Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

R.I.P., Gahan Wilson

November 23, 2019

My lone Gahan Wilson collection.

Gahan Wilson, whose surreal cartoons regularly appeared in National Lampoon, Playboy, and other top-shelf mags, has stepped away from the drawing board.

He died Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Complications of dementia, they say. He was 89.

This guy was funny. Bleak, weird, the owner and operator of left field, he kept you off balance like some psychotic judo master. There was nobody else like him working Back in the Day®, and if he has a successor, I’ve not seen him or her yet.

One of my faves? An overstuffed chair absorbing a reader. Eyeglasses and book lie on the floor. All you can see as the reader vanishes is a pair of hands, protruding from the seat.

Another depicts a gardener who has unearthed a skeleton. His employer, a stately, dessicated husk of a woman, says, “I think you would be advised to locate the new delphinium bed elsewhere, Hobbs.”

Yet another shows a soldier covered in gore, muck and God knows what all, knife in one hand and assault rifle in the other. He stands alone in a smoking hellscape that makes the “Terminator” future look like Disneyland. His eyes pop out of the murk like cue balls. And he smiles. “I think I won!” he says.

Dracula with a vampire hand puppet. Dracula with a salt shaker. (Dude liked Dracula, what can I tell you?) A woman who has stuffed her husband into the trash can outside her apartment door (“You don’t get rid of him that easy, Mrs. Jacowsky,” says a man who may be the building superintendent). A writer for “The National Confidential Weekly” who, stuck for a lively bit of the old Fake News®, finally leaves his typewriter for a while and returns to tap out, “It isn’t easy cutting the heart out of a woman with a dull knife. And it takes time. It takes a good fifteen minutes.”

Oh, Gahan Wilson was one of the greats. I hope he and Charles Addams are hoisting a tall cold one in the Beyond.

Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

This one goes out to every aging child who, come Veterans Day, misses the old man (or old lady, for that matter).

Or maybe you just miss Steve Goodman.

Quaddammit

February 16, 2019

The 36th Mount Taylor Winter Quadradthlon is today.

Don’t look for me in results — it’s been years since I raced the Quad, but I was pretty OK at it a time or two. The bike and run legs, anyway.

Hal’s wife, Mary, and I used to race it as a mixed pair, and we won in 1990, 1992 and 1993.

I was usually in decent shape, being tanned, rested and ready following a long cyclocross season. And Mary was always tip-top, living at altitude up Weirdcliffe way and running around with jackasses, some of them four-legged (ho, ho).

Quadware included Nambé medals and platters.

Hal, of course, did the whole thing solo, which always looked a bit too much like work to me. I was only so-so on snowshoes and an outright hazard on cross-country skis.

This was and remains a toy-heavy pasatiempo, and Hal’s truck would be stuffed to the topper with bikes, wheels, tires, skis, shoes, snowshoes and a ridiculous amount of clothing suited to any and all weather conditions.

Running shoes were augmented with sheet-metal screws in the soles for traction, in case there was ice on the run leg (there usually was).

Clip-on aero bars? Sometimes. Once I used a set of Scott Rakes to good effect, aero bars giving me The Fear on the descent back to Grants.

The bike was usually standard road. In 1990 I was rocking an aluminum Trek 1500 with 53/39 rings and a 13-24 freewheel.

I know I’ve written about the Quad before, but whatever I cranked out is squirreled away on a Zip disk somewhere or in an actual magazine, and I don’t feel like diving down those rabbit holes this morning.

However, I did find a reference to my first Quad in my 1990 training diary, and that reads as follows:

“Big-time pain. I don’t think I’ve felt this bad since I got the shit kicked out of me at Alamogordo last year. Bike leg was slower than I’d hoped for … and my uphill run was fucking awful. Downhill run was better — but not much — and the downhill bike was spiked by the Headwind from Hell.”

Yeah, good times. The Quad will never be the new golf.

• Editor’s note: Hal “Mr. Awesome” Walter notes that I lifted his faux curse “Quadammit” from one of his own works. This explains why a Spotlight search failed to turn it up on any of my hard drives; that, and an admittedly casual approach to petty theft. Give it a read.

A friendly gesture

November 22, 2018
Shut up, kid.

Shut up, kid.

There’s a chain across this dump and a big sign that says “Closed on Thanksgiving.”

Here’s hoping that you’re all having a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat. Don’t forget to pick up the garbage. Look out for Officer Obie, the judge, and the seeing-eye dog.

And if the “Alice’s Restaurant Back By Popular Demand Tour” comes around on the guitar, well, remember — if you want to end war and stuff you gotta sing loud.

Cup check

March 9, 2018

The state of affairs back in 1999, when the Cactus Cup was on its way out and the Sea Otter was on its way up.

The Innertubes are a marvelous thing.

I was noodling around online, checking the availability of campsites at McDowell Mountain Regional Park (no room at the inn), when I noticed an alert about “a special event” taking place there this weekend.

It’s the Specialized Cactus Cup.

No, really.

The Granite Trail rises and falls through a basin that was pretty lush when I last visited in February 2016.

I think I last covered a Cactus Cup back in 1999. Once the unofficial kickoff to the mountain-bike season, an all-hands-on-deck deal for staff and contractors from VeloNews and Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, it had been eclipsed by the Sea Otter Classic (which I also attended that year) and devolved into more of a regional gathering of the tribes.

It was still a giggle, though, and I expect it remains so, especially with temps in the mid-70s and a bit of cloud cover in the forecast.

The Competitive Track, built for the Cup when it moved from Pinnacle Peak to McDowell in 1998, is big fun, and the rest of the more than 40 miles of trails in the park are top-shelf, too. You can ride most of them on a cyclocross bike, if you’re insane, but a mountain bike works pretty well too for anyone who suffers from mental health.

It’s nice to see that the Cup runneth over again, even if I can’t be there, dammit.

Like rain falling on the city

February 17, 2018

The sky is crying.

It was gloomy around here the past couple days, and not just for the obvious reason. The weather finally turned and we got something like a half-inch of rain; a long, steady soaking.

Something seems dreadfully wrong
with this picture.

Even the normally stoic Turk grew unsettled, first spending an unusual amount of time under the bed, and then following me around like bad news.

This morning he was finally back to his routine: yowling outside the bedroom door when he’s decided that I’ve logged enough shuteye; jumping into bed for a brief cuddle; and finally nodding off as the sun crept over the Sandias.

Herself is easing back into business as usual, hitting her workout classes and fencing with the taxman, whose clammy hand is even less welcome in our pockets than usual.

Mia performs her one-cat show “Sit Like a Cat,” based on a poem from the Ted Kooser-Jim Harrison collection “Braided Creek”:

We should
sit like a cat
and wait for the door
to open.

And the unflappable Miss Mia Sopaipilla, who came to us from the same shelter that gave us Mister Boo, continues to provide some much-needed comic relief. The other day it was zazen on my drawing stool; this morning it was mortal combat with a long-forgotten toy mouse.

Me? You’d think I should be chronicling some velo-business for fun and profit, what with CABDA just concluded and Frostbike, NAHBS and 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo ongoing.

But I’m not, so maybe I’ll go for a ride instead.

• Editor’s note: Gassho and deep bows to one and all for your condolences following the passing of Mister Boo. Sifting through the piles of photos and videos depicting the sprightly young Boo of days gone by, and seeing the pleasure his presence provided beyond our own household, helped us remember the good times, bright moments that often fade under the harsher light of day-to-day caregiving.

Not insane! (Well, maybe a little)

February 13, 2018

A Firesign sampler.

Thanks to Steve O’ for sending me on a little trip down Dr. Memory Lane with his mention in comments of a KCRW podcast that looked forward, into the past, at the Firesign Theatre.

I first stumbled across the Firesigns in high school. The source of the contagion may have been my friend Bruce Gibson, who was something of an audiophile, or perhaps Dan Stephanian, who was an actual disc jockey.

The Firesigns struck me like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist, and if I hadn’t planned to be a cartoonist I might have gone into radio instead of newspapering. Their skit “The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye,” and far too many impromptu amateur performances of same, would provide an entrée into friendships that, like herpes, have proven impossible to eradicate.

We saw “Martian Space Party” at the Rialto Theatre in Alamosa way back in 1972, and even the actual Firesigns themselves in concert at the old Ebbets Field in Denver, circa 1977 or thereabouts.

One of our college hovels bore the sign “Ed Siegelman’s Ground Zero Equal Opportunity Apartments,” a FT reference from “Dear Friends.” And when I was assigned to build an actual show as part of a radio-production class I created an all-Firesign homage. Music, news, weather, sports and commercials, all were pulled from their tattered casebook.

Phil “Nick Danger” Austin himself even popped around the blog to try, Python-like, to squeeze a dollar or two out of the Bozos and Bozoettes who loiter around my drugstore, drinking chocolate malted falcons and giving away free high schools.

Phil’s gone now, dear friends, as is Peter Bergman. But last fall the surviving Firesigns, Philip Proctor and David Ossman, got together at the Library of Congress to perform and discuss the troupe’s work.

The Library has all their albums. I only have most of them, an oversight I intend to correct.

 

R.I.P., Dick Gregory

August 20, 2017

Dick Gregory, activist and comedian.

Back in 1978, as a young reporter at what then was called the Gazette Telegraph in Bibleburg, I spoke with two people who could not have been more different — David Duke and Dick Gregory.

Duke was all PR and puffery, arguing that integration wasn’t “bringing peace and harmony to America, it’s accomplishing the complete opposite.” He described his button-down version of the Ku Klux Klan as “a white counterpart of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,” and crowed about “a surge of interest and membership in the organization.”

Gregory, as you might expect, approached civil rights from an entirely different angle, knowing a line of horseshit when he smelled it. It was a product he did not carry and would not distribute.

“As long as we have racism and sexism, we are a nation divided,” he said during a speech at the Fort Carson Field House, where he received a standing ovation before heading downtown for another talk at The Colorado College.

“If I walk about for a week with a pile of horse manure in my pocket, ready to throw on you, then whose pocket stinks for a week?” he asked. “And if I walk around with hate in my brain, what is that going to do with my brain?”

Pockets full of horseshit and brains full of hate. Nearly four decades down the road we’re still covering the same old ground. Sisyphus is all like, “Damn, y’all really like rolling that rock, huh?”

• Update: Rolling Stone‘s obit is a good bit more, uh, colorful, than the one in The New York Times.

• Update the Second: Holy shit, now Jerry Lewis has left the building.

Memorial Day 2016: A namesake’s service

May 30, 2016
From the Perry (Fla.) News-Herald, dated May 23, 2008.

From the Perry (Fla.) News-Herald, dated May 23, 2008.

There was bad blood on my dad’s side of the family. We never learned the cause of it, and while we met his mother, sister and various cousins from the O’Grady clan, his brother remained a mystery.

The two men didn’t speak for something like a quarter century, and while a reunion was finally arranged while I was off at college, I don’t have the impression that the hatchet was ever completely buried, though my uncle and I share a middle name.

Dad rarely discussed his World War II service beyond the light bits, like occasionally ferrying some celebrity around, and while we got some hints as regards his war years from Mom, I came to think of her as something of a fabulist, a storyteller, putting a bit of spin on every tale. As a copy editor I retained a healthy skepticism.

But whaddaya know? While casting about for a fresh take on the old man’s war for today’s Memorial Day post, I stumbled across a newspaper report confirming pretty much everything I’d heard about his brother, Charles Declan O’Grady.

Like Dad, Uncle Dec was a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, but assigned to the 504th Bombardment Group, 313th Bomb Wing, operating from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. While Dad flew C-47s out of New Guinea, Uncle Dec was occupying the other end of the aircraft as a tail gunner in a B-29, the “Dinah Might.”

The Kawasaki Ki-45 "Nick," one of which my uncle put in the drink a day before he wound up there himself.

The Kawasaki Ki-45 “Nick,” one of which my uncle put in the drink a day before he wound up there himself.

He was credited with destroying a Japanese fighter during a mission to Aichi Prefecture in Japan, on June 25, 1945. The very next day, Dec’s bomber was shot down over Ise Wan bay, near Nagoya, one of the largest centers of the Japanese aircraft industry; he bailed out and was rescued by a Navy sub, one of seven crew members to survive.

Twice wounded during the war, Dec was honorably discharged in August 1945, returned to his law practice in Perry, Fla., and eventually was elected Taylor County judge.

Dad, as you will recall, stayed in the Air Force until his 30 was up; he didn’t retire until I was in my first year of college.

And I didn’t meet Uncle Dec until Dad’s funeral, eight years later.

No, Dude, don’t say it, not today …

January 18, 2016

… aw, shit, there he goes.