The following is the 170th piece I have written for the back page of this dear old rag, and technically it's the last, as at the time of writing I have no contract past March. Now frankly, I can't imagine myself writing for anyone else but my homeys up at the old cube farm, but I'm old-fashioned insofar that I like to actually get paid for it. I'm sure by the time anyone reads this, the tight-fisted cube farmer and my vile reptilian agent will have worked something out, but this seems an appropriate point for me to recognize, pay tribute to, indicate how much I owe, and give a general indication of how much I love the only other contributor who has been with me for the almost fifteen years I have been regaling you all with this crap.
\nThe initials "VJ" at the bottom of each illustration that accompanies my words on this page stand for my friend Victor Juhasz, who is in my opinion one of the all-time greats in the world of not just illustration, but art in general. To some, this might seem like a wildly sweeping and overly dramatic statement, given the fact that we live in an art world filled with images by Dutch masters, French impressionists, and you know, the types of modern pieces that can only be appreciated by those impossibly wealthy, snobby bottom-sniffing, cigar-sucking dilwads who can also pick out "hints of sawdust and aged leather" in the wine flavor wheel. Not that there's anything wrong with sucking cigars, sniffing bottoms or being wealthy, mind you, but the wine flavor wheel can roll off the tailgate of my beaten-up pickup truck, get trampled into sawdust and promptly crapped on by the Budweiser Clydesdales, as far as I'm concerned. Give me a break.
\nBut, for about the 170th time, I digress. Victor, who's son is a U.S. Marine, went with us on my last Troops First Foundation goodwill tour to Iraq a couple of years ago, and to Afghanistan last Thanksgiving, taking what seemed like only his art supplies and some bulletproof underwear. The images he made for our military men and women while in theater are astonishing. Given the circumstances and atmosphere under which many of them were drawn, they are beyond beautiful. They are simply breathtaking, and Victor has eloquently described what went into the process of making and getting them to the soldiers and their families at home in his blogs and website, where many of them are displayed. EVERYONE! Do yourselves a favor and head over to www.drawger.com/victorjuhasz to read about Victor's recent visit, see some of the portraits he made of the great Americans we have in the Middle East right now, and a few of the letters he has received from grateful wives, children and other relatives back here, safe at home. I promise you, you will never look at one of the illustrations on these pages the same way again. Victor Juhasz will blow you away.
\nSpeaking of which... as I write this, Victor has approximately 48 hours to come up with an illustration for this particular piece, about which right now he knows absolutely bugger-all. In the last month or so, I have managed to put glue in both of my ears, which led to two hours of plastic surgery and an inability to be with Vic on the Afghanistan trip; in a less-than-manly injury, tear my left bicep tendon off the shoulder while taking off my boots in my damned closet; break my nose (yet again), this time on the steering wheel of my truck while chasing a feral hog in east Texas; and to crown it all, while squatting in front of the air compressor in my man-cave garage workshop, in a literally numbnutted, Darwinian, "I wonder what that thing does" moment, almost lose my left testicle. After a quarter turn the wrong way, what turned out to be the "bleed valve" (who knew?) shot off its thread at 150 psi and rocketed point-blank into my coin-purse, reducing me to a fifteen-minute fetal roll-up around the shop floor, during which I made noises only the local dogs could hear, and managed to knock a dead-blow hammer off one of the benches, which of course landed on my forehead. At the emergency room, the doc did his best to keep his face straight, but the rotten bastard failed miserably.
\nSo Victor, this one is for you. Believe it or not, my nose is now even bigger, and I have one plum the size and color of, well, a plum. I have never asked you to draw anything specific, my dear friend, but somehow, you have to get yourself into this one. And now Ifor the love of an oiled-up Roger Maltbie in a posing pouchhave to get back to the comparative safety of TV work.