Archives for September 2012
Message on postcard:
Hi Sindre! Thanks for backing my Kickstarter project. I’ve had a great time traveling this summer, but since my wild boar attack the pace of things has slowed down while I recuperate in the Bay Area (the region around the San Francisco Bay). I was disappointed not to be able to send travel photos to all my project backers — snapshots of a friend’s apartment don’t compare well to the photos I took of the Badlands, for example — so I decided to work on a little mini-project while I’m convalescing.
Charles Schulz, the cartoonist who wrote and drew Peanuts, lived in nearby Santa Rosa for most of his career. After I got out of the hospital I visited the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, and it was such a neat experience that I thought I would try to interview the museum archivist for my website. And tomorrow I’m interviewing not only the archivist, but also Jeannie Schulz, Charles Schulz’s widow. I’m super excited about this! I’m especially hoping that you enjoy it, because your avatar on the Kickstarter website is a very neat cartoon face.
I like Peanuts … I feel like Charlie Brown some days, and as the owner of two dogs I’m pretty much legally required to like Snoopy. Some of my friends don’t really care for the strip — not that they dislike it, rather they’re more neutral about it — which seems strange to me. I’m trying to segue into this story about the guest ledger at the museum, but I don’t know how to write a fluid transition, so I’ll just tell the story.
The guest ledger is this sketchbook with Charlie Brown on the cover, and inside people have written notes of appreciation and a few have drawn characters from Peanuts. On the cover, the smile on Charlie Brown’s face has a little downward dip at the end … it’s a little tiny pen movement that goes a long way. I think it shows some kind of anxiety or reservation in the character of Charlie Brown. And in a guest book entry, there’s an amateur attempt at Charlie Brown where he has a full-on smile, no hint of doubt to his happiness.
I think that particular amateur drawing is a great if unintentional interpretation of how Charlie Brown makes the artist feel. And it makes me happy that [an anxious, potentially depressed] character like Charlie Brown can make a person happier than Charlie Brown is.
Message on postcard:
01. Hi Iona! You requested a postcard “the weirder the better”, so you get Congressman Barney Frank, King of Pacific Salmon. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Frank while camped near the beach on a windy and moonless night.
02. Around three in the morning I was awakened by an otherworldly noise that seemed to rise and fall with the waves. A sound like the cacophony of ten thousand voices warbling and gulping in unison. Through the trees I could see an eerie light glowing where I knew the beach to be. Of course I went to investigate.
03. The noise got louder and louder. As I approached the beach I worried that I’d made an unwise choice. In the wan light I could see beads of sweat on my forearms in spite of the chill wind. Soon I reached a bluff overlooking the shoreline, where I saw countless thousands of Pacific Salmon gathered ’round what must have been millions of glowing fish eggs. On the periphery of the gathering was an old boombox sucking down D-cell batteries and blasting Foghat.
04. That noise — the fish were trying to sing along to Foghat. And in the center of the gathering was Barney Frank, perched atop a wave-lapped throne before the majestic, glowing eggs. Lit from below by the bioluminescent gametes, Frank raised a bejeweled scepter and began to chant: “Slow ride… Take it easy…”
05. It was then that my footing gave way. One moment I was nodding along to the chant, the next I was tumbling down the sandy bluff. When I came to rest on the beach all I could hear was the wind and the surf and the boombox. The chanting had stopped, and all eyes were upon me, broadcasting a mix of piscatorial terror and anger.
06. But then a voice thundered out of the night: “Leave the surface-man be!” It was Barney Frank! I recognized his voice from C-SPAN, but something was different. I later learned that Barney Frank’s gill protectors, which he wears in public life but had removed for the ceremony, have a slight but noticeable effect on his vocal chords. “This intruder means no harm,” Frank continued, “and so we will teach him the secrets of our fishy ways.” The King of the Pacific Salmon waved his scepter, and a black mechanical whale breached the surface of the ocean. “Come, surface-man, and follow me Jonah-like to the deep.” And so I did, but secrets are secrets and I have to leave it there.
Ruthie and Stu (and mostly also Arlo) —
I got your request in time to dedicate this card to your first child, Arlo. Welcome to the world, Arlo! Trust me, there’s a lot of it out there to see. Ruthie and Stu, I’m honored that you would think to ask me to help commemorate such an important event in your lives.
Arlo, when you’re old enough to read and understand this I hope you’ll consider some of the advice I’ve taken the liberty of dispensing here:
1. Have a dog. Treat him or her well. Don’t skimp on walks. Have a bucket list for the dog, and remember that it’s your responsibility to help fulfill it.
2. Being a teenager is rough. I don’t think there are any complete answers to the things that bother you as a teenager, but the good news is that you’ll eventually learn that these things have an extremely finite ability to cause distress and/or pain.
3. If you’re walking down the street in a big city and someone tries to scam you, never tell the person that you don’t believe their story. It only escalates the situation. Instead, say you have no money. I’m not sure what the future economy will look like, but from our perspective in 2012 there’s a good chance this will be true anyway.
4. Drive safely, try to be a good person, get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Read lots of books and don’t be rude to people online.
5. When someone does something nice for you, write a thank-you note. Seriously, I cannot emphasize this enough. People really appreciate it.
I hope this doesn’t sound too preachy. I’ve been traveling all summer long and most of my positive life lessons from this trip have their roots in my deep desire not to wind up living or feeling like people I’ve met along the way. Also, try not to be too cynical.