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Xerox Black 

I presented the severely diminished Window Gang -- reduced to three due to summer torpor and exotic voyaging -- with the day's news, gleaned via Katie Couric that morning. An average Joe, name of Black, had offered to sell his 3-month-old but-as-yet-unbaptized child's name to any company willing to buy him a house. "It's the American Dream," Mr. Black said on national television, "to own a house."

"Any company?" Katie said doubtfully. "Crack? Crack Black?"

"We will have to evaluate, of course," said the elder Black, noting that his preference would run to established companies like IBM, Xerox, or Taco Bell, and that IBM Black, Xerox Black or Taco Bell Black would not be in the least reprehensible to him. The American Dream, he expostulated visionarily, is now at everyone's fingertips if only they were willing to produce sponsored kids.

"The value of an unknown individual's name is zilch," said the Librarian. "Who'd want to buy it?"

This was also Laura's opinion, who calculated the value of such an offer as radically below that of a sandwich man who walks back and forth in front of restaurant squeezed inside pictures of Ruebens.

"It would be different," the Professor-Fisherman added, "if the kid being offered was the offspring of Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner!"

"Quaker Oats Conner!" interjected the bartendress who didn't seem to have anything better to do than to listen in to the conversations of serious people.

"But," I dissented, "Mr. Black and his unnamed kid are no longer nobody! They've been on the national news and the whole country heard about it. Now they are celebrities!"

That led, of course, to a discussion on the nature of celebrity and just what constitutes celebrity and how long did one have to be on the national news before he or she could be called a celebrity, and so on and so forth, and there was no end of opinion on this subject because in the USA in the 21st century, only celebrities seem to matter. If you're not on TV you don't exist, just like nobody knows what anything is if it's not right off the Interstate. To not be on TV and live 50 miles from the Interstate is about the worst calamity that could befall the owner of a TV set in this country.

While this was going on, a middle-aged man with a purple king's crown on his head passed, dragging two barefoot kids by the hand; a jovial madman missing most of his teeth was opening a black plastic garbage bag to show a fellow lunatic the mysterious contents; a group of blond adolescents in town for the Lutheran convention looked around bewildered waiting to see, as they had been promised, the Devil from close up; a drag queen in a state of disrepair sloshed past in sunglasses with one missing glass. Not one of these people's names were known to us as they trekked past the window, though all of them may have been called Exxon and Entergy for all we knew.

I figure that a year from now, we'll be sitting here at the window watching people shaped like company logos, thanks to genetic science. These logo-people will look like McDonald's arches and Colonel Sanders, or the VW sign, and they will be a lot better than sandwich-men because they would be on the job 24 hours a day their whole lives, and for that small shape-change they would get to go to college for free and live in a house that looked just like them, thanks to the American Dream. And when they went on vacation, they would go right past us, subject to slanderous barbs.

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