The letters appeared in our front yard on a Tuesday. My wife was nonplussed. After what was probably a little too much wine with dinner, followed by what was definitely too much wine while doing the dishes, I patiently and lovingly explained the situation to her.
“It’s the thing with the letters,” I said. Many long seconds passed. “Come on, you know. The ‘B’ and ‘G’ thing.” [long, dramatic inhale, then super condescending exhale] “Like, six years ago, the city of Dallas switched its slogan from ‘Live lard, think big’ to—I mean ‘Live large, think big.’ They switched it to ‘Dallas: big things happen here.’ It’s less encouraging, more braggadocious. This was after the unicorns.”
“Remember when they put life-size unicorns everywhere, each one painted more garishly than the next?”
“You mean Pegasuses?”
“Exactly. First they littered the city with Pegasuses. Then came the letters, a 6-foot-tall ‘B’ and a ‘G,’ with a space between them where you can stand like an ‘I’ and have your picture taken with an iconic Dallas backdrop.”
“I’ve seen the sign,” she said. “It’s in our front yard.”
From there we lost ourselves in a meandering but surprisingly satisfying argument about which of us had spent more time dealing with the parade of workmen who’d recently marched through the house to fix the washing machine problem and the kitchen sink faucet problem and the rat problem and so on. We couldn’t remember all the problems.
Why our front yard? I don’t know. Some great things have happened in our house. There was what has come to be known as the Four Day War, the battle I had with AT&T that changed our internet and telephone service forever. There was the conception of our daughter. But most Dallasites don’t know about these events, and our house—though it’s a charming midcentury—isn’t that impressive. Yet people showed up regularly to stand in the sign and take pictures.
For a few months, I amused myself with the thing. I started off by photobombing shots in my slippers and bathrobe when I came out to get the paper. Then one day I used a reciprocating saw to cut small hatches in the back of the letters, and I installed an electrical system using car batteries, such that if the person playing the “I” touched both letters simultaneously, he or she would receive a shock strong enough that every third victim became incontinent. I’m just guessing at the success rate. I didn’t keep a spreadsheet or anything. I’d have to go back and look at the webcam footage.
Then things got out of hand. I woke up one morning and found that the “B G” sign had been relocated to my living room. First of all, I didn’t appreciate it when strangers lost control of their bowels in my living room. That goes without saying. The bigger issue, though, was that visitors would post their pictures on Facebook and tag me and my wife. The comments were hard to take.
“This is the lamest living room I’ve ever seen!”
“The 1980s called, and they want that couch back. LOL”
“Big things happen there?! I’ll say! BIG mistakes!!!!! Why is the dad pretending in that family photo that he’s not using Just for Men Mustache & Beard? I bet his daughter thinks he smells like Jumpstreet. And those top-lit glass shelves are awesome—if you want to show everyone that you can only afford to have a maid come and dust twice a month. Negative five stars!!”
So I called the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, which oversees the fleet of “B G” signs, to ask about getting the one in my living room moved to another part of the city, possibly to the spot where Jabari made his last stand, or maybe to field No. 8 at Moss Park, where a kid named Jack Zeko once scored a goal by kicking the ball and his untied soccer cleat into the back of the net.
First, I learned that the Dallas CVB is now called VisitDallas, with no space between the two words where one might stand and have one’s picture taken. Second, and more important, I learned that marketing campaigns can develop lives of their own. Sometimes even a good idea can be taken too far.