LOUISVILLE, KY—Alex Vartan, 24, a Louisville-area convenience-store cashier and part-time DJ, spends 20 percent of his income ironically, sources reported Monday.
"I know I should really try to sock away some cash, but there's just so much funny shit out there," Vartan said. "Like, just yesterday, I passed by this Christian bookstore, and in the window they had those statues of Jesus playing basketball and a bunch of other sports with little kids. Now, how are you supposed to pass something like that up?"
Though his job as a cashier doesn't provide much in the way of disposable income, Vartan spends roughly one-fifth of his $21,000-a-year salary on such ironic items as Future Farmers of America jackets, Successories posters, and Knight Rider lunchboxes.
Vartan's love affair with irony-based shopping began in high school, when he bought a used sitting bath at a hospital surplus sale.
"I just thought it would be funny to use it for a chair," Vartan said. "Plus, it was only $3. At a garage sale a few days later, I found a bunch of copies of 'The Super Bowl Shuffle' for a dime apiece, and I gave them all out to my friends for Christmas. From that point on, I was hooked."
The habit grew worse in the spring of 1996, when Vartan discovered eBay.
"Man, that blew my mind," said Vartan, who combs the popular auction site for ironic items almost daily. "I couldn't believe the amazing stuff you could find on there. Like, about a month ago, I found this bootleg Wendy's employee-training video from the mid-'80s where this black kid does this how-to-cook-the-burgers rap. I shit you not."
A typical trip to the supermarket for Vartan involves the purchase of at least one ironic foodstuff, such as Frank's Kraut Juice or Uncle Sam's cereal. When he returns home, he often pops open a can of Schlitz beer and unwinds with his prized laser-disc copy of Leonard Part 6 or a book of Lockhorns comic strips.
Even when his financial situation is dire, Vartan has a hard time resisting ironic purchases.
"Last June, I found a $20 bill on the street," Vartan said. "I was totally psyched, because I was seriously hurting for cash at the time—I think I had, like, $5.85 in my checking account. I was going to put it in the bank, but on the way home I saw this shirt in the window of Ragstock that said, 'It's Not A Beer Belly, It's A Gas Tank For A Sex Machine.' Of course, I got the shirt and lost seven pounds that month because I ate nothing but rice and beans, so it was even more ironic."
Though he tends to gravitate toward pop-culture artifacts from the '70s and '80s, Vartan has recently taken to investing in contemporary items that he speculates will have future kitsch appeal.
"I spent $200 on a rare movie poster for the Italian version of The Adventures Of Pluto Nash," Vartan said. "I emptied out my bank account to get the money, and then I had to call the electric company and make up some excuse why I couldn't pay them this month. That kinda sucked, but it's gonna be worth it in a few years when Pluto Nash is recognized as a classic on par with Battlefield Earth and Showgirls."
Despite his misgivings, Vartan said he does not have any immediate plans to change his spending habits.
"I know I really should save for my future, but it's almost impossible with all the great crap you come across," Vartan said. "If I ever do manage to save enough money, though, I'd love to get a house in Celebration, FL, that freako Disney-planned community near Orlando. That place sounds so unbelievably weird and depressing, it'd be hilarious."