The Endless and Futile Quest for Bostock

I bet you’re wondering why there’s no such thing as bostock.

The answer to that is complex, because there are two factors that conspire to lead most people to believe it doesn’t exist. One factor is that it’s extremely rare, and the other is that it is imperceptible when present. Taking these into consideration, it’s nearly impossible to assert that bostock actually exists, since all reports of it are anecdotal, and legitimate science cannot entertain irreproducible events, no matter how often they occur nor by what authority they are corroborated.

I had bostock once, and here’s my anecdote about that.

Today I live in the East Harriet neighborhood of Minneapolis, but once upon a time I did not, and before I moved here there was a wonderful pastry shop near where I would come to reside. Today it’s a cozy neighborhood café that serves local beer and appetizers that serve as meals (yet are not “small plates”) and hosts local, independent musicians. Before it was a pastry shop it was a recording studio, for an entirely different genre of musician than plays in the café today. Yet even today, the Wi-Fi router is named after the recording studio of three businesses ago. No one’s gotten around to changing it.

I visited the building when it was a pastry shop. There was a large, interior-lit, curving glass case displaying the shop’s wares, wonderful European-style desserts that involve delicately flaking crusts and lots of butter. Something with four corners and an end of peach in the middle that made it look like the sun. Rich cakes and sweet breads in chocolate, lemon, stuff like that. You’ve seen it before in any American café where the proprietor takes herself very seriously, looking at you as though you are a prolonged buzzing/whining noise she has only now had the opportunity to notice. Someone who aspires to recreate a Parisian block in the Midwest, starting with her business at the epicenter, like a very slow tornado in reverse.

What caught my attention was a square of bread, darker than toast, chunkier than French toast. There was no good reason for me to have noticed it except it was calling out to me. Not with a voice, not even like a psychic siren song, but with a fully self-confident presence, like an evolved Leo at a cocktail party who is struck by the whim to desire your attention. All she has to do is sit there and radiate contentedness, aloofness, and the men will begin to gravitate toward her, but it is you with whom she will apportion just the slightest bit more attention. And the other men will be stung by this subtle rejection, surely, but they will further burn with resentment that they’ve been thrown over by one such as you, and who the hell are you anyway. That’s the worst. By this means she will make you feel especially special, and you will shine especially bright for her in gratitude, and that’s what she had an appetite for so at least two people at this party are getting exactly what they wanted.

That’s what the bostock did to me. I wasn’t competing with other customers, but the bostock did choose me and sit there, less than comely in a pile of its siblings. It suggested to me that there were some hidden secrets to it, that it was the bearer of ineffable treasure. It played up its blocky, dense crust, and it promoted the crystalline cakes of sugar forming its roof. I’d seen the display of sliced almonds before, of course, and was well jaded to the allure of powdered sugar at this point in my life… and yet…

So I ordered it and brought it back to my seat. I’d never heard of it before but the clerk assured me this was a good choice. I’ve yet to encounter the clerk or server who has ever sucked their breath sharply and said, “Ooh, bad call. No, you don’t want this. You don’t seem like the type. Also?”—glancing furtively—”Our baker has a grudge against the world lately. Messy divorce. Gone completely amoral. You do not want to put this thing in your body today, trust me.” Rather, she marginally bolstered my buyer’s satisfaction and I sat down and regarded the plate with the same bemused curiosity registered by many characters in The Twilight Zone in the moment before the plot develops.

I took a bite, and you know what happens when you bite into a slice of bostock. It involves ecstasy, citric acid, endorphin, serotonin, tapping into the pleasure center of the galaxy, watching a revisionist filmstrip of the happiest moments in France’s history, stuff like that. I bit into a chunk of blue meth dusted in heroin, swimming in butter. That much butter shouldn’t be legal, much less physically possible.

I won’t trouble you with the hyperbole with which I would express my hookedness, but I was hooked. That was an amazing piece of baked goods, and the very next weekend I went for another sample. Why not? I’m an adult, gainfully employed, making good money, paying my taxes and my bills. Why shouldn’t I splurge and enjoy two pieces of fancy toast in a year? But I’m sure you can see where this is heading, because maybe you’ve experienced it too. I went to the pastry shop, scanned around for that plain square of upcycled brioche, and didn’t see it anywhere. When I asked the clerk, she tilted her head sympathetically but her expression was pure smugness as she awww‘ed at me and initiated the noise that would echo forever afterward down the corridor of my life:

“I’m sorry, we don’t have any right now.”

This statement was the slice of meat that would season a variety of meals. The sides would include “we just sold the last piece” and “you’ve got to get here a little earlier, it goes quickly.” Any time I showed up, at any time of day, even a few minutes before opening, I was always too late. Better than half the times, shame would be piled upon my head for my failure to obtain the dessert: it was my fault I missed out, it was my fault they sold so many and sold out. It was even my fault their baker, knowing full well how in-demand this item was, opted nonetheless to only make maybe four to six slices for the whole weekend’s sales.

It turns out, this was not an accident. This is what is known in marketing as artificial demand. The concept is simple: you make a quality product, give people a sample of it, then orchestrate its own rarity to drive up its perceived value. There’s a doughnut shop a dozen blocks north of where this pastry shop was, I won’t mention their name But Only Gesture At Really Trickily, Sirs, and they do the same thing. They purposely under-stock their inventory and displace the onus of consumption upon the consumer: they have an opening time but no closing time, shutting down only when the last doughnut is sold. Doesn’t that sound quaint? Well, fuck you if you have any obligations that keep you occupied until around noon, because odds are you can’t make it there in time to buy one. Through the bay windows, if they can condescend to acknowledge you, they give you the aforementioned sympathetic head-tilt glazed in smugness. You get to hear about how great they are from your unemployed hipster friends who can show up 90 minutes before they open.

Same here, with the bostock. They have always just run out. They have always never baked enough, and it’s your fault. If you really wanted one, you’d have shown up three weeks in the past and bought it before the first time you tried it. They laugh at you. Did you want a bostock? Oh, everyone wants a bostock, my friend, but everyone wants all sorts of things. This does not magically generate any responsibility in the bakery to produce a single bostock more than they do. It does, however, underscore your inherent unsuitability to survive, that you can claim to want something so badly yet take no reasonable measures to obtain it. No: what you want, clearly, is to laze about under the bostock tree, sharpening your teeth, waiting for a bostock falls into your lap.

And so I walked away, empty-handed, that day but resolved to play their game. I showed up earlier. I showed up the next week, then skipped a week and showed up after that. I controlled my craving for two whole months, sending them the clear message that I had shed my desire for bostock and would not pollute their atmosphere with my presence further. When I did inevitably enter the store, perhaps a clerk or two might have been surprised but the baker was three moves ahead of everyone and had not made extra bostock to observe my absence. They had just run out before I showed up, in fact, daring to finger a customer who had purchased the last slice to add some credibility to their story, trusting that I would not storm over and accost them for the prize which was rightfully mine. I didn’t, of course: I slunk out of the shop, nobly accepting my defeat, bearing in all good grace the appropriate snickers and untoward comments upon my character that swirled and roiled behind my back.

Did I learn my lesson? I assure you I did not, but in my failure I gained enlightenment. So was it really a failure? (In that it involved the persistant inability to obtain bostock, yes, a resounding failure, but hear me out.)

Slow-forward many several years later to the present day. Now I live around the corner from where that pastry shop used to stand. Now it’s… is there a name for this establishment? What do you call a kind of not-café that serves local beer, wine, and flatbread pizza, and also pushes the chairs aside so a guitarist can set up his amp and sing original compositions about what he’s learned from his failed marriages?

God, I speak overmuch about failure here, don’t I. If the corporate world taught me anything, there’s no such thing as failure, but only opportunity. That’s the duality of the universe: success and opportunity. “And you, Mr. Wilkie,” said my former supervisor, pressing his lips against arched fingertips, storm clouds drifting across his brow, “have so, so much opportunity right now.” What this means is that I never failed to obtain bostock: I simply established the opportunity to obtain bostock in the future, ramping up the context in which it would mean that much more when I finally succeeded. See that? I was amplifying the value of the bostock I would eventually, inevitably obtain, turning a mind-blowing experience into a universe-ending one, and you can’t put a price on that.

Go ahead and try to put a price on that. I’ll wait. Go ahead, do it.

You’re wrong.

But today I did not obtain the bostock. I merely contributed to my opportunity to do so. Today I was running errands and happened to notice that the former pastry café had built a new location in the vicinity of my errands. As the morning was at my disposal, I stopped in for a medium (“Sorry,” said the clerk with foreshadowing, “we only have 10 oz. and 16 oz.”) light-roast coffee and a bostock.

I made a show of scrutinizing their display case, to such a degree that the clerk felt compelled to offer to help me. “I don’t suppose you have any bostock left,” I prompted, ham-fistedly indicating I had presupposed the only possible answer.

“Let me take a look,” she said, fulfilling her rôle in this sad pantomime. We both knew what the result would be, and it was a gesture of considerable largess on her part to feign surprise at being unable to detect neither remnant nor trace of bostock in her display.

But something was off. Even one such as I was able to detect something amiss in this performance: a gaffe, a momentary oversight that gave away one crucial clue. Something that would cause Robert Goren to tilt his head, something that Lt. Frank Columbo would allude to with his “oh, and one more thing.”

The clerk looked into the case, sure, but she didn’t scan. She didn’t cast about, sweeping left to right and back, as though unaware of where the bostock might once have been stored before it was depleted. No. She looked fixedly at one location, betraying that she knew exactly where it had been… but looking there too long. Not breaking her gaze soon enough. Indicating, to me, that she could see something I couldn’t.

The bostock was there. It was in place, fully stocked, invisible to me. She glanced up at me to read my reaction, informed me with credible regret that they had just sold out of it, it was available earlier, they run out of it quickly, &c., &c., but it didn’t quite ring true. She was able to see the bostock, I was unable to, and she could see in my demeanor that I could not pick out the bostock, so she played the scene out.

But I know what I saw, and that was cognizance in her eyes. The bostock was there and I could not see it. Why? Whom did it serve, to stock bostock yet avoid selling it to a willing and eager consumer?

Consider this: rather than walk away empty-handed, I purchased another item. Today it was some flaky-crusted almond-thingy with lots of butter that was pretty good. Not as good as bostock, but pretty good. Other times, I’d purchased the sun-shaped pinwheel-thingy with flaky crust and lots of butter, which was also pretty good.

That’s how they get you. They lure you in with that one perfect piece of bostock, and then you’re compelled to return for more, but they are always out of it. And rather than shuffle away empty-handed, like some crisis-laden demographic, you are tacitly compelled to purchase something else. It doesn’t matter that it’s cheaper than bostock, or not as good as bostock (nothing is as good as bostock): you’re purchasing something you didn’t want—and you’re purchasing something the store couldn’t otherwise sell. Hell, for that matter, you showed up to this store, when you wouldn’t have of your own volition under any other circumstances, because you want the one unobtainable item with which they hooked you, and in failing to obtain it you further feel obligated to purchase something, since you came out all this way and have engaged the staff with your presence.

It’s a win-win for the store. Customers keep coming back—like fucking heroin-monkeys—for the one thing they can never get, and they purchase things that no one else ever wants, things that the store will never stop producing for their consumerist slaves/addicts.

But as for the last mystery, how is it they can stock the store with an item that new customers can pick out, order, and get addicted to but repeat customers can never perceive?

Nanotechnology.

If you look up “carbon nanotubes” on Wikipedia, it will assert that carbon products like this are always tinted black. That’s the nature of carbon, and carbon-based optics are useful for light absorption. That’s what they tell you.

That’s what they want you to believe.

The fact is that carbon can go transparent at the nano-level. It looks black, when it’s a little speck of dust that gets kicked up by traffic, floats through the air, and whisks into the open window of your car and lands in your eye. Or you catch it in your eye while you’re biking around, saving the planet. The end result is that carbon nanotube optical technology is freely distributed throughout metropolitan environments and blown, through circuitous methods, into people’s eyes, where it deploys. The manifestation of that deployment is an artificial lens that covers the eye very comfortably and undetectedly. The vehicle, the darkened shell, is discarded and if you dig around for it in your cornea, you can retrieve it like a micro-trophy and your mind is assuaged with the delusion that the invading particle has been retrieved and dispatched. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Now your lens is artificially polarized against a very specific frequency of light, one that will not come up in the general timeline. One you have to go out of your way to be exposed to. In fact, you have to travel to a particularly twee patisserie and let the ambient light bounce off a sheet of frangipane, and that is the frequency a repeat customer will never see: the light that glows off of bostock.

So why can anyone ever see bostock? You must be wondering this. Certainly, many people have been blinded by anti-bostock nanotubule optical technology, so how could anyone perceive the first piece of bostock to trigger their helpless and irresistible addiction?

It’s not just a polarizing lens that coats your eye, but a biochemical transmitter that receives just enough heat from your metabolism to convert into just enough energy to transmit to a persistent wireless network throughout every major metropolitan area. And once this transmitter recognizes the chemical signature denoting the consumption of bostock, how your body changes with the craving for more, it switches from the “waiting” signal that permits you to perceive bostock where it lies, in the interior-lit curved glass cabinet, to the “blocked” signal that precludes you from ever seeing it again.

Clerks in bakeries, sure, they also receive these polarized lens-deploying particles of dust. But in any bakery where bostock is created, the government has also supplied a neutralizing eyewash because, oh yes, this is a deep federal black-ops campaign. The government is heavily invested in ensuring that subsidized inferior crops are peddled to the masses in the form of second-choice pastries. If you could do your own qualitative chemical analysis, you would even find that fluoride, lead, and the DNA matter of disappeared corporate whistle-blowers (thanks, Obama) permeate the fanciful pinwheel-shaped, peach-laden pastries.

Why not just subsidize better crops, to make the bostock everyone desires? Well, where would aspiration come from then? If everyone got what they wanted, if there was nothing to hunger for, if every last citizen received a weekly stipend of bostock, from where would American determinism and drive come? What would make us curious to see the sunrise of another day, if we were complacent in the guarantee of a piece of bostock? Sure, some of us would loll about in supreme indolence. Some of us would shut off our aspiration-receptors and happily receive our bostock rations without question or qualm.

But some of us are still alive. Some of us grit our teeth and clench our fists in anticipation of the eternal question of whether there is bostock to be had. Wild-eyed and with boiling blood, we wonder whether today is the day we finally assault the smug pastry clerks, surmount the counters, and shove anything our hands can grasp—but which our eyes see not—into our mouths, roundly satisfying the deep longing instilled in us by our capitalist oppressors, without our consent and to the ends of confoundingly petty agenda. To be steadily supplied with weekly bostock is only a sad palliative, a pathetic Band-Aid upon the deeper question we find it increasingly difficult to explore, glutted with delicious, life-giving bostock as we are.

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