A few months ago, a man opened a topless coffee shop not far from where I live, east of Augusta on Route 3, in a small town called Vassalboro. Most of us who lived around here figured it would be a nine-days' wonder and close quickly, as we didn't see how a business could support itself on doughnuts and coffee, even $3 doughnuts and $5 coffee, once the original novelty wore off.
But the business seems to have been doing quite well, over the objections of neighbors and the efforts to shut it down through town government. The owner has applied for permission to expand the business and make it more like a strip club, and this has met with all the opposition you might expect. I myself would not care to live next to a strip club, though my neighborhood in Los Angeles had several.
A tempest in a teapot, except that last night someone decided to take the law in their own hands and burn the topless coffee shop down. It's in a building that used to be a motel, and now houses several people; those people are now homeless, and people are out of work for an indefinite period of time.
And now, although I find the idea of a topless coffee shop rather comically disgusting, and would have joined a legal effort to prevent it being turned into a strip club, I'll participate in any fundraiser that's held to rebuild this place and reimburse its residents for the loss of their property. Because this is America, and we cling to our God-given right to do what we want to do on our own property, and be as gross and offensive as we want as long as we're not interfering with anyone else's life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness.
So what you've done, Mr. Arsonist, is forced me to support a business I'd rather have seen go away, and turned an amusing nuisance into a civil rights issue. Congratulations, and I hope you're happy with yourself.
Today's summer reading recommendation: Pope Brock, CHARLATAN: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam. Long before cable television became a medium for advertising male enhancement products, Dr. John Brinkley founded two of the world's most powerful and popular radio stations -- KFKB, in Milford, Kansas, and then XER and XERA in Villa Acuna, Mexico -- for the express purpose of promoting his goat-gland procedures to boost male virility. Never mind that these procedures had no medical effect, except to expose patients to deadly infection and anaphylactic shock; Dr. Brinkley built himself an empire, and came to grief only when he lost a libel suit against Dr. Morris Fishbein and the Journal of the American Medical Association. A fascinating look at the early years of mass media and the power of the will to believe, and great fun.
Five Random Songs
"Within You Without You," The Beatles. From Sergeant Pepper. I have a vivid memory of lying facedown in a swimming pool when I was about 13, practicing my survival float, and playing this song in my head. Weird, the things that stay with you.
"Funny Little Frog," Belle and Sebastian. I just thought of a really mean but funny crack I could make here, but I won't. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? I'm recording this thought process just so you can see that I do occasionally exercise some restraint.
"Hello Like Before," Bill Withers. The original and still the best.
"Inevitability of Death," The Tragically Hip. "And if you go to hell, I'll still remember you."
"Friday Night, Saturday Morning," The Specials. Wow, this song is a virtual time machine. Next stop, 1984...