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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No Sweat

I'm actually not barking today--just popping in with a little follow-up story I mentioned in my post about jobs, although I have plenty to bark about--don't we all. 
Back in the late 80's me and mine found ourselves transported to a galaxy far far away in New Jersey.  It didn't take long for things to completely unravel, and unravel they did.  My goodness, I could really spin you some tails about THAT, but I shan't.  In an attempt to stick a finger in that dike, I ended up doing all manner of odd jobs--temp jobs.  One of the more fun ones took me to a Japanese company that made counterfeit money detecting machines a long walk from our home.  I worked with a spicy little gutsy Thai woman, Nancy, and when that temp job dried up, she put me in touch with a couple of men's shirt designers she knew in the garment district of Manhattan.  Joyce and Pierre were an interesting mix.  She was a former Chicago Playboy Club bunny, and Pierre (as you may have guessed) was straight from France. Together they designed and sold quite upscale  men's shirts.  I caught the bus into the city at a deli just down from where we lived in NJ at the time.  That bus wound its way eventually through the Lincoln Tunnel and spit me out finally at the Port Authority--the huge bus terminal on 8th Avenue.  This neighborhood metamorphosized during Guilianni's reign, but at the time it was aglow with homeless and trash which I maneuvered through.  My commute continued on foot south on 8th to a 2nd story walkup.  I spent the day kvetsching pleasantly with Pierre--Joyce was scarce.  Pierre piled multiple colorful bolts of silk and rayon on a large cutting table, and I cut out the pieces for the shirts using heavy cardboard patterns and stacked them ready to be sewn.  Then he'd run them down the hall to a bevy of little Puerto Rican ladies.  Somehow his French and their Spanish resulted in a finished product. On a couple of occasions I ventured down there.  That was a whole 'nuther world!  Babies, toddlers and some incredible cooking smells.  One day I spent sewing on buttons, and then the next Pierre and Joyce wheeled their rack of  wares to a trade show down the block at Madison Square Garden.  That was the end of my 3 week gig.  Did I sweat?  A little.  We kept the windows wide open.  That also added to the ambience.  Taxis honking all day.  New York streets are a dynamo of action--sirens, yelling, and the smells.  This was not my first taste of New York, but it was close to it.  If you've ever been intoxicated by that city, you need no further description.  And if you haven't you won't be able to picture this at all.   I saw a segment on a history of New York City on the history channel once about the shirtwaist factory that went up in smoke at the turn of the century--1900 something.  Those women were LOCKED into their workplace, so when fire broke out, they were sitting ducks.  Deplorable conditions.  80 years later I venture to say some things have probably not changed--especially if one looks at the garment industry globally.  I'm not making any political statements about the morality of that.  My experience was a mere slice.  I spent my days with a Frenchman (did I mention that Pierre was hmmmmmm...yeah he was VERY) who kept me in soda and could not have been nicer.  So sweatshop...probably just barely.


Shelly said...

I read this and am left with the suspicious idea that there is a lot about NJ that I either can't remember or never knew.

Patti said...

I am one of those people who went to NYC, fell madly in love with it, and never returned, so I was a happy camper with you on this one. Plus I just read Girl In Translation so I was comparing your clothing production experience with the conditions portrayed there. You made out pretty well.

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley