Bringing Union Sq to Book Nook

Wendell behind the counter at Book Nook
Wendell behind the counter at Book Nook

As many of you may or may not know, I’ve been displaying my art in coffee shops around here in Michigan. Two shops to be exact. Drip Drop Drink in Muskegon, and Book Nook Java Shop in Montague. I highly recommend both!
Now, Book Nook has invited me to hang as much as I want of whatever I want in their sizely establishment, and I’ve fully taken them up on that offer. About 20 pieces there now. I even framed that Wendell Head just in time for spring, as well as a poster size of that Union Square postcard, which is what I have to tell you about.

amazing strangers of union square cartoon drawing
All of the Union Square characters for Matchgame Postcard gathered at park digitized in Adobe Illustrator

Now, I’ve been putting off blowing this particular image up to poster size mainly because I sorta didn’t wanna see all those little drawings blown up. The postcard size smallness of the piece hid mistakes. Or maybe I just didn’t want to go down Memory Lane with these faces closeup just yet. Either way, I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity to share Union with the people of Montague. It was time to blow this baby up, 2 feet by 3 feet to frame for their wall.

I scaled the art, took it to the printers, and when I picked it up along with some others, I didn’t want to look at this one yet. I stress about these things. It wasn’t until it was framed and in my room that evening I actually sat down in front of it (a little stoned) and just stared at it. And lemme tell you, I was BLOWN AWAY.

I’d forgotten how much work I’d put into each of these tiny little caricatures, and all of their personalities came flooding back. All of these details were lost in that cramped little postcard I gave away. I shocked myself. Everybody looks like they actually look. Period. Roman and his gang, Wendell, Quarter Guy, Peepers, EVERYONE! No joke, it’s the first time I’d ever seen ANY of these this big, and it was cracking me up! There’s nothing else like it.

Union Square Glossary
Union Square Glossary

Long story short, I went back to the drawing board, added a few more characters (there’s over 100 people on it btw), plus a lot of  Easter Eggs for anyone who’s a real AS nerd.
I printed 50, 24″X 36″ posters to sell to whoever wants one. It’s First Print numbered & dated, signed by me, including this really nice looking glossary sheet with everybody’s name and where they are at the park. You can quiz yourself, and then go find them on the Tube! BUY IT HERE

union square nyc,
Union Sq at Book Nook

Not to toot my own horn but it’s really the greatest picture that’s ever going to exist of that corner of New York City at that point in time. If you were waiting for my big tribute to Union Square, this is it. Yet as I write this it’s only hanging in a cute little coffee shop in Montague Michigan… for now!

• AMAZING STRANGERS POSTER comes signed, w/glossary key.

$50
$50




 

 

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Scattered

Dali -pen & ink
Dali -pen & ink

If it’s not depression, I’m sittin’ on the edge of that cliff. I knew when I moved here 6 years ago that any hopes of having local friends, relationships or a social life of any kind were over. A 50+ single, childless, god-mocking Gen-Xer caring for his elderly parents in conservative-Bible-land during a pandemic has an extremely predictable plotline. I get it. And I don’t see any way others can help me through either. I don’t need an ear listening to my complaints. I know people love and care for me. Over here, men with these issues are on their own. And for the love of god, please stop suggesting I try joining a singles dating site. The suggestion itself is more painful than actually writing a bio for one. Thank you. I get it. But no.

I’ve also recently noticed that I’m audibly sighing now, regularly. Involuntary deep breaths followed by sad painful exhales. I try to divert it by turning it into talking to the dog, or myself, or singing to the radio. It’s a pathetic scene here, man. I’m pretty sure I’m able to keep it quiet enough when I’m out, but alone in my car it’s sickening! This fear of being a single man free of love from here on out has haunted me my whole life. And worse yet, it’s looking to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.
God, I’m  lonely.

Book Nook Java Shop, Whitehall MI
Book Nook Java Shop, Whitehall MI

So ANY-HOW, I’m handling this situation the only way I know. The only way I’ve ever known. I gather up my pencils, pens, sketchbook and my +3.00 reading glasses and head to a coffee shop and draw until they tell me to leave. Point my nose at a page and induce the only kind of focus capable of   blocking out the endless loop of all these thoughts through my simple mind.

Kimberly Vlaminck, Belguim
Kimberly Vlaminck, Belguim

Outside of this drawing-focus I’m completely scattered. I can hardly organize my thoughts enough to explain myself here even. And in the end it’s most likely a waste of time to do so anyhow since everyone’s going through their own version of this right now. Everyone’s yearning for help, answers, relief, care, love.
Jesus Christ.

Art on display at both Book NookDrip Drop Drink, Michigan.

There’s no other news to share.

As always, your interest is greatly appreciated.

Oh. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Thanks for 20 years

Jan 28, 2021
Subject: Thanks for 20 years

joy

Hi Bob,
I just wanted to tell you that my hard bumps in life have been softened by your genius. I broke free from the church in the 90’s and when I was crucified I found so much strength reading through your site.

I just wanted to say thank you for all the nights I didn’t know where to go and just read and read your site. I felt complicated and couldn’t sleep and found laughter and resolve for myself and the path I wanted. You are a true humanitarian. Thank you for publishing your journey. I mean it with all my heart.

Wishing you all the best,
Joy

Wow, Joy! I’m curious what exactly inspired you to write me now? Thank you so much. It does mean a lot to me to hear I made a difference. I have to admit I feel like I’ve been out of the game since I left NYC in 2015. Then add on the pandemic and middle of winter… I feel in limbo.

Do you remember how you first came across the site?
Normal Bob

 

Hmmm… I grew up in the bay area. My friends were nerds and all over the internet back when there were message boards and it was dial up. They sympathized with my bible thumping home life mismatch, and told me to read your site to feel like I’m not alone and see what normal people would say to the cultish things my parents would tell me. It definitely was all the empowerment I needed. Instead of crying or being traumatized after my parents tried to exorcise me at 17 I read NormalBob.

At 27 when a creep I was dating lied about being a hardcore born again and tried to evangelize me. I was so creeped out I couldn’t sleep… But I remembered NormalBob and read through all the things until well after the sun came up. Everything in the world felt okay again. I’m not exaggerating. You really did restore my balance and help me when religion was a scary monster and occasionally an evil cult.

It’s totally understandable that your inspiration and muse can wax and wane and your voice and passions might shift and change. You have lots to give. I’m sure you will find that again in a way that feels authentic. Maybe don’t try so hard. When you feel passion follow it without expectations. Be open.
There’s a million things to be opinionated about, or compassionate or passionate about during these days. Judgment is a way we are in overdrive because it keeps us safe and alive. Don’t feel pressure to be anything you were or did before. Now is uncharted.

It’s also okay if you were a humanitarian for a long time and you do other things these days. That’s still a lot to be proud of yourself for!

In the Netflix show Pretend It’s A City, Fran Lebowitz makes a lot of great points about why New York drives people to be pushy and opinionated. How every other city in America fails at that in comparison. Why that’s so valuable. You might want to check it out. She’s amazing!

Joy

I really appreciate you letting me in on all these personal details. And I have indeed continued to express myself however I see fit despite it not being as popular as what used to be. I’m doing my best to continue whatever dream it is I have for my future while being as authentic as possible.

 Would you be alright with me posting this conversation along with a picture of you (if that’s ok)? I think it’d interest people. I’d also be happy to send you a set of Jesus Dressup magnets, if only as a reminder on your fridge that it’s all to be laughed at.
Thank you!
Normal Bob

 

I would be honored to be published on Normal Bob Smith.
That really is full circle and rad.
Yes to Jesus dress-up!!!
Thanks so much,
Joy

I fell through the Ice

Where I fell
Where I fell

For those of you who aren’t aware, I’m now living in Michigan, at my parent’s house on a lake, helping them as they both turn 90 in the next coupla years. I have a beautiful view of it out my bedroom window, only now it’s ice!

It’s about 1 mile lengthwise and a half a mile across from where we are to the opposite side. Yesterday my cousin was out ice fishing, so I grabbed my camera and the dog and went to say hello. I recorded my walk there with Shotzi sticking close because the ice boosts her sense of nervousness. Not mine though! In the summertime my dad offers $50 to any of the grandkids skilled enough to swim the half mile stretch. It’s a tradition each grandfather who’s lived here has offered. I’ve never swum across and gotten that $50 because I’m not the best swimmer. So I thought instead it’d be something to say I was the first one to walk it!

I periodically would turn on the camera and describe the situation, then switch it off again because my hands would get too cold. I didn’t bring gloves. It’s impossible to operate the camera with them.

As I got almost to the other side I remember saying, “I don’t think it’s official until I touch land!” And no memory of whether or not I switched it off as I approached those next couple steps. That’s when the ice gave way right out from under me. As my body dropped my very first thought was, “Oh God, it broke!” and I was now up to my shoulders in the lake, camera completely submerged. My head never went under. I remember raising my camera out and sliding it out on the ice in front of me. Shotzi was still trotting about, now in front of my face trying to figure out what was happening.

I tried grabbing at ice in front of me and it broke away. Then grabbed at the ice to my left and it broke away. “I’m in trouble! This is serious! I’m all alone!” I shouted, or thought very loudly. Then I remembered what to do. “Spread your weight!”

I spread out my arms, laid them on the ice to my right and I pulled myself up on onto it on my belly like a seal. I continued to drag myself a couple more feet, completely soaked. My heavy winter jacket, and all my clothes were now a 20 pound wet sponge on me. I stood and quickly started my panicked cold, wet walk back to the house.

“I need to get inside and dry ASAP! Are you with me Shots?” is the sentence I repeated about 40 times the whole trek back with the doggy at my feet. Thank god she didn’t fall in too! One of the scariest moments to follow was hearing ice crack again while walking back, realizing I weighed a lot more. I was soaked through my winter coat, my hoodie and my thermal shirt under that, as well as my pants, long johns, wool socks and boots.

Camera in Rice
Camera in Rice

Anyhow, I got home safely, into dry clothes and I actually poured water out of my boots! Then told the story many times sorting out how it all went down to my folks, my aunt, my cousin, and myself. My camera is presently buried in rice in a box. This is the second camera I’ve dropped in that stupid lake! I don’t plan to see how it’s doing until next week sometime. I’ll let you know if any quality footage remains.

My dad fell through the ice as a kid and he told me “Be prepared to not being able to sleep tonight because you’re running the story through your head again and again because that’s what happened to me.”

I told him I don’t think I’d be as affected as he was as a kid. I’ve had multiple dangerous things happen to me in my 50 years, so I probably wouldn’t have that experience. I was wrong. Last night I tossed and turned thinking about that black hole I fell into, and how lucky I am the dog didn’t fall in with me, imagining all the different outcomes. And today my body aches. My joints are tired and I’m delighted all I have to do today is watch the Packer game and eat pizza with my dad while the snow falls and covers the hole I made in the lake yesterday.

Shotzi & I in fire dpt hovercraft taken 2 days after I fell thru the ice
Shotzi & I in fire dpt hovercraft taken 2 days after I fell thru the ice

Artist, Atheist, Anthropologist