Thursday, September 04, 2008
Department store bikes.
This is not a commentary on Wal-Mart vs. Bike-Mart.
We all ride "department store bikes", every one of us (presuming we ride bikes at all). In our consumer-crazed culture, the whole world is our department store. But I'm not talking about global/macro economics, I'm talking about you and me. We bought our bikes at the department store (even if it came through Craigslist).
My favorite department store as a kid (and therefore burned into my personal identity as the prototype), was the large Sears on Ross Avenue that opened in 1947. A mammoth (for the time) structure, it was a giant Art Moderne block of sculptured limestone. The interior walls were covered in "social realism" murals depicting the American Spirit that had just climbed out of the Great Depression and won WW II.
That's where we are going to buy a bike.
On the ground level, near the automotive area (a freestanding, oddly Federal-style building), you entered through the attached Garden Department, and went into the Toy Department. Here are some bicycles. Is your bike a toy? Is it something you get out on nice days to play with? Do you take it to the playground and show it off to your friends? I've bought bikes in the Toy Department (and looking at my folding Sinclair "A-Bike", I still do), but let's keep going.
Once inside the main building, the ground floor is mainly soft goods, the second floor furniture, and radios and televisions. The basement is our destination.
Taking the escalators down, we enter the heart of Sears, the Appliance Department, home of Kenmore. But we're not stopping. We're headed towards the Sporting Goods Department. Here are more bicycles. My first real bike came from this department, a J.C. Higgins 3-speed "English Racer" (even though it was made by Puch in Austria). Are you an athlete? Do you get on your bike and ride "hammer and tongs", as H.G. Wells said? Is it your fitness craze, replacing softball, or soccer, or rugby, or running? Do you put in more than a hundred miles a week, in an effort to stay fit and healthy, while experiencing the adrenalin/endorphin surge that competitive sports affords? I've purchased my bike in the Sporting Goods department before, but not so much now.
But to me, the real heart and soul of Sears, the reason my dad and I went and where I lingered, was the Hardware Department... the home of Craftsman tools. Power tools, hand tools, tools to rebuild the world into a better place, to make something that improved your life and your family's life, or to fix what was broken.
Here's where I buy my bikes now, tools for transportation from "Point A, to Point B". Do I get to show them off? Sure. There's nothing like the pride of a craftsman showing a well built and maintained tool to his friends. Do I get to have fun? Absolutely! A Craftsman table saw was one the most fun tools I ever worked with (and far more dangerous than any roadway I've ridden on). Do I get to make something better? Yes.
I get to improve my community.
Which department is your bike from?