When I was a rebellious young man growing up in Antigonish, NS, some construction took place on the grounds of the local university. And surrounding this construction at StFX was some hoarding, high plywood walls painted a pristine white. My friend Ted and I decided to do something about that.
We set out one evening with thoughts of graffiti, only we didn’t have spray paint. Instead, we had tins of paint from one of our basements and, if memory serves, sponge brushes. We were less Banksy and more Bob Ross.
Ted applied his talents by painting an anarchy symbol and slogans from a Norwegian punk band, while I painted the likeness of Opus the Penguin. It was undoubtedly the most perplexing graffiti in the history of our town.
I bring this up because the statute of limitations has long passed and also because I was back in Antigonish last week and took a walk up around the university. There, very near the scene of our crime, was another construction site, this one for a new public policy institute to be named after StFX alumnus and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. And I thought to myself, “Now, there’s some construction crying out for graffiti.”
Mulroney was certainly not Canada’s worst Prime Minister, but by the end of his tenure he was among its most unpopular. Leaving with an approval rating of only 11%, the Mulroney legacy led to the collapse of the Progressive Conservative Party and the ultimate rise of Stephen Harper, thanks for nothing. He also introduced the GST, indulged in cronyism and, perhaps most offensively, sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” with Ronald Reagan.
But time and raising $60 million for your alma mater heal all wounds and pretty much guarantee you’ll get a building named after you.
When it came time for me to go to university, I opted for a school less defaced by graffiti and headed for Mount Allison in New Brunswick. Thirty years have passed since I graduated, and that is why, inspired by Brian Mulroney, I am pleased to announce plans at Mount Allison for the Ross Murray Institute for Forgetting What a Jerk I Was.
Details are still being worked out (right now, in my head), but the mission of the institute will be as follows:
“Our mission is to explore and develop policy on rehabilitating the reputations and legacies of former jerks who really weren’t that bad when you think about it, maybe a little full of themselves, which was probably just a mask for deep insecurities, but look at them now! All responsible-like and really grown into themselves, don’t you think? Also we have cookies.”
The motto of the institute will be “Quia Ego Vere Mutavit” (“I’ve Changed, Really I Have”).
Based on my giving history with MtA, the institute will consist of an abandoned refrigerator crate located beside the McCain Centre for Continuing Crispiness. However, just as Mulroney reached out to his cronies to raise funds for a building in his honour (some of whom are regrettably involved in the Panama Papers), I could possibly enhance the Ross Murray Institute by reaching out to my former classmates. Given, though, that most were English and Drama majors and that the only papers they’ve ever been involved in are rolling papers, I don’t expect to upscale much beyond a broom closet.
The institute will essentially consist of me standing in my box, shouting out lectures with titles like:
- Volunteering and Holding Kittens: Social Signalling as a Means of Forgetting That Time I Told a Pretty Racist Joke
- Media Studies: When the Student Paper I Edited Parodied One of Its Own Columnists, That Wasn’t Really So Bad, Was It?
- Macaroni Economics: Forgiving My Old Roommate for Making a Really Crappy Meal Just So We Wouldn’t Ask Him to Cook Again
- Political Pragmatism: Sometimes Groping is Just a Friendly Gesture
- Statistical Analytics: What About All the Times I Didn’t Graffiti Construction Sites?
I will also host a regular round table simply entitled, “Girls: We’re Sorry.” And finally, there will be a symposium series called “Terrible Stories We Can Surely All Laugh At Now.”
Course reading will consist of copies of my novel until all the boxes in my attic are empty.
The cookies will not contain raisins.
This week, I called up Mount Allison to let them know about my plan. They said, “Who is this?”
Ah, it’s working already.