Monday, July 24, 2006

Wal-Mart: A Cure For What Ails Me

I was feeling a little blue yesterday. A little restless. I needed to get out of the house so I hopped in the pick-up with the intention of losing myself in some winding, back country roads. But I wasn't finding the solace I was looking for in nature. I needed something greater. I needed something more. I needed to shop.

In Lincolnton, there aren't too many options. So I found myself on a path headed straight for Wal-Mart.

I know what you are saying. You are trying to picture me in the Lincolnton Wal-Mart (pound for pound one of the fattest Wal-Marts in America), Louis Vuitton dangling from my wrist as I stroll the aisles looking for Sam's best, and somehow the image doesn't compute.

But let my tell you something dear reader - an addict will take it any way she can get it and in my current situation, Wal-Mart is about the only retail therapy I am going to find these days.

For years, my shopping habit has been easy to feed: trips to swanky department stores, strolls up and down Madison Avenue, lazy Saturdays spent wandering through a very gentrified SoHo, lazier Sundays spent exploring a nearly gentrified East Village – these excursions would typically leave me psychologically and physically rewarded (if not financially damaged).

But where does a girl get her fix in Lincolnton?

Well, we have a single outpost of Belk’s – a department store chain unfamiliar to those of you outside of the southeast.

How do I describe Belk’s? It’s an OK department store – but not great. I’d rate it above Sears but below Macy’s and certainly below a Barney’s or a Bendel’s. It’s probably in line with J.C. Penney although this is based soley on the J.C. Penney commercials I have seen recently on TV as I haven’t been into an actual J.C. Penney store in over 10 years.

I have been to other Belk’s locations before – in Hickory and Charlotte. They carry Tommy Hilfiger and Nine West and some of the mass produced Ralph Lauren lines but you aren’t going to find Chip & Pepper jeans or Gucci loafers.

I have yet to go into our local Belk’s. This is partly because if I am going to shop, I'll make the trip into Charlotte to South Park (our answer to the Mall at Short Hills). But it’s also because the store seems depressing to me.

When I think about department stores, I think of the hustle and bustle of Bloomingdale’s and the grandeur of Bergdorf’s. I think about 5151 in the Saks in the Houston Galleria where I could pop in for a glass of wine (or 2) and perhaps a steak salad after browsing the new collections. I think about the dizzying array of shoes sold in Nordstrom’s and the pure luxury at Neiman Marcus.

I don’t think about a solitary storefront sandwiched between a Cato Fashion (won't even go there) and a grocery store. As I said – it just seems depressing.

For a while, when we first moved down here, I was finding comfort in Lowe’s. Ten trips in 20 days was pretty much proof that even picture hangers and wire cutters can satisfy a shopaholic's deepest need.

But eventually the home improvement projects come to an end and a girl's got to turn elsewhere.

For me, that elsewhere was Wal-Mart, a store I avoided for a long time because it seemed...overwhelming.

I went to a Wal-Mart once in Kingston, NY. I have never wanted to flee any retail establishment as much as I wanted to flee that one. Poorly lit, sprawling, disorganized - it was a miracle I found what I was looking for.

But one Sunday, early on in the NC experience, I braved Wal-Mart because frankly, I had nothing better to do.

I discovered some wonderful things that day. Like they were the only place in Lincolnton to carry my special Chairmin Plus toilet paper - and they carried it in bulk! They had a wide variety of Atkins bars even though Atkins seemed to have gone out of favor and most drug stores stopped carrying their products. They had the label maker I couldn't find at Staples. They had the Reynolds Wrappers I couldn't find anywhere. Wal-Mart was like the answer to my most basic retail prayers.

And so now, when I need a pick me a up and I don't want to drive 45 minutes to the mall, I take a quick trip to Wal-Mart to soothe my soul. So I am getting Harry Potter and not Harry Winston. So it's a case of Diet Sundrop and not a case of sun-kissed chardonnay.

Just call it retail therapy - Lincolnton style.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

p.s. We went back to Iron Thunder Saloon last night to satisfy the curiousity of a visiting friend. Sadly - Sunday nights do not seem to yield nearly as much wonderful content as Thursdays...


Fairy God Sister said...

Walmart is the devil's playground. You should not go there - no matter how much retail therapy you need. Try Target; on-line shopping and Fed Ex; Sam's Club.