Silly Savage

Since the behavioral health unit prohibits photography, and because Abuelita used to draw and paint me, I suggest to my uncle that I sketch him.

Abuelita painted this portrait of a Mayan head, who is probably “resting his eyes” which means, no, you can’t change the TV channel. He’s listening. The Mayan learned this trick from DAD.

When I’d sit for Abuelita’s portraits, she’d keep me frozen by telling me fairytales set during the Mexican Revolution, fairytales in which revolutionaries raped nuns, villagers found baby skeletons in abandoned convent walls, and orphans became the secret ingredients in the most tender and succulent tamales. Her stories paralyzed me with terrified joy. Her stories, combined with a childhood adjacent to Neverland Ranch, developed my taste for grotesque fun.

Sitting beside my uncle in the main hall, sunlight from the solarium gently striking our faces, I slide my sketchpad from my bag.

“Remember, I asked if I can I draw you?”


“Want me to do it now?”


“You want me to draw you front or profile?”


He bends shoulders back. Turkey wattle jiggles as jaw tightens. The tension in his chin is taking art seriously.

While I doodle, a lady sitting across from us struggles to keep from laughing at the hilarious tragedy happening in her head.

We both ignore her.

A little embarrassed by the drawing, it verges on Muppet, I ask my uncle, “Wanna see?”


“It looks like an uncle,” groans my uncle.

“Son of a bitch!” I think. “It does look like an uncle!”

Sample sentence: The avuncular drawing was, well, avuncular.

Avuncular art criticism poured forth.

I jotted his pourings:

“Looks like Buddy Ebsen from Davy Crockett.”

An avuncular pioneer.

“Looks like Abraham Lincoln on the head of a coin.”

An avuncular profile!

We also agree that the sketch looks like a puppet, an avuncular one, and I ask, “Do you wanna do another?”


I doodle as a very tall man in blue, no shoelaces, giraffes over. My uncle says, “Hello H…” and I realize that the tall man shares a name with the very tall, but mostly invisible, rabbit Elwood P. Dowd could see.

Elwood P. Dowd admiring a portrait of himself posing with his BRF.

This is one of my BRFs. Thank god, he’s normal size for a rabbit. Otherwise, he’d be the boss. Isn’t his face avuncular?

“I like to make friends,” says the rabbit’s namesake. He sits beside a wisp of a young woman wearing a One Love tank top. He  explains, “If you think about Bob Marley enough, you will meet him. That’s how I met Selena. I thought about her a lot and then I saw her at the Cesar Salad Parade.”

“I don’t know about that,” she doubts. “Musta been before my time.”

“You watch cartoons? I like Riley Coyote. He chases rabbits.”

“I’m done,” I say. “Wanna see it?”


My uncle says:

“Looks like Captain Hook the pirate.”

“Looks like Thomas Jefferson.”

He brings gender into it, “The eyelashes are too girly.”

I nod but don’t tell him that those are his lashes and a lot of people would do stupid things to have them.

I ask, “Wanna do another?”


I get to work doodling. My uncle holds his pose. The rabbit namesake is telling One Love, “Pepé Le Pew Syndrome. I call it Pepé Le Pew Syndrome.”

As I move the pencil, I think, “Pepé Le Pew Syndrome. What a wonderful name for obsessive love.”

I finish pretty quickly. I’m loosening up.

“Wanna see it?”


His eyes twinkle with more pleasure than they did when I showed him its forebearers.

“I think this one’s better,” I admit. “I’m warming up. What do you think?”

He snarks:

What is the opposite of avuncular? Avauntular? Because I have deleted an aunt’s name that came at the end of the statement, “Looks like…”

“Well,” I defend my abilities, “she is your sister. Wanna do another?”


“Okay, let’s do one from the front.”

I spin my chair around and sketch my uncle from the front.

I finish and show him.

“I think you can really see our Slavic roots shining through in this one,” I say, but, in an avuncular tone, he disagrees:

“Silly savage!” I echo.

“All it needs is a headband,” he says and points where he would strap the Indian accessory.

Though not PC, silly savage brings us back to Abuelita’s Maya and the high likelihood that my uncle and I share some sort of Mexican Indian blood, not Aztec, but probably Chichemeca, a.k.a. Those Who Eat Dogs With Their Uncles.

Here, uncle, you take the first bite.



  1. I’ve never seen your uncle, but your drawings are terrific. You’ve always been a talented artist. I’ll steal anything for you, anything you want, even the SMI MintMan, If you’ll sketch me.I don’t care if I turnout avuncular!

    I love hearing of your time with your sweet uncle. Such a special relationship you two have.

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