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.

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.

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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”.

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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.

 

How To Be Happy…Really…Just Don’t Listen To Me…Or AnyBody Else by Rick London

by Rick London c2011

I believe if someone truly had the “happiness recipe”, their financial worth would eclipse that of Bill Gates & Warren Buffet combined. They’d be so rich they could march in the 99% in torn jeans and an unshaven face in a rustic temporary cabin that he’d paid off the corrupt city administration to set up (permanently).

But of course…I digress.

I don’t have the key to happiness nor am I in the 1%.  And happiness is far from a “one size fits all business”.

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I have some friends who travel and no matter what else, they are happy.  Some other friends are more than content to go to church on Sundays or Synagogue on Friday and share their spiritual experience with others, and they are constantly smiling.  Some of my friends seem happiest when they are working and away from their families, and others feel a sigh of relief to be away from the office (or wherever and with their families).  Again, this is not a one-size fits all world when it comes to figuring out what makes one happy.

And it changes, at least in my own experience.   And I am fortunate to have a soul mate who seems to find happiness in many of the same things.

We are happiest when our health is good.  Ok, that’s a universal.  So we’ve researched and are trying everything possible to try to be as healthy as we can. We don’t smoke or drink. We commune with nature via mountain hiking or just strolling to the park and always come back with a smile (even if we headed there with a frown). Nature is a quick cure and recipe for (at least getting rid of “the grumps”).  We both feel a deep spiritual connectedness in our Ouachita Mountains.

We laugh.  But we don’t laugh for laughing sake.  There are many “feel good psychologists and life coaches” who tell us to laugh”. I believe that is a big mistake….not to laugh laugh at inappropriate times (and things); but to recognize when something is funny to us, and let go.  Again that’s not a one size fits all world. Humor is subjective.  Just because someone likes one comedian, TV show, newspaper or webcomic, does not mean you will, and vice versa.  The importance of knowing when/why to laugh is important because it helps us know more about ourselves and our own boundaries.  And knowing and conquering the “hidden demons” in our psyche is half the battle.  Good humor is one of the greatest weapons.

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Having faith seems to be universal.  But don’t get me wrong.  I am not promoting one religion over another; or any religion.  I know many atheists with plenty of faith and same with agnostics. I know many who claim to be the most religious with little or no faith.  They are generally the ones who preach the most.  I always want to tell them “Don’t Preach To Me, Show Me With Actions”.  Words mean very little to a spiritual educated adult.  We learn and “are sold” by example, not by how “religious you are”.  Jerry Sandusky was very enthusiastic about his church.  Most of us understand the value of words vs. the value of actions.  We’re not fooled and we’re not impressed (with mere words)…which are often diametrically opposed to actions).

Another point I’m (trying) to make is we can’t find happiness by trying to absorb or copy someone else’.  It truly is an “inner job”. Those looking outside oneself will most likely do so until time runs out and we don’t want that.

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Trying one’s passion is of the utmost urgency.  I don’t have to tell you that. No matter what you are doing and how much you are making, you have a dream that you’ve stuffed way back in the corner of your mind.  I don’t mean quit your day job, but give that dream the respect it deserves.  Study it on the Internet or through books.  Take lessons. Do whatever you have to do to make it a part of your life.  In my case, almost at midlife, I finally did that and I love the creative process so much, it truly feels like play, much more so than work, and people actually pay me to do it.  It almost seems unfair, but Lee reminds me that “it makes people laugh”, so I suppose it is a service, creates jobs, etc and is somewhat important in the entire scheme of things.

In any case, it gives me much greater satisfaction than numerous jobs I’ve had that paid considerably more.  And same is true with Lee and her hiking/photography/design business at Hike Our Planet.  It gives her a great sense of joy which is very contagious and we feed off each other in a fun creative manner (some call it brainstorming).  We call it “just plain fun”.

Finally, nobody’s perfect.  My words don’t always parallel my actions, but that is my goal; and I know my moral compass is in a good enough place to where I’ll never go so off-track as to the horror show at Penn State.  The name of the game, I believe, is not to be perfect (Emerson, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Picasso) and so many others have warned us many times, “Looking for perfectionism?  Look somewhere else because you’ll never

find it”.  It’s all about progress, and a healthy respect for others seeking progress, not perfection.  And for the most part,  I stay happy.

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I am just a plain nutty vegan mountain man who loves my wife, hiking, the mountains and pie (if it’s vegan).  I founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997 which has been Google #1 ranked since 2005 (hey that’s 7 years now) for offbeat cartoons and funny gifts.  And I like to design shoes, clothes, gifts and such in such shops as Shoes That Amuse and Wisdom Shop.