15 June 2005

Vernon: Memoirs of a True American Penman

Before I begin today's post, I'd like to welcome back to virtual land my friends Robert and Shannon. I hope you both had pleasant trips and find settling into your summertime schedules a breeze.

As for the title of this post, I was hit with the title in that space between slumber and waking. In my mind, I saw the life of a curmudgeon flash through my mind. He took himself entirely too serious, often creating organizations to rid the world of poor penmanship. "If only people took the time to master this highly underrated craft, maybe spelling errors wouldn't run amuck. Mistakes glare from the page if penmanship shines."

Of course, this story would be an attack on prescriptivism in language — a satirical attack. Why "Vernon"? Sounds like the perfect name for a Strunk&White slave to me. What was the name of the Dean from Animal House? I may incorporate some of my Campus Stalls project in the book, too.

For those unfamiliar with the Campus Stalls project, I toured the campus of Southern Oregon University in Ashland and collected the writings from all the men's toilet stalls. Vernon would get caught correcting the graffiti. "How many times will I see 'you're' spelled 'your'? It's a blight on the English language, I tell you. If only people quit with the stinking contractions."

This is the first time an idea hit me so hard, so I'm going to leave you with a taste and write it—longhand no less.


Adam said...

Vernon is a name I've heard primarily in the pejorative, and I never thought about that much until I read this post. From the effete and cowardly cameraman in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to the much abused James Brown look-alike in Wonderboys, I can't find a hero in the lot. I think in Killer Diller the main character was named Vernon, but he was autistic. Hmm....

Anyhow, your Campus Stalls project reminded me of something I saw written on the inside of the men's bathroom door at Omar's: "Zampano was here." Everytime I've looked at that I wonder who wrote it, because it references a somewhat obscure but stunningly brilliant novel called House of Leaves. If you haven't read it, add it to your list. I'll let you borrow my copy if you wish. I've never seen its likeness.

Kyle Stich said...

"Zampano was here" illustrates the effect I went for while recording the stall graffiti; stall writings say much about the clientelle.

The few times I've gone to Omar's I talked to some rather obscure individuals, not to mention one of the bar's number one customers: Mark Curci. This guy is Hunter S. incarnate, but he typifies the offbeat sorts one is likely to find in Omar's.

I have added House of Leaves to my reading list. Thanks for the lead, Adam.