David F. Walker
Category: T-Shirt Confidential (formerly T-Shirt of the Week)

T-Shirt Confidential #9 – The Batman Collection, Part 2

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

Pictured above is an addition to my t-shirt collection, which includes not just t-shirts but also hats, socks, underwear and an odd assortment of novelty thongs (which I will never wear). This hooded Batman sweatshirt was a birthday present that I bought for myself back in 2009 (for my 41st birthday).

My obsession with Batman goes back as far as I can remember, and this cool sweatshirt is part of a lifelong tradition. As you can see in the picture above, the hood of this sweatshirt actually has a mask. I know that as a grown man I’m not supposed to get excited by these things, nor should I wear something like this in public, but this is David F. Walker we’re talking about, so I do wear this thing out in public. I do, however, remove the cape, which has snap-on buttons. The cape simply makes me look really immature and stupid.

As evidence of my life-long obsession, here are two really old pictures of me. On the left, I’m about 3 years old. My mom took me to have portraits done at a local department store, and I insisted on wearing the Batman Halloween costume. Somewhere, there’s actually a portrait of me wearing a mask as well. On the right, is the oldest piece of my Batman collection, which I got as a birthday present, and still have to this day. My fifth birthday—one of the greatest birthdays of my life—was a Batman themed birthday. My mom got me a Batman cake from Basin Robbins, a cool Batman transistor radio, and this Batman towel you see pictured above (also, notice the Batman paining I did in the background).

Somewhere, buried deep in a closet full of things I never look at anymore, I still have this towel. There was another Batman towel—not as cool as this one—that joined the collection several years later, but it has long since vanished, along with that transistor radio, the painting and the throw rug (although the throw rug might be a figment of my imagination). There has been so much stuff in the Batman Collection over the years that it starts to boggle the mind, though much of it – like the handkerchief, the wallet, and the watch—have sadly been lost over the years.

T-Shirt Confidential #8 – The Batman Collection

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

Within the vast array of shirts that have found a home in the David F. Walker Museum of Decorative Clothing and Accessories (which includes not just t-shirts, but underwear, hats, socks and a collection of novelty thongs I will never wear), there are tons of band shirts and promotional giveaways for a variety of films. In some cases, like with the band Fishbone, I have multiple designs. But the one thing that I have more of than anything else is Batman shirts.

I am sad to say that I no longer have the oldest of my Batman shirts, which dates back approximately 44 years. That particular shirt was simply an old, beat-up undershirt that was once white, but was so dingy it almost looked gray. I took a Batman sticker, and stuck it on the chest, making it my first-ever Batman shirt. I don’t know what happened to that beloved shirt, although I suspect it ceased to exist as soon as it went through the wash. I was probably about 5 years-old when I made that shirt, which served as a testimony to my life-long devotion to the Caped Crusader. I was a huge fan of the live-action Batman television series starring Adam West, which was still in syndication when I was a kid, and the first comic book my mother ever bought me was a Batman title (which I still have to this day).

The top shirt is my second-oldest Batman shirt. I got this either in high school or shortly thereafter, along with the other two pictured above. This was several years before the Tim Burton-directed Batman film came out, so finding shirts with the character on it was pretty hard to do. I got these shirts at one of those weird gift shops that sells dirty greeting cards and fart spray. All three shirts are 50/50 cotton/polyester blends (which I hate), so I never really wore them that often. Still, both shirts brought me a sense of comfort.

This next shirt date back to when Burton’s Batman film came out. There was a massive blitz of Batman merchandise that came out in the months leading up to that film, and even more stuff after the film was a big hit. Although all of the merchandising made me a bit sick to stomach, as I saw it as the whoring of my childhood hero, I was also happy to get my hands on some cool shit. I’m pretty sure that this particular shirt was a present from some friends. I think Brian Wisely and Tony Kimple bought this one for me, but I can’t be sure. If it wasn’t them, and it was someone else reading this, I apologize. But the fact of the matter is that this is not only my favorite shirt in the Batman Collection, but also my favorite of all the Batman shirts I have ever seen. I love the design, and I always liked the fact that to the best of my knowledge the image was not something that had been recycled from a comic book cover.

This next shirt takes its design from Frank Miller’s vision of Batman. I thought the shirt was cool, because of the way the design worked its way into the shoulders. The reverse side of the shirt has the same image, and that always bothered me. I got this shirt from a different little gift shop that sold dirty cards and fart spray. I worked at this particular shop for quite some time in 1989. I was one of those silly pointless jobs, but I loved it. My boss was this great lady, who let me basically run the place. Hardly anyone came in during the week, except to buy cigarettes or the newspaper, so most of my time was spent listening to music, reading books, or hanging out with my friends.

This final shirt is an example of the more esoteric Batman designs we started to see once Burton’s film came out in 1989. I have absolutely no recollection of where this particular shirt came from, but I’m pretty sure my mother got me this one. She says she didn’t get it for me. Maybe I stole it. I think the design is kind of cool, but as I recall, there were people too stupid to know what it was, and I got tired of idiots asking me, “What’s that shirt mean?”

Stay tuned for The Batman Collection #2 in a future installment of T-Shirt Confidential.

T-Shirt Confidential #7

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

This week’s shirt features none other than the Reverend Jesse Jackson. This is a shirt from his 1988 presidential campaign. For those of you that don’t remember, 1988 was the tail end of Ronald Reagan’s two-term dictatorship. History has been remarkably kind to Reagan, but I was never a fan of his, and I still refuse to believe any of the bullshit hype that surrounds his mythology. The fact of the matter is that it was during the 1980s that major shifts happened within the American black community that sent it into a downward spiral from which we have yet to recover. Nearly all of these changes—which included the introduction of crack cocaine into the black community—happened under the Reagan administration. I’m still convinced that if you look closely, you can see the 666 on his forehead that was covered with make-up so most people would not recognize his true nature.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I came of age during the Reagan administration, and by the time 1988 rolled around, and I was finally old enough to vote in a presidential election, I was ready to do my thing. Jesse Jackson, or as some people call him, The Rev, was at what the height of his popularity. He was certainly a dynamic speaker, with a pretty sharp sense of humor, and most important, he represented a marked, visible change from everyone else in the political landscape in that he was black. And so, in 1988 I decided to back The Rev in his bid for the White House.

The interesting thing about this shirt is that it reminds me of both how politically idealistic and naive I was back in those days. I was disappointed when Mike Dukakis got the Democratic nomination over Jesse Jackson, and then I actually thought Dukakis could win (that man had no charisma). Looking back, I know that my support of The Rev had nothing to do with his political experience or his potential ability to be president. I supported him simply because he was black. In hindsight I now think Jackson would not have made a very good president.

As I have grown older I now see The Rev in a different way. Yes, the man has done some great things, as well as some really stupid things—which makes him just like many of us. When I was in my teens and early 20s, Jackson was just barely speaking to my generation of black youth. Since that time, he has become even more out of touch with the current generation of young people in the black community. When you stop and think about it, Jackson rose up to be the post-Martin Luther King voice of black America, speaking to my parent’s generation, who were born and came of age during the Civil Rights movement. By the time he ran for president, he was speaking to not only my parents and grandparents, but me and my peers.

I got this shirt when I volunteered to do door-to-door campaigning for The Rev. It was during this afternoon excursion of ringing doorbells in a predominantly white neighborhood in Portland that I learned three valuable lessons. First, no one likes political campaigners coming to their door. Second, some white people really didn’t like Jesse Jackson. And third, door-to-door campaigning was clearly not my thing, and I hated it so much that I never did it again. Still, for a brief moment I got to be part of the political machine, see the ugly face of racism that openly dwells in Portland, and I got a t-shirt that no longer fits after 30 years. That shit is priceless.

T-Shirt Confidential #6

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

Fishbone is one of the greatest bands of all time. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. Now, I know some people would argue that determining the greatest bands of all time is something that’s totally subjective, and that what one person finds to be musical genius another person might find to be crap. And while I agree with that, it doesn’t change the fact that Fishbone is one of the greatest bands of all time.

I was first introduced to Fishbone back in 1987 when I saw them live, playing the middle set in between Murphy’s Law and the Beastie Boys. Although the Beastie Boys were the headliners, and Murphy’s Law put on a great show, it was the insane group of black men from Los Angeles that played the theme to Fat Albert as part of their set who dominated the show. I was instantly converted, but it would take a while for me to truly appreciated Fishbone.

In 1988, Fishbone released their second full-length album, Truth and Soul. The only words to describe Truth and Soul are “fucking” and “brilliant”—there is not one bad song on the entire album. Thirty years later it still stands up as one of the greatest albums of all time, as well as one of the most poignant musical explorations of the black experience in America. In terms of social and political relevance, it ranks up there with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On? and Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

Most of these shirts date back to the early 1990s, around the time Fishbone released The Reality of My Surroundings, which contained several songs as genius as anything on Truth and Soul. At the same time,  that album also suffered from some flaws. As I was going through my shirt collection, I found a total of six different Fishbone shirts (five of which are pictured here). Not only is that the most shirts I have for any musical act, I don’t even know if I have a combined total of that many shirts from other bands, period. I also have a hoodie, which I just recently purchased.

With the exception of local bands, there is no musical act I have seen more than Fishbone. My guess puts the number of attended shows at close to twenty, in three different states. Over the years I have had the opportunity to get to know several members of the group, and back in 1997, I was briefly talking to bass player Norwood Fisher about doing music for my blaxploitation documentary. At Lollapalooza one year I was hanging out with frontman Angelo Moore, when two white girls walked up to us and began talking about how much they loved our music. It was pretty funny, because they clearly thought I was in Fishbone, when I don’t look like anyone in the group (even back then with a head full of dreadlocks). After they were done telling me and Angelo how great we were, I said, “I think you ladies are mistaken. Yeah, I’m in Fishbone—my name is Angelo Moore, I’m the singer.” Then I pointed to Angelo and said, “But this guy, he’s Lenny Kravitz.” I don’t know if it was sad or funny that they believed me, but when you consider that I don’t look like Angelo, and he doesn’t look like Lenny, it was pretty damn funny.

Several years ago, I was interviewed for the documentary Everyday Sunshine, but my interview didn’t make the final cut. Oh well.

T-Shirt Confidential #5

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

People think I’m exaggerating when I tell them that I have so many t-shirts that if I were to wear a different one each day of the week I could go for over a year without wearing the same t-shirt twice. In fact, the entire idea for T-Shirt Confidential (originally T-Shirt of the Week) started as I was trying to clean out my closet and get rid of old t-shirts. It seemed like every t-shirt had a story attached, and thereby some kind of weird sentimental value. Back in 2007, I couldn’t get rid of any of these t-shirts, but since then, I’ve unloaded well over one hundred (and I still have hundreds more).

This particular shirt is an example of what I mean by there being “weird sentimental value” attached to many of my shirts. It also speaks of my odd “addiction” to t-shirts (that’s a story for another time).

I got this Malcolm X shirt in Los Angeles back in 1997. I was living in LA at the time, working on my blaxploitation documentary, Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, & Shafted. Even though I was working on my film, by and large it was a very unpleasant time in my life. I was really broke at the time, almost all of my money went to food or gas for the car, and as a consequence I almost never went out.

At that time I had gotten to know Leon Mobley, who was the original percussionist for Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. We met when he played in Portland, and was looking to score some herb. This was back when no one but his mama knew who Ben Harper was, and you could see him and the band in smaller venues without a bunch of smelly hippies doing their stupid Grateful Dead dance.

The back of the shirt. For the most part, I don’t like designs on the back of a shirt.

Leon was also on the PBS series Zoom back in the 1970s when he was a kid. For a while I was talking to Leon about doing music for the documentary. He had invited me out to some of the only cultural events I attended while in LA, including the Malcolm X Festival where I bought this shirt. I don’t remember where the festival was, I just remember it was on a Saturday, it was hot, and I was hungry and broke. For the most part I was living off credit cards in those days (a BIG mistake) and I seldom had cash on me. I remember that I got to the festival, and I was really hungry. I only had a little bit of cash—just enough to get this t-shirt or get some food, but not both. Obviously, I bought the shirt.

This is one of several Malcolm X t-shirts in my collection, and at some point I’ll post stories about those. But of all the Malcolm X shirts, this is the one with the most interesting story.What is funny—and by “funny” I mean pathetic—is that I had never worn this shirt. I’ve had the thing in my collection for over twenty—TWENTY YEARS!!!—and I have never worn it! How do I know this? Well, I have a really big head, so big in fact that it stretches out the neck of every t-shirt I have ever worn. The neck on this t-shirt has never been stretched out—it is still a virgin. And knowing that it has never been worn, somehow makes the story more interesting…at least to me. Someday I may wear it – though I need to lose at least fifty pounds. But even if I don’t wear it, it will forever be a part of the story of my life.

T-Shirt Confidential #4

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

As with most of the shirts featured in T-Shirt Confidential, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not actually wearing this shirt. In chronicling my life through the t-shirts I have worn, the one hard truth that I have to face is that I have put on a lot of weight over the years. Many of the shirts I own, no longer fit. Don’t get me wrong, I can still put this one on, but it is with the utmost shame and disgust that I must admit how portly I have become over the years, and to see me rocking this bad boy is nothing short of just plain sad.

I got a lot of wear out of this shirt over the years. It was given to me by two of my best friends—Ron and Kevin—back in the summer of 1986, after we all graduated high school. The Meat Puppets were playing in town with two local bands (I think the other two bands were the Hellcows and Napalm Beach) at the Pine Street Theater. I had never been to a punk show, and Kevin and Ron dragged me out for this event—a sort of going away party for me, as I was soon heading off to New Jersey for college. What’s funny is that I have no memories of any of the bands, which is sad because I was neither drunk nor stoned. I did catch some of the first two bands, but by the time the Meat Puppets took the stage I was in the parking lot trying to make time with some chick whose name I can’t remember. All I remember about her is she had a tattoo of a spider, so over the years she has simply become known as Spider Chick.  All of this went down more than thirty years ago. A few weeks after that show I was off to New Jersey.

Me back in 1986, much younger, and not nearly as fat.

I wore this shirt a lot in the summer of 1986. Maybe it was because it reminded me of my friends back home. People would walk up to me and say, “I love the Meat Puppets,” and I would respond, “Yeah, they’re great.” The truth is that not only did I not see the show that night; I don’t believe I’ve ever even heard a single song by them.

T-Shirt Confidential #3

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

Talk about bringing back memories. This is one of several different shirts for a band called Drunk at Abi’s, which was pretty big in Portland during the late 1980s and early 1990s. I was in my early 20s back in those days, and while it sounds like a cliché to say it, I don’t think there was ever a more vibrant time in the Portland music scene. There was a ton of buzz being generated out of Seattle, most notably by bands like Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden, but no one had really broken big yet. Back in those days you could see a group like Nirvana in a really small club, and even the Red Hot Chili Peppers were only playing 1200 seat venues. It was really amazing.

Some of the hottest bands in Portland at that time included Sweaty Nipples, Hitting Birth, Pond, Crackerbash and Hazel. These were all great bands, but I had a close connection with Drunk at Abi’s, and they were my favorite. The earliest incarnation of the band was formed in late 1988/early 1989 at a party hosted by Abi Lawrence and her sister Valory. I was moving to New York, and my two friends JR Pella and Von Porter got drunk and started jamming, which is basically how it all got started.

By 1990 I was back in Portland, and Von and JR had formed a band. Originally I was hoping they would call themselves Jesus Truck Repair, after a local mechanic shop, but Drunk at Abi’s really made sense. (Eventually some other band called themselves Jesus Truck Repair, but they didn’t last long). At first they were a pseudo power trio with no drummer (?). JR was the singer, Von the guitarist, and a guy named Mike Flick was briefly the bass player before being replaced by Ray Gruen. Tom Peterson was the drummer, and he had gone to high school with JR and me.

DAA had a pretty fast rise in popularity, and for most of that time I was around, helping out in whatever way I could. One of the best shows was a special $1 showcase at a club called LaLuna. The show was completely sold out, there wasn’t enough security, and at any moment it seemed like a riot would break out. Me and some friends jumped in started helping cover security.

It seems like most of my social life revolved around either DAA’s gigs or the video store that me, Von and JR worked at (it was a lot like Clerks). At the height of the band’s popularity they opened for national acts like Rage Against the Machine and The Dead Milkmen. Unfortunately, the band broke up in either 1992 or 1993. It was probably harder on me than the rest of the band—it was like my parents had gotten divorced.

Below is a track from their first EP.

T-Shirt Confidential #2

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

This shirt was given to me by my cousin Sean back in 1995. FREEZE was the hip-hop label he was working for at the time. Somewhere, in my vast collection of material things (which includes waaaay too many t-shirts) I also have a few CDs from FREEZE, but this shirt got more wear than the albums ever got play.

I don’t know if other people ever take the time to think about what a particular article of clothing means to them, but this shirt means a whole hell of a lot to me. Sean gave it to me while I was on a trip visiting family in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. It was the early part of 1995, and I was still dealing with the death of my oldest friend in the world, who had been killed three days before Christmas in 1994. I bought my first video camera right before this trip, and my plan was to make a documentary about my family. Sean and his girlfriend Licia (who would later become his wife) were expecting their first child—the first of the new generation. I was determined to record a bit of our family history, so that when Sean’s daughter grew up, she would be able to know something about the people that came before her.

During that visit to the east coast I also took my grandfather on a road trip from Connecticut to southern Virginia, where he and my grandmother were originally from. It was important to see where they had grown up and met, so even though his health was not the best, it was important that I take him on this journey. I saw the cemeteries where many of my relatives were buried, and even met Miss Dora Hall, my grandfather’s grade school teacher, who at the time I met her was pushing up on 100 years old. On the ride back we spent two days in Washington D.C. with my good friend Bryan and his lady Maria. This time with my grandfather on the road represents some of my greatest memories, and I was wearing this shirt during much of that trip.

Me and my grandfather in Washington D.C. back in 1995.

It is hard to put into words what that trip back home really meant to me. Shortly after, Sean and Licia’s first daughter Nandi was born. In many ways this marked a new beginning for me and the rest of the family. I interviewed quite a few of my relatives during that trip, mostly older folks who have since passed away in the twenty-three years since Sean gave me this shirt. I never finished the documentary…but maybe some day.

T-Shirt Confidential #1

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

Back in 2007, I launched a regular feature on the original BadAzz MoFo website called T-Shirt of the Week (TSOTW), which ran every week for approximately six months before I got lazy. When I was forced to rebuild the site several years later, I didn’t bother to re-post TSOTW. I’ve decided to relaunch TSOTW, only now it is T-Shirt Confidential. I’ll start with updated versions of the original posts (which will be posted every Wednesday), and then start posting new stuff (until I get bored, distracted, forget, or run out of stories to tell). Thanks. Enjoy.

When I originally launched T-Shirt of the Week, this was a fairly new addition to my t-shirt collection, and one of more than a dozen different designs promoting Logan Smalley’s documentary Darius Goes West, or DGW for short. The hands on this shirt are spelling the American Sign Language letters for D, G, and W. “Know about it” is the tagline for the film. This is my favorite of the DGW shirts, which were sent to me by Logan’s mother, Barbara. Below are several other designs, including the “13th crew member” shirt, which was given to people who had gone out of their way to help DGW.

I had the privilege of screening Darius Goes West in early 2007 at the Longbaugh Film Festival, which I programmed and ran for five years. Darius Goes West is an incredible, life-affirming documentary. In a nutshell, the film documents a group of young men as they travel cross-country with their friend Darius Weems, a 15 year-old with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Their initial goal is to get on MTV’s Pimp My Ride so that it will trick out Darius’ wheelchair, and in the process call attention to DMD, the number one genetic killer of children in the world.

To say this documentary changed my life would be an understatement. Because of this film, I went on to become a volunteer counselor at summer camps for young people with muscular dystrophy, meeting some of the most incredible people I’ve ever known.

Me and Darius in 2010.

Sadly, Darius died in 2016, but not before I had the honor of spending time with him in person in 2008 and 2010. But it wasn’t just Darius, Logan (both of whom were the inspiration for the name of the main character in my novel Super Justice Force), and the rest of the DGW that changed my life – it was all the other people I met through my volunteer work as camp counselor. Recently, two of my campers lost their battles with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy (Nick died in January 2018, and Justin died in March 2018).

Me and Justin at Camp Promise in 2010.

After the deaths of Nick and Justin, I sank into a deep depression, much like the depression I fell into after Darius died. For a time, I started to regret having met all of the young people I’ve worked with who have DMD, knowing that there was a very good chance I would outlive all of these amazing people who were young enough to be my own children. But I soon realized that despite the grief of loss, my life has been enriched by all of these people, and I wouldn’t trade the experience of knowing any of them.

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