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Pretty Pictures

Down the Rabbit Hole

Living in a neighborhood that’s rapidly transitioning from blue-collar, single-family households to prime fix-it-and flip-it opportunities, estate sales have become a semi-regular source of entertainment in these parts. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure they’re a heartbreaking public effort to remedy lifelong accumulations of debt, familial strife and general clutter in the space of a single weekend. And anyone who’s ever stumbled into an estate sale knows the smell of mothballed tragedy pluming like dust motes from open dresser drawers and closet doors. Which reminds me: always check the closets. They’re usually left slightly ajar for affect, but go ahead. Where the hell else do you expect to find the antique diving helmet and Sam Cook 45s?

Several years ago I had the pleasure of attending an estate sale in the Broderick Street home of a former Fillmore District gospel diva who chose to carpet every inch of her five-story Queen Anne in neon green Astroturf. Coaxed by the tread-proof, fade-resistant promise of a new indoor Eden, an ivy vine had broken through a basement window and snaked beneath a kitchen door to take to the asbestos-flocked walls and continue across the ceilings of each room on each floor, all the way to the attic. The effect was disorienting and stunning, so much so that I visited the house each day of the three-day sale and never purchased a thing. The brief glimpse into another person’s private eccentricities was ultimately more enticing and rewarding than anything that I might have carried away.

And I may have been able to say the same for the house where the following drawings were found. But to tell the truth, this time I left empty handed because Charles was on the scene an hour before and had walked away with the goods, leaving me little choice but to linger in a dead man’s home and take in the sights.

Despite Charles’ breezy description, the only distinct charm to the house was an incongruously bucolic wishing well planted into the sidewalk where a driveway might have run. The rest was a slouching and soggy Victorian hangover. Inside, a hallway draped with American flags led to a back room filled with thick volumes of military history and brad-bound copies of California Penal Codes stretching back through three decades. After checking out the other rooms, including a kitchen stocked with countless jars of dried legumes (all for sale), I noticed a cardboard box overflowing with an assortment of rubber stamps, each cut in the same heavy, institutional type: ‘ROUTE TO CHAPLIN’, ‘IN VIOLATION’, ‘GUARD STATION’, ‘PAROLE’. Pretty cool, but I had no idea where I’d use stamps like that. So after unsuccessfully haggling with an agent over the price of a switchblade and an ‘I Like Ike’ lapel pin, I left.

A few days later Charles and I were sitting around looking at the drawings he salvaged when things started to add up. Volumes of penal codes, routing stamps and a sheaf of drawings in which the initials Y.G.C. appeared frequently could only mean one thing: crazy-ass juvie art collected and kept by a corrections officer/counselor/teacher, and by all calculations the guy who looked like Wilfred Brimley mad-dogging us from inside a disembodied vagina was our man.

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After featuring a random assortment of these drawings in the previous post, I’d like to offer a suite of work that I’m assuming was the result of an assignment based on readings of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which seems like an odd choice for a group of misguided post-Aquarian teens in lockdown; a bit enabling with all that ‘drink me, eat me, smoking caterpillar on a giant mushroom’ noise, no? Kind of like giving a copy of 1984 to a housebound paranoiac. But best to let the artwork speak for itself.

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Here you’ve got most of the immediately recognizable iconography from Carroll’s story. Note the White Rabbit contemporized as the Playboy Bunny. And I’ll be damned it that wishing well doesn’t look like the one in front the house where the drawings were found.

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Turns out that rabbit holes are everywhere, and well worth falling into. Even if they belong to dead people whose switchblades are way overpriced.

Discussion

3 comments for “Down the Rabbit Hole”

  1. Bravo, sir! Bravo. Well done indeed. I forgot about the well out front!

    Posted by Charles | February 17, 2008, 10:21 pm
  2. That was so worth it. I fucking love Alice in Wonderland. I don’t know if I love it so much as I love how everyone has a different take on it and what all the symbols and allegory means. Anyway, Here is my vain imagination for this one…. I imagine I am one of his pupils… he is asking me to draw scenes from the story… I comply and all the while I’m drawing, I’m thinking that he’ll throw this shit away as soon as we leave the classroom back to lock up or possibly the yard.

    I am amazed that this guy saved all these. They meant something to him, he even spared the one that someone wrote “ugly mother fucker” on. I wonder if they meant him? What a nice guy to save that shit. I find it incredibly endearing that someone would give a shit enough, even from the pit of hell that is juvenile reform schools, to save these hopeless bastard’s art work. I wonder what happened to them? I imagine they graduated to the pen, an over dose, or even being eaten by one of their own kind. Let’s face it, it takes a fucking demon to write “ugly mother fucker” on the piece of art you are submitting to the one and only person that even half way gives a fucking shit if you live or die.

    It makes me wonder… if years later he didn’t thumb through them and wonder what happened to them too. Goddamn, I hate myself for giving my teachers such fits as a child. You know, I could’ve been a better kid.

    Incidentally, I would’ve given my left nut for the “I like Ike” lapel pen. Poor guy, he loved America too, didn’t he…. In the end, I wonder if he felt let down? This goddamn web page runs hot and cold with ghosts I tell ya. San Francisco runs hot and cold with ghosts. Probably ghosts with matching ghosts gowns, shoes, and fashionable vintage clothing, but ghosts all the same.

    Next stop… The Twilight Zone

    (Cue Commercial)

    You guys have definitely carved out the most unique niche in all of cyberspace. That made my day, no joke.

    Posted by The Shit House Poet | February 19, 2008, 11:48 pm
  3. p.s. My sneaking suspicion here is… maybe my John Edwards-esque intuition is…

    He identified with being lost in the wonderland of life. We are all, some of us more than others, Alice in a waking dream trying to wake up into an eternity that makes more sense. The lost children of the reform school were his cast of characters on his journey. The whole thing drips with lonesomeness to me. All the money, fame, social status and the like crumbles away once you realize that all we have is each other.

    I’m your cheshire cat, appearing and disappearing here… I leave my half witted smile behind on the page now.

    { =

    Posted by The Shit House Poet | February 20, 2008, 12:32 am

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