etc. 

Looming above the corner of Front Street and Higgins Avenue, the bold white letters jump out from the brick wall: THE BON. But soon to be The Bon no more. “Federated Department Stores, Inc., announced today that it plans to convert all of its regional department stores to the Macy’s nameplate in January 2005,” reads a Sept. 13 press release. “With this change, Federated will launch a new era in American retailing as it begins operating under its two most powerful retail brands—Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.”

Macy’s, then, it will be, but inquiring shoppers want to know: Does the change mean sales? Promotionals? Discounts? Freebies? Loot?

Kimberly Reason, a Macy’s director of corporate communications and media relations, says mum’s the word for now. “As a standard practice,” she writes in an e-mail, “we don’t give out sale/promotional info ahead of time...” Can’t say we didn’t try. Here’s another inquiry. In Missoula’s little department store, the carpet is faded and paint peels from some walls. Might our store get a face-lift? Macy’s, after all, has a reputation to live up to, non? Reason says that the new name will come with funds for, among other things, larger fitting rooms and waiting rooms (Where thrifty shoppers wait for sales, right?). Alas, no word from corporate.

Once the Missoula Mercantile, then The Bon Marché, then Bon-Macy’s—will Missoulians continue to call the store The Bon? “Some people,” says General Manager Rich Boberg, “still call it the Missoula Mercantile.” Corporate branding, lost on Montanans, bless us all.

•••

Where will you be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30? A lot of Missoulians will be at the Festival of the Book’s opening night Selected Shorts reading in the University Theatre—or at least that’s what the Montana Democratic Party figured when it decided to plan presidential-debate-watching parties in Big Timber, Billings, Bozeman and Helena, but not Missoula. State Director of the DNC Bill Lombardi says Dems will schedule a Missoula party for the second presidential debate on Friday, Oct. 8, but didn’t want to plan a party that might conflict with another big local event. The Montana Republicans don’t have any organized debate-watching parties scheduled, though they point out that anyone can go to President Bush’s website and sign up to plan a “Party for the President!”

But a question remains: Who’s throwing the bipartisan debate-watching party, complete with bipartisan party platters (red peppers and bleu cheese?) and bipartisan bar (French wines and O’Doul’s?). Whoever you are, here are a few bipartisan tips to assure that all parties stay safe and have a chance to maintain their dignity: Do not question a fellow debate-watcher directly. If asked a question yourself, do not let your answer exceed two minutes. If engaged in conversation, do not ask any follow-up questions or in any way participate in an extended discussion. If you have questions to ask of fellow debate-watchers, submit them to your host in advance.

Oh, wait. The Indy didn’t make those up. Those are actually the presidential debate rules Bush and Kerry will follow Thursday night—rules created by the supposedly nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which Bill Moyers described, in the Sept. 24 airing of Now With Bill Moyers, as a private corporation founded by past chairmen of the Republican and Democratic national parties. The goal of their rules? One hunch: to minimize the chance that these guys might make fools of themselves.

Wonder if the Commission has any good bipartisan recipes for eating crow.

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