- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006


Taking a paper clip and turning it into a house sounds like a cheesy magic trick or a phony instance of resourcefulness on the 1980s TV show “MacGyver.”

Kyle MacDonald, however, has pulled it off.

One year ago, the 26-year-old blogger from Montreal set out to barter one red paper clip for something and that thing for something else, over and over, until he had a house.

Tomorrow, the quest will end as envisioned: Mr. MacDonald is expected to become the proud owner of a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot home provided by the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan. Mr. MacDonald and his girlfriend, Dominique Dupuis, expect to move there in early September.

“This is such a cool community project. It feels right,” he said. “And now that I think about it, I can’t believe that another small town didn’t think of it. It will literally put them on the map.”

What’s in it for the town? The answer requires a quick MacDonald recap, featuring a menagerie of friendly folks, radio talk-show hosts and aging celebrities bound together by the Internet.

It began when Mr. MacDonald, an aspiring writer, doer of odd jobs and apartment dweller, advertised in the barter section of the Craigslist.org Web site that he wanted something bigger or better for one red paper clip. He traded it for a fish-shaped pen, and posted on Craigslist again and again.

Roaming Canada and the United States, he exchanged the pen for a ceramic knob, and in turn: a camping stove, a generator, a beer keg and Budweiser sign, a snowmobile, a trip to the Canadian Rockies, a supply truck and a recording contract. Next, in April, he got close, obtaining a year’s rent in Phoenix.

His adventure became an Internet blockbuster. He did Canadian and Japanese TV and “Good Morning America.” He made dozens of local radio appearances — one of which, in Los Angeles, was heard by a man who ended up as a pivotal figure.

That man is Corbin Bernsen of “L.A. Law” and “Major League” fame.

Mr. Bernsen contacted him to say he was writing and directing a movie and would offer a paid speaking role as an item available for trade.

Mr. MacDonald was thrilled. But he feared the integrity of his journey would be compromised if he accepted the role without trading Mr. Bernsen something he really could use.

So Mr. MacDonald kept Mr. Bernsen’s offer off his blog, but plowed ahead with an eye toward finding something Mr. Bernsen would legitimately want.

Seemingly disregarding good economic sense, Mr. MacDonald traded the year’s rent for an afternoon with rocker Alice Cooper. Then in a move that really confused his blog readers, Mr. MacDonald bartered time with Mr. Cooper for a snow globe depicting the band Kiss.

Re-enter Mr. Bernsen.

Since the days when he would get free stuff on promotional tours for “L.A. Law,” Mr. Bernsen has amassed a collection of 6,500 snow globes. “One off, they look sort of goofy,” Mr. Bernsen said. “Put them all together and they sort of look like pop art.”

So Mr. MacDonald gave Mr. Bernsen the Kiss model and encouraged his blog readers to send the actor even more globes in exchange for autographed pictures.

This delighted the elders in Kipling, a town of 1,140 believed to have been named in honor of Rudyard Kipling.

Like many rural towns, Kipling is eager to stave off the perils of dwindling population by attracting new businesses, tourism and above all, attention.

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