NORFOLK PANO

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I've just learned that smiter is a word. As in "one who smites". I had thought that was an activity reserved for deities, but evidently not. I think I would like to be a smiter. As opposed to constantly being smitten. I think it would be very satisfying, when someone asks, "Hey, whatever happened to so-and-so?" to announce "Oh, I smote him. I smote him good." I'm guessing that smiting would consist of something like whacking over the head with a truncheon. But where would you get a truncheon these days? I'd probably have to resort to a three-hole punch, which wouldn't be very romantic, or very effective, for that matter. The smitee would probably just rub his or her head and say "cut it out!" I'd ask God to smite people on my behalf, but I don't want to wipe out whole civilizations, just individuals. I'm afraid His record on that score is a bit spotty. I don't want to add the deaths of thousands of innocent people to my list of regrets.

FESTIVITIES

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The other day I stumbled upon this touching little event held at the edge of a rubble-strewn vacant lot downtown. The dedication, or something, of a huge, for Norfolk, new condo development that will one day, evidently, resemble a miniature Empire State Building. Wouldn't it be great if, on opening day, they had a crowd of Little People stream out the front doors? Don't hold your breath. Developers are a humorless bunch. I didn't see any dignitaries at this event, but they were bound to show up. There was a dais, aned daises draw dignitaries like flies. There were also a few balloons, drifting desultorily from tent poles. Nothing says "festivities" like a few lonely balloons. People cruising the area looking for festivities will spot them immediately. Someone in the back seat will lean forward. "Balloons at ten o'clock!" they'll announce, and slap the driver on the back of the head, much as a bazooka loader would. At least that's how it plays out in my mind's eye.

GUESS WHAT I'M EATING, WIN A DRAWING

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Okay, guys, the picture provides clues to the answer. You don't just make wild guesses, like last time. Also, the picture won't be this one, because it's stuck in the middle of a bound sketchbook, and if I remove it, then one day all the other pages will indolently flutter to the ground, almost certainly while it's raining. But it'll be a good one, I promise.

ONE ODD CONDO

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This is the Rotunda, which has in common with other rotundas a certain circularity and little else. And we're going to pack that sucker with upwardly mobile types who fancy themselves urban sophisticates but make sure that door's locked, will ya, for crissakes? It's a jungle out there. In its current state as a prickly rickety-looking tower of sticks looking like some obsessive backyard sculptor crafted it over several decadesl, it's interesting to contemplate. When it's spanking clean and turned into a hive of emptyheads, somewhat less so.

Sparky "Bah Humbug" D

THROUGH A BRUNCH, DARKLY

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The word "brunch" bypasses my conscious mind entirely, and goes right to those synapse-things between my individual nerves, causing involuntary twitches and guttural vocalizations. Nevertheless, it can't be avoided, especially if I continue to patronize the one at San Antonio Sam's, which I do, drawn by a dish called "Migas", which, when chemically combined with a Bloody Mary, releases all sorts of whatchamacallits, pheremones, giving me an oceanic sense of peace, which nicely cancels out the aforementioned nerve storm. No, not pheremones, that's smelly stuff. Oxycontin, it releases the natural oxycontin in my system. An inevitable by-product of this exercise is the sketch of Sam's patio and its patrons; inevitable because when I come here alone, I have to sketch so as not to appear to be an abject loser sitting by oneself at a brunch--on the contrary, I'm an artist at work, and brunch companions would just be an annoying distraction from my labors. As it happened, I needn't have worried this weekend, for I was still basking in the glow of a highly active Friday night, which included, among other events, downing beers with a bunch of old coots at the neighboring Italian "eatery", where they had gathered to admire a "rack", which I took to be the wine selection, and, to tell you the truth, I didn't find it all that impressive. But that's neither here nor there. Well, it might be there, but it's not here, for sure. The upshot being, there was no need to pose as an abject loser this weekend, having already been infected with that damn bonhomie.

HIGH WIND, DOO-DAH PARADE

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You'd think I'd be a big fan of this kind of endeavor, but somehow it doesn't reach me. Now if there were random spontaneous Doo-Dah Parades bursting out from time to time, that would be pretty cool. Or like one-man Doo-Dah Parades within an office, on a whim, that would fit the bill. But nonsense co-opted isn't proper nonsense somehow. The best thing about this year's parade was the wind. It carried numerous oddball hats into unrelated contingents, and you'd often see a bald-headed clown frantically fighting his way through a Dixieland band trying to get to his orange wig before it was run over by the street-cleaning brigade. Good times.

SUPERSTRUCTURE

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First, a disclaimer: like everyone, I am saddened by the killings at Virginia Tech, and I wish they hadn't happened, and I hurt for the parents, who have suffered an unimaginable loss. But for the last several days, I have heard several commentators intone in their gravest voices, "Today we are all Hokies," and every time I hear it, God help me, I laugh. Hokies. It sounds like they're saying, "today we are all morons." If this had happened at the University of Baltimore, would these guys be pronouncing, "Today we are all Super Bees"? Or at Cal-Irvine, "Today we are all Anteaters"? My powerful adolescent Sparky sarcasm is aimed not at the victims, I repeat, but at the news dopes who claim to speak for the entire American people. Katie Couric was a notorious practitioner of this bit of annoying rhetoric. She would benedict some poor schmo with the solemn condolences of the entire country, and then scoot over to a neighboring set and be instructed in how to firm up her tummy in 15 minutes a day. We're so awash in spin and recrimination and self-consciousness and low attention span and media overkill these days that it's hard to take a moment and experience a pure, simple, sincere emotion. I do have to say, though, that if we all had to make the daily affirmation, "We are all morons," nothing but good would come of it.

FIRST REAL DAY OF SPRING

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This is the day when you step outside and say, "Okay, it's finally here for real. No more tricks." That primitive part of us that was hibernating through the false alarms now prepares to go skipping through the meadows distributing flower petals on the breeze. I speak metaphorically, of course. Me, I headed for Granby Street Pizza and slobbered over piles of cheese 'n' grease out on the patio. What a gauntlet of construction barriers I had to navigate to get there, though! The Acme Orange Plastic Cone Company must be awash in Halliburton-style profits right now, all due to Norfolk. Maybe they can afford to relocated in Dubai now, too. On the other hand, they may be in a death struggle with A-1 Orange Barrel With Silver Stripes Company, which seems to be making inroads. I bet the cone company could regain the upper hand if they installed motion sensors in their cones with pre-recorded messages, so when someone passed by, they'd hear "Hot enough for ya?" or "Nice rug" or "What's that smell?" or "Are you wearing a thong?" You know, the kind of thing that brightens people's day and makes them glad to be alive.

Good thing I'm an ace proofreader. The sentence above originally read, "Are you wearing a thing?" Which changes it utterly.

ON MAIN STREET

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Sometimes the discordance between man-made geometries and the winter tree branches through which we see them causes my nervous system to go buzzy, like one of those electronic football games from my childhood where the playing field vibrated noisily, sending the players skittering in all directions. On the other hand, maybe it's because I'm all hopped up on bennies.

MAN VS. NATURE (WITH SALMON, POLENTA & GRILLED VEGETABLES

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A dark, rainy day in Norfolk, rare here although par for the course in godforsaken places like Ohio. People look more thoughtful in the rain, with their heads down and brows furrowed. But it's just an illusion; they're still thinking things like, "man, my anus itches!" I'll bet even the First Lady thinks that sometimes. It's the great leveler. Okay, enough of that, or else I risk Laura telling me to shut up, and no one wants that. This was drawn, by the way, looking out the window of Nordstrom's Cafe at the height of lunchtime, and the place is full of ladies of a certain age. I mean packed. In your average restaurant, the ambient noise consists of a nice well-modulated burble of human voices, but because of the narrow demographics present here, the pitch has been raised a couple of octaves and definitely has a sharper timbre. It would be needlessly cruel to evoke the image of a henhouse, so I will refrain from doing so, due to my extraordinary sensitivities. But I'm just sayin.

BANK & MAIN, EARLY MORNING

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You know what I would do if I were the founders of YouTube? I would buy Douglas MacArthur's remains and also his staff car, and then I would set up the car with him sitting in it at a busy downtown corner. And then have a bumper sticker on the staff car that says, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." That would be awesome.

Note to non-Norfolkians: Several years ago, Norfolk won a bidding war for MacArthur's remains, which now reside in the old City Hall, now called the MacArthur Memorial, along with his staff car and a bunch of memorabilia.Old soldiers never die, they just go to the highest bidder.

CORNER OF THE DELI

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How did this ever come into being? I'm talking about the following sentence construction: "Not to be rude, but ( insert something rude here )." You know, where you announce in the first half of the sentence that you're not going to violate conventions of social interaction, and in the second half you proceed to do just that. How does anyone get away with that? It's like being approached on the street by someone who says, "I'm not going to rob you. Give me all your money." As if they believe that they won't be held responsible for their rudeness if they changed the definition ahead of time or something.

Okay, I know, yet another post that has absolutely nothing to do with the drawing it accompanies. Well, what is there to say about a stack of boxes? Maybe I should have pretended some guy stepped from behind them and said to me, "Not to be rude, but..."

THINGS I SAW YESTERDAY

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Not just yesterday, but within the span of about 20 minutes! That's the kind of crazy adventurous life I lead. Just one thing after another. The mayhem began at the crack of dawn. While I was walking to the bus, I discovered my shirt collar buttons were unbuttoned! And I couldn't for the life of me get them buttoned! And here comes the bus! The tension was so thick it was like a thigh. The problem was, the night before, in a freak accident, I tore off the leading edge off my thumbnail, an essential tool in the complex process of buttoning a shirt-collar button. Okay, let me temper that a little. It was a freak accident only in that it involved me. It was a fairly common accident involving, okay, a zipper. And it was only a nick. But nicks bother me to the point where I'm not a fully-functioning human being until I even out the crescent using a sophisticated chewing process. By the time I've achieved perfect symmetry, it usually involves the loss of the entire nail and a quarter inch of actual thumb material. But I have learned over the years that it eventually grows back, like half a worm. That said, it makes the task of buttoning shirt-collar buttons the equivalent of an elephant sending a text message. So, point being, I lead quite an eventful life, kind of like the guy in that movie Crank, who has to keep his adrenaline level above a certain point or else something really bad happens, like the movie gets really dull. Okay, you youngsters out there: the above is what happens when you drink a double espresso first thing in the morning.

THE PRODIGAL MOLESKINE

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It was lost, and now is found. My moleskine, that is, not the big old house on the corner of Raleigh and Stockley Garden. I suppose I should spank the fatted calf (I'm not using the k-word on the off chance that my little friend Andy, who works for PETA, is reading this. Andy wears chaps, but that's another story.) Maybe I'll just crack a can of California Black Olives. Then my clipboard with the laser paper in it who has remained steadfast and never gotten lost won't feel jealous that I'm making such a fuss over my little Italian friend, because he don't eat no olives. Amazing how I remember all those stupid little Bible stories that I got drilled into my vulnerable little skull at such a tender age. Don't know about you, but we received a little Bible comic book in every Sunday school with an uplifting little Bible story. Wasn't that underhanded? But it didn't fool any of us. There were way too many words and no cleavage. And every sentence ended with a reference to a relevant Biblical passage, as if we were sitting with the comic book balanced on one knee and the Bible on the other, so we could find out just why Esau was an hairy man, but Jacob was a smooth man. As if.