Been there, done that … got the T-shirt

Technically, I guess I'm sleeping with hundreds of women right now

I’m sleeping with a woman in Corsica.

Not from Corsica — in Corsica.  What’s more, her husband is in bed with us.  He doesn’t suspect a thing.

It’s … complicated.

For one thing, I am not — worse luck — actually in Corsica myself.

I am in snow-bound Canada, typing at a kitchen table with a scarf around my neck. But my avatar, my Doppelganger, my other self, is down there in Corsica, enjoying the ocean breeze that’s wafting through the open window and over the, er, three of us.

It’s like this: once upon a time I had a radio show called Basic Black that ran on the CBC — the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. One day a slick-looking dude from the PR department buttonholed me in the CBC cafeteria.

“We’d like to do some advertising for your show,” he purred.

Swell, I said.

“We were thinking of T-shirts,” he said.

Okay, I said.

“What would you like on the T-shirt,” he asked me.

“Uh … the name of the show?” I guessed.

He shook his head sadly, as if he was dealing with a slow-learning Labrador.

“We’ll need more than that,” he said.

We kicked it around for a while.

He rejected the idea of snappy slogans, funny quotes or a staff photo.

My coffee was getting cold.

“How about I draw a cartoon of myself,” I suggested.

“Perfect,” he said.

That’s how we ended up with 147 cartons of Basic Black T-shirts emblazoned with a cartoon head depicting a bald guy with a big nose and a straggly beard grinning crookedly above my scrawled signature.

The cartoon is laughably amateurish and looks, if I may say so, unlike any human alive.

Everybody says it’s a perfect likeness.

That was my first embarrassment — everybody who saw the gargoyle I’d scrawled immediately knew it was me.

But worse — it became (unlike any of my books) an immediate best-seller.

We couldn’t keep it in stock.  In a matter of weeks the Basic Black T-shirt was showing up on the torsos of loggers in Prince George, wheat farmers in the Prairies, secretaries on Bay Street, oyster-shuckers in Lunenburg and (I know — I saw the photo) on a co-ed quartet of skiers schussing down the side of a mountain near Invermere, B.C.

Who, aside from ski boots, appear to be wearing nothing BUT their Basic Black T-shirts.

Well, that’s the thing about this garment — it only comes in one colour (black, natch) and, as an extra cost-cutting measure, the PR department decided we would order it in just one size: Extra Large.

If you’re built like Arnold Schwarzenegger (or, for that matter, like an Amazon with breast implants) — it’s a perfect fit.  Otherwise, you’ve got pyjamas.

That’s how I came to be sleeping with that woman in Corsica.

“I’m wearing my Basic Black T-shirt to bed tonight,” she wrote on a postcard.

I suppose, technically, I’m sleeping with hundreds of women right now, when you think about it. Thousands, maybe.

Well … dozens, for sure.

But it’s no bed of roses.

The husband of that Corsican correspondent I mentioned?

I hear that he’s … wearing me too.

I told you — it’s complicated.


— Arthur Black lives on Saltspring Island



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