Duck Soup

Head on a Shopping Block


So, I'm sittin' there in the car, waiting for a friend, looking at the gift shop that is spilling itself all over the sidewalk. Boxes and baskets of gaudy baubles, Americana, toy tomahawks, two-ended backscratchers, cowboy hats and whips.

Whips? Yes, Mom and Dad, buy the kids a whip while you're on vacation this year. Get 'em started on the jolly road to S&M while they're young!

And I'm a little bored, so I climb out and fondle the merchandise for a while, like a tourist. Davy Crockett hats, bows and arrows, "North Carolina" pennants, a butterfly net. (Torment insects! It's educational!) And sud-denly it dawns on me that virtually every item I have perused is made on the other side of the Pacific Rim.

Hmm. Granted, Native Americans came from the same source, so there may be a deep ontological rationality to bows and arrows made on the far shore of the Bering Straits.

But Davy Crockett hats? What must pass through the minds of employees of the Ying Shing Imitation Raccoon and Electronics Factory when they contemplate the meaning of encasing one's brain in dead mammal? With the tail attached?

And, somehow, a two-ended backscratcher beggars the imagination. A poor fellow in Indonesia is probably scratching his head right now, puzzling over North American anatomy.

So, I climb back in the car and muse. Whilst I muse, four separate groups of Oriental tourists drive in, park and begin the shopping tango. I surmise that they are not connected because members of each group share features suggesting a different national origin: Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese. (These are guesses, naturally.)

But what strikes me is that here are tourists who may well have travelled half-way around the world to visit beautiful Western North Carolina, shopping for trinkets that preceded them in their journey. This is the Home Shopping Network writ large! Instead of dialing for home delivery, you chase the goodies around the globe! "Dahling, I've just made the most exciting discovery! We were staying in a chateau in the Rhone. Terribly posh. And the maitre d', so devilishly cute you were tempted, suggested a red. Amusing isn't the half of it! The nose! The subtlety! We brought twelve cases home. The vintner? Biltmore, of course!"

Maybe we needed this. After years of nursing subtle insecurity about the American Way, perhaps we need to find our finest in the far corners of the world. Having lived in an avalanche of microminiaturized Asian technotreats for all this time, wouldn't it buoy your spirits to see someone in Singapore eating Campbell's Soup?

After decades of Damoclean stress, with bigger, better Soviet warheads hovering overhead, don't you just bust with pride when you see the golden arches over Red Square (no matter what your take on grinding up cows)?

And it goes both ways. Think how the Japanese, who long ago filled every nook and cranny of their island with people, must hunger for the wide open range, the trackless forest, the romance of nomadic life.

Think of the joy to discover modern Cherokee trinkets made at home! That's half-way to nomadville! Or the Brits? Ever since we stepped into their shoes of empire, don't you imagine a little grudge? Uncle Sam this, Uncle Sam that.

Think how their hearts must swell with pride when they stand in a checkout line in a supermarket or watch TV! They were right about tabloid news after all! Britannia rules!

So, whaddya say? Join the No-Place-Like-Home Shopping Network today! Then click your heels twice and see that Kansas is where you find it. I think I'll call my travel agent. I hear there's a fantastic deal on whimmydiddles, in Sri Lanka.

Cecil Bothwell searches for bargains in the marketplace of ideas in the other Carolina.

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© Copyright by POINT, 1995

Last modified 7/9/95