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The Horatio Alger feedback loop

[Lights up. The two gentlemen are seated in a booth.]

Hey, you know who Horatio Alger is? Yeah, um, wasn’t Horatio Alger the guy who wrote those dime novels about the American Dream? Yep, that’s the guy. Have you ever read any of them? Who, me? No. I did. Oh yeah? Yeah, I read one called Ragged Dick, or, Street Life in New York. Instead of doing orgo? I don’t take orgo. You don’t? What’s the deal with your away messages then? Oh, that. That’s a joke. Sometimes I like put up “ORGO!” in them so people will feel bad for me. So you don’t take it, then? No, man.

[Relative silence. Clatter of plates, low hum of people.]

Anyway, I heard Horatio Alger was a pedophile. Mmm. No, really, he was. It’s ironic, too, because most of his books are about young boys who come in contact with older men who help them out. That’s messed up. Yeah. His book is called Ragged Dick? Yeah. I guess that’s pretty messed up, too. I was thinking about e-mailing my professor from last semester—he taught a linguistics class—to find out the origin of our usage of “dick” as slang for “penis.”

What else has been going on? Nothing really, I mean, I am making some progress on my movie. You’re making a movie? Yeah, it’s for my intermediate documentary film class. What’s it about? I don’t know, man. What do you mean you don’t know? I mean, the film isn’t really about anything. We’re in a mechanic shop, just kind of watching what goes on in there. It’ll be a weird one.

Anyway. Oh, I met George McGovern the other day. Oh man, I wanted to go to that, but I had class. That’s a shame. I really enjoyed it. Yeah. But I went up to McGovern afterwards to get him to sign my copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Huh? It’s the book where Hunter S. Thompson follows McGovern during the ’72 presidential campaign. Oh, cool. Yeah, McGovern told me a story about Thompson and his wife. Apparently Thompson wanted to fornicate with her.

[From off-stage] Sixty-seven. Sixty-seven…. Sixty-eight. Sixty-eight….

[The two gentlemen rise, get the food and then return to their seats.]

Hey, you know how smart you’d be if you read the New York Times everyday. Pretty smart. Yeah, real friggin’ smart. I read it the other day. Cover to cover? Well, the front page section. Yeah. Anyway, what’s up with you?

I’ve been working pretty hard; I have all of these memos due. Memos? Yeah. Like “The Water Cooler will be serviced on Monday and Tuesday.” No, like policy memos. Oh. Anyway, they’re a pain in the ass. Yeah, I bet. That’s why I’m a history major. You just get to sit back, chill, listen to the prof tell a story and then take a test on it every once in a while. It’s great, not much research, not too many hours doing extremely complicated and technical assignments. A lot of reading, a lot of time to think and reflect. Yeah, but history is boring. Yeah, I mean, sometimes it is.

[The Chorus] Eating well is the goal! Ask the nutrition facts!

You know, I’m driving my car west this summer. To do what? I’m going to New Mexico to be a moving man. A what? You know, a guy who moves boxes from one house to another. Oh. Why? I dunno, maybe I want to get some experience, meet some sketchy poor people. That sounds….

[From off-stage] “That sound means we’ve reached the end of the bonus round! It looks like Jason is on top with 355….”

I wish they didn’t have TVs in here.

[Minority male takes away the plates. The two gentlemen rise.]

I saw Angels in America the other night? What’s that? It’s this play about AIDS. Oh. Well, I really liked it. It was intense, man. It was real good. Reminded me that there’s a lot of good theater out there. Yeah.

So what are you doing now? I have to go write my last column of the year. Yeah? What’s it going to be about?

About how I’m livin’ the American Dream.

Aaron Kirschenfeld is a Trinity sophomore. His column usually appears every third Monday.


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