I woke up distressed from a dream that put it to me in bleak terms: Codrescu, you'll never be a brand. The dream was influenced, no doubt, by the previous evening's viewing of the Martha Stewart story, made for TV. The movie was gentle on Martha and not too hard on her Lutheran work ethic and obsessive striving for perfection. Sure, she had to give up her family and maybe cut some corners in business, but she was the perfect American success story, so where did that leave me? Until this dream came along, I never thought that I wanted to be Martha Stewart. I never strove for anything but imperfection and my work ethic flags as soon as one of my no-good friends calls and says, "Let's go for a drink!" I'm a poet not a petit-fours engineer, but still, the dream was no slouch.
I realized that years before I'd had Andy Warhol-envy. Andy, the Martha Stewart of his day, was an indefatigable brand perfectionist, one of the first individuals to make his name as singular as Coca-Cola. Both Martha and Andy modified their Eastern European last names into quick, memorable Anglo bites, a maneuver that had been tested in Hollywood for years. In fact, changing a consonant-laden moniker into a briefer exhalation was a prerequisite. From Ralph Lauren to one-name pop stars like Madonna and Prince, the first step on the yellow brick road had to be given-name eradication and handle-reinvention.
In my dream, I was at a crowded party with all kinds of people coming up to me and mispronouncing my name. I woke up exhausted from having to say, "Not 'K,' 'C'" and "not 'Cord,' 'Codr...'" over and over again. And that was only half the problem. The other was that I had too much product. Instead of one neat package tied with a simple but memorable ribbon, I was peddling a mess of stuff, all ornery, mysterious, and very much on the move -- its only virtue being that it was vivid. I think.
"Why bother to be a brand?" you might as well ask. No reason until I had this dream which was no average dream, but the American Dream. I finally dreamt it, and it made me a little sick.