Black Friday: Step Right Up

Tom-Waits-performing-in-B-007Black Friday. The day, or so goes the popular internet meme, when Americans fight and trample each other in an effort to buy things we don’t really need the day after giving thanks for what we already have. Black Friday is so called because retailers sell enough merchandise to put their finances “in the black.” That is all well and good, but the ambiguously ominous moniker conjures up thoughts of similarly sounding, more unpleasant notions such as Black Sheep, Black Ops, or the more fitting Black Death – and not injudiciously so. Black Friday is the antithesis of the holiday season; the comfort of a warm home, warm food, warm friends and family. Why anyone would wake up in the pre-dawn dark to fight the cold and crowds, the parking lots and personal assaults, all in an effort to save a nominal amount of money on goods that will be discounted for the next month anyway (or available online), baffles the mind when a fireplace, a cup of tea or a hot toddy and a Dean Martin Christmas record could suffice so much more pleasantly as a way to while away a free Friday in November.

Business and trade are good for society, of course, and there is an undeniable commercial aspect to the Holidays, whether we like it or not. But as with putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween has even passed, the rush to shop while the turkey has yet to digest shortchanges Thanksgiving and disrupts the natural progression of the season. If you decide to sit Black Friday out and spend the day after Thanksgiving in the lazy and magnificent warmth of your home and loved ones, consider instead participating in Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday began in 2010 as a more soul-satisfying and fulfilling alternative to Black Friday’s empty temptation. Obviously, if you need to purchase a television or laptop and you have a limited budget with which to procure one, then the big box retailers are your best bet, and I wish you the best out there today, sincerely. But there is nothing quite like embracing the sense of community and spirit of the season by patronizing the local, small, privately owned businesses in your very own neighborhood.

I suppose for many Black Friday is itself a tradition, perhaps even an opportunity for family bonding, and I don’t mean to disparage those who relish in the ritual. But the ever increasing dominance of this “holiday” – which is merely a side effect of an actual holiday – is troublesome, as is the slippery push by retailers to extend Black Friday into Thanksgiving Day itself, virtually swallowing whole the essence of America’s finest holiday with America’s most vacuous.

Of course commercialism taken to the absurd is nothing new in America, as Tom Waits demonstrates on the second track to his 1976 album “Small Change,” a collection of booze-soaked piano ballads and up-tempo beatnik raps, recorded with West Coast jazz musicians, most notably drummer Shelly Manne. The album’s opening lyric, “wasted and wounded / it ain’t what the moon did / I got what I paid for now” sets the tone of the film noir-meets-Charles Bukowski atmosphere of the album. But the second song takes a fun and comical detour as Waits takes on the persona of an advertising pitchman giving his all to convince you to buy “the only product you will ever need.”

The liner notes to the original album came with a lyric sheet, so that the beauty and majesty of Waits’ brilliant wordplay would not be lost in his drunken gravel growl, with one noticeably amusing omission. Instead of providing the lyrics to “Step Right Up,” there is the following disclaimer:

For the lyrics to “Step Right Up” send by prepaid mail a photo of yourself, two dead creeping charlies, and a self addressed stamped envelope to: the Tropicana Motor Hotel, Hollywood, California c/o Young Tom Waits

Please allow 30 days for delivery

If you are looking for an inexpensive gift for someone special, why not pick up or download a copy of “Small Change.” It’s a perfect introduction to the work of one of America’s great musical artists.

Now you’ve heard it advertised, don’t hesitate. Step right up…

(get away from me kid, you’re bothering me…)

Step right up, step right up, step right up,
Everyone’s a winner, bargains galore
That’s right, you too can be the proud owner
Of the quality goes in before the name goes on
One-tenth of a dollar, one-tenth of a dollar, we got service after sales
How ‘bout perfume, we got perfume, how ’bout an engagement ring?
Something for the little lady, something for the little lady,
Something for the little lady
Three for a dollar
We got a year-end clearance, we got a white sale
And a smoke-damaged furniture, you can drive it away today
Act now, act now, and receive as our gift, our gift to you
They come in all colors, one size fits all
No muss, no fuss, no spills, you’re tired of kitchen drudgery
Everything must go, going out of business, going out of business
Going out of business sale
Fifty percent off original retail price, skip the middle man
Don’t settle for less
How do we do it? how do we do it? volume, volume, turn up the volume
Now you’ve heard it advertised, don’t hesitate
Don’t be caught with your drawers down
Don’t be caught with your drawers down
You can step right up, step right up

That’s right, it filets, it chops, it dices, slices
Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn
And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school
It gets rid of unwanted facial hair, it gets rid of embarrassing age spots
It delivers a pizza, and it lengthens, and it strengthens
And it finds that slipper that’s been at large
under the chaise lounge for several weeks
And it plays a mean Rhythm Master
It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar
And it’s only a dollar, step right up, it’s only a dollar, step right up

‘Cause it forges your signature
If not completely satisfied, mail back unused portion of product
For complete refund of price of purchase
Step right up
Please allow thirty days for delivery, don’t be fooled by cheap imitations
You can live in it, live in it, laugh in it, love in it
Swim in it, sleep in it,
Live in it, swim in it, laugh in it, love in it
Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets, that’s right
And it entertains visiting relatives, it turns a sandwich into a banquet
Tired of being the life of the party?
Change your shorts, change your life, change your life
Change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy, get rid of your wife
And it walks your dog, and it doubles on sax
Doubles on sax, you can jump back Jack, see you later alligator
See you later alligator
And it steals your car
It gets rid of your gambling debts, it quits smoking
It’s a friend, it’s a companion,
It’s the only product you will ever need
Follow these easy assembly instructions it never needs ironing
Well it takes weights off hips, bust, thighs, chin, midriff,
Gives you dandruff, and it finds you a job, it is a job
And it strips the phone company free take ten for five exchange
And it gives you denture breath
And you know it’s a friend, and it’s a companion
And it gets rid of your traveler’s checks
It’s new, it’s improved, it’s old-fashioned
Well it takes care of business, never needs winding
Never needs winding, never needs winding
Gets rid of blackheads, the heartbreak of psoriasis
Christ, you don’t know the meaning of heartbreak, buddy
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon
‘Cause it’s effective, it’s defective, it creates household odors
It disinfects, it sanitizes for your protection
It gives you an erection, it wins the election
Why put up with painful corns any longer?
It’s a redeemable coupon, no obligation, no salesman will visit your home
We got a jackpot, jackpot, jackpot, prizes, prizes, prizes, all work guaranteed
How do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it
We need your business, we’re going out of business
We’ll give you the business
Get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale
Receive our free brochure, free brochure
Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions, batteries not included
Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available
Step right up, step right up
You got it buddy: the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away
Step right up, you can step right up, you can step right up
C’mon step right up
(Get away from me kid, you’re bothering me…)
Step right up, step right up, step right up, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon
Step right up, you can step right up, c’mon and step right up
C’mon and step right up


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