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Purple Binder Majesty

August 24, 2010

So today, instead of going to the beach, which was the original plan, I incompetently DIYed a gigantic bookshelf that’s been handed down by generations of friends, then loaded ‘er up with box after box of novels. I still need a spot for T through Z but we’re getting there. We’re getting there, goddamn it.

Naturally, in the course of unpacking books, I found a bunch of other things, including the veritable figurative gold mine of early Strayer literature that is the purple Garfield binder. I received the binder a few weeks before I started university in the bygone year known as 1997. I dimly recall using it for school stuff for a while, but within a few months it became the repository of my early creative writing efforts.

Augh, everything in there is hilarious, but not intentionally so, which makes it kind of tragic at the same time. If nothing else, the binder proves beyond a doubt that I have grown as a writer, if not also as a person.

Obviously it is necessary to post some highlights preceded and/or followed by sarcastic commentary.

Here we go. Item the first: a tribute to one of my exams, composed December 28, 1999. I think I got an A on the exam, but not before suffering in every direction for about two weeks before finding that out. I was convinced I had failed. The only way to retaliate against the injustice was to write a strange poem each of whose stanzas was in a different metre.

Ode to an Unnecessarily Difficult Final Exam (an excerpt)

Greek 301 final, you made all the boys cry.
What did we do to deserve you?
And I studied all night but I don’t know why—
Nothing I did could unnerve you.

Aorist tense, aorist tense,
I hate to say it
but you make no sense
(no offense)

Seriously? D minus. Would have been an F were it not for the dactyls.

There’s a great deal of outraged feminist content in the binder, much more than I remember having felt back then. In the fall semester of 1998 I took a feminist philosophy class and it appears to have coloured my creative efforts in many ways, each less subtle than the last (And Dido receives no sympathy from me: / Ratty-haired, wide-eyed, raving about lost love; / Could have ruled an empire, killed herself instead). This next piece is worth reprinting in its entirety, not only for its completely original take on women’s place in society but also for its Carmina Burana-inspired ending. Regrettably, it’s untitled…

As I sat in my room drinking, sipping Molson beer and thinking,
Thinking incoherently because my judgment was impaired—
While I pondered Aristotle, nursing yet another bottle,
On my door there was a knock from which no noise or force was spared.
“Damn! The CA’s here to confiscate my beverage!” I despaired.
“What a fucking load of merde!”

‘Twas no CA but a raven, black in colour and clean-shaven.
He burst into my beer haven, cackling like a crazy witch—
“I have come to give a lecture—quite a harsh one, I conjecture,
Which I hope you’ll take to heart, you unmaternalistic bitch.
You are almost twenty! Time for you to have some children, bitch.
Get a man and drop your gitch.”

Thus he spoke, and I sat waiting, drunkenly anticipating
The continuation of this bird’s harassment and abuse.
It was shocking and surprising, and (my indignation rising),
“Since, apparently, you like to do things that are of no use,
Since you’re just a stupid woman and are of no other use,”
Quoth the raven, “reproduce!”

At that point I snapped and started beating on this bird cold-hearted:
“Bastard,” I was shouting, “I have had enough of your abuse!”
As the raven cawed and cried, I committed avicide,
Plucked his feathers, chucked him in a cooking pot of bright chartreuse.
So, the raven nevermore proclaimed, “A woman’s of no use!”
(He tasted great with apple juice.)

That was okay. I mean, there are some contrived rhymes (“conjecture,” “chartreuse”…), plus the description of the encounter has clearly been fictionalized (I would never drink beer), but on the whole it’s not bad, right? Almost nailed the EAP rhyme scheme. A little bit of coy intertextuality blah blah blah. I give it a B+. Twelve years later, I remain gleefully childless, so I guess I was on to something that night.

I wasn’t all metre and rhyme. No, sir. This is a prose thing I believe I was writing for the possible enjoyment of a certain BFF of mine. Never finished, but thank god it was started, because wow, now I can include an excerpt in this blog post.

Our view of the enraged octogenarian librarians was then impeded by the two people who had suddenly appeared at our table. One of them was Arthur Potassimitis, the host of trivia night and Roxanne’s special someone. The other was a stranger. His eyes were glazed like an Easter ham as he looked me over.

“Hello, folks,” Arthur said cheerfully in a genuine British accent. “May we sit down?”
“Of course,” Roxanne responded.
She and I were sitting at the same side of the table. The stranger slid into the chair opposite mine, and Arthur into the chair opposite that of his significant other. When we were all settled, the stranger proclaimed, “I am R. Relybad Badlyer Bedlay.” Handshakes were exchanged. Roxanne and I introduced ourselves. Then she and Arthur became engaged in conversation, while Mr. R. Bedlay began to chat unto me.
He was, or had been, doing his MA in English: Old English, he said. I asked if he could read
Beowulf. The prospect of having a discussion with someone who could read Old English saturated me with nerdish delight. A dim voice in my head suggested that the gods might finally have brought The Man Of My Dreams into my utterly, profoundly, flabbergastingly eroticism-free existence. Perhaps, some night in the foreseeable future, young crotches and ancient rhythms would find each other in the darkness…
But it all went horribly wrong. “No,” he said, “I do Chaucer.”
Had an anvil just fallen on my head?
“Chaucer is
Middle English,” I said.

Oh well. It wasn’t meant to be. For so many reasons.

Other delicious purple-binder finds: a single page with nothing on it but a fountain-penned title: Cholera in the Time of Cholera. (There was no need to write further; that was clearly the punchline…) Three unsent letters, two of which are just late-teenaged rambling, the third of which probably would have changed the course of two people’s lives forever. A short story (I gave up on short stories yeeears ago) about a woman having an affair with a goat (“Your wife wants a kid,” the marriage counsellor says to her husband, ten unnecessary pages later). And a selection of undergraduate essays, one of which is called “Sappho the Lesbian” (A-). Classy.

And this outline of a homemade birthday card that I never–miserabile dictu–actually put together. I suppose there’s still time. Probably anyone would be overjoyed to receive it. I think it was gonna be construction paper on bristol board, like a gigantic obnoxious collage, not a regular-sized card. I don’t know, it was eight years ago. Anyway…

Happy birthday, [Name]! From the world’s 22 most venomous snakes (and Canada’s 1 most voluptuous graduate student)

Drano Foaming Pipe Snake (common in Australia)
Australian bed serpent
Australian ass viper
Australian vindshield viper
Australian sinister-fanged water snake
Australian toothless rattler
Australian miniature bed serpent
Australian beer swiller
Australian dithering death python
Australian ceiling hanger
Australian suction snake
Australian Christmas cobra
Australian leaf adder (carnivorous)
Australian bunk bed serpent
Australian sparkling spitter
Australian loogie-hocking insult-flinging ratbag rattler
Australian crazy accountant snake
(editor’s note: this refers to a former roommate of mine who went off the rails and accused me of trying to murder her, among other ridiculous things)
Australian subtracting adder
Australian zebra cobra
Australian smooth talker
Australian limb-severing fang impaler
Australian futon serpent

Man, I really want to make that card now.

Maybe I will. Anyone have a birthday coming up?




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