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Longtime readers knew Carl Cordell as Reservoir Carl, a nickname I stuck to him in 2007 before I ever even met him, based on a photo I saw of the Peeps diorama he made for the Washington Post Peeps Diorama contest. Fortunately, he thought it was funny. This birthday post I wrote about him 2 years ago explains it all.

No human being on the face of the earth could aggravate me more than Carl. He reveled in this, of course, and we laughed about it, in those times when I wasn’t secretly plotting ways to drop him to the bottom of the Potomac River with rocks in his pockets.

Carl was my biggest fan, reading every word I wrote and sending me a detailed email about every single thing I posted.

He was also the hardest worker Artomatic ever had.

He was also a royal pain in my ass. Let’s not get too sappy, here…

Carl passed away last year. Before his health began to spiral downward, he sent me an absurdly long, overly detailed, utterly ridiculous, totally Carl list of things I was instructed to do upon his demise. I promised I would do my very best.

At the time we made this deal, he swore his health was fine. It wasn’t long before we all knew that was a lie, of course.

Carl had no way of knowing that Tracy and Roger and Michele and Brian and all of his friends would create an amazing shrine to him for this Artomatic, or probably even that the whole event would be dedicated to his memory, but they did and it is. Instead of placing flowers next to his last peeps diorama as he’d instructed, I had a real place to put the flowers I was asked to bring.

I posted this on Facebook this morning. Facebook being Facebook, the message didn’t display for everyone so some wackiness ensued. Here it is again, in perhaps a more stable form:

Dear Carl,
Okay buddy, here we are on opening day. I’m not running this crazy shindig anymore but I got permission to bring the flowers I promised you, 1 for each artomatic we did together. I’m sorry I had to go w your 2nd choice, roses, but I just couldn’t find good sunflowers this morning.

I know, ants love all flowers, but I made you a promise I couldn’t keep.

I’m sorry you aren’t here to see this event & I’m almost sorry we won’t get to have our traditional opening day fight and I’m actually even sorry I couldn’t keep the other promises you made me make, but let’s be honest, even if we’d gotten you mummified, I doubt I could have done the ritual to reanimate you as Carl-Tet, mummy king of Artomatic. I’m pretty sure that movie we watched was a Hollywood movie & not a documentary.

But I digress.

I need to go now cause even though I’ve got permission to be in the building, I’m just sitting here crying and scaring the volunteers witless.

Also, this bench they put in front of your shrine is sorta rickety & I have my doubts about how long it’ll support my weight. That’s just the kind of stuff you’d have called me to worry over, though, isn’t it? :-)

I was a wreck by the time I got those flowers put up. My full instructions were to get a dozen flowers and place one for each Artomatic we worked on together next to his diorama and the rest in my space. I did that this morning but I suspect when I arrive tonight for the opening I’m going to have to move them all over to his shrine or I won’t be able to go into my own space without crying.

Carl being Carl, my instructions included a list of acceptable flowers. The list was several pages long. Decent-looking sunflowers being in short supply in my neighborhood stores this morning, I went with the 2nd choice, roses.

Later in the day, Roger sent me this photo. The sunflower crisis is over:

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to recite Jabberwocky at Meet the Artist Night or edit Carl into a copy of Empire of Ants, but this flower thing, I could do this. So I did.

Today, we celebrate the birth of Reservoir Carl.

Reservoir Carl was born a small child. He grew up to become the deeply weird and intense character we know today. Along the way, it was Marshmallow Peeps that showed Reservoir Carl his destiny.

On a cold, grey, rainy February day in 2007, some Peeps became imbued with a cosmic life force and a blinding light shown down upon them. The Peeps drew themselves up to their full height, which, admittedly, isn’t very tall. Then, one of the pink peeps cleared it’s throat and spoke to Carl in a soft but resolute voice. “Carl,” The Peep said. “It is your destiny to be a leader in the DC arts community and make art accessible to tens of thousands of people.”

It’s also possible that Reservoir Carl inhaled too many glue fumes while creating macabre and witty dioramas out of said Peeps and only thinks that they began speaking to him on that fateful day in 2007.

It’s also possible I made up some or possibly even all of the part with the lights and the talking peeps and the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

To make a long story short, in 2007 Carl was a finalist in the Washington Post’s inaugural Peeps diorama contest. Michele L got the Post to display the Peeps at Artomatic that year. Carl thought Artomatic was so cool he actually participated beyond the Peeps and did umpteen volunteer shifts. Then he joined a committee. Then he became part of the team that attends to every single detail pertaining to the buildout, maintenance and tear-down of the event. Then he became Chair of a Committee. Then he stopped speaking to me.*

Now, I don’t think Artomatic is the end of the road for Carl. The Peeps aren’t done guiding Carl. I can’t say for sure what his destiny is, but I suspect that there’s a lot of art to be made and enjoyed along the way and it’ll be interesting to see where Carl’s path leads him.

This much I can say for sure: today is Carl’s birthday and it’s been a hell of a year for him. Let’s get this year off to a better start for the guy. Stop into the comments on this post and wish him happy birthday, because if you don’t you may find him some night in your kitchen with a few cases of Peeps and a glue-gun, and I’m not sure you want that to happen.

*He didn’t really, but would you blame him?

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Since this post has been getting a lot of traffic, I’m adding a post-script. Carl Cordell died in 2011. Here’s my post about the shrine to Carl and the 2012 Artomatic being dedicated to Carl’s memory.

correction made at bottom of post

Is there a center for people with Peeps addiction? I think it might be intervention time for a few of our friends. I followed the sound of giggling into my living room and this is what I found:


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From left to right, according to Rania, we have:
Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, (front) R2D2, (back) C-3PO, (front) Obi Won, (back) Han Solo, Princess Leia, Storm Trooper, Yoda, Ewok, and Jaba the Peep.

The Washington Post’s Sunday Source section held a Peeps diorama contest.

They have the winners in today’s paper and you can see the top 22 finalists in their photo gallery. They had over 350 entries and somehow winnowed them down to 22 finalists. They’re all amazing but the winner, the winner just takes peeps to a whole new level:

Operations here at The Washington Post ground to a halt when the winning Peeps diorama, “Peeps Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” above, was unveiled a couple of weeks ago. Many bigwig journalists stopped by our section to marvel at Charles Johnston’s restaging of the classic musical number in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Executive Editor Len Downie was heard to utter, “That’s extraordinary.”

I’m looking at the winner live and in-person right now here in the nerve-center of artomatic and I have to tell you, it’s really all that. And more.

All of the finalists are quite “wow” but “Peeps are a Girl’s Best Friend” just blows your mind. The finalists will be out on public display when we open to the public April 13th, you’ll just have to come see them for yourself.

Wow. Really. Wow.

So says the recipe for Easter Turduken. It’s revolting, yet hilarious.

On a powertools-related sidenote: It’s 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. Our neighbors have been running their fucking powertools for hours. Now the house on the other side has started alternating between a jackhammer and a wood-chipper. (At least it drowns out all the barking dogs).  Husband just snapped and yelled, “Are they digging for Jesus? What the hell? It’s Easter!”

But I digress…

NPR had a piece on peep pie with the brilliant title “rolling with my peeps.”

We used to have peep-pie bakeoffs at work.  None of us were especially adept, which is a rather sad statement. A friend sent me Cadbury Egg Cake, which I think is much funnier than peep pie.  Probably not something you’d want to eat, but on the other hand I never especially wanted to eat the peep pie, either.  Plus, the Cadbury Egg Cake has a riff on eggs that makes me laugh every time:

I am learning that basically, you just need to forget everything you THINK know about eggs because man, you don’t know anything. You know nothing about eggs. Eggs is like “You don’t know me! Don’t even play like you know me!”

Of the three, Cadbury Egg Cake is the best science experiment, but it’s Easter Turduken that breaks new processed food ground, in my opinion.  But I don’t get out much. Plus, I’ve been listening to a chipper-shredder for 30 minutes straight. My judgment may be somewhat impaired.