After Fall, I will Rise Again!

It’s starting to happen. The clouds are parting and stores are ordering again. And that’s gotten the gears turning in me to produce new Jesus magnets for 2022. 

Charly 2021

You see, the manufacturer in Hong Kong who’s been making my magnets for the last 20 years simply stopped responding to emails. They just disappeared. Granted we haven’t spoken since 2018, and I know a lot of companies have vanished since this whole pandemic fiasco began. But this was serious. It took me years to find these guys. And ftr, there’s still ZERO die-cut magnet manufacturers in the U.S. able to take on Jesus Dressup, and it’s for the exact same reason they wouldn’t 20 years ago – Subject matter. No joke, It’s even gone so far as to have one sales guy agree to the job, accept my deposit, then a week later return it exclaiming, “The owner saw the artwork and said- No way. Please don’t contact us again.”

Lucky for me though, ever since it blew up back in ’04 I’ve been on the receiving end of spam emails from other manufactures wanting to steal my business away. 100% of them from China. So in a moment of clarity a couple months ago I remembered all those emails, searched gmail trash and responded to every single one. Some of which were literally over a decade old. And wouldn’t you know, one responded. So I checked them out through my broker, exchanged samples and art, and now we’re back in business! I’ll have 3 new JDU’s by 2022. I’m very excited.

I’m additionally pleased to say I’ve been drawing a lot. Every single day. Drawing, and hanging my art up around town. Even selling something every once in awhile too. It’s the only thing that’s kept me sane through the last three long, lonely years w/zero social life. Whitehall Michigan is no playground for a middle-aged atheist/artist with a Google search result like mine. Thus all this time not developing relationships with other humans is spent on these lone art classes.

That said, I’m planning my first escape from this town to Chicago in October. I need to get away, visit my brothers’ families, friends, and whoever else I can get to. The yearn is strong. I can’t explain how much so, but I’m thinking most everyone can relate to this by now so I gotta stop whining. I get it. I’ll shut up.

dreadlocked white man

Last but not least, I’ve gotten a handful of updates for a few NYC familiars from the park. Shaggy sent me the photos below of Roman (video), Jeremy & Kevin Carpet, who seem to all be doing fine. And depending on how far your NormalBobSmith memory goes back, this morning I got an email from Noah (video), my cohost for the original version of NoBS Radio I was doing back in 2005 & 06? He’s got a GoFundMe for a new van. I thought those of you who remember would be happy to know he’s okay, but needs a dollar. Also, his Facebook.

FacebookTwitterRedditShare

August Creativity

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.

I told my Parents I smoke Weed

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.

Shotzi

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

This is the only pic of me from that evening

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.

Auntie M, mom, dad,
Ben w/Dud & Bud.
Shotzi had to go home.

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. 

My Hollywood Runaway Punkrock Adventure P1

Part 2 – Mark/Drunk Driver
Part 3 – Dealing in LA

Normal Bob selfie 1988 Hollywood first night
Normal Bob selfie 1988 Hollywood first night

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.

Erika returns to talk me into Hollywood. 1988
Erika returns to talk me into Hollywood. 1988

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.

Bob & Erika's Secret Hideout
Bob & Erika’s Secret Hideout

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.

Erika & Bob b4 punk. Colorado 1986
Erika & Bob b4 punk. Colorado 1986

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.

Erika 1988 Hollywood CA
Erika 1988 Hollywood CA

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,

Erika 1988 Hollywood CA
Erika 1988 Hollywood CA

“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.

Bob Erika Crush 1987 Colorado
Bob Erika Crush 1987 Colorado

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.

Bob & Erika 1988 birthday at Ed Debevic's Hollywood
Bob & Erika 1988 birthday at Ed Debevic’s Hollywood

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.

Tiina & Erika 1988 Ed Debevic's on Bob's birthday
Tiina & Erika 1988 Ed Debevic’s on Bob’s birthday

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.

Mark Erika & Steve 1988 Hollywood w/my punkrock suitcase
Mark Erika & Steve 1988 Hollywood w/my punkrock suitcase

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.

To be continued…

• The very next day they took me to see The Vandals! I saw lots of cool shows there. Here’s some flyers I brought from Hollywood ’88.

Part 1 -Runaways
Part 2 – Mark/Drunk Driver
Part 3 – Dealing in LA

Artist, Atheist, Anthropologist