Since we’re starting over somewhat, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit where the whole “Stallion Cornell” name came from.
It started out when I was stuck. And being stuck is no fun.
I don’t have to tell you that, but we have to accept that as common ground if we’re going to get anywhere here. Everybody’s been stuck before, but not everyone finds a way out. You may have your own route to freedom, but my way out involved fraud
Not criminal fraud, mind you. Just silly fraud. It’s much less dangerous, but it still makes my mother angry.
In this case, I was taking a Creative Writing course at the University of Southern California, and the assignment was to write a love poem beginning with the line, “My love, if you die, and I don’t…”
I don’t like love poems, as a rule. I find it very hard to take them seriously. If I can’t imagine saying something to someone without giggling, Try beginning a date by reciting the lyrics to any love song by Chicago and you’ll see what I mean.
“Hello, Madge? It’s me, Stallion. I just want you to know that you’re the meaning in my life. You’re the inspiration. What? No, I said you’re the inspiration. Like, when you love somebody ‘til the end of time. Always on mind. Whatever. Look, do you want to grab a burger or not?”
So back to the poetry.
“My love, if you die, and I don’t…”
That line just stared at me for hours on end. Everything that could have possibly come after it sounded exponentially dippier than my previous suggestion. I ended up cobbling something together and turning it in sheepishly. No fun at all.
See, the way this class worked was that the best selections were chosen and “published” to the rest of the class in a small packet, and then they were discussed as if they were actual works of literature. To date, none of my stories or poems had been discussed. I was hoping to get just a little recognition and attention, but usually, such honors were reserved for the people who wore black and suffered a lot. I was just a shy, quiet freshman, and my work was piddly and trite in a freshmanic sort of way. Nobody was going to agonize over it properly unless I wrote something deep, man. Deep.
“My love, if you die and I don’t…”
I don’t know what I actually wrote under my own name. All I remember is that it wasn’t very good and was summarily ignored. It didn’t do anything to help me get unstuck.
It was what Stallion Cornell wrote that made all the difference.
I don’t know where the name comes from, really. I’ve never been to Cornell, and I don’t know a stallion from a mountain lion. I’ve been told that the name sounds vaguely pornographic, but that was never the intent. It just sounded pretentious and funny to me, like how I imagined all of these self-important artistes thought of themselves.
A couple of years earlier, I had appeared in a variety show, and I was the Master of Ceremonies. Every night, I would introduce myself with a different goofy name. “Stallion Cornell” was the name that got the biggest laugh, and it stayed stored away in the back of my brain, waiting to save me from stuckagery.
“My love, if you die and I don’t…”
Setting aside real life, I adopted Stallion Cornell as my persona and finished the poem the right way. HIS way. The Stallion Way, which read as follows:
My love, if you die and I don’t
I want you to know that I won’t
Forget you. It may seem absurd,
Yet you’re not just one of the herd.
So I’ll let you go back to sleep;
My life. And my love. And my sheep.
Stallion Cornell’s “Ode to Mutton” was at the top of the published works the following week.
It wasn’t – and isn’t – a good poem as far as actual poetry goes. But it was delightfully anarchic and radically different from anything anyone else was writing. It was the only piece with the audacity not to take the class too seriously. And suddenly, everyone was buzzing about who could possibly be the mysterious Stallion Cornell?
I just sat in the back of the room, fighting mightily not to giggle.
Stallion then completed every assignment alongside with me. Back in those days, when this new word processing fad thingee didn’t look like it was going to last, I would type my own pieces in my dorm room and then head down to the Doheny Library and type Stallion’s piece on a school typewriter that used a different font and dropped its Ls. I would make sure that Stallion’s piece was buried somewhere in the middle of the pile, never in proximity to mine.
Stallion’s piece was published at the top of the stack every week.
I remember well the one week where we each had to write a three-line poem, which, from the Goth People, was an open invitation to pretense and self-indulgence. Mine, however, was an elegant, haunting masterpiece, which appealed to all five senses, and not in a good way:
The moon farts.
Stinky. Stinky. Stinky.
Ah. “The Flatulent Moon.” (It’s the third “stinky” that really sells it.)
If my professor is reading this book, then this will be the first time that she will have uncovered the secret. Nobody suspected the mild-mannered freshman in the corner.
And thus an alter ego was born.
The story continues on Monday…