Recalculating – Fighting Rebellion To Grow Up by Rick London

I used to write “the story behind the cartoon” and some friends seemed to enjoy it. I got busy doing other things, and never found time for it.

About a year ago I wrote a cartoon that (I had a feeling) not many would “get”, and I don’t say that condescendingly. I would not have gotten it if someone else had written it.

I realized after publishing it on my website, unless someone knew me growing up, they might not have a clue.  Even my wife Lee, who I’d not met until adulthood sort of scratched her head.

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Every now and then someone looks at it, and moves on to another less complicated one.

The story behind this cartoon that I titled “Recalculating” is more of a self-serving lump of nothing than anything with a moral or lesson.  (Not that cartoons have to have morals or lessons).

Growing up, I was what one might call rebellious; but only symbolically.  Yes, I went through some of the same things that others did, but my parents always had that “invisible leash” and I knew it.

So my rebellion manifested into hair down to the shoulders, bell bottom jeans, black lights and posters, smoking pot (and inhaling) etc.

I had no idea why that was my what my life had become, or even why it seemed attractive.  I imagine peer pressure had a great deal to do with it, and that was that.  I have to admit, at age 15 or 16 or so, shocking ones parents (in the late 60s-early 70s brought great pleasure to a “rebel without a clue” like me.

In my twenties (at some point) I realized I was going to have to learn to make a living.   I was terrible at real estate (which was the family business), due to undiagnosed and misdiagnosed learning disorders, most of which were not even addressed until my 40s.

I learned that I could write, which was odd (given that I’d not read an entire book cover to cover until I was 28 (“Being There” by Jerzy Kazinsky). I later met Jerzy and got some “insider information” into the book and film.   That was fun.

In my 30s I lucked into a cushy Washington, D.C.  job and the world was rapidly going from 60s (hippie) to 80s yuppie, and I had to make a choice.  Suddenly I was editor-in chief at a major radio network.  I hesitantly chose yuppie as “that was the Washington way”, but never really gave up my 60s rebelliousness.  I kept it in the back of my mind as I got up and made it to work early in the morning and left late in the afternoon.  I jogged later and played Trivial Pursuit with my morphing yuppie neighbors on Capitol Hill.

I later opened a bus tour business that did well and sold it.  I moved to California, mainly because I was burning out from the speed-of-light “Washington ways”. I figured L.A. would help me “chill” and get back to my hippie roots.  That’s what I figured.  I had failed at many more businesses and projects than those that succeeded.

By then there was no looking back.  The days of “hippiedom” were gone, even in L.A.  I had a friend who owned a car lot and he talked me into going to the auction with him and made a bid for a used Mercedes in very good shape, at the price I used to buy my junker muscle cars in high school.  It was official. I was a yuppie, but still with the resentment of having to be one, as I’d invested so much into that long hair and so many nice tie-dyed shirts.  Sniff.

The years went by, and suddenly my home in the burbs was swallowed by the Northridge Earthquake.

I realized at that moment I had made “so many plans” and the universe had other plans for me.  If there is a God (and I believe there is) He must have been watching out, as the life I live now, is quite nice, I couldn’t have dreamed it, frankly….but it is nothing like “what I planned”.  It’s healthy.  I love my wife, Lee.  We have similar interests.  And like any couple, we don’t agree on every topic but that’s okay.

We both decided to get healthy (rather than give into being sickly, which would have been an easier route, we decided to expose ourselves to healthy things, people,  get to know nature, and love life just as it is.  That’s not easy (in the start) when one has been “chasing some unknown” for many years, but it makes a lot of sense now.

And every single screeching on of breaks, from as far back as I can remember in my life, and restarting, was nothing more than “Recalculating”; just like the robot-woman in our GPS.

Hence my best explanation for this cartoon…..”Recalculating”.

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.

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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.