit billions on a ruthless formula of subsidized serfdom.
I saw people pan-handling on the highway leading to Walmart. I talked to an elderly woman at the corner of the entrance. But it was the kid leaning against the stop sign, further in, that got my attention. He looked pretty beaten down for a youngster. He told me he had been camping in the Walmart parking lot for a month.
Something is wrong with this equation. Camping for a month trying to get a Walmart job? Walmart supposedly lets people park overnight, an act known as boon docking, in their parking lots. But on their website http://www.walmartatlas.com/no-park-walmarts
, Walmart says the Newport store allows no overnight parking.
Maybe the Newport store has a kind manager. Or more likely, the no-parking list relieves Walmart of liability, with the tacit agreement to take advantage of people who camp there, so Walmart can sell food and goods to RV vacationers, and avoid legal hassles, if somebody croaks while camping, for example. Many local RV parks and campgrounds are livid about the competition, and point to the visual blight inherent in parking lot camping without sanitary hookups or electricity.
I drove my old pickup to Oil Can Henry's across the street, the building to the left in the above photo, and while they checked my transmission, I decided to talk to the woman panhandling on the corner.
I showed her photos of Walmart twenty years ago. Walmart is the big box on upper right.
Walmart basically strip mined this area of the Oregon coast and buried what was left of a small stream thirty feet underground in a pipe.
Above is a panoramic view of the Walmart building site looking from the ocean side. The man is on the roof of a home that Walmart bought and destroyed. One of about a dozen. You can see the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area to the left, which harbors a beautiful lighthouse, a seabird rookery, and hangout for harbor seals and grey whales. Walmart's huge box contrasts like a canker sore. The group of trees highlighted by the ocean to the left, you can still see.
Highway 101 is on the right; Pacific Ocean on left. You can see how they bulldozed the hills into the ravine to make fill for their ocean front parking lot.
Walmart's building and landscaping now completely blocks the ocean, and the parking sits atop the small wetland stream that used to be filled with trees, ferns, and deer tracks. It is curious why they don't allow a view of the ocean. Maybe they feel the Pacific ocean might distract from their sales or the Walmart sign.
I went back to Oil Can Henry's. My fluid level was ok, so there was no charge. The manager even gave me a free newspaper. I showed him my Walmart photo and asked if I could climb on his roof, to take a picture showing the ocean. He said no, but that his wife worked at Walmart, right across the parking lot, and it was a great place. The name Oil Can Henry had a Sam Walton sort-of-sound. The man was friendly, and both he and his wife worked for mega-franchise sort of corporations. Who was I to argue?
He told me the old woman on the corner panhandled all the time, and that she and her husband lived in a nice RV up the road. I thanked him and got in my truck.
My One-Man-Revolution would have to regroup. I had to process the possibility that all was not as it seemed. The good thing about a One-Man-Revolution is that the chain of command is fairly small. Tactical engagements can easily be deployed or re-deployed. My Little Black Book of Lemon Shop-Shifting was based on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's Theory of Asymmetrical Warfare, even though I was fighting on a symmetrical Walmart Battlefield, and I was fighting a cryogenically-frozen enemy. But Rummy was right--there were things I knew, and things I did not know; and there were things I knew I did not know, etc"ad infinitum. The man was a genius. I knew my war would be over in "maybe not six months"maybe six days" maybe. Or maybe not.
Meanwhile, as I pulled out of the lot, I sensed something big and ominous behind me. My rear view mirror fell off years ago. I hit my turn signal.
Maybe the Oil Can guy was right. Maybe the lady on the corner was Lady Gaga's Grandmother, living the high life, and hooting it up, on the Walmart Cornucopia Corner. Maybe it was Walmart's way of sharing the wealth, so people could pluck the lower-hanging fruit. Maybe I should go out and try my hand at it. Maybe all Americans could take the opportunity.
On the other hand, it felt like Stockholm Syndrome. Everybody--workers and shoppers--even the kid--seemed a little too compliant, even identifying with the mega-giant that crushed workers and community under its heel, and tried to wipe up the last drop of American spirit, and dress it in a Walmart apron, made in China.
Suddenly, I saw what was behind me.
A Wally truck on my tail. They seemed to be everywhere. I would have to take evasive maneuvers. I knew I made a mistake last week when I said I was going to Newport. Sam must have been waiting. Maybe the kid was a lookout. Perhaps a member of Homeland Security. He was pretty articulate for a youngster. Who in his right mind would stand up for Walmart? By now, Sam probably had satellite footage of me moving lemons.
Well, lemons would have to wait another day. I had to lose these goons. I had more photos of my son playing in the ruined Walmart woods when those bastards came to town. We used to surf off Yaquina Head. Sometimes, a big wave will hold you down, kind of like water boarding. You learn to go with the flow.
Looking back, I could see the kid. He looked pretty sad. I could also see the 18-wheel China Box, the BIG W, right behind me. Suddenly, it made sense. I knew Sam's next move. It was obvious.