Tuesday, July 7, 2015

View to a Thrill: Made in America

Houston Courthouse 
The first piece of furniture I ever bought was a queen-sized bed. I'd moved off campus into an apartment and needed a bed. If you lived in Houston in the 90's, you know there was one place to shop for a mattress - “Mattress Mack's” Gallery Furniture. He did his own commercials, jumping up with a wad of cash and a goofy smile exclaiming, “We'll save you...MONEY!” To this day when I see the exit sign off the interstate, I remember him also saying, “I-45 North, between Tidwell and Parker.” Effective advertising.

With mixed emotions, I recently performed my civic responsibility by serving Jury Duty. Driving to the courthouse downtown, I passed Parker and remembered, “I-45 North between Tidwell and Parker.” Twenty-seven years after buying my bed, he's still there. So, on the way home, after not being used, (it would have been a boring DUI case, anyway; I'm sure the guy was guilty) I stopped in.

What used to be a small, somewhat dumpy metal building with furniture outside under a large shade structure, is now one of the largest furniture stores in the country; quite grandiose, with large statues, water fountains with live tropical birds, a huge rotunda and even a display of live monkeys. Being Houston royalty, as it were, it wasn't too surprising to see several areas devoted to his ego, with plaques and photos and displays of Jim McIngvale alongside other Houston royalty, presidents, and sports legends.

What got me most were the numerous US flags and the continuously running infomercial on the many TV screens throughout the show room with an annoyingly twangy country song going on about god and country, images of Old Glory waving, of a Marine and his bride on the steps of a church, of families and children eating hot dogs, and there was a much older, but still sort of goofy looking, Mattress Mack declaring how his furniture store now leans toward items made in America. Red, white and blue. God. American proud. Sappy music sung by a nasally challenged man. 'Murca!' (the term a certain inept president recently made famous).

Chilean friends being silly
Earlier this year, I had my first trip to Santiago, Chile. I'd never been to South America until transferring to our Houston base, and it's been great getting to know the culture of our neighbors to the south. Upon meeting some friends of a friend, I was asked how I liked Santiago. I told them how much I loved the huge Andes Mountains and hadn't expected the city to be so much like America, with Denny's, P.F. Chang's, Fuddruckers, and all the standard fast food restaurants, of course. They looked at me like I had two heads, “Well,” they said, “you ARE in America.” South America.

Of course, I was.

I'd fallen into that trap that so many from the US fall into; thinking America is all there is. People in South America see themselves as American's too. Made in America, technically, means it could be
made in Canada, or Chile, or Argentina. We seem to forget that we are not the only Americans.

One of Mack's monkeys
Ever since my new friends in Chile reminded me that we are all American's, I've tried to be more aware of how I use “American”. It's impressive how people can stand so tall and proud for their homeland. I wish as Earthlings, we could stand a little more in unison of the fact that we are all on this rock together and try to get along a bit more comfortably.

I'm fortunate to have the kind of job that really opens one's eyes to new concepts, as well as the chance to explore new cultures. I once heard that after being a flight attendant for a while, you learn enough to earn a college degree, and this situation reminded me of that. I love seeking knowledge and exploring new worlds and learning new insights. The world to me has gotten so much smaller with this job. And so much better understood. I wish more 'Murcan's could do the same.

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