It was a quiet Friday evening and because we have quiet lives I was at home, sitting in the living room, reading and drawing, and this is what our living room looks like from the couch.
Weird day, Friday. First thing in the morning I get a call from the caregivers for my Mom. Seems she’s really out of it; non-responsive, out of it…and then that afternoon I get a call from our son who makes a surprising, life-changing announcement out of the blue, only to email back several hours to say ‘never mind’, so…wtf?
What do you do–well, whatever you can with the information you have, right? I’ll call the doctor on Monday again and well, wait to hear from our son. He’s still young and capable but still–he’s our son and we worry. So…breakfast, work…whatever. And these sketches this morning at Cole Coffee over on College Avenue.
Ordered a macchiato but they charged me an extra 20¢ for a ‘for here’ cup. Again…wtf. You want me to pay for doing your dishes, fine–then that’s your tip. Sorry.
(PS–son called and he’s fine; just going through an apparently brief existential crisis)
When I moved to Japan in 1984 for what I realize was my ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood, I wanted to be in a situation where I had no fallback. No parent to bail me out. To create a life all on my own.. just doing it in a foreign country, learning a foreign language as well as a foreign culture.
Back in the 1980s, gaijin literally ‘outside person’, were fairly rare in Japan. Even in Tokyo, it wasn’t uncommon to go a few hours without seeing another foreign face (unless you were just outside one of the ubiquitous English language schools that popped up at the drop of a pair of chopsticks). Hence the little comic I came up with–Shadow of the Gaijin, which would ultimately morph some dozen and a half years later into Tokyo Days, the series of three short comic tales that illustrated my first several days living in Japan.
‘Shadow of the Gaijin’ was occasionally replaced titularly (that word cracks me up) with the simpler ‘Sensei’ which most anyone, even non-native Japanese will know means ‘teacher’, and yes, that’s how I spent most of my working hours while in Japan.
Here are a couple of one-pagers chronicling the nameless gaijin as he wrestles with the nefarious ‘Tee-Hee Club’ of rampaging Japanese schoolgirls. Parts 1 and 2, the complete story!
We were sitting around the dinner table with a couple of friends the other night and my wife was showing off my old sketchbooks for laughs and we all started talking about comic strips and how they might change with the times, or if they were not graced with the poetic license of never aging.
We tried to picture the Peanuts gang all grown up and ready for retirement. How would that look? Would all have survived? Would Lucy have actually have become a psychiatrist or maybe some pop psych guru? Shroeder a concert pianist?
Me? I was curious about the dog.
And just for fun, here’s the page I used to do some rough sketchups of the characters. Interesting to note that my reference was all from online sources, with a sketchbook in front of me, a pencil in hand, and my iPad in front of me with the Google results for such things as ‘snoopy images’, or ‘predator drone images’. You’ll note that I reversed a couple of panels in terms of order to better tell this brief vignette story, gave Charlie a baseball cap, and didn’t add in the satellite dish on the doghouse (though in retrospect I wish I’d left it in). It was fun.
I have…probably in our shed, maybe one or two large ledger boxes filled with my sketchbooks. I might have 50 or more, many with at least a date on the first page so that I can have an idea of when I did these drawings.
The drawings illustrate my life and personal history to a degree, and the sketchbooks also proved at times to be as much a diary as anything. Memory lane.
Here is a little freehand one-pager comic I created…probably in the late 80s when I was living in Japan, teaching English and seeking out…whatever someone in their very early 30s might be seeking.
Now some 25+ years later, I can say categorically that I found…something. Whether it was what I wanted or more what I needed, well…
Back when I was living with three friends in Menlo Park, I managed to get the local college newspaper The Stanford Daily at Stanford to publish my comic strip. It lasted a semester, it faded from general awareness in 1979 after its debut in 1978, and no one shed any tears. It was a fun time, I managed to piss off both the physical education department as well as some humorless women’s libbers (at least in my view), and I probably grew a bit through the experience, as well.
No, I didn’t actually attend Stanford as a student, having already graduated from college a couple of years previous, but living in a lively college town, making my way selling hot tubs, falling in love (again), getting fired for the first time from a job I held only two weeks, and getting my comic in the local paper made for a memorable 1979.
Now…some thirty plus years later I put pencil to paper once again in a little exercise to see how I might put together a newspaper (or web, for that matter) comic strip featuring…featuring.. .umm…well, Archie and the gang all grown up and ready for social security.
Naturally I wouldn’t and couldn’t use those copyrighted characters or any semblance similar to them, but if you’re going to write and draw a comic about what you know…then write about that generation of your own.
There are newspaper strips out there featuring older characters, and I suppose those cartoonists may be putting together some livelihood doing it, so what the hell.
Here was a page of sketches delineating a cast of characters, all in retirement or soon to arrive in that post-62-years-old state; some ready financially, some not, but all having to deal with the tribulations of life…loneliness, desire, poverty, health, and…simply forgetting shit.
Left a bit early for work and stopped in at the new Lindgren Cafe on Dwight. Parked my bike right out front and ordered a cortado and sat down to it this drawing together.
It was nice to be out and about on my bike, taking different paths to my usual destination. It occurred to me that if I were to head out to different places each day a little earlier than usual, I could find some interesting places and things to sketch. A different place each day–and get new ideas for comics stories.
Wife and I had an interesting discussion about the drawing; area or item she noticed that could have used some attention. Huh! Only one problem she saw to note. It’s a valid observation and I corrected it, but only on the original, NOT on what you see. If you notice it, I hope you can live with it for the 30 seconds you might remain here on this blog.
The day is long, life is long, and while not many of us make a mark to remember our passing like famous writers, statespersons, film stars, or philosophers, we all make an impact to one degree or another on those in our own, immediate circle.
I once wanted to be, at best, a comics artist that made his living drawing pictures. It never happened, I’m not convinced it ever will, but I haven’t quite given up. Along the way I’ve done some interesting things; been a hot tub salesman, vitamin peddler, new age hardware store clerk, soda jerk, barista, comic book store manager, and even singing telegram messenger.
In Japan for three years I taught English and had a part in a rock video. I’ve actually been paid to do commercial art, bought a sailboat that I never sailed, kissed a lot of girls and didn’t make them cry, and now…now at nearly 60 I’m mostly working in a bookstore selling old and new comic books, baking for a local cafe, and even anticipating some possible crazy changes in the next few months (more on that if I can bring myself to write about it).
In this mood the other day, I threw this little piece together.
Our daughter, Stephanie, is an artist who has been reasonably successful in her chosen career as an independent creator of ‘sculpture’ since she graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute (and picked up an MFA from Stanford just a couple of years ago). She had wanted to be an artist since…well, since we met when she was seven and I became her stepdad. The one piece of work that I wish I still had (and she no doubt wishes I would forget) was the camera she made from an old tampon box. You pressed a ‘button’ and out would pop a photograph.
Now her work is in the permanent collections of a couple of museums of modern art. Go figure.
One thing I remember I would ask her whenever we attended one of her show openings was ‘what does this piece mean?’ Navigating the rarified world of post modern art is no easy task, but she would be patient in her consistent demand that I needed to, and I paraphrase here wildly, to figure out for myself what it meant–to me. What did I the viewer draw from the experience of seeing this piece?
So look below. What do you see and how do you understand this comic?
In addition to this blog of my scribblings, I have a food blog here. I try to eat healthily, in that nearly all of my food intake is composed of fresh ingredients and much less from boxes or packages. This allows me to control fats, salt and the like, and it allowed me to continue in mildly sedentary ways (my day job has me on my ass most of the day) yet continue to lose weight.
Right now in these winter months, I’m vacillating between 210 and 213 but anticipate with the spring I’ll be back down to 207 or less as my physical exercise increases.