Monday, April 25, 2005


The one and only time I ever took Jedi with me into a Chinese restaurant, the little waitress jumped back in horror when she spied the dog, dashed into the kitchen, and refused to emerge. The manager of the restaurant waited on us, but from the expression on his face, I gathered that the Chinese are not really into dogs as companions. I finished my meal with the waitress peering around the corner and the dour face of the manager serving my fortune cookie.

I know there are Oriental cultures that raise dogs as food animals, but I don't know if the Chinese are among them. Jedi is so thin, she probably wouldn't even make good soup. Anyway, from that point onward, I leave Jedi home if the restaurant is going to be Chinese.

Have you ever noticed that Chinese restaurants are usually manned by a staff of young Chinese men and women, quiet, obedient, hovering, anxious, almost fearful, as though they would be whisked away to some dark dungeon if they spilled a won ton? They all seem to be imported and are overawed by this big, noisy, undisciplined country with its heavy eaters and patrons who tip more than a Chinese worker makes in a day.

I seem to have a close relationship with China. Closer than I ever really wanted, to tell the truth. I have read of the rebelling students in China and have sympathized, and I do admire Chinese artistry, their embroidered tapestry, those beautifully carved tables and screens. But my knowledge of Chinese history and Chinese customs have been mostly limited to Pearl Buck novels.

But it seems that everything in my home has originated in China. Everything I pick up and turn over has that little "Made in China" label. While I have been ignoring their history and culture, blissfully ignorant about anything Chinese, they have been diligently manufacturing everything I own. And, from what I understand, at a very low salary, to boot!

Just last weekend, I went with my son to a huge flea market that is a permanent fixture in two easy-to-reach locations here in the Detroit area. It was a rainy, windy, chilly day, the forerunner of a violent Spring storm, and one had to dash into the market from the car with the speed of a gazelle, and not quite so gracefully. But the items gathered together in that market were enough to dazzle the most hardened shopper.

While my son came home with two Oriental rugs that I am not sure were made in China, I came home with a pair of sneakers. I was quite triumphant, because they cost half of what sneakers would cost in regular shopping centers. I had saved a bundle of money, so who cared if my sneakers had the strange title of "AIRS"? This was faintly reminiscent of some other brand, but I didn't dwell on the subject.

Anyway, after arriving home, I carefully looked over my AIRS. Here are the Care Instructions:

"Keep away from rain, insolation and fire to avoid the transmutation or break. Don't use indoor shoes for voilet exercise outdoor. Clean with damp cloth, dry away from direct heat to extend life and maitaln suppleness of leather apply shoes dressing."

Now how much clearer can you get than that? Evidently my sneakers are indoor shoes, not to be worn outside for voilet exercise. And if I can locate some shoes dressing, I should apply it.

I suspect that this label was written by someone who had already worked a twelve hour day for very little pay. Thinking of this, I felt a great sense of guilt. Here we are, in America, unable to buy something made in our own country, gleefully snatching up bargains made in a country where people are paid in peanuts.

So I began looking for something made in our country. The only thing I could find in my house that is Made in America is my Chinese soup. Yep, Chinese Ramen Noodle Soup is an American product. We manufacture their soup, and they make everything else. Somehow this seems an uneven trade.

That leads to the everything in China made in America? Hey, even I, the economic dummy, know the answer to that one. We import tons of merchandise. We export very little. In fact, I heard somewhere that one of our top exports is waste paper. It is sent to places like China where they recycle it to make those little drink umbrellas and paper fans. We spoiled, wasteful, pampered Americans create enough waste paper to supply an industry!

Someone should do something about the unfairness in the Trade Laws. Perhaps, if our esteemed President would stop paying such companies as Halliburton, and pay some scant attention to the problems in this country, I could have found a pair of American-made sneakers in the flea market. Perhaps I could have even found a pair to wear outdoors, made with pride by an American worker. Well, a person can dream, can't he?

I understand that China is quickly becoming a major country, on its way to super powerdom, which I think we are leaving behind us. In fact, it is well known that we are borrowing money from China to finance such things as the Iraq War. Our country is loaded with debt. China is thriving, but unable to give its workers a decent wage for a hard day's labor. I don't think that matters much to the authorities there. I don't think they lose sleep over it. And, frankly, it doesn't seem to matter much to our authorities, either.

What must those fragile Chinese women think when they are sewing my gigantic, double wide, size eight shoe? Do they resent us, these foreigners who buy their cheap goods and borrow their money?

I don't know, but the situation here is not healthy. We need to start making our own shoes, indoor and outdoor. We need American goods on the world market. We need to stop borrowing money and paying off our debt. We need fewer foreign doctors and more American doctors. We need to be able to call for a hotel reservation without reaching a person in India. We need factories, stores and businesses in the ghetto areas. We need to re-declare our war on Poverty and Overpopulation and bring our troops home from Iraq. We need our silly Congress to stop peddling religious nonsense and pay attention to our jobless people, as well as those chewing their fingernails over the possible loss of their jobs.

So here's to American-made Chinese Ramen Noodle of the last of our American- made products, a disappearing commodity, not only an endangered species, but damned near extinct.