Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Examining Displays

So, there's this thing I'm not good at called "merchandising", and I'm pretty sure it's just wizardry, but basically what it is is, whenever you go into our Card and Gift room (or any Card and Gift room across this great nation) and you see items grouped together, perhaps the way one might group such items in your home and/or office, that's merchandising. It's kind of when you set up merchandise with other similar or complementary merchandise and make it look pretty and appealing. I can't do it, I'm terrible at it, I have no game at all when it comes to making things that aren't myself look pretty and appealing, and even at that it's kind of catch as catch can. My room is basically a shrine to stuff, there's so much junk on my desk that I can't even pretend there's a system anymore, I just move piles of paper and books around, sometimes consolidating them into different piles, but never throwing anything out or eliminating obsolete items from said piles. That would be crazy, crazy I tell you.

But some people have THE GIFT of merchandising, and thank god. People like our Card and Gift staff that organize the various displays you might see in said Card and Gift room. For me, maybe because I am so confounded by this particular brand of magic, or maybe because I have an overactive imagination, or maybe because I am criminally distractable, my mind interprets these displays as the setting of certain characters. Who are the people that own these things, these displays? What are they up to?

Who but a precise, calculating digester of culture and media would own this many tiny, meticulously arranged clean bottles? Perhaps someone clear-eyed, sitting at a fraying armchair, idly staring across the way at the various flora some stranger has arranged, helter-skelter, across their furnished veranda. This person, lets say a gentleman, holds a (similarly clear, similarly clean) magnifying glass up to his face, then slowly holds it farther and farther away, until the various potted plants go from blurry suggestions of form, to sharp focus (yes - a ficus, a geranium, two small succulents suffering from overwatering) to, once more, rough shapes and colors that might hint at their small realities. This idleness both confounds him and is dear to his person, the same way a familiar shirt is dear to a person who complains of its fading color. His apartment is hollow; a big, white interior with few trinkets. A bookshelf, a carpet, a desk,
 but mostly long, whitewashed walls in a stark noon sun. He tends to see the earth and its inhabitants as vibrating matter, propelling itself through space; atoms on crusades, inspired by basic needs and nothing else. Our hero might, later, get out of his chair and make a sandwich; I'm guessing, white bread, turkey, (lean meat) veganaise, (abandoned by a short-term girlfriend from almost a month ago, now) perhaps cheese, pickles.

This is probably totally insane, but these are the characters I imagine inhabiting these little spaces. I can't help it, I see these themes in the set ups and I wonder what or whom they were creating by. Like this display: these delicate, white items could probably not have been grouped together by anyone but some bird-boned, ever-so-slightly naive girl in her 20's. She got accepted to every single Ivy League school she applied to, and yet cold feet and a disturbing lack of true ambition forced her to take a year off before moving out and joining the real world. She might work at a Whole Foods downtown, bagging the dehydrated apricots and flax seed of the wealthy with a certain detached sensitivity; every day, someone asks her what's wrong. She imagines this has a certain metaphoric relevancy to her position; she interprets this as proof of her long-held belief that she has been irreversibly damaged by life, somehow. In reality, it has more to do with her poor posture, seldom washed hair, and slight anemia. Outwardly she claims to be totally uninterested in boys her age, but at night she wonders about well dressed, grey haired gentlemen offering her their hands as she steps out of an expensive car into the wet, dark streets of Paris. And who can blame her? 

I doubt very much if these character profiles are what the Card and Gift staff are thinking of when they make these displays, but it's certainly what I think of when I look at them. I'm thankful that arranging things to make them beautiful is somebody else's job, and that dreaming up people to inhabit these spaces is mine. Well, in the instance of this very specific blog post, it's my job. The rest of the time, I'm just bein' crazy. Keep up the good work ,C&G!

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