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Deals O' Plenty




This ad caused both internal and external controversy. Externally, some people were upset by the crosshairs on the Pope. Hey, Popes get shot! I'm just writing from life.


Internally, I managed to piss off the man whom Rev. Bob was based on. The ad itself, drawn by Terry, is a stunning recreation of these hand-drawn flyers a Lance hanger-on named Bernie used to make and hang up around the U of W campus. Bernie was a man in his 30s, had a couple advanced degrees under his belt, but little or no aspirations (or patience) to work a real-life job. Bernie eked out a marginal living renting out his fixer-upper house, taking low paying jobs in student media (like The Lance, the radio station...), and buying junk, reconditioning it, and selling it. He'd sell the stuff to friends, co-workers, people he met at a bar... really anyone with not a lot of money, a need for a durable good, and some level of impaired judgment. The term "A Bernie Special" was coined to imply a product that cost little but never worked or when it did work, the so-called labor saving device required considerable time/energy to make it work right.


Bernie Specials always had some peculiarity. For example, he would sell you a computer for $200 but note you had to keep the power supply on top of a bag of ice because it heated up too much (he would, of course, offer you a deal on an ice maker he found behind an abandoned motel and reconditioned). He'd sell you an air conditioner for $75 and while setting it up for you (Bernie was always glad to come around the dinner hour to help set something up) he would note the unit's fan emitted a foul smell. He'd advise that when you ran the air conditioner you place a running fan facing the unit to blow back the toxic gasses. He assured you that, despite the fact the cold air was all being blown back into the air conditioner, this arrangement would still keep your apartment cool. It was creating a thermal vortex or some Larry Nivenesque phenomenon that would suck up all the heat tachyons.


Bernie's masterpiece, of course, was his Deals O' Plenty flyer he'd tack up around campus. He would sell all manner of surplus and reconditioned junk he either found or snapped up from a police auction for pennies on the dollar. A few days before The Pennysaviour was to go to the printer, I made some sort of quip in a meeting about how funny it would be if we held a raffle. The winner got to TASER gun Bernie. Bernie was not amused and threatened to sue if The Pennysaviour was printed with his name over the ad. We quickly changed it to Rev. Bob. Sigh.


Bernie was one of those mad genius types and the spitting image of Matt Frewer's Max Headroom. He really did live twenty minutes into the future. This was particularly noticeable when he engaged you in conversation. Bernie started conversations as if he was already half way into them. One moment he would be quietly sitting next to you, eyeing your pitcher of beer, and the next moment he would pipe up with something like "Then the car door opened and some boxes spilled out. Seeing as how no one was coming back to collect the boxes I grabbed them myself. Turns out they were full of frozen chickens. If you're interested in buying some…"


Bernie, like many Lance people at that time, was a chain smoker. The problem was Bernie always seemed short of cash. Chain smoking doesn't come cheap, especially in Canada. Bernie decided to quit. I credit Bernie with inventing the method of quitting smoking by not actually quitting smoking. You simply quit buying cigarettes. Since you have a wide circle of friends, associates, coworkers, customers, and tenants who all smoke, it's quite easy to hit one of them up for a butt. You can work your way through your roster of friends/associates for several months before people catch on that every time you see Bernie, he always seems to have been caught short for smokes, and wouldn't you spot him a ciggie?


Bernie's other addiction was beer -- yet another expensive pursuit in the heavily taxed realm of Canada. Bernie realized he could brew and bottle his own beer at home for a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, Bernie's first batch did not turn out very well. I think there's some kind of aging/malting process involved that he sort of skipped over. What most people would recognize as an unrecoverable disaster, Bernie saw as an opportunity. He could simply bring a six pack of his skunky concoction to parties and trade it for real beer. All he had to do was convince slightly inebriated party go'ers of the purity and quality inherent in his homebrewed beer.


Even Bernie had to admit rapid defeat in another cost-cutting measure. While food can't rightly be called an addiction or an unnecessary expense, it still costs money. One can always trim some fat. Bernie devoted his mad skillz0rs to cutting back drastically on his food budget. After some research he found that the Reagan administration, in its quest to devise a strategy for winning a nuclear war, had determined the surviving American population could be adequately fed with a thick gruel that provided subsistence levels of calories and vitamins. This survival food could be made for pennies a pound, versus the extortion-level prices butchers were charging for baloney. Bernie got a hold of this recipe and made up a huge batch. His idea was to freeze it into meal-sized cubes and then eat that for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now, the problem with gruel is, unlike say pizza, you don't even want to eat gruel once, let alone three times a day for however long it takes to pay off your mortgage. And unlike his home-brewed beer plan, you can't trade frozen gruel to anyone for anything, no matter how drunk they are.



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