One of T. S. Eliot’s beautiful little poems, Little Island Girl, deals with the yearning for escape to a simpler life.
The narrator speaks of wanting to abandon city life with his beloved.
He says to her:I’m going to stay with you And we won’t worry what to do We won’t have to catch any trains And we won’t go home when it rains. We’ll gather hibiscus flowers… .
With the weather getting gloomy in Florida, and the daily torrential tropical afternoon downpours firmly ensconced, I found myself reflecting this weekend on Eliot’s archetypal imagery of escape (to paraphrase Nidhi Tiwari, in Imagery and Symbolism), which he dreams about in Island Girl, and of course, most famously, in The Wasteland — escape from the ugliness of modern life, mostly.
When he wrote it, Eliot would never have imagined the crassness of strip malls disfiguring what used to be a sublimely beautiful country, or, more pertinent to the subject of attempting to set up a needlepoint store, the omnipresent decline of craftsmanship here, the ruthless hollowing out of American manufacturing know how… all of which confronted me head on in all its glory on what I am now calling Dark Thursday.
It is not just the disappointing $1,000 Chinese-made counter, which doesn’t fit together properly, because it is machine-made, with no sense of care or quality about it, produced in a country that once made lovely things, but now only aspires to be the knock off capital of the world, a country that poisons its own people as it makes more and more of what are only pale approximations of the originals.
It is not just the menacing animal who delivered this imperfect counter and left me stranded with boxes of furniture on a palette in the parking lot.
It is not just the disingenuousness of North Carolina furniture rep — I remember when North Carolina used to make beautiful furniture that sold up North — who acted all shocked when I called to complain about what happened, suggested the pieces didn’t fit properly because the store floor is uneven, and who promised to do something about calling the trucking company to complain, but whom I never heard from again. She didn’t even know if the trucker was teamsters or not.
It is disgusting to me, frankly, how all the furnishings and fixtures being delivered to Needlepoint Land are all made elsewhere.
What ever happened to Made in the USA?
What ever happened to pride of workmanship?
What ever happened to standing behind your product?
How did we ever let this happen?
“American” manufacturers, which are nowadays mostly faceless, globalized entities that, unlike Needlepoint Land, often pay little or no taxes in this country, are ever searching for better profits, often at the behest of the financial prestidigitators of Wall Street.
To that end, these stateless corporate behemoths scour the planet for places to produce goods ever more cheaply, and they could care less if their products get increasingly shoddy, or who gets hurt in the process.
Made in America once meant it was the best in the world.
Now you have to assemble these foreign-made rickety plastic and fake wood contraptions they call furniture. Take a look at a Sperry Top Sider moc these days (for the real thing, compare with a Quoddy’s women moc), or a pair of Levy’s jeans and remember what these items used to look like, or when a product like Coca-cola came in a green-tinted 12 ounce real glass bottle and actually contained honest-to-goodness sugar not corn fructose.
No one delivers assembled stuff any more, because the friendly Mom and Pop furniture stores that did have died like faded lilacs, and the vendors that put them out of business buy knockoff crap from the Chinese, and the big stores don’t want to take up space with assembled goods or trust the truckers and so never sell anything unpacked, and the brutish one-man team truckers don’t care about anything at all.
I was thinking of Eliot’s poem, as I went to the bank yesterday, and had to deal with a young local Chase banker who has never heard of the term brick and mortar store, let alone who David Rockefeller was. Half of my property taxes go toward education. What are they teaching these days, I wonder?
This supposedly aspiring banker managed to royally screw the set up of my business account last week and did unnecessary things in terms of my LLC’s registration, things that are now going to delay the soft opening on July 1st of Needlepoint Land.
A young banker who does not know the simplest of things about banking. How was such a person ever hired?
Just like at AT&T, where I came across a young salesman with a pony tail who entered my info incorrectly and didn’t even know the correct telephone number for business customer service at the company where he worked so I ended up having to spend hours being bounced around 8oo numbers and machine telephone directory robots after it took weeks of waiting for them to install a simple land line and now I have to fix his additional carelessness in terms of the billing address for my smartphone so I can write it off as a business expense.
Do companies like “AT&T” (in name only — the original jewel long since destroyed, first brought to its knees by the 1984 consent decree, and then finished off in 1996) give a damn about having their customers talk to actual human beings when they call customer care and by that I don’t mean someone from another country whom you can barely understand?
Do young people get proper training any more at large companies?
Does America have to make do with an increasingly uneducated workforce, or is it a young workforce that no longer cares?
Have we stopped being able to function as a real country?
A number of people have died recently on the street where I live. This is Florida. A lot of older people live here. But I am still relatively young, and though I have lived here since 2001, I do find my thoughts returning to Connecticut, where I lived before coming down.
I dream occasionally of again enjoying the beauty of spring and summer and the sublime fall foliage in towns like Kent, CT, in a locale where there are actually soul-replenishing seasons, where one fine day I might open another needlepoint store, and only winter here, largely avoiding, as one might say, le temps des orages — which comes in many guises. Just read the papers.
But that is not happening this year.
I am still in shock, obviously, by the events of Dark Thursday.
I am going to collect myself, but the sign for opening July 1st has come off the front door at Needlepoint Land.
I have decided to take a small break from trying to chase down honest carpenters who are reliable, presumably skilled men who offer good work for fair wages, who take pride in what they do, and who do not show up at my store at 10am their breath reeking of beer, or just disappear in the middle of a job.
I am taking a break from dealing with government functionaries who know little about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, but who are ever ready, it seems, to take every nibble they can from the fruits of my hard labor and investment dollars so they can fund their retirement plans.
I shall, like the narrator in Eliot’s poem, take refuge for a few days in the simpler world of DIY stitching, one of the last bastions of American handmade craftsmanship, and close the door for now on this parade of incompetents that I have had to deal with for the last two months.
I’ll resurface in few days.
That’s a promise you can count on.
© Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016