Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The "I's" Have It

A little something to tide the reader over until the next dramatic episode in my life unfolds. The drawing to the left was inspired by the artwork of Kurt Vonnegut. This little gem was buried deep inside an old sketchbook. I don't remember drawing it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Bindle

I received a phone call from Alan Scherstuhl the other night. As noted earlier, it had been years since we had last spoken and now, after reuniting through Cousin Pete's Comedy City, the floodgates of communication are reopen. Years ago, I made it a habit of taping my phone conversations with Alan. Back then, I always had a feeling he would accidentally slip up and confess to a double-homicide, or something even more outlandish, and I would have the proof in case the feds came sniffing around and there was reward money in the picture. Upon listening to my voice mail and hearing his phone message requesting I return his call at once, I dusted off the old tape recorder. I hit record as he answered his phone:

Alan Scherstuhl: "Hello, Teel! Thanks for calling me back. I'll get to the point. I need a bindle. A bindle at once."

Mark Teel: "A bindle? As in what a hobo might use?"

A.S.: "Yes, a bindle. To be specific, a tattoo of a bindle. For my left buttock. To signify my thirtieth year. And my recent divorce. I'm a nomad, Teel. I must have a bindle on my ass, and you're the man for the job. It's of the grace of God that we've crossed paths again. Are you up for it? Say 'yes' or I'll hang up this phone."

M.T: "Okay. Just a bindle? Nothing else?"

A.S: "Yes, but it must be coming out of something. It can't be self contained. I mean, nobody sees a bindle just hovering there. It's gotta be in a bubble or something."

M.T.: "Oh, you mean, like, I could have a hobo carrying it or something? Or a hobo that looks like you? Or just y--"

A.S.: "No, no hobo. No people. Just the bindle. But not just hanging there. You don't see bindles just hanging there in mid-air, do you Teel?"

M.T.:"Well, no..."

A.S.: "What about the hole at the beginning of the Looney Toons?"

M.T.: "The one with Porky Pig coming out of it?"

A.S.: "Yeah, but with the hole closed. What if somebody were to stick that bindle outside of the hole seconds before it closed and left it hanging out? What about that?"

M.T.: "Okay, but it would look more like a big Tootsie Roll Pop coming out of a balloon."

A.S.: "That's fine. But just make sure it doesn't look like a lollipop. It's gotta look like a bindle or it'll just look ridiculous."

M.T.: "I can show you something by the end of the week. But what if Fred Phelps catches wind of this? He'll have his flunkies lined up for miles to protest. I mean, people might wonder what orifice this bindle is coming out from..."

A.S.: "Don't worry about Phelps. Leave that to me. Gotta go."


I was able to draw Alan what he wanted and emailed it to him. I hadn't heard back for a few days. About the time I forgot about it I received a check for $7.00 in the mail.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Best Of The Sixties

A small group of us meet two or three times a year for a mixed CD swap. We have yet to come up with an official name. The new one that just sprung to mind is "The Mixed Tape Society." Regardless, I prefer the term "mixed tape" over "mixed CD" or even "playlist," due to my twenty-plus year history as part of the mixed tape subculture (to me, a mixed tape will always be closer to my heart than a mixed CD-R or even an iPod playlist. The term "mixed tape" also rolls off the tongue much better than either of the other two possible examples).

The rules of the club are simple. Each mixed tape has a theme and contains a standard ten songs. We are also discouraged from using a band or artist on more than one comp. In doing this, it helps each member to not rely too heavily on a particular artist or sound. These rules do not necessarily apply to our annual year-end comps, where members often feel the liberty of tacking on an extra few songs (or an extra mix, for that matter) and, of course, use bands or artists from previous mixes. The whole thing gets very technical, obsessive and, yes, nerd-like.

This weekend's theme, "Best Of The Sixties," wrapped-up our four-part "Decade" series which took just over a year to complete. We had originally planned on having a trilogy because, well, trilogies are cool. After the well-received success of August 2005's "Best Of The Seventies," we decided to add the decade before it to the mix. The series is out of sequence in that we felt the need to get "Eighties" and "Nineties" out of the way first, as planned.

There are only four members of the group: Jeff, Bailey, Ramsey and myself. We often times allow outsiders to sit-in on the sessions and, occasionally, bring in their own mix. But, officially, the four of us are the members. Of course, our wives and girlfriends, who are always present for the meetings, often times bring their own mixes and are always encouraged to do so (the two mixes that Lisa developed for "Eighties" and "Nineties" were not only well-received, but considered, by most, to be the best compilation at each gathering).

Of course, each compilation is a secret until we all sit down to listen. Here's my latest mix. Of course, the other three members are more than welcome to list theirs here as well.

01. Combination Of The Two / Big Brother & The Holding Company
02. Mr. Tambourine Man / The Byrds
03. A Hazy Shade Of Winter / Simon & Garfunkel
04. California Dreamin' / The Mamas & The Papas
05. Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head / BJ Thomas
06. Ain't That Peculiar / Marvin Gaye
07. I Fought The Law And The Law Won / The Bobby Fuller Four
08. Sunday Morning / The Velvet Underground
09. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall / Bob Dylan
10. Eve Of Destruction / The Turtles

Next up is "The Best Of 06," which will be available in early 2007. The final mixes, of course, will be posted here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pizza & The Pole

Papa Jim called me up the other day, excited with a new business idea. This time, it's a restaurant he wants to open up in downtown Chesterfield, Missouri. The premise? A place that serves pizza in the front and has a stripclub in back. The name? Pizza & The Pole. I told him it was a million dollar idea and, if we had the money to invest, we would certainly ante up. Since we don't, I offered to design the picture for the sign that would be out front. This is what I came up with.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How I'm Feeling

Good God. The past two days have been pure torture for this writer. It all began yesterday morning (Sunday), when I awoke with a headache and a very mild stomach issue. Nothing to be too concerned about, as I had been out the night before and dragged myself in at around 2:00 am. The headache, I attributed to the whiskey and beer from the gathering at Comedy City. The stomach ache? Nothing out of the ordinary, as this happens from time to time. I had no appetite and, at about noon, force fed myself a peanutbutter sandwich, which I was unable to finish. However, as the day progressed, my stomach began to feel worse. It wasn't a constant feeling, but rather a very acute pain that would come in ten second waves about every fifteen minutes. As nighttime grew closer, the pain began to get more severe and more frequent. Lisa encouraged me to drink Sprite like a madman just in case it was gas. I was feeling a little better when I checked out at 9:00. I went to sleep, praying that it wasn't Appendicitis.

At around midnight, I began to be bothered by the pains again. I wasn't sure if it had actually gotten worse or if it was part of the discomfort and inconvenience of being awakened. Finally, at about 2:00, I decided that I couldn't take it anymore. I went into the bathroom, hoping to get the problem resolved. At one point, as I sat perched upon the porcelain stool, the pain came in a series of no less than four waves. The next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor of the bathroom moaning. I believe I had blacked out at some point from the agony, because the first thing I heard upon waking up was the sound of the faucet running. I had obviously gotten up to wash my hands, but I have no recollection of it. At this point, the pain was getting worse and the waves were getting longer. As I lay there on my back on that floor in the dark, I felt as if I was being stabbed in the stomach repeatedly. I was afraid to move because of the tenderness. For the first time since this began, I was actually in a deep sweat and, as Lisa mentioned, mumbling incoherently. The cold bathroom tile felt good on my bare back.

My salvation came in the form of Lisa, who appeared above me and insisted we get to the emergency room at once. We bundled up Audrey and headed out into the cold early morning. Upon arriving at the hospital, I was immediately taken to a room and treated. My blood was drawn and, in due time, we were told that an infected appendix had been ruled out. I was given some painkiller for the time being. Before it kicked in, however, my body suffered several more painful blows.

Finally, the doctor came back and told me he could find nothing to explain the pain, but there's a chance it could be a stomach virus. He wrote me two prescriptions--one for a painkiller and one to control the abdominal spasms --and set me loose. Before we left, he encouraged me to call my doctor if I wasn't feeling any better by nightfall. We arrived home at 5:00. Lisa and Audrey both went back to bed and I laid on the couch watching reruns of Coach on USA ("characters welcome," they say), waiting for the Stomach Demon to return.

It's 8:00 pm as I sit and write this. The pain hasn't completely disappeared, but it's been reduced to a very mild discomfort. I regained my appetite too, which I'm happy about. I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but I think I'm going to live for a little while longer.

Stories like this are the very reason blogs were invented.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Big Al & Me

I recently came back in contact with an old friend of mine-- Alan Scherstuhl. I met Alan in 1993 at the JCCC Campus Ledger, where I worked as cartoonist and he as a staff writer. The first exchange that we shared was when he told me that Pearl Jam "tries too hard"--an expression that I still use to this very day when commenting on an overrated band. Soon after that, he referred to The Replacements as "the greatest band ever." We became fast friends and quickly fell into the tight-knit group of party ponies and boozehounds who worked among us in that college basement. After two semesters most of the staff went their separate ways. I would ring up, or bump into, Big Al on occasion. But as time marched on, I began to see less and less of him. It's been several years--at least ten--since we last caught up.

I still consider him, to this day, one of the funniest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing (I've always secretly longed to be the Ralph Steadman to his Hunter Thompson). As a matter of fact, thoughts of that entire group bring a smile to my face. I know that Alan had remained close friends with most of them. But I, as always, chose to take a different path and stay put in community college for much longer than I should have. In other words, my fellow colleagues went off to university, graduated and got jobs. I, on the other hand, moved out of my parents' house. Last time I saw Brad was at his wedding in the University Church at KU. Leslie, Alan's best friend, ended up getting married to a really nice fellow who I had only met once or twice (it should be noted that, although Brad's and Leslie's last names do not escape me, the spellings do. I would hate to butcher them within this context).

I was recently delighted to see Alan's name listed as a staff writer for Pitch Weekly. Whenever I get the opportunity, I pick myself up a copy to see what he has to ramble on about. I was even more delighted when I saw that Alan had written a piece about my cousin Pete's weekly improv performances at Comedy City. I immediately emailed Pete to let him know that Alan is an old friend and to tell him hello. Pete responded by telling me that, although Alan has attended a show or two of theirs, he has yet to meet him and, in his words, "couldn't pick him out of a line-up." He did, however, pass the message onto Alan via email. Alan seemed to be surprised to have read the name of Mark Teel before him in this context. The very name that he had been thinking about quietly for years. Eventually, Pete forwarded me Alan's email address, reminding me that he wasn't my errand boy and that if I wanted to tell Alan something, I should just be a man and do it. That address still sits in my inbox. I've wanted to write to him but feel a bit intimidated. His wit, humor and prose still threaten me, just as they did when I was twenty years old (This very entry, as a matter of fact, took the better part of the evening to put together). It's now been several weeks since this exchange occurred.

As fate would have it, I received an email from Pete yesterday. As always, the Comedy City troupe is presenting several shows this weekend. It isn't the first time Pete has requested my presence to come out on a Saturday night, but it IS the first time he's requested my presence on behalf of another. Apparently, Big Al has summoned yours truly to the event. After rearranging some Lisa and Audrey details around the homestead, I gladly accepted the invite and am now anticipating the reunion with Big Al, as well as the opportunity to see Pete perform again.

One of my fondest memories is of the evening in which the above sketch was produced. It was a cold winter night. Alan and I, through one of our wacky escapades, ended up locked in the Campus Ledger office overnight. Seeing as how it was winter break, we came to the realization that it would be days before we were discovered. We ended up keeping ourselves alive through rations of expired Dannon yogurt and hot apple cider that we found. Before long, fear turned to boredom and Alan finally stripped down to his bare ass, hopped on a desk, and begged me to draw his portrait. I figured why not? We're probably going to die here anyway. Needless to say, we ended up being rescued soon after and lived to remember the details of that fateful night. "Remember," being the keyword, as Alan made me promise to never utter the events of his nudeness to another human being. As his good friend, I happily obliged.

It should be noted that, seeing as how it's been thirteen years since that promise was made, the statute of limitations have expired and I am now free to say whatever the hell I want to. See you on Saturday, Alan.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Portrait Of Mother With Little Kid