A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

No More Pony Express

insecticide smell in drug store for spring
at the mercy of walmart and china
small shops closing
discretionary money
joanns closing (cheaper to buy walmart than sew)
polar bears
online shopping
seventeen magazine article

I was once telling my sister a story about something. When I was done she asked, "Does your mind work like that all the time?" This list of topics is kind of reflective of the way my mind does work. There's an essay (blog?) in there somewhere if I can dig it out.

When I was fourteen (that was 41 years ago) I read an article in
Seventeen magazine that really stayed with me. I wish I had cut it out and kept it, but it was one of those things that you don't realize will stay with you until it has stayed with you for a while. It was about a young man living in the future. On the television were constant news reports about the horrible riots and violence that were continuously taking place in the streets of America. Stay in your homes! When he needed anything he would order it (I don't remember how) and it would be delivered by a conveyor belt system into his apartment, so he never had to leave. Eventually, of course, he becomes curious about what's really out there and ventures out to find empty, silent streets. He follows the conveyor belt system to the master control center where he is informed that "they" decided the only way to keep peace in the world was to keep everyone in their homes. They had been waiting for someone with enough courage to track them down so that this person could take over for them. I don't remember how the story ended (did he take over for them or not?) but I found the concept fascinating.

Seems to me we're getting close.

People spend more and more time in their homes, ordering what they need online and having it delivered to their homes. This is perfectly understandable; in many parts of the country (the world?) people just don't have access to the materials they want. Certainly I can see this among my stitchery blog friends. But for others, there is a local needlework store nearby enough to patronize and they will still choose online shopping, often because it's cheaper. As more and more of us shop online, more and more local shops are closing. Just this past weekend I dropped by a favorite scrapbooking st
ore in a neighboring town and it was - poof - gone! As is the local quilt shop and nursery.

I noted in conversation once how sad this seemed to me, and a colleague commented that people just don't do crafts anymore, they are more interested in computers. I disagreed. Although many quilters and stitchers do enjoy the internet, it doesn't take the place of needle in hand. My explanation for the closure of the shops is that our economy is in such terrible shape that people just don't have as much discretionary money as they used to (what with paying - STILL- close to $2.50 a gallon for gas and hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance, if they are bothering with that at all) and so they are looking for the big discounts on all their purchases. Hence the online shops and stores like Walmart.

Unfortunately, it's a vicious circle. We don't have money to buy what we want unless it's discounted. Small stores go out of business because we shop discount, so then we are dependent on the "big box" stores like Beverly's, Michael's and JoAnn or the even bigger stores like Walmart. Then the big stores decide we're not spending enough on fabric (or stitchery supplies or whatever) and they decide not to carry those supplies any more. After all, not too many people choose to sew their clothes when they can buy them at Walmart cheaper than they can buy the fabric to sew. Maybe the big stores close completely. My mom's town had a GREAT Beverly's that just closed this month.

We're at their mercy. The Walmart (or SuperMichael's or SuperJoann) drives the small stores out of business, so where do we go to get what we need? Where can I go to get the floss I need to finish a project if the big stores stop carrying floss and the small stores are all
out of business? Or quilt fabric or scrapbook paper or...?

And where do I go to get the smell? Yesterday I dropped by a drug store for something and immediately thought of spring flowers. It took me a minute but I realized that I was smelling the potting soil and insecticides that were featured in an aisle of spring planting supplies.

For me shopping in a fabric store (especially a small quilt shop) is a complete sensory experience. I love the smell of the fabric inks (don't get me started on book stores) and the feel of the fabrics as I run my fingers down the edges of the bolts. I love the play of the colors against each other and the sound of staff quietly counseling customers on their fabric choices. About the only sense that doesn't get involved is taste (I don't lick the fabrics although I frequent a few shops that set out chocolate that I don't always resist).

I only shop at Walmart in Hiawatha, Kansas, when I visit my cousin who works there (about once every three years). I boycott all others. It's really no great loss for me. Their fabric department loses out in the sensory experience. And I don't buy fabric online for the same reason; it's the whole experience I love, not just purchasing fabric (I have a SABLE in my closet - Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy). But it does no good to commit to supporting the LNS or LQS when they aren't here any more.

The Pony Express isn't here anymore, either, and would we really want it to be? Would we really want to spend $3.50 per letter and have it take weeks to reach its destination, if it made it at all? The Pony Express went out of business as soon as the telegraph was criss-crossing the country. With the internet, the last telegram was delivered last year and the telegraph is officially extinct. Even the post office is doing double time to think of ways to stay in business (my letter c
arrier son calls junk mail "bread and butter," and our local post office has the best gift items in town). Will we watch the post office go the way of the telegraph and the Pony Express?

Which brings me to the polar bears. We're losing them. Global warming is melting the ice caps and more and more polar bears drown every month. They are spending less and less time in their breeding areas, producing fewer and fewer cubs. It saddens me that they may be extinct within my lifetime.

Like the small quilt shop? Like the small needlework

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