Documentary of Embarrassment

My dad recently sent in all our old VHS and film home movies to a company that digitized them for use on DVD and the web. I had to walk him through how to create the DVDs last night, since he (nor I) have any patience for how-to videos and such (they move too slowly!). I went in and started tinkering.

The first set of clips I found were from a video “tour” of my hometown my best friend from high school and I made once, I think during one of my trips home from my first year of college.

It was mortifying. I watched about 30 seconds of it before I died of embarrassment and had to shut it off.

I told my father later, “I think it’s some sort of crime of nature that memories of my 18-year-old self won’t be allowed to fade into a mellow kind of comfort because all of the worst ones have been captured on video.”

The experience reminded me of another quirky video-related thing I did around that time. A few friends and I, video cam in tow, started making a movie called Documentary of a Stranger. We went out into the wild outer ring suburbs of Milwaukee and interviewed Barnes and Noble customers mostly, but also a woman pumping her gas at SuperAmerica.

We’d introduce ourselves and explain we were doing a project for a college sociology thesis called, of course, Documentary of a Stranger. We were going to ask them a series of probing questions, we said, and we just wanted them to answer to their comfort level.

We’d introduce them on camera: “This is Not David.” “This is Not Amanda.”

The questions were always varied but tended to include:

The normal where-from/sisters-brothers type questions
What do you do for a living?
What three famous people would you most want to have dinner with?
Can you do any stupid human tricks?
If you were stranded on a desert island, which brand of pain reliever would you prefer?

What was fascinating was that most people couldn’t wait to bust out their stupid human tricks. One girl walked with her knees bent, knees swinging in and out; another man touched his tongue to his nose.

Unfortunately, Documentary of a Stranger is lost–stolen, I think, but a college friend and then never returned.

It’s lost, but not forgotten. Unfortunately.

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