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Happy Solstice!

December 22, 2007

The PX in downtown Seattle

It’s now officially winter in Seattle. Not so you’d notice—there was heavy rain this morning, and there will be more later. In fact, it was raining so hard the crows were hunching their shoulders.

Snow? No, that was a few weeks ago. Seattle almost never has a white Xmas.

The picture was taken on Pine Street, just east of 4th Avenue. The star is the famous (around here anyway) Bon Marché star, though the store is now called Macy’s

I’m not a fan of the holiday season, but I still think it’s sad that now all the big downtown department stores in the U.S. are called Macy’s. Even Marshall Field in Chicago got swallowed up; it’s now Macy’s, as well. Gimbel’s? J.L. Hudson? Dayton’s? Meier & Frank? All gone. The last one, also swallowed by Macy’s.

I never did buy into the Santa Claus thing. Living in San Mateo, Calif., a place where it snows about once every 50 years, made the idea of a guy delivering toys on a sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer pretty hard to accept. Especially if you live in an apartment building with a steeply-pitched roof, and the chimney is a 5″ pipe coming out of the gas furnace in the hallway.

What sealed the deal for me was going to the Hillsdale Shopping Center, which was a short walk away, and finding two Santas, one at Macy’s, and one at The Emporium, both within sight of each other. “But those are actually Santa’s helpers,” the story goes. But those guys would tell you they’re Santa, and that they will be bringing you the stuff you ask for. Santa’s impersonators is more like it.

Of course, the Hillsdale Macy’s was owned by the R.H. Macy Company of New York; The Emporium was a San Francisco company. Today’s Macy’s company used to be called Federated Department Stores. The Emporium just went out of business.

Macy’s was a really different store back then, selling just about everything you could think of. I used to buy my model car kits from the hobby department, and most of our furniture (including the TV) came from there. They even had a pet department.

These stores had toy departments year-round, but during Santa season each had a different take on the holidays. Macy’s had the elaborate model railroad layouts, the Bon Marché a whole floor called “Toytropolis.”

But that was then. Don’t even think about finding toys at Macy’s, they’re at Toys R Us. Or The Sharper Image, depending on one’s age.

If you’ve lived in Seattle most of your life, there’s not much left to remind you of the time when the holidays were not known mainly for crass materialism, airport nightmares and extreme levels of stress. At least the star is still here. And the lights strung in all the other trees on 4th and 5th Avenue really brighten up downtown.

It’s just too bad that downtown Seattle has turned into… a mall.

I’ll conclude by offering wishes for a happy holiday… whatever holiday you and yours celebrate at this time of year. If there’s a scooter in your garage, and the weather’s not frightful, wish it a happy holiday by firing it up and going for a ride. Favicon

  1. December 22, 2007 5:00 pm

    Hey, Orin

    I am feeling your pain down here in small town Texas. Everything you see dotting the landscape is downright cookie cutter-like–endless repetition of chain stores, no different from the next “Small Town USA”(with the exception that we do have a Macy’s here in Beaumont–the only one in the 100-mile radius.) We’re steadily and increasingly being homogenized; not by choice, perhaps by indifference.

    Took your great advice and went for a brisk, cool ride this Winter Solstice (against a tidal wave of distracted holiday shoppers/drivers.) My brand-new REI weather-proof gloves felt wonderfully toasty; and the 2-stroke Aprilia just loving this dense, cold air. “Elf” with Will Farrel is on CBS tonight:)

    Joyful Holidays and A Happy New Year!

  2. Tinker permalink
    December 23, 2007 10:35 am

    WE used to have a Foley’s at the mall nearest us, it recenty morphed to a MACY’S. Did it never occur to MACY’s that their logo looks astonishingly like the CHINESE MILTARY, with that red star? Maybe it MEANS something? Is it a hostile takeover by Walmart?

  3. December 23, 2007 11:21 am

    Tinker, the Macy’s of my childhood had a star in the name, and while it wasn’t red, it took the place of the apostrophe, just as it does now. But the big red ones in the commercials, yes you’re right, it does look like the People’s Liberation Army…

  4. December 24, 2007 11:09 am


    Have a fine holiday! Times have changed things a lot since I was a kid but I still have fond memories of Christmas as a child. I connect most closely with “A Christmas Story”. That was how I grew up. I have a Vespa now but never did get that Red Rider carbine with compass built into the stock…

    I’m definitely going for a short Christmas Day ride.

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  5. December 24, 2007 3:01 pm

    Orin, Happy Holidays my friend. Macy’s hasn’t snuck up on us yet. Maybe it’s because we don’t have anything for them to absorb. But…the Vespa sure looks nice in front of the old Bon star.

    Merry Christmas,

  6. December 25, 2007 1:15 pm

    Ah! How nice to see Solstice wishes from you! My best to you Orin.
    Peace on Earth!

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