The Christmas tree

Today’s comic is sort of true. I did this for many years – only without the ornaments on the tree!

I would throw the Christmas tree off our balcony so that the needles would not get all over the elevator when we got rid of the tree. I would have someone stand below and then throw the tree off, and they would be sure that no one was standing under it. We would then drag it to the street.

For the past few years – it could be as many as eight or 10, we’ve had an artificial tree. I bought it once, not sure why, maybe to conserve real trees. But I didn’t like it. It looked so much larger and nicer in the store. So I thought, ok, let’s use it one year and then get a real one next year. Only the next year I felt, why not use it again, it’s so easy to just drag it out of the spare room and not have to run out tree shopping, plus we’ll get our money’s worth if we use it one more time.

And then another year passed, and then another and it’s just part of the family now.

My car is a convertible and the only time I ever put the top down was to throw the Christmas tree in the back seat each December! Now the top wont’ open, due to lack of use. I think it may just need fluid.

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AIEEE! It’s Arnold

Every once in awhile, I think of the “Arnold” comic strip that I loved. It ran from 1982 through 1988. Arnold Melville and his friend Tommy Jordan were the main characters. The cartoonist was Kevin McCormick. If you click on these strips, they’ll open larger.

I read it daily in The Miami Herald. Arnold was this big nosed kid and lots of the activity took place in his school. His long suffering teacher was Mr. Arnold.

Almost daily, Arnold would screech out AIEEE! at the most inopportune time. Is there every an opportune time? It always made me laugh, it just came out at the right moment.

Most of the other characters spoke from outside the panels, you wouldn’t see them.

I think the strip ended too early, Kevin ended it, the syndicate didn’t drop it. Kevin had a big hawk fly in in the final strip and eat Arnold. Kevin regretted ending the strip and said it was too late, “the big bird swallowed.”

But again, look at Bobby Ewing and the shower bit. Maybe Arnold can reappear one day and the big bird sequence could just be a dream.

Every time I see these old strips, it brings me back to being a kid reading it. I can remember that period of time so vividly.

You can see some more samples of the Arnold comic here.

Edith Piaf

This is one of those times when things came together out of the blue. Edith Piaf is special, her voice and aura is my Christmas gift to you.

A friend sent me this Edith Piaf song, “No Regrets.” He was taking about something and said he had no regrets. When I heard the song I was flabbergasted. I had heard it all my life, but I didn’t know it was Edith Piaf. It’s part of an Allstate Insurance commercial and every time the commercial comes on I stop what I’m doing to listen. I love it. I’m sure you have seen it.

This is a long version of the commercial.

I had always heard of Edith Piaf but didn’t know much about her. I looked her up on Wikipedia and see that she died young – at 47 in 1963, due to drinking and parting too much. Her final words were, “Every damn thing you do in this life, you have to pay for.”

She had such a tragic life. Her mother didn’t want her. She lost her only child at age 2. She was married multiple times and had such a short, sickly life. “No Regrets” describes here life exactly. You can read about her here.

She seems so small and fragile. Look at these live performances. Amazing that such a voice comes out of such a little lady.

Here are a couple of live versions of Ms. Piaf singing “Non, je ne regrette rien (No Regrets)” and “La vie en rose,” which she wrote. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have this stuck in your head all day. But not a bad thing to be stuck in your head!

It’s like this little girl is a reincarnation of Edith Piaf.

I watched the video so much that Allstate is now sending their Edith Piaf ads to me on Twitter!

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the grief doesn’t last
It is gone
I’ve forgotten the past

And the memories I had
I no longer desire
Both the good and the bad
I have flung in a fire
And I feel in my heart
That the seed has been sown
It is something quite new
It’s like nothing I’ve known

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things that went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the seed that is new
It’s the love that is growing for you

Popeye’s, Fauci and me

So yesterday I drove all over the place, dropping off Christmas presents. It was so great to see my family, it’s been so long; so many of them still separated from each other, but I got to see most of them.

My last stop was at my parents, where I brought Popeye’s chicken and we had lunch together. I’m a cartoonist, I had to get Popeye’s. What else?

Speaking of cartooning, I did a couple of caricatures yesterday, one is of me and one is this Dr. Fauci cartoon which was published today. I was watching Dr. Fauci get vaccinated on tv and this came to mind.

As for me. I am trying to join a cartooning organization and they asked for “a short biographical sketch or resume”. I read it wrong and thought they wanted a sketch to use on their website or something, so I did this sketch. I put the sunglasses on because I couldn’t get my eyes right.

Christmas this year

So I may spend Christmas alone this year – first time ever – just like Thanksgiving – first time I ever was alone for Thanksgiving was this year, too.

I’m going to deliver gifts today to friends and family, just so I am not pressured on Christmas day, then I can play it by ear that day and go or not go anywhere and not be pressured because there are gifts to be delivered.

I was finishing wrapping up presents this morning and I turned around and saw this. Isn’t this cute? This little guy wants to escape. It’s a metaphor for the year, I think. Don’t we all want to escape this year? One of my friends who say this photo said he is trying to get out because he wants to stay with me. But not to worry, he is going to a good home – to a one month old boy, in fact! He’s probably bigger than the boy at this point.

Anyway, it’s not that I don’t have a place or two or three to go, but in the interest of safety, I think it’s best not to mix and mingle, especially due to the fact that I have family members who think it’s nothing to go out and party in bars and clubs all the time. Why they are still open can only be explained by our inept government.

I noticed that all of 2020 I did not have hospitalization as part of my coverage! I renew my health insurance myself every year and apparently last year that slipped by – the year of covid!

It’s a confusing process every November and December because it always changes. Things are dropped or moved around and you have to look through dozens of plans to make sure everything is on there that you want and while I was looking for something here, the hospitalization there just slipped away without me noticing. I only noticed when I compared plans for 2021.

So that’s another reason I choose to stay home this holiday season. Why tempt fate when 2021 is only a few days away and I’ll be fully covered, health insurance-wise.

To tell you the truth, I was telling someone that I welcome the change. Just to get out of the rut. It’s the same thing every year – go here for Christmas Eve, go to midnight mass, go here for breakfast the next day, then go here for lunch/dinner, then do this to open gifts and so on – it’s all sort of scripted.

So to have a change this year feels refreshing. To be honest, I don’t even know what day of the week it is anymore. If someone didn’t tell me it was Christmas, I would probably sleep right through it. Maybe next year we can change things up for the holidays – maybe France for Christmas day; maybe Thanksgiving in the mountains. Who knows?

It’s nice to be missed and I wasn’t angry

Near the bike shop.

I live in a small village in Miami. It’s a place where everybody knows your name. It is changing though, lots of development – over-development. Politicians sold the place out and our little village is turning into something else.

I only mention it because we have “Andy Griffith” spots in town. We call them that because they are gathering places where people hang out. If you’re looking for someone or some gossip, they can be found at the Andy Griffith spot, sort of like they did on the Andy Griffith show outside the courthouse or Floyd’s barber shop, etc.

In the past it was at a sunglasses kiosk that a friend ran. We all hung out there, put our feet up on the table and shot the breeze. We also hung out at art galleries and the book store, which was part cafe.

Now it’s the bike shop, which is in danger of being taken over by developers like all the other locations.

Anyway, after I had gotten towed, I wasn’t around. not for any reason other than I was busy and the few times I tried to stop by, I couldn’t find parking and wasn’t about to tempt fate again with the towing company.

But the funny thing is when I returned to the hang out and center of town on Friday, I had so many people call out to me and ask how my car was and asked if I got it back! Small village life.

Many thought I was still upset and didn’t want to return for that reason. Even close friends thought that. And I asked them, well, if you cared, you would have called or texted. And they said the same to me, that I would have reached out to them, too.

But it was just funny to have people asking about the car and the fact that they missed me; I had already forgotten about it and was dealing with other things. I guess it’s nice to be missed.

Appreciating a strange year

I’m trying to appreciate everything before life gets back to normal. Does that sound strange?

Now that there is a vaccine, hopefully things will get back to normal fast. But it makes me think of this past year. We’re sort of in a rut now, but at the beginning, I really appreciated the whole concept of the world stopping. I wrote about it often.

I was looking out the window the other day – basically the same old scene for the past eight months

I think we’ll look back on 2020 one day and realize that it was an interesting time. A time to stop and reflect. A time to reset our lives. The Earth seemed to be resetting itself.

We may start to see the water and air getting a little bit more polluted. We’ll see more traffic and people on the streets; and more noise out there as industry and travel picks up. It will be life as normal. And we may miss the quietness and the time off that we had during 2020.

There was a lot of sickness and death; and loss of jobs and other things. But there were other things, too. Things that we’ll remember and appreciate once we are out of this strange time. Things we did that we may not ever do again. Walks we took, things we noticed, time we spent alone.

I remember walking around the neighborhood and noticing things I had never noticed before. I remember how quiet the neighborhood was. So desolate.

I had planned to get an RV of some sort, remember the Boho van and head up to the Carolinas, but in the interest of safety, I stayed put.

My living room faces a hotel that was torn town across the way. I remember watching that being taken down slowly over a couple of weeks. Every time I look out at the vacant land now, I remember that time period.

The other side of my place faces a new townhouse going up across the street. They started last January and worked on it through the pandemic. There were times when the only movement in the neighborhood were the construction workers and I looked forward to hearing them.

I remember seeing more people than normal out on the water – rowing, kayaking, paddle boarding. They don’t do that too often, now, but it was a daily thing back in April and May. I remember seeing how clean the water had gotten; and the air.

I remember ordering food from the supermarkets because I was afraid to shop with other people around. I remember only eating at home and then slowly venturing out into the neighborhood. Things are different now. I am out and about – social distancing and wearing a mask, but it took time to get out there.

It’s one of those watershed things where we’ll remember what we did before 2020 and after 2020. It’s a marker in our lives.

New lettering alert

Old lettering

I changed the lettering starting with today’s comic. What do you think?

The image above has the old lettering and the bottom image has the new lettering. I think the new lettering fits more in line with the drawing style.

If you saw today’s comic before seeing this blog post, did you notice it right away? Did it seem cleaner? Did it seem like something was different? Or did you just not notice at all?

What do you think? I’m interested in your opinions.

New lettering

My mechanic

I had a Seinfeld moment with my mechanic. No, it wasn’t like the one with Jerry’s car and mechanic, it was like the one with the barber.

My mechanic found a different size lug nut on my wheels. I had gone for new tires. He asked why it was different than the rest. I told him that he and his brother are the only two people who work on my car. I don’t know if he believed me.

It was like when Jerry changed barbers and felt guilty about it. Only I didn’t change mechanics, in fact, I can go get tires at a tire place, but I go to this guy for everything, even tires.

We then realized it was the small lug nut that is used for the spare tire. It must have been mixed up one time when I had the spare on and then changed back to the regular tire.

I told him it was like the Seinfeld episode with the barber. He knew what I was talking about and he laughed.

My mechanics don’t like how I treat the car, I just put gas in it and go. They say I run it into the ground, but I told them that when I get a new car one day, I’ll have to use the dealership because the car will be under contract.

For years I leased cars, but didn’t like having to turn them in every three years, so I bought this last car and I just keep it and keep it, it runs great. It’s a bit old, but runs great, thanks to my mechanics.

I didn’t want to ‘Say Cheese!’

I was talking about film and developing recently. It reminded me of a couple of stories regarding film and cameras.

I had a friend, Vincent, who would take pictures throughout the year and he would put a couple of the prints in the Christmas card he would send you. You would open the card and out would pop a photo of you and friends from July 4th or a birthday party or whatever, from earlier in the year.

When I was in high school I worked at a department store. At one point I worked in the camera department where we sent photos out to be developed. We had a couple of friends, ladies maybe in their 20s, who used to have racy pictures developed every week. It was a regular thing.

People who worked in all different departments of the store used to come by asking if any of their photos were in, returned by the developer. So many people would see the photos, it’s a wonder the ladies never complained about the envelope that the photos came in, it was surely bent and wrinkled and not in the pristine shape the pictures came in. But then again, they probably knew and got a kick out of the whole store seeing their x-rated life.

I remember reading when I was a kid, that there were just a few pictures of Jesee James and Abraham Lincoln and I used to think that was so cool, even though I know why there were only just a few photos. So I decided for most of the 1980s, that I would not be in any photos so when I died, there would only be a few shots of me, like Lincoln.

I don’t think I said anything, I would just slip out of the frame. To this day, I think this is the first time I am telling anyone. It wasn’t a secret, it was just something I did without mentioning it. In many cases, I would offer to take the picture, you know, “Oh Joe! Get in the picture, I’ll take it!”

And so all these years later, I don’t have many, if any images of me from the 1980s, the favorite decade!

Recently one of my cousins put a picture on Facebook, I think from 1989. It was an image of about 25 family members lined up in the backyard. We were all in town for a wedding. And I was missing in the picture! We were all wondering where I was. I couldn’t think of a reason why I wasn’t there either. And then I realized, I probably took the photo after slipping out of the frame. One of my lamebrained ideas. I don’t think I told anyone why, even recently on Facebook, what I did as a joke was Photoshop a current picture of myself into the photo.

I do regret not being in many pictures now. Seeing them would have brought back so many wonderful memories that I forgot about.