(AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL DISPOSABLE THOUGHT)
BY STEVEN T. BRAMBLE
Let us take you, if you would, to LEDER FURNITURE PALACE, South Dakota’s #1 furniture megastore, as well as the “Leder” in family-friendly prices. Travel with Cole Scott-Knox-Under, our safari guide, into the realms of deepest fantasy and group-hallucination.
Cole streams across the drawbridge toward the gates of LEDER FURNITURE PALACE with the Sunday morning family crowd, people glancing askant at his golden afrobeard and tobacco-colored skin amidst all the sameness, ushering along little brown- or blonde-haired children, pushing space rover strollers with damask shades drawn to shelter the infant royalty contained within who will grow up to inherit all this as their sacred kingdom, watching life from behind two animate lenses. He looks over the side of the drawbridge into the dry concrete moat: two crushed Mountain Dew cans, a single wayward New Balance sneaker with laces sprawled in misery, checkered paperboard hotdog trays and crumpled balls of oily paper, an empty plastic Wal-Mart bag snarled across a drainage grate. They stare up at him as he passes, making indifferent, unpleading eye contact like humans living under bridges resigned to their fate. (And isn’t it strange how by turns life has no meaning and then too much, yet the truth hangs between the two states, so when you look back, try to recapture the spirit of living, all you get is unknowing nostalgia.) Entering through the automatic doors, the air is spilled of its digital viscera, all manner of fresh glinting constructs slithering eyeward, brainward, and already he could feel his mood manipulated. Security in neon yellow jackets on segways taking note of Cole’s presence all at the same time. Everyone’s eyes swimming behind glass, chaperoning their progenies and their progenies’ progenies through the gateway, throwing hands and fingers out toward the pleasurable images they paid for.
Once beyond the gateway the silly castle conceit ends and Cole is confronted with what is no longer a conceit at all, but rather a true palatial opulence. He’s never been inside a furniture megastore like this (though he’s always been aware of their existence, having seen from the vantage of LA freeways the massive blockish blue shapes of IKEAs jutting from city sprawl like spiritually-bereft pagodas). It’s a furniture zoo. Furniture put on display in their “natural habitats,” people observing them mingling together in their reconstructed ecosystems. Even to Cole these objects are largely inert. They’re still young, unrealized and robotic, possessed of none of the Thingness that might eventually make these sedate shopping families tremble in terror of them before fighting back against their very existence with pogroms of forced removal. At this stage, however, they’re not yet threatening. Instead, they are the fetish objects onto which these families project their dreams, sparking high-grade neurochemical reactions that cause them to group-hallucinate. He passes through a tunnel lined with thin neon orange tubes, emerging into a mosaic of mock livingrooms presided over by a single, commanding word produced in three-dimensional Impact font, COMFORT. He takes a wrong turn and ends up in a long wasteland of dusty plasticwrapped mattresses stacked to various heights, people navigating through the columns like tourists shuffling through an ancient cathedral, solemn and dutifully interested. Past that, a necropolis of dining rooms packed together in different styles and themes. Price tags shimmer under high-wattage lamps spinning themselves down from black steel rafters like leggy spiders suspended from silken cords. Satellite imagery shows LEDER FURNITURE PALACE as an immense T-shaped roof sitting atop frozen grassland. The patio furniture section like suburban wonderland transposed against rainforest, and flanked by vast regiments of well-ordered office chairs. LEDER clearly vets professionals for their installations; many of the physical displays here would require a huge crew of temp workers and arbor fly-system technicians capable of hanging 700+ lb partitions and tapestries, landscapers and plumbers to put in fake waterfalls and foliage. But even with all that, it’s the AR displays that steal the show. The darkened rafters above act as a limitless, multidimensional theater playing out a kind of idealized montage of American styles, sequenced by decade and featuring the same actors outfitted in the various fashions of the eras, starting off in the 1910s as a fuzzy black-and-white Gilded Age mansion, moving through the hardluck ’30s, the romance of the ’40s, crisp conformity of the ’50s, loose pastels of the ’60s, quaint futurism of the ’80s, finally arriving at the prefab angular minimalism of the present before relooping back into the past again. Scenes from Academy Award-winning films play on the backrests of sofas & tabletops, Batman exploding into thrilling heroics across a twelve-foot nine-piece and the silver drama of Casablanca crosshatched through a series of hanging cobalt kitchen lights. Detachment layered on detachment. Videos of Bob Leder personally endorsing certain pieces of furniture autopop everywhere (the picture-perfect example of a high school football player usurped by four decades of cigars & cocktails & meals at restaurants & 50-hour workweeks, nose and toothy smile fanning down widely from close-set eyes, silver crewcut that seems to get blowdried and hairsprayed daily, flaunting a cowboy string tie with a buckle depicting a carven metal horse head), majestic greyhound dogs making adorable use of recliners or office desks before running over to glory him in affectionate kisses.