Before we get any further, you should know not to follow my investment advice. I invented the Buy High Sell Low (Trademark pending) method of retirement planning. A worst seller’s list Self-Hindrance book is forthcoming. Still Fordite is cool, and you might want to get some or look at some or think about some just the same.
What is Fordite?
Basically, it’s an old industrial by-product, waste, slag–like me and others that followed me in the post-industrial “economy” of the so-called Rust Belt. Better the Rust Belt than the Bible Belt, as far as belts go, I figure; but I think we’re more like suspenders (holding it all up on the fat belly of America). We, the Fordite and us, were forged in the fires of the once three-shift-parking-lot-full dingy brick factory buildings by drinking-after-work-and-a-couple-airplane-bottles-during-break workers that gave America affordable automobiles, toxic home cleaning fluids, throw-away furniture, and assorted Sears catalog doo-dads. But unlike most of us, the Fordite by-product is pretty.
Here’s the skinny: years ago when auto plants spray painted production cars by hand, layers and layers of over-sprayed paint got stuck to skids and such that moved the cars from one part of the factory to another. The paint built up into thousands of multi-colored layers and hardened like rock. At some point, someone noticed that this stuff looked pretty cool. So when the production lines got shut down, the old way of painting went away, and the buildings were closed, people started to remove the big chunks of this hard paint rock.
People began to make jewelry from it or cut it in ways to show off the shine and color combinations. Now all of it that can ever exist is probably accounted for. No more will ever be created. The old factories have all been scraped and scrapped.
I first learned about Fordite a couple months ago at a rock show down the street from my house. I had never heard of it, and, frankly, I didn’t even know that people collected rocks. But here I was in the garage of a guy I’ve known for years, checking out an amazing collection of thousands of rocks. People had come from all over to pick through five-gallon buckets of “roughs,” looking for god knows what. Others admired the nicely cut pieces. My friend showed L and me all sorts of fascinating things I didn’t know existed: “Look at this mica. You can peel it layer by layer, and then you can peel the layers into thinner and thinner layers until nothing is left.” He told us tales of monthly trips to a salt mine in Iowa to gather shiny gems uncovered in the mining process.
Then he showed me Fordite. It was the most beautiful rock there. And it wasn’t formed by pressure and cataclysm, ancient fish bones or dinosaur poop. It was formed by the repetitive labor of people I knew. I had found the true uglY cOUsin mineral. My relatives, the sorts of people labeled in historical pictures as “and workers,” had accidentally created a long-lasting bit of beauty, discovered long after the thing they were painting had rusted and died. It was as if their sweat had somehow been preserved and made holy.
We are the slag. We are beautiful. We are uglY cOUsins.