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Recently I was walking in downtown Marion, Ohio, and was surprised by how many of the buildings were made of old bricks. This is a beautiful little downtown area but built up a century ago, and the modern part of the city, like so many others, has moved out of town to shopping malls. That left the perfectly functional buildings only partially used. The economy may be slow all through the American economy, but this little city like many others seems a lonely place. It is a place to live in with very comfortable but older houses, but then instead of buying their commodities in downtown the residents commute to the malls for everything, even the necessities like food.
My present home town in Bend, Oregon, has followed the same pattern, but with a difference. Bend is capitalizing on its old-town by converting it into a tourist attraction. Bend has a middle-aged strip town along the old highway, but the residents of the town go to the shopping mall two miles north up the freeway from the old town city center. The mall is easily accessible by the freeway and is quite convenient from almost anywhere in town, but it makes everyone dependent upon a car. The drive adds the expense of driving a car to every purchase. When we bought our home we made sure it was walkable to the necessities. Downtown is very attractive for tourists and is now filled with great restaurants and art shops, and even what might be called a thrift store is filled with beautiful boutique items. Bend has another advantage: it is located in a beautiful area on the edge of mountains, deserts, rivers and forests. It is far enough from cities to be remote, but close enough to be readily accessible by tourists.
The future of America is clouded by the dependency on the automobile for daily living because of the obvious impending rise in the price of fuel. That will make the current lifestyle of driving miles to the mall a very unpleasant task because for some the costs will be difficult. People living within walking distance of supermarkets, or at least with very short drives, will not suffer so grievously but they will suffer increased prices because the inherent inefficiencies of the whole situation will raise the prices of everything.
It may be wonderful living away from a big city where there are all of the necessities within easy walking distances but that isn’t the current lifestyle.
The day is approaching when gas will cost more and Americans will walk more.