Monday, September 18, 2006

Go Home, Yankee Imperialists!

by Sara Paretsky

I ordered a new bed recently at Marshall Field. When it arrived, the delivery slip was marked “Macy’s,” and the box springs themselves were labeled, “Exclusive to Macy’s.” Macy’s? Macy’s? That’s a New York store. If I wanted to shop in New York, I’d go to New York. I happen to prefer Chicago. I’ve tried New York. When I was 23, I went there hoping to get a job with a publisher or magazine, but couldn’t get my foot in any of those doors; I returned to Chicago, where I became a writer. When I wrote my first novel, 37 New York publishers turned it down, saying that a book set in Chicago had regional interest only, and not enough people read in the Midwest to merit publishing a book set here. Do we illiterate Midwesterners need to give money to a New York firm?

My bank, the once-venerable First National Bank of Chicago, with its fabled art collection, now sports an ungainly Chase logo on its elegant top; Marshall Fields has disappeared, replaced by the Red Star of 34th Street; the famous clocks will carry the New York label—set, perhaps, to eastern time. All Marshall Field charge cards are being changed to Macy’s this fall.
Of course, First Chicago and Fields have long been pawns in the conglomerate game, but it’s the first time a foreign power has brazenly branded them as its own.

I thought about colonial protests of the past, starting with the famous tea party. Chicagoans, tear up your Macy’s cards and dump them in the Harbor, I started to cry, but my sons reminded me there’s too much plastic in Lake Michigan already.
Gandhi got the British out of India by means of simple boycotts. Chicagoans, there are plenty of other banks in town. Boycott Chase, the New York behemoth. Go toyour neighborhood store instead of Macy’s. Otherwise, what will become of us next—the Sox a Yankee farm team? The famous Chicago dogs relabeled “Nathan’s?” Rise up, Chicago, flex those broad shoulders and shake off the imperialist tyrant’s yoke!


Maryann Mercer said...

Hi Sara,
My dad worked for The First National Bank of Chicago, aka The First long before FirstChicago appeared on their VisaCards.We used to visit him for lunch in their employee dining room. He retired before FNB became NBD and then Chase and new JP Morgan Chase but banked there because as a pensioner he got free checking. No slouch, my father. I wouldn't bank there now. And I grew up going down to the Loop to see Field's windows and eat Frango Mints. It won't be the same. Will I shop Macy's? They've taken over Famous-Barr at our local mall. Never shopped there although I did use their ladies lounge once, so I probably won't now.
I've decided that if I live long enough, there will only be one department store chain (Macy's), one grocery chain, and one bank...hopefully bookstores will be exempt!

Libby Hellmann said...

Great post Sara! As a transplanted, former East Coaster and now illiterate Chicagoan myself, I have thought about the Second City and our place in the universe. They can take our stores, our banks, they can even take our sports teams, but how many of them can make a river run backwards? Or pronounce “Goethe” street “Gothie”? Or have an water intake pumping station that also was a brothel?

ab said...

Gosh, Chicago seems more and more alluring for every post... I have just traveled by in a Greyhound bus at night in 1980. Should have stayed for a bit.

There is a similar animosity between Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden. Stockholm is the capital, but Gothenburg claims this capital is a pityful provincial spot situated on the backside of Sweden - not facing the Atlantic, but the Baltic sea and Finland and Russia. (Which name, btw, comes from Roslagen north of Stockholm).

The Home Office said...

I agree completely; it's the blanding of America. I lived near (and worked in) Chicago for almost three years, and what I loved about it was that is wasn't like a big Northeastern city.

There's a conspiracy here somewhere. I wonder what Oliver Stone is up to. He'd get to the bottom of this.

Patry Francis said...

Macy's also took over our beloved Filene's in Boston. I have to agree with maryann mercer...soon there will be only one store to shop.