Welcome to my eighth The Dichotomy of the Dog column! Even though I have a whole bunch of ideas for new columns, from time to time, I’m going to post some of my older writing on this website. There are three reasons for this. First, I’m not always going to be inspired to write something new, even if I do have plenty of ideas. Second, some of this stuff still makes me laugh. Finally, I feel that certain pieces I’ve written over the last 20 years fit nicely into the overall concept of The Dichotomy of the Dog Yes, there is a concept, though I haven’t worked out all the details on exactly what that concept is. When I do, I’ll let you know.
The following story was originally published in my Road to Nowhere column in the March 17, 1987 edition of the Temple News. It is the story of a convenience store opening in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, where I was living at the time and where my parents and sister still live. This story is certainly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s not as ironic as it might appear to be. I actually did enjoy being at the 7-Eleven opening that day.
While I’m on the subject, let me just say that I think that irony is a helpful literary/humor tool, but it is not a healthy lifestyle choice. Looking back, I feel that there was a time in my life (during college and just after) when I did everything in quotation marks. For example, if I was going bowling, I was “going bowling”; if I was going out with a girl, I was “going out with a girl.” I was always putting an ironic distance between myself and the things that “regular” people did. Fortunately, I’ve since discovered that I am a regular person who actually likes to do regular things.
So that’s just my roundabout way of saying, “Irony--when used properly, it’s a useful device, but beware! If you choose irony as a way of life, you could miss out on a pretty decent amount of genuine, non-ironic fun. Just ask Andy Warhol.”
It was an exciting day in Boothwyn. The cause of the excitement was the grand opening of a 7-Eleven right on Chichester Avenue. Of course, technically the 7-Eleven had been open for about a week and a half prior to the opening day, but Saturday was the day that all of Chichester was invited to party down at the new convenience story.
And what a party it was! Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Thrift Drug and Superfresh have all invaded Boothwyn in the last five years but none of them had a grand opening bash on the scale of 7-Eleven’s. Not even Superfresh.
The store was all decked out for the celebration. Colorful banners fluttered in the breeze and a huge balloon with the words “Grand Opening” sat on the roof. Inside the store, the brand new counters, cash registers and meat cutters gleamed with a newness that’s usually only associated with very new things, but it was hard to get a good look at them since the store was packed with people, waiting for free ice cream sandwiches, hot dogs and hoagies. The Slurpies were only seven cents each, although many people later claimed that they got away with free Slurpies. I guess that just proves that, at grand opening celebrations of this magnitude, anarchy often rules.
A DJ wearing a tuxedo and spinning great disco hits provided in-store entertainment. He was set up in the corner by the plastic-bags-of-ice freezer just behind the hoagie guys who were creating huge sandwiches slicing them up, and placing the slices on free 7-Eleven frisbees. It was a good day for free items at the Boothwyn 7- Eleven.
If the party inside the store seemed exciting, the events outside were completely wild. The Chichester High School Marching Band marched up from the school (which is conveniently located just below 7- Eleven) and played three of their best hits, “Louie Louie,” “The Power of Love,” and “Axel F. Theme.”
After the band performed, an Irish folk trio played and sang Irish folk songs while some young girls did jigs and reels in front of them. A wandering leprechaun who played a harmonica and a melodica completed the Irish theme, while a bagpipe player contributed a Scottish touch. The bagpipe player kept to himself, though. A variety of events (far too many to mention here) went on in a clear plastic tent that had been set up just across from the store.
The entire extravaganza was presided over by a man on stilts named John. John wore an amazing gold lame suit complete with wings. His face was painted gold, and he wore a stringy gold wig. Being 10 feet tall, John clearly dominated the scene.
John’s main function was to hand out balloons stamped “7- Eleven” to the plethora of children running around, but he did much more than that. He directed parking lot traffic (“Get out of her way. I saw her drive in and I’m telling you, you don’t want to be behind her.”); chastised kids who weren’t polite (“Call me dude again and see if you get a balloon.”); and provided a running commentary on everything that was going on around him. John’s shining moment came in his reply to a woman who dropped a Thrift Drug bag, which split open. “Now that wouldn’t have happened if that was a 7- Eleven bag,” he told her.
After spending some time at the grand opening, John, in his gold lame suit, began to take on a spiritual aura as if this suburban convenience store was the entire universe and John the Stilt Man was the Supreme Lord of it all. Sure, you might say that grand openings are hardly ever religious experiences, but it was hard to escape the awe-inspiring power of the Boothwyn 7- Eleven opening.
Well, I guess you had to be there.