In anticipation of this past Sunday/holiday weekend (if one should call it such a thing, which just for the sake of additional meaning, my friends and I did) my small clique invaded Goodwill in search of Easter tokens. We were hot on the hunt for cast-off relics of Easters past, and there was simply not a better place than this dusty and slightly stifling warehouse of random elements of rejected symbolic psyche.
It is a true amateur archaeologist’s delight to find a veritable museum of pop culture past and fashion horror present, for a small investment of a few coins and a larger investment of time.
Though each object was highly abstracted from its original context (not factory, but original owner), much can be invoked for pure theoretical delight when one is surrounded by a rambunctious lot of local friends who have come together for the unadulterated joy of, well, mocking our very culture, or, at least the disposable aspects of our disposable aesthetics.
In a sense it was a contradictory afternoon – filled with squeals of delight mixed with apparent shame. Each item was held up to the fluorescence and deconstructed for possible function and then rated for pure funky fun (imagine a rag-tag bunch of middle class “kids” attempting incantation of the past through the touch of plastic toys and various corroded dishware – rather an abject, although spirited scene).
Admittedly, though, most items were recognizable upon first gaze, how they fit into a larger landscape of television dreaming, kitchen experiments gone awry and weekend getaways defined by insensible fashion was anyone’s savage guess and, further, their sense of pure post-baby boomer American irony.
The afternoon drained away as did the creativity and debate about why Goodwill would sell small porcelain clown dolls with dripping blood-red lips and wide-set eyes; staring into your eyes and arousing the formerly forgotten childhood instinct of why the circus is wrong; terribly, terrifyingly wrong.
However, just as we were about to give up on our own cultural redemption (i.e., through our humor tinged, yet serious critiques we would somehow remain unscathed by the degradation of disposability and modern ritual dysfunction), I saw a glossy corner peeking out from under one of those killer clown’s fat, sequined legs.
I tugged gently, not wanting to topple the porcelain circus into the tile floor (though, honestly part of me wanted to shatter every one).
I gently removed the item; a “Certified” Ronald Reagan Memorial Calendar! I held my breath as I flipped through every month (I cannot wait for my birthday month! I wish October were sooner!). Nancy and Ronald frolicked on their ranch, smiling their smiles as wide as the illustrious Hollywood sign. Their horses, their ranch, their privilege, and now all for nothing except to mark the passing of time.
It was all too much for us to bear. We each gripped each other’s hands and held the calendar in the center, each saying a little prayer for the Reagan bunch and how they had so inspired us and we each verbally bore testimony of how Reaganomics had lifted each of our families out of the lower middle class, just like Ronnie said.
“You should buy it!” The spiritual communion was broken. “Do you really think I should?”
“Definitely, just look at July.” July was a faaaaaaabulous pictorial of Ronnie and Nancy riding two very well-bred horses. They are coyingly glancing back, as if they are trying to coax you into the woods that are just slightly out of focus in the background. Nancy is thrusting a hand scrawled sign that says “Just Say No” into the fogged morning air and Ronnie is giving the camera, and her, that unconditionally approving “Oh Nancy, you’re so dedicated, even when we are riding our horses in the middle of nowhere, you just happen to have that important sign” look.
“Oh-mi-gah-you should get that,” another of my group said. I flipped it over, panting slightly rapid and shallow in anticipation of the price.
“$1.99!” I shrieked. “What an absolute rip-off. Can you believe this place these days,” another friend continued.
“Anyway, aren’t those pills dropping out of Nancy’s saddle-bag, puhleeze, what a terrible example.”
My fingers instantly released the calendar and it fluttered to the floor. We all skulked away leaving Ronnie lying on the floor, basted in the hum of sickly fluorescence and smiling up at the murderous clowns smiling down at them.