Harvey Pekar is STILL Dead and that STILL Sucks

Okay.  This is going to be a little random…so stick with me.  My apologies for bouncing around a little… 

Harvey Pekar died on July 12, 2010, likely from complications from prostate cancer (though that is presently unconfirmed).  He had previously beaten cancer (as documented in the “American Splendor” movie or more thoroughly in “Our Cancer Year,” which he wrote with his wife, Joyce Brabner).  This time, it looks like cancer won.  Cancer’s a dirty, mean, rotten bastard.  But by most accounts, so was Harvey.  So that works.  (I kid, I kid…) 

I’m going to devote a sizeable chunk, if not the entirety of this week’s “Empty Checking” to Harvey’s career…but I did want to put a couple of things in print, too. 

Harvey’s work has had a HUGE impact on my life.  As you all know by now, I’m a big comic book fan.  Part of the reason for that is that “American Splendor” kept my love for the medium alive in the early part of this millennium.  There was a time where all I paid any attention to at all was Batman, Bone, and Harvey Pekar.  “The Quitter” is one of the finest “graphic novels” (aka: comic books) out there and can easily stand on the shelf with any autobiography Barnes and Noble has up for sale.  But I could say that about pretty much anything under the “Splendor” heading, too.  Harvey kept me reading and helped me see that comic books aren’t just for kids.  He, along with Jeff Smith and a couple of REALLY good Batman arcs, helped to re-kindle a love (for comics) that I thought had turned into just a casual friendship.  I owe him big—and so do the guys at the Fantasy Shop that have taken so much of my money, now that I think of it. 

I also owe him big for a lot of what I’ve done as a musician.  Look through the liner notes of my last two CDs.  Go on.  I’ll wait. 

What do you MEAN you don’t own them??? 

Ugh… 

Well, if you DID, you’d see that on the “Inspiration Page” for both releases, I listed the “American Splendor” movie and/or some of Harvey’s books as inspirations.  (Dunno why I didn’t list at least one of them on the first one…MAJOR oversight…lousy Past-Derek…)  In fact, his work “Another Day” was part of the inspiration for a Blue Tattoo song that may or may not survive into the current band (name unconfirmed) that Dave and I are working on.  (If it doesn’t, it’ll certainly find its way to a DB solo CD.)  The passion and dedication Pekar showed for his work inspired ME to work.  I really don’t think that the last CD I did (“Out from the Light”) would have come together if I hadn’t been reading “Splendor” at the time.  I mean that. 

I wrote Pekar a fan letter a year or two ago.  He didn’t reply.  I didn’t expect him to.  But I did get to say thanks, and I’m glad I did.  The guy produced some really genius stuff and between the influence of his work, the movie, and the Eytan Mirsky song, I’m not sure what my life and career would look like if Harvey Pekar—Cleveland’s favorite curmudgeon—hadn’t drawn some stick figures and shown them to Bob Crumb all those years ago. 

When my brother texted me the news of Harvey’s death, I actually had to get up from my desk at work and be alone for a minute.  I know that’s stupid.  I never met Harvey Pekar.  Harvey Pekar wasn’t my friend.  My fan letter had absolutely no impact on him what-so-ever.  But I needed a minute to get my bearings.  Vonnegut… Carlin… Cash… Salinger… McCourt… Pekar…  A bunch of guys who wrote words I love have died in the past few years.  And Pekar’s death hit kinda hard.  Didn’t expect it to. 

All the way home from work, I listened to the “American Splendor” song I posted in my last post.  I had my windows down and the volume up.  As I was driving down Delmar (I swear this DID happen), a guy that I’d say was a little older than I am heard the tune coming out of my windows.  I guess he’d seen the movie, because I heard the guy yell “Harvey Pekar!” and he was waving at me.  I waved back and the light changed.  That would’ve made a great comic-strip.  And I can’t think of a better tribute. 

I want to leave you with a couple of things I think are cool.  The following pictures were lovingly lifted from the website of Jeff Smith (creator of “Bone”) at www.boneville.com.  Jeff is another one of my favorite names in comic books and in the past couple of years, he’s had the opportunity to meet and strike up something of a friendship (or at least kinship) with Pekar.  I thought these shots were pretty cool and I wanted to throw them on this post.  All due credit to www.boneville.com.  These photos are NOT my intellectual property, and I make no claim to their rights. 

Pekar (left) with Jeff Smith at the opening of a celebration of Smith's comic books/art. Two of my favorite comic book heroes in one shot. (Click for original post.)

The "Harvey Head" that Smith drew for the celebration in honor of Pekar's 70th birthday this past October. My present desktop wallpaper. 🙂 (Click for original post.)

Enjoy the orange soda, Harv.  You earned it.

Harvey Pekar is Dead and that Sucks

I’m going to do a fuller blog post about it later…but Harvey Pekar died today at the age of 70.  That sucks.

For those of you who are saying, “Who the hell is Harvey Pekar?” 

  1. You’re not alone.
  2. That’s no excuse.
  3. Go out and buy a copy of “American Splendor” in either movie or comic book form (the movie’s a GREAT starting point).

Following are the lyrics to the song “American Splendor” by Eytan Mirsky.  It’s a great song, and it’s featured prominently in the movie.  I DO NOT own the copyright and I DID NOT write any portion of it.  You can buy it here in glorious CD format or lousy stupid MP3 format.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR – Eytan Mirsky

I THOUGHT THAT I COULD BE SOMEBODY
IT LOOKS LIKE I WAS WRONG
I THOUGHT THAT I COULD MAKE MY MARK, BUT
I’M AFRAID I’VE WAITED MUCH TOO LONG, NOW

WHERE IS MY AMERICAN SPLENDOR
IN A WORLD THAT’S CLOUDY AND GRAY
WHERE LIFE KEEPS PASSING BY ME
DAY BY DAY?

THEY TOLD ME I SHOULD GRIN AND BEAR IT
WHENEVER LIFE GETS ROUGH
THEY TOLD ME I SHOULD SIT IN SILENCE
BUT NOW I GUESS I’VE HAD ENOUGH, AND

WHERE IS MY AMERICAN SPLENDOR
IN A WORLD THAT’S CLOUDY AND GRAY
WHERE LIFE KEEPS PASSING BY ME
DAY BY DAY?

I’M NO HERO, JUST A GUY
WHO WAS BORN TO LIVE, SUFFER AND DIE
I’M A MAN, JUST LIKE YOU
BUT I’LL SHOUT AT THE TOP OF MY VOICE
‘TILL MY POINT GETS THROUGH

I THOUGHT THAT LIFE WAS ONE LONG STRUGGLE
IT LOOKS LIKE I WAS RIGHT
I KNOW I’LL NEVER WIN THIS WAR, BUT
I WON’T GIVE UP WITHOUT A FIGHT, AND

WHERE IS MY AMERICAN SPLENDOR
IN A WORLD THAT’S CLOUDY AND GRAY
WHERE LIFE KEEPS PASSING BY ME
DAY BY DAY?

Say hi to Vonnegut, Salinger, and McCourt for me, Harv.

Gig Wrap-Up

Thanks to anyone and everyone who came out to the gig at Beatnik’s tonight (or last night, if you’re a stickler for the day starting at midnight). 

Beatnik’s has a really cool Bistro-ish vibe to it, and though I always am hesitant at playing outside, they’ve got just about the perfect environment for it with plenty of shade and citronella torches.  (Though I still swatted more than a couple mosquitoes…I blame the oil spill…)  New Town itself is a really nice area, but has a slight “A sci-fi/horror movie could develop here at ANY time” vibe about it.

I was wrong about a thing or two going in.  There were only TWO acts, counting me.  The second act played an electric set (and they were really good).  And the “art show” was not an “art show,” but was rather a display of the art of one specific artist on the walls of the restaurant.  

The artist does BEAUTIFUL and some slightly visceral work that I really like.  Meant to see if he has a website, but like most things I mean to do, I forgot.  Talked with the guy for a little while.  He was nice enough to ask me about my “process” for songwriting and apparently was a Blue Tattoo fan, particularly citing “I Go…” as a favorite song of his.  Apparently prior to booking the gig he’d SPECIFICALLY asked Shawn (who booked it and sang in the other band) to have me play, which was a really nice complement.  That’s the kind of thing that makes everything you do and go through as a songwriter/indie musician WORTH it.  Plus, he’s a big Tom Waits fan.  So we had plenty to chat about.

Sold a couple of CDs, too…which is also always a nice complement.

So, all in all, a really fun night.  I think I ended up playing a little closer to an hour than 45 minutes.  No one seemed to mind, and the applause was really generous at times.  I forgot the words to the opening song…but in all, it turned out well.

I took a list of 20-ish songs…played them as they came to me…this, as near as I can remember—correct me if I’m wrong—is the set I think I did…  (Seems like I’m missing one though…)

  1. Fighting Drunk
  2. In My Heart
  3. Hands
  4. Mother Maybelle’s Shotgun
  5. I Go…
  6. Red Vines (by Aimee Mann)
  7. Remember Me
  8. Sister Myrtle
  9. Where is My Mind? (by the Pixies)
  10. Born in this Town
  11. Out from the Light
  12. The Real Me (by The Who)
  13. Fall Apart
  14. Stranger

And as a small note for myself in the future, I played my Martin D-15 guitar and ran through the Line 6 delay (for a little reverb), the BBE Sonic Stomp, and the Fishman Dreadnought pedals.

EDIT: I don’t think anyone recorded anything, but I know some of you took pictures.  I’d be interested to see whatever you’ve got.  Contact me in the comments, e-mail, or via Facebook.  Thanks!

Chipping Away…

Day of the show.

I chipped a tooth.

A FRONT tooth.

Doesn’t hurt…but bad timing.  Gotta get to a dentist to have the hole plugged and probably shell out the value of a house to get everything else fixed that needs fixing.  I don’t really care if the back ones are a wreck…but the ones people SEE need to at least be there…

Crap.

Edit: Oh…and if anyone happens to record the show tonight, I’d appreciate a copy.

Quick Post

Still got the gig coming up on Saturday (see below) and I think I might be getting a cold.  Been sneezing a lot today.  Seems like this happens almost every time I have a gig…

So, this is just a quick post to get another post on the page before I do the gig this weekend…

I’m not sure I’ll have time to do an “Empty Checking” thing this weekend.  Maybe on Sunday…but my routine has been to do it on Saturday, and I’ll be pretty busy.  So might be a small break until either (a) I can get a spare 20-ish minutes to record it or (b) next weekend.  🙂

So…here’s the super short version.  Got a lot of comic books this week.  Partially, I had a gift card to Amazon, so I picked up some stuff I’ve meant to read…so not all of this was purchased with money that could have gone to a good cause.  (I am setting aside some cash and earmarking it for Haiti.  Just want to get my next paycheck under me in case of emergencies.)

Comic Books purchased and/or gift-carded:

  • Captain America: Winter Soldier — I’ve known all about it forever, but never read it.  Playing catch up.
  • The Death of Captain America Vol. 2-3 — Same as above.  Actually, I read most of part 2, but dunno what happened to it.  I think I lent it to someone or left it somewhere…either way, needed to re-get it to finish it up so I can finally read part 3.
  • Green Lantern: Rebirth — Mike at the Fantasy Shop talked me into it.  We were talking about GL and I mentioned that I’ve never really gotten everyone’s fascination.  He said that it’d be a good place to start.  Haven’t read it yet…  But with how integral the Green Lantern and the Green Lantern Core has become in the DC Universe, I feel like I at least need a working knowledge of the character.  Who knows…maybe I’ll dig it and end up rocking a Power Ring.
  • Mike also ordered me a copy of the new Red Hood: The Lost Days issue.  They’d sold out of it by the time I got there.  He called the St. Charles location and they had ONE they could send to him.  (Should be in tomorrow.  They’re over-nighting it, at no additional charge to me!)  He said it was for, “Derek Brink.  He’s one of our regulars.”  He didn’t even have to ask my name.  I know some people probably think it’s stupid…but that felt kind of nice.  Everybody wants to go where everybody knows their name.
  • Steve Rogers: Super Soldier — Issue #1 (Heroic Age Tie-In)
  • X-Men — Issue #1 (Heroic Age Tie-In)
  • Batman Odyssey – Issue #1

So, basically, either I’m catching up this week, or I’m starting a new series.  Nice.

…and that’ll probably have to take the place of the podcast this week.  So I’ve mercifully saved you 20 or so minutes…  🙂

That’s it for now…  See you at the gig.  I’ll try not to suck.

Please come see me…

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m playing at Beatnik’s on July 10.  Well, this is the official pimpin-the-show post.

The show, as I said, is at Beatnik’s in New Town St. Charles (3331 Rue Royale; St. Charles, MO 63301).  It starts at 8:00 pm.  There are two other acts playing as well.  I don’t know anything about them.  I do know that the show is all acoustic.  Just boy-with-guitar type stuff.  I am presently unaware of any cover-charge or age restriction.  All ages welcome.  No cover charge. There will be an art show happening at the same time.  The concert part will (weather permitting) be outside.  The art show will be inside.  I’m playing for about 45 minutes.

Please be there.  I’m not getting paid for doing the show, so my only payment is your applause (if any).  Should be fun.  And hot.  I’m hoping to go on first then just sit back and have a couple of drinks with my friends (if any)…but I don’t know what the final schedule is going to be…so be there by 8:00!

Thanks for indulging me.  Expect to hear about it again as the week goes on.

Random on the Fourth…err…Fifth of July…

Happy 4th again.  It’s like 2 a.m. on the 5th, actually…but I feel like this counts since I haven’t been to bed yet.  In case you’re wondering how I spent my fourth of July, here’s a “random” type post to fill you in…

  1. I watched about 10-12 hours of “Deadliest Catch.”  Super-bummed about Captain Phil.
  2. I ate a couple of hot dogs (seemed patriotic).  Then some pizza.
  3. Caught up to the end of the current season of “How I Met Your Mother.”  I still really like the show, even though it’s starting to get a little predictable and lose some of its shine.  I think they know it’s happening.  I think they’re not planning on being around too much longer.  I mean…sooner or later Ted’s GOT to finish the story, right?  I’m thinking they’ve got another year…or two TOPS.  Haven’t heard anything about them having a target end-date, but they’re obviously getting to the point where they’re starting to tie up some loose ends, and they’re also producing some “filler” episodes.  It has the vibe of a show that KNOWS what its end is going to be, but just has to delay it for a while.  It’s still really fun and funny, though.  Just waiting on that DVD release for the commentaries and gag-reel…
  4. I typed up some ideas that I’ve had floating around for a while.  Just loose thoughts, random lyrics, etc, etc…
  5. Practiced for the gig this weekend a little bit.  I think I’m taking a list of 20-25 songs and just seeing how many I can get through in 45 minutes.  I know where I’m starting and where I’m ending…but I’m not planning on writing up an organized setlist.  Just gonna do ’em as they come to me.  This would be the first time I’ve ever done that.  (I’ll probably chicken out…)
  6. Listened to fireworks, but didn’t watch any.  For some reason I find them wholly uninteresting and kind of boring…and I always wonder why there’s got to be ONE jackass that sets one off at 1 a.m. after everyone’s gone to bed…
  7. Right now, I’m watching a Diane-era episode of “Cheers.”  The guy who played Data on Star Trek is in this one (Brent Spiner).  I always forget how much stuff he’s done.  He was on “Night Court” for a while, too…
  8. I’m thinking about going to bed…but I’m also thinking of staying up irresponsibly late because I’ve got tomorrow off.  Tough call.

…and that was my fourth.  Hope y’all managed to barbecue something.