(Originally published July 7, 2007)
There are national holidays, and local holidays, and personal holidays; those days that live on with particular significance in the personal home movie in your mind. July 7, 1977 — 7-7-77 — is one such date for me. I got my first cartoon published on that date, almost exactly 30 years ago.
It was in the Berkeley Barb, the legendary local underground newspaper. One of those strange relics of the ’60s that was still puttering along on its strange orbit by the time I hit the scene in the late ’70s. I still remember the thrill as I nervously approached the Berkeley Barb newspaper rack around 7th and Market in San Francisco, in plain view of the domed City Hall building. Opening up the rack, THERE IT WAS! My own comic strip. Taking up half the back cover, in color no less. After all these years of being on the “outside looking in” of the media game, I was finally on the other side of Alice’s mirror.
I had worked for a month on that comic from my off-ramp crash spot on Fremont Street. That had been my homeless home for the last year. It was a beautiful spot, actually, on top of this man-made hill at the foot of the Bay Bridge, with a panoramic view of the entire San Francisco Bay. I naively expected (ahh, youth), that since I had worked on the comic for a month, I would be paid for a month’s labor (ha ha). So it was a shock when I got my check for a meager $30. But, nonetheless, I was now a Professional Artist. For better or worse. And plenty of both, actually.
Now, 30 years later, I look back, wistfully (or is it disgustingly) at my youthful self and my youthful dreams. Hi, Youthful Self. Like the Bob Seger song goes: “If only I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” Ignorance may not be bliss, but it often beats reality.
Now, 30 years later, I’ve strangely come full-circle. Homeless again, at age 50. Maybe its just a matter of getting old. So many of your youthful dreams didn’t pan out. You end up at such a different place than where you thought you’d end up. After all the years, all the scenes, all the people, all the sound and fury signifying everything.
I’ve got my money’s worth on this spin of the karmic wheel, that’s for sure. And yet, after all the trips, after all the triumphs and tragedies, there’s this strange emptiness in me. This hollow feeling. This feeling of my life having reached a dead end. This “what-do-I-do-now” feeling.
Over the last 30 years, I tried for the fame-and-glory trip. Got my name in all the papers, got thousands of people telling me I’m great, and thousands more telling me I’m an asshole.
I went on the spiritual trip, spending years meditating and chanting my mantra and trying to worship God.
I went after romantic love, falling in love with a half dozen beautiful women, spending years chasing after them like a dog chasing after its own dick.
I went on the “community service” trip. Trying to find ways to contribute to society and humanity.
I went on the friendship trip, making hundreds of friends, trying to “relate” to people, and stave off the loneliness that has dogged me always.
And yet now I’m at a loss for What To Do Next. It’s not that I’ve “seen it all, done it all.” It’s more that I can’t think of anything else that I really want to do. Can’t think of anything that would bring me happiness or fulfillment.
Well, I could type blogs on a computer screen. Maybe that’s the answer. The missing piece. Yeah. I’ll be sure and get back to you 30 years from now to see how that one panned