Dirk Says I Wore A Cape


My ol' pal Dirk Harmon (he has a couple of books out there and a website--check him out) sent me an email and reminded me that I wore a black cape to do mad artistic acitivities in high school. I thought, You are so full of crap, Dirk! You friggin' liar! He was remembering my insane plot to become a published writer. Well, I wanted to be a cartoonist, too. And a Salvador Dali. And a Bob Dylan/ Leonard Cohen/ Jim Morrison/ Neil Young/ David Bowie/ Donovan/ John Lennon/ Alice Cooper. And a poet. And a novelist. And an actor. So I was jealous of our comrade Bagu--who was then and is now some sort of cartooning savant--our own damn R. Crumb. And Bagu had done this book about pillbugs. I WAS SO JEALOUS I could spit. So my friends in the delinquent dope fiend greasy hair and off campus smoking world--I was in the hair gang, no doubt, but not the pot and ciggies and petty crime auto mechanic world--were in the offset printing class. Of course. Also my glam friend JoJo. He was so Mott and T Rex! Anyway, the boys pirated the machinery in our high school after hours and made the plates and ran the presses. We made this book with scrap paper and stolen staples. And the mad dogs and dopers did weird things like get the plates backwatds or upside-down, but this struck me as surreal and revolutionary, so I dug it.

Dirk remembers me in that cape sneaking around the print shop--if a guy in a cape could be thought to be sneaking. And it suddenly hit me--I did have a cape! I had forgotten. And I no doubt wore it to the illegal printing sessions because it would have had the cracked panache I believed was my birthright. (I wore doctor and dentist shirts; I painted my shoes; I organized clown assaults on classes and sometimes crawled in and out the window of my English teacher's homeroom in whiteface; and I took off my pants on stage in the big auditorium). No ridiculous behavior was beyond me. So I probably did put on a cape! To print my first book! Sorry, Dirk!

It was a fever for art. Maybe fame. Probably, now that I have a six year old daughter exactly like I was, attention. Yeah, I wanted your attention. Just like that Pretenders song. "Give it to me! 'Cause I'm/ Gonna make you see/ There's nobody else here/ Quite like me. I'm special! So special...." We were all special.

I was in an army of artists and dancers, actors and pranksters. We were all going to be famous. We were all going to be rich and escape the working class. We were all going to change the world. It's funny, but most of us didn't. I don't think I was supposed to...not like I did when I was 16 and 18. I think I was too stupid to turn away. I missed the signals telling me it would be saner to quit. Now I threaten to quit all the time. I threaten to vanish back into my sacred Rockies and plant apple trees. But, you know...probably not.

Here's to my friends and all their dreams. I watch the turkeys in the yard, and I watch the paperbark peel off the birch tree--I could write you poems on those sheets like an Indian ghost--and I think about all my companions. I don't know where you are today. I don't know who you are. If you're well. But I think about you. I keep writing you yearbook entries, hoping we'll see each other in the hall.

Remember what Zep said: "I can't quit you, baby...."


Anonymous (not verified)

Okay, so why don't I remember Dirk? Can't find his web site.

I do have a copy of that book, though!


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Book club members have been some of my most enthusiastic and careful readers. I’m thrilled to share my work with you, answer your questions and tell you some of the stories behind the stories. This is our spot, just for us. Here, we can chat:  If I’m nearby, I’ll come and visit your club. Otherwise, we can Skype, talk over the phone or email. Sometimes, I’ll send surprises or hold contests.

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