Saturday, May 28, 2005

Minuard Foundation 1: Genesis

In the summer of 1996 I was living alone in a little one bedroom apartment in Crackville, which I told you about in the Robert Johnson story. For those of you too lazy to go back and read that sucker, my home in Crackville was a fourplex apartment building across the street from two larger apartment buildings, all three of which were on the verge of collapse. To make matters worse, there was a near-constant maisma of burning chemicals that only years later did I learn was the smell of crack being smoked. The only redeeming qualities the place had were that you never knew what was going to happen, and the Royal Food Mart across the alley.

That summer was good. I was living alone, without a girlfriend for the first time in about 3 years, and just enjoying the freedom of doing whatever I wanted. I had money, I had a car, and I had a home brewing kit. I was, I felt, a man to be reckoned.

In late July, a friend of mine came back to the city. His name was Bob, and he was actually a friend of Jim's, and stayed with Jim despite working for me as a mechanic. This worked out really well for me in every sense: a friend to hang out and eat lunch with, but not one to take up space in my little apartment. Times were even better.

However, my mind never stops thinking about weird shit...especially when it comes to getting people to stop and ponder their own lives for a second.

So it was that on my way home from work one evening, I noticed, for the hundredth time, a billboard on the side of the highway. For some reason, I began to think about advertising, and specifically billboards: how effective were billboards in getting people to think about thing? How was this measured? What, given the option, would I put on a billboard?

Well, I thought, that's a no brainer. I'd put Jim's big ugly face on a billboard.

"That's pretty interesting, self," I returned, "but how would you judge people's reaction to that?"

"Why, I'd have to put my phone number up there," my inner dialogue continued.

"Can we afford this?" I muttered to myself, pulling into the driveway.

Probably not, I thought, although I did some thinking about how I might be able to get a discount for hanging the thing myself. By the time I hit the shower, though, I'd forgotten all about it.

A few days went by, and I found myself eating lunch with Bob in a greasy subway shop near work. We were both somewhat bored, and spent the time idly trying to remember or imagine people's middle names. The topic then naturally changed to the one person who hated his own middle name with a passion evinced in very few of his other obsessions, specifically, Jim. His middle name is Minuard, and woe betide the close friend or relative that divulged that name to anyone else--especially a female anyone else. Only a couple of his friends knew the name, and he lived in mortal terror of anyone else finding out. We had, each and every one, been sworn to secrecy at one point or another--in fact, the only reason I had found out was because my middle name is pretty close to his, at least inasmuch as it's weird and starts with the letter "M." I always thought this was a rather juvenile concern, deep down, but was content to let it go--there are far worse insecurites out there, I've found...but as we sat amongst the chip bags and sandwich wrappers of our erstwhile luncheon, I remembered my billboard idea. Since Bob knows a little bit about everything, I decided to ask him what he thought about costs and procedures for getting a billboard manufactured, and how we'd hang it. He ruminated for a bit, which was his custom, and said: "well, a billboard's going to be expensive, any way you look at it. And you've only got it for a month."

We fell into another period of lethargy. Bob appeared to be studying the cracks in the sneezeguard over the salad bar.

"But you know what," he drawled, leaning across the yellow formica towards me, "any idiot can make a flyer."

I sat back, stunned with the possibilities. Within seconds, I knew it was going to happen. I got home that evening and quickly dug up an unflattering picture of Jim. In it, he had hair (a truly horrifying sight at the best of times), was wearing glasses, and appeared to be quite intoxicated. I say that because he appeared to be confused by the camera-his mouth was slightly agape, his head was tilted back, and his right hand appeared to be reaching towards the lens, for all the world like a small child or primate meeting a camera for the first time. Where this picture came from I cannot imagine, but it suited my plans perfectly. I sat down the following day and began to play.

The result was a half page flyer. The right half was Jim reaching plaintively towards the reader, the left half I wrote in the style of a classified advertisement. "FREE TO GOOD HOME," its headline read, "MINUARD."


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