NOB HILL--We saw it on TV: people in tents outside a big-box electronics store spending two nights to make sure they would be first to get the bargains. Many stores opened at 3:00 A.M. just to give us a leg up on the rush. Later, I saw a woman interviewed who said, smiling, that she had spent a thousand dollars. And then the newspaper ran a picture of a man standing in line holding a waffle iron under his arm. That's right...a waffle iron
Just how fast can we send the rest of our money to China? Well, Friday gave us a chance to find out. According to the National Retail Association
, total consumer spending for the Black Friday weekend reached $45 billion. Given a normal mark-up, that means at least $20 BILLION went directly to China last weekend. To paraphrase the late Senator Everett Dirksen
of Illinois, "20 billion here, 20 billion there...and pretty soon you're talking about real money."
The Bark & the Bite
Besides China ending up with everything America has accumulated in the last two centuries over the course of a mere two decades, let me speculate on events of the last month. First, President Obama takes China to task on the international stage for failing to let the Yuan float higher. China says nothing, but other countries point to Federal Reserve policy as doing the same thing on our behalf.
Next North Korea lobs some artillery shells into South Korea and kills half a dozen people. We approach China to make them stop. By the way, China could not ask for a better regional ally than North Korea. Having N.K. on their border is like having a pit bull in the back yard. No matter what else our Chinese neighbors do, there is always that damned pit bull they keep chained up. Maybe it's China that is sending the message with the artillery barrage, not North Korea. And maybe that message is, "Quit bitchin' about the money and start thinking about that mad dog on the Korean peninsula."
Follow the Money
Well, the message I get is to keep our money here...at least some of it. Sending $20 billion to China in a weekend doesn't hang a Merry Christmas banner on Central Ave. So let's shop just a little differently this year, and make New Mexico a little bit busier, richer, and merrier.
But let's not get carried away. Remember, this author bought a 46-inch Mitsubishi HDTV
just last April. I know we need to buy a lot of stuff from overseas. But if just one of your gifts was made here in New Mexico it would make a tremendous difference to people working right here! Imagine what that might look like if maybe 20% of the holiday buying went to local stores and local artisans. Just pick one person. Start with that. Shop locally for just one person.
I'm sure you have lots of gift ideas. Here are a couple more:
• Buy a book written by a local author, sold in a locally owned store, and maybe even published by a local press.
• How about a basket of local food for someone? I'm thinking local honey, cheese, and wine.
• WPA-style furniture from a local cabinet maker. There are several in the Old Town area.
• Antiques and used stuff generally. I consider used items, whatever their origin, as local at this point.
• Pueblo and Navajo jewelry.
Speaking of Navajo jewelry, why not take a trip to Gallup to add a little adventure to the shopping experience? And I have another idea along those lines--Madrid. Now there is a shopping mecca for even the most anti-shopping giftophobe.
I have a short piece in the December issue of NM Marketplace
about Madrid, New Mexico. (NM Marketplace is that monthly "shopper" that comes in the mail). Madrid, whose accent is on the MAD not the RID, is a former coal mining ghost town 40 miles north of here on NM 14. It features dozens of stores and galleries amid a shabby-chic array of picturesque miner's shacks from a century ago. They're having a parade next Saturday. Bring your camera! Go to visitmadridnm.com
for more information.
And here in Albuquerque there is the Nob Hill Shop & Stroll this Thursday, December 2nd from 5 to 10 P.M. Let's not make this too hard...just try to spend a little money with your friends and neighbors this time. See you on the avenue.