I very rarely welcome a guest writer to the blog. But then Tony Fitzpatrick is no ordinary jamoke. Extraordinary in so many regards, he's the most Chicago guy I've ever met (and I've met Studs Terkel, Mike Royko and Saul Bellow). A fantastic artist, star of stage and screen, both movies and TV—he was great as Jack Birdbath in the recent Amazon series, "Patriot." I consider myself lucky to have spent as many hours as I have in his company, lucky to call him friend and hang his art on my walls. Monday was a very full day tracking down a hard news story—rare for me, I know—that will be, I believe, fairly eye catching when it hits the paper on Wednesday. To keep you groundlings happy in the meantime, I asked Tony if I could reprint this essay he posted on Facebook, and he graciously agreed:
Walking through Humboldt park on Wednesday, I sat down on a bench after a loop around the Boathouse and the Bird Sanctuary part of the park. I'd been trying to keep from freaking out about the enormous changes in our world manifested in the last week. I quit my health club because of expenses and shuttered both of the galleries.As I sat there I realized that they might never re-open. That walking this park in the morning would be the new normal; and this was more than okay.
For the first time since this whole mess started. I was somewhere ... Quiet. There was Green—trees grasses, marsh weeds , and water. It was the stillness of solitude. I needed to think and this was a place to do it. I looked at the Water and saw Canadian Geese, Mallards, and Wood Ducks; and around me in the park I'd noticed Robins, Red Winged Blackbirds and Grackles as well as copious Gulls.This place was perfect for all I had to think about which was how to remain calm.How to accept what I could not change. How to go forward with the sometimes arduous business of living one day at a time and being grateful for it.
I grew up watching Monster Movies as a kid: Giant Gila Monster, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, Willard (bunch of Rats eat Earnest Borgnine),The Abominable Dr. Phibes. You name it--I saw every gruesome mutation the movie racket could concoct in the relatively naive age of 1960's America-- where there were plenty of societal horrors, wars and assassinations-- but THOSE were too real. Those were things one heard on the news.
Those were somebody else's Monsters. Mine were out of the Comics—Creepy, Eerie, and pulp novels. The one that scared the shit out of me was "I am Legion" by Richard Mathissen it became an equally scary movie with Charlton Heston and Anthony Zerbe. Heston plays the last man alive, or so he thinks, he is holed up in a building in what I think is Downtown L.A. or SanFrancisco, not sure which; and he is surrounded by an Army of Zombie-Like mutants who can only come out at night.Led by the amazing Zerbe (an underrated character actor his whole life) who plays a former news anchor gone mad after becoming a mutant from an unnamed plague.
That was the truly frightening part—the Un-named plague. The one that wiped most of humanity out and made the rest into mindless fanatical Zombies who practice some inane religion. Led by a psychologically stunted leering Madman. Actually ?—A lot like Trump voters. I would SAY that—but Zerbe's Mathias is infinitely smarter and more likable than Trump—which is still to say: Not at all. The real monster is the plague itself—Heston survives it because he is injured while bringing the vaccine for this back to America—he injects himself—and he is cured. This , by the way, in NO way portends a happy ending.
I could not stop thinking of this movie while walking an empty Park yesterday—while able to hear every sound of every bird in that park. It centered me --I sat down and was able to cobble together something like a plan B. I was also able to accept that life was changing in a tidal way. That nothing that comes after this; If I live through it, will be the same. I'm 61 years old-- I've lived longer than anyone ever thought I would . I've been lucky in my life, my wife and kids, my work,I've got no complaints.
While this thing descends upon us I'm going to try to be the best version of human that I can be. I make sense of the world by making pictures about it . One of the things or devices I relied on. as a kid was drawing giant creatures taking revenge on us—Lizards, Locusts, Eagles, Cicadas, and Wolves. All of them opening giant cans of Whoop-Ass on whichever segment of humanity I thought needed a good Ass-Kicking that day...Mostly? ...It was Nuns and Christian Brothers-- who took turns playing tether-ball with my head as a kid. Hell—I learned how to throw a left-hook from a Nun--she would pretend she was going to smack me with her right hand?...then?... she would hammer me with her left.I made a note to myself: In case of a rematch? Punch the Nun FIRST...
These drawings were great fun . They allowed me to get a little Karmic revenge on the Nuns, Teachers, Cops ,and anyone else I considered a pain in the ass who ought to mind their own fucking business.
This Drawing is a bit like that. It's a way of saying: "Fuck You Monster—I'm not afraid of You". The only thing I know about the coming days is that we have the best weapon known to mankind. We have each other.