Post Mortem

September 18, 2014


If you’re reading this I will assume that you’ve read the entire Underworld Saga ‘Redux’, and I hope you really enjoyed it. It’s the longest story I ever wrote for MythTickle and I remember that when I first wrote it over four years ago I began with an idea and didn’t plan where I was going to go with it nor knew what was going to happen. At the first I wanted to kill Boody and have him enjoy an adventure in an afterlife but I didn’t know that Dudley would go after Boody and wind up in a different afterlife and I didn’t have any notion of what I’d do for an ending. I just wrote it moment by moment, and no farther ahead than maybe three strips. It was an exercise in creative writing that happily turned out well. If the saga was new for you I’m very glad to have you along.
I thought I’d just write a note about this, nothing major, just wanted to say thanks for indulging my rerun and thanks for staying with me. The time off that I’ve had from the strip these last few months has allowed me to focus more on my health and I have to tell you that I am a much healthier and better guy now than I was last April. My knees rarely hurt anymore and I’ve dropped 25 pounds since then. And I can carry my daughter up and down the stairs in my arms with ease. It’s a great feeling to have all that weight off my knees, go down two full waist sizes, and wear my old favorite shirts again. Somehow now I have to try to keep my work, gym, and MythTickle schedule juggled effectively. I really don’t know how I’m going to do this but we’ll see.

cartu I also want to clear something up:
The recent cartoon I posted on Sept. 17th seemed to garner some sympathy comments which isn’t what I was going after at all. I was making an allusion to the recent free download of U2’s new album on iTunes. Some people got that, but I wanted to clarify this for people who didn’t understand what I was trying to do. I kept it subtle because I like subtle, especially in comics. My readers are smart people, they pick up on ‘subtle’. But if the comic was too obscure then I congratulate you on not being so tuned-in on pop culture and the snarkiness of the web. After U2 made their new album available this week to everyone on iTunes for free and uploaded it to their “cloud”, I was really surprised at the resentment and even anger I saw on the internet from many people. I read things such as “an infringement on my account”, “trespassing”, and “forcing” their album on the public. I was just astounded at the derisiveness for a band who made their album free for everyone. They didn’t download it onto anyone’s device, just made it available. If people didn’t want it, they were free to delete it and not download it. But oh boy, the hipsters and wanna-be rock critics were in a uproar. I only wish they could get that angry and active at election time.
I got to wondering about that, “No thanks, damn you!” perspective and how I believe it proves that artists can ironically damage themselves by giving away their content. It seems so silly, one would think they would be thanked. Or at the least, “thanked but no thanks”… thanked. Yet many people want to burn Bono in effigy right now. For giving them a new album for free. I just don’t get it. But what about other people who give their talent away? The artists who aren’t already rich rock stars. Artists who seed their paintings onto the city walls and streets, actors who perform shows for nothing, non-syndicated web cartoonists, and musicians who perform in the subways and street corners, all of these noble artists are looked down upon by most people, sometimes even as harshly as a mime. YIKES! The thinking is, “If it’s free it can’t be that good. Must be crap”.
I wish I could figure out a way to make this perspective change but it seems impossible in our fabulous übercapitalist culture, I can’t even imagine what it would take. People rarely look past a price tag to value content or talent.
But anyway, that last frame wasn’t about a pity-party for me, I wanted to have someone respond to Karma with the line “You too?”, as in ‘U2’, but I couldn’t think of anyone in the strip who gives their work away to the public for free, except yours truly. Sure I wish I were syndicated in newspapers, even if it were Sundays only (which is the only way I think MythTickle could survive in papers really). But I have many web comic artist friends who aren’t even syndicated on the web like I am from Universal, who have to distribute their work on their own websites and try to pull readers over to them, who have been struggling for years and their work is absolutely amazing- far superior to most of what I see in the newspaper. Not every strip in the paper, but most. That comic wasn’t about me, more for my web cartoonist colleagues who aren’t paid something by the syndicate like I am. My fault for not being clear on that, it was a complicated thought and I tried but wasn’t clear enough. Mea culpa.
I guess my message is, think twice about the artists of every stripe who is just putting it all out there just so you’ll notice them, and appreciate them. Maybe give them a break. Maybe open up a Sunday paper and think, ‘Gee, that’s not very funny or imaginative. Why is that even in here when there’s so much more unique work being done out there in the cold?’ Or maybe you’ll hear a song and think, ‘Why am I hearing this person on my radio? I heard someone in the subway yesterday who’s voice could melt this singer to ashes.’
Then maybe write a letter.

My Inner Voice Is A Movie?

September 11, 2014

I just put this on again and I’m blown away by what I realized.

Listening to (only partially watching) ‘Annie Hall’ again is becoming revelatory for me right now. I’m realizing (1) how much of this film I have actually memorized, and (2) what a pervasive influence it has been throughout my life for whatever reason. Lines from this film pop into my head nearly every day and I know that they have since I first saw it when it came out. I was 13 then and I had never seen anything like it before. For some people the film that blew their mind was maybe ‘The Godfather’, or ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, but ‘Annie Hall’ was my monolith-moment. It made me climb up to a new shelf, to think differently. It caused me to listen to humor differently, want to read more, and it made me want to go to New York.
And be in love.

It must have been that it hit me at that crucial age and time when we most change. The edge of teen when we begin falling into a world of change and start grasping for sense. My parents had recently divorced, I started going to my first new school since first grade, and suddenly there was this totally different kind of movie on the screen which has, over nearly 40 years now, dogmatically guided my perceptions and responses to life’s moments as I go along. I’m sitting here now realizing how often these lines have bullhorned inside my brain all this time and I have so often repeated, sometimes involuntarily. “That’s OK, we can walk to the curb from here”,
“Oh really? Well I happen to have Marshall McCluhan right here. So…”,
“… but, uh, I guess we keep going through it because most of us… need the eggs.”
“..a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”
“Darling. I’ve been killing spiders since I was 30.”
“I forgot my mantra.”
and of course ultimately, “…what we got on our hands,.. is a dead shark.”

It’s just extraordinary discovering something like this, I feel like this is something very significant that would have come out of me on a therapist’s couch after two or three years of whining.
The question now is, what do I do with this information?


May 15, 2013


First off, my second new knee is doing really well and I’m settling into the idea of having a set. I’m not limping much anymore and that’s good.
So, news; Firstly, that Venus strip today (May 15th), is the first of a 4 or maybe 5 part little series so I hope you enjoy these new ones. I’ve recently written about 30 new strips that I think are really fun, I just can’t seem to get the time I need to ink and color them. But I’m trying, I really am. I’m running on very little sleep this week, preparing these strips, but damn it’s fun to get back into it. I’m really enjoying doing this. I was supposed to have written this blog you are now reading last night but I fell asleep on the couch before I could even get a few words down. That’s why it’s posting a little late.
Secondly, ‘Kickstarter’: Have you heard of this? Where you hit up your fans on the internet and try to raise money for your project? My buddy Alexis Fajardo of ‘Kid Beowulf’ recently did it and he funded the publication of his lasted book (I’m glad to say I helped) and now I’m wondering if I should do that to raise the money for the new MythTickle book. Whether I do Kickstarter or not, I will have a new book this year, likely this fall. What is attractive about Kickstarter is you get your funding to publish your book and the fans who contribute are guaranteed a copy. What I don’t like about it is if you don’t raise enough money to reach the goal, you don’t get any money and you look like a total failure and have no confidence to ever even think about publishing a book or doing anything creative ever again. Also, it seems like… I don’t know, there’s just something… desperate or “beggy” about it. It’s never seemed ‘overly classy’ to me, but I’m just too old school I guess. It looks like this is how things are done now so maybe I should just get over myself and do it. Let me know what you think about this, OK?
One last thing, I checked my subscription numbers yesterday over at GoComics and was just blown away. I don’t look at that very often, maybe once every 4 or 5 months or so, and I saw that I’m very close to having 10,000 subscribers! I am so happy! Mainly because I do hardly ANY promotion for the comic and I still seem to be growing and that tells me it’s all word of mouth. That’s all about YOU guys!

Thank you so much for spreading the word around to your friends, please keep that going.

Worst Day, Best Day, what’s the diff?

February 22, 2013


Hi Gang,
I’m glad you like this strip, I actually did a version of this a very long time ago. So long ago that I had completely forgotten about it. I think it might have been way back when I was on Comics Sherpa, before GoComics. I never reran it because I remember getting one bad comment on it so I didn’t want anyone to see it. I don’t even remember what it said but it hurt me and I couldn’t rerun it so I completely forgot about it. Then something happened and triggered the memory a few days ago so I completely reblocked and redrew it and there ya’ go. See how crummy comments can hurt a strip? I like this and I wish I could think of more strips like this. Hopefully in future I can.

Anyway, in other news, my knee continues to heal. I am getting better, although it seems that every time I go to physical therapy I strain it and I get set back a few weeks. I’m at that point where the pain is just SUCH a freaking’ nuisance. But it’s a hump I have to get over and I can be patient. I’m only using my cane about 40% of the time now so that is encouraging. But I really do love that cane. I like pointing at stuff with it and turning out the lights to my office with it. It’s cool like that.

Work: If you guys want to keep following my work outside of MythTickle, you can buy the monthly Peanuts comic books that are published by KABOOM! comics. I always do something in every issue, lately I’ve been inking and coloring. I rearrange the old Schulz Sunday strips into a vertical format (not an easy thing to do since they were designed to be seen horizontally and so obviously the frames don’t always line up) and that is a fun and challenging task. Always a bit of a puzzle, really. There are usually three of those per issue and I always do the reformatting on all and usually color about 2 of them. I will likely be traveling back to Japan again in mid April on Peanuts business, I’ll keep you all posted on that.

So that’s about it for the progress report, if there are any questions feel free to ask, I’l answer them.

Ra, Ra, Sis-Boom-Bah.

January 22, 2013


Briefly, here’s what’s going on with me:
My knee is healing just fine, there’s still a lot of pain and rehab is a bitch but it’s all good. This knee is healing much better and faster than the left one did a year ago. So that helps my spirit when facing those excruciating exercises and rehab treatments. I’m still working from home but hope to be back up to my office at the Peanuts Studio in Santa Rosa this coming Monday.

So in the earlier saga, Robin Hood, Karma, Sir Dudley, and Boody travel to ancient Egypt to gather new bees (because the bee population here, all but dwindled). They heard that they were referred to in that time as ‘the tears of Ra’. With the help of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti, the wife of Ra, they tricked Ra into shedding ‘tears’ and they herded the bees through the time portal they created with the ‘Go-Yo’. Ra, angry at being tricked, plots revenge on the heroes who took his tears.

Here’s a little bit of background on how I made the choices I made with this mini-saga.
I love Egyptian mythology I’ve always loved it. It’s probably my favorite pantheon to read about and study. In fact when I was in high school, I studied it so much that I was all set on going to college for archaeology. But I grew up in Arizona and I soon saw that studying archaeology in Arizona meant that over the next several years I would pretty much be digging up and studying Native American pots. Looking back at that now, I think it would be fascinating but back then I wanted no part of that. Now, here in my MythTickle world, I can play with this pantheon and do whatever I want. In a HUGE saga I wrote about four years ago, Boody actually dies and winds up going into the Egyptian afterlife and meets Anubis, Horus, and Ma’at. I had the most fun I’ve ever had doing this strip while creating that story and I hope to rerun it for you soon.
Here’s the poop on the gods represented in this storyline.

Ra is the God of the Sun, and really the big palooka.
He’s the lord of all the Egyptian gods and is usually shown in human form with a falcon head, crowned with the sun disc encircled by a sacred cobra. After a bunch of sketches I thought the sun disc was a more suitable image for his head than a falcon, plus a gigantic head sorts well with his ego. His leather pants and boots are pure Jim Morrison. Why? I don’t know, I just thought it would be funny if Ra sort of idolized ‘Mr. Mojo Risin’ and copped his look.

Ra sailed across the heavens in a boat called Mesektet. Hang in there with this saga and you will see him in this boat a little later. Or, just look at the drawing above, I guess.

Toth is the god of wisdom and knowledge, shown with an Egyptian ibis head. So he’s a professor, a brain guy, a scribe, the kind of dude Ra would go to for answers. Toth is usually shown wearing a crown consisting of a crescent moon topped by a moon disk. Meh, not funny. I drew him wearing a graduation cap, it’s much more scholarly looking. There’s a reference to Sekhmet in part 5, and she being at camp. Sekhmet is the daughter of Ra and a fierce and scary warrior princess. She is depicted with a lioness head and her breath actually created the desert. More from heat than odor, I’m sure.

Toth here thinks about unleashing Sekhmet’s wrath and terror upon the world again but alas, she’s at camp and unavailable. Why is she at camp? Kids go to camp sometimes, why not? My son is at a three day camping outing with his school right now as a matter of fact.

I hope this answers some questions,

Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll try to keep coming up with things to write here.


Oh, PS!
I want to mention an astounding movie that I recently watched. It moved me so much, its message is so profound, that I really want you all to see it. I’m actually BEGGING you all to see it. It’s the most important film I’ve ever seen. Rent this, please:

‘I Am’, by Tom Shadyac. Yes, the ‘Ace Ventura’ Tom Shadyac.

Here’s what it looks like, please watch this. It’s what I’m all about.


What Did You Expect?

December 21, 2012


So let’s move on, OK?
Some people seem genuinely disappointed that the world didn’t end today, isn’t that messed up? Not only does that come off as a tad selfish, but I have to wonder- have these people grown so bored with real life that a ‘Michael Bay Day’ really sounds like the best alternative to a hum-drum afternoon?
So do it!
What better day than today to blow up some aspect of your life that you would rather not live with anymore? Be it an old hanger-on friend who you just can’t stand but don’t have the heart to blow off, or really face that personal fear or horrible bad habit that you have and declare a doomsday on it.
Think about how empowering that is. Choose today rather than January first to make that life-changing resolution.
You have the power to blow up your own world and change it, and if you do that- you’re bad ass! You’re Galactus, Cthulu, Shiva, all of them!
Don’t feel all powerless and shaky, looking up at the sky today, thinking about it all happening upon you,….
Make a change to be that better person you’ve always wanted to be, today is the perfect day.

Doomsday comes but once in a lifetime.

The Hobbit

December 17, 2012


No spoilers here,
but I assume that 90% of you readers of my comic strip are familiar with what happens in the story anyway. I was not. I never read Tolkien (not for lack of trying, believe me) so I went in cold and didn’t know what would happen in the movie. Now I feel really lucky for this because I was completely involved in this movie the whole time. If I knew the book I wouldn’t have been invested in the action I don’t think. I would have remained ‘outside’ and been nit-picking on what was in the book and what they left out and such. Man, it was incredible! Honestly, I’m not a LOTR fan, but a week ago I went to a marathon showing of all three films in a row on the big screen. I went with William, my 10 yr old son and we sat there from 11:00 AM to 11:30 PM, an entire day in Middle Earth. I thought I would be in hell but y’know? Seeing all three of them like that in a row as one long story- I finally ‘got it’. I saw the big picture, the whole story, and I really liked it. Maybe that’s what opened me up to the Hobbit movie.

But I have to say it was by far a much better movie than any of the other three are, mainly because this movie had such a great sense of humor to it. The characters and even some of the antagonists were genuinely funny and I SO appreciated that. It was quite a welcome change from the other LOTR movies where everyone seemed to be crying every five minutes. That got tiresome for me very quickly. But The Hobbit had a wonderful balance to it, the drama and action were perfectly balanced and offset by the frequent humor and it all complimented itself beautifully.
And what imagination and art! It was a total feast for me visually but what kept me really involved the most was that these ‘heroes’ were such underdogs, they are up against so much and they just keep going forward with ultimate confidence. How can you not love that?

I haven’t read any reviews on it yet but I hope they are good so I don’t look like an idiot for writing all of this. I hope you all like it too.

I’ll write again soon, post-surgery.


On the cliff again.

December 13, 2012

Surgery is scheduled for Monday around 1 PM and although I went through the same operation last December with no problems, this time I’m freaking out. I can’t make sense of why, I should be more confident. As I said, last time went very well and my pain was manageable. I know exactly what to expect and I know I can handle that fine. But now I can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, and have to take an anxiety med called ‘Lorazepam,’ which does no discernible service.
This will be the second surgery on this right knee, I’ve had three on the left over the years. I told the doc he should just sew zippers on the damn things, seeing as how often they get opened up. Yeah I’ve gone through a lot of pain on these knees and I’ve wondered if I had known what I would be going through to engender these problems, would I go through those acts again?
A hundred times ‘yes’.

When given the chance to fly, you should never worry about the landing.
To fly on a zip-line dressed as Batman over a crowd of hundreds of spectators,
To fly over jumps in the desert on a dirt motorcycle and ramps on a street motorcycle in a stunt show, and
To fly up for two-handed slam dunks in high school was worth the crashes of the multiple landings that have led me here.
My basketball coach in High School, Coach Burdett used to say, “Man, I love to watch you dunk but you are going to have a lot of problems with your knees later in life.” From the height I was descending he told me. I was only 6 ft. tall in high school and I payed no attention, it was just too fun.
So here I am.

The strip: I’ve planned ahead for MythTickle and in the next few weeks there will be a mix of repeats and newbies just like normal. But someday soon I’m going to have to run the long storyline that I ran about three years ago, ‘Boody In The Underworld’. For the new people here you’re really in for some surprises. For those who have read it, I think you’ll like seeing it again, judging from the great response it garnered the first time. But more on that as it approaches.

I’m going to really try to keep up with this blog while I am recuperating so drop by every day or two and see what I’m on about, OK?

Oh, and please write back. My responses should be entertaining, seeing as how many heavy medications I will be on.


The Cuba Journals part 6. (The End)

January 25, 2012

At The End Of The Day
December 9th, 2011 continued.

The day was my last day, and it was already half over. After seeing Hemingway’s upstairs suite, I returned to my room and decided to walk over to the open market about a mile away and buy some stuff with the few bucks I had left. It was still overcast and clammy but the rain had stopped. The market was a mile away but I didn’t want to spend the money for a cab so I limped over on foot. The market is a large open sided enclosure with tents set up like cubicles and the locals sell cheap trinkets to tourists. However there is a section of very large paintings done by local artists that are incredibly beautiful and not cheap. I knew that after my surgery next week I would need a cane so I searched the place and found a really nice wooden one that fits my height. It screws apart halfway down and has a carved elephant’s head on the top. I love elephants so I thought this was perfect. The price was great too at 10 pesos, about $8.50 American. I could barely walk at this point, the pain finally beginning to defeat me, and was now pressed for time. So I hailed a taxi back to the taxi stand at the Plaza De Armas and walked over to Luis who was standing there. I asked if he could drive me back to Muraleando one last time. I knew that some of the people from the group were coming to the unveiling of the interior mural that night and would be getting a ride back to the hotel later so this would be the last time I would be seeing Luis. I asked him if I could meet him in a half an hour and he happily agreed. I limped back to the hotel and dropped off my cane (that was all wrapped up and ready to be backed away) and rested my knees for a while on the bed. The rain had long stopped but I felt I was under water all day because of the high humidity. Arthritic knees don’t like humidity at all and I was so happy that I had finished the murals and did not have to stand up and paint today.

Good ol’ Luis and I shared our last ride together and we arrived at Manolo’s house quickly. He hugged me and as manly and firmly as he could, shook my hand once more and said, “I love you, my friend.” Cubans are amazing.
Manolo nor Maira were home so I walked over to the mural and saw that the rain was no match for Snoopy and Woodstock. I was relieved to see that my mural had weathered the rain. I was a little concerned about the tan coating that was covering the wall behind my painting because it was very watery when I used it to cover my stray pen marks and guides. It was very runny and I was concerned about it loosening up and running all over the stuff I had painted but it was fine. Of course these people know what they’re doing and I felt kind of bad for even worrying about it. I thought I might find someone over at the arts center so I walked over there and sure enough, Manolo and another artist were there, writing the message above Snoopy and Woodstock that we had agreed upon. They were working so carefully and intently that they never even noticed my approach, even though I walked right behind them and entered the arts center. I stood behind them for a while, admiring their control with the brush and their ability to letter so well. I can’t do that. The message read in Spanish: “A greeting of Snoopy for the friends that make real their dreams in this cultural house.”

Someone from inside the round arts building stood in the doorway and when he saw me hollered, “Amigo!” Manolo turned quickly and looked at him like he was crazy. Then he saw me and jumped so hard I thought he would fall off the bench he was standing on. He grabbed the guy who was lettering, just to stay steady. We all laughed for quite a while at that. I was greeted warmly and hung around for a while as people started to arrive. They wanted to have a big party to celebrate the new murals. Our bus came, ol’ 1961, and a few people from our group came to the event. Sadly only three of them decided to come but that was OK. It was a bigger deal for the community anyway. One of the gentlemen from our group who came brought his trumpet with him. Parents from the Muraleando community brought their children, most of them students at the arts center where they learn dancing and other arts. The artists of the community were there and ultimately about 25 children. Even Paolo and Melis came. Joseph the dance teacher started playing music and the little girls, ages 6 to about 10 I would guess, all began to dance for us. They played a very cute dance game where they were all paired off, then Joseph yelled, “Rojo!” and they froze like statues. He waited a few seconds and yelled, “Amarillo!” and they all scrambled to find another partner. The one left over in the odd number of dancers had to wear a large funny straw hat as the others danced around her. There was a percussionist, another local artisan, who had constructed a four and a half foot high mobile percussion unit out of a cart on wheels. It had a drum, cymbals, bells, blocks of wood, and various metals of differing shapes and textures welded onto it. He would push it around town and throw down beats wherever he went. He and I were up on the high area near the entrance to the round arts center above where the girls were dancing, watching the festivities below us. He joyously pounded out his tinny and knocky Latin beats as Phillip played his trumpet and the little lovely Cuban flowers all danced before us.

Among other songs, La Cucaracha was finally played and everyone formed a conga line. They yelled for me to join and I really would have but my knees were not letting me walk around hardly. I was even having trouble standing.

We had dinner reservations with the rest of the group at 8:00 and it was getting near time to leave. Manolo asked me to say a few words to the group and everyone there gathered before me. The children all sat on the concrete floor and the parents closed in. All eyes were upon me. I hadn’t seen Mario my faithful helper and interpreter in a while, and I looked to my left to try to find… He was right there. I smiled and he said, “I will speak for you.”

With the beautiful Cuban children before me, their eyes wide and dark, looking upon the pale foreigner, I spoke of how honored I was to be brought into this wonderful community as I have been and to have become a part of this place that I love so much. I told them that a part of my heart will always live here with them and that I loved them like family. I explained how Snoopy was a symbol throughout the world of fun, and hope, love, and a limitless imagination; that his presence here should be a reminder to always be creative and to work hard for your dreams.

We were just about to leave when the camera crew showed up from the local news along with an attractive news reporter. I was interviewed through the interpretive help of Mario and I explained what the mural meant and why I had done it and how warmly I had been accepted by the community. I explained how much of an honor it was to be a part of Muraleando. It was over quickly and painlessly and then I was given a large black bag which contained a piece of artwork from every artist in the community. Wood carving, paintings, even a doll made by a sweet elderly woman just for me. I went inside the round building to gather my things. There stood the old Snoopy Flying Ace suitcase, half opened with bubble wrap and unopened cans of paint and brushes leaning out of it. I patted it and said, “Good bye, old friend.” And left everything to the community.
Manolo’s wife Maira and I saying goodbye.

Sad goodbyes and hearty thank-yous were given and then we were gone. We, the people of the group who had come, caught a cab at the end of the street and we went back to the hotel. There was just a little time left to freshen up before the big farewell dinner, which was on the rooftop of the Hotel Inglaterra, a gorgeous 19th century hotel by the park and right next door to the National Theater. It was a tad blustery up there when we arrived but it died down soon and the clouds parted and the moon came out and painted them a sweetly spiritual silver. The gothic old towers atop the National Theater looked amazing in the white light.

I sat next to my buddy Jeanne and she said to me, “I’ve figured out how I’m going to define this trip for my friends. Yes, it’s beautiful, yes, it should be seen, but you have to be flexible. Not everything is going to work the way you want it to.”

My buddy Jeanne Johnson and I.

That’s actually a perfect way to look at a trip to anywhere in Latin America, the philosophy that must be adopted is- ‘ya gotta just go with it’.

The bus brought us back and I was in the front seat so that I could just get out and get home, I felt like walking alone. As I walked the two blocks to the Ambos Mundos, I reflected on the country, the Cuban people, how poor yet cheerful and resilient they are, how lovely they are and what a shame politics is. As I approached the open doorway of the hotel for the final time, I stopped and listened. The piano player was playing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. If this week had been a movie, it would have been a perfect time to roll the credits.

Jan. 25, 2012

 Here I am, a month and a half later, copying this journal down for the blog for you all to read. My left knee was operated on and replaced with a metal one on December 19th and I’m getting around pretty well now with that wooden cane with an elephant’s head that I bought in Havana. It’s a slow and painful healing process but it’s getting better. I look forward to having the right knee operated on in a few months and then hopefully I’ll never again feel the pain I felt that last day in Cuba. But nothing that valuable in your life, that deep and meaningful, should be received without some measure of suffering offered. Copying this journal and going over these pages again as I’ve done recently, I have been able to relive that week again and so many images and feelings have returned that I know that I must go back there some day. Every creative person, no matter what art they pursue, yearns to leave something of themselves after they are gone. Struggle as I might with my own creations and endeavors, I think this might be it for me- these murals. And if they are my only artistic children then I will be happy with that and accept them as my legacy. Those walls standing out there in a forbidden, foreign land, I can only hope that someday the larger invisible ones can come down and we can all come and go to Cuba as freely as we may visit any other part of the Caribbean.
Also of value to me in copying down this journal I was able to see what a marvelous story this all was and how I did not have to make up or embellish any one moment or observation. It was all true, every bit of it. Havana is a marvelous place when you open up your arms to it. For it will open up and enclose you too.

The Cuba Journal part 5

January 22, 2012

Hemingway’s Presence.
December 9th, 2011

(This entry is dedicated to my good friend Scotty Berghoff at, the biggest Hemingway fan I know.)

 Ernest Hemingway died seven months and five days before I was born. Learning about his life as I have been recently I cannot say that I would have liked or even understood him. But he understood me. He understood men and the insecurities of men and what hurts us. And he wrote about these secrets before anyone else did, in a time when these things just weren’t said. For that, I love to read Hemingway. He wrote also about the now unchallenged part of men, the part that faces a danger of death and how that moment is processed and faced. I relate to Hemingway here too, for nearly a decade I enthusiastically placed myself directly in harm’s way as a stunt performer on horseback and on motorcycles. These were controlled arenas but even so there is always a risk of deadly mistakes if one’s focus is less than total. It wasn’t bullfighting but there were times when mistakes did occur and it was how my companions and I dealt with those immediate and unexpected situations of emergency that makes me feel that I understand when Hemingway measures his protagonist’s stones in the way that he does. But, those rough days of mine are for another book. I feel comfortable in Hemingway’s places, having visited his home in Key West a couple of times when I lived down there in the late ‘80s. I also felt right at home writing at his bar The Floridita, his bronze statue staring at me from the corner.

 Having a conversation with the statue of Hemingway at the Floridita bar.

Today was a gloomy and rainy day. My knees were stabbing at me, protesting with each step I took toward the breakfast buffet up on the roof of the Hotel Ambos Mundos. As breakfast was set out, the wind was throwing water everywhere and the wait staff were struggling with the awning enclosures, trying to keep the area dry. As breakfast was also being set out, I was early so I sat down to read more of ‘The Sun Also Rises’. Finally the coffee, rolls, and fruit came out and I took to it. Eventually more people began to come up which meant that it was time for me to go. I went back to my room and read another couple of chapters of Hemingway’s master novel. Soon it was time to meet the group again and go. I held Jeanne’s arm the whole way, walking through the wet cobbled street that led to the bus stop. There it was at the Plaza De Armas like always, our bus waiting like a familiar dog.

It was only then that I noticed that its number was 1961. The year Hemingway died. I helped Jeanne onto the bus and we went to Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuba home. It should be noted here that before he bought Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuba home was our hotel the Ambos Mundos. They make sure you know it too, there are pictures of Ernest Hemingway everywhere in the lobby and on each floor.

The front of the Hotel Ambos Mundos, Hemingway’s room is at the top center on the 5th floor.

As bus 1961 entered the gate of the estate and made our way up the hill toward the house I feel like I had just been there. It was a month less than two years ago but it felt comfortable and familiar even in the chill wet air. I remember the 12 or 13 yr old boy, crushing sugar cane in an old press and selling it to us with a shot of rum in it. I looked toward that area but he wasn’t there anymore. Neither was the press. Neither was the sun but it was good to see the house and the boat, the Pilar, again.

        After the visit to Finca Vigia, we took the bus down to the old fishing village of Cojimar. Hemingway set his best book, ‘The Old Man And The Sea’ in this village and it was here that he docked the Pilar.

This photo was taken from the dock where the Pilar was moored, his view to the open sea.

We had lunch at the bar/restaurant that he loved called La Terraza. We started with a bad, thin, seafood soup of some kind that wasn’t at all appreciated but was followed up with a delicious paella and a couple of bottles of Cristal beer.

It all finished with a perfect flan. I sat with Jeanne the whole time and we had a lovely talk with another lady from the group who had never said much to us the whole week. The bus took us all back to the familiar stop at the Plaza De Armas and Jeanne and I got off the bus and everyone dispersed to go see things that they hadn’t seen yet. Jeanne and I and a couple of other old poots walked back to the hotel. Hemingway had a reserved room here at the hotel Ambos Mundos, room 511 upstairs and he stayed here about seven years, sometime in the 1930s. They kept it as it was when Hemingway stayed there and you can tour it. I desperately wanted to see it and worried that I wouldn’t be able to since I had been working or touring during the hours it was open. Jeanne had really wanted to see it too so I called her room and we decided to go up there together. It was a perfect room, a corner room, on the upper most floor of the hotel.

The view of Obispo street below was spectacular and we were told by the guide that he wrote several articles for Esquire magazine, some of which were strewn about the bed, and some of his novels ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and ‘Death In The Afternoon’ in this room.

There were a few of his old coats still hanging in the closet, you could see them through the plexiglass panel they had placed on the door.

Several first editions of his and others books were visible in the locked glass case. There were huge fishing rods in a rack on the wall next to racks of spears he had brought back from Africa.

Over his bed was a painting of two boxers and another painting of a bullfight.

In the center of the room there was a table upon which sat his old typewriter, his glasses, and several opened letters over which was a protective plexiglass case.

It was plain and true with no frills and it felt like his writing. It seemed- apart from the protective glass- well kept but not overly fresh, like a man’s current room and I felt subconsciously intrusive and hurried as if the old occupant might return.

Next entry, ‘The End of the Day’, coming soon.