Hey! Guess what? Yesterday I cleaned up the last of the tax paperwork that has been littering my living room floor for the past two months! I can see the floor again! Isn’t that exciting? I mailed off the last package of receipts, wrote the final email, and then vacuumed up two months’ worth of popcorn kernels, gravel, rubber nubbins from our doormat, dead leaves, tiny bits of paper, and bent staples from the carpet. You could be forgiven for thinking a wild animal good with an adding machine was living here. It feels good to see the floor again.
So. Now that tax season is somewhat behind me, I’m initiating a new era in the art world. It’s called the Arts and Crafts and Porn movement.
It fits into a larger movement I am participating in called the Make Useful Stuff Out Of Garbage, or MUSOOG, for short. Go ahead. Say it. Muh-soooooog. Catchy, no?
Alright. So. Here’s my latest creation: a bookshelf made out of VHS tapes.
There is, of course, a backstory, and it goes a little something like this…
A few years ago, friends of our were getting married. Mr. Burdy hosted a part of the bachelor party for the groom. This being a Northwestern bachelor party, the men gathered and beat drums and drank handcrafted beer and scaled cliffs and then probably sat around and brushed each other’s beards. Or something like that. I don’t know what they did exactly. They definitely didn’t do anything that involved cologne or shirts that require regular ironing or strobe lights or dollar bills being waved at women with large breasts. I just know they all crashed at our house afterward in big smelly piles of sleeping bags and mud caked boots. As a gag gift, one of the attendees brought a box (a giant box that had once contained a fan) full of VHS tapes of porn from the early eighties.
The fan box of porn had come from a coworker of the attendee. The coworker’s uncle had recently passed away and the family was sent to clean out the house. I don’t know if the coworker knew about the box beforehand or if he just stumbled across it in the back of that closet (though I would like to believe that the dying uncle, in the moments before he passed, pulled the coworker real close to his mouth and whispered something to the effect of, “Charlie, there’s something I need to tell you. There’s a closet upstairs with a false wall in it. Behind that wall is my collection. You mustn’t let anyone know about it. You’ve got to destroy it. Can you do this for me, Charlie? Char….” And then he sputters and coughs and exhales dramatically and his eyes roll up in his head and Charlie is shaking his uncle ferociously by his lapels and frantically searching his face for answers. I’m pretty sure the guy’s name was not Charlie, and that his uncle did not do this to him, but it makes the story edgier, so let’s just roll with it, shall we?)
Okay. So attendee shows up with his co-worker’s dead uncle’s box of hideous porn. All of it is from the eighties. And it’s soft core porn. Now, I’m no expert in porn, but I know bad porn when I see it, and this stuff was BAD. I mean, the names of some of these videos pretty much said it all. Like “Nude Stretching”. NUDE STRETCHING? Like as in, “Oh my, my neck is soooo tight from a day of stenography! Let me slooooowly take my silk scarf and cameo broach off and do some sensual neck rolls!” nude stretching? Lame.
There was the “Buttman” series… I could at least get behind that (zing!). Let’s see, some other goodies included “Polelympics” (I’m got the impression this guy was a failed gymnast) and “Naked Aerobics”, complete with legwarmers and headbands (and not much else! Yowza!) So, now you all know what kinds of things turned on an old man in the eighties. There were dozens of these tapes. A whole fan box full of them.
So. Back to the bachelor party at our house. The box got left. It made its way to our garage where it sat for some months. You’re probably asking yourself…. umm… why didn’t you just throw the thing away? Ah, you see. This gets at the very heart of who I am. You might have noticed I have a hard time throwing things away. And not because I am a hoarder. Seriously. I sleep in a bed NOT covered in tennis rackets and shoe polish kits. I don’t bathe with my bank statements from 1987 and you can walk through the house without tripping over stuff. On most days.) ANYWHO. My real reason that I can’t throw anything away is guilt. You see, whenever garbage is generated in my house, my brain immediately conjures up post-apocalyptic scenes of children playing atop heaps of garbage in torn clothing and pterodactyl sized seagulls circling overhead and roving gangs of gleaners pushing shopping carts of rags and clothes hangers and copper wiring. Always in this scene, one brave child, his face smeared with grease and soot, picks up a VHS tape or something else as insideously designed for obsolescence, and, with doe-like eyes, stares up at the gray sky, a single tear rolling down his filthy face. And that’s how I know. It was me. I was the one who caused this. I was the one who threw the VERY LAST VHS tape EVER into the garbage, setting off an irreversible series of events that lead our planet, so delicately hanging in the balance, to descend into a thousand years of darkness. There is no sun, nothing grows, and humanity is doomed to eat rusty nails and drink putrid water collected in plastic kerosene-slicked jugs. And it’s all because I couldn’t get more creative with how to throw out my trash.
And, that, ladies and gentlemen, is Clinical Depression in a very colorful nutshell. Guilt and anxiety and a little bit of post apocalyptica thrown in for good measure.
Anywho, the porn. So, I couldn’t just throw it in the garbage (Tiny Tim from the year 2109 would be watching). I did the next best thing I could think of: I tired to figure out ways to recycle the damn things. I found a few companies by searching online that were able to take them and re-use them by erasing the materials on the tapes. (Sure…. erasing them. ) For some reason, I was embarrassed about sending these tapes to central Illinois, or wherever this factory was. It was going to be totally anonymous, of course, but I just couldn’t help feeling sheepish and mortified about sending old man porn. Plus, they were going to charge me something like $10 and I wasn’t about to pay for throwing garbage away, no matter how good the cause.
So, the tapes sat for a few more months. Then Christmas rolled around and our friends hosted their White Elephant party. Never heard of a White Elephant party? Google it. I’ll be here when you’re done.
This, of course, was the perfect opportunity to unload these things on some unsuspecting friend. So we did. I think. The details are fuzzy now. But then, I can’t remember how, we wound up with the box. Again.
Here’s the dumbest part of this whole saga: we moved with the damned things. We packed up our house, not once, but TWICE with these tapes. And each time, I had to blush fiercely and defend myself when one of our helpful moving buddies picked up the box and the layer of dinner napkins fluttered to the ground (What?! The box didn’t have a lid. Dinner napkins seemed like a good alternative). NO, I would tell them. OF COURSE that’s not my porn! Sillies! I don’t even like that stuff! (waving dismissively at the box) That’s just my…uh… friend’s friend’s porn. We’re keeping it for him….
So, fast forward to this Fall. I decided it was time to REALLY do something about these things. Around this time, Mr. Burdy and I were also struggling with how to store stuff in our house. The house was in pretty much the same state it was in when we moved it… things just sort of thrown haphazardly onto bookshelves. There were still boxes of books in the garage that I hadn’t unpacked. I needed a bookcase. And the porn needed to go. I hatched an idea that day, standing in our cold garage. I pulled out the old sketchbook, went down to my local craft store and picked up some heavy duty glue, and I got to buildin’.
And this is what I made.
I cleverly hid all the ridiculous titles like “Girl on Girl Elbow Touching” and stuck my favorite books on the shelves and topped it off with a few houseplants. Done. Problem solved. But part of me was just a little bit sad. It had been nearly five years since the box of porn had come into our lives, and here, at long last, I had permanently altered it into something, karmically, a notch above a doorstop. Plus, I was still stuck with all the paper inserts AND the plastic cases they all came in. The paper was easy enough to recycle. The sorters down at the transfer station would get in their daily dose of WTF and I would be making the world a greener place. But the plastic cases? That type of plastic wasn’t intended to be recycled. They would be headed for the post-apocalyptic junk heap.
And then, when the last of the glue dried, I panicked for a minute. Was our friend expecting the box of porn to be cycled through our community of friends forever via the White Elephant parties? It was a pretty great gag gift. Worse, was the coworker expecting his inheritance back?
But then it came to me: a way to contribute to the white elephant, a way to solve my non-recyclable plastic dilemma, and a way to finally be rid, once and for all, of the box of porn.
First, I took a picture of the newly constructed bookshelf. Then I printed it and framed it in an old frame I had lying around.
Then I went about constructing a box out of packing tape and the plastic cases. Not a word about how the tape is toxic and non-recyclable. Remember my adrenal glands?
Then I shredded each of the lovely paper inserts. Remarkably, the shredder didn’t choke once on the thick paper… not, that is, until the very end. Which was fine because then I got to snap this lovely shot.
I stuffed the box (complete with hinged lid) with the shredded inserts, stuck the framed photo inside, piled more shredded paper on top, and then sealed the box. Viola. Problem solved, gift made, apocalyptic heap a distant memory.
I have to say, though, watching our friends’ faces as they opened the box at the party, I felt a mixture of nostalgia and just a little bit of regret. The friend who had brought the box to our house in the first place looked like he might shed a tear or something. I waited for a response. And then everyone laughed and their eyes got big and they asked me, “You MADE that?” like they might ask a potted plant if it had once been the Secretary of the Interior. I could understand their bewilderment.
Anywho, the lesson here is this (because there is a lesson n everything, is there not?): don’t leave your crap at my house. It might get turned into furniture.
Thanks for the memories, Box Of Porn.