Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tales of Clyde

Clyde helped inspire my post about liars.
We met in high school. Originally quiet and mild mannered, he blossomed into a flashy blow hard, deeming his schoolmates too uncool for his company (like they cared). I was one of the few he'd associate with. He'd call several times a week to chat, even after I graduated (1986) and moved away.
I appreciated his calls. I'd taken a year off between high school and college. I worked (tropical fish shop) while everyone else my age was at school. There was also nobody my age in the new neighborhood. A friend ghost town. Clyde was it. He never tried to meet up with me, but called nightly to talk about current events, philosophy, and, increasingly, about how cool he was.
I first sensed he wasn't being straight with me when he claimed to have met a teen celebrity (let's call him "Sitcom Star) " at a party. This was plausible. This was Southern California, but I didn't quite buy it.
Soon Clyde boasted of weekly run-ins with Sitcom Star. They didn't get along. Sitcom Star was a jerk! Clyde always got the better of him! I wanted to believe this, but couldn't picture Sitcom Star commuting to Clyde's drab suburb each weekend to party.
Clyde stayed in touch through college, calling once or twice a month. His claims grew wacky. He bragged he was a mastermind of a profitable drug ring, complete with a minion of goons to do his bidding, including shooting up the competition. His day job bagging groceries? Just a ruse, he said.
We met again in 1990. He was in town. We went out to lunch- and his credibility went out the window. He'd been in the army for five months, yet was already doing "top secret missions" in Southeast Asia. "Do you know what an M-8o does do a guy when you shoot him point blank?" he asked, wide eyed. Now he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with all those spies and villages he took out. I changed the subject, pointing out that a local lighthouse was supposed to be haunted.
"Once when I was in New Orleans," he said "This guy got in my face and wanted to fight, but when I swung at him my hand went right through him, and then he disappeared!"
What was I supposed to say?
"That sounds scary!" (in other words, "I'm so dumb I believe this")
"How stupid do you think I am?" ("Liar!")
"Not that I question your military expertise or anything, but an M-80 is a firecracker, not an automatic weapon" (Dumb Liar!)
I didn't say a thing.
It's been decades since I've heard from Clyde. What became of him? What stories does he tell now?

Star Bright

"That's Vega," I pointed to the the star glowing through the Riverside smog. One of was my classes let out at dusk. The girl who sat next to me lived nearby. We were walking home. She knew I was taking an astronomy* class and challenged me to name what few stars we could see. "And over there is Altair, and that's Deneb and..."
"Can an astronaut touch a star?" she asked.
I thought she was kidding.
She wasn't. "Can he bring one back to Earth?"
"They're too big. Way bigger than the Earth. And far away. Except for the sun, that is. And they'd be way to hot to-"
"The sun is a star?" she said.
I couldn't believe it. I'd been proud to get into University of California at Riverside. Yet here was a fellow student who thought a star was something you could slip in your pocket. How could someone be college age and not know what a star was? How could someone be bright enough to get into college and not know what a star was?

*An astronomy class "for non science majors," I might add. I'm no genius myself.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Beauty and the Body Snatcher

I almost didn't post this due to the yeech factor, but this story is so bizarre, so ridiculous so freaking weird that I couldn't resist. It's true, too.
In 1933....
  1. Key West resident Carl Tanzler had a wife in Europe, but he was more interested in a young lady named Elena. He knew they'd end up together. Some day.
  2. There was a problem. Elena had died two years earlier.
  3. Always the "out of the box" thinker, Carl snuck into the cemetery, opened her mausoleum, and took her home.
  4. He cleaned her up. He covered her skin with silk dipped in Plaster of Paris and wax to maintain a healthy glow. Glass eyes, a wig, a nice dress and jewelery completed the makeover.
  5. Disinfectants and perfumes kept his home smelling Springtime Fresh.
  6. He kept her in his bed and slept next to her...
  7. ...for almost seven years!
  8. Then, (rather stupidly) he showed off his handiwork to her sister. She called the police. Carl went to jail.
  9. Instead of being freaked out, many folks felt sorry for him. They saw him as an eccentric romantic kook. People sent fan mail!
  10. Elena was on display at a local funeral home. Thousands (children included) swung by to check her out. Later she was was buried in an unmarked grave.
  11. The statute of limitations for grave robbing had expired, and Carl was freed.
  12. He died 12 years later. An Elena-like doll was found near his body.
I've heard a lot of strange stories, but this is one of the strangest.
Here's the Wikipedia link (including pics of Carl, Elena and her mummy) if you want to know more. Don't want to know more? I can't say I blame you.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ah, Namowal, Maladroite!

I'm clumsy.
Something on the ground? I'll trip over it. A sliding glass door? I'll walk into it. A doorknob or piece of furniture? I'll bump into it. How I've lived almost forty years without breaking any bones is a miracle.
For example, I tried skiing when I was nine (can you see what's coming?) I couldn't master the chairlift By the time I got out of the chair, it had already lifted from the drop off point. I crashed into the snow was almost struck by the next one.
Any sport was trouble. I couldn't throw (or kick) a ball straight. Even Frisbees flew the wrong way.
What was going on?
Some blamed the problem on "not concentrating" or "not trying hard enough". The former made sense when I crashed into things. But in sports? Be it the baseball diamond, the bowling alley or a tennis court, there was a big incentive to try hard. Nobody wants to be the slob who thwacks tennis balls sideways and bowls gutterballs.
My klutziness came in handy once: I took a tap dancing class in college. I was awful. I clunked around like a Clydesdale, botched steps, and fell behind. The teacher laughed at me. Another girl in the class had trouble too. We became friends. I learned she worked for the school paper and learned the name of the guy I could submit cartoons to...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Kid Wuz Robbed!

This picture was done by a third grader in West Virginia.*
It was a finalist a contest for kids- they had to design their own Google logo.
This one is much more original than the others. Too many had a cloying "I'd like to teach the world to sing and buy it a coke and keep it company" vibe.
I'd give first prize to this kid (with honorable mention to the entries which included a toucan, space aliens, an octopus, flying pigs, eyeballs, or clocks.).
The text it came with is pretty funny too:
"What if a fish swallowed a Google? He might oogle, zoogle, or boogle. He might get full before the gle and eat only the Goo...."
*no relation of mine.
Broken link fixed!

Unfinished Business

This piece wouldn't cooperate. The shading wasn't right*. The details were off. The mood was wrong.
I fought it, reworked it, paint, undo, blur, paint, undo, etc.. By last night it'd been days since I last posted. Finish it! I told myself. Your blog's gonna go stale! Make something worth publishing.
I should know better. Once you start fighting a drawing (or anything creative,) you lose. (They should make a special keyboard for artists that sounds an alarm if "undo" is hit too much.)
Then it hit me. What's this "worth publishing" rule? Why not publish it unfinished?

*part of the problem was a custom brush (Painter 8, airbrush) variation that made a cool texture but was difficult to control. Click the picture to see the texture better.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Kelton Avenue Mystery Head

I was bleeding when I first saw it. Not badly. Just a skinned knee from a pratfall a few blocks back (I walked the neighborhood for exercise.)
A face peered out a window several houses ahead of me. Its plaster skin and glass eyes made me think it was a prop or an educational model. Closer inspection proved it could only be an educational model about hallucinogens.
Two heads fused at at cheek level, sharing a chin, neck and twisted mouth of clenched teeth. My depiction is stylized. The original had realistic features and was creepy. There it was, propped in the front window like a vase of silk flowers.
What is this thing? I wondered. Where did it come from? And why is it propped up in the window? Did it freak out the neighbors? The local kids? (I'd have flipped if I saw it when I was little.)
I wanted to know more. Someone had designed and built this awful/funny/fascinating thing. Someone wanted it in the front window. Why?
I considered knocking on the door and asking. What would I say? "Sorry for interrupting your dinner, but what's with that freaky thing in the window?" I never had the nerve.
Then the Mystery Head got coy. Sometimes it was there, sometimes not. I often passed the house with friends on the way to the shops and eateries on Pico Blvd. I anticipated pointing it out to them. Would they think it was as weird as I did? Would someone recognize the artist (or horror movie) behind it? Invariably, it was gone when I passed with a witness (Why? Did the homeowners bring it to the table for meals? Borrow it to freshen up the bathroom?). A few days later, I'd pass the house and there it was, staring me down with four eyes.
It's been years since I've seen it. The house was demolished and rebuilt:
I checked the windows of the new home when I passed it. No mutant heads peered back.
I still wonder about it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

100 Most Beautiful

**click image to enlarge
I see People Magazine released their 100 Most Beautiful People issue.
I didn't read it because:
  1. I didn't make the list.
  2. The people who did make the list have nothing to do with me.
Seriously, why would I want to read details about a bunch of celebrities in a "aren't they wonderful!?" context? Get out of here. They probably wouldn't make eye contact with me if I met them on the street.
I've seen issues like that before. They usually toss in a few toads to show how deep they are. As if to say "Yeppers, this three eyed, toothless leper has made our beauty list because she rescued baby seals. We see her inner beauty. Aren't we profound? (Okay, enough of this inner beauty crap! Turn the page for more gods and goddesses!)"

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I knew a radio psychic. It was an act. He knew what to tell callers to sound credible. Most calls were hits but a few bombed. When that happened, off air, he and his co-host exchanged looks and said "gutterball!"

We had a mini party at work. I chatted with some friends, then worked my way to the tortilla chips and salsa. Some strangers stood nearby, one joking loudly about some "f*@!ing" thing that was drove him nuts.
"You said the F-word!" I teased. This shtick worked among friends. They'd drop profanity and I'd react in mock indignation. The childish nature of the observation (compared to, say "Geez, you talk like a sailor") made it clear I wasn't serious. Or did it?
He shot me a Huh? What's wrong with you!? look.
"I was kidding," I assured, touching his forearm to prove I was friendly. It was like touching a mannequin. "Just fooling with ya!" . No smile, no laugh, no "Dang, for a moment I thought you were serious."
I'm not the best body language reader, but his message was clear:
What the f*@! is your problem and why the f*@! are you touching my arm? Freak! His friends stared like I was a leper, a vibe I hadn't gotten since junior high .

Friday, May 09, 2008

Killer Bunny!

I love this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's funny (and ironic) in many directions:
  1. They expect a ferocious beast to emerge, but it's a white lab rabbit.
  2. Yet, they're warned, he's vicious.
  3. Surprise! He really is vicious!
  4. His attacks (and gore) are ridiculously fun-house fake.
I also like how King Arthur (Gram Chapman) speaks in a formal, medieval style, but is reduced to modern slang when he's disgusted or frustrated- a shtick that runs throughout the film.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I'm borrowing someone's desk this week. As I scooped up my supplies, I considered bringing my beloved flying pig with me, but chose not to. I feared I'd break him. I figured I could last a week without my desk ornament.
When I got to my temp desk, I found it had a single ornament too. Another flying pig!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Weird without Trying.

Critic Namowal: I told you it was a dumb idea! Didn't I? Didn't I?

Loser Namowal: It was worth a try!

Critic Namwoal: And it gets better. Not only was it a bad idea, but you botched it! I'm not sure how this was botch-able but you found a way. Amazing.

Loser Namowal: I did my best.

Critic Namowal: "Your best?" Fat lot of good that did! Might I add you made a fool out of yourself? Why don't you just write "weirdo" on your forehead?

Loser Namowal: I don't wanna be a weirdo. I'm not trying to be a weirdo!

Critic Namowal: That's the problem with you. You're weird without trying.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Namowal's Ghost

"There's Namowal's Ghost!" a catty gal in my college dorm would say. "She looks awful! If only she'd get some color! " Catty Gal went to the tanning salon regularly. So did friends. The only person who didn't say I was too white was my dermatologist. My light freckling meant I was getting too much sun. He insisted use sunblock daily.
In the late 1980s, a marshmallow complexion was uncool. Self tanners looked orange and streaky on me, so I was stuck with the vanilla soft serve look. Friends goofed on me, and even strangers sometimes called me "Snow White" or "Casper."
Flash forward twenty years later. The pasty look doesn't stand out the way it did in the eighties. I know sun worshipers in their twenties with more wrinkles than me. I guess the dermatologist was right.
I'll end this post with an open letter.

Dear People Who Made Fun of Me for Not Getting a Tan in the 1980s,

We're almost forty. I still get carded. How about you?


Namowal's Ghost