A Few Dollars More
Copyright © by SuZi, 4/24/04
Having relocated residency this past fortnight, it had previously
seemed logical to plan for a local sale...logical until the actual handling of
possessions in the packing process. The decision to not endeavor to have the
domestic goods pawed by skeptical strangers for the sake of a few dollars was
born more of exhaustion than any sense of arrogance. Indeed, my attorney
associate crowed over the proceeds of her recent garage sale and she's a fairly
well-mannered, dignified individual. Roadside signs for all manner of transient
marketing can be found picketing the lawns of residences of every social caste.
Additionally, in this region, it is also possible to find roadside vendors of
rugs, lawn sculpture, barbeque and--most gruesomely--turtles and little birds.
Some vendors are reliable enough to be found at the same site each weekend; one
woman has a small manufactured kitchen--of the mobile home variety--set up next
to her handsomely painted and generous barbeque grill.
As a long-time client of estate and garage sales, thrift stores and used book vendors, the delight of collecting the serendipitous is now the habit of life-practice. Yet, it is not that this personal collection is always too precious : recent visitors to my rented house left with shopping bags-- a leather dress, a silk blouse--cowrie shells over the child; a box of books and other items was inflicted upon a collection of people at one of the places of my employ. My mourning for my rabbit, Powder, was not tempered by the fact that he ate my first edition Denise Levertov.
As far back as childhood, my possessions have always had a certain pantheistic impact upon my being; typical, perhaps, of the child to invest a personae on favored objects, but every move of my life has included two or more boxes of the little horses who have populated my life--my horse farm of china, glass and plastic. Objects have resonance, they hold memory: this was by father's bicycle (a red, English three-speed), this is the frying pan my grandmother gave me (a Magnalite with a cover that rings; the ring of heavy cookery is the sound of domestic endeavor for my life's soundtrack). When this reverence for the portents of the inanimate is added to the sweet-tooth of the rummage maven, there is then the glee at an early edition of an interesting author, or the preciousness of a strange China pattern. That yard sale signs speckle the intersections perhaps indicates an economic situation not touted by the glib sycophants of our national spin: folks are hurtin' for the jang and are puttin' their stuff out on the lawn in the prayer of a few dollars more.
If our economic landscape is such that our acquisition-based society is in such a humiliating territory ( and shame is for neophytes these days), one must wonder at the docility of the citizenry who swallow the toxins of the media's economic misinformation.
The superficial divisions of political parties aside (it takes money, lots of money, to win an election), the blind and often violent allegiances of citizenry to their respective parties is reminiscent of a pack of dogs at the table of tyranny: even the littlest dog will jealously guard his scrap of fat --the more starving the dog, the more insane is his violence for his few crumbs.
Perhaps any thinking person might be inclined to draw parallels to one of any of the country's other periods of economic storm, even the one schoolchildren are taught to call Great. There are distinct and overt, as well as subtle differences between not only our spin-censored historical perception of these periods, but some unspoken histories as well. Of the former, modern times have created a miasma of apathy due to both demoralization and our insulated life-styles: we are more crowded, more fearful, more appalled at how little our wages actually purchase and more comfortable shut-away with our multiple televisions and computers (no one has half the neighborhood over for a broadcast, as was depicted in the movie Seabiscuit). Our communities are such in name only, at least insofar as mundane intersections are concerned. Of the unspoken histories, not everyone suffers in periods of economic malaise --there are those who are making money, lots and lots of money. As a wage-slave with two (and there have been times of as many as three) jobs, grumbling at those who are profiteering at our agonies might strike the arrogantly bourgeois as sour grapes; suffice then the advice to read the manufacturing labels on grocery items and to ponder the choke-hold of global megacorporate production. Allow history to speak: the very dirt on which we sit is parceled, taxed, zoned, building-coded and regulated: homeowner associations erect gates and bar the overnight parking of vehicles in driveways, residency regulations include number of children and dogs, seasonal ornaments allowable, volume of music...if someone can complain of cooking odors, someone else will construct an ordinance. Beyond this anal lifestyle is the origin of our domiciles. Locally, Florida is a relative newcomer to residential development. St Augustine may be one of the oldest cities in the nation, but Orlando owes its occupancy to shrewd corporate investment. Consider perhaps the history of one central Florida county: when the privileged of America were buying paper certificates of investment (stocks), one person bought land--for reputedly a few dollars an acres--most of what is today a county. In the period of economic low-tide in the early twentieth century now posthumously referred to as the Great Depression, this person left for Europe. The land lived as it had; however, the heirs of the title have sold off bits and parcels --a community college here, a Department of Transportation deal there--and the remaining heirs, and their heirs in turn to follow, will be insulated from the fantastic budgeting which has even the previously economic immune firing the part-time help in favor of doing the moving themselves. There are such stories everywhere.
Even the cashiers and floor people at such franchised warehouses as Lowe's and Wal-Mart are hardly glad of their bone-wringing wages. One Lowe's lumber clerk apologized for the price of lathed pine and laughed heartily at dry comments of "that's what rebuild Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan means". The Lowe's cashier said she intended to speak to her boss about her less-than-seven-dollars-an-hour wages, and she appeared to be more a mom to teenagers than the teen stereotypically construed to run the register. The Wal-Mart cashier, who said he was a retiree from Westinghouse, bemoaned the lack of Wal-Mart's managerial direction; what kind of pension did Westinghouse give as reward for a life of service that a former employee is now running the garden center register?
A chance comment made recently by a tie-wearing-community college-night-school student may shed some light on the rich get/poor get illness from which we have suffered for so long (albeit the fact that the student believed in whole-hearted participation in the system as it stands) he remarked. "Americans are not able to accept the truth."
What weak spines then do we have to bend them to the harnesses of our employers, but not straighten them for our own individual dignity. It is historically true that destitution was enhanced at the death of the barter system and that dispossession occurred when community-held lands were grabbed greedily; we are not yet entirely censored from history, but we do ignore it.
One of my oldest friends once sent me a double-breasted grey wool jacket: he was pleased the jacket is so useful and equally pleased it was a Goodwill bargain. The jacket, for me, is the one Bob sent and it is useful in my role as wage-slave to multiple employers. Just this past week, a linen dress for spring was my score from a consignment shop and no one at work withheld any comments because of its point of purchase ('cuz they didn't know). Every weekend, the flea markets are more crowded, the transient vendors set up their wares, and it is a good thing: it is a good thing to purchase locally, to keep the money in the community. This may sound altruistic, and perhaps it is, but this is not the altruism of the privileged; it is the altruism of survival sense, the pragmatism of necessity. That we have finally been sufficiently betrayed by our national economy to find some small relief in this almost medieval enterprise is, perhaps, a lesson that should not be so quickly forgotten when our national media tried to hypnotize us with their election-frenzied, economic lies.
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