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Chapter 5 - Fair Trade

The TV casts its blue hue over the living room. Shock and disbelief send tiny bees to my extremities, sharp stabbing pains keep me aware that this is not a dream and in an instant I know that my whole world will look different when I wake up tomorrow. The announcer again repeats the news, "Kurt Cobain has been found dead from an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound." The sound blurs out again. I stare at the heap of clothing on the floor, a blue and black plaid shirt with ripped jeans and a pair of beloved Dr. Martin boots and I shake my head and think that I never tried to be in fashion, I just liked the style, so this won't effect me. The next day at school, wearing said outfit, I walked the halls as kids talked about it and made general references to some of his songs. But all of us knew that the long hair, disheveled plaid shirts and ripped jeans were going to way of the Bart Simpson T shirt, "I'm Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?" And in its place some weird pop star clothing, Boy to Men or Mariah Carey nonsense.

And so my teenager years set in. Stuck in a style of music that I won't ever shake; I kept my style and fought against time and trend. Soon it seemed the world moved on and those that wore the boots and ripped jeans began to wear jeans around their knees exposing their boxer shorts and listening to bands they had claimed the would never listen to not to long before. School ends but the grunge doesn't and I go off to the world believing that soon enough real music will emerge and all of the tone deaf boy bands and pop superstars will be replaced by real musicians again. But this wasn't the case and soon even I couldn't hold on to the grunge fashion. ​

The alarm clock blares announcing its presence. I roll to the side and push down the button grateful that someone invented an off button for this horrid sound. Instant anger shoots through me as I remember that this is day one of no smoking, my lungs wheeze as I push my body to a vertical position while my legs maintain their determination to stay down and I lay my hands in my head. 'Fuck sake' I mumble to myself and wonder why I picked today to start. Of course the answer was clear as I coughed up some phlegm. The previous night flashes into my memory. The brightly lite stars casting their downward glances across the ocean as the gentle waves lift and drop my kayak in perfect sequence. The phosphorescence beaming glorious sparks of light across the water underneath my paddle as I make my way to the middle of the darkened water and as I arrive I stop paddling and just lean back and take in the night. Soon, I hear a gentle splash and look down and see the white outline of a seal swimming underneath me. Sammy, I call him as he breaches the water with his head and stares at me. My life has become a series of events, I feel lost a bear without a group, without a direction. Sammy seems to sense my deep thoughts and glades over to the kayak and stops just a moment from me, I can see the shine of his eyes and we stare at each other. One lost soul to another. We become locked in a knowing stare for what seems to be hours before Sammy, dives back down and disappears from my life forever.

​So as I paddled back I made Sammy a promise that I was going to find my group, find some meaning. As I put the kayak away I grab a six pack of beer and sit at the side of the dock determined to drink every last drop and let my mind wander. After the first sip, I grab my cigarettes and stare across the ocean to the mountains, I lay back and stare at the stars. And it was in the twinkle of these the stars after the last of my beer was gone that I made the decision to stop smoking and drinking and start to take a more active role in my life.

Day One of no smoking and no drinking already was a rough one but determined I began to drive to town. As the car turned around the corners and the evergreen trees flew past my window, my mind once again began to wander. I began to think about what made me the most happy, what were the moments that made me feel connected to something and the answer was when I was out on the ocean. So my mind made up, I made my way to a kayak store, I was now a kayak-er. Full of adventure and always planning the next big adventure was going to be my future but first it started with some new clothing, a new look. I still had the ripped jeans and plaid shirts but I needed to let people know that I was no longer the guy stuck in the 90's that I had changed, if I walked down the street people would say 'hey that guy is a kayak-er. I walked around the store with great enthusiasm not knowing what any of the widgets did but determined to play with them till I did. I came to the clothing line and discovered that I could see myself wearing a shirt. I picked out an orange, 'Life is Good' shirt and read the label. Organic and fair trade cotton. Organic I understood but fair trade? I ask the sales woman, she tells me that it is a program that offers a livable wage to the workers. Confused about what this could mean, I rushed out of the store and began my research. Weren't all workers given a livable wage? How come I never knew that this was a thing.

So I read about kids being paid 10cents a week and forced labor practices of many of the popular brands of clothing in North America. This was a cause that I could get into, this Fair Trade. I also discovered that it was more then just cotton. Chocolates and coffee were also industries the employed forced labor and children and paid very little to the workers that picked the crops. So, incensed I drove straight back to the kayak store and began to try on fair trade clothing. The smile gleamed from the mouth, I knew that all those days before when grunge and social change were so critical to so many of us that this was the new grunge. One planet without suffering, where one thinks about those effected my their choices. I knew that soon enough the world was going to change, become a better place, where kids had the right to grow up, hate school and worry how they are going to ask the hot girl in the next aisle to the next dance. Sadly, I still wait. No less determined though, like I was when Kurt Cobain died and I became locked into the grunge for the next 15years, I have become locked into fair trade, looking into those sellers that exploit their workers and concern themselves more about how to make an extra million than about the safety and well-being of their workers and avoiding anything that they sell or companies that they own. One world without suffering.


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