When my friend Jennifer and I got to college, we were comrades experiencing a new life away from home together, and in those first days we spent much of our time getting lost on campus, misunderstanding our meal plan, and coming up with secret funny names for the people in our classes. On our many excursions, despite frequent sheepish glances at our map, we could not help but notice something special about our university: the vibrant squirrel community.
I think most people are used to the phenomenon of parks and colleges generating a friendlier, heck, even gregarious, style of squirrel. Our rodent friends get used to the winning ratio of spilled snacks to actual physical danger, and they come a little closer. But these squirrels were different. These squirrels were up to something. If you kept your eyes peeled, you would see squirrels engaged in what appeared to be...jobs.
It was never clear if this was productive or subversive behavior, but these squirrels were putting their paws to the task. We laughed at a squirrel gardener apparently making adjustments to the water valves on the State House grounds. But it was the squirrel mechanic who stole our hearts, busily reaching through the front grate of a car, intent on modifying the radiator. A fallen handrail in the student union was instantly understood to be the perfect height for a squirrel handrail, and I filled my Logic 101 notebook with images like squirrels in the cafeteria ordering Nut Lovers pizzas and slid them towards Jennifer, hoping to get a laugh.
Years later I needed to come up with a name for a record label to go along with my new band Lunch Money. I wanted it to be something fun, something different, something relatable for kids and yet likably cryptic too. When I thought of Squirrel Mechanic Records, I wrote to Jennifer and asked her permission, considering those shared memories our shared intellectual property (and suddenly memories seem like the nicest type of intellectual property in the world). She was all for it, and so it was that our private joke took on a new life and even got splendidly re-envisioned by the wonderful illustrator Brandon Reese.
So that is the story of Squirrel Mechanic Records. The love is in the details and I am all about the details. I went to college, got an English degree, and what did I take with me? The running jokes about squirrels that I shared with my friend, who luckily ended up in my pond (or I in hers) and made it so much richer.