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The Story of Bruce the Log

Bruce the Log

In 1974 I got my first desk job after graduating from college. I had worked as a construction laborer since getting my Philosophy Degree but finally landed a job in the advertising department of a discount store chain in Chicago called Turn*Style. I started off as a production assistant for a catalog shoot (I had to register and organize all product samples that would be photographed for their catalog.) But I began to behave very cleverly in the office, convinced my superiors I could write, and eventually contrived to became a copywriter. Turn*Style was later joined by a home improvement chain called Republic Lumber, and it was my responsibility to develop a distinct copy voice for Republic in all their print advertising. Republic Lumber was my baby. Each week we would get a list of items that would be on sale the following week, and we had to lay them out, draw them up and write some words to make people come and buy the stuff. One week the feature sale item was birch logs. Republic had a big shipment and was loading the stores with them, so it was our job to unload them on unsuspecting customers and make some money. In thinking about this shipment of birch logs, I ended up writing this. It never appeared as a real ad, but did provide a modicum of in-house inspiration.

101 Things You Can Do With a Republic Fireplace Log

(Other Than Put it In The Fireplace)

  1. Cut it into 20,000 toothpicks.
  2. Use it as a doorstop.
  3. Carve a masthead for a small sailboat.
  4. Sit on it.
  5. Hit a homerun.
  6. Build a log cabin. (you may need more than one.)
  7. Use it to keep your seat at the movies while you go out for popcorn.
  8. Give it some friends on their 5th (wooden) wedding anniversary.
  9. Use it as a fourth for bridge.
  10. Carve wooden nickles from it.
  11. Talk to it on those long, lonely nights.
  12. Mash a lot of potatoes with it.
  13. Stand on it to reach the top shelf in the closet.
  14. Roll it up and down the street.
  15. Feed it to a beaver.
  16. Give a banquet for termites.
  17. Build a fence.
  18. Create a unique lamp.
  19. Put it in your greenhouse for atmosphere.
  20. Break open castle doors with it.
  21. Throw it at your enemies.
  22. Prop your loose windows open with it.
  23. Have a log rolling contest.
  24. Use it in a Log Cabin Syrup ad.
  25. Use it for ballast in a hot air baloon.
  26. Hide behind it.
  27. Buy it  presents on Christmas
  28. Paint a face on it and call it “Bruce”.
  29. Stare at it.
  30. Convince a bunch of ants it’s a giant redwood.
  31. Drop it from the Sears Tower and see if it breaks.
  32. Add it to your antique log collection.
  33. Watch it petrify
  34. Start a termite farm
  35. Sell it for a proft.
  36. Chop it into chips and put them on your shoulder.
  37. Make a canoe  out of the bark.
  38. Put it in the middle of your living room as a conversation piece.
  39. Place it in the street by the curb to save a parking space.
  40. Leave it as a tip at the Drake Oakbrook
  41. Pass it out to friends when your wife has a baby (paint it pink or blue.)
  42. Put a stamp on it and mail it.
  43. Drop some silver icicles on it and call it a Christmas Tree
  44. Use it to flatten dough.
  45. Count the rings and try to guess how old it is.
  46. Buy all you can and try to put the original tree together out of the pieces.
  47. Have Andy Warhol sign it and sell it for $1,000
  48. Write a poem to it.
  49. Swat big flies with it.
  50. Sell it to K-Mart as an exotic plant.

(That’s about as far as I got in one continuous flow of ideas and I concluded that that would be enough. So I distributed it to the staff of T*S and Republic Lumber (and Osco Drug). That Christmas, I received as a corporate gift, a birch log with the name Bruce written on the ends. Over 35 year have passed and I still have this log named Bruce. It has travelled from Oakbrook to Chicago to Washington, D.C. to Riga. In the last 8 years since building a home in the woods by the seaside of Northern Kurland I have sawed and chopped hundreds upon hundreds of birch logs and have done many of the above-mentioned things with birch logs, which only goes to show that sooner or later, I tend to follow my own advice.)

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