Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Bronco John was homeless, a man of the street.
He'd raced rats for years, and always got beat.

Then one day he'd had it with all of the rules,
And dismissed from his life the material tools,
To get by on handouts, like french fries and tea,
He'd yell out to no one, "At last, I am free!"

Bronco bought his clothes from a second-hand store,
Leather shoes for a five bucks, a wool coat for more.
And when he grew lonely, way deep in his mind,
He imagined a girlfriend no one could find.

Her name was Puff, the invisible friend,
Poor Bronco, some said, had gone round the bend.

In late spring and all summer Bronco slept in the park,
A hollow tree on wet nights, kept dry by the bark.

Cold autumn nights were, for Bronco, the worst.
And then came upon him, December the first.

The first snow was brutal, almost did him in,
When he tried to keep warm in a large garbage bin.
It was so cold outside there was no one around,
No people with coins, no one to hound.

So food was a problem, as well as the frost,
One mean old scrooge said to Bronco, "Get lost!"
When he tried to walk into a cozy cafe,
To keep both his hunger and frostbite at bay.

For Bronco not only never paid for his tea,
But he'd take a chair for Puff, who no one could see.
And if someone ungraciously sat down upon her,
He'd jump up, arms flailing, and yell "Bloody Murder!"

Money was tight, goodwill at a low,
So the news that came next was, for Bronco, a blow.
The local soup kitchen had run out of cash,
And so, for the homeless, no Christmas Day bash.

No turkey, no stuffing, no pudding or cake.
There was no give this year, just a whole bunch of take.

For the first time in years, poor Bronco was scared.
He was freezing and starving, and nobody cared.

Then arrived Christmas Eve, as cold as they come,
With nowhere to go, Bronco felt like a bum.

Peering through a shop window, all his favorite things,
Sweet biscuits and chocolate -- God, how the wind stings!
Yuletide decorations and pretty colored lights,
Dates, nuts and mincemeat--such marvelous sights.

Bronco pushed through the door, and out of the storm,
Shopkeepers be damned, he just had to keep warm.
He looked back to the window and out at the snow,
It would only be seconds till they told him to go.

A Christmas staff party was well under way,
With eggnog and rum punch to brighten their day.
Bronco crouched in a corner, biding his time,
Then a stop clerk passed by -- and tossed him a dime!

The shop clerks were merry, and plastered by drink,
One fat lady even gave Bronco a wink.
The staff disappeared one by one out the door,
Leaving poor Bronco alone in the store.

Counters stacked high, with goodies and treats,
Being locked in this shop sure beat walking the streets.
Bronco munched some milk chocolate, what heaven, he mused,
It was time to make up for a season abused.

He plugged in a heater, basked in its glow,
All fuzzy and warm, he was ready to go,
Off to the record stand, for something to play,
Bing Crosby's White Christmas, there was little to say,
As tears ran down Bronco's rough unshaven cheeks,
He went back two thousand and eighty-seven weeks,
To a Christmas he'd had when he was a boy,
With a loving mom and dad, and a Santa Claus toy.

He remembered their fir tree, its ornaments of glass,
Carolers singing and a cheery midnight mass.
Bronco stood up, looked around the large store,
Eyed the fake trees standing near the back door.
"This one will do," Bronco reached for a tree,
He tallest and fullest he ever did see.

He decked it with candy canes and garland of gold,
With red bulbs and colored lights, and then, feeling bold,
Closed his eyes, made a wish, and reached for the top,
Crowned the tree with an angel, it took only a hop.

"Just like I remember," Bronco said to no one,
The tree was aglow, not a branch left un-done.

He went searching for presents, cigars and fine candy,
Some perfume for Puff and a bottle of brandy.

For his feet, leather slippers, and two stockings to hang,
And he paused while outside the old church bells rang.

"Puff, it's midnight!" he cried. "Merry Christmas we two."
Said Puff, "Thank you Bronco, Merry Christmas to you!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


When Papa Duke was about ten years-old, at a New York barber shop he encountered baseball great Hank Greenberg.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Aleksandre Isayevich Solzhenitsyn.

T'was his birthday yesterday.

He stood up to the bastards.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010


On this day seventy-four years ago, King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry Wallis Simpson.

Friday, December 10, 2010


PAPA DUKE's portrait of his mother-in-law, Ida STANLEY, born this day in 1901.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


PAPA DUKE must have been thinking of Picasso and Lorena Bobbitt when he painted this one...

Monday, December 6, 2010


It was nighttime around me, the wee hours, I think,
Nature had called, so I'd left my warm bed.
An alien being popped out of my toilet,
A big-eyed bald midget, the color of lead.

"Don't call your dad, he'll say it's a dream,"
Said the alien to me, "Things are what they seem.
I've come a long way," he continued to say,
"It took me three years, five months and a day.

"I'm space-lagged, hung-over, and now dripping wet,"
Said the alien to me, "but I'm so glad we've met!"

I was too numb to shout, I was too shocked to run,
"It's time," said the alien, "time to have fun."

He jumped from the toilet and ran out the door,
Leaving puddles of water all over the floor.

Out into the hallway, and down fourteen stairs,
This fast little creature seemed free of all cares.

"C'mon down here," he hollered, looking straight up at me.
"What I need most right now is a mug of hot tea!"

I followed down to the kitchen, set kettle to boil,
As my new friend, the alien ate aluminum foil.

He drank the hot tea, threw it down in one swallow,
Then motioned to me, as he walked I should follow.

Out into the yard, a night sky full of stars,
The Big Dipper, a half-moon, plus Venus and Mars.

The alien looked up, he oo-hed and he aa-hed,
He said, "This is fantastic... if a trifle bit odd."

He seemed quite confused, as if in a trance,
Then he twirled around, as if trying to dance.

"I thought Earth had four moons, and a night sky of green,"
Said the alien, befuddled, "It's the first time I've been.
I need a vacation, and that's part why I'm here,
Some fun and adventure—and maybe a beer.

"Let's throw a party, catch a few rays,
I haven't got long, just a couple of days.

“But I do have a mission, traveling all the way here,
To learn about something you earthlings call fear.
If you assist with my quest, you dear little boy,
At the end of my visit I'll give you a toy."

"My fear," I said slowly, "is a bully named Rick.
I fear him so bad, my stomach gets sick."

"But why," said the alien, "what makes you afraid?"
"You kidding?" said I. "It's tough in fourth grade.

"What with homework, and fifth-graders calling us names,
And a bully named Rick always spoiling our games,
I spend half my day staying out of harm's way,
Rick calls me 'that dork-face who’s probably gay'."

"But why?" asked the alien. "What will he gain,
By embarrassing you and causing you pain?"

"You'd have to ask Rick," said I with a smirk,
"But he'll probably just call you a bald midget jerk."

"Will I feel some fear?" said the alien, eyes wide,
Feeling close to his goal after such a long ride.

"Rick will make you so fearful, you'd rather be dead."
I then said goodnight, and returned to my bed.

The alien was gone, when I awakened next day,
I trudged off to school, feeling less than okay
Cos I knew Rick would be waiting, with plenty to say.

And there he was -- Rick! -- with my alien friend!
Oh my God, my heart stopped, this is the end!

I felt so much fear, I thought I would cry,
No, the fear was much worse, I was going to die.

"Confront your fear!" yelled the alien to me,
"The worst thing to do is turn round and flee."

So I stood there, I did, my eyes looking at Rick,
Wondering what he'd do first: hit, spit or kick.

I kept staring for hours, without making a sound,
The silence was eerie as I firmly stood ground.

As for what happened next, it still makes no sense,
My fear was all gone, I felt serene, not tense.

Then Rick finally blinked, he went his own way,
The alien winked, said, "It's a wonderful day.

"If we only stop fearing, the things that we fear,
they'll haunt us no more, and they’ll just disappear."

Just as he promised, a gift he did give me,
No toy, but a lesson, which now set me free.

From that day on forward, I feared nothing at all.
I walked and I talked like I was seven feet tall.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Today is the birthday of America's iconic comedian/filmmaker.

Friday, November 26, 2010



Sixty-eight years ago today, Casablanca premiered.

It won Best Picture in 1942, and remains one of the best movies of all time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


PAPA DUKE had a weakness for ice cream sundaes. The diet always started "tomorrow."

In this cartoonish painting, he pokes fun of his proclivity to binge on dessert, to the detriment of his wife and three sons.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


PAPA DUKE was rarely without his pens and a sketchbook. And thus he was never bored.

Waiting for others, he would patiently sketch either something going on around him, or an image from his imagination.

If he forgot his sketchbook, no matter, he would draw on the back of menu or whatever else was available to him. He drew this on the back of a hotel bill.

Monday, November 15, 2010



There came a time when there was a tax on everything. Well, almost everything.

There was tax on money earned, tax on money unearned. Tax on money spent, tax on money saved. Value Added Tax on everything you bought, and sales tax on everything you sold--and extra tax on booze and tobacco. Tax on owning a house. Tax on owning a car. Death tax, inheritance tax, tax on this, tax on that. It went on and on.

One day, the ministers sat around discussing what they could tax next.

"There is nothing left to tax," said one minister.

"But government needs more money," said another minister.

"There must be something taxable that still is not taxed," said a third minister.

"I know," said yet another minister. (There was no shortage of ministers--they were paid from tax money.) "We could institute a flatulence tax."

The room went silent.

"A tax on passing wind?" said Minister One. "That’s ingenious. But how can it be enforced?"

"Easy," said Minister Two. "It is a fact that everyone passes wind." The other Ministers nodded in agreement. "So nobody can dispute that tax is owed. Furthermore, those who pass wind a lot should pay more tax than those who do not."

"It is very justifiable," reasoned Minister Three. "Those who pass wind a lot are polluting the air we breathe. So they should certainly pay more tax."

"Precisely," said Minister Four, whose brainchild this was.

"But how can one determine who passes wind a little and who passes wind a lot?" posed Minister Two.

Minister Four smiled a knowing smile as he dipped into his briefcase. "The Flatulator."

"The what?" said Minister One.

"My own invention," said Minister Four.

"How does it work?" asked Minister Two.

Said Minister Four: "Our science lab has dissected all the various gases of flatulence and determined that one percent of all flatus contains five gases that smell: ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, indole, skatole and short-chain fatty acids. The Flatulator identifies one or more of these gases in the immediate vicinity." Minister Four flicked a switch and turned on The Flatulator. It immediately sounded an alarm and flashed red. "Hmmm, which one of you guys farted?"

Minister Two blushed.

"Ingenious," said Minister One. "But we can't follow everyone around with Flatulators."

"Of course not," said Minister Four. "We don't follow tax-payers around for income tax either. We have the honor system, with random checks and audits to keep our populace reasonably honest." He tapped his instrument. "With our Flatulator, we can conduct random checks and audits."

"How would that actually work?" asked Minister Two.

"Let us say that Miss Jones pays a declared tax on three farts per day," said Minister Four. "One day, whilst out in public, she is secretly followed by a tax inspector equipped with The Flatulator. If it transpires that Miss Jones farts more than thrice--and this takes no account of her private farting--she is in violation. Miss Jones is confronted on the spot and issued a citation for back tax, excuse the pun, and a penalty. The beauty here is that tax-payers will be more concerned with public confrontation than the financial penalty, so they'll pay up from the get-go."

"What if Miss Jones had the bad luck to eat cheese and onion pie on the day she was scoped with this Flatulator?" asked Minister Two.

"As you say," sighed Minister Four. "Bad luck."

"Perhaps we need a legal opinion," said Minister One. "What if your Miss Jones decides to sue the tax authorities for invasion of privacy?"

"Nothing is private so far as taxation is concerned," huffed Minister Four. "If Miss Jones has been dishonest about her tax obligations, she should count her blessings that she is not criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and thrown in prison."

"I like it," said Minister Two. "Not least because it is environmentally correct."

"How so?" said Minister Three.

"People will pass wind less often, if only because the Flatus Police might be on their tail, no pun intended."

"You realize," said Minister One, a gleam in his eye. "This may give wind to a whole new tax."

"I see where you're headed with this," said Minister Two.

"A pooping tax?" said Minister Three.

"We are doing rather well, today, aren't we?" said Minister One.

An orderly knocked the open door and stepped inside. "Meds," he said.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


PAPA DUKE possessed a strong sense of justice, a trait he inherited from his father, Henry ERINGER, who emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1913 to escape Russian and Prussian oppression.

Henry opened a travel agency in lower Manhattan. As he watched the rise of Nazism in Germany, he wrote letters to friends and relatives in Poland begging them to leave. He even offered free transportation through his travel agency.

But they mostly remained, and perished at Auschwitz.

Perhaps overcome by his prophetic premonition, Henry suffered a heart attack and died, at age 58, three weeks after the start of World War II.

Papa Duke painted this David & Goliath message: Never be afraid to oppose oppression.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


PAPA DUKE served in World War II as a U.S. Army GI based in London.

When the army discovered Papa Duke's skill as a draughtsman, they transferred him to G-2, army intelligence, to draft maps.

Their headquarters was on Green Street in Mayfair, a stone's throw from where General Eisenhower served as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe.

Driving past Green Street always brought a cheery smile to Papa Duke's face.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


In his later years, PAPA DUKE was fascinated by animals. He spent hours at Monaco's zoo sketching its inhabitants, getting to know them.

His favorite was this rhinoceros.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The first PAPA DUKE ever heard of Padre Pio was when an Italian janitor in his apartment building asked him to paint a portrait of the monk from San Giovanni Rotondo.

The janitor was very ill and about to enter hospital for life-or-death surgery. He wanted to pray to an icon of Padre Pio, who was later (in 2002) canonized a saint.

Papa Duke asked the janitor for photographs, and obliged him with a painting. The janitor prayed to it and miraculously recovered.

Papa Duke could not shake the image of Padre Pio from his mind. Like a man possessed, he continued to paint dozens of portraits of Padre Pio. He gave them to friends with terminal illnesses and watched in amazement as they recovered.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


PAPA DUKE illustrated this story, written by his middle son, in 1989.

Early one morning, when I finished doing my business, the toilet talked back at me.

"Little girl," said the toilet. "You've pooped one poop too many. You'd better not flush--or they're coming back to get you."

"Don't be rude, toilet," I said. "Talking about poopies is gross. And, anyway, toilets can't talk." I flushed a good strong flush.

"You'll see..." the toilet hummed, as water swished round and round.

"What cheek," I said.

Then I walked into the living room--and came face to face with every poop I ever pooped! Big poops. Small poops. Skinny poops. Fat poops. All kinds of poops. Having a poop party.

"Eeewwwww," I screamed.
"Dis-gusting!" I ran out of the living room into my bedroom. That's where I found more poops, soiling my dolls.

"Stop it!" I screamed at the poops. "Leave my Barbie dolls alone!"

But the poops did not listen. A mean gang called the Poop Punks turned on me and yelled, "We're Number Two--and we're gonna get you!"

I ran back to the toilet. "Toilet, talk to me," I said. "Tell me what to do. The poops have come back!"

"I'm fed up," said the toilet. "The only time you pay attention to me is when you want to lay poops. I faithfully flush these unmentionables--too gross to talk about, you said so yourself. And when I warn you that you've pooped one poop too many, you call me rude and say I can't talk. And now you want me to talk."

"Please, Mister Toilet," I begged. "How can I stop the poops?"

"And now you even call me mister," said the toilet. "Finally, a little respect. I'm sorry for the poops coming back, little girl, but there's nothing I can doo-doo."

"That's not funny, toilet," I said.

The poops from the living room joined rank with the poops from my bedroom, and this pack of poop reeked big-time.

"Toilet!" I cried, holding my nose. "Do something!"

"I'm sorry, little girl," said the toilet. "You've pooped one poop too many."

The poops flocked before me, leaving skid marks on the carpet.

Colonel Crappeur, the biggest, fattest poop of all, looked up at me, straight in the eye. "Everyone is always pooping, pooping, pooping," he growled. "Every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year. And now there's no place left for us poops to go. And on top of that, we've been given a bum rap. What do you think of that?"

"I've never thought about it," I said.

"She's never thought about it," mimicked Pritchard and Prunella Poop in unison.

All the poops laughed.

"Well, think about it now, sister," yelled a poop named Diddly Dung. "Cos we've come back!"

"But you can't stay here!" I stamped my foot, and nearly stepped in poop.

"You made us," said Colonel Crappeur. "So you've got us. As a founding-member of the John Crapper Society, I'm sick and tired of mixing with other poops."

"Where else can we go?" squeaked Nerdy Turd from the back.

"I'll flush you back down the toilet," I offered.

"Oh, no," the toilet snapped his lid shut. "I've already flushed them poops once. It ain't my job to flush the same poopies twice. I warned you about pooping one poop too many, little girl, so now you're stuck with them."

I turned to the plunger and the toilet brush.

"Plunger?" I said. "Brush? Can you help me?"

The plunger puckered. "We've had it with that darn toilet."

"Yeah," squealed the brush. "We have the filthiest job of all, and that toilet gives us zero credit for keeping them poops in Poopland. We're on strike!"

"Harummmph," said the toilet. "Where were you two last time I got stuffed up? You're nothing but a pair of no-good slouches!"

"See what I mean?" said the brush.

"Totally insensitive," said the plunger.

Meantime, the poops surrounded me with menace.

"We have rights, too, ya know!" yelled a poop from the Ca-Ca Clique. "We're card-carrying members of the NRA."

"The what?" I said.

"Nappie Rash Association," he said with pride.

Two other gangs--the Turd Tribe and the Stoolies--launched an offensive on me, led by Colonel Crappeur and his Crapper Clan.

I screamed.

A moment later, mommy woke me and said to get ready for school. I would have told her my dream, but I did not fancy a bar of soap for breakfast.

Moral: Be careful what you flush away. It may come back to haunt you.

Friday, November 5, 2010


PAPA DUKE's playfulness as a cartoonist sometimes came to life in sculpture.

This mischievous creature was conceived during a cruise around Scandinavia.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


PAPA DUKE cut his teeth cartooning. Even as fine artist, his acute sense of humor was always near...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


PAPA DUKE painted renowned British novelist Anthony Burgess, pounding the keys in Monaco during his twilight years, circa 1991.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010



Everyone in the principality comes equipped with a story, and Tony's is as good as any. A black man, from North Caroline, Tony hasn't been "home" since 1964 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and got shipped to Germany. Set free after a two-year stint, he roamed Europe, savored its fruit, picked up three languages doing nightclub work in Germany, Holland, and France, before settling in Rocquebrune, a stone's throw from Monaco. He hasn't seen his mother or seven brothers and sisters in twenty-five years, won't ever see his daddy again ten years gone. Tony almost went back twice, once after a sister was murdered ("It's a good thing--I would-a killed a man"); another time, bags packed, ticket in hand at an airport, Tony couldn't board the plane. A little voice kept nagging him, "You can't go home, Tony, you just can't go home."