My friendly neighborhood laundromat uses plastic “debit cards” instead of coins. The machines which add value to your card are located in a recess in a wall directly underneath the friendly neighborhood laundromat’s resident TV set. In other words, when you add value to your “debit card” you cannot see the show, but you can hear it.
I was waiting in line at the add-value machine with one man in front of me and one in back when I suddenly said, in a strong, clear and too loud voice, “Who is Rene Magritte?”
The man in front of me and the one in back stared at me with the same expression, the “Omigod, he seems normal but he’s really insane!” look that I recognized at once because frankly, I get that look a lot. One whole heck of a lot.
But two seconds later a man on the invisible TV set said in a strong, clear and rather too loud voice, “WHO IS RENE MAGRITTE?”
The two men jumped as far from both the television and yours truly as they possibly could, eyes as wide open as they could get. Who can blame them? The seemingly normal but really insane middle-aged man had quoted the man on the television that they could not see three seconds before the man on the television spoke. They stared at me, they stared up at the television, they stared at me, they stared up at the television, and they finally stared at each other. Then they laughed.
The television was broadcasting a rerun of “Jeopardy!” and “Who is Rene Magritte?” was the correct answer to the question, but it is possible that I should write the correct question to the answer.
But that’s not where things get interesting. My friendly neighborhood laundromat has a 5′ x 5′ table in the waiting area, and as usual, it was festooned with leftover magazines. One of those magazines was the May 14, 2012 issue of The New Yorker, and the cover illustration was entitled “The Cloud.” Here is that illustration:
Yes–that is a magazine cover inspired by the oeuvre of legendary mild-mannered Belgian madman Rene Magritte.
Vonn Scott Bair
PS–But that’s not where things get interesting. Where things get interesting is that Magritte is all over my life. I once wrote a very successful 20-minute play about Magritte’s lesser-known painting “L’Histoire Centrale” entitled This Is Not a Play. Magritte fans know the title came from here.