That morning I reluctantly drove to the closest shopping mall. I hate those things. If you could put all the most disgusting traits of a consumer culture under one roof (with polluted air) just go to any mall. They all look the same. Plastic rules from the food to the crap they sell to the people whose eyes light up as they push their kids around in a stupor. But I digress. Thus isn't about the mall, just going there. My local mall has a Sears...at least for the moment. It's soon going to go the way of Montgomery Ward and JC Penney will follow soon after. But Sears still has the best "work clothes" and occasionally a good deal on athletic clothes.
We went to see about some workout cloths or sweats. Whether Everlast or Russell Athletic, or Nike, or Spalding, they are all made in some Asian country. The first pair I picked up was made in Vietnam. That always gives me pause because I know that Vietnam is the U.S.s fastest growing trading partner. Yup, things are going great guns with this little re-untied country where my generation shed so much blood. Seeing that tag with Made in Vietnam on any garment always stops me in my tracks. Part of me wants to emote. "See what did I tell you, all those myths about fighting to keep the world safe for democracy were just bullshit. No dominoes falling, no way of life threatened...just sweatshops for our fastest growing trading partner. We're all on the same side now, aren't we? Glad I didn't die so we could have $12.95 sweat pants.
That afternoon the other half of the circle went unbroken when Ted called. Ted is my Vietnam vet friend who I discovered again after he was MIA from the Bay Area for 8 years. We met about 15 years ago as part of a growing circle of friends who liked to handicap horse races and hang out at the Top of the Stretch room at Golden Gate Fields. Before I moved to the Northwest, Ted just disappeared and we all assumed his past finally caught up with him. He'd battled a heroin addiction like many vets and got his life together as a caterer in San Francisco. In the last few years that I knew him, he'd battled other demons like prostate cancer and some injuries he's suffered after being hit by a car on a foggy S.F. morning. Ted could have been dead for many reasons. But last January when I happened to find him in a Santa Rosa, Ca. OTB, Ted surfaced very much alive. True he was dying from another kind of cancer, looked like a walking thermometer, and even though he'd quit smoking, was the color of dirty snow...but there he was, breathing, talking to me, and still excited about horses running around in circles.
Full circle, from made in Vietnam to made to die in Vietnam.