Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Marines Have Landed

TheMarinesHaveLanded

I have several from this set. They’re little pins with catchy or funny slogans in them. I think they’re from my dad’s day, and maybe they came in Chex cereal or something. These may have been my dads. Look familiar to anyone?

Later, I found the phrase in a slang dictionary. It means help has arrived or is on the way. Apparently, whoever was wearing the button was there to put things in order.

Plainview #4

I think this is Plainview #4, but that means I don’t know where #5 is.  I’ll try to get it all sorted out.

What’s interesting about this one, to me, is how time’s change.  Ten years later there’s little chance of Will getting up at 6:45 to go to garage sales with grandma, or anyone else for that matter.  And Maly has learned how to hold on to money big time; she is a very wise spender who researches for weeks before making a major purchase.  We talk about a lot of churchy things in this episode.  Sorry to anyone we offended.

Here’s the scary Inez.

Inez

Curiosity

I like this story.  If I hadn’t written it myself, I’d teach it.  I think it’s dense.  I’d say that 90-percent of this story is drawn from life experiences, experiences that I have gathered from various places of my childhood and put together.  To avoid spoilers, I’ll list the lies, or invented truths, at the end of the story.

Curiosity

Drew flipped through the Batman comic book.  It looked like a good one.  He paused at the Charles Atlas ad.  The one where Mac works out after having sand kicked in his face, then beats up the bully.  “Oh Mac!  You are a real man after all!”  He put the Batman down and picked up a Justice League and opened it.  Leaning back against the plywood shelves, Drew got lost in the story.  When he finished he put the magazine back on the rack, pick up the Batman again and headed to the register.

As he made his way past low shelves of old books and magazines, post cards and movie posters.  Drew noticed something wasn’t quite right with the old man who ran the place.  He was sitting on his chair behind the counter next to the cash register, where he always sat, where he would yell at the kids that this wasn’t a library, that they needed to buy something or get out.  But he was sort of slumped over.  Drew wondered if he was dead.  The hair on the back of Drew’s neck began to stand up, and he got a sick feeling in his stomach.

By the time he’d made it to the register, he’d decided that he would just put the Batman on the counter and get out of there.  It was then that the man snorted.  Or harrumphed.  Drew stopped walking and peered at the old man.  A half eaten bowl of cheerios sat on the counter.  Had the man just fallen asleep?  Drew’s grandma did that sometimes.  She’d be sitting in a chair and just fall asleep.  The man seemed to be breathing.  Drew listened and could hear the old man’s rumbly breaths.  Weird.  Drew put a dollar on the counter for the comic.  As he turned to go, his eyes wandered over to the other magazine shelf.  The one next to the comics.  The one with those magazine on the top shelf.  Drew’s heart began to beat hard.  He glanced once more at the man, then walked quickly back to the magazines.

———-

Drew went straight to his room when he got home.  Mom was in the garden.  Dad at work.  He’d nearly killed himself getting home.  Having shoved the magazine under his t-shirt and then tucking it into his jeans, it was nearly impossible to ride his bike and keep the magazine in place.  One hand held both a handlebar and the Batman comic, which was becoming hopelessly wrinkled in his sweaty grip.  The other hand held the magazine in place.  He’d decided to take the back streets home.  He was afraid that his erratic steering would cause him to slam into a car or pedestrian on the main road.  He didn’t want to think about the embarrassment caused by an ambulance worker picking him up off the street and finding a dirty magazine tucked under his shirt.

He pulled the magazine out from under his shirt and shoved it under the mattress.  He tried to straighten his bed up, but now it looked too straight.  He messed it up a little.  To messy?  He sat on the edge of the bed, tried to look relaxed, and read Batman.  His stomach felt sick.

———-

It had been two summers ago.  Dad had been at some kind of meeting in Dallas.  Dad was crossing the street and someone drove right into him.  His dad’s head had hit the pavement and they’d taken him to the hospital.  Drew’s mom flew down to Dallas to be with Dad while he recovered.  Drew stayed with the neighbors for about a week.  The Bristols.  The first night he was there, Billy Bristol showed him his collection of adult magazines that he’d stolen, one at a time, from his father.  Billy, who seemed older than Drew, but wasn’t really, appeared to be really excited about the magazines, so Drew tried to act excited too.  He was interested.  He’d seen their covers at the comic place.  He’d seen hand drawn naked women that kids passed around at school.  But this was different.  As he and Billy thumbed through the magazines that night, he had time to stare, to study, to compare and contrast.  He was occasionally interrupted by Billy’s ugly comments about what he thought of this one, or what he’d do that one.  But mostly he just took his time and looked.

———-

Drew realized that he was at the end of his comic.  He tossed it onto a stack of other comics and laid back on the bed.  It seemed he could feel the magazine through the mattress.  Like a twisted version of the princess and the pea or something.  The pervert and the porno.  Adult magazine.  Girlie magazine.  Even dirty magazine.  These all sounded more acceptable somehow.  But pornography.  Just thinking the word made his throat tighten.

———-

In church camp last summer all the boys had been herded into the mess hall one afternoon.  Drew had thought at first that they were all in trouble.  In fact the first thing one of the counselors had said, once they all quieted down was, “Ok.  You guys aren’t in trouble.”  Then, after a collective sigh of relief from the boys, he added, “Yet.  And we,”  he indicated the other counselors, “want to make sure that you don’t get into trouble when you leave camp and go out into the world.”  What followed was 45 minutes of talk about treating girls respectfully; not staring at their attractive parts, whether it’s someone you know, someone on television, or the women in “pornographic literature;” not touching any of a girl’s skin that’s covered by clothing, when given the opportunity; and of course not touching yourself, whether alone or with friends.  Alone or with friends, thought Drew.  Who does that?  He had been seriously creeped out by the whole discussion.  He figured most of the boys felt the same, as they all pretty much sat quiet, apparently, like him, praying for this discussion to end, his neighbor, Billy Bristol, among them.

After the talk, as the boys headed back to the concrete slab to shoot some baskets and wait for the girls to finish their talk, the contents of which Drew didn’t even want to think about, the attitude of some of the boys changed a bit.

“Thank god that’s over,” said one.

“Guess that means I can’t stare at Alicia during chapel,” another joked.

“She is hot,” said another.

“Oh man.”  It was Billy.  Drew winced a bit, knowing what Billy was capable of.  “You should see the stack of dirty magazines Drew and I look at all the time!”  Some of the boys responded with uncomfortable laughter.  Drew didn’t say a word or look at anyone.

———-

Dinner was over.  Drew tried to keep his cool, keep up his end of conversations, eat all his food.  But all he could think about was the magazine upstairs, in his room, under his mattress.  His mom asked him if was feeling ok.  “Yeah.  Just tired,” he said, examining his mom’s face for any indication of suspicion.  He found none.

“Well, wash up and take it easy then,” she said.  “Maybe get to bed early tonight.” Drew watched a little T.V. with his folks after dinner, declined an offer from his dad to play a few hands of cribbage, and went upstairs for a shower, and then bed.  He laid in bed, rereading the Batman comic that he’d bought earlier that day.  He tried hard to focus on the story this time.  But his mind kept going back over the events of the day.  He was beginning to wonder if the magazine was even real.  He’d never got a good look at it in the store, or in his room when he sped it from under his shirt to under his bed.  But he was pretty sure it was still there.  God, he hoped it was still there, that it hadn’t been found, by his mother.  He settled into an uneasy sleep after deciding that he had to get the damn thing out of the house.  Tomorrow.  Somehow.  Perhaps after just a brief look.

 

———-

As far as I can remember, I have never stolen a dirty magazine. From a store.  And my dad, as far as I know, has never been run over by a bus, in Dallas or elsewhere.

Hardee’s (Best eatin’ in town, up and down, and all around.)

Hardees

That’s right. I put in my time in the fast food industry. I did a month at Hardee’s during the summer of ’87. I was a morning dude. So I got up early, got things cooking, made the biscuits from scratch. You know, no big deal. As I remember it, I punched out after the lunch rush. The manager was the mom of a friend. She was pretty cool in the morning, would make us sweet omelets. But when the lunch rush hit, if you didn’t have your crap together, get ready to have a new hole ripped for you. Some may say its wrong to take a piece of cooked meat that had been dropped on the floor and put it back on the grill or on a bun to be served so the customer didn’t have to wait another five minutes for a new patty to cook. But you weren’t there, man. You don’t know what it was like. It could be scary. My memory of Hardee’s is good. But the pay was fast food pay, and I was living at home. So when an opportunity to be a groundsman at a tree trimming company in Merriam came knocking, I took it.

Recycle Monster

recycle monster

I don’t remember the circumstances, but years ago my classroom came into possession of a big plastic trashcan.  It was really more trashcan than my little classroom needed, so we somehow decided to use it to collect plastic water bottles for recycling.  A big trashcan with a water bottle-sized hole was pretty boring, so I commissioned this guy.  I’m sure my instruction was something along the line of, “Can you make something cool so this won’t look so boring?”  The artist clearly came through.  This sweet monster mouth man with his scrawny little body reminds me of the Plop magazine monsters.  I love it.  This is the same artist who drew the Little Red Riding Hood piece.

A Communion Lament

This one’s from September of 2013.  It’s kind of a dark one.  In reading it again, I see that I don’t talk about communion, that is, the bread and juice, at all.  Even Jesus isn’t talked about much. But I guess I speak to something that we all share, something we all have in common.

There’s a short video making the rounds of Facebook, or at least it was last week, sorry if this message is a little dated.  I can’t really show the video here, as it’s comedian Louis C. K., who’s not really family friendly.  He’s talking to Conan O’brien on Conan’s talk show, explaining why he won’t let his girls have cell phones.  The point he makes that I want to talk about is when he says that deep down inside all of us is that scary, dark, empty, sad place.  And that when we notice it, we immediately need something to distract us, to help us forget about it.  He said that that’s why people text and drive.  That something reminds us of that darkness within us, and we immediately have to distract ourselves with who’s saying hi, or we have to say hi, or some other inane thing, even at the risk of killing ourselves and others.

This isn’t a new thing.  The texting while driving thing may be.  But people, even god’s people, have been trying to distract themselves, to fill that place for as long as there have been people.  Noah had his wine. Abraham was a liar.  As was his grandson Jacob. King David, god’s chosen one, distracted himself with adultery.  His son, the wisest man in the world, tried to fill his life with women and things.

And we see this happen today with god’s chosen, those Christians in the spotlight, all the time.

And we, the regular folks, do the same things, using all kinds of things to distract ourselves from the fear and pain at our core. Some of these things are more socially acceptable than others, but the list is pretty much the same as it’s always been: drugs, alcohol, food, sex, possessions, power.

I think it was Billy Graham that talked about the god shaped hole that each of us have, that empty space that only god can fill. This may be what Louis C. K. was talking about.  But I struggle with what that means, what it means to fill that empty place.  Does it mean believing in an old bearded man in the sky?  Does it mean saying a special prayer and getting baptized, going to church every Sunday?  I don’t have an answer, but I don’t think any of those things are going to keep you from experiencing those times of anguish.

When I started writing this, I thought my conclusion would be that we need to fill that god shaped hole with Christ’s greatest commandment, to love god, and to do that by loving our neighbors.  And I still think that’s about as good a way to live a life as there is.  But I think I’m going to agree with Louie’s conclusion.  He said we need those dark times.  That when they come, we shouldn’t distract ourselves with booze or food or texting.  That we should embrace the anguish, know that relief will come.  In the bible these times are expressed through laments.  The Old Testament is full of them.  And think of Jesus in the garden, begging god for a way out.  And later on the cross, crying out to a god who has abandoned him.  Even Jesus felt that way.  Part of who we are, maybe, is to feel that emptiness sometimes, and to stay with that loneliness, so that we can know, like Job and Jeremiah and Jesus, that we have a god, who doesn’t take away the dark times, but who is with us during those times, even when we feel forsaken, and will be with us when the dark times are over.

Amen

Mustaches

Every year for the past few years, somewhere on the wall of my classroom hung the pictures of my yearbook staff, of our yearbook family.  This year the staff decided to place them around the room so that no matter which way one of my students was looking, they would be able to see one of my staff members.  I don’t know if this spread-out placement was what caused someone to decide it would be ok to draw mustaches on some of these photos, but someone did just that.  To be honest, the vandal’s mustaches were lame little things.  One of the students in my yearbook class thought he could do much better.  I think he succeeded.  Here is this year’s yearbook family, staches and all.

mustaches

 

Batman and the Outsiders

batmanandtheoutsiders

Batman and the Outsiders #7, Feb. 1984 by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo. As a kid, I read a lot of Batman, but I don’t remember The Outsiders. The Outsiders are a group of five heroes I also wasn’t familiar with: Geo-Force, who is strong, fast, and can fly; Halo, who has some kind of aura powers, the different color auras giving her different magical powers; Metamorpho, who I think can change himself into any element; Black Lightning (who I had heard of) who has some kind of vague power over all things electrical; and Katana, who does martial arts with a magic sword. They are a bunch of newbies, bankrolled by Bruce Wayne with Batman there in some sort of advisory capacity.

The story was fun with a kind of Twilight Zone twist.  In the previous issue, the team, with the exception of Katana, has been frozen by a mad scientist. He’s taken Katana because he needs to harvest her organs so he can put them in his sick wife. To help him with this he has three robots named #1, #2, and #3. It appears that he has built these robots based on plans he stole from a 1950’s mad scientist.

really

The rest of The Outsiders soon escape from their freezing thanks to the magic powers of Halo. It’s funny that they try to explain how she was able to use her aura powers just before the freezing happened to blah blah blah blah blah.

blahblahblah

It’s like when Dr. Who tries to explain something. It’s all “Who Cares!” It’s not real science, or even close, so what difference does it make? Just say you melted the ice from the inside while you were frozen and let’s be done with it. Phew. Sorry.

So the rest of the gang escapes and then tracks down Katana and then helps her escape, using all their super powers. This is what’s fun about team comic books–watching them work together to solve a problem or win a fight using everyone’s special abilities. That’s enough. Some team books get real talkie with everyone in conflict over their role in the group and who should or shouldn’t belong, and it becomes this boring soap opera.  There’s just a bit of that here.  But this book mostly focuses on the action, and it’s a fun little fight.

teamwork

And in the end there’s a little twist, and Black Lightning uses his magic powers, and it all ends well, except for Batman’s little moralizing.

judge much

He doesn’t know these people. Who is he to judge them for trying to escape from society, when that’s obviously what he lives his life doing.  Wayne Manor, anyone? Bat cave?
Dear art,

Raise a theme. Provoke discussion. But don’t tell us what’s what.  Leave that to us to figure out.  Thanks.
Having said all that, this was a fun story. Two unknown super heroes up.

 

Pencil Power

In regard to my buttons, one of my readers/friends/past students said this: When will you be showing us the jean jacket these were all attached to?

My response: I wish I had these on a jean jacket.  I had a piece of brown velvet, or velvety stuff, hanging in my room with about half of them on it. And this beauty, which I made in elementary school, held the other half.

pencilpower

I think this thing is from about 5th grade.  I remember making the pencil and calling it done.  The art teacher said I needed more, so I added the “Pencil Power.”  I’m sure the dots are a result of me accidentally dripping hot wax as I worked.  My guess is that any time you see a poster with dots on it like this, there’s a 10% chance that that was the original plan, and a 90% chance that the dots are a result of a dripping accident.

Searz

searsz

This is the biggest piece of art I’ve received from a student. A teacher left our school a few years ago, and left this podium behind.  I snatched it up. The podium had his name sort of written on it, but it looked horrible.  One of my students offered to take it home and redo it for me.  I figured shed never get around to it and I’d never see it again. Obviously I was wrong.  This thing is awesome.  It looks like the logo for a superhero.  My one request was no glitter (the std of craft) hence the S outlined in glitter. So one point docked for that.  Otherwise, super cool.

This podium has served me for five years. In my new position next year I won’t be needing it so I’ve bequeathed it to my wife for use in her classroom.  And while the podium officially belongs to the school district, I don’t see me ever leaving the district without it.  The artist is currently studying magazine design, something she excelled at in yearbook class back in the day.