Friday, February 26, 2016


Disaster can strike anywhere and at any time. When you least expect it, you can lose one of your best friends. It happened to me late last Saturday afternoon.

I was working out in the garage that day. I innocently moved a board off of the workbench and the corner of it caught my bright blue ArtBin storage box and knocked it down to the cold, hard cement floor. At first, I didn’t think too much about it. I have dropped that darn box a thousand times before.

I’ve owned the box since the fall of 1984, right before I started my freshmen year art classes at Northern Illinois University. The ArtBin, which has a couple of trays inside, is, by all practical intents and purposes, a simple tackle box that most fishermen would be ashamed to use. It was in this royal blue container that for the past 30-plus years, I have carried around the tools of the trade. Pencils, technical pens, kneaded erasers, tape, stencils, charcoal, glue, bottles of ink, paint, brushes, etc. ...

The trusty box was with me for Drawing 101 in Altgeld Hall. It was there for all those life drawing classes during my sophomore and junior years with all those naked people that they made me draw. As a public service, for all those teenage boys out there that think drawing naked people sounds pretty cool, it isn’t as awesome as it sounds. When you imagine all of those hot babes that you will be drawing, I should point out that not all of those models look like Ginger, Mary Ann or Suzanne Sommers. And many of them weren’t even women! Learn from my mistakes youngsters. Oh, the things that box and I witnessed!

The ArtBin was with me during that summer I drew caricatures at Great America. While there, on a particularly hot and humid Chicago summer afternoon, together we experienced the great airbrush paint bottle explosion of 1988. It was like the Hindenburg going off. Oh the humanity!

It was by my side when I made all those editorial cartoons. It was there during all those hours creating comic strips. It has been my constant companion whenever I’ve gone to paint a sign, or work on somebody’s parade float or airbrush a refrigerator. Lately I’ve been using it to carry my lettering brushes and all the stuff I use when I layout vinyl graphics. 

Back to last Saturday. Evidently, one thousand and one falls is the magic number when it comes to surpassing the sturdiness of a vintage, blue, plastic, 1984-era ArtBin storage box. When it made contact with the unforgiving concrete, the plastic broke, and the black latch came flying off. It was a clean break so at least death came quickly. For that, I am thankful.

Have you ever seen the movie “The Natural?” The one where Robert Redford plays the part of Roy Hobbs, the greatest baseball player to ever play the game. He always used the same bat, one that he had made when he was a kid that he named “Wonderboy.” In a sad moment near the end of the movie, “Wonderboy” broke into two pieces after Hobbs fouled a pitch off. Well, when that box broke, l stood there just like Redford, my luxurious blonde hair tucked under my baseball cap, staring down at the shattered pieces of my youth. If I’m ever going to get a replacement art box, I’ll have to take a chubby batboy named Bobby to go with me, and I’ll have him “pick me out a winner.” (If you haven’t seen the movie, you really should.)

In the time that I owned that cheap little blue tackle box, I’ve gotten married, had two kids, owned five different vehicles, experienced five different presidents, four different decades and two different centuries. I’m gonna miss that box.

It was such a moving experience for me that I even posted a photo of my damaged companion onto my Facebook page in a silent, subconscious plea for sympathy from my friends and family. And I’ll be darned, it worked. Condolences, or as Facebook refers to them, “likes” came pouring in. I had fellow artists from my age group reminiscing about their ArtBin storage boxes. I had offers from people wanting to help me fix and/or replace the box entirely. I’m not sure what I’ll do. Right now, the wound is just too raw.

My wife, on the other hand, is just happy in the thought that she won’t have to look at the nasty, paint-spattered blue box anymore. In fact, I think that I saw the small hint of a smile cross her face when I presented her with the wreckage. Sometimes it’s hard when I realize that I live under the same roof as her cold heart of evil.

With that in mind, I think I’ll get out the old duct tape and try to resurrect this azure beauty. As I imagine Roy Hobbs would say, “Sit down Bobby. Wonderboy just might have one more swing left in her.”

Honestly, you really need to watch the movie.

You can contact Wallace at You can follow him on his blog at

1 comment:

  1. Hmm? Your box looks a lot like my box. Mine was a tackle box that belonged to my grandfather. I don't know for sure but I'd dare say he owned it in the '60's...still holding strong.