Tyrannosaurs for Everyone

Dinosaurs are a common t-shirt meme, but a flexible one. They can connote something crazy and weird, something menacing, something behind the times, something primitive, something subversive, or just something huge. (They do NOT connote sushi; that’s Godzilla, a whole different animal.)

Huge and Old: Pizzasaurus Rex

“Pizzasaurus Rex” implies something gigantic and formidable. This is decent marketing: for pizza, “gigantic” and “formidable” are good things. And if your pizzeria is two blocks from a college campus, free delivery is also good.

PR is a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint near the Cal State Northridge campus. In fact, the preppy dinosaur on this tee wears the red and black colors of the CSU Northridge Matadors. The starving students give PR their business, and it gives them cheap specials, the aforementioned free delivery, and donations to college athletics. Call it a symbiotic pizza relationship.

The word “Dinosaur” also connotes “old-fashioned” and “behind the times,” and in a way Pizzasaurus Rex is that also. The same family has owned it and run it since its beginning in the ’80s. They still make their dough and sauces from scratch, chop their own fresh produce, and so forth. Not because they’re fancy, but because that’s the way they like to make a pie.

Fifty years ago even corporate pizza joints did that, too; I worked in one, and we chopped and made nearly everything. Today, too often, everything comes in from the suppliers pre-prepped and packaged, even the dough. It’s about efficiency, labor costs and space. Not so much taste.

So Pizzasaurus Rex is behind the times, a dinosaur: at least for a medium-priced non-gourmet pizza restaurant. But when the times are out of whack, being behind them may be a good thing. Their reviews say so: great pizza in the medium price range.

And as we now know, in this world even dinosaurs can come back, if they ever left at all. They’re outside my window every afternoon, cawing from the trees and flapping their black wings. Like the crows, the pizzasaurs are simply biding their time. You just wait.

Crazy: Dug the Tyrannosaur Fashion Plate

Sometimes a dinosaur is just a dinosaur: no symbolism is implied. Freud said that about cigars once. Which brings us to this t-shirt for Dug, an eight-foot tall metal lawn tyrannosaur that stands in front of a home in Redwood City’s Emerald Hills neighborhood.

Dug owners bought him about ten years ago from one a place that sells arts, crafts, plants and lawn dinos. (May sound weird to out-of-staters, but I could drive to one of those in ten minutes.) The couple bought a tyrannosaur. They put it on their front lawn. They named him Dug.

Soon they started making costumes for Dug. This went on for years.

There are pictures of Dug as Elvis. Dug as Marge Simpson. Dug as Santa, consuming a reindeer. Dug as a giant Thanksgiving turkey. Dug as Cupid for Valentine’s Day. Doug as Iron Man, with his “parents” standing by dressed as Captain America and the Mighty Thor.

Locals started walking or driving out of their way just to see what Dug was up to. Kids loved him. Everybody knew Dug.

Dug even entered civic life when he “authored” a petition to support neighborhood improvement plans. Dug t-shirts like this one were sold to raise money for local schools, too.

A couple of years back, Dug’s parents had to leave town on account of work — they’ll be back someday — and Dug was fostered to friends in the neighborhood. He has a new lawn to call home near the elementary school. All the kids can see him every day. And he has been known to mask.

Old and Primitive: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

I don’t buy t-shirts from barbecue joints. Ninety percent of them show a pig. Pigs are boring. Sure, the pig may be wearing pants, and smiling; it may be barbecuing other pigs while wearing a chef’s toque (and smiling). But as barbecue totems go, pigs are unimaginative and kind of ghastly. “Welcome to our barbecue, please eat me.”

But this particular barbecue tee featured a dinosaur: traipsing the pitted highways of upstate New York with a guitar on one shoulder, a bluesman’s pork pie hat, and a tyrannosaur’s smile. Upon some research, this proved appropriate.

The history: a group of bikes with no great prospects began cooking barbecue at motorcycle rallies and other festivals back in the ‘80s. The food for sale at the rallies was crap, and they needed to make a living. So they sawed an oil drum in half for a smoker, and they were in business.

It worked out. But they were constantly on the road between gigs with an old truck and old motorcycles, cooking their own food over open fires. Among them loomed a big guy named Dino, and they ended up calling themselves dinosaurs: modern primitives.

So the dinosaurs eventually opened Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (aka The Dinosaur) in Syracuse NY, because they were tired of the road and because there was no barbecue in upstate New York. Upstate New York is a sort of dinosaur itself: its once-mighty industries were swept away by “liberalized” world trade. They’ve still got attitude upstate, but not a lot else.

Maybe the locals were drawn to the name; or maybe the barbecue is really good. Because over time the Dinosaur became an upstate barbecue ’n blues chain which persists to this day. Lately the Dinosaur has made inroads into New York City itself, and beyond. Not bad, from a start with a bunch of bikers and half an oil drum.

I told you earlier that I don’t care for barbecue tees with pigs on them. This tee does have one, on the back side: an angry, cigar-chomping pig in (yes) a pork pie hat. with the cryptic legend WDFA. It stands for the dinosaurs’ secret motto: We Don’t Fuck Around. I like this pig.

Subversive: Jesus on Dino-Back

Jesus riding a dinosaur? “Like a boss?”

Disaffected young people in the American Bible Belt made this t-shirt popular six or seven years ago. It’s a tempting mind game to play on the more rigid type of Christian: because of course Jesus is the son of God and can do anything he wants.

But… if you’re a Bible literalist, as some are, dinosaurs couldn’t exist. Everyone knows that God created the world in seven days, five thousand years ago. Thus Jesus couldn’t have ridden a dinosaur. Jesus and dinosaurs can’t be in the same world together. Hmmmm.

The conservative evangelical water is just a bit muddy on the subject of dinosaurs. Some very conservative Christians used to say that since God is all-powerful, “he” could make two plus two equal three if he cared to. From that supposition it follows that the Son of God could triumphantly ride a creature that never existed. God is all-powerful, after all. He could make it exist. Right?

From social media of the time, I learned that young Bible Belters wearing the tee experienced very little blowback. Perhaps the shirt simply confused extreme Christians. Or perhaps they saw it as yet another statement that JESUS IS LORD OF ALL: even the dinosaurs. Or perhaps they didn’t care.

Well, heck. I’ve got completely serious Christian t-shirts that show Jesus blessing expensive motorcycles in a beam of holy light. If some more rigid Christian mindsets can accept that, perhaps accepting Jesus on dino-back isn’t a stretch. Or they don’t get it.

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