This is NOT an Infomercial
Posted on 04/01/23 at 11:52am by Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy
Event: CULTURE SHOCK 2023 NIGHT TWO
It was a rainy day in Sacramento. At least, that’s how I remember it. I was fed up, annoyed. Shackled with uncontrollable emotions I should have otherwise been able to come to grips with. I sat at my outdoor cafe table, thankfully covered by an umbrella overhead, drowning my sorrows in my signature double cafe latte, extra cream, quarter foam, two pumps of maple syrup, hold the sugar, give me three and a half pinches of sweetener instead please. It was my usual off day morning treat.
“Can I get you anything else, dear?” The barista asked me.
“Nah, I’m good, thanks,” I replied.
My eye level sunk down to the contents on the table. There was my latte, front and center but to the side was a badly crocheted yellow mask. You know, the one I got from the eyes-wide masked room in the back of the dollar store? Yeah, all that and my feelings were on the table too except the only thing was, you couldn’t see those but I assure you, they were hurting.
“This is nonsense,” I muttered under my breath, “Anglo Saxon Luchador, Rocky Balboa Leon. They both pinned me down. I’m the Nuzzle Lord, for crying out loud. I think it might be about time to leave the mask behind. Heck, at this point, I’m so deterred. Maybe it’s time the Nuzzle Lord hangs ‘em up permanently?”
RING! RING! RING!
It was my cell phone. I pulled it out of my pocket and answered it without looking. My mistake. Oh dear sweet baby nuzzler, that was my mistake.
“Hello?” I answered, completely enamored with my thoughts and feelings, not who was about to verbally berate me.
CHATTER! CHATTER! CHATTER!
I rather not retread what was said to me and to be honest, it’s all irrelevant babbling but it was my dearest cousin-in-law Vickie on the other end of the line bitching me out because I have not been bringing honor to the LOVE CONVOY name. Well shoot, I was trying but I just kept coming up short. So if it wasn’t bad enough that I had already been questioning my very existence, having the high pitched tone of my cousin’s wife yelling in my ear didn’t help much to quell thoughts of retirement.
“Uh huh,” I continually said, rather passively as Vickie spoke at a relentless, breakneck pace.
It was like she was a rabid dog. I didn’t hear most of what she said. It primarily pertained to do-better this and work harder-that. I am an esteemed member of the Gladhappy family, mind you. I know my place and I know when I’ve let my family members down. I didn’t need constant reminders, yet there I was. My latte was getting lukewarm no thanks to the cold front passing through the Sacramento atmosphere.
“I get it, Vickie, I do. I gotta do better. I am trying,” Even when I tried to interject a sliver of my viewpoint, I simply got verbally overpowered by her.
Okay, maybe I am being a bit too harsh here. It’s not like Vickie is an evil person. I should have recognized she was coming from a place of love. She cared. She just wanted to see me do better and then it all came to a head.
“A what? Vickie, did you say I’m next booked in a huge battle royal? Since when? I have been on radio silence since my last loss to that masked buffoon Rocky. How strong is your cell connection!? You’re not cutting in and out are you!?” I demanded answers.
A battle royal? I know those are daunting enough but add in my down-on-my-luck attitude? Not even The Nuzzle God would have the utmost confidence entering into a fray like that.
“I can hear you just fine. Yes, crystal clear,” I acknowledged, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
From that point on it was a dictation. I only answered yes or no until the end of our conversation.
“Okay. Sounds good. Hey Vickie? Thank you, I really appreciate it. I know you’re trying to pump me up. I’ll be there,” I said as the call disconnected.
I was being too harsh, looking back now. She wanted the best for me but it just caught me at the wrong time. It got in my head too much. I slammed my phone down and signaled to the barista for the bill.
“I don’t think PRIME will miss me not showing up. Time to get lost in the shuffle,” Was the last thing I said before departing the cafe.
You bet I left the half drank latte and yellow mask behind.
I stared up at the tall business building.
“Good thing I don’t have to go too far,” I said as I looked at the outdoor directory.
I walked with a purpose to the unit with the label ‘TALENT AGENCY – SACRAMENTO BRANCH’ above its door and entered. My mood changed right away. I was out of the dark and dreary gloomy day and inserted into ambient lighting, calm background music and a smattering of promotional pamphlets beside the front desk. I began perusing the various opportunities that were in front of me until a lovely looking lady walked up to the empty chair on the other side of the desk.
“May I help you?” She asked in the most delightful voice.
It took me a minute to lift my gaze from the pamphlets because I was determined to find something new. To find something else to fill my empty void.
“I’m just looking but I really do want to find a new career,” I vaguely spoke, masking my true intent.
“Feel free to have a look through those but let me know if you have anything specific in mind,” She comforted.
I nodded. I was ready to leave my life of wrestling far behind but the choices in front of me weren’t much better. I didn’t know how to mulch anything or lay bricks on foundations. All I knew is that I wanted a much better future. How fitting that soon came to be. I walked to the front of the desk where I was directly eye to eye with the receptionist.
“I have talents for TV. I can sell just about anything. In fact, there are a number of products I currently endorse,” I promoted.
“That’s perfect. We have a bunch of opportunities at the local Sacramento public access studio. Here, take this and we’ll give you a call,” She said as she handed me a business card.
All it said on it was BETTER FUTURE. I joined her in smiling. It felt good to smile once again. Where the heck did my joy go? It felt like it was taken from me and it was about time to take it right back. I thought I was making the right choice to look for an alternative career at that point. I had lost too much. The deck was clearly stacked against me if I went through with the battle royal so what did I have to lose? What did I have to lose indeed? Only time would tell.
I stood in a windowless room like I was naked and too afraid to touch anything. Not naked in the sense that a bunch of masked hooligans were about to surround me in the greatest nuzzle in the world, mind you but I was nervous enough that I didn’t want to touch anything. There was a loveseat against the opposite wall and a foldable table that had a veggie tray on it. Other than that, it was virtually empty. The door eventually swung open and in walked a community college intern wearing a wired headset.
“Okay, Mister Nuzzle, sir, ummm, we go live in five. I’ll come get you!” He stammered before exiting as swiftly as he entered.
I didn’t know how to act. Sure, I had done plenty of televised appearances before. See all my PRIME back catalogue but this had a different feel to it. This truly had BIG TIME written all over it. I mean, this was public access TV. Tons of Sacramentans were surely going to gather around their television sets, phones and electronic devices to tune into this show, right? RIGHT? I distinctly wondered why my palms were sweaty.
“Maybe a veggie will calm the old nerves,” I soothed.
I picked over the broccoli and dipped the biggest one into the ranch dressing. It was just the right amount of good and not too crunchy either. I finished the stalk just in time for the director to enter the room once more.
“We’re having some technical difficulties. Sorry about that but just sit tight for a little longer, okay? I’ll come get you when we’re about to go live,” He informed me.
It was then that I decided to take a seat seeing that I was going to be there for a while. Looking back now, I’m glad I had that time locked up all alone. It forced me to reflect. I wondered if I was truly doing the right thing or if I should show up at PRIME and fight in the battle royal.
“I might not have the same sort of chance in that battle royal as I would here, doing public access TV,” I hashed out to myself.
What were the pros and cons? I mean, it was guaranteed there were less bumps to take by being an on-air talent for this channel. However, on the counter, there wouldn’t be a live studio audience to feed energy off of.
“Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions,” I pondered.
RING! RING! RING!
It was my phone again. This time I had more wherewithal about me and checked the caller identification before answering.
“It’s Vickie. Again,” I whispered, “I can’t take this now. I have to focus.”
So I hit the ignore button and carried on with the inner war I was waging on myself.
“You know what I need? A DARN GOOD NUZZLE, that’s what I need. But my self-nuzzles lack the same sort of effect as a multi person nuzzle. I need to find someone to feed off of,” I contemplated.
Just then, the door to the green room swung open once more but this time it wasn’t the young director who sauntered in. Instead, it was a tall, black haired breathtakingly beautiful woman. Her skin was dark and her legs were long. She dressed business casual but it fit her figure so well. I hardly knew how to react. It was like The Nuzzle God had just answered my hail mary prayer.
“Oh shit, sorry. I didn’t realize there was someone already in here,” She spoke in a surprised voice.
She began to motion back towards the door but by that time, I had gotten up and put my arms out innocently.
“No, no, it’s okay. Come on in. I’m Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy. Who are you? Are you talent too?” I asked.
She looked at me stone faced as if I should have known who she was. Well sorry but I wasn’t ever one to fancy some hole-in-the-wall, backwater, public access television channel no one cared about. Correction, no one cared about it until I got there.
“You’re kidding me, right?” She spoke, dejected, “Am I talent too? Do you not recognize me? I am CHARANDRA. I practically carry this network on my back. Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my preparatory green room?”
I had no shot at answering because she let go of the door and made haste over to the veggie tray on the table. Her eyes examined the ranch dressing before they undressed me and not in the good way.
“WHO TOUCHED MY VEGGIE TRAY AND RANCH DIP!? WAS IT YOU? IT WAS YOU, WASN’T IT?” She yelled.
I put my hands up innocently, trying not to make a bad situation worse.
“I mean, I’m sorry. I got hungry. They stuffed me in this broom closet to wait for the live set and I got a bit peckish. I’m sorry. I owe you a nuzzle free of charge,” I excused.
Her head half-cocked to one side.
“A nuzzle? What the hell is that? Keep your shit away from me and definitely do not touch my veggie try again,” She warned.
I nodded graciously as the producer, director, intern, whatever the hell he was finally peaked his head back into the room one last time.
“Hey guys, heads up, we will be going live soon so get acquainted and get ready,” He told.
The door closed behind him and there was a moment of silence between Charandra and myself. We just looked at each other. I wasn’t sure if she was about to rip my head off or shake my hand but the silence was killing me so I had to crack a joke.
“I see we got ourselves a good old fashioned Sacramentan standoff!” I jested.
Another moment passed.
“BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You’re funny. I like you! So, you’re talent too, huh? Neat. I guess we’ll be working together tonight. The next block is our coveted shopping network show. It drives the most ratings for us out of any night of the week so I hope you brought something good,” She addressed.
Initially I panicked but then remembered what I could whip out. However, before I could respond, the door to the green room opened YET AGAIN. It was the bus boy.
“Can I get you two anything? He asked.
Charandra raised her finger. It was as if the entire world stood still.
“Yes. I would like a fresh veggie tray and an UNTOUCHED ranch dip please,” She blasted.
He wrote the order on his notepad with vigor.
“Anything for you, sir?” He asked me.
“I wouldn’t mind your best spiced water please,” I asked in a much nicer tone, “Oh and Charandra, I forgot something in my car. I’ll see you on the set.”
LIGHTS. CAMERA. ACTION?
And just like that, what I thought was my new camera was launched. Or was it?
“The following is a paid advertisement of the Greater Sacramento Shopping Network. GSSN does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions of its televised guests. All rights reserved,” The pre-recorded broadcast voiceover played on the loudspeaker in the studio.
The pipsqueak of a producer did a little hand motion and pointed to Charandra and I who bracketed a table full of something. The studio lights came on at full force and it felt like I was a hot dog under a heat lamp. Charandra, who had clearly done this before brushed off the transition from dark to light as if it was nothing. She smiled into the camera and so began our broadcast.
“Hello everyone, I am CHARANDRA and welcome back to GSSN. Tonight, I have a close friend with me. His name is Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy and as a native Sacramentan, he thought what better was there to do on a weekend night than to attend local public access television to sell his wares. Is that right, Crispy? What did you bring to the table, literally, today?” She smiled in that overly produced, cheap TV way.
I gazed down at my pile of very special linens in front of me and then the hot cam.
“Hi Charandra,” I spoke as if I was on autopilot and my instincts kicked in, “Thanks for having me on tonight and yes, I brought my very important PRETTY PINK© towels to sell. Now I know what all of you are thinking. What’s so PRETTY and what’s so PINK about this specific set of towels? What sets them apart? What makes them so special? Well, let me show you their absorbency in action.”
I grabbed my spiced water and spilled some onto the table ON PURPOSE! GASP!
“Oh dear, oh my. I seemed to have spilled some of my spiced water onto the table in front of me,” I narrated.
Everyone, at least in the studio, watched with bated breath as I grabbed the first PRETTY PINK© towel my shaky fingers could find. I gently placed the towel on top of the puddle and within mere moments POOF, AT LEAST HALF THE WATER WAS ABSORBED! WOW, WOW, WOW, WOW! TELEVISION MAGIC AT ITS FINEST!
“Would you look at that?” Charandra tried to sell, “It, ummm, it MOSTLY absorbed all of the water.”
I was cursing in my mind at that point. Like what did this towel think it was!? I could have sworn with my own personal endorsement that every single PRETTY PINK© towel I used worked to perfection. Heck, sometimes I thought it was TOO absorbent and it left my skin dry and chafed when I would get out of the shower at home but of course this was the time that it didn’t work out. Figures.
“It can absorb the blood of my enemy just fine, that’s for sure,” I muttered under my breath and away from my lapel microphone in frustration.
“Okay, well, tell us more about the technology in these PRETTY PINK© towels! Our social media platform is popping with questions of wanting to know. Mind you, I’ll also let you know that we’re big in the retirement homes. Maybe this could be a hot ticket item for the old folks down at Refined Living Spaces?” Charandra tried to sell again.
My blood was at a near boil.
“Y-yes. Old people need them for the few years they have left on this earth. It will suck them dry for sure,” I satirized, “Look. Seriously. I promise, these are great towels and anyone, AND I MEAN ANYONE who is willing to give them a try will not regret it or I will personally make sure their money gets refunded to them.”
Charandra looks off-camera for a moment before pressing her earpiece further into her ear.
“Let’s just check in and see how many we’ve sold, shall we? I am just getting word that it’s quite a bit! Wow, okay!” She remarked, “We’ll be back after these messages. Stay with us.”
The studio lights eased in intensity as I was finally able to catch my breath. Why was being on TV in this capacity so HARD? So different? It shouldn’t have been but at that point, I knew I was out of my element. Defeated, I looked at Charandra as I collected my pile of pitiful towels.
“Don’t worry, I still love you,” I said softly to the PRETTY PINK© towels, “How did we do?”
I asked Charandra to break the news to me point blank. She smiled back at me.
“You just set a new record for sales! We sold six towels! You doubled the record! I’m utterly shocked!” Charandra exclaimed.
I was shocked too. SIX? Six freaking towels? Okay, Charandra. I knew it was pretty clear what I had to do at that point so I bid my farewells to everyone, packed up my stuff and marched out that studio door. I clutched all the PRETTY PINK© towels as close to my face as possible in one giant self-nuzzle.
“I know what I must do,” I said as I pulled out my phone with my free hand and hit the speed dial to call my girl Vickie, “Battle royal, here I come.”