We need to do something about this national tendency to try to make new things look like they are old.
First off, we should enact an "e" tax. Government agents would roam the country, looking for stores whose names contained any word that ended in an unnecessary "e," such as "shoppe" or "olde," and the owners of these stores would be taxed at a flat rate of $50,000 per year per "e." We should also consider an additional $50,000 "ye" tax, so that the owner of a store called "Ye Olde Shoppe" would have to fork over $150,000 a year. In extreme cases, such as "Ye Olde Barne Shoppe," the owner would simply be taken outside and shot.
We also need some kind of law about the number of inappropriate objects you can hang on the walls in restaurants. I am especially concerned here about the restaurants that have sprung up in shopping complexes everywhere to provide young urban professionals with a place to go for margaritas and potato skins. You know the restaurants I mean: They always have names like Flanagan's, Hanrahan's, O'Toole's, O'Reilley's, etc., as if the owner were a genial red-faced Irish bartender, when in fact the place is probably owned by 14 absentee proctologists in need of a tax shelter.
You have probably noticed that, inevitably, the walls in these places are covered with objects we do not ordinarily attach to walls, such as barber poles, traffic lights, washboards, street signs, farm implements, etc. This decor scheme is presumably intended to create an atmosphere of relaxed old-fashioned funkiness, but in fact it creates an qj atmosphere of great weirdness. It is as if a young urban professional with telekinetic powers, the kind Sissy Spacek exhibited in the movie "Carrie," got really tanked up on the margaritas one night and decided to embed an entire flea market in the wall.
I think it's too much. I think we need to pass a law stating that the only objects that may be hung on restaurant walls are those that God intended to be hung on restaurant walls, such as pictures, mirrors and the heads of deceased animals. Any restaurant caught violating this law would have to get rid of its phony Irish-bartender name and adopt a name that clearly reflected its actual ownership ("Say, let's go get some potato skins at Fourteen Absentee Proctologists in Need of Tax Shelter").
And I suppose it goes without saying that anybody caught manufacturing "collectible" plates, mugs or figurines of any kind should be shipped directly to Devil's Island.
Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: "Dave, I hear what you're saying, but wouldn't laws such as these constitute unwarranted government interference in the private sector?"
The answer is: Yes, they would. But unwarranted government interference in the private sector is a small price to pay if it draws the government's attention away from its efforts to revitalize decaying urban areas. The government inevitably tries to do this by installing 60 billion new red bricks and several dozen vaguely old-fashioned street lights in an effort to create a look I would call "Sort Of Colonial Or Something."
The government did this to a town right near me, West Chester, Pa. This is a nice little old town, with a lot of nice little old houses, but about 10 years ago some of the downtown merchants started getting really upset because they were losing business to the "shopping malls," a phrase the merchants always say in the same tone of voice you might use to say "Nazi Germany."
Now, as a consumer, I would argue that the reason most of us were going to the shopping malls was that the downtown stores tended to have window displays that had not been changed since the Truman administration, featuring crepe paper faded to the color of old oatmeal, accented by the occasional dead insect. And the actual merchandise in these stores was not the kind you would go out of your way to purchase or even accept as gifts. We are talking, for example, about clothing so dowdy that it could not be used even to clean up after a pet.
What I am saying is that the problem with the downtown West Chester stores, from this consumer's point of view, was they didn't have much that anybody would want to buy. From the merchants' point of view, however, the problem was that the entire downtown needed to be Revitalized, and they nagged the local government for years until finally it applied for a federal grant of God knows how many million dollars, which was used to rip up the streets for several years, so as to discourage the few remaining West Chester shoppers.
When they finally got it all back together again, the new revitalized West Chester consisted of mostly ld,10 the same old stores, only in front of them were (surprise!) red-brick sidewalks garnished with vaguely old-fashioned street lights. The whole effect was definitely Sort Of Colonial, Or Something, and some shoppers even stopped by to take a look at it on their way to the mall.
I gather this process has been repeated in a great many towns around the country, and it seems to me that it's a tremendous waste of federal time and effort that could otherwise be spent getting rid of the extra "e." I urge those of you who agree with me to write letters to your congresspersons, unless you use that stationery with the "old-fashioned" ragged edges, in which case I urge you to go to your local Flanagan's and impale yourself on one of the farm implements.