A prank image riffs on social distancing and one of the Square’s finest landmarks.
Remember going outside and noticing things? One thing people used to notice a lot was a window display at the Walgreens on the Square. Among the panels depicting various household necessities is a tableau of two eggs in front of a piece of lightly toasted bread, standing at attention. They are clearly arranged so as to form what people in Madison now colloquially refer to as a bread dick and egg balls. It has drawn the attention of such visiting luminaries as comedian Pete Holmes. It is celebrated on the Madison Subreddit. It dominates Instagram posts location-tagged to the store. It is a local landmark, a bright starchy beacon of perfectly crisped hog.
Over the past week, I’ve been seeing a photo floating around on Facebook that shows an updated display, in which each egg and the slice of toast are spaced out across three separate panels to provide a cheeky reminder about social distancing. (See the header image of this post.) It’s uncannily true to what a hastily snapped, low-res photo taken on a dreary day would look like. It appears that at least a couple of people have shared it in the sincere belief that it’s real. You wouldn’t think the staff of a busy Walgreens would have time for something like this during a pandemic, but it can get crowded in there. It’s not like many of us have had eyes on the place recently.
It’s so perfectly just on that line. Who knows? Maybe some corporate marketing person saw an opportunity to send an important public-health message while changing a display that sets off the 12-year-old in all of us. A double win! But the health benefits of separating one’s eggs, bread, or dick or balls, seem dubious. I could do my due diligence here and call the store to ask, but I’m not going to torment hard-pressed retail workers with this shit. But this would be devastating for a city that’s already lost one other grand phallic monument.
The big red flag here is that the photo originates with Michael Doyle Olson, a Madison-based multimedia artist and occasional music-video director. Olson has a penchant for surreal pranks. He created a listing for a Chris Rickert costume during a Facebook comment exchange with the churlish Wisconsin State Journal writer. And a video tribute to “Madison’s funkiest intersection.” And some genuinely cutting memes about racism in Madison and former Mayor Paul Soglin’s treatment of homeless people.
Olson did acknowledge in one Facebook comment thread that the dismantled dick feast is in fact Photoshopped. “I can’t tell if I should have waited longer to show my cards,” he told me this morning, “but the fact that people wondered at all felt like a big win.”
So there you have it. To the best of our knowledge, the bread dick stands proud still, exuding firm yet supple appeal, mounted behind two egg balls gleaming with oblong virility. There is hope that when we can hang out in public again, we will still recognize our beloved city.