I volunteered to take point on my house's kitchen remodel project. Among other things we have to replace our countertops, which are super old and deteriorating.
After emailing some contractors, we were given the name of a Marble and Granite warehouse, who are moving and have like 40% off everything in their warehouse.
I went to check them out today, walked into their storefront which was fucking fancy as shit, adorned with 10' carved vases with Chinese art adorned on them, diamond crested cabinets, and quartz fucking-everything.
I asked where their materials were and the lady who was really nice and tried to smile at me but couldn't directed me towards this small door to the left.
I open the door and at least 10,000 square feet of warehouse opens up. I had never seen anything like it. They could have easily fit 4 Costcos in there.
Rows and rows of giant slabs of precious Earth stones cut into near perfect 2-3" thickness and into near perfect uniform rectangles all stacked neatly against each other and probably heavy enough to crush a large creature.
I marveled and nearly cried at the sight of the mysterious and green granite, with its intricate patterns and life-like imagery captured inside of it, at the quartzite, and the smooth marble as I ran my fingers along it. I was fucking captivated.
Well backing up in time a bit, or perhaps simultaneously with the state these beautiful beautiful stones put me in, I noticed that each slab was slapped with a sticker noting what I thought was the country of origin
At least half the warehouse slabs adorned the Brazil sticker, while 30% more flew the flag of Italy, and 20% more between, I believe, Finland, Latvia, and a few other countries I probably made up like Finland and Latvia.
I snapped pictures, as I made my way to the far section of a warehouse. An older man, muscular and tired, grunted and shuffled by me, keeping his full attention on the 5 ton pulley system that slid along the tracks that spanned the length of the warehouse and as it made a continuous "eeeeeaaaaah" noise en route to its destination. "Get out of my way" his posture barked.
Trucks littered the edges of the warehouse and it seemed that they must always be coming and going with no end. Even the trucks looked tired.
Perhaps since I entered the building, I had been getting this eerie feeling. I understood it, I thought. I returned to the gallery.
A woman working there looked at me with a real smile and asked if I needed a quote or anything.
"Actually I have a couple questions", I responded returning her smile...Are there any stones here that are cut in the USA??"
I chuckled as I thought "shit I sound like a Murrican...".
She instantly knew. "Yeah there's one called Cali-cutta Lincoln...cut from a quarry in Colorado. Although they have to ship it to Italy to be processed and then it comes back here...apparently the center in the states shut down" she said unguarding what seemed like a mild disgust.
"It's made from the same material as the Lincoln memorial...That's how it gets its name"
"But its expensive" she continued. "$2318 per slab...you can check it out in the back, it has an Italian Flag on it".
"That's out of our price range" I laughed.
"So..." I stumbled trying to figure out how to ask. "Are there any kinds of certifications to show that...you know...I don't want to be supporting slave labor".
She frowned. "None...we just kinda...get the stuff. Well there is an eco-sticker that comes on some of them but that just means they use recycled water to process the stone".
"Oh okay" I said as we looked at each other with a mutual sense of skepticism, hers from a place of knowing about stone and its mining, processing, transport, cutting, and final resting place under kitchen knives and sinks...and mine from my perception of the menage-a-trois of heirarchical global capitalism, worker exploitation, and environmental fuckery.
Not so suddenly at all, those beautiful beautiful majestic slabs felt like heads of the most noble creatures of Earth tacked on a wall for sport, its carcass left rotting in the forgotten parts of the Plains.
Those perfect slabs now screamed with the force in which they were ripped out of the mountains, cut with steel teeth. They cried out in agony from the tired worker who will never ever see the profits from those $2000 pieces they cut with their sweat and blood, but may have enough now to feel their family bread...enough to keep them coming back to work with an aching back and tired eyes.
Interrupting my daydream or perhaps sharing in it, the friendly/surprisingly woke woman jostled "I hate to see what these places look like when they finish their mining".
Feeling like I never wanted to see a slab of granite or marble from Brazil, or Italy, or wherever the fuck it was actually from again, I asked "well what about recycled materials..."
"Oh yeah! Check out the Quartz Reflections...It's made from a slurry of recycled Quartz..." she responded joyfully snapping us both out of our introspective headspace.
"Great thank you for that. I'll check it out" I said without much enthusiasm.
"Thanks so much for talking" I said with significantly more meaning.
We smiled at each other one last time as she walked back to her office and my feet tapped on the quartzite stone beneath me as I exited into the strangely hot February sun.