I got off the L Train at Bedford Avenue in hopes of sneaking a little Tasti D-lite softserve before meeting up with Toby Joe. There were grumpy people everywhere due to New York’s newfound wave with heat and humidity. And all I could think about was ice cream. Earlier, I had put half of what I owed down for the Bush T-shirts I’m having printed. The funds are going to be low this month, especially since I’m pretty sure I won’t sell nearly enough to cover the cost. But that’s okay, as I’d never done anything like that before. And I had wanted to print the shirts for over 2 years.
As I stepped out onto the sidewalk, I saw a bunch of books for sale and stopped to call Toby Joe as I had planned. I began to slowly move towards Tasti D-lite even if I didn’t actually sneak a sweet before dinner, I could at least take a peak and know what I was turning down. I hit the #2 on my phone.
“I’m at the Bedford stop. You leaving soon?”
“Yeah. Very soon. In about five.”
There was another man at a table. He was next to the book guy. It was the laughter that got my attention first. A passerby was peering over this man’s booth and laughing.
“Seventeen bucks. That’s a great shirt.”
I moved closer to the table. The man was selling anti-Bush shirts. A lot of them.
Meanwhile, I still had Toby Joe on my right ear.
“Hey, I have a question for you. There is a guy here today. He’s selling anti-Bush t-shirts—like, a lot of them. I am wondering, should I ask him questions? Should I show him the shirt I sent to print today? I want to find out how much he makes, sells, whether mine is even OK at all. I don’t know. What should I do?”
“Well, my guess is he’s a bootlegger. I might suggest not saying you have a shirt you’d like him to see but just picking his brain a bit. You never who’s gonna rip you off and who isn’t.”
“OK. I’m going to talk to him. There isn’t any harm in talking to the guy. He seems nice enough. I’ll meet you at Park Cafe. See you soon.”
I walked back over to the table and asked the man for his card. He handed me one and then told me about the plethora of women’s tees he had available.
“Like this one. This is a great shirt.”
He held up an image of Bush with a mouth like one of those puppets that make me think of the 1950s. They have weird mouths that move by pulling on a string somewhere from behind. Ventriloquists in black and white would use these puppets and their funny mouths to speak for them. It was a nicely done shirt.
“Actually, I just sent off my first ever anti-Bush shirt today and was impressed with your supply. I have one to your—what? 430?”
There weren’t that many. But there were a lot. He had dozens and dozens. And they were all very good quality. And the designs were pretty nice as well. The number amazed me. He pulled out a notebook to write something down. Just then, another passerby stopped and put his drink down on the table on one of his shirts. The man moved it away from the merchandise.
“Michele. Nice to meet you.”
I asked him about his printers and his cost. I asked him how he does. I’m not sure why I was so intrigued. I guess I always figured there weren’t many shirts out there because I hadn’t really seen any on anyone. And just like that I began to figure out why that was; no one really wants to wear political gear. They might be given to someone as gifts or worn to parties, rallies or on special occasions but you’re not really gonna see people sporting an image of Bush getting his nose sucked by Monica Lewinsky like you’re gonna see a Nike swoosh or ACDC’s bolt of lightning. Maybe I had just wasted a lot of money. Oh well. I work every day for some reason.
Wat answered all of my questions. He was really quite nice. And then he started to ask me a few.
“Do you have the design? May I see it?”
I actually had the drawing printed out on some paper in my bag. But then Toby’s voice came back to mind and I lied and told him no. I told him that I wasn’t showing it to anyone and that I was sort of superstitious. Which is not true, I’m showing it to whoever wants to see it. I always have. I have had that thing on here so many times I’ve lost count. Someone could have easily stolen the idea and printed out these t-shirts by now. Why in the hell was I suddenly being secretive? Who came by to take me over? What in the hell was I doing? I’m not a liar.
I was just getting ready to tell him the truth and pull out the design when he asked me about the actual shirts.
“Do you use American Apparel?”
I thought for a second. I didn’t remember what I had used right away. I pictured the piece of paper I had written everything down on and saw the word G-I-L-D-A-N.
“No, I used Gildan this time.”
“Yeah, pretty cheap.”
I lied again. Or at least I think I lied. For me, they weren’t very cheap but they were cheaper than some of the other brands out there.
“Sweatshop. I only ever use American Apparel.”
And for some reason my lack of knowledge annoyed me. I blurted something back without missing a beat.
“You do realize that the owner of American Apparel is being sued by four female employees for sexual harassment some, of whom, are barely 18, right? Nothing’s safe.”
And I meant that. But I also had no idea that Gildan tees were made in sweatshops. Had I known, would I have printed the shirts on them? In less than two seconds I concluded that since I wasn’t printing something about how Globalization is the destroyer of everything, I might be OK.
He avoided my comment about the Dov Charney and tried to make me feel better since I was a novice in the t-shirt business and he, too at one time had no idea what was sweatshop and what wasn’t. He, too, at one time had his tees printed on sweatshop t-shirts.
The people of Williamsburg kept grumpily pouring by us. I put his card into my bag and then began to think about the ice cream again. We said our goodbyes. He was a nice guy. I began to wonder if Tasti D-lite supported sweatshops, too. Maybe their polyester uniforms are made in sweatshops. They are a sweetshop. I snickered. Just then, a van drove by featuring one of those really long “MY CHILD IS AN HONOR STUDENT OF A CERTAIN NO-NAME HIGH SCHOOL.”
I amused myself with an idea for a new bumper sticker.
“MY CHILD IS A TERRORIST”
What would people think if they saw a mini-van with that on the back of it? That they had a screaming child on board? Would they be offended by this sticky piece of paper? As I stepped into Tasti D-lite I was surprised at how excited I’d become regarding their peanut-butter chips. The world really could stand to take itself a lot less seriously.