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Give Me Good Ol' String Every Time. TYING LOOSE ENDS

By David HolmstromStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / January 5, 1989



I'VE never much liked rubber bands. Ordinary string offers something more substantial for your money in an age of colossal loose ends. A rubber band, like artificial turkey meat, certainly does the job, but clearly mocks the user. Of course, string isn't any more ordinary than a penny or a spoon is ordinary, considering the social and technological evolution behind each item. But it seems to me the symbolism of drawing strands together for the purpose of greater strength is well worth acknowledging these days.

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(Mikhail Gorbachev, I think, has lately demonstrated that he might be a latent string man. And George Bush, a man who asked for a gentler, kinder nation, is probably a string man, although his career is marked by a willingness to string along. Incidently, during his acceptance speech at the convention Bush should have said, ``a thousand strands of string.'')

In the same way the smell of vegetable soup bubbling on a kitchen stove delights, so, I think, the look and feel of a really good ball of string sitting on a shelf is quite splendid. Order, utility, economy, and craftsmanship are all there in a ball. String is immune to post-modernist attacks. String is really nice.

Conversely, a rubber band is sort of a metaphor for the times. It will bend any way you want, just like certain egregious public officials. String twists and bends too, but the rascals snared in the Abscam scandal, for instance, didn't tie all that money up with string.

Rubber bands smell.

So with condescending apologies to rubber band manufacturers, I suggest all rubber bands cheat. You can't tie a rubber band. (Well, you can, but why would you?) Kids don't learn to tie their shoes with rubber bands. You hang clothes on a clothesline, not a rubberbandline. Nobody flies a kite with a rubber band. And William Blake (1757-1827) did not write, ``I give you the end of a rubber band; only wind it into a ball, it will lead you in at Heaven's gate ....''

And string lovers usually know who Bourne Spooner was, the man who founded the Plymouth Cordage Company in Massachusetts in 1824. For 142 years Plymouth rope was famous (along with the company's string and twine), known exclusively as ``the rope you can trust.'' Although Spooner's rope rigged tens of thousands of ships on the high seas, it was the incomparable Plymouth Silk Finish Lariat Rope that brought Spooner fame among the cowboys of the West.

Rubber bands, I remind you, did not win the West. Nor the South. Nor did they galvanize the Marines at Iwo Jima. And Ralph Nader, Garrison Keillor, and Martina Navratilova will have nothing to do with rubber bands.

Frankly, I don't have a strong finish here with any kind of new socially dynamic inference to be drawn from the presence, and I hope, permanence of string on earth.

Yet with all earth's troubles, string is here, the quiet, natural servant that reminds us to actively conclude something, anything; to bond; to tie up the loose ends; and then maybe the rest of life will fall effortlessly into place.

As for Velcro ....