It’s 2012. Whoaa. Who’da thought it? I hate using other’s lines but to quote Eubie Blake (later often used by Mickey Mantle), “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself”.
The quote is obviously facetious but there’s a little bit of truth even in facetiousness. I really would have. But back in the days of my youth, I was quite certain there was no cure from which what I ailed. I longed to live fast and figured I’d probably die young. I got the living fast down right; no doubt about it. I spent most of my youth and later my adulthood in trying to experience every experience that could ever be experienced, do so as quickly as possible, and then move on to the next. I kept a great diary.
This paragraph is for the young people who think “this sounds like a great idea”. It’s not, trust me. I was blessed and humbled to have intervention by some amazing souls along the way, including my now beloved wife Lee Hiller-London or, if you’re on Twitter, @LeeHillerLondon. By the time I’d met Lee, however, I’d slowed down quite a bit and was even living in a town smaller than the one in which I was raised, Hot Springs, Ar. which Lee and I call “home”.
To be fair, and I know it sound macho and renegade, but I truly lived through things that perhaps if life were fair, I shouldn’t have. A few were, (but not limited to) going through a windshield with no seatbelt…they were not required when I was 17 years old in my 1970 Dodge Superbee which I bought from my favorite auto-dealer “Harry Dole Dodge” in Hattiesburg, Ms that I kept for a total of 3 months before totally totaling it. Forget my “hippie years” (I know I did, or never remembered them). There were way too many reasons I should not have lived (many of them involved my liver). Ironically, this many years later, the late Harry Dole’s daughter Sherry is now Lee’s and my favorite animal artist. She is amazing.
At age 28, I figured, I should up and move to Miami because I’d gone to USM with a friend who had moved there. We were roomies for 2 months before we both “needed our space” and I rented a room in a strange little old lady’s home who claimed (over and over again) that she was once a flapper at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Though it’s cruel, to be fair, she more closely resembled Flipper (but meaner…much meaner). Oh, and I didn’t have a job, but just knew I would be a great journalist; and, I drove in on the night of the Overtown riots, only to hear (and nearly be hit by gunfire and such). But I was Superman…or so I thought. I did manage to land a job at Miami’s Community Newspapers but that’s a whole other story altogether.
Fast forward a few years and I was in NYC doing standup comedy in nightclubs in Manhattan, NJ, The Bronx, Brooklyn and you name it. I did a PR internship during the day, or on other days worked in a health food store, and often bartended and/or drove a cab. I think I slept an hour or two a night. I lived through that.
Did a stint in Washington, D.C. because I was well aware that “I must be a journalist” by now and though I landed a few cushy jobs, I never did much with them and opened my own bus tour company. I sold it and went to L.A. to learn screenwriting because that was just part of “living fast” and I felt I’d not lived fast enough. I learned how to write movies and wrote a few but nothing got very far past development; not even “Elvis And Godzilla” (I’m not kidding, a giant Elvis calmed the giant beast with songs like “Return To Sender” and “Heartbreak Hotel”.) I’m sure I got plenty of laughs by Hollywood directors and producers (but not for the right reasons). Then came the giant Northridge Earthquake which swallowed my entire home. Only because my barking golden retriever pup “Otis” barked loudly five minutes before it hit, did I escape obvious doom. Thank you G-d (and Otis) once again.
Fast forward 5 years and I’ve suffered a major heart attack, then appendicitis, then another major heart attack (which was rougher) and kidney surgery, and here I am. It took what it took. I laughingly told Lee who has also experienced some scary times (some of them health related), that I really didn’t know I was going to live this long or I would have planned. So now I’m planning.
What does that mean? Again, this is (hopefully for the younger persons out there). Education is important; no its “the key”. Fast crowds seem glamorous but if you inspect “fastness” with a microscope, you won’t find a happy soul…really. Lots of smiles and laughter, but just surface; lost in a masquerade.
Eat better. Lee and I are eating vegan now. Again if I had known then what I know now, I would have started that a long time ago. Drugs, alcohol, etc also can seem glamorous as can the crowds involved. That s the big illusion. They seem so. I promise, they are not.
We clean and decorate our home. Our walls are full of Lee’s amazing nature/wildlife photography scattered with a few of my silly cartoons. We budget for another plant or two every month and we put up about 2 cartoons and two of Lee’s photos per month. Every time I look up, I enjoy where we live. We get to see what we do, and we have nature inside living with us when we are not outside playing in it.
I would have immersed myself in more nature (as Lee and I do now) with hikes that we enjoy. We don’t speed through them. We’re often passed by joggers who “just want to get it out of the way”. I used to own all the best jogging shoes made and ran two marathons. That was all part of “living fast”. Jogging is healthy, I believe, but like anything one can overdo it, and even ignore responsibilities.
I know what you’re thinking. Rick is trying to “be perfect” or “better than”. Am sure it seems that way but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s too late for that.
I am listening to my inner voice. It tells me what really makes me happy. Not someone else’s fleeting opinion. Someone else’s agenda of what I should do or be is truly their issue and none of my business. I love what I do today and there’s not a lot of “glamour” in it, but a lot of fun. And life should be fun. Not always fun. But if one finds oneself in a situation where it is not fun at least some of the time, as an adult, it is our responsibility to find what “that fun is”. It might be numerous things. It might be one or two things. As long as it is not harmful to oneself (or others), most likely it is a nice contribution to society, and really, for what more could one ask out of life?
I’ve been described as “A goofy vegan mountain man who means no harm”. I’ve actually been called worse, but will leave it at that. I founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons in 1997 which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008. I like to design things as well and have several lines “Rick London Designs” and “Rick London Funny Gifts” which can be found at Zazzle & Printfection & Google Shopping and available @Amazon and @Sears. My best friend and wife is Lee HillerLondon. Please follow us on Twitter. She’s @LeeHillerLondon & I’m @RickLondon. We both enjoy social media.