Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut)

Breakfast of Champions is not Breakfast at Tiffany's. Breakfast at Tiffany's is an old movie starring Audrey Hepburn and that guy from The A-Team (no, not Mr. T). It happens to be one of Great Uncle Leadbelly's favorite movies.

Americans are programmed to pretend to be happy, no matter what hell it is the chemicals in their body are putting them through. One manifestation of this is a need to have favorite things. Everyone must have a favorite movie, a favorite television show, a favorite food, etc. There are people who cannot, and will never be able to, afford one of those exorbitantly priced drinks at famous coffee shops, but if asked will say their favorite coffee drink is a half-caf double latte.

They don't know what that is, but they heard someone order it on their favorite television show.

Of course, Great Uncle Leadbelly won't admit the Hepburn flick is his favorite movie. His masculinity requires him to say that his favorite movie is Patton. Deep down, though, Great Uncle Leadbelly hates Patton. Stupid Hollywood pretending to be patriotic, Great Uncle grumbles from his condo at the Republican Retirement Ranch, which is mostly in Montgomery County.

Great Uncle Leadbelly will grumble like this as he sits in his favorite chair and watches his favorite news channel. Great Uncle's favorite chair is a Relax O'Lounge Reclining Chair; specifically, the Excelsior Model. These days, the Relax O'Lounge Reclining Chair Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Todo El Mundo Corporation. Todo El Mundo Corporation is a holding company for many smaller companies.

For example, Todo El Mundo is a majority owner of a small German company that makes plastic toy elephants. The company is called Heinrich Werks. Their elephant is a favorite of many very young American children. Heinrich Werks has made other products in its past. This is supposed to be good business practice: making diverse items so that the company can be protected from the vagaries of the marketplace.

In the middle part of the last century, Heinrich Werks made weapons that its government handed to people. Those people used the guns to shoot at and kill many of Great Uncle Leadbelly's contemporaries. And so it goes.

Todo El Mundo also owns a company in the DC area called Celluloid Information Miners, Inc, which is often shortened to CIM. This is called an acronym. Making acronyms is a favorite leisure activity for many in the Washington, DC, area. By an amazing coincidence, CIM is the company for which Izzy works. Izzy is a software developer. Izzy's favorite computer language is called Ada. He likes Ada because it has such a rigid structure.

Not many people use Ada any more. Somehow, C and Java seem to be the prevailing favorite languages. By having Ada as a favorite language, Izzy is showing himself to be an independent thinker. Unfortunately, Izzy can never find a job using Ada. Every Ada project he's been offered over the last few years has been on a military contract. But military contracts are not Izzy's favorite things.

Some people would call Izzy a "dove." He has this crazy idea that bombing and killing people doesn't make them stop hating us.

Another way that Izzy shows that he is an independent thinker (aside from being a dove and liking Ada) is in his choice of a favorite baseball team. His favorite baseball team is the Horses, a minor league team from Troy, New York. Because he lives in Maryland, Izzy's favorite team is supposed to be the Orioles. The owner of the Orioles is sure this is true. It's possible that Izzy will start to like the new Washington team when it starts playing.

He'll have to see what everyone else thinks.

Izzy's favorite team is from Troy, New York, because that's where Izzy went to university. It's also where I went to university, although we never met until just last year. Isn't life odd?

The Horses, by the way, are only 49% owned by Todo El Mundo Corporation. That's not so bad, I guess.

Bertie, on the other hand, went to the same university, and I did know him there. To put himself through college, Bertie worked at a small furniture factory in Cohoes. He worked on an assembly line. His job was simple: rotate screw #38A2 exactly twelve times in a counter-clockwise direction. He repeated this activity something like six hundred gazillion times a day.

Turning that screw was not one of Bertie's favorite activities.

Bertie's favorite activity was reading the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. He even had a favorite passage. The favorite passage read like this:

"I can't tell if you're serious or not," said the driver.

"I won't know myself until I find out whether life is serious or not," said Trout. "It's dangerous, I know, and it can hurt a lot. That doesn't necessarily mean it's serious,too."

Bertie was sure that if everyone would read Kurt Vonnegut's books, they would stop hurting each other and themselves so often. I told him he sounded like an evangelist. You could probably say, then, that it was my fault that Bertie got his "Gideon's" idea. He figured maybe he could get hotels and motels to let him put copies of Vonnegut books into the nightstands in their rooms. Then, when a weary traveler opened that drawer, they'd see a really big book called the Bible and a much smaller book, which was a novel. They could decide to read the really big book (which some people believed had one point: be nice to each other) or the much smaller book (which Bertie believed had one point: be civil to each other).

Unfortunately, it was not the favorite idea of hotel owners to allow strangers to leave things in all their rooms and so Bertie was at first stymied. But though he was stymied, Bertie was undaunted. He decided that if he couldn't put books in every hotel drawer, he could still get books into many homes and hotels by using his job. So he started adding an extra step to his work routine.

His routine now had two steps: 1) Rotate the screw exactly twelve times in a counter-clockwise direction, 2) slip a Kurt Vonnegut book into the inner fabric lining of the Excelsior chairs he was helping to construct.

Bertie worked for the Relax O'Lounge Reclining Chair Company. So, when Great Uncle Leadbelly grumbles about Hollywood (which, after all, is one of his favorite things to do), he does so with his left cheek only inches away from Breakfast of Champions, which is not the same as his favorite movie.


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