There is a reason why anything in my artwork starting with a rabbit is assumed to be autobiographical. I raised rabbits as a 4-H project from about the age of 10 and we kept rabbits in pens until I was finishing my undergraduate degree. (Rabbit chores fell to my little brother when I was away from home.) In many ways, I was a rabbit-man. My personal avatar as a school teacher was Reluctant Rabbit.
There is often an exaggerated sense of adventure in my cartoonally weird Paffoonies, the very name of which is a fantasy word.
I have been known to actually believe gingerbread can be magical enough for gingerbread men to come to life once baked. It is the reason I bite the legs off first, so they can’t run away.
I have been known to see elves, fairies, and numerous other things that aren’t really there. In fact, a whole secret hidden kingdom of them inhabited the schoolyard in Iowa where I attended grades K through 6. They were all mostly three inches tall. The biggest ones, like dragons reaching only about six inches tall at their largest.
Well, the lab said it was not Covid. It was not even the flu. Apparently Number Two Son just had a very bad cold. And I am pretty sure I have only got what he has. Same symptoms, but started two days later. So, I don’t even have to worry about going in for a Covid test.
This post, it turns out, is number 3,002 on this blog. The milestone post is the second one from yesterday.
I am juggling three books at once. I am writing another novella, Horatio T. Dogg, Super Sleuth which I am now using for Tuesday posts. I am editing AeroQuest 4 : The Amazing Aero Brothers, getting it ready for publication. And my main work in progress is He Rose on a Golden Wing, in which I am on rough draft chapter… er, Canto 6, though I’m not dead certain since I stopped numbering them and am simply citing classical music pieces to signal each new section of the story. The idea being that the reader should listen to that specific music while reading that section, just as I listened to it while writing the first draft.
That’s basically what all of life is… random silliness… God being Goofy… “Hyuck!”
But it is not really totally random. Rather, Goofy is off-kilter and meandering, but blessed with an overall pattern. And when he is a clock-cleaner and gets bonged on the noggin by a construction beam, he doesn’t step off the edge and fall to his death; he magically steps from suspended beam hanging from the construction crane to the next one and the next one hanging forever in mid-air.
We merely tumble endlessly through life as if it were a screwball slapstick comedy with moments of real grief and real pain and real love sandwiched in between the slices of your daily bread that you have probably prayed for… at least at some point in your life.
This illness that struck while wife and daughter were away had the side effect of preventing me from visiting the nudist park on Saturday where I had hoped to meet more nudists and do a bit of research for future nudist tales. So, I guess that was probably the reason God struck us with Apollo’s Arrow of Illness. The whims of Heaven are ever inscrutable. At least until I figure out how to responsibly “scrute.”
But however life proceeds from this particular place in time and space, it has turned out better than it might have otherwise. I am not saddened or forlorn due to this outcome.
Ideally a writer must not become stuck in a rut, thinking about things in print from only one angle. If you fall into that trap you are doomed to be Tucker Carlson on FOX News, an evil, greedy, and anal-retentive soulless propagandist. Instead you need to have many eyes and notice things from up and down and all around.
As a writer of fiction I use the magic of observation, perception, and imagination together as three very different eyes. You use the observation eye, the one that sees naked Little Mickey in the center for what he really is, a naked, sometimes stinky, immature little brat who thinks he’s funny, to ground your thoughts in reality. You use the perception eye, the eye that discerns the things under the surface, like the presence of a happiness fairy and a sadness fairy in the picture, to determine what lies underneath everything, thoughts that may not be true, but are based on evidence and represent your best thinking. And you use the imagination eye to realize that you can take old pictures and paste them together in a new way to be creative and think a thought you totally never even thought about before.
And as a writer, you have to realize that everybody has a point of view that is uniquely their own. So, if you use the first-person narrative as much as I do, you have to learn to enter the character’s head and figure out how to be that person. I have become a small-town boy obsessed with monster movies. That one was easy. I became a somewhat dyspeptic and grumpy older man who owned a failing business. That was easier. Also I became a seventh-grade girl who lost her father and has to discover what post-trauma love is all about. Dang! That one was really hard. And I became a sentient sock puppet whose actual memories, perceptions, and personality reside in the head of his autistic puppeteer. Wow! Just wow!
So, what am I saying in this silly, unfocussed blog post? That you need to practice using your many eyes, and look at things from upside down and inside out, and finally see it’s not so unfocussed after all.
Brekka the female Telleron Tadpole is accidentally eaten by the flesh-eating flower from outer space known as Lester (both heads seen here are actually Lester,) But Brekka’s species of amphibianoid alien is poisonous to him/her/or it. so he vomits her out again, having juiced her just enough to grant her telepathy with the plant and all its buds. They become best of friends. This scene comes from the novel Stardusters and Space Lizards.
Filch is a Dungeons and Dragons character from the 1980’s. He is a Gypsy, pickpocket, thief, trap-master, and all around disgusting twelve-year-old boy. (A sixth-grader if he ever went to school.)
He was a D&D rogue used as a character by a 16-year-old band nerd who went on to attend undergraduate college at Notre Dame.
I told teacher stories in the fall of 2016, the second start of a school year after I retired. Randy was a pain in the posterior, extremely smart, and my biggest classroom clown. He saw the fins on the back of my Ford Torino and decided he would call me “Batman” my second year of teaching, 1982. In October he wore a Batman Halloween Mask (a cheap plastic one,) and before he could call me Batman, I addressed him in front of everyone, “I’m so glad you could attend my class today, Battyman, but you will need to go by your secret identity during class.” After that, Battyman was what the other 8th graders called him for the rest of the year.
Today I have a low-grade fever. A slight cough. No sign of Covid yet, and I am fully vaccinated. But I have been to Walmart without a mask and get regular flu regularly. And it could also be a sinus infection again due to high pollen counts and neighborhood grass-cutting.
But the truly frustrating thing is that I had planned to go tomorrow to Bluebonnet Nudist Park, give them a copy of my nudist novel, and meet some of the members of that establishment that I didn’t meet in 2017.
The frustrating thing is that this marks the fifth time that I had planned to go back to Bluebonnet for a second visit. And now the plans are canceled yet again by illness.
As ever, I remain mostly a closet nudist. Me being a nudist now in the twilight years of my life is mostly a joke I tell, only loosely based on reality.
Part of the problem is the fact that I simply waited too long in my life to give in to the urge to be a nudist. I was one from childhood onward, but always too afraid of the unknown to try it openly. Especially after being assaulted at the ripe old age of ten.
My real opportunity came when I had a girlfriend in the 1980’s whose sister lived with her husband and children in a clothing-optional apartment complex in Austin. I met nudists there fully committed to the lifestyle and who encouraged me to join the movement, even after I broke up with that girlfriend. There were limited opportunities to become a nudist then. A park near Houston, a park near San Antonio, a nude beach on Lake Travis (Hippie Hollow,) and clubs in the Austin area that met in members’ homes. I only ever visited those places with clothes on. I never actually tried it. And now that I am old, I regret the opportunities missed.
Now I am old and ill and unable to express my love of nudism and naturism except through art and fiction. Of course, it has always been a very visual-only experience for me. No touching was ever involved. Whatever sexual feelings there were were always sublimated and deeply buried or strictly controlled.
And, as always, I didn’t absolutely need to share these normally private sort of details, but it seems my art and writing make me far more naked to the world than walking around a nudist park ever could.
My childhood was shaped by television events like the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz and classic movies on Friday nights when I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch the whole thing. I have told you before how much I loved the comedy of Red Skelton. Another comedian who shaped who I am through his wondrously manic movie performances was Danny Kaye.
One of those Friday movie classics that really struck home was the wonderful, kid-friendly movie Hans Christian Andersen.
1952 movie poster from Wikipedia
The movie was about a storyteller from a previous century and embroidered his biographical story with his famous children’s stories in the form of songs. And Danny Kaye could trip through multi-syllabic, fast-paced musical numbers like no other rubber-faced clown I have ever seen. I wanted to be such a story-teller from a very early age. I even wanted to write the kind of stories that could be made into songs. Let me show you a few of the bits that amazed me and killed me with laughter.
This song from the Inspector General was doubly engaging because the corrupt businessmen were trying to poison the character Danny played with the wine he was supposed to drink during the drinking song.
The movies Danny Kaye was in were mostly about the musical comedy. But sometimes they were just about the music. He appeared in musicals like White Christmas with Bing Crosby and stage musicals like Lady in the Dark which won him awards on Broadway. He made movies about music like The Five Pennies and A Song is Born. He always said he couldn’t read music, but he demonstrated perfect pitch and scored a number one hit with The Woody Woodpecker Song recorded for the animated cartoons of Walter Lantz. How cool is that?
And you already know that The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie of all time. In 1964 Danny became the host for CBS’s annual showing of the film. He was able to do funny songs that made you snort your hot cocoa through your nose from laughing, and he could also do beautiful ballads like these.
I will always take the opportunity to watch a Danny Kaye movie one more time, whether it comes on YouTube or a Netflix oldie or a $5 DVD from the bin at the front of the Walmart Superstore. And I will always think of him in his role as Hans Christian Anderson.
Oh, and he was a very funny comedian too when he wasn’t singing, as in The Court Jester and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
When I was in Cow College at Iowa State University I spent most of my study time listening to KLYF Radio in Des Moines. They would eventually transform into an easy-listening music station, but the time I truly lived a K-LYFe was when they played classical music. And it was there that I first fell deeply in love with the Saturday Matinee stylings of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the first incarnation of John Williams of Star Wars fame. Yes, movie music. Classical movie music. And it seemed, mostly movie music for Errol Flynn movies.
My sister was always a lover of Errol Flynn movies, and when KGLO TV Channel 3 would play one on the Saturday Movie Matinee in the early afternoon, we would have to watch it, the whole thing, no matter how many times we were repeating the same four movies. Nancy would memorize the lines from the Olivia deHavilland love scenes. I would memorize the sword fight scenes with Errol and Evil Basil Rathbone (Good Basil was Sherlock Holmes, and we had to watch those too.) Early evenings on those Saturdays were all about playing pirate and Captain Blood adventures. Or better yet, Robin Hood.
But the music of adventure was by the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold. He did the sound tracks for Captain Blood, Robin Hood, and the Sea Hawk.
I sincerely love the corny old movie matinee music because it was not only genius-level mood music and story-telling in a classical music instrumental masterpiece, but because even now it takes me back to the boy I was at twelve years old, playing pirate on Grandpa Aldrich’s farm. Making Robin Hood bows out of thin tree branches and arrows out of dried ragweed stalks. Sword fighting to the death with sticks with my cousin Bob, who was always Basil Rathbone in my mind. while I’m sure I was Basil Rathbone in his mind.
To be honest, there is much more to Korngold than I have relentlessly gushed about here like a hopeless nerdling fan-boy in the throws of a geeky movie passion. He was a musical child prodigy like Mozart. He wrote a ballet called Der Schneemann (the Snow Man) when he was only eleven, and became the talk of the town in Vienna, Austria in 1908. He became the conductor of the Hamburg Opera by 1921. He wrote some very fine classical music in the 20’s that still rings through orchestra halls to this day before coming to America in the early 30’s with film director Max Reinhardt. He scored his first film in 1935, adding music to Reinhardt’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was fortunate to escape Europe just as the Nazis were coming to power in Germany, and also at the right time to team up with new movie star sensation, Errol Flynn. He won his first Oscar for the musical score of the movie Anthony Adverse in 1936 and he won his second for The Adventures of Robin Hoodin 1938. He died in 1957, a year after I was born. But I promise, I didn’t kill him. I was in college in the 1970’s when his music underwent a revival, complete with renewed popularity.
His music was pure gold to listen to in the fields of corn in Iowa in the 1970’s. It was just as good as that last pun was terrible. So, in other words, really, really, spectacularly good. It was the music that scored my childhood fantasy adventures.
When I was a kid old enough to begin to see and interact with the real world in the tragic and magical 1960s, the first comic books available to me, long before my parents would allow me to pick up and buy Spiderman and Batman and (shudder) comics with monsters in them, were the kid-friendly comics of the Harvey Brothers.
Now, you have to understand that Harvey Comics had been around since the 1940s and made their money on characters licensed first from the Brookwood Publications company that Alfred Harvey bought out in 1941 to provide the building, equipment, and publishing personnel to start producing comic books.
Robert B. Harvey and Leon Harvey joined the company to help produce titles they now owned the rights to like Black Cat, the Shield, Shock Gibson, and Captain Freedom.
…………………………………………Of course, most of those characters didn’t last very long. Black Cat was the only title still being published by Harvey in the 1950s.
They would go on to license characters from Famous Studios, the animated cartoon works of Max Fleischer and his brother Dave. That’s when the kid- friendly, parent-approved comic books of Fleischer creations like Casper the Friendly Ghost opened up the world of comic books to seven-year-old Mickey circa 1963.
Now, it is probably obvious that there are many ways that Harvey Comics influenced me as a storyteller later in life. It goes without saying that my dedication to childish humor in stories derives from this comic-book source. The cuteness of characters is another necessity of comic storytelling gleaned from these ripe fields of baby faces. And stories advanced by magical means and absurd sidetracks also come from here. But did you ever notice that Casper and the other ghosts all perform in the nude? Yes, I think my childhood longing to be a nudist began with Casper’s naked adventures. But unlike Casper, my urges along those lines were suppressed and repressed by parents and society as a whole. So watching Casper and Spooky and Pearl (Spooky’s goilfriend) romp naked through comic book hijinks were a sublimated substitution for that childhood desire. (Sure, none of them had genitals, but it wasn’t about that.)
…………………………………………….Of course, there were many other Harvey characters to enjoy that actually did wear clothes. I was particularly fond of Hot Stuff because he made such an art out of burning things and being a bad kid and roasting the backsides of fools and hypocrites with his trident. And he only ever wore a fireproof diaper, so he was almost a nudist too.
There were many other characters licensed by Harvey as well, including Felix the Cat, Little Audrey, Baby Huey, and the characters from Walter Lance Studios like Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Chilly Willy.
So, now you know the true story of how my innocent childhood was warped and woven and corrupted by the characters of Harvey Comics.