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Dale Stephanos
July 2007
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posted:
Summer Studio
posted:
It’s Mid-Summer and I’m still having a hard time getting the momentum back after a nice vacation.

Crickets on the brain let’s call it.

Nothing I’m going to do is going to measure up to what I created several years ago in the back yard anyway. I’ll call it the Summer Studio, but really, it's just a great place to chill and relax. Or, as my good friend Tobi’s son calls it – “Chillaxin’”.

We put the pool in back in ’04 and didn’t really budget for the landscaping. After getting an estimate in the tens of thousands for a retaining wall and a few bushes, I thought “Okay, I’ll be a landscaper this summer”. So I recruited my buddy Doug to haul the stones up with (for) me and spent that summer/Fall building the walls and the path. I threw in perennials as I went along. After 3 years I’m still tweaking it, but I’ve realized that that’s what a garden is – an annual work in progress. I think of it as fireworks in slow motion. The next couple of weeks will be spectacular, and then the slow descent into Fall.
Here's a "Before", or "During" picture. There's Doug taking a beer break. Don't worry, I put him back to work quickly.
Mr. Butch, RIP
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Mr. Butch - always entertaining!
Mr. Butch F-s motherf-ers.

How often do you stumble onto a catchphrase that stays with you for decades? That quote above is what the legendary Mr. Butch, of Kenmore Square in Boston, had scrawled on the back of his trenchcoat, which never left his back, whether it was 90 degrees or 20. When we’re stressed, or the jackals are closing in, my wife and I use this as our rallying cry.

Back in the mid to late 80’s I lived in Boston with my brother Kyle in what can only be called drunken squalor. Good times. I was a musician/artist and Kyle was a deadhead. Music and partying were the most important things in life. In the slipstream of that lifestyle came an odd assortment of characters, good and bad, and both.

One of them was Mr. Butch.

There was a legendary nightclub in Kenmore Square called the Rathskeller, or the Rat as we all called it. The owner/host was rumored to be a Satan worshipping Aleister Crowley devotee, and was in possession of only half of his tongue. The Police played there before they were big (the place held maybe 200 people, but thousands now claim to have been at that show), as well as any punk band from the 70’s through the early 90’s.

It’s the rare homeless person that anyone would actually look forward to seeing, but Mr. Butch was just that. Sure, he’d try to bum a few bucks off of you. But he’d also be the first to offer you a hit off his joint, a beer if he had more than one, or access to any illicit substance that was in his power to offer. Aside from all that he was a lot of fun to just stand around and bullshit with. He was an entertainer, whether with a guitar or just a story.

He was not a horrible guitar player, eschewing technique for heart. I could have learned from this. He fronted one or two nasty little punk bands, opening for a handful of national acts at the Channel and the Rat. I remember one time at a Motorhead show he was crowd surfing and got tossed up on stage and Lemmy did not give Mr. Butch the customary kick in the head. Respect. Word.

Now this is all gone. I’m no longer chasing the music and I live a healthy, clean lifestyle.  The Deadheads have disbursed and god-fearing Kyle lives in Kentucky. The building that housed the Rat was leveled for a high falootin’ hotel. The Channel is gone. Mr Butch is dead from injuries received in a scooter accident.

My Boston was gone long ago.

Better to burn out than to fade away Brother! I’ll have one for my homie.
Doug Marlette
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The Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette died yesterday in a car accident. I didn’t know Doug well enough to call him a friend, but I had met him several times back when I was an excited, idealistic editorial cartoonist. He was always very supportive and encouraging to the younger guys who would love to have had his job.

Doug’s cartoons were powerful and to the point. There was not a lot of superfluous detail in either the drawing or the writing. In fact, he did what he did so well that it was easy for a young aspiring cartoonist to mistake what Doug did as being effortless. That’s the sign of someone hitting on all cylinders: When you can make someone who has no idea how you do it think “I could do that”.

The editorial cartoonist is quickly becoming as common as the blacksmith, with about as much importance and relevance. With his passing, Marlette leaves open a spot that may not be filled.
The Cannibal
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“I used to just sit on my bike, weeping in pain” – Eddy Merckx

Babe. Michael. Tiger. Lance. Say these names and nobody says “…who”? Virtually unknown here in the States but a legend in Europe, Eddy Merckx is the mountain on every bike racer’s horizon that none can climb, only pass by in a valley.

With over 500 wins in his career, Eddy was nicknamed “The Cannibal”, for his aggressive style of riding and winning. He achieved 5 Tour de France wins, including 34 stage wins and 96 days in the yellow jersey. He’s also the only man ever to win all three jerseys in one Tour (Yellow-Overall leader, Green-Sprint points winner, Polka Dot-Climbers points).He also won the Giro d’Italia 4 times, and the Vuelta once.

Most impressive for me though, are his Spring Classics victories. While the grand tours (the Giro, the Tour, and the Vuelta) are what most folks associate with bike racing, it is these one day winner take all races that are most exciting. Think of them as the bike equivalent of Ultimate Fighting, and you begin to get the picture. In one season, Eddy won 7 Classics, including the legendary Paris-Roubaix.

With all the doping scandal that infests this beautiful sport, it’s hard not to look back at Eddy’s dominance and think that maybe he was a pioneer in more ways than one. I prefer to just enjoy the idea that maybe he was just that good.

A word about the art:  One of the things I enjoy about having a blog is the opportunity to swerve off my usual path on occasion. I like simple drawing as much as I like the more rendered way my work usually appears. I've been an illustrator for many years, and this messing around with different ways to skin a cat is sort of like recess was in elementary school was for me.
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Stephanos is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!