The first academic conference I attended was the Lake Ontario Visionary Establishment (L.O.V.E.) of 2008. It was probably the most decisive conference in my career, even though (or because) I was a 3rd-year undergraduate student. My then mentor, Michael Chan-Reynolds, was one of the organizers and he drove us (his small lab) to the conference in Niagara Falls. It was a 2-day event, so we spent the night at the conference hotel. I shared a room with my friend Shawn Douglas, a much better arrangement than my first CSBBCS attendance (also in 2008, during which I had to share a small room with four overly-enthusiastic and very loud female students. But that’s a story for another time).
I remember Shawn bringing a book called “Things and Stuff” to the trip. And I am quite sure (99% sure) the book was written by Sam Rocha. During the evening at the hotel, after returning from the conference party, the so-called “L.O.V.E. affair”, (where a drunk, close-to-retirement professor gave me a compliment for my questions, which he combined with an insult toward the “superstars”, who had given the big talks that day; this is also a story for another time) and before falling asleep, Shawn read a few paragraphs from Things & Stuff. The prose was beautiful and mystifying, perhaps partly due to the help of alcohol. “This”, I naively announced, “is phenomenology!” I loved it. The book is still, after 11 years, on my to-read list.
So, what is the mystery? The mystery is that the book was published in 2011, which makes it impossible for Shawn to have had it at that time (2008). Was it a different book? It couldn’t have been. Maybe Sam or Shawn will solve this puzzle for me someday.
I am reminded of Things & Stuff now that I have picked up another book by Sam, called “Folk Phenomenology”. Here is a teasing quote, which I am sharing with the hope of writing a review of the book later.
… we constantly find ourselves being things that we do not know. In fact, to be a human person is, in a very real sense, to not know what or who one is.(Rocha, 2015, p. 5)
Update: Sam Rocha confirmed the publication date of Things & Stuff.
… which means Shawn’s book was something else. Could it have been this?
I doubt it, because I remember Shawn had developed the habit of saying “stuff and things” every time someone asked him, “What’s new?” or “What’s up?” and I remember that phrase being on the book cover in full. I think my urge to clarify the identity of this book has something to do with preserving the bridges to the past, to those days, to Trent and to Peterborough, to those friendships, those moments (irrevocably lost) that are symbolized, for instance, by the L.O.V.E. conference in 2008. The stakes seemed so low. Everything that was present seemed so permanent and, at the time, I didn’t feel the need to keep better record of things (and stuff). I’d better get in touch with Shawn. Maybe he remembers.