I participated in Austin's struggle to save the Cactus Cafe and I've spent almost four years researching and writing Cactus Burning. From these efforts, I've developed a particular interest in exploring the meaning of special community places - those enterprises that make communities distinctive. In particular, I'm interested in efforts to save such places and in the repercussions that flow from their loss. In the summer of 2012, I posted an inquiry on several message boards and listservs, asking if readers knew of any archive, website, or discussion forum, "devoted to the loss of local businesses or cultural institutions, and the resulting community impact?"
"We've all heard," I went on, "of the impact of big-box stores, and we know that independent bookstores and record/CD stores are dropping like mad. Communities might also suffer when they lose the local butcher, hardware store, or cinema, each of which might help create community identity. I'm looking for discussions or collections related to such community dislocation."
I received a handful of replies, which talked about some special places in my correspondents' communities, but I never learned of the archive or forum that I was seeking. I never learned of a place were people could collect such stories, so that communities might learn from one another how best to address, or cope with, their own losses. I hope that this space, Culture Burning, can become that place.
This is not going to be a blog in the usual sense. I'm not necessarily going to jot down my own thoughts on any particular schedule. From time to time, I'll tell stories about losses or struggles that come to my attention. But I hope that Culture Burning can live largely through reader contributions. I urge people to use this website's contact page to tell me of stories in their communities, or to alert me to pertinent articles, books, or films. I'll pass that info on or, with permission, reprint my correspondents' own words. I'd like this to become the archive that I couldn't find - a place where we collect stories about the sacred spaces that make our individual communities unique. I'd love to hear from you.