[With apologies to my vomit-averse friends and fans.]
I barfed a lot as a kid. I wasn’t the only one, either; I always had company in the grade school nurse’s office. I don’t think we as a people had totally figured out what to feed our children in the 1970s; parents were relatively cavalier, and supplied their offspring with whatever was handy between job shifts. Once, at a sleepover party, I toasted a marshmallow for a S’More over a Tiki Torch. I spent the entire night painting the toilet with puke.
Vomit was so ubiquitous when I was in school, the janitor kept special pink dust in his closet that reeked like wintergreen urinal cakes, and made barf easier to clean up once tossed upon it. When I sang in church choir, a girl in the row in front of me barfed on the back of a girl’s head in front of her, and even though the girl who barfed was escorted to the bathroom, the girl barfed upon finished the hymn, with a big pile of barf on her hair. This is like 35 years ago, and I still think that’s the most hardcore thing I’ve ever seen.
On any school field trip to New York City, you would see barf. Not on our bus, mind you; on the filthy, gum-speckled sidewalks of the Big Apple. Commuters and New Yawkers would breakfast at some rat-infested pretzel or wiener kiosk, walk a few blocks breathing a bouquet of bus exhaust and piss mist, and before you know it BLEFFFFF all over the pavement. Drivers would kick open their car door and do a Jackson Pollock on the hot asphalt. I’m not exaggerating, folks. It was a long time before NYC did anything about the endless piles of dog shit, too, and catching a whiff could easily buy you a ride on the porcelain bus.
Despite the preponderance of Old Salts on my dad’s side of the family, I do not possess “sea legs”. I am a landlubber. I live in a land-locked region, by choice. The oceans of this planet are organisms beyond our true understanding. Plus, we have poisoned the living shit out of them in the past quarter-century, and they hate us. We can’t breathe in them, they taste horrendous, and they’re all crammed with terrible monsters. I admire my relations’ ease of dealing with the seas, but I myself am a complete milquetoast when it comes to boats, sailing, or fishing. Ten minutes on the ocean in a boat smaller than a cruise ship, and I am hurling and staggering about like a half-dead foal.
A high school chum of mine once went whale-watching, with his family. He told me that when they returned to their chairs on the boat deck, after observing whales at the railing, someone had left a perfect pile of barf on one of the seats. You could buy rubber vomit for pranks back in the ’80s, and if it didn’t curl up at the edges (thus proving its falseness), no one would go near it. There were “barf scenes” in mainstream movies like Stand By Me and The Witches of Eastwick. I sincerely believe that we used to think puke was so funny because we had to deal with it so regularly.
A huge percentage of early Garbage Pail Kids cards depicted vomit. It became a series trademark. It even made it into the god-awful, unwatchable Garbage Pail Kids Movie, in 1987, with (who else?) “Valerie Vomit”.
In fifth grade, I had to work around the banning of Garbage Pail Kids sticker cards at my school, so I learned to draw my own replicas. By association, I learned to draw vomit, in great detail. In 2004 it all paid off, when GPK co-creator Jay Lynch asked me to ghost some card backs for Topps. The following images contain my pen-and-ink art, excepting the lettering (either Jay’s or computer-added) and the flip book. (I didn’t write the jokes or rough the strips, either.) There is no describing the rush of buying and opening a pack of trading cards, and seeing something you drew. How I wish the gig would have gone on forever. Jay Lynch was tops.
I was paid handsomely to draw pictures of barf and toiletries. If that wasn’t a dream job, I don’t know what is. Follow your bliss, folks. (Also, I still didn’t quite know what I was doing, and all I can see are the places where I screwed up. Let’s move on, shall we?)
I haven’t thrown up in a while now. I rarely “stunt drink” anymore, which is a prime form of ipecac. Panic attacks often come with dry heaves, but nothing of substance, much like the attacks themselves. Sometimes I am exposed to the asinine junk that Disney calls “Star Wars” and I feel like throwing up, but that’s more of an ethical revulsion. Back when I used to write about candy for Halloween, that’s a safe bet for the last time I hurled. I don’t think I can keep writing about this, and I’m attempting to wrap it up somehow. I’m actually starting to feel nauseous.
Thanks for metaphorically holding my hair while I got it all out of my system.