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Wilbur is a character that figures in many existing tray carvings. The following is an account of how they came to be.
I, WILBUR: The Truth Behind the Trays.
I write for and represent the group of individuals who began, begat, and beset upon the world the Wilbur Tray Series. At its pinnacle, the Series exceeded about 150 Trays and up to almost 20 people were involved in the creative process surrounding the manufacture of each Tray. We knew Wilbur. We were his roommates, his teammates, his friends.
To begin with, Wilbur did not suck in many aspects of life. He worked hard at school and had, in my humble opinion, a solid GPA. He was a fast and strong lacrosse player, he dated a pretty, smart, athletic girl, and it's rumored that he fucked DeRosa's girlfriend. Of course, this is a highly simplified and generic view of Wilbur. In truth, he worked too hard and his scholastic diligence often caused him to miss nights of beirut and general tomfoolery. His lacrosse game relied upon his quick first step and he was oft-injured after his stellar junior year. His girlfriend throughout college was terrified of us and we substantiated rumors that Wilbur had cut her tongue out, eradicating her power of speech.
Please forgive my candid tone. Wilbur was, is, our friend. He once drank a bottle of gin and insisted we shoot him point blank in the chest with a pellet gun, a request we obliged more than a few times. However, he also missed the Amherst game his senior year because he had to take the MCATs and would not reschedule them. It was also famed coach Renzie Lamb's final home game. We won despite the absence of Wilbur's power sweep and played Amherst again the following day in the first round of the playoffs. Back from his MCATs and freshly rested, Wilbur made it to the Herst to help us out with the speed we needed. We lost by 2 goals. Poor Wilbur, he will read this. However, he is emotionless. He has no pity, no remorse. It is what prompted his nickname: The Automaton.
When we were sophomores, we lived in Mission Park. Dennett, 4th floor, to be exact. This was in '01-'02, prior to the renovations that made that cinder block a desirable place to live. We were often bored, cooped up in our hallway, with its firedoors and dull lighting. We had no common room. For the most part, we amused ourselves by imbibing inappropriate amounts of Fleischman's gin and case after case of our beloved Busch Light and P.B.R. At the time, there were six of us: Bee, The Automaton, Radar, Rack, Kam, and me. I'm Mojo. I don't recall the date specifically, but it was maybe mid-way through the first semester. September 11th had numbed us all. A couple of us had just ended long-standing relationships, others had begun new ones. All in all, we were reliant upon one another, as friends and cohabitants, for entertainment and solace both of which often occurred in the form of a mean bender. As I said before, Wilbur was sometimes a serious part of our steam-letting. More often than not, however, it seemed he was not. Living and eating in Mission while our friend was seldom around and not enthused by our shenanigans prompted us to adopt a mantra: Wilbur Sucks. We'd be at 'family dinner', when all 6 of us would be eating at that infamous, now famous, dining hall. "Where's Wilbur?", someone would ask. "I think he and Kristin had to study and were having dinner at Dodd", someone would reply. "Man," one of us would interject, "Wilbur SUCKS." Everyone would nod in agreement over their Upscale Pizza or salad bowl.
Please realize, this wasn't said out of real spite or hatred. He was our friend. But he went above and beyond to piss us right off. So it began. Inspired by the occasional carving we'd see on those oddly-shaped Mission Trays ('peneTraytion' was a favorite) Kam and I set to writing "WILBUR SUCKS" into the Trays. Kam's carving tool of choice was his fork, which he would rinse, in a short ritual, in the remains of his drinking water before scratching his lower-case print into the beige plastic. I carried a Swiss Army knife in my pocket attached to my keys. Its awl provided a precise sharp point with which I etched our legacy in a fine-lined, all-caps print. While Rack often had football practice, he enjoyed long meals and was present for much of our inscribing. Bee and Rade were fully loyal to the cause, brainstorming new ideas and even scratching out the occasional work for the good of our ouevre. So, in Mission it began. White flakes and filings curling from the already scratched Trays as our fingers ached under the pressure we applied to make our mark. We took pride when we'd get our own Trays at meals. We would reach for one of the stacks and flip the Tray over eagerly, anticipating a rare find like the elusive XVI or one of the original unnumbereds. Often times, right out of the wash, the marks were hard to read until the Tray dried. This was especially true of my narrower grooves. However, what we truly loved, what got us beaming from deepinside, was waiting in line for a new batch of chicken fingers to emerge from the scullery and hearing groups of friend around us delight in their finds.
"Hey, Vlad, I got one of those Wilbur Trays!"
"That's great, Jeb, I got number twelve. Who is this poor bastard?"
"I don't know, Vladdy, but apparently he sucks, huh?"
And so our days were brightened.
All in all, we don't know exactly how many Wilbur Trays we finished that year and I was sidelined from my work for 6 weeks with a broken right index finger, my carving finger, but our estimates range from about 85-100. We started with just "Wilbur Sucks". Over and over, we etched these letters with as much variety as we could muster, with the hopes of covering every piece of flat serving plastic we could get our defacingly creative mitts on. We were unknowing followers of Haring, Basquiat, and, eventually, the Romans. We started to want to catalogue our history, numbering the Trays from the numeral I. Each was different and we were sure to pass on to one another which we made so we'd know which consecutive number to carve at our next earliest convenience. The simple beginnings morphed into limited edition Trays such as the infamous "Seventeen Lambda" so named for the slip of the fork which caused a lambda-esque mark. These were the Limited Edition Mission Trays:
XVIIÎ» (the infamous seventeen-lambda)
WILBUR LEGALLY SUCKS (21)
XXX WILBUR SUCKS HARDCORE ltd ed. (30)
WILBUR SUCKS 40oz
WILBUR SUCKS .44
Upon the completion of sophomore year, and the final realization that we'd made it out of Mission alive, we left our Trays behind us, but with the knowledge that Wilbur's little brother would be joining us the following fall. We also knew that the chances of his living in Mission would be great and that his mates and he would be reminded, daily, about his unfortunate genetic malady.
Junior year saw me off to Melbourne, Australia, away from the friends and co-artists with whom I'd lived in such close proximity. I missed a whole football season and Rack's shaved head. My return coincided with Kam's month-long departure for the duration of Winter Study. My artistic soul pined for his return. However, I found another interesting lot of people. Men I knew from the previous two years, people like The Dog and Gregor, who now lived with Radar and Rack placing them closer to me and to my heart. Gregor's ascerbic humor and outlook on life provided a solid sounding board for The Dog's anger over the "Girlfriend incident. Coupled with the usual spark from Radar and the sage judgement from Rack, this was a veritable breeding ground for new Wilbur insults. I was also now living with Goose, whose objective disgust of Wilbur was helpful in balancing our strong bias, as well as Kam, Bee, and of course, the Robot himself, as well as a handful of others: Doc, whose bizarre, no-holds-barred razzing meshed seamlessly with the work of Deaner, Blakely, and more. It was upon Kam's return that our now enlarged force set to work bouncing ideas off of one another like a New York City taxi passenger against the door frame. We decided that the Wilbur legend must persist in the red brick confines of Greylock Dining Hall. So it was. We decided to put aside our sophomoric yet accurate decree and focus on slightly more pithy, witty, timely, and thought-provoking Trays. Ideas were suggested, shot down, modified until they evolved into the Greylock series. Here is what we recall, in no particular order:
- Wilbur Sucks in Greylock
- Wilbur Blows Goats
- Wilbur Eats Veal
- Wilbur Wears Fur
- Wilbur Hates Babies
- Wilbur Kills Puppies
- Wilbur Beats His Girlfriend
- Wilbur is Copraphagous
- Wilbur Shot JFK
- Wilbur Has Nocturnal Emissions
- Wilbur Plays Ice Hockey
- Wilbur is a Saddam Body Double
- Wilbur Gives Footjobs
- Wilbur Watches Figure Skating
- Wilbur Invaded Poland
- Wilbur Is Out of His Element
- Wilbur Failed His MCATs
- Wilbur Is Catholic
- Wilbur Rides the Night Train
- Wilbur Felches
- Wilbur Tips Poorly
- Wilbur Spits
- Wilbur Worships False Idols
- Wilbur Swallows
- Wilbur Doesn't Recycle
- Wilbur Voted For Bush
- Goose Hates Wilbur [and Rade]*
- Wilbur Still Sucks
- Wilbur Is French
- Wilbur Has Malaria
- Wilbur Has Halitosis
- Wilbur Went To amHerst
- Wilbur has Webbed Feet
- Wilbur Doesn't Flush
- Wilbur Is a Vegetarian
- Wilbur is a Communist
- Wilbur Putts From The Rough
- Wilbur Drinks Zima
- Wilbur is a Teetotaler
- Wilbur is Incontinent
- Wilbur Douches
- Wilbur Works The Corner
- Wilbur Dropped the Ball
- Wilbur Was Adopted
It was our hope, after all our effort, that we would one day be able to reclaim the Trays we had defaced in the name of art and information dispersal. However, upon inquiry into the matter before a Greylock meal during my senior year, I learned that Wilbur Trays were being systematically destroyed by the Dining Hall Staff and Services so as to prevent futher "vandalizing" by the unknown assailants of the beige plastic. I was crushed. Our Warholian workshop of Wilbur wailing was wasted. I sometimes wonder about the definitions of art. Part of my Williams number-one-liberal-arts-school-education focused on that very topic. If it once was, but is no longer, is it art? Is the concept itself art? Without the originals, is it art? Yes, yes. A thousand times, yes.