Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of tThe Double-Aughts

Jethro Bodine called James Bond Double-Aught Seven, so for the past decade, that's what I went by. I mean, not James Bond or Jethro Bodine. I used the double-aughts. I never do anything on NYE. I've told people Hallowe'en is the only holiday that I dig. But when I worked with the Elvis band, it was nuts. We played Laurel & Hardy's on 63rd and St. Louis in 1979 and I honestly was kissed by a hundred drunken women of three generations. I think I might have been kissed by Roy, the owner, but I'm not sure. I do know that the Elvis band brought him a lot of business. I worked the spotlights and handled the mailing lists. There were others, but that was the best NYE memory ever. In the 90s, I had a few parties, Harry & Diana, Jeff Osier & Cathy, Von, Erik Seckar, and my favorite people, Sean & Jessica Doolittle, driving in from Omaha.

Over the past year, I've found obscure stuff I was in, and now have a copy of a mag that I simply reviewed episodes of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Yea, its been an odd road I've followed. I bought me a transistor radio for twelve bucks near North and Wolcott. I pretend it is an iPhone to confuse just about everyone. The black helicopters have proven me much enjoyment, and when they come back next week, I've decided to signal them with the flashlight I used at the printing plant. I somewhat solved the mystery of Pete, the handicapped man I've seen for a quarter century. My good friend Jannah made me a wonderful card, and my favorite memory is of getting a ton of swag from Marty Mundt, who was getting rid of about a babillion books. He had this three-fold of Telstar, and even though I wanted it just because it is so damn cool and the song Telstar is one of my favorites, I put the sheet into a Mylar holder and sent it to Jann. I always look back at that, it wasn't a pay it forward thing, more the idea that there was someone who would love this thing much more than I could think that I could. And so it left my hands. Made some new friends liker Greg Tramel down in Houston and Andrew in Santa Monica, TaviAnne Greiner and Louis Suarto with all their wonder photos of the night skies, and Jean Claude Smith and his wife, Sabine Hope, who have a son with cerebral palsy and that always stay in my head. I found myself unemployed for an entire year for the first time since 1978. I'm out of work 17 months, actually. I discovered the insane comic art of Fletcher Hanks via Paul Karasik, as well as THE WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman, likely the most incredible comic series I'll ever read. Ten trade pbs now and AMC has picked it up, filming in B&W as the book is, the zombies are the background, the real thing is the human aspects. Things I never would have thought of. A damn good read. Crappy summer, never as warm as it should be, but I kayaked twice with my friend Paul and got to glide under my favorite object in Chicago, the 16th Street Bridge. I'm taking my dog out in a minute, we'll look at the blue moon as I attempt to stop him from pissing on the front lawn, and think of the stars and the International Space Station, all the satellites, and I know the best thing I did this year was to send that three-fold Telstar away to Jannah, where it truly belonged.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Night of the Hungry Dog

This seems like a good night to write this. And I'm listening to Tom Jones, so don't judge me. There is finally a Google Earth image of this damnable town where I spent my summer of 1982. I'll call it Bonneville to avoid the true name appearing on Google searches. Suffice to say, of the many college kids in that town that summer in the Wabash Valley, the saying we all share is "At least we didn't drink the Kool-Aid."

It was a bunch of guys and gals from the U of I, promised meals and room and board (pictured above) in this town with a population of 54, miles and miles from the Effingham Greyhound stop on I-57. The guy who promised the meals left town with a girl half his age is the short version. Long version, it started out great. We started a newspaper running stories by residents in Wabash County, and I even had a few poems published. I supplemented my income by writing for the InFARMation section of the Casey Daily Reporter, being paid $50.00 an article, checks I could sadly not cash as the townspeople considered us hippies from Chicago (I was going through my Ned Racine BODY HEAT look at that time, struggling to keep my hair by using Dep hair gel). We even got to use VDTs to write up our stories, in nearby Robinson, when the newspaper offices were closed. And then our meal train left. And money dwindled. I tried to stick it out, as others left, disgusted. Some of us continued to write and illustrate, this was, after all, our first big jump into what amounted to the real world, something to put on the resume besides The Gap. And there are many stories involving this town as June became mid-July, and at one point, after calling my dad almost in tears to come get me, I spent a weekend eating one single box of Saltines and drinking rain water. This is me on the porch, with my stuff, sitting with a dog named Bobo. And, yes, I was wearing parachute pants, so please do not judge me.

The night in question was perhaps the week of July 4th, and a few days later packages were received, cereal and peanut butter and the like. Now look at the overhead shot of the town. The far left building was a general store a hundred years back, and much of the work we did was in a big area inside the place. Go to the right side and the intersection. This is where the Rich family lived, the guy was the unofficial sheriff of the town and neighboring areas like St. Marie and Oogba. Up at the top on the right side of that street, was the yellow house in the photos I have posted. Bob McCoppin and I were the only ones in town that weekend, everyone else had driven off to celebrate the 4th with their families, and this was also the weekend that the guy who drove to the nearest town to bring us food split with the college chick.

I am now going to describe what will remain quite possibly the nadir of my life. Not counting any times involving my mental state of the last few years, no this is different. Bob McCoppin and I were past being simply hungry. And we knew that the Rich family had a dog. We concocted a midnight plan. The town was always dark, no streetlights or cool lighting like you see in movies set in such rural areas so that you can see Resse Witherspoon's butt as she is skinny-dipping or Patrick Swayze as he tells some guy to cool it. No, it was pitch black and we went by visual markers. In this case, the Rich family's bug zapper. And we zeroed in on one thing. Cans of Mighty Dog on a small porch next to a teal bowl for water. We questioned the thought of stealing the dog food, because we knew that Steve Rich owned a gun. Of course, now I realize that, being southern Illinois, everyone likely owned handguns or shotguns.

In and out, we stole one lone can. Went back to the yellow house. And discovered that we did not have a can opener. And so for the next hour, we jabbed at the can lid with pens and a butter knife. Because, of course, we never needed steak knives. Finally, we had a two finger-sized hole in the can. I will not lie, I had saliva forming on my tongue, or wherever the hell it forms. Under the tongue? Your lips? Anyhow.

Bob and I then kept dipping our fingers into the can, it was like getting putty on our fingernails and that was it, and then we started using the pens to pull it out in strings. And we ate a can of cold dog food, licking it off our fingertips like it was an imagined Klondike bar. We went so far as to throw the can, it was evidence, after all, into a field a quarter-mile away.

We were no longer hungry. July, 1982. This was the night of the Mighty Dog.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Buddy the Mitch & Black Helicopters

The roll of film I got developed yesterday was likely the biggest lump of crap one could imagine, though the first ten came out fine, the remaining good one are of the helicopters, only later in the evening. Most of the shots were simply too dark, yet I took them outside. Maybe the shading reflected my brain at the time. What got cut away by my fucking stupid right hand spasming, I was going to say that my logic gateways slowly snapped together, though I had one weird experience on the 87th Street bus, it was like my left eye was filled with TheraTears and things were too close and too far at the same time. I presume I wasn't moving, that it was something knitting inside the pulp in my head. I went downtown to have lunch with Greg Louden, and I was pretty much the old me, or as good as I get, when I woke up this morning. After, I mailed a package at the post office, then wandered the section of the Loop I knew from when I worked at the corner of Monroe and LaSalle. Went into Reckless Records and bought a CD of Merle Haggard for a buck ninety-nine. Walked around like I was living like a fugitive, hopped on the el, lucked out and got the one bus that curves down 87th and drops me at my corner, by the Jordan Baptist Church. I know tomorrow will be a slide downward, I expect that, but right now its like I have oil in my veins and my concentration is secure. Signing off.

Don't Hit Four

Well, I had a nice post going. Then my right thumb hit the 4 on my calculator portion of the keyboard and everything went all to hell. Start again tomorrow night, just back from the readings, need to get up early for lunch with Greg. Its cold out. Helicopters have the week off.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pain Grin Again

I hope this works tonight, I tried it yesterday, but that's the way the mop flops, baby. (OK, the video will not post, so here are still shots from purgatory.) I'm reading PAIN GRIN on YouTube, just to do it. 100 seconds each. PAIN GRIN is a chapbook illustrated by Harry Fassl, rest his soul. The actually idea comes from a line from "Suicide Is Painless", the theme from Robert Altman's M*A*S*H. The sword of time will pierce our skin, it doesn't hurt when it begins, but as it works its way on in, the pain grows stronger, watch it grin. Gang, I still feel like shit. No getting around it, but at least I'm back to the dog-paddling with my nose above water. I bite that piece of skin between your thumb and forefinger. I revel in the sight of two fingers typing, though it makes my back feel like there is are shovels under my shoulder blades and the bastard who created me is pressing down on both shovels, like my bones and tendons are graveyard dirt.

My hair is growing out, but it curls in the back. This is because my head flops back so often that the skin in my neck folds. I've checked on that and I can feel where the hair would normally lay straight. When I was younger, my Frankenstein head would swivel to the right, and I never realized how hideous I looked until I saw videos of panels I was on at a convention in Nashville, 1991. Now it falls straight back, I feel like one of those monkeys on a plastic stand, remember those? You press the bottom of the stand and the various monkey parts move around, you can see the strings that connect the body move. Arms wide, head back cursing his creator. No, wait. That's me. I'd rather be a Frankenstein string puppet. Press the bottom and the arms move like the Monster Me is trying to wave away the flames of the fiends by torchlight. And the only way to do that is for the Monster Me to jump into that water that doesn't ice over in winter. Bubbly Creek, my salvation. Sleep with the rendered flesh a century old. Or I could just stomp the string puppet to pieces. More lines from M*A*S*H, these a bit butchered. A wise man once requested me, to answer questions that are deep, is this to be or not to be, and I replied oh why ask me? I suppose that's me grimacing the words as I stare at the ceiling uncontrollably, string monkey Monster Me popping in and out and up, entertainment for the coming decade. Somebody please stomp on the puppet.


Hey, guess what? I am able to afford my meds again, the price dropped a bit. No more $29.00 a week for 7 tablets. I did pretty good staying above water for the last ten days or so. Radio silence over here as I thought about the past and how Buddy handled things with that noose out in Victorville. For right now, I'm on the alternate Earth where I'm hardly hurting at all and my long thoughts are on the up and up. Also, on this alternate Earth, they never tore down Jimmy Wong's Cantonese food, as you can see in the above photo. On this Earth, its a goddamn parking lot.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter in Streator, Early 1960s

I have had this photo on my bulletin board for several years now, after finding it in a box of other shots. That's my dad and I know it's Streator, because there is Stan the Big Hairy Deal guy's house across the way. I miss the old square frame photos, but this is one that didn't have a date stamped on the side. From the cars, I'd say early 60s at the latest, because we had a '57 cobalt blue Bell-Air when I was a baby, but that was gone before 1960 was done with. The car on the other side of my dad perhaps belonged to my Auntie Irene and Uncle Bill, but Bill ran a body shop from behind their house on Hall Street, and it might easily have been a paying customer's jalopy. I've written of Streator before, how we had little money and so all the family converging in Streator made for a cheap weekend. All-nite poker, the kids sleeping on end tables and dresser drawers, me outlasting the bunch by watching Godzilla movies broadcast from some station in Bloomington. All the adults smoked, the house smelled like the body shop, and beneath it all was the smell of glue and paint for my oldest cousin's Big Daddy Roth models. I am assuming my dad has just come back from Safarcjeks over on Illinois Street with a carton of Pall Malls. He stopped smoking in 1969, by the way. Not really a mystery photo, just one that is unique because it doesn't match up with any one other photo from the bunch.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Curt Swan's Superman

My nieces were over this evening, so I will tell you the story of the night of the Mighty Dog tomorrow. For now, enjoy this page of Curt Swan profile sketches, although several near the bottom seem dubious at best.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Synchronisity in Space & Ashes

One of those weird little disconnects, where your brain takes a second to catch up. A couple of weeks back, I mentioned my friend who hung himself out in remote Victorville, California. Well, every day I check out Astronomy Photo of The Day, the last few have been shots of the Geminid meteor showers. Many of the photos posted you can find at TWAN (The World at Night), and if you checking out the night skies is your bag, check TWAN out, as you'll see posts from around the world. On December 14th, my friend's cremation viewing took place. The photo above, out of all the photos that could have popped up at APOD, was one taken by Wally Pacholka that same night, in Victorville, California. I am in no way making anything of this other than the crazy odd collision in the otherwise barrenness that is anything east of San Berdoo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I was going to title this post Zero Hour, Three AM, but I'm not certain how the actual words to "Rocket Man" go at the very beginning. All I know is that when William Shatner is smoking and doing his, um, rendition of that song back in 1979, he sure as hell looks like Jack Lord. Well, Bob asked me about my anger at scanning the shelves at Borders, and I told him its not the genre, more the gimmicks that get to me. The tie-ins, crap like that. I'm much happier in a used bookstore. But what did I do but buy a wacky book via Amazon, after someone sent me the link. Regardless of what the book was about, I had to own something with Elvis-bloat William Shatner on the cover. Dig this, though. There's something called a ShatnerCon, and the novel involves an invasion of all these variations of Bruce Campbell. And then there is a fight with all these alternate versions of Shatner. Capt. Kirk, Denny Crane, T. J. freaking Hooker, Priceline Shatner, the above-mentioned Rocket Man Shatner, and hopefully, Twilight Zone Shatner. Now, a lot of people remember "The Terror at 30,000 Feet," the monster on the wing of the plane episode. But my favorite, the name escapes me, has Shatner and that hot chick sitting in the diner and on the table is a little box with a devil on it who will give you a fortune (I think its a fortune, its been awhile, I just dig the atmosphere of the story itself.) I doubt there's any TZ characters in this book, which seems insane enough as it is. Regardless of the writing, I'll enjoy envisioning each character. And there IS a YouTube of "Rocket Man" out there, so be warned.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stomach Steinways

Dick Contino called his accordian a stomach Steinway. I need to write about Dick one day. Google him. He's in Chicago for local summerfests. Neat guy. Anyhow. This fellow was in front of the Borders across from the Chicago Theater last Monday. I stopped there on my way to the readings, just to see what is on the shelves to further depress myself. This fellow wasn't out front when I walked in, and as I walked out I thought maybe a falling brick had hit me in the head. From far away, I honestly thought I was looking at Cab Calloway. After realizing this was not the case, I talked with him a bit. He's up here from Alabama, for who knows what reason, it being below zero and all. I asked him if he could try "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" and he actually came up with a good, if somwhat (and expected ) jaunty version of it. I handed him a fiver and as I walked down the steps to the subway I could hear regular polka music floating over my head. Later, I walked over to the Red Lion, our old haunt, because someone told me that it was boarded up even more securely. I took a phjoto once I saw the smiley face on it, but with the photo developed, it seems I caught a ghost on film. Or maybe just some tall guy smoking an unfiltered Pall Mall exhaling as he leaned over my shoulder. What do I know? I was cold.

More Unmarked Helicopters

If anything, these photos show you how schizophrenic our weather is, because the photos were taken on two consecutive days two weeks back.The bottom two are from a vantage point at the bus kiosk as I waited for the Cicero bus northbound. Two hours later, after having driven me home and we jawed in the driveway, Andrew Kudelka saw one of the helicopters coming back towards its mothership stuck in a hanger at Midway. The sky actually looks this blue as it gets colder, which kind of pisses me off. But I guess its like having your cake and eating it, too. I'd rather having hot weather and sky the color of horseradish. The two that show the grim cloud cover are just 14 hours later, where the clouds came, who the hell knows. Its Chicago. But there's the helicopter flying over my backyard as I was typing here, and a few minutes later, I heard one again. Its over by the trees, near Leamington Avenue. If I had been outside picking up dog crap, there's a good chance these would have been cooler photos. This way, though, it looks like I'm hiding. Or senile.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nick and Vito's

Yes, yes, it say's Vito & Nick's right there in the window. But in my old neighborhood, 9 out of 10 people simply said Nick & Vito's when asked what kind of pizza they wanted. Mind you, this place is still around, I mean with the interior looking exactly as it did in the 60s, linoleum floor and all. Pulaski Road has not been kind to businesses the further south one goes. This has nothing to do with the gangs and such, for now even Tuzio the Tailor has closed up shop and scrammed back to Italy. Bulow's Drive-In was torn down for the first strip mall--tiny as it was--in our area. Appliance stores became a video rental place run by Chicago cops, then it became a series of cell phone stores before being boarded up, as maybe 30% of the old neighborhood is. Taverns became real estate agencies and then went back to being taverns, the only difference being that the first time the place was a tavern, shots were called hookers, and old white guys snuck away from their wives at 7 in the morning. 79th & Pulaski was a hub, of sorts, because of William J. Bogan High School (dubbed the Great White Hope while I attended classes because it was the last 100% white school in the city, the year my sister started, there was one black girl and, inexplicably, two Chinese boys). Across the street is a White Castle, and that place will be there after the the cockroaches run the planet. We nicknamed Pulaski "Pizza Row" in the 70s because between 81st and just past my block, maybe 85th Place, there was Pizza Hut, Pizza Pete, Pudgy's (now a huge chain called Waldo Cooney's), an Conte's, which stood toe-to-toe with Nick & Vito's even though there was only two benches in a driveway to hang out. Their last name is Barraco, and there are plenty of Barraco's scattered throughout the area, one is just down 87th past where I live now. Its only a stand up place, you can stand by the window and eat pizza slices. Nick & Vito's was the place, though. We had alleys in the old neighborhood, so I'd enjoy walking through my auntie's back yard, down her alley and then the intersecting one that led to the parking lot. For any of those reading who have ever been there, you'll agree with me when I say that these pizzas seem so thin compared to all the Chicago-style places, but the look is deceiving. And it is probably the greasiest pizza in existence. Which is a good thing. After a few slices, your fingers had a sheen like you'd been juggling a glazed ham. The Barraco's franchises are a different type of pizza, the triangular slice deal. The original place cut their pies up like chessboards. I liked to fold one piece on top of the other. I can imagine a planet somewhere out there that has a grocery store where the equivalent of Saltine crackers is a box of Nick & Vito's pizza squares. And, yea, I'm one of the 9 out of 10 who call it by the wrong name. And now I'm hungry.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can't Find the 8th Street Man

Yesterday I posted a shot of 11th Street, the only actual street sign I'm aware of. Here's a shot of the 7th Street Motel (AKA the Carter Motel), which was quite rundown in the 80s. A nice restaurant, the South Loop Club, on the ground floor helped it along. The el tracks from the last photo also run past the building. I still have a very vivid image from maybe a dozen years back, the train was stopped momentarily so the car I was in faced the back of the motel and a young and totally black woman in capris stood on the fire escape smoking a cigarette. Of course, I had no camera. But every time I pass that building I think of her, the way she held the cigarette, her face in the direct sunlight.

Anyhow. There is no 8th Street, its called Balbo, and 9th is Polk, 10th Harrison, and 12th if Roosevelt. So why there is an 11th is a mystery. Unless it has to do with the Four Sticks. There is a huge building of condos at 2 East 8th, which is bullshit because the street sign right effing there says Balbo, but the asshats living there wanted a better sounding address. Asshats, I say. I have a character called the American Dream, you see. And he jumbles up things because of his meds and has an invisible sidekick named Blind Justice. Long ago, AD heard Simon & Garfunkel sing "The Sounds of Silence," and misheard "the shadows of an Eighth Street lamp," as "beneath the shadow of the 8th Street Man." As if his nemesis held sway over a portion of downtown, back in the day. So that's the story. Next time, I'm back south and talking pizza.

11th Street

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Second of Oldest Haunts

Humboldt Park, of course, being first. I lived off of 85th and Springfield from 1965 until 1999. Those damnable railroad tracks are situated at a crazy intersection designed by lunatics, one of those three streets that don't quite meet but so the fuck what, we're Teamsters. 87th, Pulaski, and Columbus Avenue (or Southwest Highway, depending on how old you are). The light could conceivably be red, then red again, then a train could go by, then two more red lights. I timed it once. The No. 52 bus was in sight for 12 minutes, just sitting there. I also took some photos of the Lang penguin. All of our ice in Chicago, evidently, is provided by Lang, who sounds like a private eye, you ask me. I like the one with all the signs cluttered about, the top one rusted away. And then there's 85th Street itself, plus 84th, because the colors seemed better. 85th is the one with the hedge. We watched Ashley every day until she was nine, and in the spring and summer she and my border collie Barbie (she named it) would walk with me to the hedges that at the time separated the Crawford and Burns houses, respectively. I'd watch them walk back to our house five doors back, then catch my bus to my evil job in the Loop. The neighborhood changed drastically by 1998, there was a crack house and a guy brandishing a gun to thugs who beat on his Jeep with a baseball bat. It was time to go. Even though I knew only one person on 84th Street, I happened to take the photo as I walked towards Nick & Vito's. But that's for the next post. The one that will make you all everybody hungry.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

PSAs, Minstrils, and Idiots

These two pages were taken by from from a blog named Comics Make No Sense, run by Adam Barnett. His userpic is a drawing of Ulysses Solomon Archer, AKA US 1. See, Marvel did a comic about trucks, and US 1 had a metal plate in his head and could pick up Citizens Band transmissions by touching different fillings in his teeth. One of the faults of the book was that it hit the stands about seven years after CBs and Smokey & The Bandit 3 had come and gone. Anyhow, back to the PSA, from an early 1950s issue of World's Finest, which teamed Superman and Batman together in each issue. There we have it, let the black kid join whitey in a game of baseball. Then celebrate by going to a party in rubber masks that insult just about everybody but dwarfs. Ah, comics from the olden times.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Resting On The Certainties

Years ago, too many to count, Harry Fassl illustrated a story of mine in a magazine out of California. This was how we met and our friendship started, after one of the editors told Harry to get in touch with me, because we lived so close together. Back in the days before the ubernet. I'm keeping this somewhat vague for a reason. The other editor hung himself a few days back, outside of Victorville, California, the ass-end of San Berdoo County. Now the guy was nice enough, the last time I ran into him was at the World Horror Convention in Denver, the spring of 2000. We kept coming up with new tag lines for the film THE SIXTH SENSE. I see leprechauns. I see Van Halen, and, yea, we both knew that was off. Things got bad for him after that, a divorce, pill addiction after a back injury. Dead broke and, to some, not likable anymore. And so he headed further west into the black. Not like Harry, not in the least. Harry was cracking jokes at Goldy's, the best hamburger joint ever, the last time I saw him and Diana. In times past. Suicide is too simple, I now believe. I'ds much rather someone need to piece together what brought about my end, like sad Fletcher Hanks found frozen to that park bench in 1977. I know I have a Creator, but I sometimes wonder if I'll just show up again as a frog in the Amazon jungle, or a happy dolphin in the Pacific. I found a wonderful quote by Michael Faraday, the guy who is considered one of the great experimentalists to date. Here goes: "Speculations? I have none. I am resting on the certainties." We all die. Just in different ways. But we all die.