Back in high school, my friends and I spent a lot of time at Hoffmann’s house. He had ample seating, snacks and cool parents who’d pony up for the big pay-per-view boxing matches. I still remember watching Tyson bite off Evander’s ear in their living room.
Mrs. Hoffmann was a prolific collector and decorator. She had thousands of antique clay marbles in various containers around the house and kept a detailed inventory of them all. During Christmas she put out all her old fashioned Santa Clauses. 465,033 of them. Big ones, tiny ones, wood ones, wool ones. Year round she pulled out various collections and arranged them just so. Which, as a high schooler, forced my hand to mess with her.
Every time I visited I’d pick out one of her countless items to rotate, turn upside down, shift ever so slightly just so I could hear her walk in the room and say, “I found what you did to my ____ last week, Brad.” She feigned frustration, but I could tell she enjoyed hunting for the disturbance in her force. It was our game. But, like all games, you inevitably have to raise the stakes. So I did.
One of the more intriguing decorations was a life-size, chocolate Labrador statue in a seated position. A good, sturdy dog. Mr. Hoffmann got it for Mrs. because she liked their real life lab, Buster, so much. Two > one. She hated the impostor Buster. As did real Buster. So he was shoved in the back corner. Nobody puts faux Buster in the corner.
So one night, when the Hoffmanns were away, I came over and let myself into their house using their hidden key. I said hello to real Buster and went to find his impostor. I picked him up and put him on their chair in the living room facing the entrance. I wanted Mrs. Hoffmann to see him when she walked into the room.
It was an okay gag, but something was missing. He needed a costume. So I went to the basement where I knew she kept a bunch of old clothes and returned to transform that boring lab to fab. I put him in corduroy slacks, a dapper fishing jacket, and fanciful scarves for his master’s return.
The story goes Mrs. Hoffmann about had a heart attack when she came home to find a man-sized dog waiting to go fishing. A new game was born that kept us both entertained for quite some time. They would leave, I would break in and stage a new work. It was performance art. I was the Banksy of Tiffin, Ohio.
I wish I was smart enough to have taken photos back then. I’d love to see those old creations. There’s a decent chance it was the peak of my creative career.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Chris Guy