Valentine’s Day!



Last fall my sister-in-law Christy was getting the kids ready for school when she realized that the words coming out of her mouth weren’t the ones her brain was trying to say. She was speaking gibberish. She went to the hospital where they found a tumor the size of a tangerine nestled against her speech center. Yikes! And she is only 35!

Good news was, it was a slow growing benign tumor that had probably been there for years. So they opened up her head like a pumpkin and scooped the bad seeds out. Luckily, she was able to talk normally again and her compressed brain popped back into the skull space vacated by the tumor. So close, so young, Christy felt the wind from the dark wings on the back of her neck!

Anyway, she sent me a note saying her suffering clearly merited a breening. I took an unfinished piggyback attempt sent to me by a fellow artist who lost heart and almost completely covered it, except for the tie. A few years ago she tempted fate portraying a Melrose Place brain damage victim at a Halloween party so I gave her a lab coat like she wore at the party, but I guess in hindsight I should have given her a hospital johnny. Text says “On Halloween Christy tried to say boo, but the word wouldn’t come!”
The cat’s got her tongue, she holds an oyster with a pearl growing next to her brain. A smiley face Halloween pumpkin creatures holds its head out for brain inspection, while it has a half-empty or half-full glass on its shirt, depending on her point of view.

Now for a little background on the next symbol: Nothing scares my six-year-old son and I paint some pretty frightening stuff sometimes. Bloody headless Jesus zombies don’t scare him. Cat-faced psycho bird eating men don’t scare him. Trailers from “The Ring” or any other horror movies on TV don’t scare him. Only painting that ever scared him was one with smiley faces, go figure. However, Mrs. Breen had the bad judgment of reading him the classic kid scary story of the “Girl With The Green Ribbon Around Her Neck” one BED-TIME and the tale’s punchline hit him in the gut like the final explosive boom in a fireworks display. Lil Breen FREAKED OUT! Couldn’t sleep, crawled into our bed for 3 days. The fragility of life, the tenuousness of consciousness, the shock of the careening end all are wrapped up in that ribbon. A couple of days later he and I were in the attic looking for wrapping paper and ribbon for a gift he was giving someone when we came across some green ribbon. Like the jerk I am I instantly wrapped the ribbon around my neck and pleaded with him to pull it! He yelled furiously for me to take the ribbon off my neck RIGHT NOW! And wash my hands and neck with soapy water IMMEDIATELY! As if that would really stop my head from falling off. Sheesh! Of course, in the painting, Christy holds the end of that ribbon in her fingertips.

So, this breen isn’t for sale, it now resides in Missouri with Christy Breen, who by the way, did a crude portrait of me years ago, which got me thinking perhaps I could paint too!. Below is the story of the green ribbon:

The Girl with the Green Ribbon Around Her Neck

A long time ago there was a little girl who had a green ribbon around her neck. One day she went to school and met a boy named Jim. Jim sat behind her in class and noticed the ribbon under her pig tails.
“Why do you wear that ribbon around your neck?” he asked. Someday I’ll tell you, she promised.

When they were teenagers, Jim asked the girl on a date. While they were drinking frappes, Jim asked again, “why do you wear that green ribbon around your neck?” She laughed nervously and said, “Well maybe if we ever get married I’ll tell you.”

Jim fell in love with the girl and they got married. In bed their first night, the only thing his new wife wouldn’t take off was the ribbon and he asked, “Okay, we’re married now…why do you wear that ribbon on your neck!” She said, “I’ll tell you if we ever have kids.”

After they had a boy and a girl, Jim asked again,”Please, please, please, WHY DO YOU WEAR THAT RIBBON AROUND YOUR NECK?!?!” She said, if you love me, you’ll drop it for now, some day I’ll tell you.”

So he dropped it. Just accepted the fact that his wife wore a mysterious ribbon around her neck all the time. They got old together, then the woman got very sick, went to the hospital, and the doctor said she was going to die. Her distraught husband sat by her side for days, and finally said, please, tell me now, why do you have that ribbon around your neck? In a croaky voice she said, okay, I’ll tell you, take it off now.”

He pulled the bow loose and her head fell off.


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  1. Anonymous

     /  February 19, 2006

    LOVE your stuff
    You owe me about 1/2 hour… that’s how much time I just spent looking through everything here AND reading the article about you AND looking at the auctions on ebay. Absolutely brilliant work. I’m jealous of your friend with that wall full of Breen!
    You can come visit ME now at

  2. Anonymous

     /  January 13, 2008

    The Girl with the Green ribbon
    I had the misfortune of choosing the short story on Halloween 2000. I was a music teacher and since it was Halloween decided to read the story to the first grade class. Anyways, not having read the ending at the time, didn’t realize the scary ending. I was called into the principals office the next day. parents had called the school complaining about the scary story. many of the kids were scared out of their minds! The title always stuck in my head. I wrote and recorded a song by the same title. Pretty creepy. Google the title and you’ll see more on me. Love your art!
    All the best,


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