Slick’s Adventures in Lightbulb Land
A whip-smart, smartass advertising creative with an uncontrollable imagination embarks on a series of hilarious misadventures that strain his relationships with friends and lovers, ultimately forcing him to confront an existential question.
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Lightbulb Land is the hottest, brightest, bestest advertising agency in booming 1999 Austin, Texas — and Slick, a whip-smart, smartass creative director, has fast-tracked his way almost to the top.
Gifted and cursed with an uncontrollable imagination that strains against his clients’ safety-first limitations, Slick can’t help embarking on extracurricular, quixotic quests for the Next Big Thing.
But his world unravels as he alienates friends, lovers, co-workers and clients, even as his city alienates him — its beloved landmarks gentrified to extinction to make room for hordes of new Austinites.
A series of hilarious misadventures culminates in a madcap plan to hijack the Iowa caucuses, leading to a reckoning in which Slick must confront the existential question: Where is he going without ever knowing the way?
Slick’s Adventures in Lightbulb Land is a love letter to an ever-evolving city and a picaresque-esque satire about the balance between creative over-exuberance and growing up, embracing the new while salvaging what’s unique in your hometown.
Read an Excerpt from Slick’s Adventures in Lightbulb Land
Slick shot Madison a look. Madison was on a tear and ignored him.
“I think you need to say what you mean,” she said to Dirk. “You make shit up and scare the bejesus out of everyone just for fun.”
“So stop it.”
“Actually, I do think it,” said Dirk.
“That account services needs a good scare?” said Slick, sucking the cream cheese out of a deep-fried stuffed jalapeño.
“No,” said Dirk. “That we could use an upgrade in our clientele.”
“Oh, come on,” said Madison. “We’re awash in work, Dirk. My plate’s overflowing.”
“No kidding,” said Slick, swirling his glass.
Madison shot Slick a look.
“I’ve got work too,” he said and downed the last of his drink.
“I just feel like we’re not getting anywhere,” said Dirk. “I mean, yeah, we’re doing fine. Right now. But I’m looking ahead. Times are changing. Fast. I have no idea what’s going down with all this Internet shit. Y2K? Is that a thing? For reals? I barely know how to open my email. What I do know is we’re not getting the attention we deserve.”
“We’re the biggest agency in town,” said Madison.
“Outside of town,” said Dirk.
“Texas is like a whole ’nother country, man,” said Slick, refilling everyone’s glasses. “We rule chunks of it.”
“I want to be in New York. Los Angeles. Chicago. London! With the big guns. I want us to do creative that makes people say, ‘Hey! That was Quimby!’”
Slick hated that expression, “do creative,” which Dirk liked to throw around as if creative was something anyone could just “do.”
Madison kicked Slick under the table at Dirk’s self-serving “Quimby” reference, her pet peeve. Yeah, yeah, thought Slick, I know. He thinks it’s all about him.
“Hey, I felt that,” said Dirk.
“Good,” said Madison, grown feistier from the drink.
“This is not all about me,” said Dirk. “I’m sick of working our butts off for small fry. Hell, even our big fry couldn’t tell a good campaign if it bit ’em in the ass.”
“We just have to tell better stories,” said Slick reaching for another stuffed jalapeño. “You always say that.”
“Ugh,” said Madison. “You’re going to make me lose my appetite.”
“Client stories,” said Slick, sucking on his appetizer. “That’s what he always says.”
“Yeah, well not any more,” said Dirk.
“No more stories?” said Slick, his mouth full of cream cheese.
“We don’t tell client stories,” said Dirk. “We peddle lies.”
“Really good ones that get people to buy client shit,” said Slick, popping the gutted jalapeño in his mouth.
“Jesus,” said Madison, “you two are all rainbows and unicorns.”
Dirk grabbed his butter knife and pointed it at Slick.
“You think so?” said Dirk.
Slick kept chewing, while his consciousness drifted. It was as if he saw this scene from a great distance. He marveled at his calm, what with a knife, albeit a butter knife, thrust threateningly in his face by his high-strung boss. Deep down, Slick knew that no matter how hot under the collar Dirk got, he’d never actually do anything dangerous. On the other hand, they’d had a lot to drink, making it tricky to gauge how real this threat was.
“C’mon, man,” said Slick. “We’re the Conquistadors of the new millennium, on a quest for The Next Big Thing. We’ll find it. Advertising may be a glorified fiction —”
Dirk threw the knife at Slick and missed so badly Slick never realized he was the target. A flash of silverware arced across the room — thankfully unpopulated — and clattered against the far wall. Slick and Madison exchanged concerned looks. Dirk froze in his chair, his eyeballs the only part of him that dared move, robotically scanning for signs of repercussions. There were none, although a head-scratching bartender had strayed into the room to search for the final resting place of the unidentified flying object. It had all happened so fast no one had seen the projectile’s launch pad. Relieved, Dirk reached for the pitcher of margaritas and refilled their glasses.
“Sorry,” said Dirk. “I’m a little tense.”
“I’ll say,” said Slick.
“Jesus,” said Madison.
“Next Big Thing or not,” said Dirk, his voice lowered. “Telling lies is what we do. There’s nothing glorified about it. We work for clients we can’t stand, who pay us to lie to customers they can’t stand, so they’ll go out and buy shit they don’t need. Here, I’ll draw it for you.”
Dirk grabbed a cocktail napkin and drew three intersecting circles. He stabbed at each in turn.
“Clients. Customers. Shit. That spot in the middle?” he said, pointing to the place where the three circles intersected, “That’s us.”
There was a moment’s silence.
“Rainbows and unicorns,” said Madison, finishing her drink.
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About the Author
Robi Polgar is a writer, director and musician, living Austin, Texas, with his wife and family. A former office-cube dweller for a number of now-disappeared advertising agencies, his late foray into the mad world of marketing was as a proofreader and occasional copywriter, waging a heroic resistance against linguistic laziness and grammatical gobbledegook.
Robi’s previous literary work, the football noir Death Is a Laff Riot, is the first in a tetralogy of soccer murder-mysteries.
Read more about Robi’s writing, listen to his songs, learn about upcoming projects and sign up for his (irregular) email missives on his website.
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