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Risen Apes: Little Pink Houses

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Risen Apes: Little Pink Houses

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S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 75-year-old boomer. In “Little Pink Houses,” Park talks about new homes in his neighborhood, downsizing, and past drinking years.

Developers have cut down the northwest corner of the woods next to me and divided it into eight lots. The four nearest the street are all 50 X 100 feet, and the first three already have homes on them.

And they’re all painted grey. Lighter and darker shades of grey certainly … but grey nonetheless.

Why would anyone want their house to be the same color as a neighbor’s? Hell: why would anyone want anything of theirs to look like someone else’s? (It’d shame me to live there and I’m a wino hotel guy.)

Then construction began on the fourth house a couple months ago. I was walking past yesterday when I noticed a woman straightening lumber in the yard.

I stopped, dared to intrude on her OCD reverie.

“Say,” I said, “are you the owner of that home?”

She looked up. I couldn’t read her expression (she was wearing a mask, of course, even outside in the middle of the woods), but she seemed friendly enough.

“Why, yes,” she said. “Are you a neighbor?”

I pointed to my house, peeking from the cedar trees a hundred yards east.

“That’s me up the street,” I said, “which is why I’d like to ask you a favor.”

“Oh yes?” she said. “What’s that?”

“Please don’t paint your house grey.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Because I’ve gotta look at these places every day and the other three are grey already. People are calling this ‘Conformity Corner’.”

“How rude. Who came up with that name?”


She shook her head, returned to making sure everything in the yard was parallel to everything else.

“Don’t worry about my house,” she huffed. “It may be blue, it may be green, but it definitely won’t be grey.”

I bowed in appreciation.

“Much thanks,” I said. “Your neighbors salute you.”

Then yesterday I came home from an afternoon and evening at my buddy Mungo Jerry’s place and what color has she painted her house?


It left me speechless, which was more or less the point I guess.


Ah well … I’ll move a block west soon enough. My friend Luke’s building the cabin I’ll rent this Fall and the first time I saw its 12 X 20 dimensions I was shocked. Even suggested we invite local teens to visit after I’ve moved in, show them where losers who don’t save or estate plan end up.

He was less amused than the Conformity Corner gal; in the meanwhile I’ve gotta get rid of most of my belongings to fit in there. (I could go the yard sale route except Hobo’s lion’s cage is the only thing anyone would want and even that’s a tossup.)

Also on The Big Smoke

So yesterday I gave away my R. Crumb collection, thirty volumes that included biographies, The Complete Crumb Comics, various books he illustrated, Gotta Have ‘Em (Portraits of Women), his placemat doodles in France and (my favorite) a volume of letters entitled Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me.

They were difficult to part with (he’s been my pen-and-ink mentor), but not as hard as my Bukowski library will be. It, too, consists of thirty volumes, and attached as I am to all of them there’s five—Notes of a Dirty Old Man, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness, Post Office, Factotum and Mockingbird Wish Me Luck (all held together by tape and spit a half century later)—that I’m conflicted about.

It’s not that I read them anymore, but how much I once did. They went everywhere with me at the end of my psychedelic wino years (’74 – ’76), in fact, the first addition to my hobo ensemble (a portable typewriter, a change of underwear and a pint of whiskey) in years.

Because if Crumb changed how I crosshatched Buk’s books changed my life. Suddenly, after a decade pursuing one writing genre or another (even Westerns and Science Fiction at one point), I read Erections and Notes of a Dirty Old Man and there it was: my ticket was stamped, I’d been my own story all along. (I was just as big a drunk as Bukowski, I ate psychedelics like breath mints and my experiences were even crazier.)

So it followed that if readers liked his stuff they’d love mine and—better yet—the stories would write themselves!

Uh huh. I badly miscalculated on that one, but at least I had something to do for the next forty years. What’s important is my literary hero was a drunken lout, too, and that was heartening when I’d wake in those seedy hotel rooms, the d.t.’s afoot, and reach for the pint.

Somewhere my muse was gagging into a wastebasket, too.


I’ve spoken to a number of old friends recently who are suffering from booze-related infirmities in their seventies (pancreatitis, cirrhosis, swollen prostates, neuropathy, etc.), and I might be more empathetic if it weren’t for their long runs as drunks.

I was pretty sure alcohol would kill me back in the day, of course (probably because I drank so much of it). Lonesome Louie extended me the best deal any alkie writer could imagine (room and board and free drinks), but when he realized how much whiskey that entailed he sought council from my “buddy” Ned Gumbo.

It might have been the only time anyone went to that Schadenfreude for advice, and he quickly convinced Louie that he should limit me to a pint-a-day.

I was outraged. I tried to up it to a quart, then a fifth, and when Lonesome wouldn’t budge I told him we were through, that I couldn’t work under those conditions.

And sure, I hit him up for two hundred in “severance pay” afterwards, but a pint-a-day not being enough for my purposes?

It’s no wonder they weren’t the dating years.


S.M. Park is the author and illustrator of his memoirs High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.


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S.M. Park

S.M. Park lives two blocks from the Salish Sea in Port Townsend, Washington. His passions include walking, wondering and weed. Park, in his guise as Wilson High, has written and illustrated two memoirs, High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.

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