Lunch Drawing 20: Kid Satellite of Love (Magic Cat for Lou Reed)

 

Lunch Drawing 20: Kid Satellite of LoveIt seems there is nobody who doesn’t have something to say about the passing of Lou Reed. The past couple of days have yielded an outpouring of love for the man that, quite honestly, might have surprised even him, particularly from music journalists. Some, who never had a kind word for him in life, have written fawning eulogies that say a good deal more about themselves than they do about Lou. It is a curious thing.

And right about now? He is probably laughing his ass off. I can say this with a straight face. One of the things I treasure the most in this life is that Lou Reed was my friend.

For over twenty years, we shared meals, dirty jokes, stories and a lot of friends.

People would often complain to me that Lou was nasty to journalists or rude. I saw him around a lot of journalists and never once saw this. I can believe he could be formidable and thorny with some in the ink racket. Do I condone this? Yeah, every goddamned bit of it. When some asshole with a notepad decides to make a punchline out of you, the last goddamned thing you are obligated to do is help them. So, if Lou messed up their hair a little bit…good for him.

I met him through Penn Jillette. He had given Lou an etching that I’d made based on one of his songs. Lou liked it and shortly after that Penn arranged an introduction.

One always hears, “Don’t meet your heroes–they’ll only disappoint you.”

This was not ever the case with Lou. He never treated me with anything other than kindness and generosity. He also challenged the way I thought about music and art, poetry and damned near everything else.

We talked like guys talk, unguarded and we could say anything we wanted. I wasn’t a journalist wanting to pick at the legend and see if a reaction could be needled out of him. I was a young artist trying to find my voice and, along with some others, Lou helped me find it, with forthrightness, humor and, from time to time, some tough love.

“Get off the cross, Kid. Somebody needs the wood,” was what he told me once after a condescending review from a Buffalo newspaper.

“What you do, Kid,is you outlast the fuckers.”

It was the best advice I ever got.

For all of Lou’s perceived flintiness with the press, he was a constant source of fascination for them–an artist that seemed at once fully formed, yet restlessly experimental.

It occurs to me that Lou’s real audience probably hasn’t been born yet.

He is one of those who casts a very long shadow. Coming generations will discover what ours missed with brilliant works like Magic and Loss and Set the Twilight Reeling, there will be a newer, less cynical appreciation for songs like Talking Book, which was written for one of his collaborative shows with Robert Wilson.

For all of those whose appreciation for Lou ceased with the end of the Velvet Underground, well. . .you haven’t realized half of this artist’s output. Check out the rest and you are in for a real treat.

I met Lou right after he and the artist, Laurie Anderson, became a couple and if he became less flinty and friendlier, it was due to her. I remember walking through the West Village with him one night and telling me, “Everyday, I think of a new way to adore her.” He smiled the big smile. There are damned few photographs of that smile–if any– but if you ever saw him play live,  you know the one I am talking about. I spent many nights in their company and I’ll tell you this , Lou and Laurie knew how to be in love. When they married in 2008, I saw Laurie backstage after one of her performances at the Harris Theater, and she told me, “Me and Lou got married. Isn’t that crazy?” The whole time I knew Lou and Laurie, they were never happier than when they were with each other. At times. I thought of them as one beings; odd as that sounds, given their distinctive and iconic artistic identities.

It’s been said the Velvet Underground records didn’t sell worth a damn, but everybody that bought one, started a band. This quote is often attributed to Brian Eno, who denies ever saying it; yet one cannot dance around its essential truth. I don’t know anybody in rock and roll who was NOT influenced by Lou, Lou and the Velvets, Lou and John Cale. The list of incarnations goes on and on.

What we can all learn from Lou Reed is to be fearless, to be fierce, and to be unflinchingly honest, no matter what it costs us. That some of his records were greeted with derision and jeers again tells you a lot more about the writers of those reviews than they ever did about Lou Reed. I can tell you this:  Every time Lou made a record, he emptied the tank, gave it his all and left every thought, appetizing or otherwise, in the songs. You never got half-measures from Lou Reed.

I was lucky enough to get to hear records before they were released, songs for shows that were never produced in the U.S. including a lot of his collaborations with Robert Wilson; and it was thrilling. I got to meet Fernando Saunders, Tony “Thunder” Smith and the great Mike Rathke–all guys who contributed to that loud, muscular sound that made his live shows such a treat.

Something transformative would happen when the 70-year old man strapped on a guitar. Lou Reed, the wanton teenager whose life was saved by rock and roll showed up and played with a wild abandon and, for a while, he pushed the stars back up into the sky and let them shine on the rest of us who were hell-bent on rebellion. To those of us who looked to rock and roll for our answers and our hopes, and our prayers, he was a fleet and dangerous magic cat with nine rock and roll lives; and in the feedback of those relentless and ferocious songs, I learned not to fear anything.

So long Pal, see you when I get there.

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Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 11:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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Lunch Drawing 19: Kid Flamin’ Hot

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As a kid, I liked making imaginary animals; beasts-, lions with eagle heads, snakes with baby heads, and naked women with bird heads. I had more fun drawing things and animals that didn’t exist except in the curious neighborhood of my own head. I remembered Johnny Carson would have Jim Fowler, from Wild Kingdom on his program. Fowler often brought odd creatures to scare the shit out of Johnny with–pangolins, vultures, hyenas and all manner of large constricting snakes. Once be brought a Bateleur eagle that took a monstrously slick, sticky shit on Johnny’s desk and Carson about puked before cutting to commercial.

After seeing all of these oddities , I began to think some of the creatures I was making up might actually exist somewhere in the world. I particularly liked strange animals like civets, meerkats, wolverines, badgers and Tasmanian devils–vicious, feral-looking motherfuckers who love you not. They seemed to all be small and mean and built out of knotted muscle for violence and grievous harm.

A couple of years ago there was a screamingly funny YouTube video about the honey badger–and how honey badger didn’t give a shit. In it , the honey badger runs amok, fucking up every other creature in sight, including a cobra–who bites the honey badger and we think, “Oh, he is fucked now,” but no. After passing out for about 3 minutes, he awakens and continues to kill the shit out of the cobra and then eats him; all 5 feet of him. After this, he trots off in search of some other living thing to fuck up and inflict mayhem upon.

The video is funnier than hell and also makes the point that nature is mostly around-the-clock murder. No right. No wrong. Only consequences.

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 9:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Lunch Drawing 18: Kid Gizmo

Kid GizmoIt is that time of year again, when baseball will inevitably break our hearts.

One day–the day after the World Series–it will be gone and the world will take on ever more deeply visible increments of gray. The leaves will put on quite a show though, turning to yellowy fire and deep plum and the air will carry the promise and curse of winter, clean and cold.

I have a show in 31 days. For the first time I can remember there is no over all thematic subject unifying all of it. I grew tired of everything having to fall together as an overall statement. I wanted to remember what it was like to grab my sketch book and go out and play. To make drawings that are almost unconscious, like doodles; when the less attractive and under-the-counter thoughts make themselves visible.

When I was a kid, I only wanted to draw birds, animals, naked women, and comics, usually nasty caricatures of the dopes who were authority figures in my life telling me history that was a lie, trying to pawn off a deity which was a lie, and values that were threadbare and empty. They told me to go to college so someday I could worry about storm windows and property values, and I gave not a fuck for any of it– still don’t.

I loved autumn because of the World Series. The names from my childhood that I revered–Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Al Kaline, Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Rollie Fingers, and Jim Palmer. . .I could get lost in those mythologies and forget the collection of dullards and dimwits assigned to educate me.

I loved drawing animals (dogs and birds mostly), especially birds. I also surreptitiously squirreled away as many Playboys as I could find. I loved looking at and drawing naked women. The curves and hips and legs and breasts were hypnotic and intoxicating and mesmerizing. Back then? I was too shy to ask women to take their clothes off so I could draw them.

I got over that.

I intend on making a bunch of naked women drawings down the road. For now, I go where the day takes me. I make up characters like I did as a kid and make quick and dirty pictures that I enjoy because I finally got a sense of *play* back into my work. It is hard work, but it is not labor. This one is about a dog I knew a long time ago named ‘Gizmo’ who had three legs and would bite you in the balls if you pissed him off.

The World Series is happening on my television as I write. Boston is kicking the snot out of the Cards. Jim Leyland, the great Detroit manager, just retired. He was always better than he had to be, taking mediocre teams and making them dig deeper and find their bigger game, and this breaks my heart a bit. But this is autumn, and at 54 years old I now know that this is what autumn does.

Published in: on October 23, 2013 at 11:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Lunch Drawing 17: Kid Blinky

Lunch Drawing 17: Kid BlinkyThere is a notion among many First Nation cultures that nature bears witness to everything; that all things in nature are merely shadows of entities in the spirit world. Owls, in particular, carry a metaphorical weight and definition.

The Hopi believe that burrowing owls are keepers of the “underworld,” the world of the dead and unquiet beings that walk among us in the spirit world. Other tribes believe owls are intermediaries between the world of the living and the dead. Almost all cultures agree they are our night watchmen–our witnesses–and that every event, phenomenon, and transgression that occurs against nature is remembered. . .that the land, itself, possesses memory, and that people have no idea what the land knows.

This one is for the ghosts and spirits that do not forget.

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lunch Drawing 16: Kid Mohawk

Lunch Drawing 16: Kid Mohawk

Published in: on October 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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Lunch Drawing #15: Kid Mercury

Kid MercuryDrinks gasoline, pisses fire, shits nails, and trick-or-treats with a shot-glass. . .Anybody got a problem with that?

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Lunch Drawing #14: Kid Pharoh

Kid PharohLike the old ones say, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ”

The government shutdown calls to mind the reign of the pharaohs. So brutal was their tyranny, they slaughtered the livestock of their enemies and sometimes their own population in an effort to starve people into submission.

It is a reminder to me that a majority of Republicans voted to eliminate food stamps for our neediest citizens before the shutdown. This grimy legislation had the vote of Rep. Peter Roskam of DuPage county.

Remember this name next election.

Published in: on October 14, 2013 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Lunch Drawing #13: A Spider for Ellen Lanyon

Lunch Drawing #13: A Spider for Ellen LanyonMy friend Ellen Lanyon passed away.

She was a tough old painter who enjoyed a long and amazing evolution as an artist. She had a deep connection to nature; its nuances and riddles, digressions and mystery. She rendered these ideas with a kind of magic that was singular, and only like herself. A painting of spiders, colored like candy emerging from nesting boxes, is a particular favorite.

She once attended a talk I gave at Ox-Bow 25 years ago, which was full of my anti-academic, bloviating ridicule and it played well with the kids. She walked up to me and said “You know, you make a lot of noise, Buddy. If I were about a foot taller I might just poke you in the nose.”

I looked at her and replied, “Then I’m damned lucky that you have to stand on a box to kick a duck in the ass.”  A smile crept across her face and she laughed.

It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted 30 years. This one is for her.

Godspeed Ellen Lanyon…

Published in: on October 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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Lunch Drawing 12: The Draft Horse

Lunch Drawing 12: The Draft HorseThe were no horses on the American continent until about the 1680’s or so. The Spaniards brought them, and in no time, they became one of the most ubiquitous animals in the new world.

As went the American experiment…so went horses. As a beast of labor, transportation, and food source when things got lean, the horse has served us well.

For years they were slaughtered for dog food and sundry other industrial uses as well– brushes, hides, and various gluing compounds. It seems there is no bottom to the cruelties we can levy on the equine species.

Downtown there are horse drawn carriages that do a bumper business when dipshits from East Bumfuck visit our city. If you are wondering where East Bumfuck is, it’s anywhere that is over 50 miles away from the intersection of State and Madison, in any direction. Michigan? Indiana? Wisconsin? Iowa? All of it comprises East Bumfuck. And if you inhabit this geography? You are a shit-kicker, a stump-jumper, a ridge-runner. . .a hick.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being a hick.

Hey, somebody has to milk the cows, breed the pigs, and pry eggs out of the chicken’s ass. It may as well be you.

Whenever I’m downtown, inevitably I run across a couple of squirrel-poachers staring up at the tall buildings, slack-jawed and wistful, or they’re prying one of those blue Dork-Bike (a DIVY bike) out of its upright holster on every goddamned street corner, or they are at Garret’s buying the carmel and cheese popcorn mix for the price of an organ transplant. You see, back home, in Paducah? They eat fucking gophers and bite the heads off of frogs.

I have to stop myself from pointing them out to the muggers.

The carriage horse thing bugs the fuck out of me. The horses always look sad. And the dopes in the Charles Dickens garb driving the carriage? They don’t look thrilled either. The horses mostly look like big draft horses–beautiful, working horses–like Clydesdales without the fuzzy boots. I don’t really know anything about horses, other than they are too gentle and good for this.

Published in: on October 5, 2013 at 11:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lunch Drawing #11: Radio Grand Avenue (The Bridge of Dead Men)

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Chicago’s Grand Avenue is an east-west shortcut most of the time, between where I live and Downtown. It is also home to light industry, auto garages, bars, nail joints, great Italian restaurants, and the curious breeding ground of a certain generation of the Chicago Mob.

When I was a kid, it was home to Rose’s Sandwich shop, a mom and pop luncheonette where, one day, a States Attorney associate/made member of the mob, named Dick Cain was enjoying an Italian sub when two men in ski masks (one of them thought to be Joey ‘The Clown’ Lombardo) came busting through the door and put a shotgun under his chin.

After painting the ceiling with Mr. Cain’s head, there was a widely-shared sense of shock that Mr. Cain, who’d worked very closely with Governor Ogilvie AND Sam Giancana, could get away with his double life for as long as he did. It was also a sad testament to the long history of corruption endemic to law enforcement in the city of Chicago.

While the Mob is pretty much long gone from Grand Avenue (or at least THAT particular incarnation of the Mob), it will always still have that definition for me. This was the breeding ground of the Spilotro’s, Tony and Michael, as well as a great percentage of the westside mob of the ’60s and ’70s.

When you crossed that bridge going west on Grand Ave from the north Loop, it seemed like you entered a different world–an ancient avenue of secrets and silence and dual loyalties.

Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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