The Dime Girl

The Dime Girl“Hope, is the thing with feathers.” — Emily Dickinson

On occasion, I entertain the idea of joining bird watching organizations or the Audobon Society, because I am a lover of birds.  It makes sense to be among like-minded people whom one can learn more about birds from.  It does. . .until you meet them.

Bird qatching groups are full of the “birdier-than-thou” crowd who lug their dog-eared Sibley and Peterson guides around in an L.L. Bean field bag and appraise you from head to toe when you make their acquaintance.

I’ve attempted to blend in with the bird-wise on a few occasions over the last three decades.  One time, I found myself not far from Cape May, New Jersey on the day of a big gathering to count birds as they migrated; this being one of the optimum migration paths in the country.

I signed up and paid my fee, bought a fancy-schmancy bird guide and a shoulder-bag and took the bus down there from Philadelphia, absolutely as giddy as a school girl to be among the birdy elite.

Let me tell you, Bunky, I was ready.  I brought a new mole-skin, some sketching stuff, washes and watercolors and ink.  I brought my old army binoculars that I’d won in a card game, an outdoorsman vest and a pair of hiking shoes.  I looked like Tony J. Bird-Guy.  I got to the Cape May observation point and started to mingle among my people, the Bird-Wise.

And let me tell you, a more contemptible collection of insufferable, snotty pukes , you will never meet.  When I got there, it was clear that a lot of these people knew each other; lots of Sierra Club t-shirts and crushed boonie-hats–some adorned with one or two feathers. A lot of very expensive outerwear and many epeople sporting zinc-oxide on their noses.

About 25 feet from the crowd, I quickly surmised there was really nobody for me to talk to, so I fired up a cigarette. No sooner than I did this; a pinch-faced old bitch in a jumpsuit and a John Deere hat can sprinting at me. She was apoplectic–stamping her feet and snorting at me, “You CANNOT DO THAT HERE!”

I honestly didn’t know what the fuck she was talking about.

I said, “Do what?”

She screamed, “SMOKE! You can’t SMOKE here, fella, this is a sanctuary for BIRDS, Sir!”

I calmly told her that I was outside and technically, that meant I was in the world’s largest smoking section.  I also told her that the birds didn’t give a fuck if I smoked or not.  She then started stamping her feet and turning in a circle and yelling, “You will put that out this instant!!!!!!”

I started laughing because it was so ridiculous–this 80 year-old lady was acting like a fucking two-year old.  I decided that I’d be goddamned if I allowed myself to be be bullied by this fossil.  At this point, a slightly younger old guy came over and said, “Do what she says. . at once!”

Now I got pissed. I told him I was too nice a guy to slap the shit out of a spoiled and entitled old lady, but I promised him I’d have no problem stomping his wrinkled ass and that he should find another place in Cape May to be an asshole and that he should bring the whirling hearse-bait with him.

Soon I had all of the room I wanted in Cape May, New Jersey–word had circulated amid the khaki-clad geeks that I was not good “birder people.”


When I was a kid I saw a goldfinch on the ground.  From a ways off, it looked like a clump of dandelions and when I got close, it exploded to life a bright yellow whir of feathers and sound like a tiny sun.  It flew almost straight up into my face and I could feel a slight whoosh of warm air, and then it was gone.  It was magical in a way I didn’t understand–how it was one moment inanimate, and the next, it busted to life.

When I got home, I tried to convince my mother that I had seen a dandelion turn into a bird and fly.

My father had a heart-attack when I was five. My grandmother came to live with us to help my mother with me and my seven siblings.  Every morning she would toast a piece of bread and spread some jelly onto it.  She’d then break it into small pieces and throw it out the back door for the birds. I was shocked. In a family of eight kids we were taught it was a sin to waste food.

I asked my grandmother, Mamie, why she was giving our bread to the birds? Why she was wasting food?

At first she ignored me and just looked out the window and listened with this wistful half-smile on her face.  After the third time I asked, she held her finger up and quietly said, “Listen. . .”

And for the first time I heard it. . .blackbirds, sparrows, house finches and mourning doves.

My Grandmother looked down at me and said, “For a piece of bread, you can hear God sing.”

Published in: on February 19, 2012 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)  

The Spotted Moth


The Spotted Moth etching by Tony Fitzpatrick

On May 16th, 2011, Rahm Emanuel became the 55th Mayor of the city of Chicago. It was a laugher. He ran against a field of mostly-nobodies, and wound up trouncing a career Democratic Party coat-holder named Miguel Del Valle in the primary. The Republicans mattered not a fuck because this is Chicago and we don’t elect Republicans. We would vote for the dead before pulling the pachyderm lever.

I’m convinced, day by day, it’s the worst decision the city has ever made.

It was the perfect lifeboat for Emanuel.  Nobody liked him or wanted to deal with him in Washington, not even his own guys. Once King Richard II decided not to run again, after the 2016 Olympics wet-dream shit the bed and there would be no crowning glory or 5th star for the city’s flag, Daley wanted out.  That his wife was so desperately ill had to weigh heavily into his decision as well. The Olympics thing had to be a pisser. Only Chicago politics has a BIGGER gang of scumbags than the Olympic Committee itself has.  It had to be like a roomful of pickpockets where nobody brought a wallet.  Imagine that summit and how much silverware got stolen at a gathering for that grimy gaggle of assholes.

Rahm attacked the campaign trail with a Calvinist zeal, surprised to be among a citizenry that actually liked him.  He was absolutely the energizer bunny; or weasel depending on how you feel about him.

A friend of mine was at a house-party fund-raiser for him when a question about the unions came up.  He was in the company of the wealthy Democrats; in fact, who, since he got elected, seem to be the only people he spends any time around.  You never find this guy further than ten feet from the power tit.  Anyway, with a verbal wink to the wealthy Democrats within earshot, he reportedly said, “Unions? We’re going to fuck the unions. Nobody wants unions anymore.”

The guy I heard this from is a regular Democrat–very wired, and does a lot of business in and with the city. To put a finer point on it:  He was at a fund-raiser for Rahm.

What one must understand is that rich Democrats in Chicago are Republicans anywhere else.

The most contemptible behavior visited on working people in this city is perpetrated by the Democratic Machine.

Say this for Rahm: He is not lazy.  The guy works like a sled dog. His first 100 days in office were spent cutting fat from City Hall and one must give him credit for that. He went from floor to floor, examining budgets and bitch-slapping those who would waste; taking away car services and making the fatasses get public transportation passes. . .stripping Ed Burke of his compliment of six bodyguards (that’s right, six bodyguards) you’d think the guy was Salman Rushdie. I don’t know who is out to whack Ed Burke, but when I think about it, it’s obvious that it is a power thing between him and Rahm.  It was an easy way for Rahm to humiliate him, and he took full advantage of it.

Say this for Rahm as well, the guy is not a pussy.  He loves confrontation and he loves being right. He was on his best behavior when he ran for Mayor–damn near genial. Once he got elected, his imperious side came out.  He does not like being questioned. He was a churlish tool in an interview with Rick Kogan.  He is always testy with the press. He always lets them know with body language and tone, that he is better than their paltry queries.

Kogan asked him direct questions and while Kogan is always a friendly interview, if he catches any hint of evasion, he’s always ready with a more pointed, and direct, follow-up.  He is never impolite or rude, but you will never get over on him or roll over him in an interview–and it’s best not to try.  Kogan is one of the the best journalists in the history of this city, with a keen ear for spin and horse-shit, and he won’t abide it.

Emanuel fucked up.  This could have been a moment to humanize himself and his task. Instead, he opted to be superior. His flintiness didn’t at all play in this interview.  He came off like he is; petty and vindictive.

I have to admit that I don’t have the capacity to be fair to Emanuel. I’ve despised him from the beginning.  He is one of the new, squishy, malleable Democrats in sheep’s clothing that Bill Clinton brought into fashion.  The assholes who supported the three-strikes law. The Death Penalty. NAFTA. The War on Drugs.  These were the clowns who attacked symptoms with P.R. rather than a plan. The sensitive pricks who “felt our pain” rather than funding education, infra-structure, and housing. Thy gave us the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” band-aid, rather than a bold step forward for gay Americans in uniform.

It also wasn’t only the Republicans who let Wall Street and the banks fist-fuck working people with toxic mortgages. Hizzoner also was sack deep in Freddie Mac, the company that dealt in an untold amount of grimy and toxic mortgages, not to mention endless political scandals and campaign contribution irregularities and has never, to my satisfaction, explained just what the fuck his job was there.

Emanuel has damn near broken the Chicago Teachers Union; now he’s going to work on the firemen.

We also have the G-8 Summit gathering here soon. Rahm has let it slip he will not be cowed by a whole lot of pesky dissent or freedom of speech.  Kind of reminds me of another Democrat who preferred to govern by edict.  Well, remember this, asshole.  The whole world is watching.  Just like last time.

Published in: on February 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm  Comments (1)  

Speak of the Devil…and He Appears


“The devil is only a convenient myth invented by the real malefactors of our world”- Robert Anton Wilson

Nothing makes religious types more twitchy than images of the devil. Even cartoons and caricatures make the fuckers apoplectic. It’s funny. As a kid I often drew naked devil women–it drove the nuns out of their minds.  Years later, the artist, Coop, made himself a fortune drawing sexy, naked, porn-devil women.  Needless to say, I love these.  Some of them are WAY dirty and man, they are a good time. I still love drawing devils because no matter how comic or antic the image; there is still a transgressive charge that comes along with it. My art dealers used to get sweaty when I told them I was going to make some devil images.  They often tell me, “But those birds you make are SO lovely.” This was their subtle way of telling me, “Devils are damn near impossible to sell, Schmuck.  Make with the pretty stuff.  Don’t shit on the Birthday cake.”

Often I just kept drawing birds because I love drawing them and am happy to do so.  But still I’d
keep a private stash of devil images just because they made me happy.  In this new body of work, there will be no shortage of devils, or birds.  In fact, maybe I’ll even make some devil-birds.

My friend, Monte Beauchamp, published a beautiful book of Krampus images this year.  Krampus also has horns, hooves, a long-ass tongue and a pointed tail, just like a Devil.  But is not a devil.  Krampus was kind of the messenger sent to rotten little kids in an effort to get them to straighten the fuck up so Santa Claus would bring them presents.  You could have fooled me.  The Krampus images are some genuinely scary shit; more devilish than the devils I’d ever seen before.  As lighthearted as a lot of the Krampus images are supposed to be, they are extraordinarily visceral.

In America, a lot of our politics have been hijacked by the religious right. Devil images make them nuts.  In fact, three young men in West Memphis went to prison because they were thought to be “devil worshippers.”  They were accused of the notorious child murders of three little boys as part of a “satanic ritual.”  The community was lathered into a righteous religious froth, and three young men lost 18 years of their lives.  Despite the fact that there was next to no evidence other than them being pegged as Satanists–mainly by the other prime suspect in the murders, a disturbo who kept showing up in the documentaries, knowing way too much.  They were finally released in the last year. It’s amazing what kind of havoc a few pentagrams and a Megadeath T-shirt can cause. It took three documentaries and endless appeals to free these guys.

The Religious Right ought to be grateful for the devil. He is their catch-all . All of the evil these fucktards perpetrate on women, gays, the poor, the working class and immigrants is of no real concern to them; but let one of them get caught in a gay tryst or with a hooker or pulling their own cheeks apart for a lobbyist. . .and whoa; the waterworks start.  The being-bamboozled-by-the-devil narrative goes into full flower.

It is always the devil disguised as a wad of cash. . .pussy. . .cock. . .golf junket.  The devil is always disguised as an intern trying to blow you or making you take cell phone pictures of your dick
and tweeting them to congressional pages. Then they cry like bitches on TV and get all up in Jesus’ crevices.  These fuckers only have one play in their book: That devil–he sure is a slippery fish.

Me and my artist friends used to make jokes about making a whole body of “nice guy” devil pictures. Drawings of devils helping old ladies across the street. . .getting cats out of trees. . .being crossing guards and even the devil changing a flat tire for Jesus.

Flip the whole Christian mythology on its nut sack and piss off the religious drool cases.

I’ve just decided I want to make some devil images.  Not the feral, heavy metal devils; those are done to death,to the point of being boring.  I like the Snap-E-Tom colored devils–the ones that are redder than a monkey’s ass. Wiseass, hot-foot, flaming-bag-of-dog-shit-on-your porch-devils.  Mischief-makers, tricksters, pranksters . . .Randall P. McMurphy style devils.

When I was in third grade, (the first time) the nun would watch me like a hawk while I drew during art class. She was always lurking like a carrion bird, waiting for me to draw something objectionable.  I never kept her waiting long. The crowning achievement was a drawing of her giant melon in the talons of a harpy eagle.  It was actually the first time I’d gotten a REALLY good likeness.  When she saw her big sweaty head being carried off by a HORNED eagle, she went bat-shit-mental.

She ratted me out to my mom and suggested I be taken to a shrink.  I remember going to Loyola. The door said “Psychotherapy,” and I asked my mother who was getting their head examined– Her or me?  The shrink was a nice guy who liked comics and listened to me vent my spleen about the nun.  At the end of my session, he told my mother I had an immense imagination and that it might get me in trouble in the short term. In the long haul, it would serve me well.   Then he told her, “What I’d really like. . .is to get that nun in here.”

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm  Comments (2)  

The Indian Casino

There’s fucked and then there is horse-fucked.  We got horse-fucked. We should have killed you assholes at Plymouth Rock.“–Anonymous American Indian at Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

Lewis and Clark went west to see if, A) there was a passage West to the Pacific Ocean by water–which there was not and B) if there were any more Indians to fuck over–which there were.“–Steve Earle

The Bureau of Indian affairs lists 562 Tribal Councils in the U.S.  Almost all of them are now, in one way or another, involved in gaming.  This is the latest gift we’ve bestowed upon first-nation people. The first ones, of course, being smallpox, alcohol, genocide and acre-upon-acre of shitty cinder block structures that somehow pass for housing, on equally shitty tracts of scrub land, known as reservations.

The Indian casino solution started as a pissing match between the Seminole tribe of Florida and the state government there over a high-stakes bingo game. No shit. Bingo.

At last count there were something like 360 Indian casinos in operation in the continental U.S.  The Indian tribes embraced gaming as a way to improve their lives on the desolate reservations with wildly varying degrees of success. They were sold gaming much like every other community is; with promises of better schools, housing and access to health care and services and in some cases, these things actually came to some degree of fruition. In a great many, however, the usual fleas and ticks came along with this grimy industry: organized crime, prostitution, drugs. . .not to mention a spike in alcoholism, suicide, divorce and domestic violence. The shitty cinder-block structures just have better cars and new trucks parked out in front of them. The desperation and poverty remain.

If you are wondering what I mean when I say organized crime, it’s like this. Any heavily cash-money business is a lure for crime syndicates.  It is an opportunity to loan shark, launder money and, seeing as Indian reservations pay no taxes, it is also a perfect place to hide ill-gotten profits. Now some Indian casinos have partnered up with state governments and no longer enjoy tax-exempt status. Still, theft of cash via skimming, short-counting and even dealers palming chips is rampant.

The truth is, that at any one time, nobody ever knows exactly how much money is supposed to be there.  They can estimate and they can guess, but nobody can say for sure. There are counting rooms in every casino where all men and women do ALL day is count money.  Under the slots, in the basement, the dropping of coins sounds like a steady, metallic rain 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is how it is for successful Indian casinos.  There are others, out West, that are scarcely bigger than a double-wide trailer.  I once stopped at one between Albuquerque and Santa Fe with my friend, Mickey Cartin. The signs outside boasted of it being new and it was the size and vibe of three Taco Bells slapped together as a trailer, if you can picture this.

I don’t fuck around with gambling much, particularly blackjack, in which some math skills are helpful. Mine are non-existent. My pal, Mickey, though, is an experienced gambler and card player. At one time he used to go to Foxwoods in Connecticut and soak them for several thousand dollars at a time. He can always spot a fledgling or weak-ish dealer and he moves in for the kill.  It’s like watching a cheetah looking for the gimpy antelope.  By the time they get wise to him and bring in a “mechanic,” Mickey is on to another table or he leaves.

At the casino in New Mexico, the  lackjack dealer was woefully inexperienced and within eight minutes, Mickey was up $900 dollars.  And then a weird thing happened.  He felt bad and decided to stop playing–to cash out.  This made the numb-nuts dealer furious–just out of his mind.  I wanted to tell him how lucky he was.  That had Mick decided to keep playing, he’d have broken the place in pretty short order.

It occurred to us that this whole enterprise was not staffed by anyone who’d had any real experience in a real casino. With this thought, we couldn’t really enjoy gambling in the place.  It is also worth noting that we were the only people in the place other than the employees.  Now granted, it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, but still. . . It underlined the idea that not all Indian casinos were cash cows, and I’m betting that no small amount of them lose their asses on a regular basis.

For some reason, I cannot stop being appalled at the treatment throughout the totality of American history of the Native American peoples. If they hate us, they certainly have every right to.

On my way back from the West, I got a good look at some of the reservations and it is heartbreaking.  My friend, Mark Turcotte, an Ojibwe-Chippewa wrote a stunning collection of poems some years ago called, Exploding Chippewas and in this collection, life on the reservation is relayed detail-by-unsparing-detail–and with no small amount of humor ladled in as well–all of these poems begin with the mordantly funny preface:

“Back when I used to be an Indian. . .”

It’s funny because the P.C. crowd is very careful about using the words, “Native American,” and then being woefully oblivious to the continuing inequities and brutalities we subject the rightful owners of this nation to.

My friend, Turcotte, does not let them off the hook so easily, though.  In one of the Rez poems, he dares us to take full notice of him and reminds us that:  ‘”Millions scream in my veins. . .”

Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 12:27 am  Comments (2)  
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