It’s Cartoon Friday again!

The Eeyore of Liberty in Pease Park in Austin

A little summer psychedelia for Cartoon Friday, in honor of Eeyore's 50th Birthday Party -- celebrated this weekend in Austin.

Sometimes, cartoons take us to imaginary or impossible places. Other times, comic or cartoon artwork can enhance the telling of true life stories, drawing nuance from the tales which would not be revealed in audio alone or even full motion video. Examples on the page are the slice-of-life anecdotes of Harvey Pekar or of Joe Sacco‘s war journalism.

Tonight’s selection is a colorful example in motion: Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No by artist James Blagden working for No Mas TV. It’s based on an NPR recording of the famously outspoken ball player, and No Mas comments:

In celebration of the greatest athletic achievement by a man on a psychedelic journey, No Mas and artist James Blagden proudly present the animated tale of Dock Ellis’ legendary LSD no-hitter. In the past few years we’ve heard all too much about performance enhancing drugs from greenies to tetrahydrogestrinone, and not enough about performance inhibiting drugs. … Of the 263 no-hitters ever thrown in the Big Leagues, we can only guess how many were aided by steroids, but we can say without question that only one was ever thrown on acid.

But of course legends are rarely so black and white, reveals an article on Deadspin:

Like most stories that sound too fantastical to maintain any shards of truth, it depends on whom you let tell it. Bob Smizik, who covered the Pirates from 1972-77 for the Pittsburgh Press(which eventually folded, after which Smizik wrote for the Post-Gazette), believes Dock’s version. He didn’t cover the game and was nowhere near overcast San Diego that day to watch it in person, but he says he was the first writer to break the story about the mythical acid no-no. Smizik’s piece was published on April 8, 1984, on the front of the sports section, under the tabloidy headline, “Ellis: I Pitched No-Hitter On LSD.” Smizik’s interview focused more on Dock’s work as a California drug and alcohol counselor, but the revelation about his psychedelic escapades was what anchored it and was where the tale first took flight.

[Donnell]] Alexander, who’s putting the finishing touches on the Dock life-story screenplay, is adamant Ellis felt the residual effects of high-grade acid that day, but most likely not to the degree most of us envision.

“Some people won’t accept this as a baseball story,” Alexander says. “The truth is, it’s a pure baseball story. What impresses me most is that Dock didn’t call in sick. You’ve got guys who will sit out if they’re havin’ a fuckin’ herpes outbreak. But this guy’s trippin’ hard on pure LSD from the labs at UCLA, and he’s like, ‘No. I’m going in.’ He was a gutty pitcher and it’s such a gutty performance.”

I selected tonight’s cartoon (with a little help from my friend S) in honor of this weekend’s festivities, the 50th Annual Eeyore’s Birthday Party in Austin. Unless of course it gets rained out. Many years ago I contributed to the first draft of the Wikipedia page on this annual hippie hoorah, then defended the page from the inevitable editorial disputes. I turn 35 this Monday, so I’ve been attending this storied event for longer than I’d care to admit but not nearly as long as some!

Eeyore’s Birthday Party began in 1963 as a spring party and picnic for Department of English students at the University of Texas at Austin by Lloyd W. Birdwell, Jr. and other UT students. It was named for Eeyore, a chronically depressed donkey in A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories who, in one story, believes his friends have forgotten his birthday only to discover they have planned a surprise party for him. Despite its name, the event does not fall on the official birthday of the fictional character. The original event featured a trashcan full of lemonade, beer, honey sandwiches, a live, flower-draped donkey, and a may pole (in keeping with the event’s proximity to May Day). For many years the party was a UT tradition, but subsequently the annual Birthday Party became a tradition in Austin’s hippie subculture.

When the festival moved from Eastwoods Park to Pease Park in 1974, Austin-area non-profit Friends of the Forest, an organization which distributes funds to other area charities, began arranging for food and drink vendors at the festival. They continue this task today along with arranging public services (toilets, buses, security, medics) and scheduling live music and family-oriented games and contests. The event is still known to most as a festival oriented towards modern hippies. It now boasts an annual attendance in the thousands.

 

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Photo by Jack Newton released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.