I visited my wife’s family in Louisville last weekend. It’s an opportunity to let my kid visit his cousins while I hang out with my father-in-law, Bob, long enough to get drunk and ensure my wife’s maximum rage. The hairy eyeballs that girl’s got on her, you wouldn’t believe. When I finally came dragging in on Saturday afternoon, well, I haven’t felt that awkward since that time I ate peyote then told racist jokes at vacation bible school.
While on my visit, I stopped by the Muhammad Ali Center, which opened in November of 2005. I didn’t have time for the full tour, since Bob and I needed to get back to the bar for six more vodka drinks and four cigars so we could be ripped and stinky for sister Betty’s homemade Mexican dinner. But I wanted a T-shirt from the place because Ali is the coolest. I’ll go on the full tour some other time—let’s say the time after my wife tells me that if I drink with her dad again she’ll hit my foot with a ball peen hammer.
I went into the gift shop looking for a white or gray cotton T-shirt with a logo on the breast—just the Ali logo. Well, I guess I’m just a shitkicker from West Virginia by way of Ohio, ’cause I couldn’t find much that I liked. A shirt with two-foot-tall magenta letters spelling out “The Greatest” isn’t that appealing to me. The Ali Center emblem, which looks like the flag from some central African nation (not that there’s anything wrong with it) isn’t right for me, either. I also wasn’t that hip to the fact that there were no price tags on any of the merchandise.
I got a gray shirt with a photo of Ali sitting in a bank vault pointing at a huge stack of money with that wide-eyed look that he had. It cracked me up. Possibly, at this point, I should have been catching on to the irony of the photo.
I took it to the front desk and they brought me out a fresh model from the back. The woman at the register then said, with a straight face, “That’ll be $42.50 with tax.”
Hey, up in Columbus, we don’t pay those big city prices, so I was a bit shocked. But I could feel by the woman’s look that if I didn’t pay up soon, I was either a skinflint or a skinhead, or both, so I went with my best poker face and handed her my Visa.
I’m told that concert Ts are often in the $30 range and merchandise at sports venues can be that much, too. I guess I’m not surprised—Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were getting $28 for concert T-shirts 16 years ago. And I understand that I’m helping support the Ali Center.
Just thought I’d drop a word for the wise, so you can flip the script if you need to—if you go to the Ali Center, you’ll find out that he still packs a wallop. Watch out for his right cross in the gift shop. Like Sonny Liston, you won’t see it coming.