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New Pen Pal

March 7, 2018

4RobBlank

I’ve known Rob Blank for twenty two years. Gotta give him props for reciting his very difficult poems from memory. Whether they are good or not I’ve not discerned. I don’t think he’s really concerned about it, or what anyone thinks. I have to admit I don’t even know if he’s aware of his local celebrity as a character on the street. But there’s no doubt about the love, and the felt connection he expresses to so many of us.

The only two monikers I’ve heard others refer to him as “Acid Rob,” and “Precious Love.” The latter being his trademark greeting, with arms in the air flashing the double peace sign with his hands. If you plug his name, along with the town he lives in in That There Imperious Search Engine (TTISE), in the Images section,  the only thing showing his face is from a brief part (contained in a less brief article) about the local mental hospital facing the chopping block. He is turned towards a case worker, with enthusiastic, perhaps euphoric engagement with her. The next image over is a picture from Kansas History of William S. Burroughs standing on his porch at his house on Leonard St. next to poet (one of my favorites and a friend of mine), Jim McCrary, and underground cartoonist, S. Clay Wilson, followed by two pics of Rob’s dad per his 2012 death; followed by a pic featuring the Lawrence Moderns, a social group enthusiastic about modern, especially mid-century modern, architecture…and the photo bucket devolves, er, features less humans. I was hoping to find an amazing color drawing print done of Rob about 9 or ten years ago, by once Lawrence-based Kenneth Kupfer. But Kenneth is likewise not a self-promoter. In any case, I wanted potential viewers and loyal “honorary pubes” to appreciate this cat, my new pen pal, Rob Blank [Jr.] In addition to his greeting he is usually recognized in his tall lanky slightly hunchbacked frame, often spoken a cigar and wearing a low tipped, wide brimmed, but I wouldn’t say cowboy, hat.

4RobBlank 3

4RobBlank 4

These are mine. Rob and I aren’t close confidants, but it never takes very long talking to him to spark those warm feelings, usually by talking about a topic that we share interest in. I trust that’s still the big friend -organizing force (only half kidding, I still have friends I see in person).  He doesn’t hesitate to say, “God Damn, Creed! I love you.” The fact that we aren’t regularly close friends, and that he is often medicated to manage whatever form of what we still call Schizophrenia, made it easier for me to feel I was creating space for him to express and interact. Truth is I knew that whatever he would respond with would tickle my embodied attention span, and perhaps allow him to feel heard, though, again, I have no idea how much that matters.

Over the last few years, I have noticed his interest in the “wild west”, particularly gun slingers like Wild Bill Hickok and Doc Holliday. I believe now that this seeming revival may be due to his dad’s recent passing –those in the know please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong– because of at least one old west-themed vacation spot his dad took him on. In any case, this narrative American mythological hub, is nothing to ignore. For one thing, I don’t think you can separate its enduring existence and appeal from the violence culture we have know. I myself had an old west phase in my early teens, which may have started as a result of a role playing game. Through one of the games organizers, who now runs a reputable commercial design company based in Kansas City and/or Portland, I learned of Doc Holliday and his brutal 8 gauge shotgun.  (The 8 gauges were deadly, and are not made anymore due to their technological obsolescence). It was a delight to hear Rob speak of it. I had thought about the character of Holliday a handful of times in my adulthood, but never had any reason to hear it brought up among any of my ostensibly diverse sets (!) of friends, family and peers.

One day, after Rob retold to me his excitement of the examples of Hickok’s marksmanship, I didn’t hesitate to ask him if he’s seen Deadwood, Only the greatest TV show ever made. He answered no, but looked at me with his typical maniacal joy. He has never shown any interest in contemporary, 21st century or any TV. (But I have so much to learn about him). I told Rob that he has to see it, and I promised Rob that next time I saw him, I’d recite a line from it (“the jurors may recess in the whores’ room,” was what I told him, or something like that). And then we exchanged our good bye greetings to each other: “precious love”!

4 RobBlank2

Regrettably this correspondence took place during a showing of Rob’s artwork, that I wasn’t able to spend to much time with, at the cafe where I usually run into him. But I got enough of an impression of it –mostly paintings with some mixed media– to expect an interesting response to my letter (the contents now forgotten and/or withheld).  So here it is below.

FromRob 1

FromRob 2

From Rob 3

FromRob 4

From Rob 5

I admit, I can’t make out very many words, but find the handwriting beautiful. If you would like to enter a contest to transcribe or transliterate, you will receive a special gift package from Enduring Puberty Press, and a free copy of Issue 2 of EPP’s annual literary, visual and epistolary art review. And more bonuses if you can plausibly identify an art tradition that this handwriting belongs to.

Keep a watchful dude’s eye for future installment of Rob and my correspondence.

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