Wednesday, October 1, 2008


As a wee lad, I found particular horror in stories of the reanimated dead. Monsters made up from the parts of dead bodies and, by far the worst, the zombies. Zombies carried the visage of the deceased, but they were forced to the will of the voodoo witch doctor who summoned them from the grave. This horror seemed the most complete to me, as my sympathies lay with the poor zombie who was under the impression that he had earned his eternal rest, but was now summoned forth to do some asshole's wicked work. I hated that.

Then, I grew out of it, and the concept no longer bothered me. The movies went from horrifying to stupid and inane, and they passed from my regard.

Then, one day, I came to realize that these movies and stories were parables. They are parables that tell of a horrid truth.

You see, also as a wee lad, I had a profound affection for certain icons of American commerce, most notably the ancient and steadfast Abercrombie and Fitch. It stood at 55/57 West 35th Street in Manhattan, and they carried all the best stuff. They had hand-made fishing baskets and THE safari shirts – the ones preferred by Teddy Roosevelt and Hemingway and everyone who was anyone in the early twentieth century. It's where Dad got his Greener shotgun. It's where I learned to tie a fly and cast a bamboo fly-pole. It's where Mom got the fishing pole she gave me for my high-school graduation. Hem died in '61, and Abercrombie and Fitch declined. The store began its death rattle in the late '60s, and it died in the mid seventies. It was sad, but they were gone.

And then the voodoo witch doctor came. He carried the ominous moniker of The Gap, and he summoned the corpse of A&F back to life. The store now does more business than it ever did, but it is an abomination, carrying inferior Chinese made crap aimed at teenagers who don't give a crap about quality or the history of Abercrombie and Fitch. Teenagers who have more money than brains, who want to look like or to attract the current sex-bomb from the TV, and Abercrombie and Fitch feeds that frenzy. Hem would turn in his grave.

The saddest part is that it is not a phenomenon unique to A&F. Eddie Bauer went the same way, and before A&F, but, at least, they pretended to be similar to the older store for awhile. The one that really gets me most recently, however, is L.L. Bean. I knew something was horribly wrong when I called them to find out if they could send me a Norwegian Sweater, and found that they no longer carried it. L.L. Bean with no Norwegian Sweaters? How could it be? I will tell you how – the witch doctor has come and has streamlined and modernized their business, and it is becoming another reanimated corpse of what it once was. Soon it will be in a mall near you, and you will be able to buy inferior Vietnamese made khakis that will, startlingly, look exactly like the khakis that you can get at Abercrombie and Fitch and The Gap and Eddie Bauer and The Banana Republic and every other store on the mall.

For a Halloween fright, I don't need to rent a movie nor dig out the Lovecraft. I only need to stroll down to the mall.

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