[Newsflash: As reported on the Co-Op's website (which, sadly but not surprisingly, gets the date wrong!) the National Cooperative Bank has refused to loan money to the Co-Op. "Other financing is being sought," the website states.]
Somewhere in the last week or so the Co-Op crisis has passed over from neighborhood politics into divine comedy, though we're not sure yet which circle of hell we're in: with ever more lunatic rescue plans from the Herald editors, in which the cost of saving the store seems to drop by the week, and the first of what I can only hope will be an ongoing series of political infomercials from Co-Op Board Secretary, James Withrow.
What do you do with this stuff? Even I am virtually at a loss this week. Call Hollywood? Pitch the Co-Op crisis as a reality show? Or maybe a cable teledrama? It's got nearly everything a scriptwriter would ask for -- except sex and humor, but those tend to be scarce around here anyway -- but it certainly has intrigue, betrayal, greed, lust (for produce), passion (for produce) and suspense (about produce).
The greatest challenge in pulling together Herald's Chicken this week, beyond making sense out of the ever-spiraling insanity, was forcing myself to read Mr. Withrow's dissertation prospectus -- without recourse to alcohol -- on crisis management in retail food cooperatives. I'm sure I can now number myself among a small elite for having done so.
After putting down Mr. Withrow's "quick" article reviewing "the main points made during my Town Hall speech," the glory of which I was happily able to relive, one thing is certain: there's not enough (free) space for James Withrow. Or at least his verbiage. It seems to keep expanding to fill whatever nooks aren't already occupied. At some point, this may cause a local media bottleneck -- say, if Hans Morsbach starts feeling talkative again.
What's interesting about the latest installment of Withrow verbiage, or, as fellow blogger Elizabeth Fama dubbed it, The 95 Theses, is that Mr. Withrow paid for it, and then got some key facts wrong, which he later corrected on his website.
Now, as any professorial type, or aspiring professorial type will tell you, before anyone goes into print, especially in such a high-profile and prestigious forum as the Hyde Park Herald, one would assume an author would take great pains to get the facts right. Especially if one is paying out of one's own pocket for the privilege of being read; and even more especially if the central fact in question (which I will pass over here, out of simple boredom) is rather central to one's argument.
Well, it turns out those assumptions would here be confounded, and Mr. Withrow got his plot wrong. Which doesn't really bother us, since he was paying for it anyway, and it probably attracted as many readers as the Journal of Late Etruscan Numismatics.
But when we think about how this kind of gaffe applies to community management of a retail food establishment, and not just one's own bank account, it does give us some pause. As does the entire recent theatrical turn of events, replete with fiery oratory, a rallying of old-timers, and the truly vintage, McCarthy-esque call among die-hards to "name names."
All very entertaining, but can we translate this into financially stable and reliable groceries? Look at what a time the Board is having just deciding what to do; figuring out who can vote; determining who should speak for them; and who takes the liberty to speak for them; and how to control whoever takes out a full-page ad in the Herald. It seems to me that when anyone suggests "we start acting more like a cooperative," that this is in fact exactly what's already going on, and it's not encouraging.
It all seems a bit chaotic on top. Would this kind of drama fade out if these folks were left alone to manage a grocery store? Or would the theater continue? Is this the French Revolution, with pamphlets from Robespierre and Danton, and the tumult of factions in the National Assembly, the call for purges, and cries of conspiracy?
Should running a grocery store really entail so much drama?
I, for one, am ready for a little competent banality.