“Have it say, ‘To a fellow writer.'”

That’s what I said to Harvey Pekar as his black Sharpie hovered over a shiny American Splendor poster in 2003.

He sat in an unbalanced plastic folding chair, his plaid belly smashed against the card table, his hair a dry mess of brown grass, the bags under his eyes so heavy they would have required an extra $25 each to be loaded onto a United Airlines plane.

I stood over him in the Cleveland Heights video store wearing cargo shorts and a ripped T-shirt, my fingers twitching from whatever terrible short story I had been working on that morning at the Caribou coffee shop up the street.

When it was my turn in line to get an autograph, I just blurted it out: “Have it say, ‘To a fellow writer.'”

Now, I’ve said similar things to more-established writers, never feeling the slightest bit embarrassed. When David Sedaris autographed my copy of “Naked,” he wrote, “I look forward to reading your book someday.” (His underline.) Dave Eggers smiled and wrote me a thank you on the inside cover of “How We Are Hungry” for volunteering at 826 Chicago. Robert Bly scrawled something about being a writer in my beloved copy of “Hunger.” And I received a remarkable letter in the mail from Chuck Palahniuk when an ex-girlfriend told him at a reading that I was toiling away up in Fargo getting my MFA in writing.

But when I asked Harvey Pekar to autograph that poster “To a fellow writer,” the man dropped his forearm onto the table with such resentment and turned his entire body toward the talking penis above him with such disgust, by the time he shot me the evilist of evil eyes I had ever been the victim of, I was wishing I was instead blowing a party favor onto the bridge Robert Mugabe’s nose.

It was as if Pekar had punched me in the gut, pulled down my pants and played the “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” drum solo on my ass cheeks with a couple of hot spatulas.

All with a simple evil eye.

Both of us speechless, seconds passed like a Mel Gibson tirade: awkward, threatening and in need of a laugh track.

Defeated, Pekar sighed and slowly pushed his Sharpie across the bottom border of the poster: “To a fellow writer, Harvey Pekar.”

I walked out of the door both dazed and geeked.

I never did hang that poster, though.

It’s still rolled up in a tube, forever waiting to be framed.

But that eye, that evil eye of Pekar’s has meant more to me than any autograph I’ve ever stuttered for.

Because in that one moment, I wasn’t a fellow writer, but an object of such scorn that it was the author who probably remembered meeting me just as much as I remembered meeting the author.

I figure that’s a pretty tough feat.


Rest in peace, Harvey Pekar.

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GREG BOOSE grew up in northeast Ohio, got his MFA degree in Moorhead, MN, and now lives in Chicago. His writing has appeared on/in The Huffington Post,The Big Jewel, Yankee Pot Roast, Monkeybicycle, Opium Magazine, McSweeneys.net, Hobart, Feathertale, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, Chicago Reader, NFL.com and more. Along with his wife, he is the co-editor for BlackBook Magazine's guide to Chicago. He won the 2008 Readers' Choice Award and Editor's Choice Award for satire in Farmhouse Magazine.

You must be this tall to visit his website at gregboose.com.

Follow him on Twitter at Greg_Boose.

6 responses to “Your Evil Eye Will be Missed, 
Harvey Pekar”

  1. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Greg! I use lol sparingly and rofl even more so, but this deserves a roflmao because it’s absolutely true. I think this line is my favorite: “It was as if Pekar had punched me in the gut, pulled down my pants and played the ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ drum solo on my ass cheeks with a couple of hot spatulas.” RIP Pekar and his evil eye.

  2. Irene Zion says:

    All this time, Greg of the sexy horse,
    I thought that Pekar was drawing these pictures, but, alas, It turns out that his pictures look like those of R. Crumb, because they are pictures drawn by R. Crumb.
    I never knew that until he died.
    I loved him,
    and I love R. Crumb.
    You were lucky to be in his presence.

  3. Matt says:

    I’m so sad he’s dead. Our Cancer Year is one of those books I give to people who say comics are just for kids.

  4. Thoughtful piece, Mr. Boose. And in regards to Mr. Pekar, I’ll use the words of Paul Westerberg from The Replacements to convey my condolences:

    “God rest his guts.”

  5. 1159 says:

    Ah I loved Mr Pekar
    just for this reason.
    He was exactly who he was
    & he reminded us it was OK
    to be that.
    Harvey was my kinda guy.
    I love that honesty.
    Great story.

  6. Gratis billeder…

    […]Your Evil Eye Will be Missed, Harvey Pekar | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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