Monday, June 27, 2016

The history of shoes

Met my old pal Kipling at the Teviotdale Truck Stop for breakfast a couple of weeks ago, there to shoot the shit and catch up on what old mutual acquaintances are out of jail or in the nursing home. Or in the grave. We get together every three or four months, or whenever my supply of the weed 'o wisdom is running low.

Kipling has been a big fan of this blog ever since I first mentioned his name in it. He occasionally makes suggestions, and at this breakfast meeting he suggested I cut back on the political shit and do more "human interest" stuff.

Fair enough, but the way I see it, there's a huge overlap between the political and that human interest shit. Didn't some wise person once claim that "the personal is political?"

Sure, but you know what? There's something that's both personal and political...


Back in the sixties and seventies you couldn't open the business section of Canada's national newspaper of record without reading some fawning story about a great Canadian success; the Bata shoe empire. You got the impression Thomas Bata was some struggling immigrant who arrived at Pier 21 penniless, and due to Canada's wholesome pro-business environment and his adopted Canadian values of honesty, integrity, and hard work, made a success of himself. Yup, the classic Horatio Alger tale, but set in the Great White North.

Kipling was my connection to Wally Tucker and the Church of the Universe, and, over the years, a lot of really good weed. Sometimes, too, some not so good weed... but also, at times, weed that was WAY TOO GOOD! And I gotta say, over the years he has developed into quite an astonishingly competent herbalist.

That's why it's so important to the think tank here at Falling Downs, that as PM POTHEAD legalizes the weed, that space be left for the independent small-time cultivators like Kipling who have been cultivating better bud for the past fifty years.

I generally don't fire one up till the Farm Manager has turned in for the night. It wasn't always that way. We used to enjoy sharing a few giggles. That changed forever one night after we burned one in the WTG category mentioned above. Not to give too much away, but she came damned close to being the first person in the 10,000 year history of cannabis consumption to OD on pot.

After three puffs!

See what I mean about way too good? So ever since then I make sure I just get the more gentle stuff from Kipling.

So the other night, I'm sitting in the kitchen, kinda mellow, researching the history of shoes, and out the corner of my eye I think I see a mouse scurry across the kitchen counter.

Impossible! We've got two elite mousers living in the house, and at least one them is so big she's taken on the nickname "Doublewide."  No chance any mice are getting past her!

It's just your imagination, I tell myself.

Back to the shoes.

There's no denying that the Bata shoe empire was a great success story. How "Canadian" it ever was is open to question. Seems the Bata clan owned one of the world's great shoe empires back in the 1930's, when they were based in Eastern Europe, with over 60,000 employees and thousands of retail outlets around the world.

So then I think I see another mouse... holy shit... two mice? Playing tag on the countertop? No way... sure enough, when I actually focus on them, they go away.

Just the weed, obviously.

By the middle eighties the esteemed Bata name had fallen into some measure of disrepute, at least in the "radical" circles I prided myself in being peripherally associated with at the time, and here's why.

Seems the Bata empire was opening up shoe factories all over the global south. India, Pakistan, all over Africa, and everywhere they opened a new factory the story was the same; the supply of cheap plastic injection-molded shoes had a devastating impact on the traditional local shoe-making industry and their supply chains. Yup, one little factory in Sandalistan would employ twenty people and throw two thousand local artisans out of work.

Hey, I have no clue how much of that was actually true, but there was an "activist community" that believed every word of it.

Anyway, aside from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, you'd have to look pretty hard for a trace of that great Canadian success story in Canada today. The company remains a big player in the global footwear industry, but now they're based in... what?!

There's two mice on the fucking counter... they're pulling a strand of spaghetti out of the saucepan... wait a minute... I can't believe it!.. They're swinging it around like it's a skipping rope! Oh my god, I can't believe what I'm seeing! Here come the baby mouses... and ya, they are actually skipping rope with a piece of spaghetti on my countertop!

Holy shit, brother, that is some nice weed!

Where was I... oh ya. Bata destroyed the traditional sandal making artisans all over Africa. That's why I was so pleased when I came across this story at CNN.  That right there is a bit of an anomaly, isn't it? A good news story at CNN? Out of Africa?

Yup, imagine that, Africans manufacturing a world-class product.

Gonna get me a pair of Enzi shoes, and you should too.

Think I'll pick up a couple of mousetraps as well, just in case there's more at work in my kitchen than the potency of Kipling's pot.

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