Squidding

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In the final assignment of a non-credit course in writing that I’ve already failed, Ben asks me/us/whoever to

Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.

I read his mail and my first reaction was

“I don’t have one.”

After that, I went about my day. I mowed the lawn. (Not exactly as shown, but I like the sentiment.) I weeded the garden a little. (Is that a weed? I’m not sure — maybe I’ll leave it there for a while and see what develops. And hey! Two of my favorite roseslivineasy strikeitrich have their first blooms of the summer! Maybe I should give one to the LOL that lives three doors down; she likes getting roses. And I could write about them… Nah — they’re not my most prized possession. They do have a story that involves a sewer, but…. Heck, I’m not even sure they count as possessions.) I killed a couple of teenagers. Some teenagers killed me a couple of times just to maintain karmic balance. I drank lots of Arnold Palmers so I could be well-hydrated and twitchy. I went out to dinner, ate Pad Thai and counted the number of times the waitress said ‘perfect.’  When I came home the answer hadn’t changed: I still didn’t have a most prized possession.

But.

Ben also said

…lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.

H’m. That’s a little different. I have a few things like that; I’ve even written about some of them. There’s the obvious — the house I live in, but despite having stories (one of them involves a sewer — that’s almost a theme) that’s a little too obvious. There are ‘valuable’ comic books. There’s obscure, out-of-print (is that the right word?) music. There’s a painting (I’m looking at it right now; it’s mentioned here and here.) that’s got a story associated with it that proves that if you lurk in inappropriate bathrooms good things can happen.

Just to my right is another Thing-With-History. It’s a table, a very nice gate leg table made from quarter-cut oak (it’s a little bit like this one but with plainer legs). I don’t know how old it is exactly but it came into our family when my (maternal) grandfather needed a new dining room table about eighty years ago. Eventually it passed to my parents; it’s one of those beautiful items of timeless design made by gifted craftsmen that I mentioned in ‘Panning.’

Well, maybe not completely timeless. Because sometime in the sixties (a decade characterized by bizarre decision-making and wretched excess) someone told my parents that they should cover up all that icky wood and, their judgment clouded by automotive tail fins, pillbox hats and the Cold War, they listened. I don’t know who actually did it, but the table wound up painted black with spray-painted gold trim — not what I’d call an improvement but it was the sixties, after all.

Sometime after that they/we moved and the black-with-gold-trim table wound up in the basement next to the washing machine where, over the years, it became buried under laundry detergent, sock stretchers and old clothes. Time passed — about four decades worth — before Ms. Rose and I stuffed it and its forty years of accumulated grime into the back of our car, took it home and made a local restorer weep.

Now it’s in our back room and it makes me smile whenever I look at it. Despite that, it’s not my most prized possession. It’s special and has a story and everything but I’ve told the story and Ben said he wanted one longer than two paragraphs. So I still didn’t have anything to talk about but when I got dressed the next morning I had to pick out a T-shirt.

That can take a while; there are at least seventeen piles of T-shirts scattered through two rooms and a closet. No one shirt is particularly prized but together? H’m.

They’re about the usual things — religious wars, multi-language pop-cultural references, identity (sometimes I claim to be a female steamfitter), offending managers in staff meetings and obscure not-really-the-internet memes.

H’m. Memes. Memes about cephalopods. Maybe there’s something there.

I’ve talked a bit about Usenet. It’s hard to explain in one sentence or less, but it’s a worldwide, distributed discussion (and binaries too) system. One of the many thousands of discussion groups (called ‘newsgroups‘) was, for many years, called rec.arts.comics. In it, various people talked about (duh) comics. Like any online forum, the discussions ranged from thoughtful and articulate to…. the opposite. (I remember the words ‘puerile snot’ used more than once, for example.)

Sometime in the spring of 1991, someone asked a question about the comic Suicide Squad — a DC comic book that had existed, off-and-on, since the late 1950s. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) he misspelled ‘Squad’ as ‘Squid’: “What’s happen in Suicide Squid?”

Well.

Most typos of that sort pass without trace unless they happen to goad the grammar-and-spelling ‘police’ into responding. (Epic flame wars have started over far less. See ‘religious war.’) That’s not what happened with Suicide Squid — Suicide Squid captured the imaginations of a lot of people and they ran with it. They invented a comic book character with a history, a personality, friends, acquaintances, enemies, quirks, accomplishments, a catchphrase (“The seaweed of crime bears bitter sushi.”). With, well, everything that you would expect a ‘proper’ comic book hero to have.

‘Everything’, of course, included T-shirts with artwork by an experienced and talented comic-book artist.squidshirt They sold quite well (at least three printings!) and started popping up in the oddest of places: an obscure show on Canadian public TV. A semi-obscure show on commercial American television. In my closet — I bought half a dozen, of course. This wound up being incredibly handy a few years later when my first ever curling team decided that it needed uniforms. That curling team played together for several years, winning bonspiels a few times and the entire league (well, the B side) once, all the while resplendent and geeky in our bile-coloured shirts that nobody else had or wanted (or could understand). Eventually, though, the team broke up: one member married a lovely and talented woman he met at the curling club and moved to California, another got divorced, moved to New Brunswick and got tenure and the third (the lead, actually) got married on a street corner and moved to an island full of hippies off the coast of British Columbia. Me? I stayed here and put Suicide Squid into my normal T-shirt ‘rotation.’ Nowadays I mostly curl in tie-dye. At least I do on Mondays.

So, is my aging pile of squid shirts my most prized possession? No. Is/are my seventeen piles of shirts? Nope. But in both there are definitely lots of memories and history. More than I would have thought. More than my table, even.

Tomorrow I think I’ll wear a shirt about the care and feeding of lagomorphs. Because my sister gave it to me. It’s from Sweden.

 

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The Author

Rose Glace is the pseudonym of nobody important.

4 Comments

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