"We came for the atmosphere more than the food."

When I first heard about the Chick-fil-A uproar I naturally leapt right past the whole “free speech” part of the controversy in order to fantasize about how fun it would be to: A)  Stake out a Chick-fil-A outlet on Mike Huckabee’s “Appreciation Day” and snap pictures of obese rednecks digging their own graves with plastic forks, and B) Return on Boycott Day, to see if any protesters showed up.  Compare and contrast, for an undoubtedly hilarious blog that would pretty much write itself.  I even thought about what I might wear that would be conducive to mooning, if the opportunity arose.

Warming to my task, I pulled out the Portland phone book and my granny glasses; I recalled once seeing (and immediately resolving to forever avoid) that illiterately-titled grease pit right in downtown, in the Pioneer Place Mall’s food court, only about ten blocks away.  Of course, since I’m not much of a mall type, the last time I was there was when it opened in  the late 80′s, so I thought I ought to double check.  Hmmm.  Chick-A-Dee Nursery.  Something called “Chicks With Ideas,” in Oregon City, no less.  No Chick-fil-A, not even in Gresham.  Unfortunately, it appears that in a Metro area of more than 1.5 million, there aren’t enough grease-craving bible-bangers to support a single Chick-fil-A franchise.  Home, sweet home.

As a quality of life metric, that’s an undeniably good thing, but for the snark factor it’s extremely frustrating, and reminiscent of my constant problem with participating in boycotts, no matter how well-intended: all the kooky right-wing establishments I so fervently desire to boycott are ones I never would have patronized anyway.   For all their love of the “free market,” the products and services offered by aggressively right-wing outfits are invariably so lousy and/or overpriced that only dimwitted rubes purchase them in the first place; this “fool and his money” nostrum seems to be baked into their business plans.

There are exceptions, of course.  Urban Outfitters has (intermittently) good merchandise, and the equally Randian-led Whole Foods does, too, but since I’m not in the habit of buying groceries at $80 per bag, the latter has clearly not missed my patronage, just as the former has unaccountably thrived, too, without getting its grabby paws on my debit card.  But for me, boycotting has always been preemptively thwarted by taste: I didn’t have to be privy to the ideology of its owners to know that Coors Beer is undrinkable swill, just as I didn’t need to know much about Wal-Mart’s labor practices and rapacious owners to be vaguely afraid of entering one.  I also crossed the street to avoid Godfather’s long before I’d ever heard of Herman Cain.

As we found out yesterday, though, a stubborn minority of Americans will stand in long lines to buy execrable food in almost comically awful surroundings, just to show liberals a thing or two.  The picture of Todd and Sarah Palin beaming over their bulging bags of Type II diabetes at the top of the page is indeed arresting, but certainly not in the way they intended: the “restaurant” they appear to be so delighted to be seen in makes the Port Authority Bus Terminal look like the Four Seasons.  I suppose this is inevitable, given that anti-gay establishments must have a terrible time finding interior designers, but really.

What the whole controversy seems to show is that in our depleted democracy wherein the only “vote” that matters (literally, if vote-suppressing Republicans have their way…), is measured in dollars, the right has taken caveat emptor into previously unattained heights: they no longer have to even call shit Shinola.  It sells either way.