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Starfookers

There’s a point when others’ crushes on minor celebrities grate on me. They shouldn’t, because people are entitled to like what they want to like, and, more importantly, Mr. Dan Grumpy can go fuck himself for being the jealous bastard he’s always been. But I get so damned tired of hearing how so and so minor talent is the smartest, bravest, prettiest, wisest, and most talented being what ever lived. I think I just hate seeing people submerge their own selves so they can bask in the glow and proclaim the majesty of Mr. or Ms. Slightly Better. I’ve done it myself, but gradually, as with all the groups, religions, philosophies, and so forth that I’ve dabbled in, I didn’t like how small I was becoming for the greater glory of someone or thing else.

Ten Books That Have Stuck with Me Off the Top of My Head as I Make Them Up

1. Teddy’s Skin by Margaret Wise Brown—The peculiar recurrence of furry animals and fur-lined rooms in Brown’s work becomes apparent in this little-known and strangely horrifying entry in the author’s whimsical oeuvre. Uncommonly, Brown is a character in her own children’s book, having been made by the Color Kittens when they mixed together “all the colors of the world rejected by God.” The Brown character is locked in a room with only two chairs. She sits in one, her childhood bear in the other, mute but obviously too, too alive. It is unclear how long she’s been in the room, or if the room exists. An example of a passage from the book:

“Miss Brown had spent the morning (was it just this morning? Or another?) purchasing parsnips and leafy green vegetables from the local grocers, when she was overcome by a wave of nausea. The world went black and she awoke in a windowless, doorless room. The farthest wall wavered in her sight until she approached it, at which time its infinitude coalesced into a blank, bleak solidity. She imagined she heard a duck kicking at the wall outside, cursing her with quacks and heaving small pebbles at the house for spite.

‘Goodnight, room,’ said Miss Brown.

‘Goodbye, Margaret,’ it replied in her father’s voice. She fell to the floor, chattering, and counted the seven shiny brass buttons on her jacket.”

Throughout the book, Brown is taunted by her beloved Little Fur Family, who appear through orifice-like openings in the very air, demanding that she explain what the fuck they’re supposed to be, and why the fur son found an even smaller fur-being living in the ground, before snapping shut with disgusting liquid sounds. “I don’t know! I don’t know!” sobs Brown, before Scuppers the Sailor Dog appears in his yellow rain slicker and hat with a large baling hook. He swings at her, but vanishes before connecting, representing her deceased mother’s distant personality.

Eventually running out of parsnips and leafy green vegetable, hunger and cold gnaw at Brown. She looks to her bear who would surely provide SOME sustenance and warmth, but at the cost of removing her fondest memories, and perhaps her sanity. The illustrations by Garth Williams are soft and edgeless yet filled with Much-like anxiety. Here is a man tired of drawing cute fluffy animals and filled with a desire to see the world melt and burn, as hinted at by the cover of Wise’s other collaboration with Williams’ Fox Eyes.

The book ends with Brown eying Teddy over her shoulder, fondling a Opinel knife left behind by Mister Dog/Crispin’s Crispian after he appeared in the form of a fur tornado and dared her to finally “belong to herself…or belong nowhere.” Brown weighs the possibilities in her mind and the knife in her hand, but the final page shows only a wordless illustration of a crib filled with flaming autumn leaves. What it means is left to the reader’s imagination, but it probably has something to do with fucking.

Right Up Dere

Here’s a fun fact. if you want to get on my bad side very quickly, ask me to help you, and then criticize me while I’m doing it. I might very well leave you adrift among sharks if, when I try to throw you a life preserver, you make a crack about my hurling technique. I will especially despise you if you are a stranger, because you’re violating all the social contracts at once for no apparent reason than, as I see it, to argue with a stranger. Why, why, WHY would anyone ever do that?

Case in point: Yesterday I went for a lunchtime stroll along Wabash, looking for interesting skyscraper ornamentation, because I am socially inept and pathetic. As I approached Monroe St., I saw a grandmother-type and her, I assume, two granddaughters—a perfectly adorable image. I stopped at Monroe to look up and around at the surrounding cornices, when I heard behind me. “Excuse, please. Can you help me find a restaurant?”

In Chicago, you become well-accustomed to identifying accents. This woman had a thick one.

“Sure!” I said, cheerfully. “What are you looking for?”

“Magginas,” she replied.

“Sorry? Maggiano’s?” I said. I confess, I’m a wee bit hard of hearing downtown, amidst the horns and construction noise.

“MacDonough’s”

After reading that, you might have figured out what she was asking for. But remember, I’m a trifle deef. Also, what I heard was “MacDonough’s.” Moreover, Chicago has several Celtic-themed pubs, grills, and restaurants, and I knew of several in the Loop. Just not “MacDonough’s.”

“I don’t know that one, sorry. Why don’t I look it up on my phone,” I say, still shit-grinning.

“What?” she says in that ‘I’ve got something over you, college boy” tone I grew up with around here. “Aren’t you from here? I’m looking for McDonald’s!”

Am I from here?

The two little girls have said nothing the entire time, just looking up at the doofy guy who knows not of what Grandma speaks nor happiness meals nor hammed-burglings.

“Ah, McDonald’s,” I say in my polite maître d’ voice. “Yes, I am from here, ma’am. Lived here for 47 years, actually. I don’t know of any McDonald’s nearby, but I’ll use my phone to find you one.” Mind you, I’m starting to get a tad supercilious, but I AM STILL TRYING TO HELP HER.

She looks incredulous. How in the name of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa could I not know where a McDonald’s was? Today grandma wins points from making the yuppie, or whatever the hell stereotype she awarded me, rely on his electronic pocket imp.

“Nearby McDonald’s,” I say to Siri.

“Doesn’t know where a McDonald’s is…” she sighs, shaking her head. “Heh heh heh!” My eyes start to bug out.

Sweetheart, you don’t know where McDonald’s is, I wanted to reply.

Instead I say, “Well, I don’t eat there, ma’am, so I don’t keep tabs on where the restaurants are. Sorry I wasn’t able to immediately accommodate you. Just a second.” The girls say nothing. They look like sweet individuals. I hope they retain that sweetness before grandma rudes it out of them.

Siri reports that a McDonald’s is a block ahead. I look up and gesture southward.

“Okay… Yeah, it’s…” I start. Suddenly I’m interrupted by a male voice, old but not wise, and stumbling with the pebble-mouthed, Old Style-lubricated diction of duh city of Chicagah.

“McDonald’s!?!” says a white-haired dude of the Chicago fireplug species. “It’s RIGHT UP DERE ON THE CORNER!” I look at him, once more beholding another smug piggy-face who has won! WON! the battle against the young educated doofi who populate HIS city, eating tofu, drinking gay booze, and not knowing where da fuck Mickey D’s is.

“Yeah,” I continue, “It’s…”

“You’re looking for McDonald’s? Right up dere!” he has that “Fer gahd’s sake. Whatteryou, retarded, college boy?” expression I saw frequently while growing up and working blue collar jobs so I could go to college. And not work blue collar jobs with guys like that.

“Yep,” I say, clapping my hands together. “That is EXACTLY right. Glad we all figured that out together. Okay? Okay.” The walk sign comes on and I stride off without looking back.

Old, rude, white Chicagoans! I curse thee to an eternity of swilling from McDonald’s grease traps. It’s right up dere. On the corner. You thick-headed louts.

Deco

I won’t say where, but I recently encountered one of the coolest security guards in the world.

I was visiting a lovely Art Deco edifice a while back, and I wanted to take a few pix of the sedately ornate lobby, which featured the inevitable slim, half-naked figures that decorated the era’s most fashionable elevator doors. My picture-taking finger itched madly, but I held off and approached the security guard’s desk first.

As I’ve learned over the years, asking permission to take photographs isn’t just polite, it’s pre-emptive. Some buildings have rules against snapping pix, and security personnel will shut you down the moment you pull out your camera or phone. Reasons vary. It might be a licensing issue, or for security purposes, or simply because they don’t like shutterbugs cluttering the hallways. Most building owners in the Loop don’t have a problem with tourists and architecture buffs looking around—at least in the buildings worth commemorating. On occasion the guards are into it. I’ve had rent-a-cops chat me up, gleefully pointing out particularly pretty features, and sharing historical factoids—some even let me know it was okay to walk up a flight or two for a better shot. These folks know that while they may be running a business, the structure is their public face. Why not show how damn pretty they are?

Others aren’t so welcoming, covering up their buildings like a wizened duenna shielding her charges with curtains and scowls. Some, to their credit, instruct the guards to let people know they can look, maybe even touch… but NO pictures. Usually though they’re not friendly about it. In one building I asked sweetly if I could take a few pictures of the breath-takingly ornate lobby. I was not only sternly told no way, the guard followed me around, ensuring I didn’t capture the elevators’ and mailbox’s souls with my black magic eye box.

Because I am secretly feisty, however, whenever I’m impolitely denied access, I get crafty. I equate buildings and their lobbies with public art—accessible and unavoidable should mean photographable. So suffer me a few snapshots, yes? If a guard is particularly snippy and not terribly observant—and I’m not talking about restricted government buildings, banks, or places where you have to be buzzed in—I come back later and take a few shots from the belt. Buildings, particularly old ones, were created to meld commerce with art, and were thus imagined and constructed to be seen and enjoyed by the public. I have a theory that modern business architecture of the mid- to late-20th century purposefully became boring and soulless to counteract this belief. At some point the corporate sphere said, “We don’t want people to like our buildings. We want to be able to tear them down whenever we wish. Above all, we want them to say, ‘Go away. You don’t belong here.’” Every day I look out my office’s window and see Trump’s blue glass phallus and Mies van der Rohe’s big ol’ domino, and I think, “You may be admired, but you will never be loved.” Of course, they snottily answer back, “What makes you think we give a damn?”

So, the coolest security guard in the world… I ask him, politely, if I can take a few pictures.

“No, I’m sorry, that’s not allowed,” he replied, nicely enough.

“Oh…” say, a touch dejected. “Thanks, anyway.”

“But, you know, maybe I’ll just walk around the corner over there.” and he gestured to a spot about 30 feet away. Then he took off for a few minutes.

“Aha!” I said, brightening.

He left, and I took a few quick pix for my files. The ornamentation was limited, but tasteful and lovely, and while the building isn’t one of the famous ones, it has that 20s Chicago charm lacking in the surrounding glass and steel beasts. Later research revealed that it was made to honor the ideas of Louis Sullivan and John Wellborn Root. I think I’ll make a few calls and see if I can get a tour. in fact, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to get into Chicago’s tallest pre-1930s structures.

The guard returned and I gave him a silent thank you. He nodded. Good man. Good man. Preservationists and architecture aficionados everywhere appreciate your discretion, sir.

Greeeeeonk!

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Back from Destroy All Monsters! with Nate.

Mike: How was the movie?

Me: About what you’d expect. Giant monsters battling each other.

Mike: Uh huh.

Me: Though the ending still gets to me. It shows Godzilla, 60 years later, sitting on his home’s porch dressed in a white kimono and greying at the temples. His friend ‪Anguirus‬ is sitting next to him, and he says, “You know…What the hell were we fighting about back then anyway?” And ‪Anguirus‬ says, “I don’t know, man. I don’t know.” And Godzilla replies, “In the end, we were only destroying…ourselves.” Then a single tear trails down his scaly cheek.

Mike: Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Me: Wouldn’t it be awesome if it did? I’d pay to see movies like that.

Begorrah!

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Talking to my Wife (Not verbatim, but close.)

Me: Nate told me all about the leprechaun traps they set at school.

Wife: Yes, I heard about those. They come in and mess up the classroom.

Me: Uh, you know he made a trap for home too, right?

Wife: Yep.

Me: (Pause) The boy really believes in leprechauns, doesn’t he?

Wife: (Laughs) Yes, I think he does.

Me: (Sighs) So, do we need to fill the trap with something?

Wife: I guess so.

Me: I’ll pick up some chocolate gold coins at Fannie Mae. You hide the trap somewhere and I’ll load it up when he’s not looking.

Wife: Sounds good!

Me: (Mentally counting) So, that’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, leprechauns… How many goddamned mythological creatures are allowed to just walk around our house whenever they feel like it?

Wife: Ha ha ha!

Action Words to Use in Your Resume

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Assgravated

Bloodied my knuckles brutally upon weaker co-workers

Cried repeatedly

Drizzled across chest, received positive feedback vis a vis writhing, pleasuremoans

Emascuglazed

Fungussied up

Gnutered

Hummed a merry tune whilst cobbling, guv’nor

Idiotliminated

Jabbed and twisted in back, repeatedly

Killed again and again and again, so much blood, oh God, so much blood

Licked it all clean

Meatjuiced

Nailed it, fucking

Orgasminized files, secretarial pool

Putrescented

Quackstrated

Rhythm ‘n Boozed

Stopped doing that disgusting thing with my teeth and fingernails

Ticklemonstered!

Uvulaminated

Vaselined up, yeahhhh, nice an’ greeeeeeasy…

Wrist Assessment

XXX-rated all products filed under the XXX product code, particularly plugs

Y, dear God, WHY am I still working in this shithole?

Zip-locked dimebags better’n anyone

SEX TORTOISE

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Me: So, I have an idea for a present for you, but I want to bounce it off you first.

My Wife: I don’t want a turtle.

Me: (Blank sarcastic expression)

My Wife: Ha ha ha!

Me: Actually, it’s a TORTOISE, smart-ass.

My Wife: Oh, well, that’s okay then.

Me: Actually, it’s a device called THE SEX TORTOISE.

My Wife: Oh really?

Me: It’s round and has five probes for maximum pleasure.

My Wife: Ha ha ha!

Me: We might have to have some friends over.

My Wife: Ha ha ha ha ha! Well, that’s just great.

Me: We must all assume “scissor” position perpendicular to the SEX TORTOISE.

My Wife: Har har har!

Me: It operates like this. (I assume a SEX TORTOISE position and begin vibrating while emitting a mechanical NRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHH! sound.)

My Wife: Ha ho hoo hoo!

Me: Sometimes I wonder if you’re really laughing at the shit I say or if you just feel sorry for me.

My Wife: It’s a little of both, actually.

Penny for the Old Guy, Guv’ner?

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Remember, remember, the 4th of November

When Guy Fawkes and all of his ilk

Said, “Tomorrow do treason; Today: shop for cheese and

Pork chops and yogurt and milk.”

Aaaaaaaba Dabba Dabba Doooooooo… Ladies and Gentlemen, The Coctails!

Originally appeared in 1993 in a zine called Pure. No, not that one. If you haven’t heard of the other one, don’t worry about it.

Photos by my dear friend Kathy Moseley.

Some of the best times I had in the 90s were spent at Coctails shows.

Click to enlarge.

 

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