Random Story Pages, No. 2

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From Dancers’ High (2009)- Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

The place thumped as they made their way through the gauntlet guard of bouncers, coat check girls, and waitresses in the small foyer. No cover to pay – they were regulars. No coats to check- they had parked close enough to leave their coats in the car and run to the door in the cold. No drinks yet – they hadn’t worked up a thirst.

Johnny Angel was pulled aside by one of the older guys whose dad was an alderman. Angel’s eyes narrowed as the guy asked if he and Duke could paint the ward office for him tomorrow, cash job, off the books. Angel was hearing this inquiry in one ear, and a song he really liked in the other. “You gonna be here for a while?” he yelled to the alder-son. “I’ll be back in a bit…” he followed up without waiting for an answer. He was backing onto the dance floor and as he hit the linoleum he spun into the middle of a foursome of girls, regulars. “Just in time!”one of them, a blonde , screamed over the music, which was building under their feet. It as a heavy bass riff, and the soles of Angel’s feet felt like rubber. the effect was catching, he looked over his shoulder and saw the Duke bouncing over to him like Sid Vicious, mid-pogo. Angel’s muscles were loosening now, and the first beads of sweat sparkled his brow. the DJ was looking at him, and Angel held the DJ’s eyes as well while the latter reached for the volume knob. Angel was bouncing in rhythm with an ocean’s wave of sound, already ceding his body to the music. Eyes still on each other, the two waited for the right moment, then Angel nodded.

The knob turned, and the tuned became impossibly louder. The joyous screams on the dance floor went seen but not heard, as the music welled up further and seemed to crash through the bones of those lucky enough to be on the floor in that place at that moment in time.

Angel’s and the DJ’s eyes had not left each other. The only change in the telekinetic dynamic was that both parties were now smiling widely.

-Danny Grosso

Alley Tags II

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Alley Tag 2 (2020). Spray paint on board. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

Near the lakefront you would see them trudging from the beach in summer, bottles and buckets in hand, using the alleys to avoid the sun’s further caress of sunburned shoulders. Lovers and sun worshipers, mothers cackling at unruly boys, fathers holding their daughters’ hands. Voices carry differently in alleys, they are the city’s accessible canyons, and the children loved to make their attempts at bouncing echoes. A strangeness in urbanity: yodeling in the long shadows of summer afternoons.

 

-Danny Grosso

Mud People, No. 14

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Mud People, No. 14. (2019). House paint on paper. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

Snow was bright and glittery when the disco black lights hit her. An ice queen melting on the dance floor; sometimes she’d start partying too early in the day and wilt into your arms by midnight. Carrying her out of a club, you couldn’t help noticing how classically beautiful she was, like a figure on an ancient urn, straight nose, monochrome, unblemished. The hard nightlife hadn’t yet extracted its tax on her looks. Her demeanor was resilient as well, more fiercely bubbly than champagne, her laugh more a guffaw than a giggle.

She lasted a long time in that state, in that life, before the reckoning tumbled in with the winds of changing weather. All those heartbreaks; the overdoses and other episodes of violence, the AIDS and other scourges that she somehow escaped but sat sat witness to, like an empath, as was just – her whole life was that life, those people, her crowd, now falling apart, unlike her.

I saw her soul hollowing, and didn’t want to see her ever again. I dreaded the thought of time changing her. I remain with the memory of Snow, undrifted.

 

-Danny Grosso

The Streets are Not the Same II

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Monroe (2006). Oil on Canvas. Artwork and Text copyright Danny Grosso.

There was once a restaurant here that was open for a hundred years, and a cantilevered sign on the corner that predicted the weather. Across the street, the sloping building with the Chagall mosaic on the outlot still attracts those worshiping a certain aesthetic deity. Sometimes people pray there.  A generations-old tale tells of a little girl who called the sloping structure “The Skateboard Building”, after musing about the feasibility of gliding down its curves on those little wheels. Over time, with the discard of several generic corporate re-namings, the nostalgia of the tale took hold, and now everyone uses the little girl’s name for the place. It used to be a big bank with thousands of people working inside, milling about with customers, sipping coffee in the interior promenade, and reading newspapers in the atrium. Such a quaint notion in these times of remoteness.  Banks are still around but they no longer need to employ so many people, certainly not for person to person servicing.

Before buildings became fortresses against outside threats of violence or contagion, they were open, even welcome meeting places with their own personalities and charms. If they were thought of as shelter, it was from the from the elements only, and, indeed, in inclement weather, workers would commute though a series of building lobbies to their destinations, thereby limiting exposure to the wind, rain, cold, or snow. Building security personnel did not carry weapons and did not turn away the uninvited. They were instructed to greet the public with kindness. It is said that nobody thought twice about freedom of movement back then, before the great walling off,  before the eyes in the skies, the surveillance web, and the personal chip that connects to all that. Apparently, they had no such infringements back then to clutter their minds.

 

-Danny Grosso

The Traveler, 1982-1991, Strip 2

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The Traveler, 1982-1991,  Strip 2. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

The Traveler first appeared in The Loyola Phoenix in 1982 under the title D.C.. Many of the original strips were damaged in the layout and printing process, so the author reworked them in 1990-91.

 

Danny Grosso

Another Political Bestiary, Ep. XXIV

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The Redactor (2019). Acrylic on paper. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

Continuing the expeditions of Jeff MacNelly, James Kilpatrick, and Eugene McCarthy, with apologies.

The Redactor

Focused, overly cautious, and slathered in black ink, the Redactor is a creature born of conflict that considers itself a peacemaker. The pads at its squared off extremities are highly evolved, with the help of black ink, to the task of obfuscating text. A lot of text. The creature works with important and often sensitive documents, upon instinct and at the behest of its superiors, blocking offending passages in uniform opaque bars of oblivion. It seems to think it is performing a vital service, perhaps producing a more peaceful world by shielding documentary subjects from uncomfortable publication. It does this with relish, and with the dedication of a programmed technocrat, although there is a theory that the creature may be a bit of a free spirited aesthete, as its work sometimes takes on interesting patterns that do not seem to correspond to traditional editorial practice or any logical construct. When overcome by either this artistic euphoria or extreme partisan caution, the Redactor can produce pages and pages of entirely obscured text, which, in an act of crass self promotion, it then offers up as fodder for op-ed columnists and internet memes.

 

Danny Grosso

Neon Moon, No. 2

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American Flag (Neon Mood, No. 2) (2019). Acrylic on paper. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

It was nice in here, long ago, when the news wasn’t on all day, when the channels on the tube above the register didn’t require a team sweater. Hard to pinpoint when it all changed, but there surely was a time when the customers made nearly the same amount of money, lived in the same kind of houses, shared the same sense of modesty. They looked out for the other guy, argued and made up, ostracized no one. Sure, over boilermakers they’d gossip, sometimes maliciously, but they’d come back the next day, sit at the bar together, start over. The resiliency of their relationship to the place, and to each other, was borne of hundreds of such instances. Now the only thing that seems unchanged is the wood paneling, the sleigh bells on the door, and the neon sign in the window. Red, then blue, then off for a sec; repeat ad infinitum.

When the real arguing started it seemed mundane, until people started leaving in bitterness, stopped showing up the next day, then the next.  The words had changed, knowing or snide commentary discarded in favor of brutal personal attacks. Instead of another fiver on the bar for the next round, a dollar tip, a look of disgust, and exile. Sometimes there was no interaction, the choice of news network was  compelling enough. Look at the T.V. , shake head, leave at once. “They have the real news on at the diner…” they’d say, and be off.

Nights are the worst now. Agitated by traffic, they come in looking for a fight, and always find it. It is a bunch of vehicles of hate in here then too, charging at each other, spewing the pungent but empty fumes of their fuelers, horns a’honking.

The barkeep had to weed the jukebox – the soon to be ex-regulars would squawk whenever a song came on by those girls from Texas that were ashamed of the second Bush; and heaven help the place if a tune featured a Spanish chorus.  He used to think it easy to find a song that would change the mood, but now he was afraid to feed the juke those dollar bills he’d smooth between his fingers. Everything is provocative when people are fed up, or angry, or confused, or ignorant, or all of the above. At least that’s what they say on the news, or what they used to say. Last week the barkeep unplugged the T.V. and threw it in the dumpster. The eerie blue light of the tube no longer interfered with the neon. Red, then blue, then off for a sec; repeat ad infinitum.

 

-Danny Grosso

The Streets are Not the Same I

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Madison (2006). Oil on Canvas. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso

Back then, when people stowed themselves in the Loop all day for work, there was a salon on the corner here where the lawyers used to come for pedicures. They would sit right in the window, and their pants, hiked up to the knee, exposed pale calves that glowed in the refracted light of the sun. Around the corner, under the tracks, the environment was entirely different – ten degrees colder under the shade of the El, dirty, grimy, and malodorous. The homeless sought refuge from the light and heat there, and the alleys collected their detritus. Before the pandemic years, before the government gave them pod homes, they slept out there in the mess. It may seem that a city would wish to disown those times, but rather, it seems to make a concerted effort to retain some of the look of the past, in a sanitized, Disneyland manner. Old light posts and metal beams are refurnished and installed along the street, faux-finished with rusty hue around the rivets. Dignified brass name plates decorate the stone facades, honoring firms once housed within. Their offices are entertainment spaces now, as there is no longer any reason for most workers to labor outside of their homes. The parade once visible several times a day here is diminished to a meandering gathering, without haste mostly, of gawkers. It is clean enough now on Madison to wear your best clothes and saunter about all day, like an Astaire flick from a century and a half ago. Doesn’t even have to be Easter – remember that holiday? Progress.

 

Danny Grosso