Friday, January 22, 2010

You Big Dummy


A couple of weeks back, while on the Upper East Side of Texas,* we were leaving the largest and finest Wal-Mart in Wood County just as an intense-looking, muscled-up 30ish black man was heading into the store, pushing an empty shopping cart. As we drew closer, we noticed the guy, who had a faint resemblance to the actor Tim Reid in his younger days, was wearing only a T-shirt (in addition to pants and shoes, of course, and possibly socks), even though it was, literally, 23 degrees F outside. Then his T-shirt registered: On it was emblazoned a picture of Red Foxx-as-Fred Sanford, and underneath Red/Fred’s familiar mug was one of Fred G.’s signature epithets/catchphrases, either “Dummy” or “You Dummy” or “You Big Dummy” (we forgot our notebook and memory subsequently has failed us). We drew down on our storehouse of stereotypes––it is quicker, as George Clooney said in that movie––and a couple of quick orienting thoughts sped through our mind: “This guy must spend all his free time pumping weight––he’s gotta be a fireman,” and, ““This guy’s too young to remember seeing Sanford and Son, except in reruns.” As we passed into the man’s proximate space, the sheer frontal absurdity and classical timeliness of the message caused us to smile a friendly smile and let loose with an audible snort of a laugh, but the guy just shifted his eyes ever so slightly and shot us a look that we interpreted, probably wrongly, to say, “Not up for any BS today, my man” or, “I’d just as soon stab you in the heart as contemplate your continued existence.”**

We doubtless were way off-base, and it’s possible, even likely, that this hardy dude wasn’t aware of our presence and was actually looking off into space, yet the cognitive dissonance brought on by the guy’s hard look and the fun-stering T-shirt message caused us to immediately abandon plans to politely inquire about what we were dying to know: “Where can we get a shirt like that?”***

Instead, we kept on pushing out into the cold, bearing our White Man's Burden.

*A coinage we have ripped off, wholesale, from County Line Magazine.

**Come to think of it, Foxx’s schtick-in-trade, before TV rounded off his rough edges and transformed him into the lovable but irascible junkman, was full-frontal hostility, as we learned from brief but sustained exposure to his pre-
Sanford “party records” while in high school. These were then deemed “adult” or “off-color,” although they more aptly were referred to as “dirty” and might even still be “dirty” by today’s lapsed standards. It’s unlikely, though, that Foxx’s Sanford banter with the comedienne La Wanda Page would be permitted these days, since it was premised on dark-skinned and extremely unattractive Page’s Aunt Esther being hectored and insulted (“You belong in the zoo!”) by Foxx, who of course was light enough to be known as “Red.” Who says humankind has made no progress?

***As we suspected, it is available
on the Internet. Where else?

2 comments:

The Fishing Musician said...

If you had been wearing your Quaker/Palestinian ELECT FAROUK t-shirt, I'm sure you would have gotten a better reception from this fellow.

But being in Wood County and all, maybe not. Did you see any Farouk signs whilst visiting "behind the Pine Curtain"?

and what a great quote from a most excellent song by my man Mayfield. RIP Curtis, you did create some soulful stylings on that Stratocaster of yours.

Slampo said...

Sr. El--
Though I heard many Farouk radio ads, I saw not one Farouk sign in East Texas. Nor did I see even one sign or bumper sticker for Bill White. I did see Perry and Hutchison signs, a few, more for her than him, which surprised me. But then, this was a random sample with a margin of error of plus or minus 70 percent.