Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Scragging, Bolis’ Wedding & (157) ARTSY My Picassos

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Scragging, Bolis’ Wedding & (157) ARTSY My Picassos


The last three of my transcribed Shep Kid Stories done in a rough biographical chronology of his fictional kid-life, describe some of Shepherd’s movement from adolescence (“kid-dom”) toward the adult world of wider experiences and understanding. Some people may have seen parts of the last two stories. In the first of the three, scragging and a marriage come together in several parts. 


It’s the spring season—scragging season has begun.  You don’t know what “scragging” means?  You know it’s springtime, even if it’s cold—you know it’s spring!  And you know that old expression, “In the springtime, a young man’s fancy—.“  That is not propaganda, that is true.  Absolute truth.  And every spring at this time, the beat would go around.  I remember one specific afternoon, I’m waiting for the school bus, standing on the corner with Schwartz and Flick, and up comes Bolis.

Bolis walks up and says, “Hey, you guys.”

Flick says, “Yeah.”

And Bolis says, “How about goin’ scragging tonight.”

And Flick says, “Yeah.”

It’s like the first ballgame of the season.  The very first moment of spring, somebody comes up and says, “Hey, how about let’s go out and toss the ball around a little, heh?  Let’s get a little game goin’, heh?”  You get out there, you’re kind of stiff, the first game of the season.  You run around, it’s kind of cold, you’re running in the mud and all that.  It’s the first game, see!  And Flick says, “Yeah.”  We all know that scragging time has come again.

For those of you who don’t know what scragging is, I will have to tell you in exact and minute detail what scragging is, because it’s going on right this very minute!  I can guarantee you that there are six-thousand guys riding around out in the darkness of Jersey or Staten Island or Connecticut, and they’re scraggin’.

Scragging consists of this.  You come home from school, or later on, from work.  You have your supper—meatloaf, maybe kohlrabi, you have your ketchup—some of the great moments of truth in the culinary world—and then you go drifting out, giving your kid brother the slip.  Because, man, that’s one thing you will not do with your kid brother—you do not go scragging.  You go by yourself, with Schwartz and Flick and Brunner and Bolis.  That’s it.  We go drifting out.  We meet.

The guy who has the car is Flick.  Flick got this car when he was around fifteen.  And he has been rebuilding it and rebuilding it, and each one of us had taken turns grinding the valves, fixing the valve springs, we know every last inch of this car.  Flick’s car is always the focal point of scragging because scragging is a mobile sport.  Scragging is never done from a duck blind.




Admiring  my two original but minor Picassos above my Picasso-exclusive bookcase, I’ve just noted very different, unexpected aspects that makes them each, in their different ways, a bit artsy.

The Artist Portraying an Artist Admiring His Art

Way back when I was in my early twenties, and art could be had for a fraction of current prices, I went to a major chronological exhibit of Picassos shown in nine separate New York galleries, and I was converted into a Picasso-phile. Could I afford a minor work? I visited the Picasso Arts gallery on Madison and 80th Street and examined a number of Picasso’s hand-signed etchings from the “Suite Vollard,” a series of a hundred images he’d done in the mid-1930s. From a sub-grouping of forty titled “The Artist’s Studio,” I chose one I liked and could afford.

It shows a mature artist, his age and vigor expressed with just the simplest of lines, observing his recently made sculpted head. There are radiating lines surrounding him and his art, as if the art itself is aglow–an artwork referencing the artist admiring his art. Self-referential. Might I think of it as a kind of meta-art—and thus, a bit artsy?

An Artsy Response to a Commercial Request

I bought Picasso Toreros, a book with numerous reproductions of sketchy drawings of the bullring and bullfighters. It also includes original lithographs, meaning that these four are not mechanically printed reproductions, but were made individually from the original drawings on stone by Picasso.

All four were just meant to be black line drawings, but, as the story goes, the publisher made the sales-based request that Picasso add some color to one. Maybe a bit annoyed at such a non-art-based suggestion, Picasso chose a drawing depicting the bullring’s doors just open to the matador and his retinue, including picador on his horse–in the dim area, facing the sun-filled ring as they are about to parade out across the arena to begin the festivities. As a kind of witty response, he’d given the publisher a time-and-money printing expenditure, adding not just a couple, but roughly eleven more, colors. (This color litho I had the gallery cut from the book and frame for me.)

Regarding some color locations: browns for left doorway and horse’s saddle; yellow for arena’s sand; a curved, horizontal band of red for arena’s painted wooden fence; blue for the sky above the distant crowd in the stands.

The intense color blotches aren’t arbitrary. For me they represent the glaring effect on those enclosed in a kind of primal darkness, awaiting birth out of the bullring’s crowded passageway, as the doors of the waiting area are flung open to sunlight’s resplendence, bedazzling the eyes. It reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Pied Beauty,” writing, in his profound vision: “Glory be to God for dappled things—for skies of couple-color as a brinded cow,” then emphasizing his poem’s ravishing richness with the phrase “adazzle, dim.”

In this way, Hopkins seems to be playing with words—seriously and reverently—using the luxury of sound and meaning, as Picasso is playing with the luxury of color effect—his own, peculiar, adazzle.

Artist and poet each playing with his medium

in a seriously artsy fashion.



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