One in Two Thousand: Justin Sardo

When Justin Sardo ’18 showed me his wall of pants and started recounting his strange dreams to me on a daily basis, I knew we were going to be friends. I sat down with him to talk about veganism, art and the importance of having fun.

So, when did you start recording your dreams?

I started two summers ago. I’m impressed with how literary they seem when I write them down. I can’t remember the last time I wrote fiction, but this is my version of writing fiction. It’s fiction you don’t have to write. Effortless fiction. When it started off I remembered one dream per week. I would just keep practicing, being more diligent and trying to remember it while I had my morning poop. And since then, I’ve become very skilled. I’m only at 26. There are some that I just acknowledge but don’t write down. You have to at least acknowledge them every time they happen or you’ll fall out of practice. You have to treasure the dreams.

Can you tell me about a recent one?

All right. I go to the beach along the Pacific Coast Highway. The waves are so intense that they carry people up over the sand on to the asphalt of the parking lot. A man named Felix Kampa is there. He is Kenyan. He is famous. “Why?” I ask. “You’ll see,” my friend says. He dives into the water. Minutes later we see him through the waves. He is talking underneath the water with a shark and a walrus. Somehow, he is the key to diplomatic relations. He learned this skill by sitting in French cafes, unable to speak the language but simply observing the fundamental nature of conversation. [Laughs.] I love that dream.

Have you ever been able to lucidly dream?

Yeah. I can have some sense of influence over them. But I kind of like to not because they end up being more crazy. I think I used to have more lucid dreams, but now I just kinda embrace whatever my mind throws at me.

So, you were a vegan.

Yes.

And now you’re only sort of a vegan.

Yes. [Laughs.] I was vegan for almost five years. I started the summer before my junior year of high school, which was the summer that I started running long distance, and I felt that the two went together. I don’t think they actually go together. [Laughs.] The number of calories you need to eat as a long distance runner is so high that eating a vegan diet, where everything is lower calorie, is very difficult. During my first five races, I passed out and was vomiting. But I got my diet under control, and it worked really well for me. In high school, when I had the same schedule every day, and I was very disciplined, everything I did was to make sure my body was in prime condition to run and to be a good student.

Then you got to college.

Then I got to college, and I realized I’m not that person anymore, and I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I wanted to be more relaxed, more spontaneous, less disciplined. More like a kid. I think I was more like an adult in high school. So, I still sustained that for two and a half years. This year I’ve been getting sick a lot and also just tired of the rigidity of the diet, having to look at the menu for every restaurant I go to, limiting my friends when we go out. Now I’m eating fish, maybe more in the future. That does open up some possibilities. I feel good. I like salmon.

You also run.

Yes. Well, I used to. Now I’m slow. I’m not the emblem of fitness that I used to be. I wish I could run. I still consider myself a runner. I’m a runner who doesn’t run very much because he is very prone to injuries. So, basically, I’ll do whatever exercise feels good and that I have time for. Although with my current schedule, it’s just very hard to work in. I think exercise if you’re not on a team is very difficult at school. If you don’t have the same schedule every day, it just becomes almost impossible for me. I’m just trying to work it in when I have the hours.

You’re really busy this year, aren’t you?

A lot has been going on this year. A lot has changed. I didn’t have a clear direction for two years. I knew that I wasn’t going to be an academic. I enjoyed my classes, but I would never say I had a passion for them. So, I was always trying to find things outside of classes that really interested me. I’m a graphic designer – I do a lot of work on campus, like ACE’s logo and Spring Fling stuff. I’m doing the Chamber Orchestra of Williams logo, posters and invitations, I just designed WCFM’s new t-shirt and I’m designing a t-shirt for the dance department right now. And I DJ. I took that up first with WCFM, then as an independent DJ and founder of the Electric Collective. And this year I finally got into an art class. I took sculpture last semester and absolutely loved it. I’m in two this semester — wearable sculptures and low-tech printmaking. And that’s my life now.

Have you ever done any work inspired by those hilarious dreams?

I just had a dream-based project in printmaking. The dream was about something called the pizza bus, of which I was the conductor. I really like working with texts and distortion of texts, so that was what that was focused on. I feel like sometimes professors have a sense of what they like to see in the pieces, but ultimately it’s all about fun for me. In fact, that’s the theme for my next printmaking piece. It’s really the theme for most of my pieces. But I have a clear sense of what’s going to make the whole piece and the project the most fun for me. I get the sense that art has this identity as being an outlet for tortured souls, people who struggle and need that outlet and crave it. And I’m sure that’s very true for a lot of influential artists, but for me, art is just fun. There will naturally be some greater significance to some of my pieces, but often it’s just … exploring form and having a good time doing it.

What can you tell me about your famous wall of pants?

The wall is really the only decoration I have in my room. It started freshman year. I guess it’s just daily life and having muscular legs that wear down my pants at such a rapid rate. But I just started developing these holes in a pair of pants I hadn’t had for too long. And during a dance party, in which two of my friends and I had a dance-off with some other partygoers, I started dancing to “Uptown Funk,” dropped it and ripped my pants straight through the crack. Felt the air rush up my bum. And had the rest of the night with ripped pants. And then a couple weeks later, I had another pair which I saw developing similar holes. I was in a friend’s room in my entry, and “Uptown Funk” came on. And they were just talking about the holes in my pants, and then I said, “This is the song I ripped my pants to, incidentally.” They asked me to show them how I ripped them. So, I did, and I ripped that second pair of pants. And then I had a third pair which started developing similar holes. At some point I said, “Uh, I think it’s time.” We had a party in Gladden, and I said, “Put on ‘Uptown Funk,’ let’s get this going,” and I ripped those. I have one other which is not completely ripped through, but it’s pretty much gone. And then a last one that is pretty ready to go. So, “Uptown Funk,” next time we’re at a party … they’re ready to be the fifth on the wall. It’s truly a staggering number of pants for one wall. I don’t know. I don’t think I’m going to cease my habits anytime soon – just start buying cheaper pants.