RIP Leonard

I went to church with the Bartlings while I ministered at Ferguson.  They’re good folks.  Never met one I didn’t like.  In the past year, both Brenda and Leonard have died (they were married).  Brenda died in March.  Leonard died this week…which kind of puts how bummed I’ve been about Harvey Pekar into perspective.

I am not going to sit here and pretend that Leonard and I were the best of friends.  We had (radically) different political opinions.  We didn’t listen to the same music, for the most part.  We didn’t share many common interests.  But he was always nice to me and was encouraging when he didn’t have to be.  That’s what I remember.  That’s a good way to be remembered.

He also—funny story—one day came up to me and pointed out that I’d been putting on some weight.  (He meant well.  He was also absolutely correct.)  He ventured the idea of the two of us jogging together from the church to the highway (probably 2-3 miles, if I had to guess) at least once a week.  I gave him the reply of, “Yeah, I think I could do that.  Let’s set it up.”  Of course, in my head I was thinking, “I will never be able to do that and you will run at least 5.999 miles on your own.”  We never set anything up, and I left the church shortly thereafter.  I hope he knows that my departure wasn’t just a futile attempt to get out of jogging with him.  🙂

I haven’t seen Leonard since I left FCC.  That’s how the church world works.  When you leave a church—no matter the circumstances—future contact with members of that congregation are usually infrequent and awkward.  (It shouldn’t be like that.  In fact, I now make it a point to greet people I used to go to church with as warmly and openly as possible…but that’s another post for another time.)  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Leonard before he died.  His death was sudden—from a heart-attack, during which he struck his head.  I thought about him now and again after I left.  Always imagined we’d bump into one another.  Now we won’t.  Bummer.

It’s nice to know that he and Brenda are back together.  But it sucks to know that their kids lost both parents within a year.  I don’t know when the memorial is, or if I’ll be able to make it what with going out of town this weekend.  But I do hope it’s a lovely service.  He always liked a lovely church service.  And I hope the kids are alright.  Thank God for Facebook, so at least we can keep in touch.

Rest in peace, Leonard.  Take a lap for me.

I’m still bummed about Harvey Pekar…but let’s get something else on here…

I know most of my readers (if any) don’t share the same affinity for Harvey Pekar that I do, so I’m going to put something else up here.  I’m still going to devote most of my podcast to him over the weekend, anyway…

For now…let’s get random…

  1. In one last piece of Pekar news, to show you how BAD the coverage of his death was, when I went to the comic book store today, I asked if anyone was as bummed as I was about his death.  The three guys behind the counter, almost in unison said, “Did he die?”  Guys who WORK in a comic book store didn’t even know he’d died.  Not their fault…the national media just doesn’t give a crap about the underdog.  (And neither, apparently, does David Letterman, who played a major role in Pekar’s rise until their falling out in the 80s.  Letterman has YET to comment on Harv’s death.  What’s wrong Dave?  Intern got your tongue?)
  2. RIP to George Steinbrenner.  I don’t care about baseball.  I’m not saying you’re wrong if you like it, but I just find it boring.  Nevertheless, I knew who Steinbrenner was, and that says something about the man.  Here’s to one of my favorite members of the background cast of “Seinfeld.”
  3. Speaking of “Seinfeld,” anyone else think Mel Gibson’s just trying to make Michael Richards feel better about himself?  Yikes.  (I stole that from my friend Tara’s Facebook status.)  Tell ya’ what, though…  I’d really like to hear what Danny Glover thinks of all this.  No matter what his opinion, when it comes to the mental-state of Riggs…I’m going to side with Murtaugh.
  4. There’s some potentially very interesting stuff going on at my office right now.  Not the least of which is the possibility of me and Larry starting up our own web-comic…but I don’t want anyone to steal the idea, so I’m keeping a lid on it.  🙂
  5. I mentioned my chipped tooth last week.  I’ve been trying to get a dentist to either call or e-mail me back.  No dice.  What’s the DEAL with this industry?!?  The only one I DID get a reply from told me that they were out of network for my insurance—and I didn’t even tell them what my insurance WAS.  (So…that’s how the “Soft Touch” office in Florissant treats you, okay everybody?)  So…progress on my teeth: Pending.  I’m thinking I’m going to call my dad’s old friend Doctor John (not the porn store) and see if he can get me in.  He’s a 45-minute drive from my house…but at least then I’d know the money was going to a good man.  Either way, at this point, it’s going to have to wait until after the weekend.  Heading to Chicago and don’t have time to get in before then, what with my brother’s birthday and whatnot also being this weekend.
  6. The Chicago trip is, of course, to see Iron Maiden and Dream Theater for Dave’s birthday.  I’ve mentioned it here before, I’m sure…  Should be cool.  Haven’t seen Dream Theater since the “Scenes from a Memory” tour.  And I’ve not seen Maiden perform MOST of the songs on their current setlist—so that should be really special!  (I mean, as much as I’ll miss “The Evil that Men Do,” I’ve heard them do it live EVERY time…kinda cool to see the rarer, newer stuff, IMO.)  Look for a full report on Monday.
  7. Reminder: I’ll be appearing at Eddie’s Pub in St. Charles (don’t think they have a website…I’ll get the address before the show) with the Michael Feldman Group on July 23 (next Friday).  Should be fun.  I’ll mostly be playing bass…but I’d imagine I *might* be coaxed into singing some CCR, if need be.  🙂
  8. I’m becoming well known for my dislike of grown men who ride their bicycles in the middle of the damn street.  I can’t stand that.  (It’d be fine if they were on the shoulder, or sidewalk, or at least tried to get as far over to the right as possible—and STOP AT STOP SIGNS/LIGHTS!!!  …the folks who do that are alright…but they do NOT seem to be the norm.)  However, I would like to point out something.  Over the weekend, I was asked if I’ve ever made a right-hand turn by pulling into the bike-lane on a road.  The answer is no.  I have not.  I want them out of MY lane, so I’m staying out of THEIRS.  I think that’s fair.  (Plus, there just aren’t that many places I go that HAVE bike lanes in the first place…but when they’re there, I say “Bike Lanes for the Bikers.”)  🙂

And that should do it for now.  I’ll try to blog again before then, but in case not…happy birthday on the 18th, Dave.

————

Comic Books Purchased–SHORT reviews (a sentence or two—or less—each) forthcoming in this week’s “Empty Checking”:

  1. The Unwritten – Issue #15
  2. The Sixth Gun – Issues #1-2 (which was created by former Fantasy Shop employees, btw)
  3. The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles – Issue #1
  4. Batman – Issue #701 – AKA: “RIP The Missing Chapter” (which—though pretty good—tells you pretty much all you need to know about Grant Morrison…sigh.)
  5. Uncanny X-Men: One Shot “Heroic Age” tie-in
  6. Justice League: Generation Lost – Issue #5

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!