Staff List: Our Oldest Files

The Bureau Staff does a bit of hard drive archaeology to uncover embarrassing documents, emails, and images of days past.


When I was a sophomore in high school, I was a horrible person. It is true what they say about fifteen-year-old girls. They are evil. This is one of the firstBouncy castle for sale posts from the DeadJournal I started in October 2003:

Sunday: Church. Chris, this annoying kid from sunday school, got a girl friend. Everyone hates him, because he a big jerk. BUt really im happy for him because hes not that bad-he just thinks hes beign funny soemtimes when he says really offensive stuff. anyway, he kept talkign abotu her…and all i kept thinkign is…either shes retarded or looks like a dead rat. thats so mean. im so mean. ive gotta stop beign mean. The home…dinner…cleaned room…i watched the matrix reloaded while doing english and some geometry glossary…i watch a lot of movies on the weekend by the way…if you cants tell…my dad alwasy rents me horror movies for the weekend….its a thing we do i guess….i didnt get it anyway. oh well, i kidna did, so i still cant wait to see the third one. im done i guess….nothign i can think of….hmmm..oh eyah, my mom baked something today that smelled liek christmas cookies and then i played my amy grant christmas cd and it was so nice…because i love christmas….the end! lol.

Meh…thats abotu all for now.

I was also an idiot. But also, an amateur philosopher? My thoughts about Brave New World from the same week:

Brave New World messes with my mind. And all I can think abotu the whole time is how they actually have to create society for people…how this is true today. HOw we can never have clothes that don’t wear out because millions of peoepl will starve because they work at clothing factories/designer places, etc. Why are we here? To just make jobs for people. Thats all. If cancer was cured…we’d die of hunger friends.

And yet, I can never bring myself to delete this journal of shame. — Writer Alice Stanley

After receiving an invitation to join Gmail in 2004, one of the first things I did was to ask my friends to engage in a possibly fraudulent internet marketing campaign. I emailed Alan and Sean and after quickly asking about their summer vacations, I launched into the real reason for the email: I needed them to sign up for some potentially scam-y service so I could get a free iPod. I didn’t even need an iPod — I bought one for myself the year before — but man, did I want a free one.

I was so earnest, so sure that Alan and Sean would be thankful for the opportunity. All they needed to do was get five friends to sign up and they too could receive free iPods! I didn’t know about pyramid schemes, but I definitely understood free Apple gear. Of course, I might have had more success if I didn’t mention how much trouble I had convincing AOL to cancel my free trial.

As far as I know, none of my friends ever signed up. I don’t blame them, it was probably too good to be true. Except that in 2004 Engadget did some research and apparently was legitimate. Damn you Sean and Alan! With your help I could have had a free iPod mini. — Contributing Writer Tim Lehman


I’ve had this same file for nearly a decade now. So far it’s survived every move and computer replacement. Right now it’s buried on an external hard drive, and I haven’t added to it for quite some time. It’s my file full of old poems I wrote. Most of my old writing I look back with a kind of maternal pity. “Oh dear, nice try,” I would say to my younger self.

But this poetry that I used to write, even now I look back with some awe at the lines I put together. The audaciousness! I don’t think I’d be half as good now if I tried. Yes, they’re thick with teenage concerns, but I still occasionally look upon them with wonder. I have a range of forms I’ve written in, but the ones that have aged the best (let’s not talk about my Sonnets) are the Eastern-influenced, 5-6 line pieces. Here’s one:

“the love of rogue vowels”
Inconstant words
wetted by
a pair of
wild tongues;
sunk beneath
the love of rogue vowels.

— Writer Jordan Barber

As a kid, I was a mediocre soccer player. (Probably as an adult too but I haven’t the time, space or equipment to verify that.) Now that may surprise some of you who may think that the photo to the right oozes athleticism: The ninety-degree kick right out of Street Fighter. The pin wheeling arms. The stunned spectator in the background. But truly, I played soccer for nearly a decade and despite having my dad as the head coach every season, I never scored a goal. In fact, my closest attempt was an outright disaster. For whatever reason, I was on a fast break with not a single person between me and what should have been a very easy goal.

Now, as a goal-scoring virgin I wanted to be sure that I hit net and for me that meant getting as close to the goal without literally running the ball into it, although I would have been fine with the latter. The distance closed… 30 feet, 20 feet, 15 feet… and I grew nervous. What if I miss? What if I trip? As if on cue, I tripped just feet away from the goal — falling on my face — and the ball rolled innocuously out of bounds. Even more unfortunate, at the same moment, the goalie slid towards me to try and kick the ball out of the way. While he didn’t hit the ball, his cleats did manage to collide with my mouth. Bloody and embarrassed, I limped to the sidelines in tears. I couldn’t even enjoy the half-time orange slices. — Contributing Writer Jonathan San

As we learned from that Star Trek movie, death is an “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” Whatever. As an American, I don’t really care about other countries. No, I am drawn to the very discovered country, from which I have returned a long time ago: the past.

Hard drive spelunking reveals this oldest file: a copy of a 1999 email written to my sister about a final-stage alcoholic whose house was a pile of beer cans (Victoria Bitter — that’s Australian for carbonated urine) and empty Ensure tubs (his only sustenance). This toothless, naked old poet and philosopher was sunk deep into his vinyl couch when I went to tell him that he ought to wipe the piss off his couch, put on some clothes, and get to work. The last shred of his dignity was besting me at quoting Shakespeare and Romantic poets – not a difficult task, despite my poetry MFA. “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair,” he said as he kicked an empty at me. Then he went into a coughing jag that produced something yellow-green and vile. As that nasty Ensure goober melted into his white chest hair, I left. Turned my back on him. And I am closing the old file now. I still wonder if leaving him in that decrepit state in a decrepit house was the right, the wrong, or the only thing to do. Who knows? As the old man might croak: Conscience does make cowards of us all. — Writer Jonathan Gourlay

Buried in the depths of My Documents, I found a folder labeled “old,” full of short stories I had written in early high school, each cataloged into a folder with the month and year it was written. Here are some common trends throughout these documents:

  • Almost every story is written in the first person.
  • Each story features a male character — often the narrator — who is a cool loner of sorts because he smokes cigarettes.
  • The loner always has a generic, Anglo names like Chris, Dan, or Brandon.
  • Whenever sex comes up, it’s talked about nonchalantly, despite the fact that I hadn’t the faintest idea about sex when I wrote these stories.
  • When characters aren’t pensively staring off into space or having dreams that are thinly veiled metaphors, they are declaring how they are being dramatically aloof in conversation. (“‘It’s still dark,’ he sighed. ‘And it’s still snowing.’”)
  • Female characters are generally outgoing and witty, and always extremely curious about the introverted loner. For some reason they are all named after girls I have known.
  • Every story ends with Chris/Dan/Brandon making out with this girl. Then he smokes a cigarette.

I will say that aside from a few stories that shift verb tenses halfway through, they were surprisingly strong on a grammatical level. So I suppose this is a nice reminder that in high school, I was consistent in my knowledge of grammar rules and how to be single forever. — Editor Kevin Nguyen

Illustration by Hallie Bateman