People’ve been demanding I draw celebs that’re more famous. For some reason I have a difficult time focusing on the big stars. In most cases they’ve been drawn 1,000 times already. And they’ve already been substantially over exposed, by definition. Someone however suggested that like the Amy Winehouse piece, I continue with the Gone Too Soon theme. That was a good idea. So as I was searching for ideas I was struck by how few drawings there are of Kurt which actually LOOK like him. Way too many seem to’ve been drawn by a love-struck pre-teen fan, to the point where he looks like the guy from Nickleback! And even more who took the easy route with his shades & sweaters. Anyhow, I’ve done my best to fix that.
Sitting in AC to escape the heat & humidity of Michigan has made August a creatively productive month for me. To begin with, if you haven’t read my most recent stories of my teenage Hollywood Runaway Punkrock Adventure, you simply must. It’s a 3 parter that’ll give insight on how this grownup problem-child started down this path. Depending on how much you REALLY want to know about my motivations, my FBB Girlfriend story, and THAT whole longing obsession, well I wrote about those too. I’m really enjoying this storytelling, and look forward to writing more from my past, and my id. I’ve realized again how revealing myself only widens the scope of art I want to make.
Finally, I’m still in the magnetic Jesus Dressup business! I lost a lot of stores in the pandemic. Many just aren’t even answering their phones anymore. But I have however been getting them onto your refrigerators through my store! I was reminded of how long this has been going on when Sophia, who’s been playing with my Jesus Dressup so long, now her kids play it! Here they are “dressing up the weird guy with holes in his hands.” And that’s a direct quote! That is one OLD set of the Xmas & the Original. And who else even has a Lady Gaga JDU any more?? Warms my heart, as I hope it does yours as well.
Living with my 90 year old conservative Christian parents has had its share of challenges. There’s been arguments. Usually political. But those differences work their way into other insignificant disagreements as well. I’m genuinely working to improve the way I handle these things on my end. This particular week has added to that challenge. I haven’t been keeping myself properly hydrated since this heat & humidity kicked in. Too much coffee and not enough water has resulted in a UTI. So it stings when I pee. I’m drinking lots of water and it’s getting better, but it doesn’t help ease tensions within.
There’s a bit too many similarities to how things were 40 years ago living with m&d. Our unchanging differences, this floppy-eared schnauzer that’s almost identical to my childhood dog, all going out to dinner at Auntie M’s. I often have flashbacks to how things were back when I was a bratty kid. Only now I’m an adult. But that child’s behavior is still there wanting to rear it’s ugly head. And this was exactly the sort of thing I’m trying to work on. To eliminate those tendencies from my collection hiding beneath the surface.
Right around the block from us lives my Auntie M & cousin Ben. And today is Ben’s birthday. So the four of us went to their house for Rubens and chocolate cake to celebrate. It’s my dad, mom, & Shotzi headed over to their house. 5pm sharp. Oh, and they have three big dogs -Dud, Bud & Missy. One of which is a brand new, over-energetic Chocolate Lab puppy – Bud. Our 8 year old schnauzer has already met the new pup, and hates him. He’s flipped her on her back a couple times already. In fact, I think it’s safe to say all the dogs are as annoyed with the new puppy as we all are.
I’m carrying Schotzi in my arms as the three of us are approaching the door. Bud had previously ran right through this door knocking out the screen. So when we arrived there was no containing him. He came pouncing at us all at his peak of hyper upon our arrival, bouncing up and down trying to get at Schotzi in my arms.
My dad and mom are in front of me, and they’ve stopped moving into the house. That’s what you do when you’re entering someone’s home. You stop on the floor mat and say hello to the room while you wipe your feet! My folks were oblivious to the storm building behind them.
Ben had come outside to retrieve the dogs that escaped, but now he’s pushing us from behind trying to close the door. This is when Bud hooked his front paws onto my pants and pulled the entire left side of them down to my knees, exposing my bright aqua boxer briefs in front of everybody. My mom, dad, cousin and aunt. The whole family. I’m struggling to keep from pushing my rickety father forward while my pants are down at my knees. Laughter and barking is all that can be heard as this unrestrained pup reigns hellfire upon us all. And that’s when I fully stumbled forward pushing my dad from behind.
Luckily he steps to the side, but I’m continuing to get pushed forward by the crowd of animals and people behind me. That’s when my legs get tripped up by this oversized footstool and it brings me down in a humiliating pile of furniture and dogs falling forward in slowmo. I hit the ground, spilling Schotzi from my arms, and I basically flop like a dead fish onto the floor. It was dramatic enough to fling my eye glasses across the floor and under the table.
All I hear is laughter. None of it from me. It was rough having to look up and everyone is laughing uncontrollably at me. I could feel my face turning red. And everyone else had resigned from doing anything to help. Shotzi was still in a fit of rage. And so was I.
I got up, pulled up my goddamn pants, and yelled, “SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET HURT!” for some reason. I was mad, and embarrassed. “I’m taking Schotzi home.” and I scooped her up, and while I was storming out my aunt yelled, “Are you coming back for dinner??” “I NEED A MINUTE!!” As I slammed the door behind me.
P2 – Hot Stew
On the way home I stewed. I was embarrassed. I could feel my face still red, and I did not want to come back at all. This’ll be a story to be told again and again, and I gotta be that guy in that story. And did I mention, it stings when I pee still?
I wanted to pout. I wanted them to feel bad. I wanted to cancel dinner and make a scene. In fact, maybe that’s what I’ll do. I’ll just not go back and not call and that’ll make them think twice! This was exactly the sort of thing I was trying to work on. So when I got home I sat in the family room with my dog and I smoked a bowl.
I sat there with Shotzi staring out the window thinking of the different ways I could handle this situation. How the rest of the evening would go was in my hands. And it was then I realized how this situation I am in is actually very very good. • I can do whatever I want, say whatever I please, just as long as I’m a good sport.
When I fully realized this fact, all the anxiety vanished instantly. Like magic. Because adult Bob knows how to be a good sport. Especially if I’m stoned. So I got high, promised my dog a walk upon my return, and headed back on over to my cousin’s birthday dinner without a care in the world.
They were just finishing their Rubens and cutting the cake when I showed up. My aunt asked me very kindly if I was alright. And I could tell they were all anticipating the various ways this could possibly go.
Standing there in front of them all I spoke. “I decided there’s actually a benefit to having had my pants pulled down, and then pushed to the ground in front of you all this evening. Falling on my face to the sound of laughter from you all, my family.” Only stunned silence as I continued. “I realized, as long as I’m a good sport about what happened tonight, I can do whatever I want for the rest of the evening. So I smoked a bowl! I’m really stoned, and I am looking forward to this Ruben sandwich!”
Then I pulled up a chair and truly enjoyed that fuckin sandwich. And it was all sooooooo good.
Happy Birthday Ben!
P3 – Their Response
Everyone’s immediate response was shock. There was no laughter, smiles, or even a “Good for you!” While I spoke it looked like they were expecting me to pull eggs out of my pockets and start using their faces for target practice. They were all simply stunned. And I cannot deny this felt good to me. My Aunt was the first to say, “Well that’s good to hear. And I’m sorry for laughing Bob. We couldn’t help it. It was so outrageous!”
My mother’s first words were, “I never found it funny. I hated it. I’ve never liked slapstick humor!” So she didn’t have to apologize. And I’ve heard her say any combination of those 3 sentences probably a dozen times since. But in the days to follow she’s expressed to me how completely astonished she was that I could do that. “I could never do that. Never. I don’t know how you did it.” Which is the #1 reason why when I finally left to take Schotzi on a walk (and write this story), my departing words were, “I was just trying to be a good example.”
And my father’s reaction? – “What’s he talking about? He wants cake??” When he finally did get the full picture he kinda shook his head with disgust and went back to eating his cake. You’re hard pressed to get a reaction outta my dad when there’s a dessert in front of him. But in the end they (Ben included) all acknowledged how impressed they were I had that in me and apologized for laughing.
I’ve had to control myself in some really harsh situations in NYC. But it’s at a different level when its, say, your own mother, for instance. Here a few days later she’s had the strongest response. Like she’d witnessed a miracle happen right before her eyes, and no way to explain it. I’d love to find out she took notes.
RUNAWAYS When I was a teen I ran away from home. Not “Climbing out the bedroom window in the middle of the night” runaway. I wanted to drop out of my senior year, skip graduating, skip college, skip getting a job, and instead follow my heart to Hollywood California. Forever! It took some arguments, but my folks talked me into at least graduating. Then I could spend my graduation money on a one way ticket outta here. No one was going to change my mind. My mom even sent me to her therapist to talk me out of it. After a couple visits she told my mom, “He’s fine. You’re gonna hafta let him do it” or something to that effect. To which my mom left the state to stay with her mother so she wouldn’t hafta be around when I split.
That sorta runaway.
1988 was my graduating year. I was still a virgin in pretty much every way. A bored, frustrated teenager in a dull suburb of Denver – Lakewood, Colorado. And I wanted OUT. My self esteem was at a dismal low. I was barely going to graduate, and there was only one shining smile in my life that lit up my heart whenever her name was spoken. Erika.
She and I had been friends our whole lives. When we were little in Wisconsin for several years, and then later when both our families ended up in Colorado. High school was going to be the first time though that we ever attended the same school. I was so excited about this. We both were! She was the sweetest, prettiest girl to me. That’s really all it took.
It was at this time I was discovering punk rock. I took a picture of Sting into SuperCuts and got my hair spiked. I was finding out about all sorts of new bands while fantasizing about being a punk rocker just like what I saw in the movies. My life at the time was nothing at all punk rock. And I idolized Erika. She was into the scene I wanted to be in at our school. Or better said, They knew of her! Erika became a legend there.
At least amongst the punks & wavers at Bear Creek High 87-88. And deservedly so. She would come to school with some of the most outrageous, imaginative fashion statements I’d ever seen. She was hanging out with real city punk rockers too, with 3 foot mohawks and ten inch fingernails. Like this guy, Deragos who had a huge hawk, and Barbie heads hanging from his spiked leather jacket! Serious shit for that suburb.
She was the first in our school to pierce her nose. She pierced her own nose, during class! Half a dozen piercings on each ear. She dyed her hair and shaved her eye-brows. She even had a pet rat she brought to school and let crawl around in her sleeves. She once showed up to school in a hospital gown with lines drawn on her face like she was insane. But at the same time she was the sweetest, friendliest person you could ever hope to meet. Smiles and nice things was all I saw when I saw her.
Then she ran away, for real. During our junior year, her and this loser guy, Skyler jumped in a beater car and fled to Hollywood to be punk rockers, Suburbia style. In this town news of her escape swept across the scene. Every time anyone was around they’d ask me,
“Have you heard from Erika? How’s she doing? Anything at all about Erika?”
They all genuinely cared about this girl who was so strange and sweet, then just disappeared.
She did return though. She didn’t stay with Skyler long, and early into my senior year, she came back to visit. She wanted me to join her in this adventure. We’d written back and forth a few times so she understood how I was suffocating.
Mind you, Erika had no idea the size crush I had on her. Or that I even had one at all. We were friends. Best friends for all she knew, and to be fair that’s all I ever led her to believe. I was very safe. Our family had always felt safe. And she wanted to bring some of that feeling back with her, if she could just talk me into it.
I arrived in LA June 13, 1988 on a midnight flight. I walked out of the gate at LAX and this guy looking like Slash from Guns & Roses comes right up to me saying, “You gotta be Bob! I’m Mark, Erika’s boyfriend. We’re gonna take you to where she’s at!”
This was the very first I’d ever heard of Mark.
So I followed him out to the street where Tiina (Erika’s roommate) had a car running.
“The breaks in this are completely shot, so hold on!” Tiina warned. Then every time she needed to stop or slow down she’d slam the brake pedal hard as she could on the floor, and maybe steer into the curb, or bump up against something like a sign, or the car in front of her to fully stop. Then she and Mark would both turn, look at me and laugh.
Whenever anyone asks me “What was LA like then?” There ya go.
Erika waitressed the graveyard shift at the Denny’s on Sunset & Gower Gulch. When these two somehow managed to get me there, Erika, in her brown uniform was all smiles. I got a great big hug, a dozen questions, and even more compliments from her. But most importantly, her adoration. Plus she told me anything on the menu that didn’t need the kitchen I could eat for free! Seeing her changed everything. I decided I could do this “pretend to be only friends” thing, as long as she’s nearby.
That night at Denny’s, there was this raggedy dressed woman in a nearby booth coughing, and gagging, and throwing a fit over her table of scattered plates. She kept coughing, and more coughing, yet everyone was ignoring her.
“CALL AN AMBULANCE!” She would scream. She was gagging hysterically while the waiter was standing there with the check, unmoved. This went on with everyone in the restaurant trying to ignore her. Eventually an ambulance pulled up. She made a bit of a scene there on the floor at my feet before they got her out completely and into the truck.
“She does that so she doesn’t have to pay. Works every time.” Erika explained.
That’s how it all began.
Erika & Tiina had a two-bedroom off Hollywood Blvd up a ways on Ivar. I had a sleeping bag on the floor in a corner of Erika’s room, while she & Mark slept in its walk-in closet. Just enough room for a mattress on the floor and a desk lamp in there.
Tiina’s room was the entryway living room. But while I was staying she spent most evenings at her boyfriend’s. In her room there was a coat closetdecorated inside with Christmas lights, art, drawings on the wall, and a mattress closed off by a mirrored sliding door. She let me sleep in there when she was away. Her room also had the TV.
Besides that, I don’t think there was even one piece of furniture in the whole apartment. Mostly just empty rooms with white walls and desklamps on the floor, a couple fans, and various stuffed animals scattered around. The kitchen at the end of the hallway did have a table littered with old pizza boxes, and a litter of kittens that’d just been born underneath.
None of this mattered to me though. The fact that I was here with Erika was enough. A routine for me actually started right off. Sleepin’ during the day, and wakin up about nighttime. Then I’d go to Denny’s so I could walk her home when her shift ended at 2AM. I’d go from Ivar to Hollywood to Vine to Sunset in the wee hours. These walks were always eventful.
One time, from across the street, I saw two guys trying to smash a giant cement block through a storefront. The cage was pulled down, but these guys repeatedly picked up this giant block and hurled it into the cage. It’d make a loud crashing noise, but little else. They did this until I strolled out of view. They didn’t even notice me.
I was being regularly propositioned by men from their automobiles on these dark, empty streets. Station wagons, and 4-door sedans would slow way down next to me with the driver’s side window down just a crack, “Hey! Hey Pretty! Are you available? Wanna get in? How much?”
They were best described as “suburban dad” types. Mark told me “Just shout FUCK OFF! as loud as you can and act crazy. These guys are all cowards and they’ll run.”
He was right. They’d speed off, seemingly panicked. Mark gave me a lot of good advice on how to handle myself on the streets there.
Mark was a Mexican rocker dude from East LA. Erika had met him just before I arrived. Tiina knew him already because he sold them acid, more than once.
He was often mistaken for a Cholo or a Suicidal, but he wasn’t part of any gang. He both sold & consumed a lot of drugs. Pot, acid, crack, pills, beer. He’d take whatever people handed him. He had a habit of locking himself in that closet so he could smoke crack. He made it very clear to all of us to never disturb him if he was in there with the door shut.
He certainly seemed dangerous. He had a look and an attitude that projected aggression. But the truth, he was ready to sacrifice his own wellbeing for anyone he really cared about. I don’t think Mark actually put much value on himself at all. There were multiple times when he jumped in to protect both Erika & me in some pretty dangerous situations. I drew a whole comic (bottom of page) of the time he stood up to skinheads and took a knife to the stomach for me. Probably saved my life, actually. Trip to Emergency, for sure.
One of my first nights there however, Mark was drunk and they got into an argument about basically Erika liking me more than him. He started yelling at her. And the second she looked scared I burst out “You better not yell at her! You may beat me but I’ll fight!” or something to that measure. To which he ended up breaking down crying and taking a couple walks around the block. Then when he came back he made it clear to me, to Erika and I both that he’d never do that again.
He told me later he respected I did that, and over the next couple weeks we became friends. It wasn’t unusual for me to get woke by him singing a song on his guitar, “Bob, woah Bob, woooooah Bob, Bob. won’t you wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and smoke a joint with me Bob.” It’s on a cassette. He recorded himself over one of my mix tapes.
And then the other time he yelled out his love for me was when he was really drunk and high then he smashed the beer bottle over his head to prove it. Took him three cracks to finally break that glass bottle on his head, but he did it, because that’s the kind of guy he was.
I was drawing through all of this. I drew while I was waiting for Erika at Denny’s. I drew while I was waiting for Erika at the apartment. I even drew at a coffeeshop, waiting for Erika. But I didn’t use a sketchbook. Too expensive, and preppy! Strictly scrap pieces of paper. Like note cards, paper bags, backs of old documents. Throwaway stuff like that.
And I kept it all in a manila folder I found at their apartment. It was blank when I got it, and I never drew on it again once I left. In fact, I think Mark drew a couple of those devils on the back.
The psycho clowns on the other hand, are all me all day long.
DRUNK DRIVER Steve was in a band with Mark, but really the only reason Steve was around was so the girls could mooch his pickup truck. Since Tiina’s ride lacked breaks, Steve was the way to get around. But driving anywhere was always a last resort because the freeways in LA are hell. Traffic and traffic jams that went on forever. And once at the tail end of one of these blistering jams, at a dead stop, in the middle of the day, we got rear ended by a drunk driver.
• Diary entry June 25, Friday, 1988, 4:14AM – 4 days ago we’re driving in Steve’s truck on the freeway. I was in the back of the pickup and I saw another truck racing towards and they were going to hit us. They didn’t hit the breaks ’till they were about 100 ft away and they bounced off a VMW at about 40 mph and nailed us. She (the driver) was drunk and no one with us was hurt. Oh! But Erika hurt her jaw and it was a mess.
I still have the white paint mark from Steve’s truck on my leather jacket where I slammed down. The lady stumbled out and she had a guy with her. They were both drunk dumping their beer cans off the side of the road. Then they tried to get away and bystanders had to catch them. But we didn’t get to see all that because Erika and I were in the back of an ambulance headed to Emergency. We both had minor injuries. They checked us for whiplash and taped up our scratches. Then when time came for us to leave, the staff started hassling us for not having insurance, and being unable to pay. I remember they threatened me saying, “If you walk out on this bill it’s going to ruin your credit forever!”
LA liven’ was starting to wear me down.