Lisa (paganmaid_2) wrote in illinois_living,
Lisa
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Macy's and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner




"And the moral of the story is: This is not what to do when your bird shits on you."
-Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, introducing "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", 1984



Poor Macy's - they're sure having a tough go at it since absorbing Marshall Field's last year and changing the name two months ago. Terry Lundgren (Federated Stores' Chairman and CEO) finally admitted it in the Tribune today. And now, with the holiday retail season just beginning, it appears that he's about to find out how much this decision to change the Marshall Field name will cost him and Federated.

Methinks that they should have read Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner before sailing into the unknown sea known as Chicago and Marshall Field's. They could have taken a lesson from the old salt himself...



But for brevity's sake I'll quote the Iron Maiden song lyrics and offer comparison. I must say this: the band's lyricist, Steve Harris, is the most literary musician around. He rates second to none.

Hear the rime of the ancient mariner
See his eye as he stops one of three
Mesmerises one of the wedding guests
Stay here and listen to the nightmares of the sea.

And the music plays on, as the bride passes by
Caught by his spell and the mariner tells his tale.

Driven south to the land of the snow and ice
To a place where nobody's been
Through the snow fog flies on the albatross
Hailed in God's name, hoping good luck it brings.

And the ship sails on, back to the North
Through the fog and ice and the albatross follows on.

The mariner kills the bird of good omen
His shipmates cry against what he's done
But when the fog clears, they justify him
And make themselves a part of the crime.

Sailing on and on and north across the sea
Sailing on and on and north 'til all is calm.

The albatross begins with its vengeance
A terrible curse a thirst has begun
His shipmates blame bad luck on the mariner
About his neck, the dead bird is hung.

And the curse goes on and on at sea
And the thirst goes on and on for them and me.

"Day after day, day after day,
we stuck nor breath nor motion
as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean
Water, water everywhere and
all the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink." (Coleridge)

There calls the mariner
There comes a ship over the line
But how can she sail with no wind in her sails and no tide.

See...onward she comes
Onward she nears out of the sun
See, she has no crew
She has no life, wait but there's two.

Death and she Life in Death,
They throw their dice for the crew
She wins the mariner and he belongs to her now.
Then...crew one by one
they drop down dead, two hundred men
She...she, Life in Death.
She lets him live, her chosen one.

"One after one by the star dogged moon,
too quick for groan or sigh
each turned his face with a ghastly pang
and cursed me with his eye
four times fifty living men
(and I heard nor sigh nor groan)
with heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
they dropped down one by one." (Coleridge)

The curse it lives on in their eyes
The mariner he wished he'd die
Along with the sea creatures
But they lived on, so did he.

And by the light of the moon
He prays for their beauty not doom
With heart he blesses them
God's creatures all of them too.

Then the spell starts to break
The albatross falls from his neck
Sinks down like lead into the sea
Then down in falls comes the rain.

Hear the groans of the long dead seamen
See them stir and they start to rise
Bodies lifted by good spirits
None of them speak and they're lifelesss in their eyes

And revenge is still sought, penance starts again
Cast into a trance and the nightmare carries on.

Now the curse is finally lifted
And the mariner sights his home
spirits go from the long dead bodies
Form their own light and the mariner's left alone.

And then a boat came sailing towards him
It was a joy he could not believe
The pilot's boat, his son and the hermit,
Penance of life will fall onto him.

And the ship it sinks like lead into the sea
And the hermit shrieves the mariner of his sins.

The mariner's bound to tell of his story
To tell this tale wherever he goes
To teach God's word by his own example
That we must love all things that God made.

And the wedding guest's a sad and wiser man
And the tale goes on and on and on.


Okay, I hope I still have your attention here. I'm talking about Field's and Macy's, remember.

Driven south to the land of the snow and ice
To a place where nobody's been
Through the snow fog flies on the albatross
Hailed in God's name, hoping good luck it brings.

And the ship sails on, back to the North
Through the fog and ice and the albatross follows on.


Okay, to be fair, Field's isn't the only one that Federated absorbs. Through its manic zeal to create a national brand, Federated bought 800 stores and chains throughout the country. With most of these stores, merging them with Macy's appears to be little problem. Then Federated comes to Chicago and spends $11 billion to buy out Marshall Field's, hoping the name change would too be of little consequence to Chicagoans.

But Federated doesn't know Chicago. Here, we take our homegrown legends and icons seriously. Fuck with that and see what happens...

The mariner kills the bird of good omen
His shipmates cry against what he's done
But when the fog clears, they justify him
And make themselves a part of the crime.

Sailing on and on and north across the sea
Sailing on and on and north 'til all is calm.


What an albatross Marshall Field's has proven to be thus far for Federated and Lundgren. The man who knew very little about our Windy City is now spending a lot of time here trying to make it work. And because he took the one icon that says Chicago more than the Hancock, the Cubs and the Bears combined, he's incited way more anger than the Field's ill-fated CEO when he moved Frango mint production to Pennsylvania from the State Street Store...

The albatross begins with its vengeance
A terrible curse a thirst has begun
His shipmates blame bad luck on the mariner
About his neck, the dead bird is hung.

And the curse goes on and on at sea
And the thirst goes on and on for them and me.

"Day after day, day after day,
we stuck nor breath nor motion
as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean
Water, water everywhere and
all the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink." (Coleridge)


People canceled their charge cards and vowed not to shop at Macy's when the name change went into effect. Last Christmas people bought so many Frangos that demand far outweighed supply. A report on a local news station stating that the name change would go into effect after the holiday season spread panic among the Field's loyalists. One person, though, remained strangely silent through all this - Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who had railed against the company moving Frango production to Pennsylvania so loudly that he called the CEO on the carpet. Several months later the CEO resigned and left Chicago. But with Federated as a major retail powerhouse, Daley decided to remain silent. Guess he is in the pocket of big business after all (duh!).

Since the name change many people have looked around but haven't bought much. True, the products are the same, the prices are the same. But one would be hard-pressed to find a Frango Mint box unless they know where to look. And it wouldn't be the same.

It's very much like the scene from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time where the children are invited to share a tasty meal with the center computer known as IT, but instead the food is tasteless. At Macy's, things may remain the same but without the Marshall Field's timeless logo, it simply doesn't feel like it.

There calls the mariner
There comes a ship over the line
But how can she sail with no wind in her sails and no tide.

See...onward she comes
Onward she nears out of the sun
See, she has no crew
She has no life, wait but there's two.

Death and she Life in Death,
They throw their dice for the crew
She wins the mariner and he belongs to her now.
Then...crew one by one
they drop down dead, two hundred men
She...she, Life in Death.
She lets him live, her chosen one.


About a week or so ago a letter to the editor was printed in the Tribune from a man who, with his wife, have been employed by Marshall Field's/Macy's for many years. They implored the public to reconsider their boycott of the department store, pointing out that the employees and the products are the same. Why should we boycott a store just because of a name change? And if we don't shop Macy's, then jobs could be lost.

But remember, Federated had a choice, just as the Mariner had a choice. Federated could have let Marshall Field's remain so. The Mariner didn't have to kill the albatross. But they both fucked with tradition (Federated) and with nature (the Mariner), and now they're paying the price as is everyone directly impacted with their choices.

What will happen now? If Macy's follows the story, then the holiday season will suffer. And Federated is sure to look for a scapegoat to take the fall - most likely Terry Lundgren. Chances are this $11 billion albatross around his neck will drag him out of a job.

The rest of the song and the story talks about penance followed by redemption. The Mariner appreciates the true beauty of God's creations and repents. The albatross falls from his neck and in time he sights his home and the fallen crew are admitted into paradise. The Mariner is forgiven his sin and he must tell all who listen of his story and lessons learned from it.

But business rarely works this way. CEOs will come and go with their hefty severance packages, corporations will absorb and divest assets and move on without any inkling of what their actions have wrought on those directly impacted.

Some towns have fought back. Lake Forest has forbidden use of the giant Macy's lighted signs and refuses to remove the green canvas awnings from their Field's location. Lake Forest holds the distinction of being the first Marshall Field's store to be located outside Chicago and they're proud of it. And to this day, Northbrook Court in Northbrook has not removed the Marshall Field's logo on its road signs.

Will Marshall Field's come back? Other than the two locations mentioned, Frangos are still being sold and Lundgren has vowed to move candy production back to State Street. I hate to think the name is forever ruined by this ill-fated decision, condemned to the same fate as the albatross. But the longer it takes to correct this grievous error, the more permanent the damage.

But that remains to be seen.

And the wedding guest's a sad and wiser man
And the tale goes on and on and on.
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