When I was a kid, my parents put up a big bulletin board on one of the walls in my bedroom. It was probably 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall. Or maybe 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall? The thing was huge.
I don’t know what prompted this design choice, but I went with it. I’d tack up snapshots, news articles I found interesting, show programs, artwork, comic strips, my yearly wall calendar, the occasional poster, greeting cards from out-of-town relatives, you name it. I had a lot of cork to fill.
This went on all through my childhood and adolescence. I don’t remember much of what I deemed boardworthy in the early years, but in my teens I’d feature the sort of material you’d expect to find on the walls of any red-blooded all-American boy: photos of the cast of Murphy Brown cut out of TV Guide.
When I went to college, my parents got me a smaller bulletin board (3 feet x 2 feet) for my dorm room. I have kept the same board ever since, carting it to many different apartments and hanging it up in many different bedrooms in Chicago, then New York City, and finally in the Boston area, where I now live.
And through all that time and all those relocations, I’ve been cutting out neat stuff from magazines and making adjustments to this cork-backed collage that I guess is my life’s work?
Pretty soon, I’ll be about the same age as the substitute teacher Mrs. Bugle was when she was contracted to preside temporarily over one of my classes in junior high. One day Mrs. Bugle (not her real name) finished the lesson plan early and instructed the class to study quietly.
While we did so, Mrs. Bugle took out a pair of scissors and began cutting pictures out of a catalog.
“Why are you doing that?” my friend Sarah eventually asked.
“It’s for a fashion show,” Mrs. Bugle replied curtly. No further explanation provided.
But obviously that answer raised about a hundred more questions.
Like: Are you going to order those items from that Talbots catalog and then stage a freelance runway exhibition? To what end? Is this a commercial enterprise? Or a matter of artistic expression? Are you going to model one or more of these looks? Or are you going to emcee? Or have we misunderstood and what you mean is that you’re going to use those clippings of dresses and sweater sets and contemporary-casual pantsuits as the wardrobe in a miniature fashion show starring the collection of paper dolls we have just decided you regularly play with?
But we didn’t ask anything at all because Mrs. Bugle was mean as a snake, so the mystery will remain unsolved forever.
And now I too have become a grown-ass adult who cuts pictures out of magazines for mystifying reasons.
Madame Bugle, c’est moi.
The items tacked to the board change frequently, but to give you an idea, here’s what’s currently on display:
- 2023 Boston events calendar
- free souvenir bookmark from “Revisiting the Ruins: The Great Boston Fire of 1872,” an exhibit at the Boston Athenaeum
- cover of The New Yorker reproducing the courtroom sketch from Donald Trump’s arraignment
- cover of The Atlantic featuring an owl
- thank-you sign I left on the kitchen counter for a neighbor when she recently walked our dog
- Smithsonian magazine photo of an Icelandic kid holding a baby puffin
- photo of Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris from the “Country Roots Music Issue” of the Oxford American
- Loretta Lynn photo that accompanied her obit in Mojo magazine
- Boston Globe Magazine cover showing the photo of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King that inspired Hank Willis Thomas’s The Embrace sculpture in Boston Common
A blank rectangle of cork near the middle of the board is just screaming for a Murphy Brown pic.