So, what kind of a stupid name is Shrubbloggers, anyway? Discerning readers can at least tell from the logo that it’s a crude adaptation of Shrubwalkers, but does that really make much more sense?
A guy I’ve worked with wondered if Shrubwalkers might be a reference to George W. Bush you know, since his middle name is Walker and people called him “Shrub” a lot during the 2000 election. I had to pause a moment to shake off the gut-level revulsion when he told me this. After all, I hadn’t heard anyone make this association before, so I hadn’t had time to inure myself against the surprisingly unsettling effect of an invocation of the president’s name in association with a personal endeavor
So for any of you who are similarly misguided, let me state for the record that Shrubwalkers is indeed older than the baby Bush presidency, older even than the 2000 election. In fact, it’s a literal name it comes from back in the day when Justin and I used to walk on people’s shrubs.
Now, by shrubs I don’t mean those chest-high bushes you find by people’s windows and fences or single plants freestanding in yards (for the most part, anyway) I’m talking about those low evergreen juniper shrubs that were all over the place in Portland, taking the place of grass on many parking strips. So, although walking on these things was pretty impolite, we probably didn’t inflict any lasting damage. Although once we tried walking on top of a large (four feet high, maybe) freestanding shrub in Justin’s front yard until we heard a loud crack as one of the main branches gave way a little (OK, more than a little). I wonder if his parents ever noticed that the plant looked suddenly and inexplicably lopsided.
Why in the hell did we start walking on people’s shrubs? I’m pretty sure I started it. It’s just something I liked to do as a kid. Why walk on a boring old sidewalk when there was a much more interesting tactile landscape just a step or two away? Parking strips filled with large rocks were my favorite. And, years later, once Justin and I had trampled a couple of shrubs, it just became a tradition of sorts. Ahh, the crazy wackiness of young hippie poseurs
We were so taken by the idea of walking on shrubs that it became a theme, then the title, of a poem (soon appropriated as lyrics for a song) we started writing at Skipper’s one afternoon in mid-1991. We didn’t finish it until sometime later, and I don’t think we ever finished writing the music although the music we did write is pretty damn catchy, if I do say so myself. The poem itself is reprinted below:
What are they doing? They’re peeking through the windows
Something’s wrong and it’s all your fault
you wrote them all letters
hung their rational minds by a thread
and I think you actually looked good
when I saw you last time
We held hands in the rain
while we walked on the shrubs
and the way you coughed made me cry
what lies live in your words today?
They’re all watching me now
with their prehistoric eyes
their pity burns into the back of my neck
your haunting words echo through my mind, rolling
washing away the face I once loved
do you still go downtown on your own
to walk past our landscapes and
ride the bus for hours just to pretend
you’ve been everywhere?
You could never know when I followed.
I long for the days when we would walk
with the stars as our guide
now all they can do is say
“My, the shrubs are looking much better.”
Justin M. Stoddard, Eric D. Dixon, Delores Tanner & Travers Gauntt
Delores and Travers are credited because they contributed key lines. Delores, our former manager when we both worked at Skippers, gave us the first line. As we sat there trying to come up with a good opening for a new poem, she noticed some people in front of the restaurant, well, peeking through the windows. “What are they doing? They’re peeking in the windows,” she said (I note that she said “in” and we later changed it to “through” because the people peeking through the windows in the poem were looking angrily at the protagonists a fictional guy and a sadly-fictional girlfriend as they walked on top of the window-peekers’ shrubs; they weren’t checking out the state of affairs inside a greasy fish joint). Travers, one of my best friends since I was two or three years old, gave us the great, paranoid, “They’re all watching me now.”
There you have it. We walked on shrubs, so we were Shrubwalkers. We named our imaginary band The Shrubwalkers. We named our web site The Shrubwalkers, even though it had nothing to do with walking on shrubs (other than including a reprint of the poem). And we named this site Shrubbloggers as a bastardized appropriation of a familiar self-identification. Bastardized because although this site has everything to do with blogging, it has nothing to do with shrubs so this site’s title is a Frankenstein conglomeration of an figurative (formerly literal) descriptor that loses meaning without its second half, and a currently-literal descriptor that loses meaning when joined with a severed half of the figurative. After all, we’re not blogging about shrubs.
Then again, maybe that’s not such a bad idea!