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Sometimes a banana is just a banana

As I was eating breakfast Wednesday, I saw my retirement fund disappearing before my eyes.

It being Wednesday, breakfast consisted of a bowl of “healthy” cereal: A combination of twigs, stones and shredded wood chips — all defiantly resisting the chance to soften in lactose-free milk — topped with half a banana.

To be exact, there were five pieces of banana in this particular bowl and, as each one made it way down my digestion track, my thoughts became a mantra.

“Another $4,000 down the drain.”

In case you’ve missed the countless news stories, memes and parodies over the past week, a refresher:

The Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, until recently best known as the creator of the

$6 million 18-karat-gold toilet that has since been stolen (talk about money going down the drain), created an art installation piece in Miami.

It consisted of a banana — ripened, but not yet browning — affixed to a gallery wall with a common strip of industrial-strength tape.

An art connoisseur from France — land of slapstick humor experts — bought the original, titled “Comedian,” for $120,000. Two other editions of the piece have since sold for the same price — including one to a Florida family who called it “the unicorn of the art world.”

That description isn’t entirely fair ... I believe in unicorns.

But as I was trying to swallow my stones and twigs (I save the wood chips for last), it dawned on me that “Comedian” was an artwork in three parts — the inside of the banana, the peel and the tape.

Each, therefore, was valued at $40,000. The banana we shared at breakfast had been sliced into 10 parts ... ergo, each piece sliding down my gullet was another four grand I wouldn’t be able to spend on the golf course in my golden years.

I ate $20,000 in art. My breakfast companion ate $20,000 in art. There was $40,000 being soiled by coffee grounds in the trash can. The tape, at least, was safe.

Lest you think that this trivializes an artwork, consider what David Datuna did Saturday.

He ate the original banana. Right there off the wall (so to speak) of the Miami art museum. He walked in, peeled off the tape and ... Presto! ... had a snack.

Datuna, another conceptual artist, called what he did performance art — in this case, he told those who had nothing better to do than attend his press conference Monday, a performance called “Hungry Artist.”

He said that he had planned to eat “Comedian” on Saturday morning — but he must’ve had more than his share of stones and twigs that day because he was “not too hungry” in the morning, so he waited a couple of hours before his “performance.”

“People ask me, ‘You eat banana?’ ” he told those poor, wretched souls at his press conference. “Physically, it was banana, but banana is just a tool.”

And Mongo only pawn in game of life.

Still, the notion that this banana was more than just a banana has become the talking point for those who buy into the concept; remember that Florida couple who spent $120,000 on a replica of “Comedian”?

They say that “Comedian” has “opened the floodgates and morphed into an important debate about the value we place on works of art and objects in general.”

Of course, they also say they will replace the banana every two weeks — using the “installation manual” Cattelan includes with each sold edition — so that the decomposition and odor of their original purchase doesn’t serve as a reminder of the value they placed on a work of art, or objects in general.

By the end of last week, “Comedian” had become a viral social media sensation. Everyone with a spare banana had taped it to their walls, despite the lack of the official installation manual.

Fruits, vegetables and all sorts of organic materials were being thrown against walls ... just to see what would stick.

Brooke Shields taped a banana to her face — reminding us that Brooke Shields is still out there, doing something, after being replaced on Lay-Z-Boy commercials.

As I was eating my breakfast — believe me, it takes a lllooonnnggg time to eat that bowl of “healthy” cereal — talking hairdos on the television were discussing the nine-year, $324 million contract baseball pitcher Gerrit Cole had signed with the New York Yankees.

My own pitching career had ended at age 13, when another 13-year-old launched a home run that is, to this moment, still in orbit around the Earth. So, it’s unlikely I could find a way to match the $36 million a year that Cole will be paid.

On the other hand, that’s equal to just 300 of the $120,000 banana-tape-wall trifecta — so if one could find that many people whose minds had been morphed into a debate over the value of art, it would be easier than throwing a 98 mph fastball.

“Comedian” most brought to mind the infatuation with owning a Pet Rock — a sort of performance art from back when I was a teenager. For just four bucks, you got a rock to call yours ... along with the 32-page manual called “The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock.”

Over nine months from 1975-76, about 1.5 million were sold (the rocks themselves had cost the distributor but a penny a piece), which made creator Gary Dahl — who spent his final years in Jacksonville — one of history’s most unusual millionaires.

Rocks had to be easier to deal with than rotting bananas or throwing baseballs. I mean, just as I was staring into the abyss of my cereal bowl, there had to be $80 to $100 of potential profit just sitting there, ignoring the milk.

Knowing that made Wednesday morning breakfast even harder to swallow than usual.

If you are interested in purchasing a $40,000 banana peel than smells like fresh coffee, contact Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com

Robert Galvin