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"Nightmare of the Retired School Crossing Guard"

Halvah Dior Dooley

One of the noted surrealist/fantasist painters of the 20th century, Dooley rarely drew on his own imagination for most of his compositions, preferring to collect the dreams, drug experiences and psychotic ramblings of down-and-outers on Skid Row. For the cost of a few quarts of Mad Dog 20/20 he was able to compile a library of hallucinogenic settings and situations, which he meticulously recreated in oils with the near-photographic attention to detail which soon became his trademark.


"Nightmare of the Retired School Crossing Guard" is a mid-career work, inspired by the ravings of one Jerry P. (Dooley never completely identifies any of his sources for fear of lawsuits and subsequent compensation payments.) The old self-described crossing guard was quite fond of the young girls he escorted across the street to Our Lady of Perpetual Misery Junior High — overly fond, perhaps. He would always hold them securely by the hand or arm or inner thigh as he walked them across, a trip which would sometimes take a minute or more depending on the subject, although it was not a particularly wide street.


His concern for his young charges often led him to follow them home from school, occasionally begging for underwear, and on more than one occasion he was taken into custody for peeping into bathroom windows late at night "just to see they was okay," in his own words. He would later say that his dreams forced him to commit such deeds, and he related one of these nightmares to Dooley in late 1946.


Dooley transformed this old man's tale into a masterpiece of Freudian conflict symbolism, using the defiled naked body of the crossing guard in stark opposition to the sexual opulence beyond the old man's highly significant erect STOP sign, which reads in both directions, both as a warning to the man not to pursue his dark desires, while at the same time warning away the female elements he was most attracted to.


Dooley considered himself a failure in spite of the worldwide demand for his paintings. In his later years he was persecuted by a sense of artistic dishonesty. He began to use hallucinogens himself in an attempt to spark his own dreamtime imagination, to no avail. His career was abruptly cut short when he ingested a massive amount of amanita toadstool under the impression that it was psilocybin mushroom.


His longtime companion Gaudy reported that his final words were, "not even a giraffe, not one [expletive deleted] flaming giraffe..."


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