I spent July 4th alone

I spent July 4th alone. I don’t think I have ever done that before. In my whole life I was always with people. It reminded me of a few years ago when I did New Year’s Eve alone. I had never done that before, I was always with family or friends or at parties, but one year I was alone. And I liked it!

I didn’t like being alone for July 4th though. I normally would be in NYC, actually, The Hamptons, with my cousins. These photos are from a couple of years past in NY. I usually do the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and at times have watched the fireworks from Manhattan when not in the Hamptons.  This one picture of Molly and me, in the car, on our way to The Hamptons last July 4th, is one of my favorite pictures. Molly is my aunt and uncle’s dog.

On Facebook yesterday, one of my memories popped up from three years ago – it was a little video I posted from a crowd at Long Island City, where I went to watch the fireworks over the East River, with Manhattan in the background. I don’t know how to save it and post it here or I would. There were literally tens of thousands of people there – all on top of each other. Wonder if that will ever happen again. I remember all of us trying to get on the subway back to the city after the fireworks – the crowds were backed up all the way up the stairs into the street. The same thing happened one year in lower Manhattan, near city hall, where the fireworks were over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Will we ever be in crowds like that again?

Anyway, one of my cousins called me early yesterday morning to tell me that it was still on – that everyone was driving out for the day. No one was sleeping over. They are all being quite careful in New York due to the coronavirus and that’s why New York went from having the highest rate, down to the lowest.

I guess I didn’t have to be alone, but I chose to be. I could have been with family, as our town and even my neighbors weren’t doing anything, but I know my family was doing things – boating, barbecuing, etc. Yesterday was the 14th day of me sort of self-quarantining after being at a family party 14 days before.

I didn’t want to say anything, but I was at this party for my nephew’s 2-year-old daughter along with maybe 50 other people. And not one person had a mask on and there was no social distancing. While it was all family, a lot of the people I didn’t know from his wife’s side of the family, maybe 50% of the people there – and they insisted on shaking my hand – even when I would pull it away, they would grab my hand! And my sister-in-law’s mother, who sees me all the time, insisted on hugging me – three times throughout the day!

So for 14 days I was freaking out – counting down the days until I was safe. Last week, a week after the party, my family had pizza night. I didn’t go and I explained why and they respected that, which was surprising, because in the past they would have said something like, “Get off your ass and get over here!” But they respected my decision.

Anyway, I spent July 4th alone. I didn’t like it. Hopefully next year it will be back to normal. Not the “new normal,” the old normal.

We made it to July 4th!

coconuthunt

So it’s July 4th weekend. Hard to believe we all made it to this date. I remember starting to shelter in place in March. I thought it would all be over by now. But I guess I was just fooling myself. This year July 4th will be different for so many of us.

Normally I would be in New York at this time – probably at my cousin’s house in the Hamptons for the actual July 4th holiday with the family. Many times I would be there for the weekend, but on the actual day, July 4th, I would be in the City watching fireworks over the river.

But for many years I did stay home and was part of big celebrations in our town. We did so much here from hot dog eating contests to fireworks with so much in between.

For a few years we had a coconut hunt! What we did was have painting parties for a month or two before. Usually on a Friday night at one of the local galleries, we had painting parties with wine and pizza. Anyone could come by and paint – and people did. By July 4th we ended up with hundreds of coconuts.

At a given time, we would have the contest. We would hand out clues to people and they would run out into the village trying to find coconuts. Certain coconuts were winners – for instance, the golden coconut was the grand prize coconut, then there were others. We had numbers on all the coconuts and they were called randomly at the end and people would win all sorts of prizes.

We even had Lucie and Desi Arnaz Jr. one year for July 4th. They recreated a famous Lucy and Desi Sr. photo at City Hall here in the village. Fun times.

Road trip?

asheville

Looking Glass Rock, NC

So I never made it to New York this year which is a regular summer thing for me this time of year. This sort of had me down for a minute until my friend Harry said to me, “Thousands of people are sick and dying and you had to postpone a trip. Thank God you are safe and healthy. Besides, there are thousands of other places you can go other than New York.”

And I thanked him and told him I needed to hear that. It’s true, we are all blessed to be healthy and safe, while many are sick and dying. I pray that this caronavirus ends already, I pray that no one else gets sick. Or dies.

I didn’t go to New York for different reasons – the city is still closed regarding restaurants, theaters, museums, they really are not set up for visitors, some of my cousins are still sheltering in place, so I wouldn’t really see them and mainly because of the quarantine – now there is a 14 day quarantine for people coming in from Florida for the tri-state area – NY, NJ and CT, three states I enjoy spending time in. But I sort of see it as a good thing. I have this problem where something happens twice and it becomes the norm – a habit for me. While there are all sorts of places to go all over the world, I keep returning to New York, out of habit, an obligation in my head, I suppose. Now that habit is broken.

I have always wanted to spend the summer in Italy, maybe on the Amalfi Coast, but again, most of Europe has a quarantine on American travelers, and I fully understand that.

One thing I always wanted to do is to rent a lake house in North Carolina for the summer and have an open door policy – you know, anyone can come and spend time there, in and out all summer. But for now I am thinking of flying up to Charlotte, spending time there, and checking out Lake Norman where I want that Lake House and then spending time in Asheville. I have friends who live there now and also friends who are visiting now. I’ve been checking in on them about the situation up there. Seems like places are open, not fully, but they aren’t shut down like so many other places. They are being cautious and social distancing, but it isn’t a ghost town, which is good.

I would then drive home to Miami, stopping along  the way to my favorite old cities – Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA and St. Augustine, FL. Then end up back in Miami.

I would take my time. Spend whatever time I like in places, three days here, four days here, a week here, and so on. I’m thinking of maybe doing this at the end of the summer, more when things open up and are safer hopefully, maybe August into September, spending Labor Day on the road. I’m still figuring that out in my head.

An unassuming influence

dunagin1

Cartoonist Ralph Dunagin passed away last week. I always loved his work on the Dunagin’s People comic growing up and I see he worked on so many other things I liked like Grin and Bear It and The Middletons.

As I look at his work these days, I see so much of him rubbed off on me and I didn’t realize it. Apparently he was a big influence on my drawing style. I always tell people that Hanna-Barbera and Charles Schulz were my influences, but as I look at Dunagin’s work, I see my own drawing style – I got so much from him.

My faces look similar as well as the broken lines, which I like and also even simple things like shirt sleeves. I see it all in my work now. It seems as if he was my biggest influence without me even knowing it! Very unassuming!

dunagin3

dunagin2

The grass is always greener

north-carolinaIt’s interesting in this time of self isolation, people are reinventing themselves or at least living their dreams or trying to.

I have a friend who is a tv producer and editor. His tv shows are household names. He started out as a tv cameraman on reality shows. And his passion – making pies! While he is still working in the tv biz, his dream is to bake pies full time. He’s looking for a larger kitchen to work in and he is working on getting regular customers like restaurants and such. It’s so interesting how the grass is always greener. How many people would love to produce tv shows that are known and seen by millions of people?

The other day we were at lunch and he told me that he had to edit a commercial, which was for a major retailer, and he said, “This is going to take time from my pie making.” I had to laugh.

He loves taking advantage of this down time to explore his passion and I feel the same. After deadlines and pressures for so many years, I am living my dream cartooning. When I did the daily news I was pressured daily.

I remember one time we had an event in town and it was early in the morning. I was walking in town with my friend and she said to me, “Tom, you’re so lucky, you are at every event and in the middle of everything!” She said,  “I have to go to work now.”

The ironic thing is as she was saying that, I was thinking, “Is it 6 pm yet? Is the day over?” I didn’t want to be there and it seemed like so much fun to her. The grass is always greener.

I may end up canceling my trip to New York for the summer, it doesn’t seem like the time to go, but in the end I may end up living my dream – going to the Carolinas and checking them out. My goal has always been to live on a lake in North Carolina, near the mountains. Now I may have the time to do it – to explore the area which I always wanted to do – to just get in the car and go. We’ll see.

Image by Clay Banks

My first fan art

selfie

How do you like it? Andrei Limko did fan art of me!

I don’t have regular comic characters which are usually what fan art is drawn from, so he did it of me. I love it. I really do. I’ve always been called a character. And now I am one.

Andrei has a lot of great art at his Instagram page here: instagram.com/andrei.limko

Wrong perceptions

cdsA couple of summers ago I was walking through Times Square with a couple of my cousins, we were coming from seeing a play and heading to the car or subway or something. A black guy approached us and handed me one of his CDs. It was free and as so many guys do, he just wanted to get his music out there so he was passing it out.

It sort of looks like this photo only there were hundreds of people around going in all different directions. It was crazy and crowded, like Times Square usually is.

I sort of shrugged it off and said, “No thanks,” and we kept walking. But the guy’s response was quite disturbing. He seemed to think I was some sort of white dude from Iowa or something who never saw a minority before and he said, “It’s ok man. I’m a black dude. This is what we look like, we’re human, we’re harmless. Get to know us!”

I was shocked that he profiled me like that, which is totally the opposite of me, and I’m sure he himself is profiled every day of his life, but I turned him down because of so many reasons – basically I wouldn’t listen to his music. My music tastes are stuck in the ’80s and ’90s, so it wasn’t my thing. I also didn’t want to take the CD and end up throwing it away or throwing it aside in the back seat of the car or something, you know, wasting his money, and also I don’t think I even have a CD player! Also, in Times Square, there are people coming at you from every which way trying to hand you something or talk to you, it’s a crazy place, you sort of duck everyone subconsciously as you walk through. We were only there because we had to cross through to get out from the theater where we saw the play.

But of course disturbing about this is how the guy thought I perceived him, which was 100% wrong, just like his perception of me was totally wrong. It makes me sad whenever I think of it. What do I do in the future, take the CD, thank the guy and be on my way? Maybe.

Hey boomer!

So I had to grow a thick skin when I published the daily news for all those years. It really got rough at times and I don’t think I ever really got a thick skin. My solution was to take my name and anything to do with me off Google Alerts. Seriously. Hide my head in the sand, that’s me.

spicy-dan-printBut now that I am publishing comics daily, I see it has come back – people leaving comments I’m not crazy about. One guy thinks I stole a comic from elsewhere, another doesn’t understand one comic and another called my one comic, the one about Dan and the angry spicy food which ran a week or so ago, “Boomer humor!”

Rather than get offended, which I did at first, I told him, wait for the next comic, you’ll really see boomer humor. And that was the Columbo comic. Speaking of this Columbo comic, a guy, a boomer in fact, commented that he hates Columbo and turns it off every time it comes on. I got offended at that. I really do need get thicker skin. I’m not even Columbo and I get offended!

colombo-printI’m guessing people know Columbo, even if they are 16-years-old, I mean everything is in reruns or available for instant streaming these days and if you don’t know Columbo you don’t know what you’re missing.

I am glad to get comments, it shows me that people are paying attention, you know, say what you will about me, just spell my name right – that sort of thing.

There is one cartoonist who on GoComics, has all comments turned off. I get it. I ran into him one time at a ComicCon and I didn’t really know what to say when we met, because I’m not really a reader of his comic so there was nothing to talk about, so I mentioned the “no comments” thing and we chatted about that for a bit. I guess it’s about putting your heart and soul into something and then having someone tear it apart, which I guess we are all guilty of on social media. It’s so easy to hide anonymously behind a keyboard.

A friendly reminder

hal-and-high-waterIt’s amazing how my whole life has been enveloped by comics, yet a few years back I was sort of out of it and didn’t think I would draw again. Not for any special reason other than I was underwhelmed with so many comics in the newspapers and felt the heyday was over and I ran a very successful marketing business, so I felt that was my future.

About 12 years ago or so, my friend Victor bought me a bunch of stuff as a gift. I was reminded of it as I was cleaning out the closets recently. He bought me pads and pens or markers, something like that – for a birthday or Christmas gift and he said he hoped it would get me back into drawing and cartooning. It was the sweetest thought.

The funny thing is that it was all items I wouldn’t use and never have. And I’m sure anyone would feel that way because you use your own materials when creating art. If I was a painter, but then again no, isn’t that a song? Anyway, if I was a painter, I would have my own canvases that I preferred and my own paints and brushes.

But Victor’s thought meant so much more than the items themselves. And I am back on the road to cartooning history after all this time with a friendly reminder from those pads and pens.

As you know I post my comic daily online at TomFalco.com
And on FacebookandInstagram

Locked out of Facebook

facebook-facepalm

I was locked out of Facebook early Saturday morning up until Sunday morning. That was the scariest 27 hours!

I don’t know why, but when I went to look at it first thing in the morning, it had me locked out and asked me for a personal ID to get back into the account!

I sent them my drivers license.

It seems this has been going on for many years, but I had never heard of this before. If there is some suspicious activity related to your account, they want to protect you so they lock the account and ask for ID, which in the end works out because people cannot use your photos and clone you then.

Anyway, it’s a scary thing because you don’t realize all of your life that is associated with Facebook. I use the messenger service just as much as texting. I use Facebook for business daily. I run ads on it for my marketing company and I use it to converse with customers sometimes. I also use it to converse with friends and relatives and keep up with them like we all do. Also, when I was writing the news I would use it to verify the spelling of people’s names and sometimes I would get their photo from their to use in a news story, with their permission. It’s become such a part of our lives, it’s amazing the power it has over us.

I use Facebook for everything, not just communicating, but for news. I follow so many news sites – the usual, The NY Times, The Wash Post, etc. but also Channel 3 in Phoenix or The Boston Globe and the Cincinnati Enquirer. Why? Who knows. I follow all sorts of news sites. I follow a lot of cartoonists, too. Basically my whole life is on there.

And of course I publish Tomversation comics Monday through Friday on Facebook as well as other places like Instagram and at TomFalco.com. It was quite upsetting because I just started publishing my comics there and have worked up to quite a large number of followers/fans, but I noticed that if I make a temporary personal Facebook page, I can somehow get in there and continue to post and sort of make it work.

What riled me is that I have ads running on my business page. The account was down, I couldn’t get in but was being charged for ads and I couldn’t get into the account to stop them. This is a multi-billion dollar company, maybe trillion dollar company, with all of our info and there is no way to call them or email them. And you can’t use the forms to reach them unless you are signed into your account, which you cannot do if you are locked out.

One more thing – don’t ever sign up for other accounts through Facebook, I use my email account. You know when you go to join something else and it asks, “Would you like to sign up using your Facebook account or email?” Choose the email. Otherwise, you would be locked out of all those accounts, as well.