Thursday, July 26, 2007

Autobiographical Shirtology

Just when you thought my blog posts could not become any more boringly self-absorbed, I come up with this: an autobiography based on old t-shirts. Next up I will probably thrill you all with an expose on the grout between my shower tiles. Seriously, though, I actually think this shirt thing is kinda cool. I'm a sentimental accumulator of unique articles of clothing, which I cling to long after they're worn out, on account of their reminding me of special times in my life.

What motivated me to write this blog was one shirt in particular, which is an unbelievable 14 years old and still in regular use. I'm sentimental about the shirt because I designed it in 7th grade art class for the Olympia Farmer's Market. It won first place and went into "production" which was a big deal for me. Now I've owned the shirt for more years than I was old when I designed it, so I think its time is up. But here it is, one last time.

The next sentimental item is nearly as old. It's the "Carnivorous Plants of South Carolina" shirt I received from my dear Aunt Mary Garland. The cool thing about this shirt is that it has had two lives. I liked the original so much that when it wore out, MG bought me another, identical one. There were some times between junior high and graduate school when I was embarassed about wearing nerdy, nature-themed shirts like this, but now I do it proudly.

Moving along, we have two shirts which represent my coming of age, so to speak. The first commemorates a highschool science camp I did at Western Washington University in about the 9th grade. The cool thing about that was that it busted me out of my usual rut of just hanging out with the same couple guys all the time, and actually got me socializing in mixed groups with girls. The next shirt is from a highschool interscholastic contest in nature knowledge called the "Envirothon". In 1997 and 1998 I was on a team that won the state competition and went to the national contest. There was a lot of stress, but it was super exciting, too, somewhat like a preview of college. In '98 I had my first kiss at the national envirothon in Michigan, but I don't have that shirt anymore. Now, as an adult, I still think that some of the most exciting and dynamic social times are at these "away from normal life" events like national meetings where you can redefine yourself with a new group of people.

College at Rice University was a good time in general, and a great time for shirts. I like this one from "Beer Bike"; a strange biathalon competition among the residential colleges.

The college t-shirts I'm most proud of are the ones I designed myself for the environmental club's "Smog Jog", an event we came up with to call attention to the fact that Houston had the worst air quality in the nation (thanks Dubya). I added some extra flair to one of my smog jog shirts by tye-dying it, making it doubly personalized. I wore this shirt so often during my senior-year study abroad in Costa Rica, that I was actually caricaturized wearing it in the t-shirt that was designed to commemorate the study abroad program! (I'm the guy in the middle with the binoculars.)

One of my post-college era t-shirts carries some very sad memories. A childhood friend of mine, Rachel Corrie, was crushed by an army bulldozer while standing up for peace in Palestine. Her efforts at peace are being carried on in part by the Olympia - Rafah sister city project, which Rachel was instrumental in starting.

The final two shirts celebrate happy parts of my grad school life; windsurfing and scientific meetings. I describe Windfest and the Benthic Ecology Meeting in previous posts.


admin said...

It's great that you've hung onto these shirts. I'm remembering all the great old shirts I let slip away. I think I'll frame the special ones I still have.

mandy clark said...

I was the capt. of last years Washington State champ Envirothon team!! Nationals was a blast!

James Douglass said...

Mandy- Cool! What highschool? Where did they have the state and national competitions?