What are the Odds?


What are the Odds? Cindy Baker

10:30 am: The Friendly Giant.

11 am: Sesame Street.

12 pm: The Flintstones.

12:30 pm: The Price is Right.

After The Price is Right, it was soap operas for the rest of the day, until the kids got home from school and then the news, M*A*S*H, and the ever-changing world of night-time television. Night-time television, man, that was another world altogether, but daytime TV was a constant, from the day I was born until the day I moved away from home. I used to think that those TV shows were kind of an age measuring-stick; Giant for the babies, Big Bird for the toddlers, Fred and Wilma for the schoolkids, and Showcase Showdown for the grown-ups. Then came soaps for the old ladies, all afternoon. And the news marked the end of that measuring-stick; evening TV is for everybody.

I considered myself mature for my age; The Price is Right was always my favorite.

When I was a kid, I held 2 beliefs that I thought to be Absolute Truths:

Everybody’s house burns down (someday)

and

Everybody goes on The Price is Right.

Not that everyone makes it to the stage, but everyone gets a chance for their name to be called; everyone gets to sit in that audience, screaming and waving, the happiest they’ve ever been, wearing a T-shirt specially made just for the occasion. “Masapequah loves Bob Barker!”

To me, these beliefs weren’t the epitome of good and bad, nor the best thing that could happen and the worst. In fact, I think they were kind of the same thing to me – an amazing spectacle, and the chance to start all over again, with a clean slate. I don’t know when I stopped believing those truths, but I can recall that I knew I’d never be on The Price is Right long before I stopped wondering when the house would burn down.

I had two sets of relatives whose houses burned down. I’m not sure now if I’m from an extremely unlucky family, or just a really big one. What are the odds, anyway? One of these families rebuilt with the insurance money, their dream home built from scratch on a huge acreage. I remember being a little jealous of them, especially after the four of us kids in my family had gone through our own toys and clothes to give their kids who we imagined (and maybe really were, for awhile), homeless and naked. The other family took the insurance money and built a dairy barn, instead of a new house. They lived in a trailer beside the hole in the ground (which is still there, like a big empty cement pool, with stairs leading down to the bottom and if you root around you’ll still find charred old toys and stuff).

When the insurance company found out they built a barn instead of a house, they sued this family and won. All six of them lived in that trailer; four kids grew up in that trailer. The parents still live in it, surrounded by unpacked boxes of things that were donated to them by the community, their churches and schools and elk’s and rotary and lion’s clubs, when their house burned down. Who knows what untold riches might be in those boxes just waiting to be discovered? And who knows what shame and horror keeps them from looking inside?

What are the Odds? is a large interactive sculptural object resembling a game-show game shaped like a house on fire, inviting the audience to step up to the spectacle and take their chances on winning their own fresh start.

The sculptural object is a floor-based piece approximately 6 feet high by five feet across by 18″ deep and feature 8″ holes covered in thin paper marked with the ‘logo’ of the game. Audience members will be allowed, (though not explicitly invited) to punch through the paper to extract the prize hidden behind. The front of the piece is hinged to allow access to the inside of the box, allowing for replacement of both the paper covers and the prizes. The prizes are pictures printed onto 4×8″ pieces of paper; symbols of the fates that might have befallen them if my childhood truths were real.