Cheap Burgers & Beer
Twenty or twenty-five years ago, Wiedemann Fine Beer (also know as Registered Pure Wiedemann Bohemian Special Beer) was everywhere around here, especially in my parents’ and grandparents’ days. I used to buy a six pack every night or so for only $1.99. It was always on sale over by the other low-end beer and malt liquor. I’d buy it at night and drink most of it around 1 a.m. with a plate of fried eggs and potatoes and sausage links. That was a long time ago. I was young and pretty broke and I could handle that kind of stuff at 1 a.m. a lot better then than I would now.
Wiedemann disappeared after a while. I suppose not enough people were buying that cheap crap. Then, with the craft beer revolution, somebody bought the brand and brought it back – you know, for nostalgia’s sake.
I was walking past the beer case the other day and there it was again: a six pack of Wiedemann, now in fancier cans and $7.99 for the six.
Back in the day, I always liked Wiedemann, probably cause it was so cheap and it tasted pretty darned good. Then again, the eggs and potatoes and link sausage probably helped it taste pretty good too. Either way, for the price, it did its job quite well.
But, when I saw it again the other day, back on the shelves at $7.99, I thought, What the fuck? What’s happened to my old, prodigal but faithful friend, Wiedemann? He used to be so humble. Now he’s returned to town as this pretentious douche.
Then I got to thinking how, like a lot of other things, Wiedemann at $7.99 is just a bunch of nonsense. I haven’t tasted it again and probably won’t, on principle. So I’ll speculate that nowadays it’s just a bunch of hip, pretentious, small-batch bullshit. Still the same today as yesterday in some ways, but in other ways something far different than in the past. I got to thinking, no matter how good it might taste now, the pretense of it at 8 bucks will still leave it tasting like shit.
Then I got to thinking about how such a thing might apply to art. There’s art that’s Wiedemann for what it was at its most pure and humble, twenty years ago at $1.99. Then there’s art that’s Wiedemann for what it is now at $7.99.
I guess it depends on how you like your art. Do you want bullshit? Or do you want things presented to you for what they are, even when what they are isn’t anything glamorous? Isn’t anything overblown? Isn’t anything salacious for the sake of being salacious?
The Big Buford’s a cheap enough cheeseburger. It’s cheap and sloppy and it’s okay. It gets the job done. As such, would you rather be told – with simple, subtle nuance – the ways in which it’s truly okay? Are you interested in the truth of its okay’ness? Or do you need more? Do you need it to be what it is at its absolute best or worst? Do you need to feel and believe that its extremes are always or just sometimes what The Big Buford is? Is the extreme the artistic/dramatic pretense you need, so The Big Buford and everything else feel like things far more excessive – far more dramatic – than what they are? So that everything, no matter how mundane, is something far more elegant or disgusting than it is?
All I’m trying to do here, dear reader, is present you with Wiedemann at $1.99 – the way I remember it in the old days. Pure. Cheap. Humble. Good enough. And somehow far better in its past truth than what it is today.
All I’m trying to do here, dear reader, with all these senseless words, is give you and me The Big Buford for what it is. How it is, as honestly as I taste it, since it somehow seems that seeing, tasting and understanding things for the ways they really are is they way we and our art ought to go.
But I admit, as an artist, I’m also a coward. Like you, my closet is full of secret shames. I am too much the coward – not enough of the artist – to present myself – shames and all – with the truth of The Big Buford. I am too much the coward and too fearful of that exhibition.
I am too much the coward, but I assure you these truths – along with the shames – are buried here, just below the surface – just below the bun. Just below the foamy head. Buried here, a few centimeters below the loose soil. They’re here, barely below ground. And they’re buried here as truths, truths as real as I dare make them. Truths as real as my ego will grudgingly permit them to be. Truths as close to real as Wiedemann at $1.99. Truths as close to real as I can make them.