When I visit my parents in Brookline I always spend some time in the basement. Like all good parents they keep their children’s old crap with the thought that those children might want it some day. It took decades but I’ve now become the kid that wants to root through his past.
On my last visit I came upon an envelope marked Kickoff Receipts. I didn’t recognize the handwriting—it doesn’t belong to my father, my mother, or myself. But the contents were familiar. They were loose pages from a small spiral-bound sketchbook I kept from around 1993 to 1996. Much of my work prior to late 2003 when I launched my website is spottily documented and archived. I didn’t photograph two-thirds of what I made and never kept a list of buyers, so a lot of it is hard to trace.
Finding these pages was a nice surprise and sparked some memories.
I drew this on a Greyhound bus ride from Boston to Los Angeles in 1994. The bus had to’ve been stopped because I don’t have enough visual recall to’ve done this from memory.
A self portrait done in the darkened window on the same trip. Made myself a dead ringer for Michael Myers from Halloween. I was really into this all-over cross-hatching thing. Probably trying for the effect Seurat got in his drawings. A world made of hairy marks with forms barely visible in the murk.
One of the frustrations for a sketcher on a bus or plane is that you’re stuck with the backs of people’s heads for the most part. The guys with bald spots are a welcome respite from all that boring hair. Also, drawing bus and plane seats is sleep-inducing. Not necessarily a bad thing if you happen to be on a three-day transcontinental ride.
Sleepers make great models. This old man must’ve been motionless for miles.
Anyone who’s spent time on Greyhounds will be familiar with the Mennonites and Amish. I wonder why having someone else drive them in a motorized vehicle is kosher, whereas personal cars are not. What section of the bible legislates such particulars? They’re ahead of the curve in a way. The world would be better off if more of us took public transportation.
This is the last of the bus drawings. There are four more in a frame in my parents’ hallway. Until finding the Kickoff envelope I thought that they were the only ones which survived. Three days to LA, then three days back. It was quite a trip.
I didn’t have a regular coffeeshop/third place/hangout until I moved back to Chicago in 1997 and started logging regular time at Urbus Orbis and the Rainbo Club. But this is definitely a coffeeshop drawing. Maybe the Other Side Cafe on Newbury Street in Boston. I had an art show. First time I had a painting stolen off the wall. It was flattering.
A Greyhound bus station is a great place to get depressed about the state of society. You can’t help looking like a displaced person there. Someone not wanted where you came from with uncertain prospects for a destination. But purgatory places are perfect for someone with a sketchbook and hours to kill.
This has to be Fenway Park, looking over the Green Monster. I used to go pretty regularly. Back then the Red Sox were frustrated losers. Once they won in 2004 they released whatever sentimental hold they had on me.
A man resting his elbows on the lip of an opened hood of a late-80s/early-90s Chevy Caprice places this sketch at the Checker Taxi Garage on St. Botolph Street in Boston. No way the guy who drew this could imagine driving cab twelve years or writing books about it. I’d only learned to drive a year or two earlier.
Could be the South Street Diner. If so, it was as close to a regular dinner spot as I had as a Boston hack. I was hung up on a waitress there and everything. Just like a generic country song. Can’t even remember her name now.
This was the door separating the box office from the concession stand at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. I worked there in high school, then here and there afterwards. But this isn’t the “real” box office which faced Harvard Street. The theater was saved by a non-profit foundation a year or two into my tenure. One of the costs of salvation was that the original entrance became an Au Bon Pain and the holdovers from the old days like me never missed an opportunity to bitch about it.
This might’ve been the porch of a group house on Farrington Ave in Allston. One of those decrepit post-college/pre-grownup life places where aspiring artsy types and burnouts fashion makeshift utopias which quickly devolve to way stations for bad behavior and disillusionment. I didn’t live there but my best friend did. It was the center for what passed for my social life for a few years.
Because of the violin player I’m tempted to guess this is from the Dirty Three/Pavement/Come triple-bill in Providence in 1995 or 1996 or so. But I’m not sure. Proof in any case that I used drawing to listen better even twenty-five years ago.
These pages are both familiar and foreign. I see a lot I still do in them, but also a lot I’ve moved away from. They’re a valuable time-capsule to consult as I keep going.