Dale Stephanos
Let's change the subject
JD Salinger
News that the reclusive author J.D. Salinger passed away sent me back through the years in several ways. This is a sketch from a a couple of years ago for a job that died a premature death. The writer was sent out to do a "Finding Salinger" story - a task at which he thankfully failed. I remember thinking that Mr. Salinger chose not to be a public figure, and how it was offensive that somebody was out to find him simply because there was no other news going on. In today's culture of everybody being famous on Youtube, twitter, blogs(!), and the internets in general, Salinger's one and out strategy is particularly refreshing. He said what he had to say, and that was it.

Twenty or so years ago my brother Kyle and I had a strange hobby. We had these great maps that showed every road - paved, dirt, abandoned. Some even cut through people's yards. We'd spend a weekend trying to figure out how to get from the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border all the way up to the US/Canada border using only dirt roads. We had a Suzuki Sidekick, a case of beer (Hey, we were in the woods) and a box full of heavy metal tapes. Often, we'd pass through Cornish, NH, Salinger's hometown, and a couple of times I imagined I spotted him ducking behind a tree or a rock. Of course, it wasn't him and it didn't matter. Those trips were like our little mountain version of Holden Caulfield's journey. But with a Metallica soundtrack and Budweiser.

Brown is the new purple

This is what I love about politics. The election of Scott Brown to the US Senate last night was an upset for the ages. It’s right up there with the Red Sox’ victory over the Yankees in the ALCS in ’04,  Spinks beating Ali, and the US Olympic hockey team beating Russia in 1980. As pure political theater, it was as entertaining as anything I remember. Martha Coakley, the democratic candidate was pretty much considered the incumbent and the election itself was more ceremonial than anything. The republican candidate (just those words in Massachusetts brings a smug grin from most people around here) was treated the way an eight year old would be for attempting a magic trick at a family party – “That’s cute kid, very nice, now run along”.


As the campaign rolled along, we saw less and less of Coakley, which was okay because what we did see was a tight lipped, overly cautious, entitled politician who seemed to think that mixing it up with the electorate was a task that was beneath her. You almost expected to see her wearing latex gloves while out shaking hands with the people, and the way she showed her teeth was more grimace than smile. It takes a very special kind of politician to lose a 30 point lead to a republican in Massachusetts. Coakley seemed to be a great AG, but she belongs in politics about as much as I do. Talk about a charisma vacuum. It’s as though someone took Mike Dukakis, rolled him in with John Kerry, and then drained what little charm remained, if any.


On the other side you had Brown, driving from town to town in his battered pickup truck with 200,000 miles on it. He seemed to genuinely enjoy getting out and asking people for their vote. He’s as off the cuff and thrown together as Mitt Romney is shined and polished. While Brown was on television every day with his ads showing him in the family kitchen talking to you like a neighbor, Coakley was nowhere to be seen, only responding eventually with a barrage of negative ads.


As far as why Brown won, as always in politics, it’s as complicated as trying to design a flow chart on why someone falls in love. Lame lazy de facto incumbent meets eager, good looking refreshing challenger. A bad economy where the working people (those who are left) are asked to pay for someone else’s –war, bailout, healthcare, etc. We love an underdog in this country. But bottom line is that the country found out what we in Massachusetts have known for a long time. It’s the independents who rule this state. We elected Bill Weld and Mitt Romney not as republicans, but as a repudiation to an entrenched one party system. Same with Brown. We’re not a blue state, we’re not a red state, we’re a purple state.


After Brown’s rambling victory speech in which he seemed star struck at the idea of talking to the president, being onstage with Doug Flutie, and mentioning more than once that his daughter is available, I’ll bet that first twinge of buyer’s remorse may have flickered across many minds. There’s a big difference between politics and governance.


We all have very particular memories and feelings that present themselves like a stranger barging into the room when it comes to 9/11. The smallest thing can trigger an unwanted trip down memory lane. For me it’s a collage of colors and sounds. The bright yellow of the scrambled eggs I was making my kids for breakfast when my mother called from New York to tell me to turn on the TV. The earth tones our living room while we watched what was unfolding on TV. The sound of a broadcast suddenly being interrupted. The phone constantly ringing with calls from my wife’s station and the rushed conversation about whether they’d send her to New York or Washington to cover the story. Laughing children. The sight of almost everyone in lower Manhattan looking up and covering their mouths, as though that act would keep whatever evil had descended at bay.

Most of all, I remember looking at the incredibly vivid blue sky that day. Later on, alone with my young kids at the playground I kept glancing up at the sky, empty of clouds and airplanes, and felt myself trying to summon up the overcast that would fit the mood of the day. The fact that there was so much darkness on such a bright beautiful day made it all the more obscene.

I hope time has brought some comfort to all who were affected that day.

Summer Studio
This is the summer studio. Katama Bay, South Beach dunes beyond that, and then the Atlantic. I installed a nice breeze and the sound of waves crashing and laughing children. As Dudley Moore once said, “It doesn’t suck”.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for....
My favorite comedy routine growing up was Bill Cosby's bit on the ice creram man. My favorite Van Halen song? Ice Cream Man. I don't really eat the stuff these days.

I know New Englanders haven’t cornered the market on loving ice cream, but I read something somewhere at some point long ago that we eat more of the stuff up in our little corner of the country than all the rest of you combined. I suspect that maybe because we have such long dark Winters and endless dreary Springs, we binge on ice cream in the summertime. Maybe, maybe not, it’s just a theory.

What I am sure of is that New England in particular is home to dozens of roadside ice cream stands. Many of them are seasonal only, opening up on April 15, giving comfort to all - the devout, the liars, the cheats, the shady dealers as well as the play by the rules types – on tax day, when everybody needs a little extra sweetness their lives, and closing on Columbus day, when we’re all distracted by the autumn foliage exploding all around us. A few of these joints have morphed into honest to god empires.

Richardson’s in Middleton, MA is the big one around here. Many a unsuspecting chocolate chip cookie dough fiend (Me) have waddled up to the local ice cream stand , the fantasy of some family owned recipe being secretly doled out just for their quavering tongues. Sometimes that’s actually the case, but mostly it’s dropped off in the back by an unmarked truck. Usually, if it’s good, it’s Richardson’s. It doesn’t matter though, the stuff is sweet.

For me, Carter’s in Bradford (which is part of Haverhill) MA is special. It’s the place up there on my banner at the moment. In fact, if you look at that picture you’ll see my wife and her best friend since childhood, Jane (Grape Nut), holding daughter Sydney’s (our god daughter) hand as they approach the back of the line. Jane’s father and Maria’s father where best friends as well. And now our kids are all best friends. 3 generations of close families stopping at the same road side ice cream shack. How can they say this stuff is bad for you?

My wife (Chocolate) had her first taste of ice cream (pistachio I think) at Carter’s. So did my daughter (Chocolate and vanilla, but she’s moved on to black rasberry). My son too (Chocolate, but he’s more adventurous. His latest is coconut). When I was in High School and going steady with the girl I’d marry we’d often walk the 2 1/2 miles to Carter’s from my house. I have no idea what we’d talk about, but it was endlessly fascinating. These days we walk a mile to get there from Jane’s house.

When you reach the intersection where Carter’s stands there’s a great view – the one in the banner – of Bradford, and across the Merrimack River, Haverhill, which sits on the side of a hill. Haverhill was where Archie Comics creator Bob Montana grew up and based his town of Riverdale. The old High School is a dead ringer for the one in the comics. I haven’t seen Jughead, but I’ll bet that at one point in his life he scooped a few at Carter’s.

Crumb at Mass Art
I met a few friends at Mass Art last night to see the R. Crumb exhibit. I've always admired Crumb's uncompromising dedication to his artistic vision even though the actual subject matter makes me want to protect any child that may be within a mile of his work. Women in particular could learn quite a bit about what it's like in a man's head if they saw/read what I saw last night. I fear that there would be more lesbians in the world if this material were distributed widely. Not that that would be a bad thing.
One of the more interesting images I saw was this piece - a drawing on acid blotter. You sure don't get that kind of drawing high working digitally.
It ain't stealing if it's art.
This is from today's Boston Globe. There's an exhibition of Shepard Fairy's work at the ICA in Boston this month and he's been doing a lot of press. I like what he does and the spirit in which he proceeds, but I can see how it would get a panty or two twisted up in a knot. One thing that did jump out at me in one of his interviews was when he was asked about appropriating someone else's images into his own work. "When you go see a band and they play cover tunes they never introduce the song by saying,'This is a cover song by...". Well, often they do. And if it's a recording of someone else's song then the writer is receiving credit and revenue from the recording (after giving permission).
 Anyway, I think it's an interesting issue and I'm firmly on the fence. I reserve my right to enjoy the transformative work of others and I'm fully prepared to be outraged, litigious and flattered if anyone ever has the poor judgement (financial and aesthetic) to use my work as a basis for theirs.
Or not.
NEW YORK - On buttons, posters, and websites, the image was everywhere during last year's presidential campaign: a pensive Barack Obama looking upward, as if to the future, splashed in a Warholesque red, white, and blue and underlined with the caption HOPE.

Designed by Shepard Fairey, a Los-Angeles based street artist, the image has led to sales of hundreds of thousands of posters and stickers and has become so much in demand that copies signed by Fairey have been purchased for thousands of dollars on eBay.

The image, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Manny Garcia at the National Press Club in Washington.

The AP says it owns the copyright and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees.

"The Associated Press has determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission," the AP's director of media relations, Paul Colford, said in a statement.

"AP safeguards its assets and looks at these events on a case-by-case basis. We have reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution."

"We believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here," says Fairey's attorney, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University and a lecturer at the Stanford Law School.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to comment beyond that at this time because we are in discussions about this with the AP."

Fairey, in Boston for the opening of his solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, could not be reached for comment. The ICA declined to comment on the case, said deputy director Paul Bessire.

Punk rocker and social activist Henry Rollins, a friend of Fairey's who contributed an essay to the ICA show catalog, dismissed AP's claim.

"Shepard's image is his interpretation of an image," he said. "That is to say, it is not a photograph of a photograph, but a drawn image that resembles a photograph. Basically, AP's got no traction here. Nice try. Art wins again."

Fair use is a legal concept that allows exceptions to copyright law, based on, among other factors, how much of the original is used, what the new work is used for, and how the original is affected by the new work.

Fairey is not the first artist accused of copyright infringement. Campbell's raised the issue when Pop Art icon Andy Warhol created his famous works inspired by a soup can; no legal action was taken. More recently, visual artist Richard Prince, who typically takes photographs used in ads and blows them up to make gallery pieces, has been sued by a French photographer for using his images without permission.

A longtime rebel with a history of breaking rules, Fairey has said he found the photograph using Google Images. He released the image on his website shortly after he created it, in early 2008, and made thousands of posters for the street.

As it caught on, supporters began downloading the image and distributing it at campaign events, while blogs and other Internet sites picked it up. Fairey has said that he did not receive any of the money raised.

A former Obama campaign official said they were well aware of the image based on the picture taken by Garcia, a temporary hire no longer with the AP, but never licensed it or used it officially. The Obama official asked not to be identified because no one was authorized anymore to speak on behalf of the campaign.

The image's fame did not end with the election. It will be included at the ICA exhibit, opening tomorrow, and a mixed-media stenciled collage version has been added to the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

"The continued use of the poster, regardless of whether it is for galleries or other distribution, is part of the discussion AP is having with Mr. Fairey's representative," Colford said.

Associated Press writer Philip Elliott in Washington and Geoff Edgers of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.
Mother Jones
I guess it’s okay for me to piggyback on Harry Campbell’s post here.

Over the last year or so I’ve become a big fan of Mother Jones magazine. Sure, they have groundbreaking reportage and all around good writing, but as a guy who enjoys looking at pictures I’ve been impressed with just how much illustration they use. So when creative director Tim Luddy called and asked if I had time to do a cover for their inauguration issue I felt like I had just been given a winning lottery ticket.

Tim had the idea of quoting a 1935 Saturday Evening Post cover, which was painted by the legendary J.C. Leyendecker.  We tried a couple of different approaches to the baby new year theme – top hat, no top hat, different expressions, but I think keeping it simple was important. After working on this for a while I started to relate to the image itself – you walk a fine line between satire and ridicule doing what I do. I generally don’t like when the former turns into the latter, which can easily happen when  you get some momentum going. Still, it’s not often that a man can look back on his day of work and proudly say that he was paid to draw the president of the United States in a diaper.

As is often the case, this issue of mother Jones is full of top notch illustration ( and photography, but that’s not my tribe), and I’m thankful to Tim Luddy for seeing the value in what we do. It’s obvious that many of us bring our A game when Tim calls. I’m honored to share the same spot on the newssstand with many of my favorite fellow artists. I’ve included many below, but if I missed you, it’s only because it was time to go shovel.
Front Page Fuchs
Someone around here should mention Thomas Fuch's great illustration on the front page of the New York Times today. I love that they used illustration in the same spot that's usually reserved for the most important news of the day.
McCain seems to have a good sense of humor about himself which will help him get through this tough time.
I hope you all get out and vote today....unless you haven't made up your mind yet which would mean that you haven't been paying attention and are probably uninformed. In that case, just watch Spongebob Squarepants and we'll take care of things for ya! You betcha!
George Carlin
For better or worse I received a good part of my philosophical education through comedians when I was growing up.  In his early days, George Carlin was best known for his “7 dirty words” routine, which was quickly committed to memory by anyone who heard it. When I was a kid, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the date of any important historical event but those 7 words were instantly burned into my cerebral cortex.

I’m hoping they will be my last words.

In his later years Carlin evolved into more of an apocalyptic philosopher who still threw in a fart joke while ruminated on the absurdity of a loving, caring God. I think he referred to the Big Guy as “The invisible man in the sky who will damn you to eternal hell and flames to suffer forever if you break any of his rules….but he LOVES you”. Or something like that.
Carlin was also the narrator for the “Thomas the Train” tv show. I got a huge kick out of that when my kids used to watch it.

My brothers and I used to listen to a lot of comedy albums as kids. Looking back, the ones that stuck were, in particular order:

George Carlin – Class Clown
Richard Pryor – That N-‘s crazy
Steve Martin _Wild and Crazy Guy
Bill Cosby – Wonderfulness
Cheech and Chong – Big Bambu

Anyway, here’s to Carlin. I hope the invisible man in the sky has a spot for him.
Grand Theft Auto
One of the most provocative pieces of writing I’ve come across recently was a  New York Times review of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. It was the first time I’ve been asked to consider a video game as a legitimate work of art, in the same vein as motion pictures or literature.  And here I was, just thinking it was about killing, raping, and all sorts of until now unimagined mayhem.

I’ll say up front that my video game exposure in the last 25 years has been limited to getting my tail kicked by my kids on their Wii, and wondering how the hell to turn a Nintendo DS off so that it would stop…that…music. Still, reading  the Times GTA review made me feel as though the train for pop culture’s future was leaving the station and I hadn’t bought a ticket.

A couple of months ago Chuck Klosterman wrote in Esquire about never having read any of the Harry Potter books and never intending to. What concerned him was the thought that he was willingly letting a generational gap open up between where he stood and those who had read the books. His point was that from here on out, the people who read the books would integrate the ideas and catch phrases into everyday life, and he wouldn’t even know that he wasn’t “getting it”.  He seemed to be at peace with the idea of not being in on whatever joke these kids are playing.

I feel the same with video games. To me, it’s just a bunch of noise, killing, and bad behavior. But when you look at the numbers – Grand Theft Auto IV has claimed two entertainment industry sales records, posting the best ever single-day and seven-day sales totals for a computer game. Last year’s Halo 3 sold $300 Million it’s first week. That makes your typical Hollywood blockbuster opening look like peanuts.

But is it or can it be art? I don’t even know what art is most of the time, so yeah, sure, it’s art. What I do know is that this is a huge industry that is only going to grow in the years to come. If I were a young artist getting out of school and blinking in the harsh bright daylight of the professional world, I’d seriously consider the possibility of killing, carjacking, and drugging my way to a career.
Snowball piggyback
The summer studio is closed for the season.
Mid-December, Christmas lights, and the first big snowstorm of the year. It's beautiful, and it makes me feel like a kid again. Would I be a bad father if I took the kids out sledding and then gave them a good lesson in how to pick off cars with snowballs?
This seems like yesterday.
Me and Bella getting some lunch.
More Drawger Party
After Public Enemy left the stage a bunch of rappers got up there. I think Rob Saunders was a little out of place, but it was fun to watch anyway.
I thought the 3 hour drive to NYC would be the hard part. Then another 3 hours between the Cross Bronx and the carefully hidden spot for the first (Annual?) Drawger Annual opening threatened to crack me. In the end, it was all worth it. I won't remember everything, or even most of it, but I'll have some scars I can tell lies about. Here are a couple of shots I took. If you couldn't make it this year, you missed something special. I think.

The drive home at 5 am was ugg-lee.
A karaoke match broke out and Jack White kept jumping in and hogging people's songs. Barry Blitt threw down and mayhem ensued, the room cleared, and feelings where hurt. The way all karaoke should end in my opinion.
I was talking to a friend the other day and somehow the conversation drifted into that dark neighborhood at the corner of Disappointment and Shame. Now these are two very different avenues, even if they look similar at first. While those who dwell on Disappointment are renters, the residents of Shame are the owners of a mortgage that will never be paid in full.

I think I'll step off that metaphor here.

I got to thinking about my disappointments and  those things of which I am truly ashamed.

My wasted later teenage years? Disappointed.
My love of 80's metal? Shame. (But I ain't changing - Shout at the devil!)

You get the idea. I can justify my love of Journey ( Guitarist Neal Schon turned down a gig as Clapton's rhythm guitarist when he was 17 so he could go on tour with Santana).

I think the only times I've really been ashamed is when I knew I could do something and didn't. It's like watching someone steal a part of you and not fighting to get it back.

And just so you know I'm giving it my all, I'll admit to, maybe I won't go that far. Maybe over a beer sometime.
Red Sox Win!
So the Red Sox won the World Series last night, sweeping the Colorado Whattayacallits in 4 games. When the Sox won the series in '04 it was like the lancing of a black festering boil that had taken over the region over 86 years. People had been born, lived long lives, and died without ever seeing their beloved Red Sox win a World Series. The way it is now, my kids have seen 2 series victories in their short lives. Don't get me wrong, it's great, but it's not that 3000lb weight off of our collective shoulders.

This all got me in a "Careful what you wish for" frame of mind when a friend sent me these photos. This poor(?) little guy chased down a porcupine, caught him, and got what was coming to him. Now, am I saying that sports fans deserve a mouthful of quills? Well, many do, yes indeed. But many don't. I guess my point is that the chase is often just as, if not more, rewarding than the catch. You can insert whatever equivalent platitude suits you here. My main point is damn, winning can really hurt the next day.

Go Pats!
Ah, Halloween, the season of ghosts, ghouls, and… Giving!
Around here, the kids have a Halloween tradition that’s right up my alley. It combines juvenile delinquency with kindness. It’s called “Ghosting”.

I had never heard of this until my daughter brought the idea home with her a few years ago. Here’s how it goes: At night, a bunch of kids go around the neighborhood to their friend’s houses, creep up the stairs, quietly place a paper bag in front of the door, ring the doorbell, and then RUN LIKE HELL!

The catch is that the paper bag is filled with candy, along with a note that the recipient has been “Ghosted”. You’re supposed to put the sign up on your door so you don’t get repeat offenders, but somehow, that sign never seems to stay up for long, and before you know it your doorbell’s ringing again.

Since this is an activity that requires exacting parental supervision, I end up driving the getaway SUV. It’s a lot of fun really. We stake out a good out of sight spot, and after the kids do the deed, they come sprinting back to the car, pile in on top of each other, panting, sweating, and screaming “GOGOGO! “and I lay down some serious rubber getting out of there. The next day at school is the great guessing game of who ghosted whom.

As I said, I had never heard of this game in particular, although I have heard stories of a paper bag, dog crap, a match, a doorbell, Mrs. Smith, parents hanging up the phone, and a spanking. Maybe I saw all that in a movie. Maybe not.

*Traditionally, the tag accompanying the bag o' candy is your basic photocopied, handwritten affair. I thought I'd show up the local moms and show what you can do with a computer and 10 minutes.
The way I saw it.
Like many of you, I start the day with the biggest, strongest bucket of coffee I can rustle up. There's a Starbucks up the road and the drive up there is a pleasure. I go past the local farm where the change of season presents itself daily, I get to play “beat the crossing guard”, and that guy who stands in front of his house pacing and chain smoking all day never let’s me down (such dedication!) The early morning joggers, walkers, bikers, and exercisers of all stripes get me inspired to go out and chase them all down.

One of the things I snicker at every morning in a pompous, superior way is the "The Way I See It" campaign that 'Bucky's has printed on their cups. They're all inspirational-ish sayings that you would hear on Oprah if you weren't actually trying to make a living. This morning's was something about warning us not to turn into our enemies in the pursuit of justice. Good point, but I feel like a tool when I get my wisdom from overly sentimental tripe that’s printed on a coffee cup.

*reprinted from yesterday's edition.
Adam Rex
I believe in shouting out when the subject's worth the shout. I just discovered Adam Rex via Irene Gallo's (excellent) blog. This guy kills me! Great art, and a screwy sense of humor.
I spent the morning laughing and clicking through his website:
I can stop any time I want.
I swore to myself this summer that I wouldn’t get dragged back into bike racing. It’s excruciatingly difficult, and an even bigger time hog than blogging.  But that’s no reason to stop. I think I had just done it well enough to satisfy my irrational competitive urges and it was time to turn my full attention back to work.

Then around the middle of July I was riding my bike down to the Cape, which is about 95 miles from my house. It usually takes me about 4.5 hours. On this day, I had a strong tailwind and beat my previous best time by almost 30 minutes. With the endorphins flying around my head like mosquitoes at a cookout, I started thinking about my favorite race, the Green Mountain Stage Race, which is held on Labor Day weekend in the mountains of Vermont.

Like an alcoholic stopping into the bar for “just one drink”, I’ve found myself face down in a lactic haze of tracking intervals, watts, heartbeats, kilojoules, and time ridden. I can tell I’m getting into race shape because riding a bike is just about all I can do. A 4 hour hard ride with 6000 feet of climbing? Sure. Climbing out of the car and up the stairs to my front door? I don’t think so. I need to rest and catch my breath in the middle. It’s a very specific strength one develops while training to race a bike, to the exclusion of almost all other normal activities.

I’m not sure what it is about all the pain and suffering, the sweat, snot and bloodshed involved, that keeps me coming back. I often say that if our government put the detainees at Guantanamo through the kind of torture that my friends and I subject ourselves to willingly,  Amnesty International would be all over them with valid charges of human rights abuse.

I have met some of my favorite people in the world through this sport, so there’s that.

I’ve fallen off the wagon completely. Hopelessly. I swear I’ll stop after Labor Day and get back to the serious work of working seriously.  Just one more race. Really.
Summer Studio
It’s Mid-Summer and I’m still having a hard time getting the momentum back after a nice vacation.

Crickets on the brain let’s call it.

Nothing I’m going to do is going to measure up to what I created several years ago in the back yard anyway. I’ll call it the Summer Studio, but really, it's just a great place to chill and relax. Or, as my good friend Tobi’s son calls it – “Chillaxin’”.

We put the pool in back in ’04 and didn’t really budget for the landscaping. After getting an estimate in the tens of thousands for a retaining wall and a few bushes, I thought “Okay, I’ll be a landscaper this summer”. So I recruited my buddy Doug to haul the stones up with (for) me and spent that summer/Fall building the walls and the path. I threw in perennials as I went along. After 3 years I’m still tweaking it, but I’ve realized that that’s what a garden is – an annual work in progress. I think of it as fireworks in slow motion. The next couple of weeks will be spectacular, and then the slow descent into Fall.
Here's a "Before", or "During" picture. There's Doug taking a beer break. Don't worry, I put him back to work quickly.
Mr. Butch, RIP
Mr. Butch - always entertaining!
Mr. Butch F-s motherf-ers.

How often do you stumble onto a catchphrase that stays with you for decades? That quote above is what the legendary Mr. Butch, of Kenmore Square in Boston, had scrawled on the back of his trenchcoat, which never left his back, whether it was 90 degrees or 20. When we’re stressed, or the jackals are closing in, my wife and I use this as our rallying cry.

Back in the mid to late 80’s I lived in Boston with my brother Kyle in what can only be called drunken squalor. Good times. I was a musician/artist and Kyle was a deadhead. Music and partying were the most important things in life. In the slipstream of that lifestyle came an odd assortment of characters, good and bad, and both.

One of them was Mr. Butch.

There was a legendary nightclub in Kenmore Square called the Rathskeller, or the Rat as we all called it. The owner/host was rumored to be a Satan worshipping Aleister Crowley devotee, and was in possession of only half of his tongue. The Police played there before they were big (the place held maybe 200 people, but thousands now claim to have been at that show), as well as any punk band from the 70’s through the early 90’s.

It’s the rare homeless person that anyone would actually look forward to seeing, but Mr. Butch was just that. Sure, he’d try to bum a few bucks off of you. But he’d also be the first to offer you a hit off his joint, a beer if he had more than one, or access to any illicit substance that was in his power to offer. Aside from all that he was a lot of fun to just stand around and bullshit with. He was an entertainer, whether with a guitar or just a story.

He was not a horrible guitar player, eschewing technique for heart. I could have learned from this. He fronted one or two nasty little punk bands, opening for a handful of national acts at the Channel and the Rat. I remember one time at a Motorhead show he was crowd surfing and got tossed up on stage and Lemmy did not give Mr. Butch the customary kick in the head. Respect. Word.

Now this is all gone. I’m no longer chasing the music and I live a healthy, clean lifestyle.  The Deadheads have disbursed and god-fearing Kyle lives in Kentucky. The building that housed the Rat was leveled for a high falootin’ hotel. The Channel is gone. Mr Butch is dead from injuries received in a scooter accident.

My Boston was gone long ago.

Better to burn out than to fade away Brother! I’ll have one for my homie.
Doug Marlette
The Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette died yesterday in a car accident. I didn’t know Doug well enough to call him a friend, but I had met him several times back when I was an excited, idealistic editorial cartoonist. He was always very supportive and encouraging to the younger guys who would love to have had his job.

Doug’s cartoons were powerful and to the point. There was not a lot of superfluous detail in either the drawing or the writing. In fact, he did what he did so well that it was easy for a young aspiring cartoonist to mistake what Doug did as being effortless. That’s the sign of someone hitting on all cylinders: When you can make someone who has no idea how you do it think “I could do that”.

The editorial cartoonist is quickly becoming as common as the blacksmith, with about as much importance and relevance. With his passing, Marlette leaves open a spot that may not be filled.
Life on the dock.
My mother’s house is smack dab on the side of a lake in a quaint little western New England village. She refers to it as SturBuffalo during the harsh winters when the lake has over 2 foot thick ice. But summers there are splendid.

The drive out there is just long enough to make you commit to a full day visit, whether anyone likes it or not. Once you’re out on her dock with it’s small armada of paddle boats, canoes, rowboats, inner tubes and oh yeah, a carbon fiber rowing shell (Mum is a rowing fanatic!) time slows to a crawl, and then before you know it, stops altogether. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at the end of that dock fishing and floating with my kids for what seems like forever, and at the same time, just a fleeting moment.

Time stands still on the dock and that’s the way I like it.

Here’s a sketch I did last week of my son Liam, after several hours of swimming and catching fish. Probably the same fish over and over. It looked pretty tuckered out by the end of the day. The routine is usually fish for 10 minutes, swim for ten minutes, then repeat, and repeat…

 Liam is in the High Summer of his boyhood. His world is all about baseball, riding bikes, drawing, fishing, swimming, and hanging out with his Dad. I realize these days are numbered and the world with its endless fascinations will lead him onto his own exciting path. While I look forward to see what kind of man Liam will become, I’ll miss this particular time of his life.
My drawing reminded me of my favorite Andrew Wyeth painting, "Roasted Chestnuts". I relate to Wyeth's sense of time without neccesarily being nostalgic in his paintings.
Belly of the Beast
Fenway's left field wall - The Green Monster.
It’s not often that you get to visit a legend, much less hang around with one. It’s even less often that you actually get to go and poke around it’s insides. But that’s what my family got to do last weekend at Fenway Park’s famous scoreboard/left field wall – “The Green Monster”.

The Monster’s scoreboard is one of only two manually operated MLB scoreboards in existence today. When you enter the inner workings of the Monster through the secret door on the scoreboard, you feel as though you’ve entered an alternate dimension. One second you’re out in left field of Fenway Park, sun shining, American flags waving, and the next you’re in a dimly lit hallway, half concrete support wall and the other half dark metal wall with sunlight blasting in through slits.

As your eyes adjust to the dull yellow light, you notice that the concrete walls are filthy. Wait, not filthy, just littered with signatures. Thousands of them. You’re told that players have been signing the walls here since the park opened. Ted Williams, Carl Yaztremski, Roger Clemens, too many to name and yet you keep recognizing more names the longer you look. It is to baseball what the dressing room at CBGB’s was to punk rock.

The numbers and team’s city names are all painted on sheets of metal that are inserted into their slots from behind. The scorekeeper has been the man behind the Monster for seventeen years now (Aside from being an actual member of the team, it’s the most coveted job at the park).

We entered into this amazing little world during batting practice before the game. Barry Bonds was taking his practice swings while we were behind the wall and as we heard about the history of the place and how it all worked, every few sentences were punctuated by the loud POP of the ball hitting the scoreboard. While we all jumped, the scorekeeper and the camera guy hardly noticed. Just the same old sound of a day at work for them.

I didn’t know if my kids would be impressed with all of this or not, being too young to have the perspective that hard bitten, often disappointed, but always loyal old Sox fans like their parents do. So I was pleasantly surprised when they seemed to have the same sense of awe that I did. And that’s when I realized what’s so cool about this kind of thing: It takes you back to how you felt when you were a kid, when the world seemed like a huge magical place with secrets that would sometimes reveal themselves.

I tried to take a lot of pictures. Many were out of focus. I was disappointed at first, then realized that it’s fitting, because the photos will match my kid’s memories of this special little treat.
Liam proves he can play left field better than Manny Ramirez.
We had to wait between batters to run out to the wall. The balls were coming in like bombs.
Checking out the view from inside the Monster.
The view from inside.
Layers of player signatures through the decades. If you can think of a player who's been a Red Sox, his names is here. Imagine what you could get for these walls on EBay.
I put mine on the ceiling. Always have to be different.
Liam and Bella put their names up there as well as their best friend's.
I always sit behing this guy where ever I go. I think he's stalking me.
For me, there's no more beautiful place than Fenway on a nice summer evening.
Cape Invasion
Mark Penta
My buddy Mark Penta just had his first book published. It's called "Cape Cod Invasion".

He had his first book signing this past weekend in Falmouth and he has a whole book signing tour scheduled for the summer. I could be wrong, but I think each stop happens to be near a bikini store. Smart guy.

The book consists of beautifully rendered scenes of Cape Cod destinations...with UFO's in the background. But there's a catch. You'll have to buy the book to find out what it is.

I'm very happy for Mark. I met him somewhere around 1990 when we were both drawing caricatures of the touristas at Quincy Market in Boston. Mark always had a much better disposition for the dealings of public commerce than I did. He's a kind, gentle soul.

So if you're on the Cape this summer, buy the damn book, willya?
Sox vs. Yanks
There's no better place in the world than Fenway on a nice summer night.
There’s nothing like Fenway Park on a nice summer evening. After the weather we had this past week, the mid 70’s temperatures were like a gift. Almost as good a gift as a Red Sox vs. Yankees 3 game stand at Fenway.

My son Liam is turning 7 this week and he’s a Red Sox fanatic so I thought I’d get us both tickets to the Big Game. We had the honor of seeing a David Ortiz homer and watching Jeter strike out. But of course, best of all was the fine cuisine: Hot Dogs, Cotton Candy, Cracker Jacks, Peanuts, Ice Cream, soda and beer. (I only let Liam drink Bud Lite)

Sox won, 7-5.
Poor kid's father looks like E.T. Obviously Liam gets his good looks from his mother.
I sit behind this guy everywhere I go.
Good Eatin'.
Belated piggyback
This is in response to Sterling Hundley's post a few days ago on the Illustration Academy. I had this at my old blog, but I thought the Drawger crowd might appreciate it more than my former audience.(My mother)

Chris Payne is one of my favorite illustrators. I attended a couple of weeks at the Illustration Academy in KC a few years ago, and I had the privilege of sitting across from Chris for a week. He did a few demos, and told a lot of great stories about his life as an illustrator. Come to think of it, he told great stories about EVERYTHING. I enjoyed the fact that he seasoned his amiable mid western accent with perfectly placed obscenities. Although I didn't really get to know him, I thoroughly enjoyed the CF Payne Experience. I still drop some of his quotes just to make my wife roll her eyes.

The first thing Chris did when he entered the studio was to pull out this big 10 pound blob of color and plop it on the desk. It's his palette, and I think it has paint on it from every job he's ever done.

The coolest thing was getting to watch while he worked on an actual job. It was a Mad magazine cover.(At the time, I thought that if I could do a cover for Mad I could pack it in and call it a life. It was a goal I'd dream of, but I didn't think it would ever happen. Within 2 months I had done my first Mad cover).

The thing I remember most was how hard he worked. I heard some really smart college kid say "He's not showing us his real secrets during the demos". I said to this kid, "You know how when we go to lunch, Chris keeps working? And when we take our afternoon break Chris keeps working? And when we go to dinner Chris keeps working? And when we're done at 9pm and go out for a beer Chris keeps working? And when we go back to the studio at 9 am and Chris is there working? THAT'S the secret step he does't show you during the demo"!

How many great paintings do you think came off of this?
A Big Fat Greek Easter
Homemade Tyropeta. I'm not sure what's in it, but it's good!
Actually, there weren't any fatties there, but if you've seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you get the basic idea of what Easter was like today around here. It's all true!

My wife made her signature appetizer - Tyropeta. It's filo dough filled with feta cheese and something else. She won't tell me what. That's one of the things I really get a kick out of. There's a subtle but very real competition among the greek women to make the best dish. You hear things like "Oh, this is great, what's the recipe"?, "Oh, you just make the dough and then maybe ten minutes". There are more non answers and obfuscating than a White House press conference.

I'm Irish on my mother's side and greek on my father's. We weren't raised with a lot of the greek culture, so I've enjoyed it more as a tourist than a native, which cuts both ways. "Dale" is obviously not a greek name, so when I meet a member of the family I've never met before(yes, after 27 years, I meet people in my wife's family I've never met before. Talk about "It takes a village"), it usually goes like this: (Imagine a greek accent) "Dale? Dale" What is Dale? Is not a GREEK name", and then a look of disappointment, then "But STEPHANOS! Yes, STEPHANOS is GREEK! VERY GOOD!" and then a hug and a kiss and on to the next.

The good thing is I'm a pretty skinny SOB and all the yiayias keep pushing food on me, so making a pig out of myself at these things is no problem.

Grown Men Who Shave Their Legs
It's a very diverse crowd that shows up on race day. You have carpenters, accountants, pilots, former pros, hedge fund managers, and even artists. I probably wouldn't know a lot of these guys if I bumped into them on the street, because we're always in helmets and glasses. But throw them in spandex and throw them on a bike, and I'll bet I could identify every Masters racer's ass in New England.

At the start of every race I look around at all the other 40 year old men who shave their legs and spend thousands of dollars on equipment and hundreds of hours training, and I think "What the hell is wrong with us"? We drive hours out of our way to get in a few hours of nearly unbearable suffering. These folks might look like skinny MoFo's, but they're really tough bastards.

So today was the first real race around these parts. It's a team sport, and you decide before the race who everyone else will work for. I came in mid pack, but we got our sprinter across the line in 2nd.
Scotch and Cigars?
A lot of you have shown me your, so I'll show you mine.
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