Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Willie Nelson with Ray Charles - Seven Spanish Angels

Stevenson Hall, UIC

First, let me say  that if you see some odd YouTubes appearing here, at least for now it seems that I can only put them on Facebook through Blogger. Watch them, ignore them, it doesn't matter. These photos go back to that day at the U of I (at Chicago), when I saw all those disfigured photos. This is the skyline I was talking about, how I was horribly under-dressed for the lake wind that causes these low clouds.

Stevenson Hall was where I took my writing workshops. One fiction and, for some reason, two poetry. Room 203, taught by James Sloan, and where I wrote "Rapid Transit." That very first story. Wrote the first paragraph, then the first page. The finished story was my final grade in my final class of my final year. June, 1982. I remember faces from the class, a guy with a bandana, a woman who resembled the actress Rachel Ticotin, and a man who always wore a yellow hat because he was allergic to sunshine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Storytellers Unpluigged, June '10

Aint It Always a Dame?

I’m listening to some Art Pepper right now, picked up a used CD at Reckless Records. Also snagged a nice Sonny Rollins, with Max Roach on the tubs. Sunday night in summer jazz is the best kind. And the sax always reminds me of skirts and powdered noses. No, I don’t talk this way, but depending on my mood, its the voice in my endless narrative head.
Jazz can make me feel old and young at the same time, if that makes any sense. I can put it better like this, the music can send me back to the early 90s, when I hung out on Augusta Boulevard when it was still a Polish neighborhood and not a haven for hipsters, me smoking pot with a girl I knew, Stan freaking Getz on vinyl and I’d swear the exhaled smoke curled in the air as if trying to catch up with the musical notes. Almost twenty years later, I still know her, only she’s married now (so there goes my one pot connection), and there just aren’t any old neighborhoods anymore. Just old men like me, my brain now playing the flip side of the aging process. Still single, the summer heat allowing me that feeling of immortality, heightened by the fact that most everyone else in the homes around me are asleep. Sitting here in my reading glasses, the ones that make me look like Mr. Six, the guy on the Six Flags commercials, I mull over still being single and with the coming of summer I might again hope to meet someone who will either have an attraction for someone who resembles their grandfather, or maybe resembles James Carville. The best part of this whole ‘being single’ gig I’ve got going twice again as long as the Broadway run of Cats is that every few years I’ll actually find someone I actually want to know better, mostly because I’m dense and miss the times anyone is trying to flirt with me pretty much every single time. And the neat thing about that is, I write more because, well, because it’s the only way to keep from thinking about said female. So there’s that.
First, I shall make you cringe with a story about what might have been simple flirtatious moment. I’m waiting for a few writer friends to arrive at Clarke’s, a diner across from the still-shuttered Red Lion, and am perusing a book by Jim Silke called Bettie Page Rules. I bought it because there were chapters on many women going back to Clara Bow, and I was a bit annoyed that he had skipped Chicago’s own Sally Rand. I’m drinking water, served by a guy with a beard. For the past few months, its always been guys serving on Monday nights. I look up and see a redhead walking by, eye contact is hard to avoid, and that’s that. Within seconds, I swear it was that quick, I hear a voice asking me if I want more water, I look up, and it’s the very same redhead. And the page I was on had Ms Page in all her unfettered glory right there, no way of getting around this one, my brain thinking first on why the guy had left and then on just how the hell and the girl sneaked up on me, it wasn’t like I was ogling the pages. (I wasn’t.)
She peeks over the book I’m trying to hide, even though the cover is much more bright and suggestive, and pretty much squeals Bettie’s name. What else can I do but what all writers do at certain embarrassing moments, they tell a little white lie. I told her I was in advertising and that I photographed models and then someone else would make it look like, instead of a table, the girl had her arms folded over a pack of cigarettes. I gave other examples so bizarre I can’t even recall them because sometimes writers just don’t know how to shut up. And, quite frankly, if I did have my pen in hand, instead of pretending I needed to write, I would have likely shoved the my Uniball into my ear. My friends arrived, I ate breakfast as always, and we readied ourselves to leave. We get to the door and the redhead appears, playing with her hands as she asks me about if I’m looking for new models and how much I would pay. Of course, at this point I realize that I had to get out of there before I would have to forcefully leap down to the next level of Hell. My friends had abandoned me, not knowing the first part of the story. They just knew that some girl was asking to pose for me in the nude, and in retrospect, I likely could have asked her out once I had told her that, well, quite obviously, that is, you see…but in the end, I simply said that, no, maybe another time, times are tight, the government has me working as an advisor on that oil spill in the gulf, I’m really a vampire detective hunting werewolves from Pluto and hey, there goes one now. So there are those who believe that she was using my lie to hit on me, and even if that were the case, it would still have been wrong. And if I had started that first conversation with stating that I was a writer, she would have flitted away like a flaming-haired will o’ the wisp. Who was taller than me.
My buddy Greg is an artist for a Big Pharma ad agency, and when we have lunch together, I’ve learned to arrive just at noon, when this gal named Caroline takes over for someone at lunch. First few times I’d say hi, she was pleasantly surprised when I recalled her name, and I’d sit and read or scribble more notes in that inane novel I’ve been working on. I’d sneak looks at her when I knew she was busy transferring calls, and Greg got to waiting a good five minutes before showing up. She’s in her thirties, and I could say all sorts of things that will end up in some sort of fiction so we can skip that. And last week, with summer and jazz having a hell of a lot to do with it, I did ask her out after work, grab a bite before we went our separate ways. And, yes, she knows I’m a writer. She also said she was engaged, but I didn’t look down for the ring I already knew wasn’t there, but then told me the intersection where she lived and said an after five thing would work, so I was likely going through a pre-screening process. So what do I do? I write a story, a wonderfully romantic story that Might give her, I might not. But. Simply by adding another paragraph to it, I have a tragedy that I can send to some magazine somewhere, because of course I’m a whore. That is how it was, I finished writing the story while on the Red Line, re-read it, and thought, hey now. Played with a new paragraph, and then wrote one down. Do I suck, or what? Caroline will have three pages of coolness while I’ll have four pages that I can hopefully sell to someplace truly obscure like Butt Monkey Quarterly, if only that she never, ever sees it. Until I discover that her cousin from Lackawanna publishes the damn thing and she’s on the mailing list.

Revell's Gemini: Gasp, It's Death!

Well there you go. I never knew anyone who ended up with one of these--just as every comic I own from the 60s is not missing a coupon for 1 free ride on the Caterpillar at Palisades Park NJ--but there is one on display in a space museum out near the old Grisson AFB in Indiana. Nice looking thing. Better than getting a BB Gun or a Daisy rifle or a Terror doll.  But face it, if I had one of those as a kid, there'd  be a knock on the door from Death, informing my folks that they'd find my nowhere-near-looking like Sean Connery body out in the gravel field behind the bowling alley.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Terror Dolls & More

The dolls are scary (as most dolls are), I'm not even going to guess at who came up with that keyring idea, I was shot with A BB once by a neighbor who didn't mean for the gun to go off, and all I've seen for the past 20 years are Ms. Pac-Mans, fer cry-eye. (I did play a Pac-Man once where the yellow gobbler in question had Popeye's head, for a reason I never learned. Likely a Rumsfeld mind-control device. Well, back then, it would have been Haig.) So there you have it, another round of long overdue comic book ads.

Dead Man's Switch

Actually, these are just photos with no story, other than the one that might have developed had the Terrorism Squad picked me out of that first train car. Instead, it was an odd day of coincidences in many ways. I had lunch with Greg and then made small talk and tentative lunch plans with this wonderful gal Caroline--expect Sallee Airlines to burst into flames on the runway--before a 3 PM eye appt. at Visionworks. Killing time, I went and bought a wallet at TJ Maxx and then ambled over to Graham Cracker Comics, where I not only ran into Earl Geier, but also Walt Grogan. I've known the latter going back to 1980, when there were first speciality shops in my old neighborhood.  Earl is an artist and we have joked that every time he illustrates something for a mag and some months later I sell a story, well, that place will file bankruptcy soon after. I can count four occassions now. Earl had done artwork for a comic called Trailer Park of Terror, and I wish I had been able to submit a script, the fates be damned.

The optometrist was from Scandinavia (I asked, she replied yes) and for some reason, instead of using a machine 100% of the time, she had me look at her face and then tell her how many fingers she was holding up as she moved her hand around. I suppose I could joke about what her bra was holding up, but naw, I'm not complaining. Free eye exam, and $112.00 for one set of bifocal and one regular. (Truth be told, I was having a difficult time in the chair, concentrating on focusing my right eye was making my entire right side weak. I had been walking around since 10 AM in our 90 degree heat, so I was going to be weakening, regardless).

On the way home, I took the 379 bus, because I had to run an errand on 79th Street ( by the, I was past delirium), and it has been well over five years since I took that bus. I ran into a friend of a friend of the Elvis band I worked with. And so it was I learned the final fate of the guy who had the shaky legs and had sumpin on his lip. He died in May of 2006, liver failure at the age of 45.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

7 V 92

At this point, the Pago Pago building is just a pile of white and gray grit. I was tricked into believing they were only gutting the back end interior. I loved this place because it was the thinnest wedge of a building. What can the city get from this, a parking lot that might hold 60 cars if it was lucky? I'm raising a glass to Rich Chwedyk, at the far north end of Chicago. To another remnant ghost.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chicago: Life on The Killing Streets

I feel like posting the theme for Homicide, I do. What a mess. A one year old girl was grazed in the head by a bullet while there was a backyard BBQ going on. Weather in the 80s and 90s isn't an excuse for the fuck up meltdowns to even spend another day breathing. Yet another week of the new Reverend-In-A-Box (I can become one for about $49.00) talking about no more violence. How about where are the fathers for all these kids, every time you see news of a shooting victim, it's always an aunt whom is interviewed. People ask Daley, hey, how's that gun ban working out? It's the same as hearing the ethnic types bitching about the cops.

In a perfect world, anyone caught carrying, as the term goes, should have both there arms chopped off. The closest shootings to my old neighborhood was one to the east, and one around 63rd Street, the street with the cigar store Indian, and that would have been in my dad's District, the 8th. Used to be Chicago Lawn, now it's, well, it's not Englewood District, where about 30% of the shootings occur, and that's ALL the time, not just this last weekend, our first weekend of summer. I suppose there's a bullet with my name on it out her somewhere.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

sto ach gru ling?

Here are photos of a few signs I took in the last week or so. First, I want to again profess my adoration for yet another girl in an ad, the lady with the ICE debit cards seemed to pop up everywhere in the summer of 2007, but ONLY at currency exchanges. Full size cardboard cutouts, then the smaller ads. And now, since the spring, ads on the buses. I kind of like that, in each campaign, its the same smiling girl holding out the debit card. Hopefully, she's kept getting a steady income in royalties.

Central Camera is beneath the el tracks on Madison and Jackson, and is HUGE. I keep meaning to take a photo at dusk, when the neon is going. One day. I'm glad there are still businesses that keep the neon going even after the place has closed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Murder Neighborhood

I took a walk down 95th to get a tooth yanked out a few days back. Passed by Mike's Barber Shop. I worked in that same building in the late 1970s. I'll not use real names at this point, because the other day I received a somewhat angry comment from H*oly Gh*st regarding my post on the Ins*n* *nkn*ns a month or two back. The place had been a sandwich shop owned by a guy named Sam A. He left the joint on a Monday in July, 1979, and went to Mirabelli's Furniture Store on 103rd & Cicero. Rush hour. Got himself shotgunned, the sandwich place was a front for a chop shop. Three shooters. No witnesses. Perfectly understandable. Still unsolved.

I would close up the place after the counter girls left. I quit in August, because I didn't much like seeing black sedans drive by the place at 11 PM. The original building was torched in late August, on a Sunday, the one day they were closed. On this one stretch of 95th, that little square of real estate is the only new building, and that itself is thirty years old. I could have taken photos of a car dealership and two attorney signs, but they'd have no meaning.

Petey's Bungalow seems like a cool place; there are so many brick buildings here. Cormac Condominiums look great, the odd 1960s style lettering. This might have been the place I first saw the word condominium. A "U" shaped building, the courtyard could be a postcard of any recent time era. It really reminds me of a framing scene for an episode of The Fugitive.

But yeah, for a few months in 1979 I worked for the Chicago Outfit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anatomy of A Murder

Some shots from Shelbyville, pretty much the last disposable camera I'll have used. My cousin Danny drove Ashley and me around town. (I'd seen much of it before, many times over.) The first shot has the two of them in Danny's 1964 Dodge Dart, and I think it looks like the moments preceding a bad event, like a murder during a rendezvous. Then there's the train, and the tracks themselves. See that blue water tower in the shot of the tracks? You can see it from the opposite direction from my Auntie Dorothy's backyard. I contemplated that tower after her second husband, Melvin Melone, died in 1991. Back then, there was nothing around it. Now, it is hard not to be distracted by the Wal-Mart and the KFC down near the highway. When it was a solitary place, almost two decades ago, I wrote "I Said Nothing Until the Horse Flew Away." The last photo, since I have a bridge theme going, runs behind the old jail house. Supposedly, back in the day, criminals of a certain persuasion were hung from the tracks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Al Williamson, 1932-2010

Williamson was one of the first illustrators hired by EC Comics in the early 1950s, but most people know him from his artwork on Flash Gordon. Myself, I loved the covers he did for EC's Shock Stories ands Weird Science. And, this photo I posted on Facebook, the b&w shot of a creator sitting at his desk never gets old. Author photos with people snarling like zombies or looking like pretentious drunks are pretty common and totally ridiculous.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chinatown, 3

This is the last of the photos. Blogger, i. e., my never-ending battle with Rumsfeld was messing with me over the last few nights. The lovely Chinatown Hotel, replete with garbage in the hallways. As I'm won't to do, I scavenge hotel rooms. I opened up the mini-bar to find it empty, but for a broken smoke detector. Nothing beat the bathroom medicine cabinet, one razor, three toothbrushes, and a bottle of Elmer's Glue.If the cops took DNA samples, I'd bet there'd be a dozen unsolved murders off the books.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chinatown, 2

Bob asked, and yes, this is in Chicago, right at the south end of greater downtown. Old Chinatown is maybe ten square blocks, and as tons of buildings went up in the 90s after the Orange Line began operation, we got a China Place and  Tan Court and Ping Tom Park, where I saw old guys fishing when I kayaked last summer. As opposed to muich of the crap that gets built here, at least the new Chinatown is OK, several grey apartment buildings have Chinese characters on them. But tonight I'm putting up photos of the area around 21st Place.