About My Tribes

I have been a bit of an ironic community builder most of my life. Having been imprinted and conditioned as an outsider in the world, I have worked to find, start, and build community wherever I have lived, which means that I have left behind most communities I have been a part of. A larger community, though more virtual, has developed over the years. I have been fortunate to keep in touch with key people from each community over the decades through the array of modern communications. I hope to use this website as a larger “Home” page that I never had before, that might help connect all my tribes from the past, and hopefully spin them into a larger community of communities.

Sigma Lambda

Cult life said that children were born as blank slates to be programmed by the parents as replicants. My program was that I would resist and subdue all natural impulses, get a business degree, then make money while waiting for Armageddon.

I pledged a fraternity in my first semester at Oklahoma State University. I bought the pitch that frat boys had more sex with better women. I was told that we would be bonded as brothers forever. To be an initiate in the frat meant to have a launch pad for future political and business cronyism.

I was kicked out. I was told that I had issues with authority that didn’t make me a good fit and a generalized “attitude problem.”

I moved into the laundry room of a pizza delivery cabal. The five of us were drivers for Pizza Shuttle. The rental house was called the Safari Lodge, a reference from “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” I was shown a sacred 3 ring binder that contained the foundation for the premise of the Safari Lodge (Sigma Lambda): It was a mockery of the Chaz and Biff frat culture in the spirit of the Church of the SubGenius.

I thought I wanted to do advertising and marketing, and was really disheartened to find out that I’d have to do more basic stuff the first year of college. I couldn’t just go learn advertising and marketing, I had to do high school all over again, and that idea flipped my switch, and I just said, fuck this. College was a different context, but the same story, the same history, the same math, the same me being an outsider in a system I didn’t want to be in.

In high school I saw a Tom Hanks movie, where he’s an advertising guy, and it looked like he was having the best time- he drove a Jeep, and had a great time. I wanted to drive a jeep and be an advertising guy, and have a great time. I grew up on advertising and marketing on TV. And I remember getting excited by some ad campaigns and being annoyed by some ad campaigns and sort of developing an inner monologue around what was good and bad marketing and what was good and bad advertising, just off my own sensibilities.

I wanted to do advertising, marketing, and so I did, I just did it outside of class, and skipped a lot of classes, mostly the morning ones, and then I just didn’t do class at all. Real World marketing was more interesting.

I fell in love with the 24-hour Kinkos. Inspired by the graphics from the Book of the SubgeniusI I started creating flyers for The X Factor (a mobile DJ company that a roommate was part of) and for Sigma Lambda (the anti-fraternity fraternity). I spent hours at night at Kinkos in Stillwater, Oklahoma, learning how to use this modern miracle that enabled me to shrink an image, or make an image bigger. That was a new thing for regular humans and I reveled in it.

I decided to brand Sigma Lambda.

The five in-house members and a couple of other drivers bought standard fratboy jerseys, with the greek letter patches for Sigma Lambda. I produced a series of Sigma Lambda pledge propaganda flyers to slather campus with.

“Don’t Fall Prey to Fall Rush: Pledge Sigma Lambda. Because No Man Should Have to wake Up Before Noon”

We decided that the straight frat habit of calling the female greek system members, “Little Sisters” was creepy, in light that these sisters and brothers were banging a lot. Instead we would just call the females that frequented the Lodge “Babes.”

“Be A Babe: Join the Sigma Lambda Auxiliary Org.”

Delivering Pizzas to the frat and sorority houses in our Sigma Lambda shirts started some gossip. If we were asked about who or what Sigma Lambda was, we always replied that we couldn’t say, that it was a secret society, duh.

At a University Intra-Fraternity Council meeting, a tenured professor declared that he had gotten to the bottom of who Sigma Lambda was: a bunch of homosexuals. As a result of my marketing campaign, our attitude problems, and 1980’s style homophobia, our loud secrecy produced several outbursts of violence and open hostility by the frats, a high speed car chase, police involvement, and a stricter uniform policy for the employees of Pizza Shuttle.

I was learning more during the spades games at four o’clock in the morning than I was in class. My whole life to that point had felt like a slog, always waiting to get out. Waiting to get out of church, waiting to get out of my house, waiting to get out of class, school, etc. No one was being diagnosed as ADD or ADHD in my generation. We were just beaten or shamed into submission to the slog by the church, state and family. I decided that I wanted to follow my current interests and passions, as impractical and furtive as they might be. That choice ended my formal education officially.

I spent the next summer working in the oil fields of Oklahoma. My Dad got me a well service job to show me what it’s like to work in the common man’s world, and why I should run back and get a college degree so I don’t have to get greasy. It didn’t accomplish what I think he intended. I decided I didn’t want to work at all. I told my folks that I was wasting their money and wasting my time, because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought I knew what I wanted to do, then I heard about all kinds of other stuff. And then I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

After that summer I moved back to the Sigma Lambda house and this cat named Rich shows up, a roommate that had moved out before I had moved in, a Sigma Lambda alumni. He says to me, “Hey, I got residency in Boulder so now I can attend school at Colorado University. I need a roommate before the fall semester starts. Want to move to Colorado?” I said yes and packed up all my stuff.

So, I told my parents that I was going to move to Boulder and start a T-shirt company. It was the 80s and T-shirts were a thing. I just figured I get a job, raise money, buy a silkscreen- they’re cheap, you know, piecemeal it together, get rich. That’s what I told my parents, so it wasn’t just me running off and being wild and aimless. That’s what I had to tell myself, too. It was about doing substantive, concrete things. “What are you doing?” I didn’t feel comfortable saying I didn’t know, so I decided that if I really wanted to do something I would make t-shirts, even though I had no drawing ability or history of drawing anything or any capital.

More of Dark’s Art