Category Archives: Patti Smith

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Most artists work all the time. They do, actually, especially good artists. They work all the time. What else is there to do?” — David Hockney

FROM THE CHELSEA TO EAST PILSEN

Reading about the time Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe lived in New York City’s Chelsea Hotel got me thinking about a few years that I spent living and working in a similar milieu.

The Chelsea was the storied Manhattan locus of artists, writers, actors, musicians, and many other ne’er-do-wells. Arthur C. Clarke lived and wrote there — he penned “2001: A Space Odyssey” in his cramped room. Dylan Thomas wrote and died there. Mark Twain spent time there. So did O. Henry, Leonard Cohen, Arthur Miller, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Brendan Behan, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Thomas Wolfe.

The Chelsea’s visual artists included Christo, Julian Schnabel, Frida Kahlo, R. Crumb, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Willem De Kooning, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

More musicians than can reasonably listed here called the Chelsea home as well. People from Edith Piaf to Iggy Pop received their mail at the Chelsea.

The Chicago art scene at the turn of this century was centered around the East Pilsen neighborhood just southwest of the Loop. In 1998, I moved into a first floor apartment on 17th Place and, later, lived at Carpenter Avenue and 18th Street. I spent my days clacking my keyboard at the Hardware Cafe coffeehouse on Halsted, one of the neighborhood’s social centers.

The Chelsea mixed creative types with drag queens, hookers, and poet-wannabes. East Pilsen melded working artists with gang-bangers and people who claimed to be artists mainly because they couldn’t keep a day job.

One night I watched two neighborhood toughs stroll out of Pauly’s Tavern at 18th and Union, conversing and laughing, looking for all the world like the best of friends until one guy cold-cocked the other, dropping his pal to the ground like a sack of sugar. The puncher picked up the punchee, brushed him off, and the two resumed conversing and laughing as if nothing had happened.

The writers, actors, painters, sculptors, and other societal misfits of East Pilsen learned to steer clear of the thugs and hellions. But we found each other. We were not as celebrated as the Chelsea artists, but we worked as hard. Then again, none of us labored as diligently as our New York counterparts at becoming celebrated, so there is that.

Below, I present a reprint of a story I wrote for the Chicago Reader 12 years ago.

ON EXHIBIT: A SECRET SOCIETY SHOWS ITSELF

A year ago this month I was abducted by a tough-looking character with a filterless Camel dangling from his lips. He placed a callused hand on my shoulder and said, “Come with me.” I hesitated. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You won’t get hurt.”

He brought me to a nondescript storefront in East Pilsen, where I was forced to listen to a CD of some Deep South banjo picking. A group of people got up from a table full of steaming food, danced around me, and placed leis and chains around my neck. A cape was draped over my shoulders and a titanic sombrero balanced on my head. A fellow who looked to be the leader of this mob handed me a two-foot-long pipe brush. “This is your scepter,” he said.

“Welcome to the weekly meeting of the Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lampreys,” this fellow — we’ll call him K — said. “You’ve been selected as our adjudicator. It is your duty to judge the art that’s been made over the last week by our members. Tonight you are all-powerful. You are a deity. Wield your power wisely.” He motioned for me to sit in a chair.

For the next two hours I watched and judged as some two dozen sculptures, drawings, paintings, poems, and musical pieces were paraded before me. All the artwork, I learned, was inspired by a single word: “bodacious.” The Lampreys fittingly are a bodacious bunch.

“A couple of years ago I was sitting around thinking, ‘All I ever do is make stuff for clients,'” says K, a tall guy with a Dixie accent and hair that changes colors as often as the wind changes directions. “I do architectural ironwork and ceramic and marble work. I enjoy making objects; it’s a good way to make money. But I like to make sculpture. I like to make useless objects. So I brainstormed with my buddy S, my roommate at the time.”

K and S had met when S crashed one of K’s parties. K throws parties at the drop of a hat. He’ll even celebrate the night before a party. His semiannual pig roasts are known far and wide, attracting hundreds of artists, musicians, old hippies, bikers, manic-depressives, bookies, and schoolteachers. K took an immediate shine to S, a sculptor from Australia, and hired him to work in his metal shop. A couple of weeks later, S and his girlfriend, L, moved into K’s spare bedroom.

“We were drawn together,” K says. “He had a similar problem.” S spent every waking hour making art for his portfolio. His only concern was the business of making art. K and S brooded over glasses of whiskey one night. They mooned over their idealistic days as aspiring artists. “It was a blast back then,” K says. “Then we started taking ourselves too seriously.

“So we decided to make an object once a week that’s not related to our portfolio, our clients, to anything. It would be absolutely non-marketable. L told us about this big Sunday brunch at her family’s house in Australia. Everyone had a standing invitation and would get fed well.”

K found it impossible to pass up yet another excuse for a party. He and S planned to make new pieces for a brunch the following Sunday. “That first week, there were the two of us,” K recalls. “L thought it was kind of cool, so the next time there were three of us. Someone heard about it, and the next week we had four.” Within months the revolving cast of artists and hangers-on numbered in the dozens. Soon the brunch became a ritual that had to be codified.

“We decided we would no longer own our pieces,” K says. “They would become property of the group. We also figured if we were going to present our pieces formally there should be some kind of ceremony with someone chosen to preside over the presentation.” Thus began the tradition of kidnapping some unsuspecting sap to be the adjudicator.

“The adjudicators are dressed awfully silly,” K acknowledges. “You cannot have a secret society that doesn’t have a set of absurd rules. With this comes a great deal of pomp and circumstance. We take it to the extreme by allowing the adjudicators to believe they are all-powerful. There was one adjudicator who demanded that we all get naked. We thought about it but then realized there were some members who didn’t want to. So there was a coup. We shouted, ‘The King is dead; long live the King!'”

The adjudicator bestows an array of fanciful awards. A scrap of polished wood is known as the False Gem of Hope. A well-worn wig is the Matted Hair of Revulsion. The Sardines of Delusion is a can of (what else?) sardines, while the Banana of Ill Repute is a two-year-old black, shriveled banana.

“This whole idea caught on,” K says. “Everyone we invited to the meeting started participating. We come from a lot of different backgrounds. We have trolley drivers and carpenters. There are some people who’ve never made art before. One guy, a computer programmer, joined us for the word ‘spicy’ and sewed 400 chili peppers to a pair of boxer shorts and wore them and nothing else, dancing into the room.” With so many making art, it became obvious a weekly theme was in order. So at the end of his or her term, the adjudicator has the task of choosing the next week’s word. “Our first word was ‘structure,'” K says. “Then we had ‘symmetry.’ We had ‘beef.’ Then there was ‘lagniappe,’ a little something extra. Then there was a made-up word from sci-fi, ‘grok.'”

Early on someone suggested the group needed a name. A lightbulb went off over K’s head. “Society has always viewed artists as lampreys, sucking on its soft, fleshy underbelly,” he says. “We decided to claim the name. We suck.”

These being artists, a late-morning starting time for the brunches was as welcome as a 3 AM alarm clock blast. The Lampreys began to gather later and later in the day. Now dinner is served at around 8:30 or 9 PM.

In November 1998 the Lampreys erected an altar to the memory of scientist Nikola Tesla for a Day of the Dead exhibit. “Tesla was a nut,” K says. “He was a Lamprey.” Someone described it to Chuck Thurow, director of the Hyde Park Art Center. Thurow dropped in on a Lamprey meeting and decided, almost on the spot, to offer the gallery to them for an exclusive show.

“3½ Months of Sundays” will open this Sunday, March 5. The group will erect altars to such overlooked geniuses as Sen No Rikyu, who several centuries ago elevated the simple Japanese afternoon tea to a formal ritual, and Philo Farnsworth, who invented the TV picture tube but had to sue RCA to earn royalties. The altars will surround a centerpiece containing 2,000 Lamprey pieces, displayed together for the first time.

“One of the problems with showing Lamprey work is it’s not very commodified,” K says. “It’s not something we can sell. We can’t be shown in a typical gallery because there’s no money to be made off us. It’s more about the process and the meeting each week. The object becomes de-emphasized and less precious. The collection becomes fascinating.”

I was fascinated that Sunday night a year ago. After I’d reviewed all the art and passed out the awards, K told me I had one final duty: choose the next week’s word. I pondered for ten minutes and then wrote on a big chalkboard the word “mortar.”

Immediately K stripped off my royal raiment. “Now you’re nothing,” K shouted gleefully. The tough-looking character with the filterless Camel dangling from his lips smirked. “You’re just like one of us,” he said. I couldn’t wait to come back the next Sunday.

The opening party for “3½ Months of Sundays” will be held from 4 to 6 PM this Sunday at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd. A closing party will be held from 5 to 9 PM on Saturday, April 15. Call 773-324-5520 for more information.

— M

(Originally published in the Chicago Reader, March 2, 2000)

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I’m supposed to have a PhD on the subject of women. But the truth is I’ve flunked more often than not. I’m very fond of women; I admire them. But, like all men, I don’t understand them.” — Frank Sinatra

BREAD AND CIRCUSES (MINUS THE BREAD)

Time to beat a dead horse again. Didja see where Hamilton County has to sell its physical rehab hospital just so it can pay its debt service bills on the two Taj Mahals it built for Cincinnati’s pro sports teams?

The hospital has been valued at $30M but Hamilton County’s offering it for half that price because, well, it’s desperate.

The Wall Street Journal last July called the public financing of Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium “one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government.” Hamilton County took on about a billion dollars’ worth of debt to get the stadia built.

Half A Billion Here…

County officials promised trusting voters that the two facilities, both on the Ohio River, would usher in a new era of economic fabulousness for downtown Cincy.

Didn’t happen. And, according to the WSJ, it wasn’t going to happen even if the economy hadn’t tanked in the last year of George W. Bush’s reign.

The beauty of this story is the reaction of Cincinnati Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn. The Bengals play football in Paul Brown Stadium. The team pays virtually no operating or capital improvement costs for its palace. Additionally, Hamilton County is contractually on the hook to pay for any as-yet uninvented gizmos like hologram replay devices the team might desire. Swear to god.

… Half A Billion There…

Blackburn’s Bengals pushed hard for the County to foot the bill and ink a sweetheart lease deal for the team. The Bengals threatened to move to another city if the County didn’t come through.

County officials caved in, of course, as almost all local pols do when sports team owners put guns to their heads. Hamilton County honchos promised the good burghers of Cincy that piles of dough would roll into city and county coffers as well as local businesses if the two cathedrals were built. Voters bought those promises.

When confronted by reporters about the County’s current financial hardships, including yearly shortfalls and essential service cuts, Blackburn shrugged and said his team was not to blame for anything. Hamilton County’s suckers, he rationalized, were “an informed and engaged electorate.”

Hehe.

… Sorry, Nothing Left For You.

Former Cincinnati mayor Tom Luken was against the deal from the start. “Anybody with half a brain can figure out this is a bad deal,” he says.

We are one weird eff-ing country, kiddies.

VIDEO KILLED

Uh oh — we’re even weirder than you and I feared. Some Hollywood producer is putting together a deal to make a film about the start-up of MTV.

As in, VJs and all.

VJs.

For all you kids out there, MTV used to play music.

Ya Gotta Love the “21 Jump Street” Pose

ILLINOIS SINNERS

Rick Santorum is telling Illinois voters they can atone for their sin of giving the world Barack Obama by voting for him (Santorum) in the state’s primary Tuesday.

Guess what — a lot of my left-leaning friends are registering as Republicans and voting for god’s candidate. Their rationale? Make Santorum the Republican candidate because he can’t beat Barack.

Man, that’s playing with fire.

Plus, I don’t think the GOP needs anybody’s help in committing political suicide this year. They’re handling it just fine already.

GIRLS TO WOMEN

I’m reading Patti Smith’s National Book Award winning memoir, “Just Kids.”

Here’s my capsule commentary so far: She knows how to write and she doesn’t know how to write. That’s what makes the book charming.

I haven’t got past her poverty-stricken early days with Robert Mapplethorpe yet. She’s young and dreaming and certain there is something important she has to bring to the world. Only she doesn’t know just what it is.

Smith was already in her 60s when she was writing the book. Still, it has the sound and feel of a hungry, delightfully pretentious, ambitious, 14-year-old geeky girl.

How refreshing. I’ve had it with reading about men and boys coming of age. It’s time for more women authors to let the reading public know what it’s like to be a proto-emo girl. Or any kind of a girl at all.

GIRLS TALK

Don’t be fooled by the cover art — this is the Dave Edmunds (with Nick Lowe) version of the Elvis Costello gem.

There are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder

I thought I heard you mention my name, can’t you talk any louder?

Don’t come any closer, don’t come any nearer.

My vision of you can’t get any clearer.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I think I’m constantly in a state of adjustment.” — Patti Smith

GO AND SIN NO MORE

Now, that’s more like it.

My soul has been cleansed by yesterday’s act of public contrition. Confession, you might call it, albeit a secular form of the holy Catholic rite. Isn’t that what the Internet and blogging are for? To bare one’s soul, to let the world know of one’s triumphs and foibles, to shout out to upward of a billion wired citizens of Earth what one ate for breakfast this morning?

Yes, I experienced catharsis by proclaiming to the Internet-connected inhabitants of this little blue dot that I should not have wished to pummel the faces of those two smug little shits whose lyrical ode to Rick Santorum has become a You Tube/Facebook sensation.

Looking For A Strong Man To Tell Them What To Do With Their Wombs

Confession. Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has, in fact, been 42 years since my last confession.

Yep, I did it last in my freshman year at Fenwick High School, all-boys at the time, a highly disciplined college prep school for which my parents scrimped and saved to pay the $675 annual tuition, at the time a princely sum.

They did it so I could spend my days around a better class of juveniles than the hoodlums whom I’d begun to join nightly behind the fieldhouse at Amundsen Park, where we smoked cigarettes, drank Boone’s Farm Apple Wine, and engaged in the occasional fistfight.

A mere two weeks after school had started in that September of 1970, my father and I attended the Father and Son Communion Breakfast. A confessional box was set up just outside the Boulevard Room where the Mass was to be held, a convenience for all those high-achievement daddy-os whose jobs were too demanding for them to get to confession earlier in the week.

My old man said, “Do you need to go to confession?” It was more an accusation than a question. I nodded yes and so he and I both got into line. We waited a few minutes for the bankers and real estate execs ahead of us to unburden themselves of the sin, presumably, of keeping Chicagoland the most segregated metropolitan area in the nation.

What my father had to confess I could not speculate. He worked all day at a cardboard box factory, came home after dark, ate dinner, donned his Bermuda shorts, slipped his socks just over his heels but left them on to keep his toes warm as he lay back in his recliner to watch the “Flip Wilson Show” or “Marcus Welby, MD.” Within 15 minutes he’d be snoring, his toasty toes pointed toward heaven.

Flip Wilson (As Geraldine) With Burt Reynolds

“Joe!” my mother would yell, eliciting from him an alarmed snort. “For chrissakes, I can’t even hear the TV!” At which point he’d stop snoring, shift in his chair, and promptly re-commence his apneal symphony within a minute or two.

What in Our Father’s name did he have to confess? I couldn’t know at the time; I would learn many years later.

A more compelling question was, What did I have to confess? I was a 14-year-old dweeb, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, having a slight problem with acne (concealed, or so I thought, by the pancake layer of Clearisil I wore on my face) and still a good five years away from my very first sexual experience — with another person, that is.

Fighting The Good Fight

Well, there you go — I could have confessed any or all of the several thousand times I’d engaged in self-pollution since my previous confession but, of course, I didn’t. How could I tell a priest that I touched myself?

(Lucky I was skittish about it — he might have interpreted such a confession as a come-on.)

“… And Then There Was The Time With The French Bread….”

All I remember is I told him some generic, made-up stuff — I disobeyed my parents and I lied three times. Yeah, that was my last confession.

Until yesterday. Phew. If I believed in god, I’d feel forgiven. If I believed I had a soul, I’d be certain it was spotless.

I believe in the Internet, though. I’ve got my Comcast broadband bill right here on my desk.

Forgive me, Page Viewers, for I have sinned.

YOU ARE HEREBY REMANDED BY THIS COURT TO THE CUSTODY OF….

The first time The Loved One and I ever passed Batchelor Middle School on Bloomington’s west side, I pointed at the facility and said, “Oh look, there’s a state prison.”

No joke. The two of us had to pass the joint by again yesterday, on the way to TLO’s friend’s house. It still looks like a correctional institution.

I ask you this: What sort of cruel school board would hire such a sadistic architect to design the grim, forbidding gulag that is the Batchelor Middle School?

From my own experience I know that the difference between dropping out and staying in school can hinge on the slightest factor. A mean teacher. An episode of harassment.

How about reporting every morning to a featureless concrete blockhouse set far back in a field as if to protect the surrounding environs from the inmates within?

I know if I were a Batchelor inmate, I could easily be walking toward the place one day and suddenly stop and say to myself, “Screw it.”

JAILHOUSE ROCK

The culture of an entire society can change within a single lifetime. Want proof?

Check this vid.

Number 47 said to Number 3

You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.

I sure would be delighted with your company

Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me.

It should be noted that as Elvis sings that fourth line, he’s thrusting his hips.

Jailhouse Rock, 1957: a movie scene for teenaged girls to swoon over.

Jailhouse Rock, 2012: incidental music for streaming gay porn

 

 

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” — Malcolm X

THE ANNUAL ELECTRON PENCIL PENNILESS LIST

What a coincidence!

Only two days after Forbes Magazine released its yearly list of the world’s billionaires, we at The Electron Pencil proudly present our inaugural annual roster of broke Americans.

Forbes Got Nuthin’ On Us

(We are working with our crack legal team to determine if we have a case against Forbes. It is our assertion that Forbes intentionally scheduled its release to upstage our eagerly awaited list of the Penniless. Stayed tuned for more developments.)

Several of the Forbes select few have expressed displeasure at having information about their personal finances splashed all over magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV. Our lucky few are circumspect as well. In fact, each of them has pleaded with us not to reveal their identities or net worth.

Forbes Porn

But we are nothing if not tireless, intrepid journalists. Our commitment to unearth the truth no matter the consequences must trump their desire for privacy. As a compromise, we will not use the full names of our honorees.

Now then, here is The Annual Electron Pencil Penniless List:

  • Ronald H.: A talented jazz saxophonist, Mr. H. recently moved out of his cozy pied-à-terre on the west side of Bloomington. He is now “traveling.” In other words, he is homeless. Mr. H. was ousted from his position as Vice President of Facilities Maintenance for a local elementary school last spring. He was a casualty of school budget cuts. He carries the entirety of his possessions in his backpack which has a missing zipper. Sharp-eyed passersby can catch glimpses of Mr. H.’s holdings when his backpack flap flips open. He is considered among the most open and transparent of our 2012 honorees.
  • Miranda P.: She and her two children — Zach, 5, and Lily, 3 — also are “traveling.” Mrs. P. is currently in the process of dissolving her partnership with Joshua P., who last December attempted a hostile takeover of her finances. Mr. P. at the time was putting together a straight cash transaction for sub-legal pharmaceuticals. When Mrs. P. rejected his entreaties for her cash, he threatened and eventually carried out a night-time assault upon her face. Mrs. P.’s jaw was wired shut and the discoloration around her eyes lasted well into the new year. Middle Way House now serves as temporary headquarters for Mrs. P.’s break-away firm.
  • Jeremy M.: Mr. M.’s home was ranked number one in Car and Driver’s 1992 Best Selling Cars list. His curbfront domicile is known popularly among neighbors as as “that damned red Taurus.” He inherited it from his grandfather who passed away in 2006 while Mr. P. was finishing up his master’s degree in fine arts. Mr. P. is looking to diversify by applying for work at Rally’s Hamburgers, Kroger on 2nd Street, and the Subway at Walnut and 6th streets. Some observers say Mr. P.’s total wealth has been adversely affected by his ill-advised leveraging of student loans to acquire his degree. Mr. P. has responded that his degree has been valued in certain quarters at $1.7 million over his lifetime, as opposed to his total debt load of $53,000. Mr. P. was recently seen purchasing a rare pair of red Chuck Taylors at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on North Rogers Street.
  • Kevin W.: A pioneer in the field of bipolar disorder patientry, Mr. W. visits the four corners of Bloomington on his daily perambulations. He is known far and wide as an often accessible member of the local penniless community. He has made enemies, though, during the days before he receives his monthly dosage of lithium. Mr. W. impresses with his ability to identify the day of the week of any random date a questioner might suggest. Some analysts believe this indicates he also possesses a form of Asperger’s Syndrome which would help solidify his inclusion in future Penniless lists.
  • Jana C.: A long-time leader in the local physical pleasure industry, Ms. C. recently became affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous and has indicated she may be looking to move on to other fields. Her ambitions may be tempered by the pressing needs of members of the housing, utilities, and grocery industries for immediate remuneration for services and goods. When her liquidity sank to an all-time low in February, Ms. C. confided to close friends that she may never be entirely free to leave the sex industry.

We salute our Penniless achievers.

TIME IS NOT MONEY

Speaking of the penniless, our go-to researcher R.E. Paris points out that Lester Chambers of the 1960’s power soul group, the Chambers Brothers, has fallen on the hardest of times.

Chambers posted an Occupy Wall Street-type letter on You Tube describing his unfortunate state this week. The post went viral.

Chambers says the recording contract he and his band mates signed in the mid-60’s screwed him out of royalties. He writes, “Only 1% of artists can sue. I am the 99%.”

The Electron Pencil ran a video of the Chambers Brothers’ hit, “Time Has Come Today,” earlier this year.

POT IS MONEY

So, the spectacularly crazed Pat Robertson has come out in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Wild, huh?

Maybe no so wild when you think about it. Perhaps the human race’s pipeline to the creator of the universe has concluded that too many of his hard-pressed contributors are turning to pot harvesting for him to continue being a prohibitionist.

Pat Knows: You Can’t Contribute If You’re In The Joint

Frankly, this development bums me out, man. I’ve been for the legalization of pot for decades. Sadly, now that Pat Robertson is as well, I’ll have to change my position.

Damn.

Come to think of it, doesn’t he look sorta high in the photo on the link?

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF SARAH

Roger Ebert digs the new HBO movie about Sarah Palin. Actually, “Game Change” is supposed to be about the failed 2008 run of John McCain for president but, honestly, McCain wasn’t the story at all.

I’m tempted to watch the movie but the casting of Julianne Moore as the winking dolt is problematic for me: I like Moore and I’d hate to have her associated with the New White Oprah from now on.

No, Julianne, No!

Too bad the producers couldn’t get Palin to play herself. Ebert describes her as “the greatest actress in American political history.”

ASK THE ANGELS

Patti Smith, babies.

Across the country, through the fields,

You know I see it written ‘cross the sky.

People rising from the highway

And war, war is the battle cry

And it’s wild, wild, wild, wild.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.” — Mary Wollstonecraft

SELF-DEFENSE

There is only one Tyler Ferguson on this Earth — which either is or isn’t a boon for the planet.

Tyler (AKA The Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls‘ Kaka Caliente)

She is Bloomington’s own, though, and she graced the Boys of Soma with her presence this morning. She was wrapping her fluid-swollen right knee as the rest of us were ingesting our first doses of the precious eye-opening substance.

Tough Guy Mac asked her how she injured her knee. Those in the know are aware it could have happened during a roller derby match, a soccer game, from running or spinning or bicycling, or any of the countless physical activities she’s addicted to.

Tyler And Her Late, Lamented Wheels

Now, when you ask Tyler a question, you’re really asking for a lecture that includes a minimum of a half dozen tangents. It reminds me of the old line: ask her what time it is and she’ll tell you how a watch is made.

Anyway, she explicated a history of the hinge’s traumas and insults until finally, someone (oh, alright, me) suggested she may have kneed an unfortunate soul who’d tried to force his attentions on her and if you think her patella looks bad, you oughtta see various parts of his shattered body.

Which automatically reminded Tyler of a story. Aw, hell, lemme let her tell it:

“Oh my god! (many Tyler stories begin with oh my god!) I took a self-defense course, five years ago, I think.

“They taught us this move, it’s called the buck and roll. It’s for when some guy’s trying to molest you and he’s on top of you, y’know?

“You grab the guy by the lapels, pull him real close, raise your hips for leverage, okay? It’s a last resort type of thing.

“Then, you use your leverage and flip him. It’s very effective for a smaller person who has a larger person, y’know, like a rapist, on top of them.

“I couldn’t wait ’till I got home, I wanted to show Fergie (her husband). So I get home and I say, ‘Dave. Lemme show you this move I just learned. It’s great!’

“And he goes, ‘Uh uh. No way.’

“And I say, ‘Aw, c’mon! How can it hurt. Look, lay on top of me like you wanna rape me, okay? Don’t worry.’

“So he gets on top of me, I pull him by the lapels, buck my hips up into him, and give him the flip.

“Oh my god, this is true! He must have flown ten feet in the air. Honestly, he was airborne.

“He hit a dresser and he got this enormous bruise on his hip (here, she stands and shows us with her hands the extent of the bruise — it spanned from his waist to halfway down his thigh.) And then all the blood drained down to his foot and he couldn’t walk.

“Poor Punky! He wouldn’t let me touch him for, oh, I don’t know how long.”

To prove Tyler Ferguson isn’t the only one around here who can spin a yarn, her story reminds me of the time I did a big story for the Chicago Reader about the first women boxers in the nation to compete in the Golden Gloves tournament.

One of the boxers, a DePaul University senior named Tracy Desmond, had studied karate before taking up boxing. One night, late, she was walking home in her Little Italy neighborhood when a man who’d been following her yanked her into a gangway.

He picked the wrong chick to mess with. Tracy fought him off, generously bestowing a number of bruises upon his person, and dashed away, seeking refuge in a neighbor’s home.

Tracy Desmond Clocks A Golden Gloves Opponent

When I first heard Tracy’s story it immediately hit me: why don’t we teach young girls self-defense beginning in their earliest years in elementary school?

I don’t have kids (the world should thank me for that) but I can imagine the horror of learning my daughter had been injured or worse by one of the cousins of pan troglodytes who prowl the streets.

Teaching girls from the earliest age the effectiveness of popping a predator in his nose, throat, or junk seems to me the least we can do for them.

Or is it that we really want the females of our holy land to remain helpless?

Teach Your Daughters

IF YOU TELL IT, THEY WILL LISTEN

Laura Grover can hold her own with any raconteur. The boss of WFHB’s Bloomington Storytelling Project also showed up this morning at Soma. She’d scheduled a meeting with a person who wanted to record a story for the BSP‘s big February event — its 29 Stories in 29 Days storytelling drive.

Grover

“If you email us and make a pledge to tell your story any time this month at any location you want, we’ll record you and put your story on the air,” Grover explained. “The first 29 people to do it will get a free mug and an Acoustic Harvest CD. Everybody who participates will get a chance to win prizes from local businesses.”

Those who want to share their stories with the world (or at least Bloomington’s corner of it) can contract Laura Grover at storytelling@wfhb.org.

GLORIA

Strong woman, strong music. Pound for pound, Patti Smith is tougher than any heavyweight boxer.

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