A Patient Veteran, A Beloved Wife, A Sweet Irish Setter And Now My Life by Rick London c2016

By now most know Lee’s and my love for animals.  For much of my life, that meant domestic animals such as dogs and cats, and the occasional iguana or hamster, but for the most part dogs and cats and horses.

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I had surmised by the time I was ten or so that I may be the biggest animal-lover in the world, thanks to my late friend Dickey Randolph who, though six years older than me, took the time to teach me about dog care. I got my first Irish Setter from him.   And though I will never forget Dickey’s kindness and goodwill (we stayed friends until his untimely death several years back), I know now it was dogs and cats I loved.

I mention that as, I’d never had anyone explain anything that important to me in detail, that stuck with me throughout my lifetime, and became one of the most important parts of who I am; and most likely began my quest as being a vegan as I am now too.

Part of that “memorable miracle” with Dickey was that I was a disabled, but not diagnosed child with Autism (and now of course an adult with autism).  I was quite hyper, didn’t make good eye-contact, and my attention-span was dismal.

He didn’t care, nor did  it bother him in the least when he returned from Viet Nam, a multi-decorated hero, and very good man.  His guidance led me to the curiosity of nature and animals, and Lee took me to further explorations into the forest to see it in all its glory and how animals behave.  I never get bored with that and it has a very healing nature, very similar to the dog I got from Dickey, “Rusty”.

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I didn’t hate cows, pigs, sheep and chickens, but I dined on them.  Along with overcooked veggies that was my staple until college, at which time McDonald’s took over as “the family kitchen”.  I look back and wonder how I ever lived through that, and in reality, almost didn’t.  I was still 35 years away and two major heart attacks from “seeing the cruelty” in what I was doing.

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Having owned one of the first health food stores in Ms. with a $10K loan from the now defunct (like my health food store) Bank Of Hattiesburg, with a preacher from Glendale, Ms. who was later bought out by an ex-math professor at USM, I had an early curiosity of health foods, yoga, running etc.  It never occurred to me that something as simple as animal protein (including dairy and eggs) was not only holding me back, but eventually killing me, and how I didn’t die on at least 4 occasions has stumped all my surgical specialists.  I am a blessed and grateful man.

I went full-fledged into that business.  Most of my “education” came from salespersons with high-school degrees and books written by outdated writers.  Food science was moving forward as fast as one could turn a page.  The animal sciences were not far behind.  I was dedicated to trying to eat right, take the right herbs and vitamins, run marathons, and you name it.

I have since learned that cooked vitamins might as well go in the toilet.  To my knowledge there is only one firm that makes 100% organic vegan raw vitamins and that is “Garden Of Life” which we buy in powder form from Amazon or Ebay.  It is amazing and one can tell the difference immediately from the ones we see advertised on tv often which have had all/or most of the nutrients and more importantly live enzymes cooked out of them, so they are useless.

I learned that herbal tinctures, in most cases are far better than the tablets or capsules as far as potency. I also learned that organic and wildcrafted are every bit as important.  In addition I learned that “organic” in China would not pass for edible in the U.S. (for herbs and vitamins).  There’s still much more to be learned.  Not all of it works. Some of it is nothing less than miraculous.   More learning.  It’s neverending.

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Enter Walmart, a new “box store” to the town and exit my store, an old overpriced relic.   I sadly closed my doors in 1981

So I spent some time educating myself regarding food sciences and animal science.

I was married in June 2010 to my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller of Hike Our Planet)who became a vegan one year later. I had already read the health benefits and how it helped the planet but that still wasn’t, for whatever reason enough for me. However I did go mainly vegetarian for a year before my conversion to veganism.

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It was impossible to watch Lee’s positive changes and not want that for myself.  I didn’t know if it could happen but I was surely willing to try.  She’d lost about 90 or so pounds and about 20 years of age.  I was astounded and still am.  But that was not her goal. It just happened.

She was very patient with me as my evolution kept going with at least some dairy or cheese and finally I said, “I’ve had it”. I thought she’d be surprised but she was not in the least.  She said, we’d both cook alternate days and eat as much raw as we could, and that is just what we did.  I had no idea I would not only actually like it, but crave it, and the thought of my old “food” never even crosses my mind.  I truly don’t think my body could absorb it.  Lee kept looking and feeling better and her mood became very kind. It was not an act.  I’ve seen lots of acts.  This was a natural evolution.  I wanted that too. (Still working on it  LOL).

The life changes are dramatic.  Forget the goodness to the planet, and though I am tickled to death that it happens, there is nothing that would take me back to my old eating lifestyle. I say that because there is no such thing, really, as a vegan diet. Veganism is more of a learning/lifestyle philosophy.

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

Well, Lee retained the good looks, common sense and brains, and I got to feel human maybe for the first time.

Because nobody gets it perfect (I was told that would happen by Ed Begley, Jr.) on Twitter….. (It’s a long story)….I’ve decided not to become a militant vegan, and that fits me well. While I would love the planet to all turn vegan, I also know as Ed told me, “It ain’t gonna happen”.  I would love to live the rest of my life on the planet not killing any animals, but again, it’s not going to happen.  Even in the making of my computer animals are killed.  Lee and I kill insects for instance on our hikes, our ride to the grocery, etc. but not on purpose of course.

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So I wish the Gandhi-wannabes good luck, and let me know how that turns out.  When curious persons are ready, they usually ask us questions. Lee has come up with the idea to have them start with a Meatless Monday which is now a worldwide movement.

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As time goes by and they are still interested, I often direct people to YouTube to watch Sir Paul McCartney’s “Glass Walls”.  Any time I’ve growled or gotten snarly, they ran they other way and ate more meat, with guilt, more meat, nevertheless.  They didn’t want to be much like me and who was I to blame them.  So I changed, and hopefully so did they.

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Meantime I’ve put together a collection of my favorite animal cartoon gifts and tees and I have a lot more in the store collection.  A percentage of each sale benefits various animal and/or vegan causes.

Also for yet even more entertainment, there’s plenty on my cartoon website.

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Happy laughing…and eating….and hopefully shopping!

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for launching Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts from an abandoned tin warehouse in rural Ms.  He is married to his best friend and hiking buddy, his beloved bride Lee Hiller-London who owns the nature photography blog Hike Our Planet. Though of course cetaceans are animals (Dolphins, Orcas etc.) Rick keeps a separate section for his ocean mammal friends (gifts).

Living Our Dreams. How Did Londons Times Cartoon Turn 17?

“….And please remember to set your watches forward one hour”. One hour?  I just fast forwarded mine 17 years.  And where did those years go?  Londons Times Cartoons is 17 years old this March 2014. Holy Smokes. Where did the time go?  Where in the world did it go.  I know I fought some battles and faced some challenges along the way (that seemed like I was walking through a long bad dream), but looking back, it seemed like last week that all this started.

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The last thing I remember after the workplace still looked like Scott Adam’s cartoon “Dilbert” was being downsized from a cubicle and pc to an abandoned warehouse; living on occasional donations of food and small bills from friends.  I received no governmental support. It was March 1997.

Rick London c2011

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Shifting career gears and goals from producing/editing/marketing to “writing cartoons” at age 44 was not something that Dale Carnegie might have recommended in “How To Make Friends And Influence People”. In fact if I had to write a book about it’s humble beginnings I might have called it, “So you’ve burned every bridge but your dog still loves you”.  And he did.  As did my new calico kitten which wandered up to the warehouse on day. This caused my loyal dog of many years to reassess his reasons to love me but I found “Pat” the cat a new home rapidly and Thor the dog loved me again.

When I launched Londons Times Cartoons, I virtually had nothing.  My car died and with no job I could unwisely spend what little cash I had on another piece of tin, or put it into technology which would help me “build a cartoon empire” (whatever that is).

Thor was with me for nearly ten years of my journey.  What a wonderful administrative assistant.

My skills were very limited.  I can draw a little but not to the level that matched the vision of the cartoon of which I had in mind.  This cartoon would have an offbeat nature ala Far Side, yet not the cartoony look of Far Side (or other cartoons for that matter). If I could eventually create it, my feelings were there was nothing else like it on the market.  I talked to masters in the cartoon industry. I was too naïve to know to leave them alone.  The bigger these icons were, the more friendly and open they were.  Charles Schulz recommended I recruit illustrators who were also fine artists who might do so on spec. He admitted it was a long shot, but long shots do happen, especially in the cartooning industry.

 

 

 

As time went by, I wandered and called around with my shoebox full of cartoon concepts. Sure enough, a bite.  Problem…he didn’t want to do color.  Color was part of my vision but I gave in and figured I could get them colored later.  As time went by a Ca. tee shirt company offered us $10,000 for rights to 12 images (if they were in color).  My illustrator/partner decided color would be good. And from that moment on about 99% of our cartoons were done in color and still are.

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I slowly moved “up the creative corporate ladder” which meant moving eventually to my own place to my favorite mountains in Arkansas; a place surrounded by the most gorgeous natural beauty in the world.  As my instincts suggested, it would be impossible to hike those hills, and not be inspired to write some unique panels.  At one point I was working with eight different top illustrators and writing from 30-100 cartoons per day (not all great albeit but usually 3-5 were marketable).

There’s a lot more to the story. I pretty much took a permanent break around 2001 to return to college and study business as it applies to the Internet at Western Governors.  The professors were fantastic and I learned things that were pragmatic enough to bring into the workplace and facilitate the same or next day.

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I never thought during my pursuit of my own happiness I’d meet the woman of my dreams, Lee Hiller-London , whom I’d eventually marry and as it turns out she, too, loves to hike in the same mountains, and is a wonderful artist and photographer and is building her own brand based on her art and nature/wildlife photography.  We both love what we do and never get bored.  When I was young I used to jokingly say that might happen to me one day; but I never really believed it.  Lee and I have been married since June 18, 2010.

We’ve changed our lifestyles dramatically.  We’re vegans.  We mountain hike 3 or so days a week.  We’re out in nature all the time.  We’re active with animals and the environment.  We have a good life.

I guess there is a moral to this story; several actually.

We are not our last mistake nor are we an accumulation of all the mistakes we have made.

It is never to late and start right where we are and begin working on our dreams.  I was 44.

There will be obstacles and naysayers, lots of them.  And that’s all they are; and best left ignored, or not ignored but looked at as teachers.

There are those who say “Never quit no matter what”. I say that’s foolish. I say quit every single time you feel fatigued, tired, uninspired, etc. It can be from 5 minutes to 5 years (or more).   In my case I needed more knowledge, hence school.

Oh, in the middle of school, I started receiving emails, mails, phone calls etc from every major charity, religious organization, private school, animal cause, environmental cause etc. all wanting autographed cartoons.

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I thought it was some kind of joke.  Finally friends started congratulating me. Why?  For having Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and gifts.  Several years later also Bing’s #1; and have remained #1 on both search engines since Jan. 2005.

I guess my point is, if I can launch a creative venture mid-life, anybody can.  Please remember 17 years has gone by like a flash so if you plan to start, please get started.

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Rick London is an author, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for his #1 ranked LTCartoons.com offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times Cartoons. He is married to popular nature photographer Lee Hiller London who runs the popular blog Hike Our Planet.

3+ Years With The World’s Best Wife & Living In Paradise by Rick London

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I get asked every now and again how I met my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London. I know it sounds “iffy” but we met on Twitter about four years ago and have been married for three years.   We worked together on a project designed to get a Presidential Medal Of Freedom to Dame Elizabeth Taylor. It’s a long story.  Though we didn’t succeed, we created a lot of buzz on Twitter and the White House even called me to “Stop The Campaign”.  That’s an “LOL”.  They were mad.

One of the White House PR outreach interns had given me an important private mailbox that filled up rather rapidly and was overflowing.  I cooperated and stopped the campaign.  We did manage to get the story worldwide with a Reuter’s Wire hit which was fun.    Don’t even ask how it happened.  Neither of us are celebrities (to my knowledge).  But it was fun and we learned a lot rubbing elbows with several.

Lee, a former Power seller of EBay, had finally closed her store when EBay came under new management and the huge crowds that used to be there to buy vintage goods (which was her specialty) had virtually dried up.  EBay Motors and expensive electronics seemed to be all that was left selling there.

The town is made up of probably 60%+ of tourists who fell in love with it and moved here.  I was one of those, as was Lee.  It is easy and fun to call home now. We live right on the edge of the 2nd oldest National Park in America and hike and commune with nature often.  We’ve seen every kind of animal and wildflower imaginable.

Lee had a lot of talent and willingness to learn.  I had returned to school and studied Business Information Management at Western Governors University as a nontraditional adult student about fifty years old.  I think BIM amounts to learning how to navigate the Internet, SEO, social media, pinging, etc.  I am still not sure what all I learned, but I seemed to learn it well.  Digital design was one of the many things.

Lee had been an expert seamstress growing up, so her ability to learn digital design watching me came naturally and she got much better than me at it and had thousands of items in the marketplace within a few months.  I was very proud.  Her items were selling well.  We were designers for household names (Hollywood celebrities) and for our own lines.  We loved, and still love working together, and share the same living room office overlooking Hot Springs Mountain.

June 18th is our anniversary. We’ve now been married a little over three years and I love Lee now more than I did in our courting days.  We’ve learned a lot of things.  We both work in the arts and letters so contrary to what traditional society used to say, the liberal arts was a very good choice of majors.  We work in the same living room office. Sometimes hours go by where we barely say a word but we can “feel each other there”. 

And we have our own little private code symbols to remind the other we’re still here.  To the average couple in which the intense concentration of design is not part of their lives, they might think, “What’s wrong with them?”  And the answer is, “They are supporting each other in their work.  When they’re finished they  will talk…..or hike….or do tai chi, or go to a gallery or museum, or a combination of more than one of those.

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One thing we like to do is communicate to each other on social media.  We once used facebook often but we found it was eroding our motivation to do business so we’ve cut it back to weekends and a lot more work gets done.  This decision was made for summers (since our businesses are so seasonable) and it gives us a chance to design more items; otherwise, though we love our old friends and new ones we’ve met on facebook, if we had our druthers, we’d spend all the time with them.  But we work for ourselves and are our toughest bosses, hence we sometimes make major decisions.

On the other hand we can keep our Tweetdeck open for Twitter. Since 90% of what we do on Twitter is automated and pre-scheduled, we don’t have to spend a lot of time on it.  The only time we do is if a message comes to us that needs answering and one of our associates is not able to answer it.  This may seem mercenary, odd and unfriendly, but actually it is the opposite.  Our friends and followers of our brands have come to expect quality, and for us to provide quality (since we design our own), it takes time, concentration, and the ability to push it through to the marketplace.

There are several schools of thought regarding social media.  When Lee and I started Twitter we did personally interact with a lot more than we do now.   We enjoyed it and still do enjoy it the occasional times we do it.  Lee has a great deal of followers who enjoy discussing nature with her. 

A lot of our business overlaps.  We both do digital designing.  We both work with a lot of the same manufacturers.  When we have an issue or a problem, we know we can talk to each other about it and try to remedy it.  And often it is remedied in a timely fashion as we both understand the issue.

I realize not every couple has this luxury (of working together, living together, loving each other and creating together.   So if a couple asks advice on how we do what we do, I honestly wouldn’t have an answer.  But I do have a theory based on what we’ve done and built.  Try to find things that you have in common with your significant other.  When ground rules are made, make sure to follow them.  Don’t make them for one and not the other. 

Make plans to do things together that you enjoy.  A couple does not have to spend a fortune to love each other; in fact the opposite.  Both of us have performed plastic surgery on our credit cards and pay as we go with cash or debit cards.  We barter when need be.  I’ve bartered my first 8 years (bartered 99% of the time) of my cartoon business.  Lee is at a point, and the economy is ripe for more businesses open to barter and she’s learned it fast.  I still barter when I can, but nothing like what I did to keep my cartoons alive in the early stage of the project.  Barter sustained me when I first started. I had no money.   There are still products and services that are not within my budget that, though I can do without and often do, more often than not, I can barter; and it is always a win-win.

Lee and I hike together, photograph wildlife and photography together (she’s teaching me how), and do as much as we can of things in which we both have an interest.   And that doesn’t mean going out every weekend.

We both love oldies music and discovered Herman’s Hermits, The Grass Roots & The Buckinghams will be playing at Oaklawn Theater next month and we definitely plan to go.    That doesn’t sound like a big deal but to us it is.  And it’s just another fun memory we’ll be able to discuss for years.

Create memories.  Good ones.  Life itself can create the bad ones for you but don’t take them seriously.  Health, economy, etc. etc. all create memories (not necessarily good ones) that are not very much within our control.  The trick is to not take those too seriously, but take them seriously enough to take care of them, and go out of one’s way to create the positive ones.

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Speaking of health, when Lee moved to Arkansas, she was way out of shape and had some extra pounds on her.  She does not mind me telling that, especially that now she has (not dieted) but changed her lifestyle to vegan and is hiking often.  All her old clothes are at the Salvation Army because her new ones are size small to medium and her waste is a 25.  All that happened within 3 years.   Her skin is smooth and young and she wears very little makeup when she wears any at all.

It’s also contagious; no not the cosmetics behavior (I never wear lipstick for instance) J  but the motivation to regain one’s health, shed pounds and clear the arteries.  Both of us have been on the vegan diet (Lee for 3 years and I have for 2 years) and more and more of it is raw food, and nearly always organic. 

Again, I’m not suggesting an individual clones the other.  Lee has plenty of things that she does on her own of which are “within her domain” and don’t interest me, and vice versa, and that’s healthy.

My point, and theory is, so many couples we know focus on their differences, and of course there are and will be differences.  We have decided to focus, not on our differences, (there are plenty), but on our “same-nesses” and how grateful we are to have the life we have.   And that makes our relationship and lives a success, not how much money we make (some months we make plenty and others we’re like dorm students), not how many friends we have (we have friends all over the world, but the friends we see the most often have wings or four legs), etc. 

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And life remains very good. I love you Baby.  

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and designer.  He founded the #1 offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times in 1997.  It’s been top ranked by Google since 2005 and Bing since 2008. His wife Lee is a popular nature photographer and runs the popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.  She also designs gifts and collectibles from her photography and art and showcases them at her various home decor  and clothing shops such as Lee Hiller Designs.  Both are avid outdoorspersons and stewards for Hot Springs National Park which they hike and take care of weekly. 

 

 

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Failure, Not Giving Up, Nature, Religious Roots, My Wife & Resiliency of The Human Spirit By Rick London c2012 LTCartoons.com Celebrates 15 Years With New Kindle Book & More

Failure, Not Giving Up, Nature, Finding My Religious Roots,  My Wife & Resiliency of

The Human Spirit By Rick London c2012

LTCartoons.com Celebrates 15 Years With New Kindle Book And Much More

LT Cartoons 15th Anniv Book Click To Enlarge

 

“They’ll never change me.  I won’t  conform”.  That was my mantra starting at age 13, or somewhat like it, and I held onto it  well into my thirties. What I didn’t realize is that I was conforming all along.  Even in my wild daredevil years, my hippie years, my atheist years, my “I’ll never talk to my family ‘cause they don’t deserve me years, my standup comedy in NYC years, my screenwriting in L.A. years, my Scandal Tours in Washington years, I was changing and conforming.  That was a little over fifteen years ago; and though I was dreaming of a quiet mountain or ocean life away from the maddening crowd, I was still young, adventurous and probably a bit too addicted to life’s dramas.  After all I was also very self-absorbed and most drama could easily be “all about me”.

To quote a notable late President, “Make no mistake about it”, I’ll add “I was all about me”, and didn’t think much of what I could do for you, your wants, needs, or much else.  I look back at that scared young man, really a boy in a man’s skin, who was frightened.  Of what, I never found out, but too scared to slow down.

Oddly enough, my beginning of adulthood began (in my mind) upon the founding of my Scandal Tours bus tour in Washington, D.C. in which I did a lot of media interviews nationally and internationally but that is not what refined me. What refined me was dealing with a professional group of people in the hospitality industry. They were a lot nicer than comedy club owners, taxi cab and bar owners (odd jobs during comedy), PR Moguls (I did my internship in 1983 in NYC and they were worse than cab co.  and bar owners.  They had egos the size of Newt’s proposed moon colony.

Fifteen years ago I at my hometown in Hattiesburg, Ms and after a plethora of exciting and some high-paying jobs, I took a job selling advertising for a brutally mismanaged local CBS affiliate (but it was a job) and allowed me to take care of my mom who had contracted cancer and only lived another four years.   I made a few new friends while I was home, and became very close to them. In fact they became like family to me.  I stayed in Hattiesburg, Ms almost another two years just to be near them,and though I had blood family there, I was banned from them (which was a very good thing at that time too). The reason for the ban (according to mutual friends (who always told me what they said was “I shamed them”.  (They never said what the shame was) but I forgave them years ago, which is how I was able to create as I did.  Holding on to family (or other grudges keeps one stagnant. They stop growing from the moment they decide to hold on to their resentments, and eventually die bitter and sad.

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Of course it would be wonderful to see my nieces and nephews whom I was never allowed to watch grow up, but the gift from God is I got a beautiful life, a beautiful smart talented wife, live right on the edge of a mountain and people pay me for something I love to do. That does not replace rubbing elbows with my blood kin, but it surely is as fulfilling as a life as for which anyone could ask. I continue to stay in touch with some of my hometown friends via email and facebook who were so supportive in my struggles there. Life was hard enough without my sales job but I was also launching a cartoon.  This did not bide well in a town not known for its unwavering support of such creative ventures. Hattiesburg has some wonderful people, places, and ideas, but humor and humor in the arts is definitely not their forte’.  In fact laughing, to the last of my recollection was next to a cardinal sin.

I lost my job at the TV station after an argument with the incredibly bigoted manger, and experienced a bit of his venom, before I learned the full-power of my own wrath. I was highly intimidated by him at the time and did not try to fight him. I simply took my unemployment and left.  Today would be a very different story.  He would not want to come close to me now. My wrath and ability to use it is (I’m told) relentless and scary. The good news is I never bring it up unless in defense.  I  tend to be quite peaceful.  I am proud of my ability to use it, speak my mind, “out” people who are doing wrong, and use the system to set things straight if need be. There was a time when I was not aware I had that kind of power.  I know one thing. I wouldn’t want to go up against me; yet I’d sure enjoy being my friend (if I were another person).  I can be a good friend too; in fact much better than a person than purveys wrath.

I formed a team for my cartoons because though I can draw a little, I can’t even close to the vision I have had for my cartoons; which, if I was to do it the way of my vision would be part fine art/part cartoon; and it would appeal to people of all demographics, though not always. But it would never be so erudite that only I got it, or a few friends and me.

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I no longer work in corporate America. The corporate America I knew in the 70s-90s for the most part doesn’t even exist anymore.  Besides at 57, though I’m not the brightest bulb in the cabinet, I know more than many in my field.  It did not hurt that I went back to college at age 48, to one of the finest business and IT schools in the country that was/is accredited and offers a full load online.  The only catch was assessments/tests had to be proctored at a local college or public school board.  I started in 2002 right after a major heart attack and finished 3 years by 2008 when I had to stop due to several major surgeries.   I was getting my work done, and at times on scholarship, but after surgeries I was just too slow in finishing assignments.  But I still tried; gathered all my medical records with all the surgeries and they simply couldn’t do it. I know now it was not their fault but the Pell Grant people who were unable to audit closely enough how I was, since WGU did not have a physical campus.

But what an administration and teachers.  Our board consisted of all the governors (except Ahhhhnold) from 13 Western states, Bill & Melinda Gates, Michael Dell, Google, HP, and a host of other household names who set the tone of our curriculum. And you would think online would be a cinch. It was brutal.  But it was worth it.

To emphasize how much has changed; I was a terrible student in my early days at USM and Richland College (in Dallas) and managed to accumulate about 90 hours. Not one of them were pertinent or even counted.  WGU made me start over from scratch, though they did let me take several assessments without classes (and I passed them) based on life experience (but those reminded me of everything every PhD candidate told me about dissertations).

No, I didn’t learn everything, but I learned how to be professional in business; but not perfect.  I tend to get better daily but I step backwards at times. I learned what businesses do right and what they do wrong to clench the deal, and even more importantly to keep it.

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I am married to the most beautiful, bright, kind woman in the world.  We work in the same home office which is our living room and have the same view of Hot Springs, Ar. main mountain oddly called “Hot Springs Mountain”.  She is studying Judaism online and Hebrew on Rosetta Stone but that is not why she is so sweet.  She was Episcopalian for our first two years of marriage and I certainly never tried to persuade her to pursue my path but it was/is attractive to her so we study and learn it together.  We observe the Shabbat for 24 hours over the weekend and she makes incredible Challah.  Lee kindles the fire…..right after turning off the Kindle fire she’d just fired up. We study and practice Judaism each week. We will start going to synagogue in a few months about once for month just to meet others in the Jewish Community. It’s all exciting to us. It means big positive changes and we’re happy.

Gomez Mill House Museum (Click To Enlarge)

For now, as service, Lee and I are directors of social media for my maternal family museum Gomez Mill House, which is the oldest extant Jewish dwelling in N. America. They are celebrating 300 years next year and Lee and I built their Twitter and facebook page and do that marketing for them and help the director with non media promotional ideas.  That is fulfilling for us.  In my direct maternal line-of-fire lineage are poetess Emma Lazarus “The Great Colossus” (on the base of the Statue Of Liberty) and Benjamin Cardozo (one of the most well known U.S. Supreme Court judges ever and every major law school still considers him the premiere interpreter of the U.S. Constitution 

We read prayers from the Torah. It is bringing me back to my roots (that I never learned) since I grew up in such a secular home. I say secular; I believe my parents were fairly religious but they never demanded attendance of service by the young’ns.  Please don’t get me wrong. I love Christianity and half my family is Christian. My paternal grandparents were Baptists. I didn’t know many Jewish kids growing up; maybe 2 or 3 and still the majority of my friends remain Christian and a mix of others and a few with no religion. I never judge by people’s belief but by character.  I rarely ask their religion unless it comes up. I always celebrated Christmas with my childhood friends. And as much as I loved that, still do, I always wanted to learn my own religion too. And finally G-d is giving me that opportunity (and Lee) and we couldn’t be happier.  We hope to make Jewish friends but we would never give up our friends of other religions (or non-religions).  We really believe G-d doesn’t make mistakes and we are all his children.  And for my atheist and agnostic friends “The Universe doesn’t make mistakes and we are all right where we’re supposed to be doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing”.

Cuz Emma Lazarus (Click To Enlarge)

I now have about 6 online shops with approximately ¼ million products.  Lee has a beautiful nature photography blog (she mountain hikes more than I do but I enjoy when I go along with her several times a week and often I go solo.  She has 30K+ products she has designed which can be seen at LeeHiller.com. Her brand is growing rapidly and she makes new products from her nature/wildlife photography and also from artwork. It is well worth the visit.  Her book “Nature Of Love” with gorgeous photos and love muses to me is available at Barnes And Noble in physical form, and Amazon in physical form and on Kindle. It is worth viewing.

Cuz US Supreme Ct Judge Benjamin Cardozo. Everybody tells me he looks like MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Click To Enlarge

15 years ago, I would have told you I was probably going to end up selling some kind of product in or near Hattiesburg, and die drinking and very unhappy.

G-d had other plans.  I am very happy.  I love my life. Lee and I are non-partyers nor will you ever find us drunk or drugged. I take that back. On the times I have to go to the emergency room for say heart, kidney etc; they will sometimes prescribe drugs that make me drowsy, but not for long periods of time, and never “the party kind” that are sought by “drug seekers” as I cannot take them.  Until my “Embarrassing Experience” a few months ago for the toxic insect bite on a very sensitive place; it had been a year and five months since I’d visited the ER (but it was for a huge kidney stone and you would have gone too. I promise”.

Is life perfect? Of course not, but whose is? The point is, I never imagined it could be like this, and that I would get to call my own shots, doing just exactly what I love to do. But I do.   I have 2 books on the market our 13th and 15th Anniversary Cartoon compilation books available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.   Kindle approved my 15th Londons Times Anniversary today “Where Have All The Hippies Gone?” and  it is also available for free for those with Kindle Prime in their lending library.

A lot can happen in 15 years.  From the time I was born, until the time I turned fifteen, seemed to be the longest 15 years ever in the history of the world.  Now I often think of ways to slow it down so I can savor it.  And low and behold there is.   I look at Lee and say, “Hey baby, wanna go climb a mountain” or “Take a Hike”?  And we do; and time stands still in a paradise we never ever thought we could imagine.

Work hard.  Obstacles happen.  Each is a lesson.  Don’t give up, or better yet if its not working for too long DO give up and change course. Be flexible.  Take risks but not careless ones. I really believe this can happen to anybody.

Regrets?  Sure.  If only I’d known all this when I was sixteen…or even thirty six…but better late than never 🙂

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Rick London is a freelance writer, songwriter, cartonist, entrepreneur, author and designer.  He launched Londons Times Cartoons aka LTCartoons.com in 1997 in an abandoned rural ms warehouse/shed. It has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008. He owns other designer shops such as RickLondonWisdomQuoteShop.com and LoveQuoteGifts.com which sell gifts, tees etc with famous quotes and graphics of those who said them usually with an artistic background on each product. he owns Rick London Fame (which features tees, mugs etc of caricature cartoons of famous people) and his own line of cartoon tees of famous people & clothing RickLondonWear.com.  He just launched Race4TheCase.com which features iPad Iphone iPod cases, skins and laptop sleeves featuring his cartoons and wisdom quote gifts. His wife Lee manages numerous sites that can be found at http://www.LeeHiller.com featuring her wildlife nature photographer and home decor and office gifts.  Though you can find Rick London’s coffee table cartoon compilation books at Barnes & Noble, you can find both the coffee table and Kindle editions at Amazon.com.  His Kindle Cartoon Books are $1.99 and free at the lending library if  you have Kindle prime.

 

2012 Retrospect: I Shouldn’t Be Alive, Ya Know by Rick London

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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.