M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, December 12, 2002  

A few years ago, a friend of a friend was browsing a garage sale. This was a remarkably well-organized garage sale. Everything was sorted and labeled. I’ve never held a garage sale, but I’m pretty sure that if I did, the only label would be at the end of the driveway and it would read “MISCELLANEOUS CRAP” in letters two feet high. And now that I’ve described how I’d do the labeling, I assume I don’t have to get into how much sorting I’d do.

But this wasn’t my garage sale. It was someone else’s. Someone else who had a very developed sense of order. Sure, most of garage sales have areas divided into “clothes” (read: what the hell was I thinking buying that pashmina?), “books” (read: I’m never going to get through Gravity’s Rainbow or Finnegan’s Wake when Pirate of my Windswept Heart is still on the shelf), and “records” (read: you never know, you might find the Captain Beefheart album you’ve been looking for for ten years amid all those copies of Kissing to be Clever). But even those have a space for uncategorizable items that just get shoved together and leave you to figure it out. Good luck sussing out the purpose of that doodad on the table between the tire valve repair tool and the garlic press.

Unless you’re at the garage sale I’m describing, where such an item would be clealy labeled “blender tripod” or “doorframe broom” or whatever. Nothing was too random to rate a label. Including a headless Ken™ doll next to a Ziploc™ bag of Barbie™ shoes.

How would someone label such a tempting package? I’ll tell you.

The label read: “Headless Ken With Shoes. $0.25.”

How can you turn down a bargain like that? Headless Ken With Shoes, people! Where else are you going to get Headless Ken With Shoes at any cost, let alone the bargain price of one single quarter? I ask you, how much would you pay for headless Ken? And how much would you pay for an assortment of mismatched doll shoes? What if you could get them both in one place? For less than a dollar? If you try to tell me you’d walk away from an offer like that, you’re a big fat liar, that’s what. People spend decades drifting from one garage sale to another and never come across a find like that. They die unfulfilled, never knowing the thrill of browsing some anonymous citizen’s yard or garage and coming across the kind of treasure they never knew they were looking for.

Of course, the FOAF snapped it right up and took it to the register, gushing over the brilliance of the packaging and display. She begged to take the label with her.

“This is so great! It’s like found art! I can put it on my mantel! ‘Headless Ken With Shoes!’ I love it!”

“You could do that,” the garage seller allowed uncertainly.

The FOAF yammered on excitedly, ccomplimenting her host on her surrealist marketing savvy, not aware that the surrealist herself was growing increasingly confused. As it turned out, the surrealist was actually a literalist so far into literalism that she had tipped back over into surrealism. Hence the label.

Can I just say again, “Headless Ken With Shoes?”

But this was lost on the FOAF until the seller tried to participate: “You could put other shoes with it, and a sign that says ‘more shoes,’” she said, in the tone that people use when they’re tied to a chair and saying, “You’re absolutely right. Charles Manson certainly is a misunderstood genius.”

The FOAF suppressed the rest of her glee and finished the transaction. As she left, she glanced in her rearview mirror to see the amateur merchant quickly closing the garage door and taking down the sign.

And another artistic genius was crushed prematurely by an ill-timed review.

posted by M. Giant 3:23 PM 0 comments


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