Here’s what you do. You open up a shop and then you close it right down. You move into a nice building, enlarge the windows, redecorate the interior. You leave the lights on so people walking past can see in. You give it a funky name like “Bellwether” or “The Giraffe Emporium” and hang up a COMING SOON sign in the window. Don’t say when it’s coming. Emphasize the soon. Don’t specify what product the shop will sell or what service it will provide. Don’t call it a restaurant or a bookstore or a furniture showroom. Fill the room, your bright, huge-windowed room, with books and silverware and furniture. Make sure to arrange it all in a tasteful way. You don’t want a big sofa covered with romance novels next to a pile of forks and steak knives and soup ladles. You want an oak table hand-buffed and finished with restoration quality English brown antique wax. There should be a few books on it, books by Jane Austen or Nietzsche, next to a set of utensils arranged so that it is difficult to tell whether they are for sale or for consuming the food that is for sale. The food will be represented by Japanese wax models near the front door. The models will serve an uncertain purpose. Are they a kitschy menu or a gimmicky visual art exhibit? Nobody knows. All of this should be visible from the street and all of it should change as the days and weeks and months pass. You will perform the changes at night so that nobody can see you and connect you with the soon-to-be opened store. As time passes the conventional wisdom about the place will evolve. People with think it’s a bakery one week, a used record store another week, a toy store on Tuesday, an adult novelty shop on Sunday. There will be controversy, confusion, argument. There will be newspaper articles and investigative reports on the local news channel, but no one will solve the mystery. No one will realize that your store serves no purpose, that the interior is not meant to be inhabited, that no money will be made, no value will be added. No one will figure this out, at least not at first, because people tend to read too much into what they don’t understand. And then one day (for if people are charitable in their interpretations, they are also by nature mistrustful) the suspicion will arise that it’s all a big hoax, some conceptual art stunt. This is when you send your trusted assistants (who have been laying low until now) into the throng to start rumors about a grand opening. Some people will not believe the rumors, others will. Once a tipping point is reached the belief will spread like avian flu. The crowd, with its unguided and independent intelligence, will decide what your store is and when it is set to open. You will have no control over their conclusions, but you will (with the help of your assistants) figure out what those conclusions are. If the masses decide that your store is to sell lingerie and open on December 1st, that’s what will happen. If they decide that you’ll be providing manicures as of July 16th, so be it. You will hurry through the preparations. The day will come. All the people who have waited so long will arrive in droves and line up around the block. The doors will open. They will file in and find the perfect business, the one their collective unconscious has been yearning for. You will at long last reveal your face, to a chorus of ecstatic huzzahs and hosannas. By the end of the day you will be the toast of the town. Everyone will love you, everyone will want to be with you, everyone will want to be you. The sun will set. You will have a nice dinner and a glass of wine. You will pour lighter fluid on a pile of newspapers, drop a match and walk outside. When the blaze has climbed to the roof you will slip down a side street, run out into the fields to the old tracks, hop a freight train and disappear into the dark middle of the continent, confident that you’ve given the people the only thing they deserve, the only thing they are capable of understanding: paradise, lost.

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