Lunch Lady

Lunch Lady

All through grade school, lunch time was ruled by the lunch ladies. They were usually the mothers of our fellow students, but once in a while, depending on the school, they hired a professional “Lunch Lady.” Her job was to break up fights, make sure kids cleaned up after themselves and to head off any smoking or finger-banging sessions in the bathrooms.

They were pretty much a miserable lot who couldn’t wait to rat you out to the nuns, (who,in turn, ratted you out to your parents) and all of them slapping the shit out of you each step of the way.

The mothers of fellow students made the best lunch ladies. They were a little nicer, though not always.

Mrs. Hildenburger fucking hated me and used to grab me with her big kraut hands and yell in my face about what a rotten kid I was. She had terrible breath, like she’d been gargling turds or something. She always told me she was going to call my mother and tell her what a snotty kid I was. She scared the fuck out of me. She’d jack me, even when I hadn’t done anything wrong.

She would usually busy herself with her crossword puzzles, one eye peeled for the opening salvo of the more-than-occasional food-fight. I liked throwing pudding. The jello chocolate pudding was the best because that stuff splattered so beautifully. Regular Jell-o was okay, too. . .and oranges and soft tomatoes. I liked stuff that. . .exploded and got 4 or 5 people at once. We called it “Fragmentation Food.”

In Catholic school, twice a month, there were “Hot Dog Days.” For 40 cents you got a hot dog, chips and a soda. It was wildly popular. It worked so well, they decided to try a “Sloppy Joe Day” so they could chisel us for 60 cents.

Bad move. Sloppy Joe Day turned into the most ugly food fight in the history of Christ the King School.

Man, did that stuff fly. At the end of lunch, it looked like Jabba the Hut wiped his ass with the place.

The Lunch Ladies would go mental during food fights because every kid in the room would fling shit with wild abandon. Mostly, they would hide behind desks and yell shit. They’d threaten to call all of our parents, but we knew that was bullshit. They’d have to call 70 parents. Mostly they had to wait until we ran out of shit to throw.

There was one lunch lady who was a younger woman; a lithe, pert, Suzy Cream cheese-looking gal with a perfect rack and flaming red hair.

>Miss Hirst.

Red-heads are intoxicating.

“It’s weird though,” one kid mused, “they’re either Penthouse Pets. . .or out-house pets.”

Miss Hirst was the former. There seemed to be no medium-beauty grade for redheads. Miss Hirst was a straight-up, piece-of-ass.

With pointy breasts that were hypnotic.

One day, she was around a corner and she heard us talking about her breasts, musing onseveral scenarios of filth, which all involved the participation of her breasts.

Miss Hirst went out of her fucking mind and reported us to Mr. Mandeville, a shaved-ape from Indiana, who taught 6th grade and who ALSO could not stop staring at Miss Hirst’s rack.

While Mr. Mandeville was giving us a “good talking to,” this kid, Steve Lorenzi, queried out loud, “Do you think she has red SNATCH hair, too?”

Mr. Mandeville stopped mid-sentence. We could tell he was thinking about it as well.

After about five seconds, he started yelling at us again–but he couldn’t keep a straight face and finally we were all laughing and he sent us back to class with the admonishment, “You assholes will all wind up in reform school.” But his heart wasn’t really in it; he was still laughing.

After school we saw Mr. Mandeville comforting Miss Hirst, assuring her that he’d knocked us around pretty good and that he was deeply offended she’d had to be subjected to such vile curiosities.

From then on, Mr. Mandeville would stare pensively at Miss Hirst every time she happened by. And soon we would spot Miss Hirst and Mr. Mandeville together at the movies and at the local pancake house after church.

Five months later. . .they were married

I guess he just HAD to know.

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 1:30 am  Comments (1)  
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The Misfits

The Misfits

Around second-grade, boys are able to join Cub Scouts, or at least they were 40 years ago.  I remember the first time I saw a bunch of my fellow second-graders wearing Cub Scout uniforms, I thought they looked like a bunch of pussies.  Dark blue with the yellow kerchief and the retard hat with the short-bill.  Our teachers had special duties for the boys wearing the blue uniforms. . the ass-boys.

Not for me.  The same went for patrol boy belts.  To me these fuckers were sucking-up to the Man, doing the scut work and bullshit THEY didn’t feel like doing.  This was for slapdicks.  These were the asshatss who would go on to become the
world’s “hall-monitors” and “gatkeepers,” polishing Goliath’s toenails.

Ass-kissers, boot-lickers, brownnosers, coatholders and towel boys.  Ick.  Give me the anarchists over these twats any day of the week.

Teachers started referring to me as a “misfit” almost immediately.  In kindergarten, I once made a fort out of the big wooden
blocks and was sitting in it quite happily when a shithead named Ray Bojacki decided he wanted to take down my wall and build his own.  I told him to go find some other blocks and to keep his shithooks off of mine.

Ray Bojacki was a slow fucking learner and proceeded to try and dismantle my fort.

After I bounced a large wooden block off of Ray Bojacki’s head, he went running and crying like a tampon to the teacher, a buxom Teutonic number named Miss Hirst.  Of course she went mental–lot of “poor Ray Bojacki”. ..la-la.  I wanted to tell her everything would have just been fine if Ray Bojacki had exercised a little enterprise on his own and kept his mitts off my shit, but she wasn’t having any.  She looked at me and told me I was a “misfit” and not a very nice little boy.

I wanted to say, “No shit lady.  Did you figure that out all by yourself?”or, “Why don’t you tell Ray Bojacki to sack up and fight his own battles, instead of bitching up and running to the teacher?”

I didn’t say anything.  She called my mother and my ass was kicked out and sent home.

I began to get the idea that school was going to suck balls.  Kindergarten was only HALF a day and next year I’d have to waste my afternoons with these assholes as well.   I hated school.  My teachers were largely simpletons who only wanted to work
nine months a year. There was a lot of talk about “teamwork” and “having a good attitude” spewed by a bunch of mouth breathers whose lips moved when they read the comics.  A lot of dipshits calling me “Son” and asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

All of the other dopes wanted to be cops or astronauts or cowboys or some shit.

I wanted to rob banks and trains like Jesse James.

Jesse was a badass; no pantywaist service positions in his future.

The railroad stole Jesse and Frank James’ mother’s farm and Jesse and Frank started stacking asses.   The railroad had their own private cops–the Pinkertons.  These were the 19th century equivalent of the jagbags you see at Wal-Mart with the spray and the stick–Rent-a-Cops.

Jesse and Frank killed the shit out of these dipshits.  In fact, Jesse left behind a drawer full of Pinkerton badges, cadged off the stack of dickheads he personally introduced to Jesus.  I dug Jesse James.  Being a train robber, to me, beatthe hell out of eating shit and kissing ass the rest of your life.

In third grade, I wrote a report about what a cool guy Jesse James was and the nun told me I was headed for the “Island of Misfit Toys.” I told her as long as she wasn’t there, that would be fine.

Even this idea has some appeal for me; having a sanctuary for those of us who don’t fit in. The Hell’s Angels refer to themselves as the “one percenters“–the one per cent that doesn’t fit in and doesn’t fucking want to.

My kind of guys.

Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Pink Witch

The Pink Witch

I’ve spilled lots of ink about moths in the last year–how much I love drawing them, how beautiful and destructive they are, yadda, yadda, yadda. . .  It seems I just can’t leave the fuckers alone.  Like birds, they are one of those creatures that call to me.  Like birds, there are thousands upon thousands of species.  And like birds, some of our oldest and most arcane folklore surround these mysterious apparitions.

When I was a kid, I remember being somewhat afraid of the big ones–the real furry fuckers with the frightening faces.  It took me a long time to realize they meant me no harm.  My parents would chase after them franticly with a rolled up magazine because they ate cloth  My mother feared for her lace tablecloths– a favorite of your bigger moths.  When I got a little older, I’d be fascinated by their patterns and try to draw the byzantine-marbled moth wings when I’d find a dead one on the window sill.

I remember the first time I encountered a shimmering emerald luna moth in the moonlight.  Few things are as visually intoxicating; their flight a shining tango of winter-green in the dark.

They, moths, symbolize things for me that are hard to articulate.  I’m not sure there are words that convey the mixture of elation, wonder, terror, curiosity and hopefulness I feel when I am lucky enough to witness a mad dervish of them, swarming around a streetlight.

There is a lovely collage of moth wings by Jean DuBuffet which I’ve always loved and spent a lot of time with.  To love this piece is to hate DuBuffet a little bit for pulling the wings off of the moths. It is an image cobbled together with pain and cruelty, driven by the selfish ruthlessness of art itself.

This is the 15th in this new body of work: Nickel History:  The Nation of Heat.  The second half of that title is from a song by the great Joe Pug–the last lines of this song go through me like an icicle:

There’s a Straw-Hatted man
rowing away from the shore. . .
He says; “It’s a shame they don’t
let you have Slaves anymore. . .
I’m the ugliest man that you’ll ever meet. . .
I come from the Nation of Heat”

Joe was generous of spirit enough to let me quote the title of this great song in my title for this chapter of Nickel History
and I am immensely grateful for this.

Implicit in this remarkable song is the disquieting notion that we’ve not changed much as Americans.  The atavistic need to conquer and be better than everyone else in the world, still binds us to our ugly history, furies and desires.

What I want to say with these little pictures seems to change definition while I make them.  I love and hate America with equal alacrity, sometimes at the same moment.  I think our leaders are full of shit.  Our art is moribund theory-based dog-shit aimed at the marketplace.  And our media honestly want us to give a fuck about three over-produced walking tit-jobs
named Kardashian.

Who the fuck are we?

This is what Joe’s song asks of us, and it resonates with me.

In the last few years, I’ve taken a few road trips across our country and I rather enjoy it.  I take great solace in our landscape.  Desert, mountains, farmland, swamps, coastline, you name it.  The American landscape is worth every song or story ever written about it.  I love places like the Badlands where the landscape seems to almost wear their history; as if the land, the dirt and stone and sky and trees, themselves, have a memory.  There are hot sulphur springs in Montana, where steam dances from the ground and it seems almost a missive–a thought passed between worlds and peoples.  I love the West; the hard, ruined, faces of graded mountains, the rolling clouds of dust appearing like airborne squalls.

It is humbling to think that we, the Americans, are allowed to people this place.

We are able to enjoy its beauty and birds and wild grasses and thermal clouds.

In my more cynical moments (fewer and fewer lately), I think it is wasted on us.  And then I realize it’s not.  I see people pulled over just looking at the sky, letting the breezes, the smells and the warmth of the air work its palliative magic.  One of the most magical things I remember from a road trip was seeing a tough bush in the high desert covered in pinkish leaves.  They seemed out of place on this scraggily tough plant.  A moment later, I knew why. . .when the pink moths all took flight.

Published in: on August 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Ice Man

The Ice Man

“There are nothing BUT murderers in this room. . .”  — John Rooney (Paul Newman) explaining just who they are in the world to Michael ‘The Angel’ Sullivan (Tom Hanks) The Road to Perdition

There was a lot wrong with The Road to Perdition, the movie, but not a damn thing wrong with Road to Perdition, the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins.  t is a moody and lovely story of the love between father and son and the primacy of revenge among the Irish (and we are some vengeful mother-fuckers) and the unforgiving nature of the Irish mob.

The movie was over-long but Jesus, was it beautiful to look at.  Shot all over Chicago and Illinois and bordering states, the Midwest has never looked more bucolic and heavenly than it does through the late, great Conrad Hall’s lens.  Sadly, this was to be the great Mr. Hall’s last film.  It was a noble effort by Sam Mendes and Tom Hanks who, at his best in this film, made you believe he could be a remorseless murderer for hire.  To say the very leas, he was cast against type.  Paul Newman gives what is to be his last film performance, and it is a gem; a study in charm and stillness and Irish melancholy.  The film is worth watching for his work alone.The thing it really has going for it is Max Allan Collins’ graphic novel.  Mr. Collins has written many. many novels, mostly in the crime genre. He also wrote Dick Tracy, the comic strip, for a time which was how I became familiar with him.  He is witty–knows his history and is an incredibly canny and natural story teller who is often filed under the crime or pulp ghetto, which is a damn shame.  The guy is just a terrific writer.There is no shortage of murder in this story.  In the rackets in the 1920s, life was cheap.  Irish mobsters would receive communion in the morning and kill competitors in the afternoon before sitting down for dinner with the family and saying grace.

Chicago is a city of killers.  Until Michael Jordan appeared in the 1980s and ’90s, our most celebrated personage was Al Capone.  I’d love visiting foreign countries and upon hearing I was from Chicago people would form a finger-gun and yell, “Chicago. . .Al Capone. . .Bang-bang!”To which I’d usually reply, “Fucking-A right, Pierre. . .now grab my luggage.”The local lore of killers and murderers is thick.  From my own childhood, I remember the stories of Tony Spilotro, Billy Dauber, Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio, Harry Aleman, the Calabreses, the Toccos.  In the ’60s and ’70s the Chicago outfit was a free-for-all with many reports of torture and killing.  The press ate it up.  To this day in Chicago, anything mob-related sells newspapers.  One look no further than the recent “Family Secrets” trial which laid bare whatever remaining mysteries were left in the lore of the Chicago Outfit.

With the 1980s came the RICO act which, while barely meeting the definition of being constitutional, allowed the Feds to string all manner of mob activity together under a couple of very broad definitions of conspiracy in order that America be able to rid itself of the Mafia and organized crime.  What you never hear about out loud is how many of the cases are overturned –mostly for being unconstitutional– Feds have manufactured evidence to prove the connective tissue of on criminal enterprise to another–often breaking the law they swore to uphold in order to do so.

When I was still on the radio –once in a while I’d interview Bill Roemer–the Author of ‘Man against the Mob’. Roemer was a former FBI agent here in Chicago during the 50′s and 60′s and he told very funny stories about the local mobsters. Roemer was accused of embroidering a bit when relating these tales –by competing writers– but the stories he’d tell me were things I heard other places as well and I felt like he was on the up and up. This one floored me:

In the early 1960′s there was a neanderthal of homicidal temperament named Sam DeStefano–he was better known as ‘Mad Sam DeStefano’–he was a torturer and sadist — he was the one fingered for the murder of a Bookie named william ‘Action’ Jackson. Mr. Jackson’s burnt and beaten body was found in the trunk of a car on lower Wacker drive in 1961. DeStafano had tortured Jackson with a blowtorch as he hung from a meat-hook in a packing plant.

Sam DeStefano once suspected his wife of having an affair . He pulled on his coat and drove off one morning — he pulled his car over to where an African-American man was walking to work . At gun-point he ordered the man into his car and proceeded to his own house . He led the man into his home –where is wife was hand-cuffed to the furnace– –where-upon he ordered his wife to perform oral sex on the man. The wife shakily complied. The guy was scared out of his wits. When the hum-job was over –DeStafano released him — he promptly went to the police station fearing that a different narrative would be manufactured and he’s be arrested somehow.
The cops went to Mad Sam’s house and the wife denied it –as did Sam — but they did notice burn marks around her wrists. Of course she didn’t press charges– or want to — wisely , she was more afraid of Mad Sam than she was of the Cops.

One of the revelations of the ‘Family Secrets’ trial –was the complicity of the Chicago Police department with the Mob going back decades. The Mob had free reign because they owned the Cops. It is one of the ongoing dramas of this city–The Killers. Now they come as 15 year-olds blasting away with 9 millimeter pistols they can barely lift as an outgrowth of the Drug trade and our ongoing and fruitless War on Drugs.

Then, like now, the City gets just as many Killers as it deserves.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 12:59 am  Leave a Comment  

The Orange Beast

The Orange BeastSome years ago , there was a wonderful animal show on television called,  Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  It was hosted by the avuncular and gentlemanly Marlin Perkins.  Mr. Perkins was, at one time, the director of the St. Louis Zoo.  He was mostly an expert on reptiles, particularly venomous snakes, by which he was bitten at least four times.  Mr. Perkins was a stickler for realism.  His show was filmed on location and very often his co-stars, Stan Brock and Jim Fowler, would wind up in some hair-raising struggles with wild animals while Mr. Perkins stood in the foreground and reminded the viewer, “If a badger ever tries to chew your pancreas out. . .make sure you have adequate insurance coverage with Mutual of Omaha.”

I vividly remember Jim Fowler and Stan Brock wrestling a 27-foot anaconda in the Amazon once; Fowler’s head buried in the coils and being held underwater, while Jim’s brains were leaking out his ears.  Stan Brock was trying desperately to get the snake into a gunny sack. Mr. Perkins calmly provided the narrative, “While Jim struggles to free his head, Stan is on task collecting the specimen into the snake bag.”  Jim Fowler was franticly pointing at his head screaming and yelling, to which Perkins wryly  retorted, “Jim is getting quite a workout!”   It was honestly scary.  They finally got the snake into the sack and Jim Fowler was fucked up, out of breath, looking seriously short of  brain cells and covered head to toe in snake shit.
Perkins took his viewers all over the world and was one of the first voices to embrace the idea of conservation and  the protection of endangered species.  He had a particular love of odd animals; civets, mongooses, hyenas and wild dogs of Africa.  He loved square-offs between nature’s Davids and Goliaths–the weasel-like mongoose killing the  infinitely more frightening king cobra, a scorpion backing up a coyote with a bad-ass tail display, a six-ounce kestrel pounding the holy shit out of a pigeon in flight.   Wild Kingdom reflected the realism of nature.  No longing shots of doe-eyed baby seals, but the around-the-clock-murder that constitutes the natural world and makes observing its moments of grace such an ephemeral joy.
I learned all manner of weird facts from this show.  That many people in India wear masks on the back of their head to stave off tiger attacks.  That snakes actually hear with their tongues.  That bluefin tuna, depending on water temperature, can be cold-blooded and warm-blooded.  That honey badgers are immune to cobra venom.  It makes them fall asleep for a minute or two, the where, upon waking up, continues to eat the ass out of the cobra.
As a kid I loved these shows.  I also loved drawing fucked-up hybrids of animals–lions with eagle-heads (like griffons), snakes with human heads, two-headed creatures were a favorite, and weird amalgams of cats, dogs and hyenas.  I loved hyenas.  They were scary-looking bastards, like four-legged vultures in a way, traveling in packs at night with glowing eyes and making other-worldly sounds that sounded like laughter. . .and scaring the shit out of people.
I  would draw these creatures and it would make my teachers nuts. “What is that?” they would ask, and I’d tell them they were the devil’s dogs and they would go apoplectic.   I would also draw packs of wolverines attacking cities and it made the nuns crazy.  These pictures were strangely apocalyptic and they made me laugh.  They were so much fun to make, in part because they so disturbed teachers and authority figures.  I had many a go-round with the school  shrinks and “guidance counselors.” One of them, Brother Leo, told me they were trying to “reach” me.  For some reason this bugged the shit out of me and I grabbed my balls and whistled and said, “Reach this.”  I was sick of these assholes and their condescension.  He threatened to keep my sketchbook full of mutant animals and naked women.  I told him that I promised him I would be leaving his office with my sketchbook and made it clear to him he would  have to fight me for it.  By this time I was six feet tall and an ill-tempered  bastard and he thought better of trying to keep my sketchbook.
At  a certain point,  the people around me began to realize that the sketch book and the drawings were where I went for sanity.  It was the only thing that made any sense to me. I thought my teachers and counselors were retards and with few exceptions, I wasn’t wrong.
The truth was I loved drawing animals; real ones, made-up ones. . .it was all the same to me.  I still love nature shows.  I can burn whole days watching them on Netflix and PBS, the Richard Attenborough ones especially.  I never  liked the “Crocodile Hunter” guy.  He was a  pain in the balls.  There is a way to film animals without harassing them or fucking up their day and this guy didn’t know it.  He constantly had to be wrestling them and working their stick to prove what a brave Aussie scamp he was.  He was an annoying asshole and nature finally ripped up his ticket.
That the relatively benign stingray was finally the creature to settle his hash is almost poetic.  999 times out of a thousand this would be an uneventful crossing of paths between man and aquatic beast.  But no-o-o-o. . .Crikey has to  screw with the stingray and catches a spike in the heart.   Nature is the quick and the dead.  It’s surprising that it took so long for nature to get this goof.
Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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