How to Nerd an American Quilt

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Like many of you, I have a giant plastic container in my garage, crammed full of old t-shirts that I will never wear again.  These t-shirts were acquired during the many activities typical of an unadventurous, white-person poseur existence.  (A college lacrosse shirt, even though I have never touched a lacrosse stick;  an MTV Half-Hour Comedy Hour shirt I stole during a 1992 MTV interns swag-stealing free-for-all;  an actual go-kart bachelor party shirt from Rob Schneider’s actual go-kart bachelor party which I had an actual awesome time at.)  I will never, ever wear these t-shirts again, but I cannot bring myself to throw them away.  These shirts form a time-capsule of my unadventurous, white-person poseur existence.  So what to do with them?

Make them into a quilt!  By which I mean, have a professional quilt-maker make them into a quilt.  There is something so exquisitely efficient (I.E., MEGA-ANAL)  about making your old T-shirts into a quilt.  You don’t have to ever wear them, but you can display them, but you are displaying them in a funny way, but you can fold them up when your wife gets sick of looking them, but you can then take them out again when she falls asleep.  Life becomes art.

I have so many lame old t-shirts that choosing which ones to put in the quilt became a difficult (MEGA-ANAL) challenge.  Do I do a “best of the last 25 years super-quilt”?  Or do I break it up into mini-quilts – high school years quilt, college years quilt, Simpsons years quilt – and risk my house looking like a folk art museum?

After giving this matter 60 or 70 hours of thought, I decided my first quilt should be simply an homage to nerd culture – cull the best nerdy images from the bunch.  I decided against t-shirts with purely personal meaning:  t-shirts from family reunions, college spring flings, and Rob Schneider’s bachelor party.  This was not a quilt about my feelings or memories –  it was about maximum geek effect.

I found a terrific seamstress, Roz, who by a massive coincidence works for my wife’s sewing and craft learning workshop store.  Roz had the patience to deal with my thoughtful (MEGA-ANAL) process, and we finally put together the ultimate nerd quilt.  Behold:


However, when it was finished, I realized something:  you can’t make a t-shirt quilt that’s devoid of feeling.  If you wore these shirts, they now mean something to you.  (Warning:  they also smell like you.)  Each square component of the Nerd Culture T-shirt Quilt commemorates a specific time in my life.  There is a story behind each one.  The t-shirts are an accidental diary of life experiences.

I also realized that my nerd quilt is a great conversation piece, and affords excellent opportunities for name-dropping and seeming like a Hollywood comedy  jackass.  If you are curious as to the identity and provenance of the shirts involved in my quilt, more after the jump:

ROW 1:

Yo! MTV Raps – Stolen during the 1992 MTV intern swag-stealing free-for-all.
ChunnelSeinfeld writer David Mandel invented this fake movie for an episode he wrote, and made t-shirts to celebrate the occasion
Mannequin Two:  On The Move – I got this free from publicists so desperate for good reviews they would try to bribe college kids.  College kids.  Their plan failed.
Raw Pulsing Drama – The slogan of the 1995 MTV Movie Awards, which I snuck into and stole a t-shirt from.
Skywalker Ranch – For some reason, my academic psychologist father was invited to Skywalker Ranch, and took me with him.  The ranch isn’t so great if you love Star Wars, but is fantastic if you love Mission-style furniture.

ROW 2:

Lil’ Bush Kiss Parody – From Lil’ Bush, created by my old Simpsons buddy Donick Cary.
Posehn – Fake Heavy Metal concert shirt about real Heavy Metal fan, my old Comedian of Comedy buddy Brian Posehn.
Bachelor No. 2 – This is an Aimee Mann shirt that came with the album.  (I can be seen playing a nerd wearing flip-down sunglasses in the video for her song, “Calling It Quits.” In the video I am wearing the green “Vindicators” t-shirt as described in Row 3.  Also, the book I am reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.)
Astro City – I have no idea where I got this.  Astro City is great, though.
Batman Kissing Robin – Bought at the West Hollywood gay pride/rights/mustache parade trying to impress a girl by showing her how cool I was with my own heterosexuality that I could buy a gay shirt.  Plan failed.

ROW 3:

Sammy Sosa’s 62 Home Run Record – I am not a sports nerd, but this is from the year when Maguire and Sosa had their roided-out home run battle, which Maguire eventually won.  Sort of the Hulk vs. the Thing of anabolic steroids.
12-Sided Die – Purchased at ComiCon from Penny Arcade.
Lords of the Rhymes – The best Middle Earth-themed rap group I’ve ever heard (“Goin’ mad off the hook just like a Numenorean / I got more rhymes than there’s leaves in Lothlorien.”) I took my wife to see them when she was pregnant, hoping the music would nerd-up my unborn child.  Plan succeeded.
SPIN 15 – Anniversary shirt for the classic magazine.
The Vindicators
– I made this shirt as a cast and crew thank-you present from a pilot I wrote and shot in 1998, about… wait for it… funny real life super-heroes.  I know, not original.  However, it is a rite of passage that every male comedy writer go through a “funny real life super-heroes” phase.

ROW 4:

SPY Magazine – A friend of mine who was an intern gave me this.  I was always too embarrassed to wear it because I didn’t work for the magazine.
Big Guy and Rusty the Robot – Frank Miller / Geoff Darrow ultra collaboration.  I wore this a lot.  Too much.
Clash of the Titans – From an autism benefit concert starring The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, Janeane Garafalo and Triumph the Dog.  This benefit sparked the charity shows seen on Comedy Central, “Night of Too Many Stars” and others.
Meltdown Comics & Collectables
– The hipster comic store we parodied / paid homage to in the Simpsons episode, “Husbands and Knives.”
Forbidden Planet – The original old-school comic store near Union Square.

ROW 5:

Weird Al Yankovic:  The Saga Begins – I defy you to find a better plot summary of “The Phantom Menace” than the lyrics to “The Saga Begins.”  On the back of the concert shirt, the shows on Alderaan and the Death star are “canceled.”  At the actual concert, I sat behind the members of Hanson.
Bender – When Futurama premiered, we all got a lot of free stuff.
South Park 10th Anniversary Party – All I remember is that I ate a hell of a lot of sliders at this party.  Delicious passed apps are always memorable.
Saturday Night Life Mohonk Writers Retreat – I never worked on SNL, but I traded this shirt with another writer who coveted a t-shirt of mine which had an unintentionally funny use of the word “Beaver” on it.
Wired Magazine – Another magazine I have no actual connection to.

ROW 6:

The Adventures of Tintin – Purchased in a store in San Francisco, which I later realized was only selling the shirt because of the presumed man-boy, or at least man-teen, relationship between Captain Haddock and Tintin.
Don’t Make Me Get My Ring! – T-shirt sold by, a site I used to check way, way too often during the Peter Jackson LOTR production years.
The Simpsons 10th Anniversary Party – I had to put one Simpsons shirt on the quilt.
[BLOCKED] Star Trek: The Experience – Opening day at the Star Trek ride at the Hilton in Las Vegas.
Late Night With Conan O’Brien – I was offered a job writing for Conan in 1995, but I had just gotten another gig.  This was my consolation prize.