It’s been my dubious pleasure to illustrate the warts-’n’-all stories of OC life readers have been sending in for two decades now. They’re tales of a sleepy, coastal farming area that suddenly got paved over by powerful interests and replaced with a dense, reassuring stucco grid punctuated by glass and steel monoliths, cut through with freeways, and injected with hurry—definitely an insecure upstart of a place, always comparing itself to its big, dirty, sprawling metropolitan neighbor up the road a bit, wrenched into a desperate and vain state of modernity and wealth without enough time to shuck its cowboy boots or the attitudes that filled them.
Hey, You! is the access hatch that reveals a sometimes-not-very-reassuring profile of the wide range of people dwelling in this pressure cooker, surrounding us everywhere, running loose with the verbal skills of a berserker on Red Bull: angry, explosive, inarticulate rants filled with vague threats and bile. There are stories of ire, offense, love, lust, impatient shoppers and abused food-service workers, revenge imagined or real, aggressive cyclists, theft, hit and run, and unwanted religious advances. There are bad bands; overamorous dogs; cheated musicians; lurkers; teenage PATRIOT Act violators; and a steady supply of road-rage scenarios, acts of heinous rudeness, dishonesty, infidelity, not to mention drug, verbal and animal abuse. Yet stories of redemption, touching personal encounters, and acts of human kindness and beauty have filled the column with nearly as much frequency—go figure.
Once-lengthy rants have now been shrunk to concise blurbs by the current economics of print media (still the main means of viewing by readers of this column), so I included with the following drawings synopses of their accompanying stories—or sometimes something pithy. These are the 20 or so finalists from nearly a thousand tales I’ve illustrated over 20 years. CLICK HERE for three complete stories I contributed. I hope you like the drawings.
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Not that we seek out or dwell on them, but Hey, You! has never been about avoiding particular issues or sugarcoating stories of the human condition. It’s a broad, sociological slice, folks. Thus we’ve had life’s more, well, organic, sometimes icky, creepy moments submitted to us over the years. Here are a few slides from that particular and, oddly, experientially unifying petri dish.
A slightly fed-up reader sent a message warning of the unsavory hygiene habits of the chef at the favorite bistro of an annoying food snob.
Trapped: One guy lets one rip fragrantly outside his car after lunch, unaware until moments later there was another guy sitting in the car parked next to his in the garage; the window was partway down, and the air in those parts mighty still. This is from the victim’s perspective.
There was the pub crawler who mistook an Italian restaurant for just another place to get puking drunk, ruining the experience (and clothing) of a guy who only wanted a good dinner.
One person wrote in about a surreal encounter with the notorious Pedobear roaming OC’s back-alley nightspots.
There was shock, disbelief and revulsion upon discovering an already-read letter in French in one’s mailbox.
A guy imaginarily threatened to gift his neighbor a giant Close Encounters-style Devil’s Tower crafted from the volumes of poop left in his yard by said neighbor’s dog.
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Let’s hear it for our feathered, flippered, four-legged, taloned, scaly, furry buddies (and sometimes not-so-much buddies). They’re around us all the time, whether we’re taking them for a walk or they’re just watching us from the phone lines (crows know). Outside of maybe cars and traffic, animals factor into a story probably more than even cranky white conservatives (a breed once so thick in numbers they blotted out the sky as if passenger pigeons).
The poodle who set the smaller guy straight.
One reader wrote in about all the wildlife that lay flattened along a new stretch of toll road, just as he predicted.
A fast-approaching, zombie raccoon had a reader beating it indoors even faster.
The dog who caused three family members hospital trips, yet the parents still opted to keep it.
The dog you wouldn’t want anywhere near your leg.
An encounter in the buffer zone between suburbia and the wild. The writer respectfully wishes the coyote well.
The young dolphin who amazed and thrilled beachgoers with high leaps, all the while keeping sharks away.
The hawk that demonstrated the best way to drive crows away is to eat one.
The young possum who had a run-in with a reader’s dog and got away by . . . playing possum.
The two guys who halted traffic in Villa Park so a mama duck and her children could cross the road safely.
Victims of abuse and neglect.
A reader’s reflection on and yogic appreciation for a lazing sea lion.
Weebs the pet weasel, accidentally laundered, departs this world of strife.
The spider with a death wish.
A meeting of hearts under fairly unusual, risky circumstances.
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CARS & TRAFFIC
Traffic is a heavily recurring theme. Road rage, cops, menacing tow trucks, parking issues, the eternal conflict between steel and spandex on PCH in Laguna and elsewhere—everything from grim realities such as hit-and-runs to heated debate over whether people should be allowed to nap in parked cars. After a while, it becomes a banal, hazardous constant: Our vehicles are extensions of ourselves, often at our worst.
A slightly out-of-shape cyclist barks safety commands at other cyclists while not having his own helmet fastened correctly. Hostile run-ins between cyclists and drivers are numerous.
The law does not see who has repeatedly driven like a schmuck before, only who drives like a schmuck right now.
A joyous orange Prius in the city of Orange is most pleased when someone leaves an orange sticker for it to wear.
Some poor dude couldn’t even take a nap parked by the side of the road without some nosy do-gooder waking him up, resulting in multiple rebuttals!
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PAYBACK, KARMA & REVENGE
We get a large amount of tales about people in desperate need of some comeuppance. Amusing, imaginative and unrealizable curses abound. Karma is evoked every 3.25 issues—and for good reason. Sometimes the payback potential is real, probable and almost certainly waiting just beyond the end of the story. Occasionally and deliciously, it happens within the story. But usually, it winds down to a lot of wishful thinking and fodder for cartoonists.
A guy used his fist to randomly destroy a car mirror. No word on whether he was apprehended, but a trail of blood drops leading into the distance suggests he received at least the first installment of his payback plan instantaneously.
Two white dudes spouting derogatory comments about Hispanics in downtown Santa Ana turn a corner and meet . . . some large Hispanics!
Revenge can come in many flavors. There are more than a few ways a food-service employee might add a “special ingredient” to a customer’s order if that customer happens to be a pain in the ass.
A holiday curse issued by the recipient of some bad business.
Payback was swift for a bro who smashed a window with his bare hand on the Peninsula. Of course, loudly bragging about it and bleeding profusely from the hand were factors in him getting nabbed, too, but he wouldn’t have gotten caught if he hadn’t done it first.
A valet’s wish for some non-handicapped yacht-club members who swiped a handicapped spot he was saving for someone who truly needed it.
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS & THANKS
Editor in chief Nick Schou had been suggesting for years that we do a Hey, You! book . . . or exhibit . . . or something. We finally sat down last June and decided we’d do a special issue. Over the course of six months, I embarked on a brain-busting sort of archaeological dig through a few hundred boxes containing an unruly mess of print back issues, stacks of clattery CD-ROMS and hard drives containing any number of obsolete or incompatible layout formats. From there, 947 available columns were unearthed, from which 300 were chosen, then whittled down a couple of times to get to the roughly 20 or so items that fill this issue. And certainly more is left over to spill into digital realms in the future.
Thanks and appreciation are due to Nick for instigating the move to realize this project and keeping a steady eye on its progress, while thanks also go to art director Michael Ziobrowski for his eye and expertise in assembling all this stuff and making it look good on the pages you’re reading right now, including the cover. Thanks also to Cynthia Rebolledo, Patty Marsters, Mercedes Del Real, Lisa Black and Duncan McIntosh for your combined support and assistance, as well as everyone near the big Xerox machine for putting up with the ceaseless scanning during the archiving process. My gratitude to past editors Will Swaim (he started it) and Gustavo Arellano, as well as past art directors Heather Swaim, Laila Derakhshanian, Dustin Ames and Richie Beckman, all of whom were instrumental in keeping this column alive and well.