Saturday, May 18, 2013
Billy Mays With Acromegaly And A Palsied Makeup Artist
The sign says the factory is in Brewer, Maine. Brewer is basically Bangor. It's a city a couple hours east of where I live. We have a Paul Bunyan statue in our town, too, that doesn't belong here, either. Ours doesn't look like a nifty gay superhero like Brewer's does. Ours looks like Billy Mays if he had acromegaly and a makeup artist with palsy. All those people in the video sure look familiar, though. Mainers from the poor cities look and talk like everyone working on the line in that video, except for the robo-dweeb that's narrating. He looks more like Portland, ie: Northern Massachusetts.
No one in any of those places would be caught dead wearing Sperry Topsiders. Someone must still be wearing them Down East, I guess -- the constellation of little hamlets hard by the granite coast where people sail during the ten minutes of good weather that Maine gets every year. They don't wear them while sailing, of course, just in the bar after. Yuppies used to wear them in the eighties. I wonder if the fellow with the shirt three sizes too small signals a resurgence among the hipster crowd. They're comfy shoes; they could do worse. According to the Bangor Daily News, it's the Japanese and other assorted Asians that are buying them. Asians only want them because they aren't made in Asia. You can try to explain that if you want, but I have a headache already.
It's the Sperry label you see at the beginning of the video, but Justin Brands owns it, and Berkshire Hathaway owns that. That's Warren Buffett's bailiwick. Warren Buffett only buys things that have some strategic advantage someone's missing out on. A "Made in Maine" tag seems to be all you need to sell boat shoes in Japan. Who knew? Then again, Berkshire Hathaway used to make shirts when Buffett bought it. If I was working in one of his factories, I wouldn't buy any green bananas.
The elderly workforce in the video is not a gimmick. Maine is old people. After we moved to the wilds of western Maine, we later learned that everyone called us "the young couple." We are not young. But if you stand next to midgets you're tall, I guess. If you have children shorter than you, you're young, at least in Maine.
Maine used to make a lot of shoes and boots. It was the state's largest industry until very recently, when free trade killed American piecework dead. The state's current largest industry is selling oxycodone you stole from grandma's medicine cabinet, I think. You can still find Quoddy in Maine. Bean. Sperry. Bass. Red Wing. New Balance. Oops, I forgot about Bass. They're made in: "Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan." They still show scrawny, WASPy- looking chicks and their lantern-jawed LL Bean brochure consorts sitting on Adirondack chairs, dockside, on their website, though. The Maine ethos still sells. Maine is the size of Ireland, and about five square miles of it looks like those ads, but, whatever.
Maine used to look like those people in the video. Hardworking, no-nonsense people. I always admired people like them. I wonder who I'll admire when they're dead and gone. It won't be long till I find out, I guess.
(Thanks to my friend Gerard at American Digest for sending that one along)