Blog: 20th Anniversary Of Londons Times Cartoons. How Did That Happen?

 

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Today is the 20th anniversary of the launch of Londons Times Cartoons and the time has zoomed by most of the time, and felt like walking through thick molasses at other times.  It almost seems like a dream, sometimes mostly entertaining and at other times a vivid nightmare.  In many ways it seemed like yesterday that I was back on my hometown in Ms, broke, without a job and no government assistance. My only resources were my wits and they were running dry.

I had been helping my mom in her final days of  cancer and selling television ads for a small television station whose employees reminded me of the characters in the sitcom WKRP Cincinnati. I’m not sure which one I was but definitely one too.

A friend owned a tin shed on the outskirts oftown; sort of like a small warehouse full of rotting cans of vegetables on makeshift wooden shelves he’d built on the wall in sort of a rural spot between two counties.

A can would explode every once in a while due to its contents fermenting and it being way past its expiration date.  My friend had also installed electricity, plumbing (but no bath or shower) and a phone line.   I bathed in the cold-water only sink.  I washed my stray dog Thor in it as well. Within months Thor found a friendly calico kitten meowing from a low branch outside who I also adopted. Somehow we managed.

Friends would come by and bring me meals or take me out to eat.  Those were exciting, fun, and frightening times.  I was but a tin wall from the outside elements.  For most that time I had no car. I slept on a concrete floor in a sleeping bag.  I bought and way overspent for an IBM Clone PC from a guy near Hot Coffee, Ms who bought old computers and fixed them.

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His garage was full of computers, parts, and tools.  He was asking $800. We settled on $600. I know now it was worth about $150, but for back then it was a bit of a workhorse and I was so naive about technology I hadn’t a clue that he probably would have taken much less for it.

The tin shed had a fenced-in acre and a half yard that overlooked I-59, the main road to New Orleans or in the other direction about 20 miles from The Free State Of Jones.

It was March 19, 1997, and I was a very late bloomer due to a number of issues and events, but the main one being a lifetime of un-diagnosed Autism and punished for it, mainly by family but also by community.  The family press release was very much like Joe Kennedy’s of Rosemary “Severe issues,  she needs to be locked away.”  As we learned much later, she was probably Autistic with mild depression.  She was extremely bright as her brothers.

The big question was,  “Could I ever get past those demons?  Could I ever get past being unwanted and put away in an attic bedroom with each of my friendships parentally controlled” and my being unwanted? Could I get past the pTSD and low self-esteem it caused?  Who was I to think I could be at the helm of a cartoon project (or any project for that matter)?

They say time flies when you’re having a good time. I can remember most of those times not being so fun for me.  In fact I was not sure if I would make it. By then my heart was giving out but I didn’t know it.

I also had vanus (a severe form of flat feet) but had been a long-distance runner and even completed two marathons from Lafayette to Crowley, La. in 1978 and 1979. When finally diagnosed at age 60, the doctors said I had been running (and walking) on “a bag of bones”.  I was fitted for orthotics which I wear daily. Vanus is inherited at birth.  My dad had it, but I was never checked for it until age 60. Lee noticed it first and saw it on a doctor’s site poster when I was getting a brace for tendinitis. The orthotic inserts have allowed me to walk without hurting for the first time, and even do high-mountain hikes with Lee. I’ve learned to love nature and wildlife.

Dial-up Internet was slow.  There was no Google, no Twitter or facebook, nor was there any social media.  There were forums and Yahoo!  Since I was a novice at the Internet, I didn’t know.  I bartered my way through the whole thing.

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I contacted cartoonists who had paved the way long before me.  While I could draw, I couldn’t draw to the level of which I wanted to to project in this project.  I wanted it  to be a “Dali meets The Far Side”,  a cartoon which could be appreciated as art. Sometimes that worked, sometimes not.

I can remember the most generous people with their time were Charles “Sparky” Schulz,  Leigh Rubin (Rubes) and also helpful were Dave Coverly “Speed Bump”, Jon McPherson “Close To  Home”  and several others.   It seemed the bigger they were, the most generous with their help.

So as per Sparky’s suggestion, I wrote the concepts and dialogue, and assigned them to my illustrative partner who rendered them.   He only did black and white for a long time but within a year I talked him into color.  That year a California tee company paid us $10,000 for the rights to 12 color images. We thought we’d arrived.

Though I made a number of barters, I don’t think we made another sale for another 4 or so years so we just kept creating cartoons. I continued to write them and tweak several I’d written years before.  I had a shoebox full from early college days.  My parents talked me out of doing anything with them so I kept them hidden away and finally used them.

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We made a few sales to academic publishers which never paid much but every little bit helped.

I was living out of my suitcase, which was a good thing since every now and again I was evicted. Friend’s couches or extra bedrooms became “my best friend”.  I always had to pay something but never much. I never needed a lot of space; just enough to type and talk on the phone.  God bless those who gave me a chance.

By the year 2000, we had close to 3000 cartoons (mostly color), but the unpredictable and dangerous lifestyle was taking its toll.   I had my first major heart attack in 2001, and another one in 2010 with three surgeries.  In between that time I had a vagus nerve stimulator implant installed to assist my vagus nerve to work properly.

In 2008 I met my later-to-be amazing wife Lee Hiller. She was (and is) a constant support.  She was with me during the 2010 surgeries which were touch and go. All the while she has been developing her own line of designer gifts LeeHillerDesigns.com and taking incredible nature photos (many on gifts) in our National Park in her blog titled HikeOurPlanet.com.  She’s an incredible person and talent.

Rick London c2011

Londons Times Cartoons had been the Google  #1 ranked offbeat cartoon for 3 years. It has now been for the past 12+ years (since Jan 2005).  It is usually Bing’s #1 ranked too (though it tends to fluctuate there down to #4 or so). I’m happy with that given that on both engines there’s about a half million competing offbeat cartoons.

We put a counter up on my cartoon site in Jan. 2005 after Google first named it #1.  We were eight years old.  It shows we’ve now had about 8.9 million visitors worldwide.  That boggles my mind still. It is very easy to say “Look what I did all by myself” but that’s not how it  has been at all.  I have been but a cog in the wheel of amazing illustrators, managers, tekkies, vendors and Lee all of whom took the time to contribute to a project that had but a slim chance.   Alone,   I would surely have walked away from computers and try to learn something that didn’t require them.

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This year I learned I also have type-2 diabetes and she has gone right to work on helping me figure out a lifestyle diet that works. While it continues to be vegan, the portions are different as is some of the food variety.  We’ve beefed up the exercise/hiking (or we’ve  “soyed it up” as we don’t “beef” anything).

Today we sit with a gorgeous view of Hot Springs National Park from our office.  We see just about every type of flora and wildlife imaginable outside our window. Hawks and falcons fly by often. Squirrels greet us at the window along with a variety of birds and insects.

All the while we create our gift ideas using digital design on our computers.  While my cartoons are fun to put on items so are my “Famous Historical Quote Designs” which came much later.

We are going hiking later today on our favorite trail known for its deer and woodpeckers (and much more).

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Nature has been very good to  us and provided healing, not always so available in cities (where we have lived most our lives).

A well-known quote in the Autism world  is “The Internet does for Autistics what Braille has done for the blind and sign-language has done for the deaf”.   So I accidentally also found my tool for living, by being a part of the cartoon industry.  I would probably have never learned the Internet; as the Interest wasn’t there.   I developed a bit of interest when I returned to college at age 50 at WGU.EDU.  I learned a lot and Lee has taught me a great deal also.  I would have never have known it to be “my lifeline” as an Autistic.

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I was trying to sum things up and our good friend, Sally Jane Paulson in Norway did so for us with a Harper Lee quote she happened to post today.   I believe it tells the whole story. It’s  at the top of this story.

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Rick London is an author, gift designer and founder of Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times.  He is active with outdoors and environmental, animal, Autism and Veteran’s causes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autism Awareness Vs. Autism Awareness. Which Is Best? Can You Do It? Should You? BY Rick London

“Okay I gotcha, Rick. So your brain is neurodiverse and mine is neurotypical…What do you expect of me?”
Glad you asked.
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Acceptance, not awareness. Accept if you like me, and not if you don’t.
It’s really that easy.
Either way it’s win-win as if you like me, chances are I’m going to give it a chance to like you as well. If you show signs of prejudice or fearmongering, I’m far out of your way before you are mine. Been there done that got the tee.
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Top mental health professionals tend to agree that if a child is autistic, and purposely un-diagnosed and hidden away; that is,  created as a scapegoat, s(he) has ptsd or Cptsd and possibly a myriad of other issues.  If fortunate, he/she will seek professional help and stick with it until the answers come.  I’m here to tell you after 30 years of such professional help, the answers came and hit me like a ton of bricks. LOL.  Takes a few months to pick up the pieces.  I also get great support from Lee and consistent therapy.
I got my official Autism diagnosis at age 61 and it was a very big relief and explained so much in my life. It explained everything from remembering my “meltdowns” caused by the Cptsd of abuse at age 4 1/2, to saving my siblings life in a fire in Oct 1965 on a Thu. nite at 6:45 CST while watching the Munsters on my 11 in b/w GE TV in my attic isolation chamber aka bedroom. It had frosted tiny slit windows so nobody could see in (which wouldn’t have mattered since they faced 20 ft shrubberies).
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During that fire I came closed to perishing had I stayed another 4-5 minutes (I could easily tell by the heat and smoke bellowing down the hall) (and this information, I was told, was not to be re-told, as anything to do with the fire “made my dad nervous). I was only 11 and believed my parents. I mean why would they lie? All these things have finally evolved after 30 years of professional help. It all makes sense. “Friends and “family members”, the few with whom I speak still try to “minimize it” or pretend it never happened or that it’s my imagination (the Autism).
I have a very good response when it happens taught to me by a great therapist. (Silence…a LONG silence so they can hear themselves talk, now in middle age). How long can they carry their fantasy, when all the evidence shows, it’s just that, a fantasy, and it is they who might look within. I’ve spent three decades on my changes with phenomenal help. It’s never-ending and I plan to continue it. Lee helps me every bit as much as professionals in their field.
They say you cannot recover from what you don’t know you have. So you surely can understand how exciting it is for me to know what it is, what caused this, Cptsd is actually not a disease but a very healthy response to witnessing or being victimized in some way.
So now God is giving me a chance to recover from those tragedies caused by some extremely ill people. He also sent me my own Angel Lee Hiller-London to show me how that is done. And I love her madly and love learning (however painful some of that may be) to grow up and be me.

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By Londons Times Cartoons C2011 http://www.LondonsTimes.us

She was the very first to show Autism Acceptance to me; and in fact prefers neurodiversity over NT (Neurotypical). I am one blessed grateful man who couldn’t have imagined this.
I thought the tragedies and pain would be omnipotent forever, when all it took was one person to “enter my world” and accept me for who I am.
It’s a wonderful world. 🙂
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Writer, designer, songwriter, and cartoonist Rick London is Autistic. He was diagnosed very late in life (age 61) and feels good about it.   He is best known for launching Google #1 ranked Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts.  He is married to nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London.  They are active in numerous causes including veganism, the environment, animals, veterans and autusm.