Archive | August 2012

Angelo Gets Down

working dog

Almost 30 years after the service body was installed on this very truck, I took a job working for Auto Safety House in Phoenix, a work truck and bus outfitter with a long history in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona. It was during my employment there where I met Sam, the owner of the truck featured here. We hit it off immediately, sharing the old car hobby and many other interests, and have remained friends since, through changing jobs, raising children, relocation and more. This friendship, and the place we met would tie in more times over the years than either of us can count, but one of the coolest stories to come from it involves this 1968 C-20, named “Angelo”.

lowered work truck

While attending the Goodguys Southwest Nationals a year-and-a-half ago, Sam stumbled across this green and ivory truck in the swap meet, and sent me a picture, asking my thoughts.

I was interested immediately.

After all, here was a solid truck with some obvious local history, and it presented a great foundation for another project. A deal was struck, and Sam was the proud owner of a truck that had done some hard-working days, helping to build the East Valley. We were going to go to work on a work truck.

work truck

The unique truck was originally purchased as a two-tone cab and chassis (now here was a work truck with some style!) from Chapman Chevrolet, and outfitted with the McCabe Powers “Service Master” utility body by Auto Safety House. It would work daily in the desert sun for the next twenty years as the main work vehicle for Angelo as he crafted sheetmetal for ductwork and other construction projects, playing a role in expanding the East Valley area of Phoenix. Truly, this truck has some tales to tell, and represents the entrepreneurial and hard-working American spirit. We were slowly crafting a plan to give this hard-working ride a fun second life as a cool cruiser. “Angelo” had paid its dues, and it was time to give back.

sketch

We threw some ideas around during free moments, and plotted a course for the truck as Sam finished updating his ’58 Apache. Originally, the plan was to swap the work body for a short bed, and create a clean cruiser with a historical theme… Yet, the more we talked, the more we couldn’t get past the truck’s history, and the unique, well-preserved nature of the truck as a whole. As Sam specializes in insuring contractors, the pieces kept falling into the “wouldn’t it be neat if we left it alone” category. Besides, we had a number of connections with the truck, and where else would we find something with such perfect patina? There was no faking it, this truck had some soul, and all signs were pointing to a resto-mod work truck. That’s pretty unique indeed.

1968 C-20

The logical choice for performing the hard work was Del Uschenko, as he had built the ’65 short bed that Sam owned for a while, and the man’s skill and attention to detail were the ideal fit. Besides, it doesn’t get any better than having a builder who “gets it” and strives for perfection, and is a guy you just genuinely enjoy working with! The plan was set, and the truck left its hard-working days, and headed for the glamor of Burbank. If you’re keeping score, add a few “coolness” points to the column, as Angelo wasn’t heading to just any shop… This was the fabled Old Crow Speed Shop, a place that has a ton of history between the walls. Hard-working history and hot rod history were about to meet in grand fashion. Consider, too, that the Old Crow Speed Shop is loaded with historical items from the post-war, early days of hot rodding. Military and racing relics are displayed everywhere, and it represents a time when men returning home from war were eager to start their new lives. A part of the American Dream lives on there. And here we had Angelo, a truck purchased to help build another mans dream of owning a business, from an era when we were deep into another conflict. The history and coincidence surrounding this truck were beginning to unfold like legend.

front suspension

Coolest. Project. Ever.

buffing paint

At this point, there were still ideas floating around, from wheels to interior, to even possibly replacing the door lettering… Yet, the truck kept speaking to us. Focus shifted to making it sit and drive properly, so Del crafted a plan to utilize CPP components up front, including tubular A-arms, 5-on-5 bolt pattern spindles, upgraded braking in the way of 13-inch rotors, and a healthy drop to give the truck the attitude of “I’m off the clock”. Adding to the plan, Del opted to C-notch the rear to provide ample room for travel, again, utilizing CPP components, and crafting a sound foundation and smooth, modern ride. 

Setting the truck on a set o0f 20×9-inch Centerline Smoothies was a given to get that “Delmo look”, and we wrestled with wheel finishes to complement the truck. We considered full polish to juxtapose the raw, work truck look, but thought that almost too easy… White centers? Cool, but just not quite “there”. I had suggested a gray center to bring in the interior color, as well as add some industrial flair, and Del knocked it out of the park with some light texture and those beautifully simple ‘49/’50 passenger car hubcaps. The look is modern, and the comment most often heard has been “is that a one-off wheel?” Brilliant. 

The stock engine and transmission had seen better days, and were replaced with a fresh 350/TH-350, backed with a C-10 rear. The name of this game was reliable cruising, and, as the work days are over, Angelo needed just enough power to be fun, but the old truck isn’t rushing anywhere, so the specs are fairly stock. It’s in the engine bay where more of Del’s supreme attention to detail can be seen, with surfaces cleaned and smoothed, and everything subtly painted and detailed for a near-factory, but still-custom feel.

The paint is still the original green and ivory, and the temptation to touch anything up (even on the work body) has been avoided. A light buff and polish brought the paint back from chalky, and provided that just-right gloss. Interior-wise, it’s all stock, save for the original owner-shortened shift lever. It’s a mystery as to why he shortened it, and is one of those cool features that make Angelo such a unique find.

smoothie wheel

350 chevy

slammed service truck

And there you have it… A hard-working truck with some great history in building the Phoenix area, brought together by some friends who met, oddly enough at the very place where the truck was outfitted before either was born (after each grew up a few towns over back in NY state, no less), and given new life in a shop loaded with some history of its’ own. If that doesn’t have “American Dream” written all over it, then I’m not sure what does.

The Specs:

1968 Chevy C-20
127-inch wheelbase
Front Suspension: CPP Tubular Control Arms, Lower 63-72 Control Arms w/new Ball Joints, CPP Adjustable Trac 24 Bar
CPP C10, 5-Lug Spindles
Steering: CPP 18” Steering shaft, nickel-plated
Front Brakes: CPP Modular ‘Big Brake’ Disc 13-inch rotors
Rear Suspension: CPP 4” Drop Heavy C-Notch Kit, CPP Shock Relocation Kit
Leaf spring w/lowering blocks
Positraction rear end
Rear Brakes: CPP Modular ‘Big Brake’ Disc 13-inch rotors
Wheels: 20 x 9 Centerline Smoothies
Tires: 225/35/ZR20 and 225/40/ZR20

Engine/Trans: 350ci Chevy, TH-350

Body: Stock, McCabe Powers ‘Service Master’ Utility Body  Installed by Auto Safety House in 1968
Door lettering by unknown sign painter in 1968

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The Art of the PDA: You Can Make-Out in a Bar…

But you can’t get busy in a department store. Unless, perhaps, you know the other party intimately — or are GETTING to know them that way, with their permission, of course. It’s a fine line, you might say.

Anyway, a thought crossed my mind the other night, and I did what I always do when I need some time alone:

I shared it with my wife, who promptly shook her head and wandered off.

I got to thinking about bars, and how it’s almost completely acceptable to make out in them… not to mention the correlation of S,B x HF=OK (where SB= “Seediness of Bar”, HF=”Hotness Factor” of persons involved — note multiple, as one person making out gets, well, kinda f**king weird (see “Palm Pilots” below) — and OK=well, Okey-Doky-ness amongst other patrons of said bar.) Consider that the grungier the bar, the more face-sucking potential people have. Of course, I have taken into consideration such variables as LF (or “Lateness Factor”), BG (“Beer Goggle Factor”, which, in most cases, is directly dependent on LF), and of course, DL (or “Desperation Level”), but wanted to keep this simple.

My main concern is that, while accepted in bars (and airplane restrooms), for the most part, you’re limited to places that you can “get busy”, as the kids say, without fear of reprimand, the stink eye, or arrest. I mean, in a bar, you may expect one or two couples (and again, maybe the one loner) leaning against the bar (or rubbing for you loners), and enjoying one another’s company… fillings, piercings, halitosis, whatever. Try that while waiting for your burger at the fast-food place. Reaction is often quite different… (next week we’ll cover “prop usage in PDA situations for fun and profit”, wherein we’ll present the transcription of my recent Ivy League dissertation on “Originality in Public Lovemaking For Fun, Profit, and a Film Career on the Internet”) I’m assuming the family behind you may frown on this, and complain. Place that same family in a bar, and, well, someone’s probably losing a liquor license, but your making out session will gain higher approval.

Observe:

Wander into the local tavern, have a few drinks, play some darts, meet a cutie, and make out a bit. You’re a hero.

Inverse:

Wander into IKEA, and eat a traditional Swedish breakfast, look at some furniture, meet a cutie, and bed her down in a tastefully decorated room right out of post-apocalyptic (future, Blade Runner-style version) Germany, where everyone graduates from the Bahaus and is uber-stylish and budget-conscious. You do not get to read the instructions and assemble furniture. Instead, you get to make license plates or pick up roadside trash. It’s opposing ends of the spectrum to be certain.

Granted, there’s more to life (and making out) than IKEA and bars. There are plenty of places that PDA’s (those would be Public Displays of Affection, versus Palm Pilots and what have you… and don’t even get me started –pardon the pun– on “palm” anything with regard to making out… that, my gentle reader, is a whole other topic for another time and place. I could count the reasons for not going into that now on one hand. Oh, they write themselves sometimes) would be unacceptable… Come to think of it, even levels of affection have limits, publicly… and for good reason… the above-mentioned mathematical formulas notwithstanding.

Consider a drunken company Christmas party. There are lines to be drawn there… but I’d bet that many a make-out session have occurred there. A seance. Concerts. Buses. Dark alleys. Parked cars. Alien spacecraft (I’m betting that many of those sessions don’t begin or end well). During the sign of peace at Church. Movie theaters. Burning man. All (or any) of those may or may not be proper (or improper) places to engage in such activities.

In summary, I suppose that’s what growing up is really all about: Knowing what to do and where.

And understanding math.

‘The’ anything…

55 hardtop

…was this past weeks’ lingering thought.

Put the word “the” in front of another word… but with emphasis. Like “THE album”, or “THE ‘55 Chevy”. When you do this, especially in the presence of friends or like-minded people, you can almost always get a knowing nod or smile. If you’re Zeppelin fans, “THE album” may be either Physical Graffiti or IV (and may be grounds for a fist fight, who knows?). Say “THE ‘55 Chevy” in one group, and you conjure images of  Falfa’s black ride from American Graffiti (or its prior incarnation in gray for Two Lane Blacktop… perhaps the sound of it in Smokey and the Bandit? We’ll save that for another time…), or maybe even the first ’55 you put on the street?

55 chevy hardtop

Or in another crowd, Scott Sullivan’s Cheez Wiz Orange masterpiece. Perhaps it’s not a car, but your High School sweetheart whom you married? That one great dog you had…

Say “THE goal” to a Hockey fan, and you’ll conjure up this iconic, historic image:

orr goal

Game 4. Overtime. Sweep of the Blues on the line. First Cup victory in 29 years. Sanderson’s pass leaves Orr’s stick as he’s hit by Blues defenseman Picard (insert ‘Damage report!’ sound byte from John Patrick Stewart). As Orr sails though the air, the puck slides past goaltender Hall, and a historic moment is caught on film… quite possibly the most famous sports photo of all time…which is what got me thinking about all of this in the first place. Bobby Orr. Why would I think of Hockey’s greatest defenseman while sketching up some cars? It may have to do with my kids heading back to school this past week, and thoughts of book reports, nostalgic whatever about my days in school, who knows… But I do know that one of my first book reports was on a book about Mr. Orr, and it left an impression on me.

I recall reading the book, and thinking “whoa… this guy is the greatest!”, and not just numbers-wise, but man… he’s everything a sports hero SHOULD be: talented, dedicated, and driven. Calder Cup winner, eight straight Norris Trophies, three-time Hart Trophy recipient, two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and two, count ‘em, TWO Stanley Cup winning goals… and a spot in a little place we call the Hall of Fame. He played with a terribly injured left knee, and when he felt that his play on that knee was hindering his team, he politely retired from the game. With 270 regular season career goals, and 645 assists, it’s obvious that this guy was a leader…and more. When he moved to Chicago, and his injuries allowed him to play only 26 games, he refused to accept a salary, and, in fact, never cashed a paycheck.

At that early age, what I had learned at home was reinforced in that book: work hard, remain dedicated to what you do, and earn your keep. It left a mark on me that became permanent… What’s this got to do with cars? Like I said at the beginning, there’s always that certain “something” about, well, something that just sets it apart, and etches itself on you in some way. Bobby Orr’s story was like that to me, much like Scott Sullivan’s ‘55, Doane Spence’s roadster and Winfield’s Jade Idol… Each has that mystique, that vibe that draws you in closer, and then leaves an indelible mark. Perhaps it’s that first car, the one that ‘got away’. My goal is to one day design or create something that does that to someone, and who knows, maybe inspire some grammar school kid to look up to me. May you have that effect as well, and leave behind a legacy of THE’s

It Takes a Crue.

Some moron once said that it takes a village to raise a child.

I say “bullshit”.

What’s the first word that comes to mind when someone says village?

Idiot.

Exactly. Do you want an idiot raising your kid? I certainly don’t. And I don’t want one raising mine, either.

Henceforth, we have decided that our children will be raised in a progressive way, using music. Granted, there’s a lot to be decided here, at first glance, anyway. As we looked into potential sources for musical wisdom, we found that, for the most part, great songwriters are like philosophers and teachers, each expounding knowledge on situations you or I may run into every day. Bernie Taupin is a great example, as is Harry Chapin, Springsteen, and Dylan… All have a lot to offer in our musical child-rearing idea. However, amongst the good, we found some real crap, too.

Enya, for instance. No way I’m allowing my kids to grow up thinking that world is made up of moody-ass sailors and stars and whatever the hell else this broad sings about in a mix of what might be French, might be Klingon. Any pop performer? No. Nothing you can learn about life from anyone like that. Lady Gaga? She wears ducks and telephones on her head, and even mentions her own name in songs as some kind of lyrical element. Any boy band? That’s just made-up shit there. My kids will have a sense of reality. Rappers? Let’s not go there. So we hunted high and low. Blues? Yes. There will be Albert and Buddy, and BB and Stevie Ray and others… loads of great information to be gleaned from their experiences. But we needed more… and in this modern age, it needs to be in one package, and FAST.

And then we found it.

In the bargain bin at the used record store.

Motley Crue is the band we have chosen. Their lyrics are incredible when you’re a teenager in the ’80′s…. And oddly cryptic now. We selected their “Dr. Feelgood” album as the new “Dr. Spock” of our home, and I’ll explain why (above and beyond the price, and excepting for a slight crack in the jewel case):

First, the album teaches music appreciation. Any band that yells “guitar!” before a solo is a huge help. Prior to hearing this album, whenever I heard a guitar solo, I’d think “harpsichord? tuba? bongos, perhaps? Convection oven? Auto-tuned tire noise from a freeway on-ramp?”  Yelling the instrument name (and occasionally, the name of the dude playing it) pays dividends later on.

Next, we learn about lyrics, mainly via bad examples. For instance, hoochy-cootchie is a phrase best left in the hands of Muddy Waters. In Crue Land, the women are beyond simple hoochy, and their cootchies are, apparently, legendary. In fact, they are basically cootchie squared. (…which led me to ponder the sheer logistical terror of any woman equipped with a square cootchie. I mean, beyond the simple “holy crap, what happened THERE?!” moment you’d certainly experience, is the nightmare of, well, for lack of a better description, pounding a round peg into a square hole. That just has bad night – or, at least, interesting YouTube video – written all over it. Moving along, let’s take this song-by-song. See that? we’re learning already! Rhyming is fun.)

It kicks off with “Terror in Tinseltown”, and drifts into the title track. Right there, you have your “drugs are bad” speech. It’s further defined in the title track, as we learn about a dope dealer and his tough times. He drives a shitbox, hangs with lowlifes and eventually meets his fate, imprisoned or shot, maybe both. Good lesson in there. Don’t be a douchebag.

Next on the list: “Slice of Your Pie”. Here we have a nifty metaphor about eating right, with a subtext that can be used for the “birds and the bees” talk. We learn about moderation, as Vince simply asks for one more slice… not three or four. We learn that even plain girls deserve attention in high school, because the gal in question apparently turns out to be quite attactive later on, and almost causes a neck injury when our narrator sees her later on. We also learn to appreciate women from all directions (“…always walk behind you for the rear view”). Powerful stuff.

“Rattlesnake Shake”. Beats the shit out of me. Could be exercise. Lots of posterior motion in this one. Good for the glutes. OK, then: “Physical fitness = long life”, even for hard-drinking, shallow, heroin-addled pop-rock bands. Works for me.

Moving along, we have “Kickstart My Heart”, which basically says “get yourself hobby that involves cars, and go fast a lot.” Amen. (until they use it in a Kia commercial, and ruin everything you ever hoped for with this song. WTF, guys??! At least it’s not for a Prius. And it has a grandstand full of bikini-clad women, which reinforces the concept that having a car will attract the ladies, even if it is, apparently, a foreign-made sedan. Chicks like the cars, apparently.)

“Without You”. Appreciate the people in your life. Otherwise, they’ll leave, and you’ll write a shitty song about it. Spare us that, at least.

In the catchy “Same Old Situation”, we learn that, in the opinion of a dude who just got dumped, and that you may find yourself thinking that all women are basically the same whorish succubi. We learn that some women, namely those in the life of this songs’ protagonist, anyway, say one thing, and do another. And we learn the value of safe sex, and that when you meet your lovely new bride’s old “friend” with the tattoos and long hair, that she probably didn’t learn that thing with her tongue from reading Cosmopolitan, and that if you forgo wrapping your little monster, that you’ll most likely catch hepatitis from that low-life, tattooed circus freak.

“Sticky Sweet”. Again, moderation. But we learn that a “fire in my pants” perhaps isn’t always a good thing, and that longevity in the sack is a part of any healthy relationship. (furthermore, replace the lyrics with “she’s got stinky/got stinky/she’s got stinky feet”, and we learn that parody is fun, too)

In “She Goes Down”, we learn that, sometimes, life is misery, and the grass IS, in fact, greener on the other side.  We also learn that any girl who goes down this much will sleep with all of your friends. Sure, they’ll appreciate it, but see “Without You” above for the generally accepted outcome.

“Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” teaches us that not everything lasts forever, and that hanging out with your buddies can solve any relationship issue (unless, of course, the little lady in question is the one from the previous song, and she’s doing what she does while you’re in the same room.) It teaches us that, in a delicate, nowhere situation, it’s OK to say “fuck it, just please get out”.

Last in line, we have “Time For Change”. This will be left off of our “Crue Raising Mix Tape of Life”, as we cannot begin to fathom what idiot kid would have been telling Vince that they “lost all faith in the world”. Unless they mean “there are no more hot chicks to discover, you had them all during your ’87 tour”, or that ‘holy shit, you got really fat, dude… and that means if a heroin junkie can get puffy and weird looking, so can anyone. Look at Val Kilmer… maybe not so much heroin, but he was Batman. The fucking BATMAN!!! Of course, HIS Batman is now fat, and looks like a hamster…’ then we could understand. But, instead, they act as if this guy, at one near-bottom point in his life was going to solve the world’s problems. Perhaps. Just maybe, if we all head to the bar and land some hotties, it’d be a better place. Time to change the track, if you ask me.

In summary, this is our choice. What have we learned? That it takes a Crue, not a village to raise my kids. And at just under $4, it’s money well-spent, being just shy of seven dollars cheaper than a Dr. Spock book.

And that by golly, you may just want to keep your children away from ours a little later in life, should you choose some other, less testosterone-driven alternative.

Artists I ‘Draw’ Inspiration From

I’ve wanted to launch this series of posts for quite a while now, and have even touched on it before with a look at Op-Art, but wanted to really dig in, and hopefully expose you to some artwork (and the creators of that art) that you may have never seen before. (mind you, these installments are purely to give thanks where due to artists who have inspired my work… I urge you to seek out more information when interested, and enjoy their talents and give support some when you can!) If you know me, you know that my schooling in Fine Art plays a hugely important role in my work, whether automotive, or non car-related, and with that impact, there’s always an influence from an artist I’ve come across or studied. I tend to draw from something in their art, whether it’s a brush stroke or some use of texture, there’s always some little hint in every piece.

As a monster and B-movie fanatic (even more of the artwork on the movie posters and lobby cards!), I’ve always been into the oddities or more “fringe” kinda stuff… the lesser-known works and artists, some of whom a reader or client will pick up on, and shoot me an email that shouts “I know that artist!” or “I’ve seen that before!”. It’s a great response like that which makes my day… A lot of the stuff I like, as well, is work from artists that hit mainstream success in some ways, and occasionally even cult success. The kind of stuff that you and fellow enthusiasts may know. (I always wondered if Thomas Kinkade — whose last name sounds like something a dominatrix might drink between clients — created work for less commercially-successful industries. I’d love to find that he was the ‘painter of nail guns’ as well) Let’s take a look at monster art, and do this thing by looking at two artists who inspired the hell out of me as a kid, and who recently had their influence muscle its way into some new work, James Bama and Basil Gogos.

James Bama is one of those artists whose work just floors you with technical precision… He’s a realist in the finest sense, and his incredible method of making the subject of his work look REAL, while still managing to throw in such expressive color is a tightrope act with no equal! I chose to cover Mr. Bama’s work first, as his approach is not that different from many of us in the automotive art field. He strives to create a reality… to elicit a response that makes you step back a pace or two and think “wow… it looks real”… and yet somehow, there’s just enough room to make your own interpretation, and get lost in the story each piece tells. Influenced by artists like Alex Raymond (of Flash Gordon fame) and Norman Rockwell, Bama grew up poor in New York, losing his father early and his mother having suffered a stroke. He drew from an early age, and following his service during World War II, enrolled in the Art Students League. While he’s known for his hyper-photo-real commercial illustrations in the Saturday Evening Post and covers for the Doc Savage paperback novel series (and in recent years his paintings of Western themes and subjects), I’d like to keep this installment centered on his work with the Aurora plastic model kits of the Universal Studios movie monsters.

james bama cover art

The series of kits in question were released in response to the popular Universal re-release of many of its monster films as Saturday matinee’s, and struck absolute gold. In 1961, Aurora released its first monster kit, based on Universal’s Frankenstein… followed by twelve more over the next five years (Dracula, Wolf Man, Mummy, Creature, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Godzilla, King Kong, Mr. Hyde, Salem Witch, Bride of Frankenstein, and Forgotten Prisoner). These kits were an outgrowth of Aurora’s already successful figure models, which centered on historical characters, and were wildly popular (not to mention collectable today… you can learn a LOT more by grabbing a copy of Bill Bruegman’s The Aurora History & Price Guide). While the kits were great, it was Bama’s box art that drew many a kid in for closer inspection, and ultimately ownership of the kits! Aurora understood that he art had to be exciting, yet toe the line so as not to offend parents. They sought out Bama, whose work on the Doc Savage books had gained him a tremendous reputation, and he created the absolutely stunning artwork which, while astoundingly detailed, left enough to the imagination to inspire young builders. I recall seeing many of these kits as a kid when we’d drop by swap meets and flea markets, but unfortunately lacked the funds to grab one… these probably would have funded a first home! Yet it was the artwork that stuck in my mind, and prompted me to draw (along with old movie posters and more).

aurora box art

Bama would later move on to create cover art for paperback releases of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the reprint of King Kong, and many others. He continued to create artwork for movie posters, The Baseball Hall of Fame and clients like NBC. He simply retired from professional illustration while at the peak of his career, selecting to focus on his other passion, painting. Make it a point when browsing used book stores and flea markets to seek out samples of his work, and simply enjoy a master’s vision and skill.

The other artist I’d like to include in this quick look is Basil Gogos. Being an absolutely huge fan of old monster movies, and especially fanboy extraordinaire Forry Ackerman, it was seeing his work on covers of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland that pushed me to work with color in entirely new ways as a young artist. Like Bama, Gogos attended the Art Students League of New York (as well as the School of Visual Arts, Phoenix School of Design and the National School of Design), and began his career as a professional after winning a contest through his school, sponsored by Pocket Books.

Born in Egypt (to Greek parents), he was the artist responsible for over fifty covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland, beginning in 1960 with Issue 9, on which he created an impressionist-style portrait of Vincent Price, using three simple colors: red, yellow and green. Gogos’ use of brilliant, high-contrast color left an impact on me like being hit by a boulder dropped from a skyscraper. I was so blown away by his ability to show such impact that I was often working this inspiration into my early color work in school. To this day, I use a bold palette and try to capture the same visual drama in my work (and like most following a master, I’ll probably never reach his level, but it’s a blast to try!).

basil gogos art

Basil’s work is instantly recognizable, and he’s even the man responsible for album covers from The Misfits and Rob Zombie, as well as monster trading cards and covers for Monsterscene Magazine. His work has been featured in other magazine titles as well, ranging from Wildest Westerns to Creepy and even The Spirit. After retiring from commercial illustration, he continued to create work for Universal, working as a photo retoucher in their ad department, and working on the occasional movie poster, and is also the man behind the concept art for those incredible Universal Monsters commemorative postage stamps. While his work spanned a number of genres, like WWII battle scenes, men’s adventure magazines and pin-ups, he’ll probably be best remembered for his monster work.

gogos
I hope that you’ll take some time to not only seek out more information on these tremendous talents, but appreciate their art (and those who have been influenced by them as well!)… It’s always interesting to look at someone’s work and see influences in it, and I hope that you’ll see a little bit more in mine. I’m very interested in hearing about who or what influences you and your work, and hope you’ll continue to look in as this series continues!

Slightly Off-Topic: Vampires

…yes, vampires. Late nights and store-brand coffee have taken their toll, and the mind begins to wander.

Sadly, I’m sitting here, thinking about vampires, and vampirism (actual word? Sounds all professional!) in general. I’m not thinking so much about the whole “feasting on blood” blah-blah-blah… but rather about the more subtle nuances of immortality. The stuff that books and movies never really touch on. (I am so writing this book…)

Consider: Almost all vampires have a steady stream of money pouring in. They’re financially set. You never see a vampire portrayed as waking up every day, and having to head off to work at some dead-end job. They always live in a huge, mostly victorian-era mansion with black painted everything and goofy-looking, Pier-1 derelect lighting fixtures. They never seem to have a crappy, one-bedroom apartment on the lower east side that offers parking eight blocks away. Certainly, you could argue that over the course of many generations of living and feasting on blood, that maybe they’ve gotten lucky, and made some cash. How, well, is beyond me. I mean, day trading is out by the very nature of BEING a vampire. You’re pretty much doomed to the night shift. On that note, consider how often you’d need to change jobs. Not even so much from drinking your co-workers lifeless (who’d be left to send out memo’s? And I’m doubting that any cruise ship captain would allow you to keep a casket in your quarters), but imagine if you chose to feast outside of work. What if you stained your shirt? Furthermore, someone would eventually pick up on the fact that you NEVER AGE. Someone from accounting might get a bit catty when having cake to celebrate your twenty-second year at the firm.

I’m thinking you’d have to marry into money. And many well-to-do women are looking for a trophy husband. Which opens a new can of worms: All vampires are usually very attractive. Why is this? It’s one of those survival of the fittest things, perhaps… or maybe, just maybe, vampires are a little on the shallow side. I’d select vampire pals that would be entertaining. Imagine Mr. Bean or Columbo as vampires. You’d have a blast. It seems, though, that they’re more interested in looks than much else. Observe:

vampire = no need to work

zombie = possible zombie*

Hypothesis: Good-looking people get dates, and meet other people.

Simple fact. Unattractive people are lonely (and probably write about vampire life tribulations when not drawing cars), and do not live la vida Dracula (by this I mean the whole globe-trotting, blood-sucking, sexy shimmering-in-the-forest kind of thing, not the impaling the weak and burning the poor in your castle thing. Whole other la vida there.). An attractive vampire can move up the corporate ladder easily, and amass fortunes by marrying into money, or having it thrown at them by other vampires. Unattractive vampires are usually portrayed as the lackeys, and are killed off by the stunningly handsome king vampires (or run over by holy water delivery trucks. They are to vampire life what anyone in a red shirt is to Star Trek: your ass is dead in 20 minutes.). Ponder the lonely, lonely life of an unattractive vampire. A lifetime of chat rooms and night shifts. Not a good thing.

You should also consider the hard times a modern vampire has at the supermarket, or even just eating out. “Is there any garlic in that? Oh, there is? S**t. I guess I’ll just have to lure you out back and drink of your neck. I mean, I’ll have the salad. No croutons.”

Another consideration is renewing a driver’s license.

“Age?” “744.” “Step over here for your eye test, Mr. Nosferatu.” “Can we, uh, do without the flash on the photo?”

Although, to punch a hole in that theory, you’d never be able to just go down to the DMV and renew, ‘cuz they close too early. You’d literally expire because your license did, wandering out in the daylight like that. Unless you did it online… which, of course, breeds the conspiracy theory that the DMV caters to vampires. (and why not? They obviously employ the living dead… but like the old-school living dead that move really slow and stuff. They need to upgrade to a more modern zombie… the speedy, efficient ones rule.)

I know, you’re thinking “So why the zombie talk now?”, right? I just thought that, well, if you’re too unattractive to be a vampire, I’d bet there’s a lot of work available in Zombie-ism. But that’s another thought for another time. Just trying to be helpful.

Another down-side to modern-day vampire life is underground night clubs (especially those converted from old churches — a popular thing to do in France I suppose. I’ve seen movies. I’m hip to what’s cool over there.). Obviously, to be a good vampire, you need to enjoy the club and rave scene, and develop a tolerance for crappy techno music and blinking lights. And fog machines. I wonder if the REALLY old vampires sit around and complain… “In my day, we’d take the ladies out under the stars in our coach, and seduce them with song and poetry and sonnets… and then we’d chomp into their necks and have Jeeves bury the bones. Not this thirty bajillion beats per second, dry humping crap. Whippersnappers… wouldn’t know an honest day’s bloodlust if it bit ‘em in the neck.”

…and don’t even get me started on the wonders of combining cannibalism and vampirism. It’d be a time-saver for the vampire on the go… and makes good food for thought.

*Don’t get me wrong… I love Steve Buscemi. The photo just seemed un-flattering enough to work here. I’d have used my own photo, but it’s just too eerily close to that of a real zombie, and would have made the whole point much darker than it needed to be, and would have most likely frightened the children. And speaking of which, if your kids are reading this stuff, may your maker have mercy on your soul.

Lost Between Tomorrow and Yesterday…

bullet bird gt car

…”between now and then,” sang Ray Davies.

That song has been stuck in my head for weeks. It’s been years since I first heard the Kinks’ song “Do It Again”, and it kind of slid its way into the soundtrack of my life. What made me bring this up is the recent train of thought I’ve been on, with respect to my work, art and life in general. It seems that as things drift closer and closer to the absurd, I’m finding my inspiration in the very stuff that got me into this in the first place, which, as it turns out, is just absolutely beautiful. I’m finding the rhythm and flow of the work to be every bit as enjoyable as the little details, and am simply enjoying the organic growth and winding paths that a few strokes of the pen might take, versus fighting it. A more stream-of-consciousness approach seems to be fitting the bill, presently.

Consider a few things, if you’ll humor me (on what has become a long and winding post):

Like anything you find an interest in, eventually you move forward from that original starting point, and hopefully improve upon it, build your skills, and in some instances, find new inspiration someplace else. For me, my interest in art started with comic books, the MAD Magazine and CARtoons Magazine, finally leaping to fine art, namely surrealist paintings and Op-Art. While attending college, I majored in Fine Art, painting and drawing, and was thankfully exposed to a number of different styles, techniques, approaches… and I’d say that just about 90% of it was shit. Somewhere, it seems, craftsmanship was replaced by some rote technique, and “trendy” found a home in the one place it should have never been allowed.

My answer to that? I drew cars again. With the art world pandering to any two-bit hack with a brush, there was a certain peace in sketching hot rods and customs. I moved along with the times, bringing the digital tools into my work, and have continued to push the combinations of analog and digital. But every now and then, I slip into a comfortable routine, and just hit “auto pilot” for a bit… Yeah, I feel kind of guilty about that. I become the very thing that makes me rebel in the first place… And you know what? It’s good. It brings about some good, I should say!

What’s truly unique about this particular moment is that I have, for the first time, combined a lot of those early influences into my work at the same time. It’s been amazing, and only getting better! The point here, though, isn’t so much about what has BEEN inspired, but more WHAT has inspired.

I looked back at my more artsy roots, and recall the first time I saw Victor Vasarely’s work “Vega-Nor”, an Op-Art (“optical art”) piece at the Albright-Knox.

vega nor

This painting warped my young brain… not surprising, as that was its intent… After all, the point of Op-Art is to toy with one’s perception, using color and line. I really learned more about using line quality from that piece than anywhere else! It was later in life, while working on a rendering that I stopped to consider just how much depth you could create on paper just with line pressure… up until then, I had a pretty good idea, but the process and idea just seemed, well, natural. Vasarely, mind you, was well ahead of his time. Granted, this whole Op-Art movement was set in motion by the German mathematician (and artist!) Josef Albers, who experimented in the ’30’s with color, working to create spatial effects, but Vasarely moved it forward, working to create work that all could enjoy and take part in… kind of an anti-agenda, if you will… and as for being ahead of his time? Consider that in 1953, the man stated that “In the future, we will attend projected exhibits by contemporary artists. Two days will suffice to send a large show by envelope to any point in the globe. And in the attached letter, as in some sort of partition, in cyphers and terminology, the artist will present the initial and true conditions of his creation.”

Holy (expletive) premonition, Al Gore!!

Continuing this thought, he added that “from now on, the new technologies are here to diffuse art instantaneously to the masses.” Ponder this…. the man essentially predicted email, and the use of a means to reach millions in moments, using art coupled with technology. Thinking about this over the past few weeks, it hit me that truly, I was, like the Kinks song mentioned earlier, getting back to where I started! (definitely “lost between tomorrow and yesterday, between now and then”!) Here I am, playing with technology, and bringing in the old techniques. How cool is THAT??! (of course, to keep my cred with the artsy camp, I could point out the irony of using a pop band to illustrate an awakening based in art itself… that should buy some time and sound deep, too. Yeah, one for the hipsters.)

Over on the opposite side of this note, we have the unseen forces that make it all happen. Beyond the lines and colors and techniques, we have the almost intangible combinations of things that inspire a work to begin with. It’s that collection of inspirations that bring us to grab a pencil to begin with… all of those thoughts and items that begin to form a mental image. Each piece, no matter how insignificant on its own adds to the total. By concentrating on these smallest parts, a bigger picture forms. On that thought, I suppose that this is why I’ve always held a certain disdain for the Nihilistic approach, as it makes no sense at all. To simply start with nothing, and build upon nothing to achieve, well, nothing, is completely illogical. Every little spark springs forth something bigger than itself, and if you’ve been fortunate to surround yourself with positive, creative influences, then you’re going to boldly go where no man has gone before, to to blatantly lift a phrase. Everything has some value, it has to by its very nature… Your job, then, is to not only recognize what is there, but determine its value, and find the right place for it in your work (or life!). Victor Hugo made the point that “There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing.”

So, I suppose, it’s remotely odd that I’d look fondly upon Op-Art and Surrealism so fondly, when either could, at any moment fall over the edge into Nihilism, and eat itself. Perhaps that is what makes it so damn fascinating to me in the first place. Walking that very fine line, and doing its own thing for shits and giggles. It’s the same reason that I enjoy the whole “Theater of the Absurd” movement (and its relevance to modern life)… it takes something so necessary for communication (language), and places complete distrust in it, opting for an alternative to illustrate a point. Combine that with the paragraph above, and you’ll gain insight to my values system, and just why I work as hard as I do: If you consistently think, walk and work outside of the box, you’re going to find some truly unique ways to approach a creative project or problem, and the end result will be something loaded with fresh meaning.

It’s no different than customizing a car, really. You simply have to look beyond what was placed in front of you (the stock car), and find a new way to express an alternate form from it. Consider that, in linguistic terms, having the same car as everyone else would be, by nature, a cliche’. While the Theater of the Absurd attempted to show an audience through an onslaught of cliche’s, overly-technical jargon and essentially unconventional speech that they could elevate their communication by seeking more authentic means, and thus communication more clearly, customizing a car communicates non-verbally, and far more effectively that we are all individuals. It goes light years beyond the spoken or written word (which is why, most likely, that the photos in car magazines are so big compared to the text!) And perhaps that’s a scientific explanation of why a mild custom works so well… there is beauty in simplicity, and by golly, when applied to a car, it transcends art.

What’s also neat about this whole Theater of the Absurd/Op-Art/Brian’s listening to the Kinks again deal is how there really is no conflict when done right… much like designing a kick-ass custom. Flow is everything! Consider this video (a visual version of “Bulbous Bouffant” by the Vestibules, a long-time favorite of mine). Consider the communication: oddly disjointed, strangely compelling, and it finds a rhythm:

Like any good design, it drags you along for the ride, enjoying the flow, and really not asking for a hell of a lot in return. And that, my friend, is a magical thing… When you can combine a couple of things, and just make it “happen”, it’s icing on the cake. Here’s hoping you’ll stay tuned and enjoy the ride! To say the least, I’m pretty stoked about where its all heading now, and the clients I’ve been fortunate enough to have are right along on this ride, making it even more fun. Like the song at the start of this entry says, “day after day I get up and I say I better do it again”, and that takes us, literally, back to where we started…

Lighthouses Suck.

Lighthouses.

I despise them. I mean that sincerely.

Lighthouses are lame, and if you work in one, chances are that you’re a parasite.

Consider that all lighthouses are built where? In a harbor.

Chances are, that this harbor isn’t exactly uncharted territory. It’s probably been sailed in and out of more times than a Bangkok hooker on “Shore Week”. I’d bet that all ships coming in have tools to tell them “rocks ahead!” Perhaps even, and I’m going out on a limb here: a guy on watch? A map? Maybe even a light on the boat? I really can’t imagine a sea-worthy vessel clamoring towards port and the captain saying “Wow, shore. Maybe the coast here is made of marshmallows. Full speed ahead!” …unless, of course, he previously piloted either Titanic, or it’s Billy Joel on a ship that resembles a motorcycle, or any Acura driver closing-in on a four-way stop sign.

I guess I just don’t get the purpose anymore. It all seems so back-dated. Aside from giving birth to an entire industry of lighthouse miniature manufacturers, and subject matter for shitty paintings, they just seem worthless and antiquated to me. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun, and allowing emotion to rule any opinion on them, need to learn more about lighthouses. Let’s go one better: Rather than crack a book or put actual tissue-burning time into it, I’ll take the modern route, and make some dough on my theory.

I’m going to create a reality show based on lighthouses and the people who live and work in them. Excitement galore! Feel the excitement, and smell the decaying kelp and seaweed and black mold.

“Tonight on Lighthouse: Fog rolls in… Tempers flare as the bulb goes out, and all that’s left in the supply room are some three-way soft-light units and a blinking Christmas tree light. Meanwhile, the crew is busy shucking clams in preparation for ‘Uncharted Harbor Week’ in Cape Scurvy. Will they have enough cocktail sauce? Will they sell enough miniature lighthouses to cover Captain Jim’s new wooden leg? Stay tuned…”

“Well, we replaced the bulb with the flashing Christmas tree light, but, it appears it’s flashing something pretty obscene at the neighboring harbor town, and they sent over the garbage barge. We had something similar happen when we temporarily used a black light for a week back in ’92, and Phish moved in, and played a twenty-seven hour version of the Hokey Pokey. We built a bell tower soon after… mostly as a precaution.”

It’s the equivalent of owning a windmill. “Yeah, we run a wind farm.” What in the fuck do you need to MAKE wind for? “Calm day, son. Crank up the windmills!” Meanwhile, it’s absolute terror in the neighboring trailer park as the gusts start whipping in… (oh, I know… windmills harness the wind for energy. But imagine if they simply created it instead. I’ve been working on short story with this same theme. It’s Kafka meets Bradbury, but with melting polar ice caps and lasers. And a conspiracy to sell more hairspray. It would make a killer musical. Speaking of musicals: I am going to write a Broadway musical that is a tribute to the finest TV show about nothing: Seinfeld. And what better to say “nothing”, than by, quite literally, saying NOTHING?! Take a moment to mull that over. Absorb the genius. And prepare yourself for the greatest part of this genius-like, shining example of a fine education gone horribly wrong. See, what really fucks up a good musical for me, anyway, is all that damn singing. Remember the show “Cop Rock”? Yup… that sucked, too. Cops don’t sing, they yell a lot. And who can follow a plot with all of that singing (or yelling) going on? Thus, by eliminating the plot and the singing, I’ve created a show that all can enjoy. There will be music, but in the background… like an old cartoon, or a porno, perhaps. But with banjos. If you know my alternate-dimension theory on Funk Music, that all makes sense. But that’s not even the summit of genius here. You better sit down for this. It will be performed entirely by  (dig this shit) MIMES. Brilliant, I know. This where you insert the mental image of mime bowing and collecting imaginary roses. I plan on calling it “SIGNfeld”.)

Thus, with windmills providing a service, and having purpose other than something for crazy-ass Spaniards to joust, Dutch people a place to live, and a logo for an after shave that smells like either your strange Uncle Rick, or maybe that priest who talks a little too long about soccer sometimes, that makes it official:

Lighthouses are the lamest thing on Earth, officially surpassing fake tans, Olympic Games opening ceremonies, and almost any reality TV show based in Jersey. But not by much.

Going to the Movies

harryhausen

Going to the movies as a kid was a big deal. We didn’t do it often… it just wasn’t in the cards. But when we did go man, it was a total experience. I enjoyed any film we’d see, but I always held a special fascination with the theater lobby, namely the movie posters. Looking back on it, aside from cars, a few notable children’s books and assorted product packaging, movie posters were my first real exposure to design. (as a side note, after seeing Jason and the Argonauts as a kid, my obsession with stop-motion animation and film was ignited. Ray Harryhousen permanently warped my fragile young mind!) To say that there was an impact in that would be an understatement. I was floored by the graphics, the layout. the ability of an artist to convey the general scope of the story, to excite moviegoers into plopping down their cash for a ticket (in many cases, anyway— some just stunk up the joint) was, consciously, anyway, my first real understanding of print design as an emotional trigger.
golden vampires

Fast-forward a few years, and my interest in movie posters and film itself was still growing. I loved movies almost as much as I did cars, and my friend Joe was a total movie nut, namely horror films. The guy knew literally every horror film, director, production house. He was a walking encyclopedia of the genre (as well as sci-fi films, so it’s not so odd that he’s gone on to write some great books!). This was in the heyday of VCR’s and video rental houses, and what made it great was that we had access to so many movies, as the classics (meaning both “great” as well as just “old”) were being released by the dozens. Companies like Vestron (they essentially revolutionized video distribution, and pumped out roughly 3,000 movies on videotape between ’83 and ’95… there’s some more useless trivia that clouds my brain daily), MGM/UA, Embassy, AIP and more were releasing tons of independent, low-budget, B-grade and major releases. From The Stuff andBlade Runner to Revenge of the Living Zombies, Basket Case to Xtro, man, we watched a TON of VHS-format celluloid. We’d try to seek out some great films, and it was in doing this that I was introduced to the work of Hammer Films, a stand-out among the many great (and not so great) productions we’d watch.

mummy

What made the Hammer films so great was the way they told the stories, and the era they came from! Their horror and sci-fi boom was ’55-’59. Coincidentally, this was also the golden age of custom cars… hmmm… Anyway, Hammer’s horror films were more “gothic” in nature (monsters, based more in terror, with a back-story that makes you feel a bit for the players), and they often re-told classics like Dracula, The Mummy and Frankenstein (sixFrankenstein films from’59-’74, no less). Great actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were regulars, and man, they were just tremendous entertainment, even for two kids discovering them almost 30 years after their release. The films had a great look, but, again, what infatuated me was the cover/poster art! Tom Chantrell was the wrist behind many of the great designs, and just had a knack with not only killer art, but amazing layout and design. I think that a lot of my color work is influenced, be it unconsciously or otherwise by the man’s work. Keeping a loose yet detailed feel in my work is directly attributed to Mr. Chantrell’s influence, as well as that of Saul Bass (whose mantra was “Symbolize and Summarize”—how insightful is that? Spare yourself four years of design school, and just repeat that… then send me the money you saved. OK, half. More on Mr. Bass later… and I mean Saul, not Lance. Although, I may have a great way to compare him with cars. I’ll think of it.). Bold, direct, powerful. You’d know Bass’ work anywhere:

bass vertigo

My infatuation with movie posters continues to this day (although with three young kids, my serious collecting days are some time off, yet). As a kid, the work of Drew Struzan was everywhere. Remember the posters for Indiana Jones? The Goonies? Technical brilliance! My tastes fall somewhere between the amazing portraiture of Struzan, the expressionistic and detailed style of Chantrell, and the bold graphic statement of Bass. All have been a profound inspiration in my design and illustration work. It’s still a point of fascination for me when we go to see a movie… I wander around, and check out the new posters. However, it seems as though the true art of the movie poster is falling to the side of the road, as far as mainstream movies go, anyway. Independent films have always had kind of cool (and occasionally bizarre) poster art, but lately, it’s as though the fine art has gone away. The new Indiana Jones film brought back a spark of life, though, as Struzan nailed it again! And  Batman Returns?! Man…. Great stuff, and the two versions, each with the burning bat symbol (one of Batman, one of the Joker) are great, and really play up the menacing undertones (and overtones, let’s be honest here) of the movie. Would a hand-painted or rendered piece have been better? I submit that in this particular example, it could not. There’s a time and place for almost every style and technique, it would seem.

forbidden planet

In any event, I bring up the movie poster art topic for a few reasons: One, you may not have been aware of the things covered here (Hammer horror films, the posters, the designers), and I enjoy opening up a new subject for you to head out and experience; Two, I had wanted to answer a few questions that I’m often asked (‘where do you get inspiration from?’, ‘how did your style develop?’ and ‘what the Hell are you talking about?’); and three, hopefully, to inspire new designers who are trapped into relying on software and computers to draw for them to seek out what makes design and art so damn fun to begin with: creating it by hand! We’re already inundated by computer-generated, ‘cold’-feeling works that lack that human personality that shines through in all artwork. Now get out there, watch an old b-movie, seek out some wild inspiration from beyond the automotive sphere, break out the pencils and raise the bar.

Bored Housewife Typhoon

Do you really need a fake lobster trap filled with whimsical stuffed sea horses and dried flowers hanging in your kitchen? If it matches the bedazzled broken coffee cup mosaic of two kittens looking at a fishbowl you sure do.

Bored Housewife Typhoon.

Yep. Sounds like a pretty cool name for an Enya cover band, but it is, in fact, a name I had coined some time back to describe a certain style of interior, ummm…. decor.

You’ve seen it, I know you have.

You get invited to someone’s home, and, from the exterior, anyway, it looks nice enough. Normal landscaping, up-kept, nice. Then you enter, and holy shit, Batman…. it’s like a flea market collided with the Roy Rogers traveling museum display inside of a Cracker Barrel as a QVC marathon lumbered on during “Craft Week” at the county fair, while women wearing long, floral-patterned skirts and sweatshirts with silly ironed-on cats look at beaded hair clips created from old wicker baskets, telephone parts or rubber bands covered in old underwear cut to look like either fringe or, well, like my current pair of undies. There’s useless, decorative shit everywhere. I mean fucking EVERYWHERE. It’s as if they took hostage the interior decorators of Chili’s, fed them meth and crack for week, and handed them a box of nails and a Michael’s gift card.

What is it, exactly, that attracts people to purchase fake relics from farms, factories, old houses? I don’t mean actual tools or doors from an eighteenth-century brownstone in Boston, but newly-made, vacuum-molded props like a garden hoe or a plastic replica of a bear trap or some vase that looks like it came from some Hindu temple, but is made of styrofoam covered in glitter and was bedazzled by some seven year-old  in a basement sweat shop in Bangladoor? Who is honestly going to believe that, above your IKEA futon, and scattered amongst your collection of Twilight paperbacks and Wal-Mart throw pillows, that you have a priceless artifact? That you took time to go on an archaeological dig in the lost tomb of Emperor Zhang-Wha-Shing from the second dynasty, and now display his ceremonial headdress along-side a broken TV remote and a dime-store prop photo of you and three friends headed over Niagara Falls in a barrel? At least put some effort into it. Grab that old muffler from the side of the road, and make a lamp from it. Have a story to tell, other than ‘Jeanie saw it there in Hobby Lobby and just had to have it. She added the fake pearls. She’s really creative, you know?’

No. No, I don’t know.

And please don’t try to explain it. I think that Jeanie is possibly brain damaged, and that you can do much better when selecting your next mate, and I’m happy with the conclusion I’ve arrived at.

Yet, there you are.

You’re overwhelmed. Your essential observatory senses crash from the input. The smells of potpourri and candles collide with Glade Fart-Be-Gone misters… your eyes attempt to take in eleven thousand needlepoint crafts. The paint-by numbers canvas boards framed with twigs and shit that most landscapers throw out. You’re being poked in the arms by peacock feathers arranged near giant silk sunflowers. Plates depicting some war between a French dude holding a beaver pelt, a pirate, and some guy that’s either manning an Indian trading post or opening a pizza parlor just off the coast of Zanzibar on a crudely-constructed raft, or maybe an island that has other-worldy vegetation and things that might be Moai, might be just fat tourists burying one another in the sand (which, coincidentally,  the ‘artist’ has cleverly created using marshmallow and crushed Rice Krispies), which would look almost real, if not for the clock face drilled just below the storm clouds and stuck at 4:37… Meanwhile, you gaze in awe at the creative genius that brings someone to use a quilt as drapes, just as the cuckoo clock chimes in with some bluegrass standard as an eerily, anatomically-correct miniature of Dolly Parton dressed as the Easter Bunny and holding a taco twirls around. (Speaking of bluegrass, I have a theory that in a parallel universe, there never was any funk music, and thus, all porn has a soundtrack filled with banjos and jugs and that weird rubber band thing between the the three teeth that the player hasn’t yet relegated to his shirt pocket, which is just ever-so-slightly more creepy if you’ve ever fallen asleep watching Deliverance, and then wakened in the middle of Bound as I once did while suffering a flu.) Yet, above the mish-mash of utter ‘holy PBS mid-morning-craft-show-gone-fucking-haywire’ that is bombarding your senses, you marvel at how many kinds of plastic fruit one soul can purchase without a license. Apples, pears, grapes, melons, guava, durian, scale figurines of Richard Simmons. All there, like some Twilight Zone-esque world of torture from the lost episode “The Man Who Loved Fruit”. It tempts… yet, you can’t partake. Fuck.

What drives anyone to make their house look like this?

Boredom.

A genetic predisposition to waste money on fake foliage and small Grecian columns. Insanity, perhaps… but I’m leaning more towards boredom. My theory used to be that if you leave anyone alone for too long, and subject them to a life of cleaning products, daytime TV, and modern conveniences, they begin to crack, and yearn for a simpler time. Yet, over time, I realized that if this were true, you’d have homes decorated like the set of Gilligan’s Island, or maybe a cave. However, as I’ve devoted many hours while semi-conscious to thinking this through, I’ve come to blame Michael Landon. I blame him for that damn Little House show, which, when viewed by girls at the right age, plants the seed of “Country Home Decor”. I’d also blame Cracker Barrel, but damn you, your corn bread is too tasty to hold a grudge. Fortunately, I am not tortured by this illness in my home. My wife rarely watched that show, opting instead for the Three Stooges, which is great, as I am an artist, and thus too poor to afford decoration. And beyond the poking in the eye, wedgies and constant threat of being bopped in the head with a novelty-sized mallet, it’s worked out quite well.

However, if you are so plagued, I offer a remedy:

First, you must gather all of the decorative crap hanging in the home, and make a pile in the covered wagon that decorates your back yard. Set it on fire, only saving the Trigger and friends commemorative plate and a pie-shaped splinter from your barn door cabinets, and return to your kitchen. There, use elbow macaroni to fashion a crude ouija board on the plate, using the splinter as a pointer, and summon Landon, asking him to release the hold he has placed on your wife, and to say hi to Elvis for me.

Then break the plate, and bury it under a copy of Architectural Digest.

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