Ah, spring, when an OCD office manager’s thoughts turn to cleansing.
On a warm spring day last month, I was dispatched to help clean up the marketing barn. The barn isn’t a barn, but a warehouse in miniature tucked away on a remote corner of the reservation. If the casino’s entrance is supposed to resemble an adobe city of gold, the back resembles the ass-end of a super market. Loading docks, exposed duct work, and access roads the guests never see shatter the illusion of a Native American fantasyland. One of these roads leads to the vehicle storage lot and maintenance shed, and beyond that sits the marketing barn.
I arrived at the site late. Since the graphic designers are notorious for drawing genitalia on car windows, I parked my vehicle away from the barn. The hand-picked clean-up crew stood by the entrance, waiting to be told what to do. Their cars were parked along the fence that delineates the casino from the reservation proper, despite the NO PARKING sign mounted on a makeshift pole and topped with a cheap plastic skull adorned with a black wig. One the other side of the fence cattle grazed and wild horses roamed. High up in the branches of an oak tree, a red-tailed hawk returned to its nest.
No one was in a hurry to get started. While we were glad to be out of the casino, we had a dirty job to do. The barn is a repository for all kinds of crap: neon signs with obsolete logos, dinged-up stanchions, damaged light boxes with blown fuses, beat-to-shit banner poles, old vinyl signage that will probably never get used again. It wasn’t exactly junk, but it was too worn-down to put on the casino floor, too expensive to throw away. So everything was stuffed willy-nilly in the barn. However, the barn had flooded during the winter rains, and was in need of a thorough cleaning.
The barn has no electrical power, so the corners were dank and cobwebbed with gloom, just like a real barn. The cement foundation was covered in dirt and the shelves were in disarray. The first step was to drag everything out into the sun and determine what to keep, what to throw away. Since there wasn’t anyone there to supervise the process, no cameras to monitor our actions, we tossed far more than we kept. Floral decorations festooned with dollar signs, concert posters from Billy Idol’s performance a decade ago, directional signage pointing out the location of tribal-owned ATMs all went into the shit can.
The work went quickly. No one complained and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. We weren’t taking out the trash so much as purging the casino of its crap. No, we weren’t garbage men, but arbiters of good taste tasked with undoing years of bad creative decisions made by upper management, most of whom were no longer with the casino.
Covered with mouse droppings and bird feathers, stacks of crumbling boxes of paper were destined for the trash pile until I intervened. Curious, I sifted through the turds and found old photographs of ground-breaking ceremonies, dusty descriptions of casino expansions, chewed-up newsletters—nothing less than the history of Thunderclap Casino.
While I perused the archives, the clean up crew took a break and started messing around, staging sword fights with aluminum poles, stomping on pieces of brittle foam board, and wreaking havoc with the trash pile. I picked up one of the daisy-shaped decorations and threw it Frisbee style into the barn. The plastic daisy flew as fast and true as a throwing star, causing several of my coworkers to make Matrix-like maneuvers as the missile pinwheeled past and exploded as it struck the back wall of the barn.
My coworkers were shocked by the daisy’s lethal accuracy, but their anger at being nearly decapitated disappeared as they gathered up the rest of the flowers and took aim at the skull perched atop the NO PARKING sign. While I loaded the archive into the truck of the designer who was supposed to be in charge, the flowers flew. Sometimes they shattered against the sign, sometimes they crashed into the dust, but all missed their mark. With all the flowers destroyed, someone chucked a pole at the skull javelin style and knocked the signpost over. The whole thing, skull and all, toppled to the ground, narrowly missing the row of parked cars. We scrambled to set up the sign, but the wig wouldn’t cooperate and kept slipping off the skull, which we discovered was marked with a swastika. No one knew what to make of that.
When we finally got the wig back on the skull and the skull on the pole and the pole reasonably straight, we went back to the barn and finished up the job. We swept the floor, stacked the boxes on pallets, rearranged the shelves. When we were done, the barn looked as spick and span as an empty garage. We closed and locked the door, stowed our gear, and headed back to the casino. I drove home wondering about the swastika, where it had come from, what it meant in the context of ethnic cleansing and displacing people into camps, ghettos, reservations. Preoccupied by the symbol, I didn’t notice the giant cock and balls that decorated my rear window until the next day.