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So I had the intention of getting back into drawing. We were at an arts and crafts store the other day, looking at wedding invitations that all appeared to look exactly the same to me, when something caught my eye. A big, huge sketchpad. It was the size of my front door.

It was amazing. I was drawn to it I swear by some other force that was not my fiancé showing me two identical white papers and asking which I preferred. I walked slowly over to the aisle and stood in awe of these beautiful art supplies. I got that feeling again that what I really should be doing with my life is creating something… anything… instead of working in retail, where I produce nothing. I make nothing. I create nothing. I will eventually be replaced with a computer. And at the moment, I again realised that I am not happy with my eventual destination.

And then I realised that I'm not happy about it, but I could really use the health insurance and pension. I start thinking that what I should do instead is break out my old sketch books and pencils and just start drawing again. Anything. I figured that would ease my mind a little while I'm at work, just existing to make a buck.

I started drawing cartoons at age 7 or 8. I loved Garfield, Peanuts, and later, Calvin & Hobbes. That seemed like the greatest job to me. Make some funny drawings, and people would pay you. I ended up getting published in a local paper here when I was about 11 years old. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I was On My Way, to be sure. I had a plan.

My father took me to what was, without a doubt, the greatest local art supply store in town, and let me buy some supplies. Whatever I wanted. It was then, on that day, standing on the cusp of greatness, that I would discover the Kneaded Rubber Eraser.

If you've never seen one of these things, they are just plain fun. They have the consistency of silly putty, but they erase pencil and charcoal with no crumbs. You can twist them into tiny points and erase in the smallest of places. I got about 5 of them. I loved working with them. I would draw sometimes and mess up on purpose, just so I could use my Kneaded Rubber Eraser. I was a happy little child, getting ready to head down my path to greatness as a professional cartoonist.

And now, 20 plus years later, I'm looking at these same Kneaded Erasers in the art supply aisle of my local-super-chain-art-and-craft-store and I feel something weird happening to my face. I'm smiling. Smiling wide. Without meaning to. I reach up and grab the same brand of Eraser that I did all those years ago. General Pencil Company. They really were the best, I remember the man saying to me as a child. Plus, they were "Made in the USA".

This is a line that you will find less and less of on products you buy today. Check it out sometime. Since Wal-Mart took over, every store has had to start buying their products from China. From Indonesia. From India. I was almost comforted to see the General's claim of "Proudly made in the USA since 1889." This means a lot to me. I looked at the other three brands of kneaded erasers, and they were all made in Taiwan. And even though the General Pencil Company's eraser was 45¢ higher than the others, I bought it. Because I know that extra 45¢ is going to pay for the wages and benefits of some working class stiff just like me.

Then I get this eraser home. I carefully open the package, and unwrap this little piece of my childhood. This little piece of happiness. That weird thing starts happening with my mouth again. I take the eraser out and fold it. Roll it into a ball. Stretch it. Then… and only then, do I see IT.

Just three little words, but enough to drain the smile away from my lips. "Made in Malaysia". I immediately got on the internet and Googled "General Pencil Company". I found their website, and fired off a remarkable cool-headed letter, asking which of the two claims found on their packaging was true; "Made in USA" on the front, or "Made in Malaysia" found inside. I'm hoping to get a response back soon, which I will share with you.

I'd hate to think I wasted my 45¢ investment in America.

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I've worked 120 hours in the last two weeks, and to be honest, I don't even like working 40 hours. But I need the money. There are always beasts knocking at my door asking for more and more of the stuff, and I have to prostrate myself to the retail war machine to make enough for my monthly sacrifice.

I've been trying to save up some money for – I hate the term "honeymoon" – our post-wedding vacation. That's not easy to do when you have had your household income cut in half for the last six months. But I've scrimped and saved, worked all of this bloody overtime, and had several hundred dollars saved up.

Then my fiancé's car decided that it needed a new timing belt. And air conditioning belt. And whatever else that added up to me being broke. Again. Whatever. It's not like I'm buried or anything. I just can't get ahead.

Most people right now would have no sympathy. Everyone, it seems, is struggling. These are hard times we are living in. Well, they are hard times if you are one of the lower-to -middle-class working stiffs that make up a majority of the country. We are working harder and harder for less and less money, but we still somehow make ends meet. We are getting by. We are surviving.

Barely.

This is my “Blog”

If you aren't completely appalled, then you aren't paying attention.

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Public Discourse

The Humans in the Wa… on Detached
Jonathan Woolbright on Preparing For War
Jonathan Woolbright on Amateur Hour
Jonathan Woolbright on Suicide in the Morning
Craig on Unfaithful