I have a dim recollection of my friend Peggy’s house: mustard-colored furniture, macramé galore and the whish-and-slap of corduroy bell bottoms on shag carpeting. Typical of the late 70s. But two of the most important lessons of my formative years were learned there.
First, there was never any bologna to make us sandwiches because Peggy’s dad would eat the whole package every time her mom bought it. I thought, how great it must be to be a grown up and stand in front of your fridge wolfing down as much lunchmeat as you want, whenever you want, and not get into trouble for it. (As an adult I’ve achieved that dream many times over, though I can’t say it’s been entirely without consequence.)
Second, they had cool magazines like Mad and Cracked. (At my house, we had Reader’s Digest and Grit.) One ad in particular in the back of Rolling Stone made it worth every sandwich-free visit. It was an ad for a t-shirt emblazoned with The Last Great Act of Defiance and featured a line drawing of a mouse flipping the bird at a swooping hawk. I’ve been unable to find the artwork as I remember it so this image will have to do.
The image I saw back then was spare yet kinetic. The mouse was facing the hawk in 3/4 profile, its “finger” more obvious and aggressive. It suggested to me both the inevitability of being crushed by life and the joyous freedom of rebellion in the face of it. Plus, it had a cartoon middle finger on it! It was the height of transgressive art. (And bird flipping.)
It may sound silly, but that simple image sent me a powerful message, like the one I got from the knights who say Ni or the one I got from watching the Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime video on MTV’s progenitor, the Blue Jean Network. “We’re out here. We get you. You’re not alone. There’s something more.”
Maybe that’s why I have hundreds of t-shirts and wear them as other people wear religious items. They show my faith in humor, absurdity, art and offbeat self-expression. I try to laugh as much as possible. Can you have a bad thought while you’re laughing at something funny? In my experience, no. Throw in a few slices of bologna and I’m in heaven.