rain not apricots

Because procrastination should never feel fruitless

Category: Uncategorized

Speedboat

Luttrell Psalter ( c.1320–1340)

Last night, my friend Sergio posted an incredible image from the Luttrell Psalter on my friend Antoinette’s FBook page. This tiny birdman is one of hundreds of wondrous beauties dancing in the margins of an otherwise very unwhimsical compendium of psalms and cracker-like words (or so I’m guessing, since I don’t read Latin). Having never heard of the Luttrell Psalter before, I decided to Google it and found a digitized high-res version of the entire book on the British Library‘s website. I spent the rest of last night whispering “Oh My God!” to my monitor over and over and over again.

The jaw-dropping beauty of the Luttrell Psalter’s assembled grotesques is too vast and sublime for me to tackle here. Suffice it to say, if you aren’t already intimately familiar with this book, you should be.

two_guys

Luttrell Psalter

What I actually wanted to talk about was this pair of men from some lower corner in one of the first 30 or so pages. They are furtively removing each other’s gauzy loincloths. I don’t know who they are or if in fact they’re actually putting each other’s gauzy loincloth back on. Puh-TAY-to. Puh-TAH-to. Either way, they’re looking over each other’s shoulders, legs entwined, and their knot-tying (or untying) is being performed with the utmost delicacy. And this, of course, made me think about James Marshall (the children’s book author/illustrator) and something my friend Antoinette had said earlier in the day about a photo of my dog posed as Chairman Mao.

maoShe’d been joking about what kind of Little Red Book my dog would write, and I told her Ruby’s version would be illustrated and would be much less pedantic than Mao’s. Antoinette said I was wrong and that my dog’s illustrated version of the Little Red Book would definitely be bossy. “They beguile us with cuteness till they have total control.” I realized she was right because this is how all adored pets operate (and because Antoinette is always right). But in describing how any successfully benevolent dictator wins our trust, I realized Antoinette had also provided an excellent definition of how any successfully subversive picture book works. Which brings us to James Marshall.

speedboat1Three years before Arnold Lobel’s lovably talmudic Frog & Toad first appeared, James Marshall wrote and illustrated an under-sung gem called Speedboat. Published by Xerox Education Publications in 1967. It is the story of two “pals” named Jasper Raisintoast and Jack Tweedy-Jones (two of the best names in the entire history of fiction). Tweedy-Jones is a nervous homebody with monogrammed slippers. Raisintoast is a game adventurer with a speedboat. Few words. Rendered in green, brown and black. Suspiciously Frog and Toad before Frog and Toad…although the amphibians in this case are canines. Their worlds are similarly cozy and profound, but there is one notable difference in how these pairs of pairs relate. One that took me years to notice…or care about. Frog and Toad are friends who live in separate homes. Jasper Raisntoast and Jack Tweedy-Jones are pals who share a bed. Big deal, you say? Well…yes…kind of.

There they snugly are on the opening spread of the book.

And…in case you didn’t notice…here they snugly are on the final spread.

They start and end their day sharing a bed. Two pals. In 1967. How many images of pals sleeping under the same palm-frond duvet can you think of from the late 60’s? In any popular cultural format? Let alone in an early reader chapter book. It’s not a rhetorical question. I was zero years old in 1967 so I don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about.

I’ve read Frog and Toad many times over the past four decades and I don’t recall them ever having shared a bed.  George and Martha never did either, did they? Maybe this explains why you haven’t heard of Speedboat before? Or why it was published by Xerox Educational Publishing instead of Harper? Or why you never see it in stores?

We’ve come a long way in the six hundred sixty odd years since  pals had to furtively contend with each other’s gauzy loincloths in the margins of the Luttrell Psalter, but we still live in a world where too many well-intentioned eyes police what appears on the page and turn so much of what we read into cracker crumbs.

Resistance is futile!

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Mending Wall


There are walls that join and walls that divide. The wall behind my computer screen separates my apartment from a family who, in some form or other, has lived on the other side since before FDR. They invited us to Christmas dinner two days after we first moved in and have asked us to countless Fourth of July and Labor Day and Easter barbecues since then. They warn us when they see rats lurking in the ivy out back, or when my wife has left her keys in the gate under the stairs, and they’ve confidentially offered to break the knees of any future suitor who has the misfortune of slighting our currently-six-year-old daughter. They were beyond sheepish and contrite about suing us when a tornado knocked our chimney through their roof and our insurance was slow to pay. The wall behind my computer screen is brick and load-bearing and divides for the best. It is finished otherwise on the other side, but I’m sure my neighbors feel the same.

I’m equally sure the fence out back makes me a better neighbor to the older Chinese couple who live to my left. I admire the perennial effulgence of their regimented hydrangeas and I have never once imagined what it would be like to have Christmas at their place. Until now. It’s just as well it never happens. I don’t know the people who live behind my building other than that a woman who used to live  on the ground floor behind us had the world’s worst laugh. The kind of laugh that jolts you out of your darkest existential musings and makes you think about ending it all now. Or moving. Or both. Anyway… said neighbor has either stopped finding anything in life to laugh about… or she’s moved. I can’t imagine there not being a fence around the back yard. Without it my clematis and climbing roses would feel aimless and squat. So would I. It would like gardening in the nude. But worse.

The wall in the common hallway of my building was not a dividing wall until it had legs. It was and is a joining wall. One that joins me and my upstairs neighbors together. It is ours collectively. Our hall. Our wall. We share the expenses of plastering and painting and keeping it clean. None of us has parents who were born before The New Deal. Some of us think the hallway looks better with giant construction paper legs growing from the baseboards. Others feel differently. But a shared hallway should never be a fence between vertical neighbors.

Maybe that’s one of the things about mending walls Frost was talking about? The strange dance between division and cohesion that makes the best walls work on both sides. Sometimes toes will be stepped on, but as long as everyone is willing to keep their feet moving there is a hope of music in the footwork.

This was supposed to be a post about arms. So much for that.

My Two Left Feet

Legs Down
Alas… my neighbors didn’t love the second leg. They likely never loved my first leg either, but they definitely didn’t love the second one. There will be no chorus line of giant construction paper legs kicking their way up to the roof. Leg one gamely gammed it up  for a season or two. Leg two lasted a week. The best laid plans…

I’m actually totally fine with taking down my legs. They’re happily lying next to the Sunday Times in the recycling bin.  The fun was largely in putting them up and scratching the itch. That “I must have giant legs in the hall” itch we all sometimes get and usually ignore. The only downside to this whole escapade is I put my neighbors in the awkward position of wanting me to take my legs down but being afraid to ask me to do so. That’s not a good position.

I emailed my neighbors the day I put my legs up and told them I’d gladly take them down. I really tried to sound cheery and neighborly about it, but without sounding overly glad in that way hostilely nice people make gladness feel oppressive and fake.  No reply. Not even after two days. This was not a good sign. My neighbors are great repliers.

So I emailed them again on the off chance my first email somehow got waylaid because of all the virtual frothing over Harry Reid’s insinuations about Mitt Romney’s tax returns and Time Warner’s ongoing lackluster service as my ISP. I reiterated my gladness at taking down the legs and made a point of flagging the unassailable truth that it would be more than within their bounds as sane nieghbors to not want to have giant legs sprouting up  in their commonly shared hallway. I was still secretly holding out hope the first email just got lost along the way. But there was no reply to my second email.  From either of them. The chance that two emails sent to two different addresses didn’t arrive at either address either time seemed less than slim. It was clear my neighbors were afraid to email me back.

Less than a week before these very same neighbors encouraged me to let myself into their apartment,  go onto the roof, and take as much of their thyme and oregano and zucchini blossoms or tomatoes or anything else I wanted. I have dined in their home. With my my family. More than once.  They are dream neighbors. They just happen to be part of that reasonable percentage of the population who prefer not to walk past six-to-seven-foot tall construction paper legs twice a day. Or so it seemed from their notable silence. I needed to take down my legs.

A sane person would have just taken them down. Correction: a sane person would have never put up legs in the first place. A marginally less sane person would have just taken down the legs he’d already put up. I still wanted to believe there was something else afoot. Perhaps my neighbors were having marital problems? Or problems at work? That would explain their not replying to either of my emails about legs in the hall. They just had something more pressing to address. It was beyond sad to think my neighbors were potentially on the cusp of divorce or that they might have to move because one of them had lost their job. How lame to think they cared about my legs when they had more serious things to negotiate between themselves.

They finally called over the weekend. To talk about an unrelated matter. I was out walking my dog and we were sitting under the shade of a large tree in the park trying to avoid the heat. When there was a pause in the conversation I cheerily brought up the legs. There was another pause and then there was some limber dancing around whether the paper and tape might ruin the paint on the walls, but it was clear what we were really talking about. I promised to take down the legs on Sunday. They said no rush. That was Saturday around lunchtime.

I didn’t take the legs down Sunday because I didn’t want my neighbors to have to walk by me while I was taking them down. That seemed too awkward. Best to have the legs disappear the way sausage is prepared. Out of view so no one has to see what’s really happening. But I wanted my neighbors to know there were no hard feelings about their wanting me to take down my legs. So we invited them over for drinks and hors d’oeuvre Sunday night. They had to walk past my legs to knock on our door. They brought down a bottle of Proseco. My daughter played them Ode to Joy on the piano. And she did pantomimes about pulling dinosaur skulls with imagined lengths of rope. We talked about everything but legs. I’m glad to report my neighbors appear to be happily married and by all accounts both are still gainfully employed.

After everyone left for work this morning, I went out into the hall and took down the legs. I Ready-Patched anywhere even the slightest bit of paint came off with the tape and a first coat of paint is almost dry. I don’t want there to be any trace of those legs haunting the hallways. I like my neighbors too much and I never want them to feel like they have to dance around me. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit there’s still a very tiny part of me that wants to see giant legs kicking all the way up to the roof. Mum’s the word.

Metal Entry Doors

Metal Entry Door

Whenever you get tired of looking at sidewalk gumstains and paintblobs or when looking for lost washers starts to feel onerous instead of joyful, there are always metal entry doors to keep your spirits up. And parking bollards. And MoMA.

gumstain

gumstains

paintblob

Metal Entry Door

Metal Entry Door

Metal Entry Door

Metal Entry Door

Metal Entry Door

Bollard

Bollard

MoMA

MoMA

Double Stick


I ran out of tape putting up another leg in the hall yesterday. It’s not my personal hall, it’s the building’s, so I’ve been hesitant to put up a second leg because I’ve never been entirely sure how my neighbors felt about the first one. Not everyone wants to walk by a six-foot-tall construction paper leg twice a day. I’m sure my neighbors thought it was going to be the only leg, and I told them I was more than happy to take it down. That was sort of a lie, but you have to say these kinds of things in order to make life work and I would have been ok with taking the leg down even if I wouldn’t have been more than happy doing so—I have pettier things to stew over.

My neighbors said they were ok with the leg. That was their first mistake. And I suspect, prior to yesterday’s development, they’d probably stopped noticing it. But after months of telling myself I was fine with only one giant leg in the hall, and that there were already so many things in my life for which I should be beyond grateful, there was an unexpected window yesterday when nothing needed to be done and I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I was weak. I knew where the red and black construction paper were and, unrelated to my lingering interest in a second leg, my daughter had already begrudgingly given me permission to use her off-white “big special paper,” which she had gotten as a Christmas present from my friend Antoinette. I was pretty sure there was tape in the tape drawer. And… no one was home. How could anyone in my shoes at that particular moment in time not put up another leg?

If I’m totally honest with you, it was as good as I’d imagined it would be. I’d spent months thinking about the black shoe. About the red sock. About the cream colored pants. It was hot work standing on the edge of my daughter’s piano bench wedged on the stairs reaching beyond the point of balance to reshape the curve of the toebox. I was afraid to open the front door to let in some fresh air for fear the mailman might see me sweatily drawing the stitches on the instep. Or readjusting the height of the pants above the sock. It was all going so well… until I ran out of tape.

I had brought the leg to within two feet of the baseboard molding when all of sudden I had nothing else to stick the paper on with. In a panic I thought about using duct or packing tape. Or chewing gum. But I noted the time and realized my daughter was going to be getting out of camp soon and I needed to pick her up and duct tape would make delegging the wall a dicier endeavor than I was prepared to own. My second leg was done for the day and there was nothing else I could do about it. Until this morning.

This morning, after walking the dog while my wife took our daughter to camp, I snuck off to Staples to stock up on double-stick tape. No matter how often I walk over to Staples to stock up on any kind of tape it seems like  I’m always opening up the tape drawer to discover we’re out of whatever tape I need at the moment. This is because my daughter uses tape as if she were trying to stick the very fabric of time together. Sitting at my desk drawing with my pencils and my paper while watching Charlie and Lola on my computer screen she will distractedly reach over to the tape dispenser and pull out three feet of tape to stick a one inch piece of yarn onto her collage.

“Good lord,” I sigh from wherever I’m spying on her. “What in the world are you going to do with all that tape?”

“Dad…I’m only six. I don’t know how to use tape yet. Anyway when you talk I can’t hear the show. Can you bring me some cheese and crackers?”

The only reason I continue to buy tape at Staples is that the last stationery store in my neighborhood closed two years ago and was replaced by one of the endless “healthy” hamburger-and-shake establishments that have opened around here. I loved the stationery store that’s no longer there, but my remaining closest option for tape is Staples. I don’t hate Staples because it’s a chain store. As chain stores in my neighborhood go, its workers are nicer and more helpful than most, and the lines at the register are generally short and speedy. What I can’t stand is the pricing. Literally every time I go to Staples to buy tape or Sharpie markers or glue or envelopes or whatever else my daughter has gone through since last I bought it, the tape or glue or markers ring up more expensively at the register than they’re listed as on the shelf.

Having already spent more time than I care to admit trying to figure out if 4 rolls of Scotch double-stick tape at 100″ per roll is a better buy at $10.99 than 8 rolls of tape at what might be 75 yards per roll or the 75 yard might be for the whole pack at $16.49, or two rolls at $4.99 (but it’s not clear how many inches each of those rolls is) I decided to go with four rolls at $10.99. When I suddenly noticed a 20-pack at some other potentially better price, I also noticed the same 4-pack was listed at $11.49. On the shelf below. Same item number as the $10.99 4-pack. Different price. I decided to take a picture of the price I wanted to pay since I knew when I got to the register they were going to charge me $11.49 per 4-pack. There was zero chance in the world they were going to ring up at $10.99.


For most of my life I have eaten the 50¢ in question. I hate making a fuss. I get the bends when I think about making people wait in line behind me while a cashier calls his supervisor over the store intercom to get a glacially slow price check on double-stick tape. I would rather stew over being chiseled out of my life’s savings than make someone stare stewing laser beams of hatred into my back while a store manager searches out the price of double-stick tape in more time than it took Cortes to conquer the Aztecs.

Today there was nobody in line behind me…. and I had a picture on my phone. No one needed to conquer anyone, and while I smugly walked home not stewing over the fact that I paid  50¢ more than I wanted to pay I spied two washers on the ground to add to the washer collection and noticed several nice gumstain and paintblob sidwalk compositions.


I finished the second leg before lunch. My wife and daughter have still not noticed it since they usually use the door under the stoop to come and go. As to how my neighbors feel about the second leg, I can only hope they will be better disposed to it now that it properly meets up with the baseboard molding. It goes without saying everyone will be much happier if we ignore the fact that my secret long term plan is to tape giant legs all the way up the stairs, dancing along the second floor landing and reaching up the next flight of stairs toward the roof. But nobody needs to go there today.

Things Fall Apart

Washers
Although we’ve slacked off the past few weeks, my daughter and I have been collecting washers. You see them everywhere once you start looking. Snugged against curbs. Wedged in those seemingly pointless grooves between sidewalks panels. Huddled among the turd-strewn mulch that ebbs and flows around freshly planted ginkgoes. Snoozing by hydrants. Loitering near stoops and doorways.

If I weren’t so fussy about how many of those washers are too intimately ensconced with something turdlike or glistening with what is undoubtedly a fresh sheen of dog piss, we’d have a much larger collection. A fact my daughter regularly notes with derision.

It’s true. She’s a much braver curator than me. I admire this, but I resent having to hold her waste-besmirched hands when crossing the street, and she never wants to wash them once we’re home or wherever we’re going. And always inevitably those feculent fingers will be jamming pieces of moist melon or mango or cheese into her mouth. Having still not been washed. So our collection is fussy and limited because of me. I take full responsibility for that. The fact that my daughter has not yet contracted ringworm or e coli or giardia or elephantiasis or whatever is my bad. The fact that there is melon or mango or cheese in the house to be obediently cut into moist pieces for her to jam into her lovably bossy maw is largely my fault too.

The fact that I won’t let nuts or screws or chain links be counted as part of our washer collection is not my fault. My daughter’s welcome to collect all those things, which she does. But they aren’t washers. We can make an allowance for a well rusted rivet. But no snaps or buttons or rubber gaskets. It’s important to know the taxonomic constraints of your collection.

Where do all these washers come from? Bikes? Scooters? Strollers? Rolling granny baskets? Skateboards? Gurneys? Stolen grocery carts? It has to be something like that, right? So where are all the rolling things that don’t have those washers anymore? Are they rolling any less well because they don’t have them? If not, why were the washers faultily attached to them in the first place? Does anyone notice they’re gone? What happens when we stop seeing or caring that the wheels we’re rolling on are slowly coming off ? Literally. Right under our noses. It can’t be good.

Reading Glasses


It should go without saying that most days I don’t read books about 17th-Century Dutch painters. Most days I don’t read the collected works of any Polish poets, and most days I don’t have the slightest clue what Arthur Rimbaud is talking about—in English… let alone in French. Most days nothing tousles through my pines and there are no silver summits or goddesses to be recognized and the only veils I lift are tired and feel more like packing blankets. Dawn always passes long before I’ve groggily made my first cup of coffee and realized I don’t have enough to cobble together a real lunch for my daughter to take to camp.

Yesterday a friend sent me a picture of her husband in his new reading glasses—he’d spent a goodly while deliberating over the right frames and she was sending me a picture to see what he’d finally settled on. In her email she said he looked less mincing in them in real life than the photo might suggest.

Earlier that morning a different friend had emailed to say she’d looked at Mervin Peake’s Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor, an incredible picture book from 1939, which I’d told her about the week before and which I’d only discovered a couple weeks before myself.

My friend said she could see how Peake’s work resonated with mine, and then she asked what I thought about the androgynous yellow creature Captain Slaughterboard befriends and settles down with at the end of the book. If I’m totally honest I should confess that until she asked the question I hadn’t really thought about it. I just liked the book and loved the pictures. So I decided to reread it… with my reading glasses on. Back in winter I had to get glasses when I realized I could no longer read medicine bottles and wasn’t totally able to see what I was drawing any more.

On the second to last spread of Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor the androgynous yellow creature sports a miniskirt and is somewhat suggestively whittling a thick piece of wood over a cooking pot while the captain adoringly smokes his pipe in the background. On the facing page the two are cuddled on the ground while the androgynous yellow creature eats a peeled banana. I won’t ruin the ending and I won’t summarize what comes before this island snugglefest, but suffice it to say the book appears to be, among whatever else it is, a gay love story. And when my friend nicely suggested that Peake’s illustrations resonated with my own (I wish), I realized she was obliquely asking if I was secretly gay (ie. my metaphorical reading glasses made me look mincing).

She is not the first person to ask me this. Anyone who draws pictures like me might well be asked the same. Although my reading glasses are way too practical to make me look any more or less mincing than I might already seem, I run a notoriously tidy ship at home, am unapologetically interested in vintage needlepoint pillows, and I shamelessly ogle other people’s perennials. Sounds much more Rimbaud than Rambo to me too.

My wife has a longstanding fantasy about watching Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock take love of each other. Or just wrestle passionately in some dark corner of the Enterprise—but not so dark that she can’t see. It is one of the many troubling things I love about my wife, but it is sadly… not a fantasy I share. I’d like to think I’d let myself playfully tousle with Kirk or Spock on the bridge if that was where my heart was boldly going. Or that I would cloudlessly cuddle with a banana-eating  androgynous yellow creature on a remote pink island if those were the shores around which I had dropped my emotional anchor. But those aren’t my shores.

I may not be entirely correct when I say what I’m about to say, but I think it’s true that literally every friend in my entire adult life who has ever met my dad has asked me if he’s gay. And I always answer pretty much the same. I don’t know. I see why you ask. Everyone does. There’s a preponderance of circumstantial evidence that would seem to suggest as much. But my dad says he’s not. And strange as it may sound… I believe him. Not because I care. I really don’t. Or that’s not true. I care to the extent that I love my parents and I want them to be happy individually and collectively and there would obviously be complications if my dad were actionably gay. Few if any are better at preemptively lancing life’s complications than my parents.

I also care to the extent that it’s hard not to think about an interpretation which one person forever denies, but which seemingly everyone else reads in unanimous contradistinction. How could you not wonder? But the truth of it is, for reasons too convoluted (and undoubtedly too flawed) to summarize herewith, I don’t think my dad would ever allow himself to cuddle with a bark-whittling androgynous yellow creature on an exotic pink island. He has worked too hard to wrap in packing blankets those keepsakes which are best stored in the darkest corners of his personal storage locker. Even if he knows about Kirk or Spock, which I suspect he does not, I know my dad would shrink from the layout and decor of the Enterprise and be even more turned off by the quality and cut of the uniforms.

It turns out the friend who noted the resonance between Peake’s work and my own was not metahprically suggesting that my reading glasses made me look mincing. She was flagging a different resonance and I read something in her words she wasn’t saying. But while we were on the subject of gayness she wanted to know whether I thought Mervin Peake was out or closeted or not gay at all.

Is it possible to draw an androgynous yellow creature snuggling with a formerly fearsome pirate on a pink island while eating a banana and not have that banana be a metaphor for something? No matter how my reading glasses make me look, they will never work well enough for me to see the answer.

Au réveil, il était midi.

Serendipity


While reading a book of essays about 17th Century Dutch painters my friend Ali had loaned me, I came across a name I didn’t recognize. Gerard ter Borch. Maybe you know his work? I did not. So, as is often the case when I have no clue who someone is, I googled him and went to the the first listing under his name. It was a Wikipedia entry. This was a few months ago. During Wikipedia’s annual fundraising drive.

At the top of the Wikipedia listing for Gerard ter Borch was a picture of Brandon Harris (it’s no longer there since the fundraiser is over). Brandon was personally appealing to me for a donation. Which I reflexively ignored. What I couldn’t ignore, however, was that he looked exactly like Gerard ter Borch. Same pose. Same face. Same expression. Same facial hair. Same sartorial color palette. It was highly disturbing. I thought it was a joke. You know how everyone loves a good joke about Gerard ter Borch.

Anyway it seems Brandon Harris’s face was on many Wikipedia pages during the annual fundraiser, making personal appeals to anyone researching anything from merkins to scrimshaw. Did Brandon Harris or anyone at Wikipedia know his face would disquietingly appear on the top of the page for Gerard ter Borch? A Seventeenth-Century Dutch painter I’d never heard of and who I was only looking up only because I was reading a book of essays by Zbigniew Herbert, who I’d also never heard of prior to Ali’s loaning me his book?

How many people happened to look up Gerard ter Borch during this year’s annual Wikipedia fundraiser? Other than me. Maybe I’m underselling the worldwide appeal of Gerard ter Borch and his work and his importance within the art historical cannon?

Zbigniew Herbert’s Still Life With a Bridle is an excellent book. I’m now reading a collection of Herbert’s poems which I borrowed from the same friend. But this is not a post about Zbigniew Herbert or a nudge for you to familiarize yourself with Herbert’s writing if you don’t already know it (which you should…but whatever). Mostly what I wanted to say is that by deciding to look up someone I’d never heard of  I got to discover how much Brandon Harris looks exactly like Gerard ter Borch. Exactly. Nobody in the world ever knew this until I discovered it. If I accomplish nothing else in life, I will always lay claim to this. Should Brandon Harris and the folks at Wikipedia ever decide to maintain they noticed the likeness first, and that the juxtaposition of portraits was intentional, I will countermaintain that I was the first and only loser in the entire world to appreciate the joke… until I told you.

Limbo

It's all downhill from here today
Sometimes it’s so ungodly hot and humid you can’t do anything but set the bar as low as possible. High if you’re dancing under it. But there will be no dancing today.

Message in a Bottle


I’ve been drawing people in bottles since the Clinton era. Men. Women. Mustachioed, coiffed, or otherwise.


In older sketchbooks there are sometimes figures on the outside wielding sledgehammers. Or jackhammers. Wailing away. To little avail. The figures on the inside mostly don’t seem to notice or care about what’s going on. Those that do seem to want out.



Sometimes there are figures inside of bottles inside of bottles. But usually the bottles inside of bottles are empty. The people have become bottles themselves. There are pills inside of bottles. Buddhas in bottles. Oak trees in bottles. The brownstone I live in inside a bottle. A city skyline of empty bottles.  Buddhas balancing bottles. Sad flaccid empty personified bottles. Who doesn’t love sad flaccid empty personified bottles? You can never have enough of those.


But lately there are only men with mustaches and women with big hair. And no arms. Inside bottles.


A woman whose drawings I love recently said how much she liked my people inside of bell jars. Strange. I never thought of them as bell jars. I love bell jars. What’s not to love about bell jars? But it would never occur to me in a million years to draw a sad flaccid empty personified bell jar. And people in (under?) bell jars are totally different than people inside of bottles. I understand how the former could have gotten where they are, but how did the latter get inside? I don’t know. I never have. That’s why I keep drawing them.

Are they happy inside? I suspect not. They don’t seem to be. But none of the people I draw outside of bottles look to be happy either. Being inside or outside a bottle appears to have no bearing on whether one is happy. That makes total sense. That’s how life works. As to why my people sport limber mustaches or improbable hairdos and have no arms, I haven’t a clue…beyond their being fun to draw.

When I’m drawing people inside or outside of bottles I am the only happy person around. So while being inside a bottle doesn’t appear to be a better predictor of happiness than being outside, drawing people inside bottles does. It’s been keeping my serotonin at the proper level during multiple presidencies. No prescription needed. No prior authorization required from your insurance. You can skip a day without withdrawal. The only downside is my new favorite sketchpad has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Forever. At $1.05 a pad it’s small wonder they weren’t profitable. Staring at the blank speckled-brown paper is enough to make you feel giddy. Not to mention the corrugated cardboard cover. And the twine stitching along the spine.

I bought the last 30 at the only store around that sold them. Sorry. Unforgivably shabby of me, I know. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. There are no more. None. Not one. Anywhere. IN THE WORLD! Am totally screwed when these run out. Consider yourself lucky you never got to draw in one in the first place. In that sense, I did you a huge mitzvah by hoarding them all to myself.

the last 30 of these pads…in the world!