As we stand here together this week in our Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/ Solstice festive finery, on the brink of a brand-new millennium (no, really this time), contemplating the pleasures of a year in which Harry Potter will vie with Gandalf for the title of Biggest Baddest Movie Wizard of All Time, I have but one wistful question to you, my goodly fellow geeks:
Why hasn't Seattle got a Fry's Electronics?
Does this seem right, O happy band of brothers and sisters in 21st-century nerditude? We stand together, pound for pound the most concentrated, dedicated community of techies in the country, including the freeway-commuting, options-grubbing, wine-sipping pieheads of Silicon Valley, and the best we can do for toys and cultural consumer meccas is rePC or BestBuy?
We are in fact so deprived that some of our number, and certainly many of our nongeekish friends and admirers, might not even know what Fry's is or why it's so sad we haven't got one. If you were to combine a computer store with the workshops full of chips and components from whence those computers came, add more software and books than any four Seattle computer stores carry, throw in all the lifestyle accoutrements (from Pringles to caffeine mints to deodorant) that geeks either need or forget they need unless they see them right by the cash register, and, by the way, tack on an excellent computer electronics section, you're close—but Fry's is still cooler. Any outfit that lets a person pick up SRAM chips, a case of soda, Final Fantasy VIII, and a toaster in one shopping trip is the kind of place we need up here.
This is one California import (the company's based in Sunnyvale) that hasn't inflicted itself most heavily on the Pacific Northwest. The closest Fry's to us, of the chain's 17, is in Wilsonville, Ore.; Texas and Arizona are represented too, and the thought of all those Southwestern goat-ropers pulling out of the Fry's parking lots with their pickups and hound dogs and 21-inch monitors frankly hurts my head.
Besides, we need Fry's up here for the geekish beauty of it. Paul Allen can pretty up downtown (or screw up Seattle Center) all he wants, but we haven't experienced the glory of true geek architectural stylings until we've got our very own theme-store Fry's, just like Burbank (flying saucers, little green men) or San Jose (Mayan Chichenitza) or Woodland Hills (Alice in Wonderland) or Manhattan Beach (tiki heads, rain forest). To the best of my knowledge, Wilsonville's store doesn't have a theme yet, so if we hurry, we can avoid the dreaded salmon-and-totem poles schtick and get with a good theme, maybe volcanoes or the history of aviation. As badly as California has wrecked Northwestern architecture, I think that some flat-out kitsch is the least they can do for us. And hold the stucco.
So why haven't we got one? I wonder if it's the usual toxic combination of California navel-gazing and Seattle xenophobia at work again. Seattleites feel they can do pretty much anything better for themselves; Californians feel that whatever it is we're doing up here in the forest, we're probably doing it at Microsoft and therefore receive all our necessary supplies directly from hell.
But a whisper of hope wafts northward from Fry's corporate offices in Sunnydale. Though we won't find a Fry's under our figurative tree this year, things may be looking up for 2001 or 2002: The company is currently scouting locations in the area—including, possibly, something in the Boeing section of Renton.
Let's help them out, make them feel welcome. Drop them a note and explain that we need a Fry's in the neighborhood— volcanoes and B-52s on the roof, espresso in the checkout line, Ivar's in the cafe. The rest they can do just as they do in the others; after all, true geekage, like the spirit of the season, is universal.