What A Long Strange Road Its Been…. Anniversaries 18 & 21 by Rick London

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I am a sucker for milestones and anniversaries.  Especially long period of time ones sometimes bring a tear to my eye.  But a happy kind of tear.

March through June are both fun and emotional for me for that very reason.  First and foremost this June 18th is Lee’s and my 8th wedding anniversary.  (She’ll be proud of me for remembering that LOL).

We married in a old stone chapel in the Ar. Mountains to which one had to hike, there was no road to it.  She found it on a solo hike 9 years ago and came home yelling, “I found our chapel. I found our wedding chapel).  Until she took me there (by foot), I hadn’t a clue what I was about to find.

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      Our Wedding Chapel 

It was a charming 100 year old stone building in the middle of nowhere.  Nature surrounded us.  It was/is us.  We hike back to it each year.

 

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Favorite Pic Of My Beloved Wife Lee Hiller-London

When we chose that day (it was our second pick), the 19th being our first, we had no idea

it wautism 222222222as Autism Pride Day or even that I was/am Autistic.  Lee sort of had a clue given she’d worked in high-tech many years around the world in the early days of technology.  She’s still a wiz at it, even given all the changes. Back then HTML was considered high-tech.  I still love her more than ever.

By the way I was not diagnosed for autism until 2015 at age 60.  It was hidden from me as a child (was not diagnosed) and I was given an “attic bedroom” far away from the family core; quite a frightening way to live, with autism,  at age six-age through age 17 (basically imprisoned with controlled friends).  I am vocal about it because, a lot of parents, later entire families, and finally entire communities disown their autistics (or different) children. My greatest hopes are to help lessen this obscenity. I know I cannot alleviate it.  But it is a form of torture and I plan to speak out.  Whenever the opportunity avails itself.

Future children/later adults need not suffer like that, now that we know what it is, and was. It is well past time to get past the years of character assassination of “those who are different”, and often those of us who are autistic, fall into that league.  Autism is who we are. It’s not a disease or ailment. It’s like being green-eyed or left-handed.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with it any more than there is neurotypical people.

Monday, March 19th is also the 21st anniversary of the day I launched Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) in 1997.  Most folks by now know the story of my living in a tin shed with no heat or air and only cold running water (for over a year).  Electricity was installed and I bought a big old used IBM Clone 396 computer for several hundred dollars and a book “Internet For Dummies”.  And my trusty rescue dog “Thor”.  I had $300 more or less.

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Thank you to all the wonderful souls who have been with me through this journey.  There were times when I was certain it would not work, I’d stop knowledge of what I’ve learned, or people would simply forget about me.  None of that has happened, and the works I have done have grown dramatically.

     Thor The Wonderdog

I’ve published 4 cartoon compilation kindle books and one coffee table one available at bookstores worldwide.  I have about 4500 full-color cartoons on my website.  I woke up one day in early January 2005 and my site was #65 ranked on Alexa.com. While that didn’t last long, it stayed the #1 ranked offbeat cartoon (on both Google and Bing); it sometimes fluctuates to #2 but that’s okay given there’s about 10,000 offbeat cartoon properties competing for that spot on any given day.  However 8 million people had visited my main website and now it’s closer to 8 million and 188K.  It surprised me (possibly more than it does anyone else).  It all definitely went beyond my bucket list.

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oldmanHemingway once quoted, “A man’s got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.”  I might add, “…And write several more really funny books to be humbled by the blessings I have received”.

And if all that were not enough, we’ve got Amazon Prime and Netflix and the occasional GMO-Free Popcorn.  Life is good.

 

 

To see my main site ranked Google & Bing #1 Offbeat Cartoons click here.   Most suggest to then click on “New Toons”.  You can find our most popular recent strange cartoons on Instagram here.  To shop there’s several stores. Let me suggest this one which is Rick London Gifts full of comic tees, mugs, cards, bags, jewelry, home and office and plenty of other stuff.

 

WalMart Automotive, Challah, and Butterfly Optimism by Rick London

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I was up pretty early this morning because I knew Lee was making challah and I needed to go to the grocery as the cupboard was pretty slim pickins.  I wanted to get back early to get some work done (aka scattered creativity).  So I pushed myself to get up and get out. 

I went to the garage and as always, snapped on my seatbelt, turned the ignition and “all the things I take for granted kicked in –  the air conditioner would kick in, the battery would start it right up as it always had for years, etc. 

None of that happened.  Click click click click.  I know that sound well. It means dead battery.

It all started about 5 years ago.  WalMart was having a sale on batteries (they’re fairly cheap anyway) and I’d always had positive luck with them (no pun intended).  WalMart had a battery sale years ago and I bit.  Little did I know it would force  me into a vicious cycle of trading in at least 2 batteries per year for ones that worked. Yes I checked my connection and it was fine.  The battery was junk.  But until I want to really go all out and spend a few hundred on a car battery, I will be trading these batteries in until I stop driving.  Besides, I grew attached to such things.  There’s a lot about WalMart I don’t like.  But I do like that they take the battery back as promised and replace it with one every bit as sorry. 

There’s a lovely chunk of woods next to our nearby Walmart and a beautiful butterfly flew by (that I could name by name) and that frightened me a bit.  At the same token it made me even more grateful to Lee for taking the time to teach me what each one is called as we see them.   Butterflies keep me optimistic and this was no exception except for my totally dead battery about to be fixed.  

 

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So I got on the phone to click on Lee’s name, but the phone was dead too.  Why had I allowed facebook alerts when I had them off for years.  I don’t even like that silly “Droiiiiddddd” noise. 

Lee was there in a jiffy with her jumper cables, jumped me off, and followed me to WalMart as they have a lifetime warrantee on car batteries.  But this happens every 3-6 months these days. They used to last for years.  I turned to Lee and shouted my guess, “I BET THEY’RE MADE IN CHINA NOW”. 

To satisfy my curiosity, sure enough, the large percentage (if not all) of WalMart batteries are made in China. They carry one “top shelf” unit that only has parts from there but is assembled from here. I like Chinese food. I like Chinese dogs. I like a lot about China.  But I don’t like Chinese WalMart batteries. 

Admittedly they were very prompt to replace it, though they did do one of those “lump in the stomach things” announcing they couldn’t find my receipt in the pile of papers from the last battery I purchased there.

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 They smiled and instructed Lee and I to take our time shopping “in WalMart” (we know this is how WalMart makes their minimal battery loss back and then some).  We answered,  “Yes, we will.  And when we get back from Kroger’s, in say 30 minutes or so, betcha the battery will be ready”.

 After a long frown he said, “Yes, should be”.

Lee figures things out faster than I do. I always feel I should get her one of those “I’m With Stupid” Tshirts.  Early on, she splurged for a new good battery and has not had one bit of trouble with it since she bought it 4 or so years ago. 

We got all our groceries (at Kroger) and followed each other home.  Groceries are in the fridge, bug spray guy will be here any minute, and I’m learning how to use the social network Tumblr while running sales at my Zazzle RickLondonGifts.com shops.

While most days remind me of The Beatles “A Day In The Life” (It’s just another day….etc), this one reminded me that our society offers up so many basics and luxuries, many of which we take for granted, but we’ve decided not to do that very often.

I made a mental note to myself that before I die I need to purchase one of those “tank-like Mercedes” that probably doesn’t even need a battery or electricity or gas.  One just owns it and it knows just what to do and where to go.  Of course my CPA may have different ideas about where my money goes, or lack thereof. 

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We are a “pay as you go” couple.  Our cars are in perfect working order (when the battery is ok), and they’ve been paid for for years.  Our town is small, so we don’t drive long distances. Our driving record is flawless.  Both vehicles are parked under a roof.  Given those amenities, Geico just charges a tiny green lizard for our insurance.  We don’t take that for granted.

The good part about aggravating days such as the way today started is one knows it can only get better.  And get better it did.  We got home and Lee made one of her magical smoothies.  She is doing her baking magic now and we’re on our way to having challah at sundown. 

Please remember to be grateful for the little things as well as the big things….even crummy Walmart Chinese auto batteries that only last several months.  Shabbat Shalom. Lee and I are proverbial “Internet networkers”, and you’re likely to find us on any social media at any given time.  We’re busy as beavers.  We’ve discovered we live in a “Hollywood World” in many ways. Sort of a “What have you done for me lately”.  

So we spend a lot of time online offering up as valuable of content as we can find to who we have decided are our marketplaces.  But at sundown tonight, we will bring that to a halt (at least the business part) as the Jewish sabbath (or Shabbat) begins.  

Tomorrow we play.  We’ve both gotten into the habit of reciting our Rosetta Stone language module, I play the guitar, and then Lee chooses vintage movies on tv.  

So Shabbat Shalom to all who observe Fri-Sat, Good Sabbath to those who observe on Sunday, and happy weekend to everybody else 🙂   Sincerely, Rick

 

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Rick London is a writer, musician, entrepreneur and cartoonist.  He is best known for having founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 1997.  They have since become #1 ranked by Google & Bing.    He is married to wildlife and nature photographer Lee Hiller (Lee Hiller-London) who has the nature blog Hike Our Planet and numerous designer gift shops such as Lee Hiller Design. 

 

 

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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Lost Dog In An Imaginary Fight by Rick London

     Social media is a lot of fun because we get to talk to friends we’ve never met (or probably will meet); mostly on Twitter, and on facebook we run into plenty of old friends that we did know a millennium ago in our cities of birth.  One also meet new ones from that same city, but perhaps they lived outside of our school district so maybe didn’t get to know them as well, but now we do.   And we meet new ones from being in groups “with similar interest” worldwide which is great fun.  And we get to send birthday wishes to each and every one of them without buying one stamp.

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     Now if facebook has done nothing else for us, let us be grateful for those incredible services.  Plus that imaginary feeling of importance  we all get when we update our status, and in our minds,  people are on the edge of their home/office chairs waiting to read what we are going to say next (when in reality they are playing Poker, Farmville or Mafia Wars).

     I try not to turn on the news but sometimes I can’t help myself.  This past week we learned the TSA feels it is a good idea to allow knives on commercial planes.  One thing we all surely learned in 2001 is that there simply aren’t enough sharp objects being taken onto planes.  I bet every TSA agent and exec gets vetted to make sure they have at least one ivy league degree….or at least has caught a terrible case of poison ivy at least once in their lifetime.

       We live in a dangerous world with a lot of people extremely sensitive about a lot of topics.  Some of them, they have every right to be, some of them have lost dogs in imaginary fights that aren’t even theirs; or, they haven’t a clue what the invisible fight is about.  One is the 2nd Amendment. Thank you Wayne LaScare for sending enough emails and letters to keep your gun manufacturer’s businesses very lucrative. They all salute you even though they feel you’re as loco as we think you are.

      I’m relatively neutral about guns per se; that is, I believe in the Constitution and that includes 2nd Amendment rights.  But unlike many (who truly believe they support the Constitution), I’ve studied it and I do have a clue what it says and means.  All the amendments are VERY conditional.  Let’s take the 1st Amendment.  Free speech is great fun and makes me proud to be an American.  What we can do and say here can’t be said in a very lot of countries on this planet without losing a limb or a head. But there are limitations.  We can’t and shouldn’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater anymore than we should make a racial statement that could incite violence or even a riot.  With the 1st Amendment comes a multitude of responsibilities, just like with the 2nd Amendment.  If someone doesn’t understand that, they believe in the NRA’s Wayne LaScare, not the 2nd Amendment. The two are as different as night and day.  

      I grew up around hunters and half or more of our little hamlet’s homes have a firearm for protection.  And that’s their business (the gun owner), not mine.  Handguns and rifles are (COMMON USE WEAPONS) in the U.S. hence protected by the 2nd Amendment.  Every other gun is conditional and is not even really a 2nd Amendment argument as extended magazines, AR-15s, Bushmasters etc etc. are not the common use guns of our country. 

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     They were all designed for military combat.  The very use of them by civilians in our country is a spit in the eye of every soldier in the battlefield who is fighting for us to have a country where we civilians would never have to confront such terror as they do on the battlefield.  It’s a spit in the face of every veteran who has ever experienced war.  They all fought so we could feel safe in our country and never have to worry about such weaponry.  Those are not guns; they are terror weapons and for military defense only.  They have no other intelligent usage.  

     We pay taxes that pay our local law enforcement’s salaries and buys their equipment (often including assault weapons).  Why?  So we won’t have to use them.  If you are unhappy with their service, and feel you can do better, why are you paying taxes?  They can do better, believe me.  The statistics of someone with a weapon in their home (whether it be automatic or not) is so dismal, as far as “getting the bad guy”,  you might as well have loaded guns at the front door with a sign that says, “Here…take one”.  The police are here for a reason.  And they are very trained to get bad guys with guns, a lot better than you or me. 

      I am proud of the Million Mothers For Gun Safety and The Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

     One friend made the stale old NRA Wayne LaScare statement that when/if we ever automatic weapons, only criminals will have automatics.

     Actually that has already been proven to be untrue.  When machine guns were banned on May 19, 1986 only criminals were using them.  They were not the “common use weapons” in America, and caused horrendous damage to those shot, very much like today’s automatics. 

      So tell me, when is the last time you heard or read about a crime committed by someone with a machine gun?   Me either.

     So I never purposely get into these meaningless debates because all they do is push someone with a strong opinion further into their strong opinion, and that’s okay.  At least they know the real deal whether they want to believe it or not.

   For law abiding citizens, no matter what Wayne LaScare spouts, nobody wants your guns. Not me, not Congress, not our military, not President Obama, nobody.  Only that scared little boy/girl paranoid voice that lives in your head that is absolutely positive someone is pulling a fast one.  Besides, admit it, you’ve been wanting to form or be a part of an organized militia since you studied military science in 1976.  Come on. Admit it. I won’t laugh.  At least not where you can hear me.

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and designer.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) in 1997.  By 2005 the project had become Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts and it has remained in that position ever since.  London also creates famous quote gifts which are unique to the gift market and sells them at such stores as RickLondonDesigns.com. He is married to popular wildlife/nature photographer Lee Hiller London who runs the nature blog HikeOurPlanet.com. 

The Dramaless Strain (How Older Hippies Reduce Drama) by Rick London

       It was a very good day today.  Most of my days are very good.   For the younger crowd, you might have called your psychiatrist to make certain your Prozac prescription was renewed for the next 250 years, but for me, it was ideal. 

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       Number one, it was drama-free.  I love days that are drama-free.  Don’t get me wrong; I do understand the ups and downs that life can purvey, but I worked very hard for very many years to live a life that involved very little drama.  My younger days had more drama than Les Miserables on steroids, so you can imagine how grateful I am for the serenity.

       My beloved wife Lee and I drank our delicious smoothies (which she concocts every morning) and enjoyed it while reading several newspapers online and getting a little work done.     Someone once asked me how many newspapers and periodicals I read and I really don’t know the answer so I just gave it an educated guess, “About twice as many as Sarah Palin”.

      A little before mid-afternoon, the weather was turning mild; about 65 degrees without a cloud in the sky.  That is the perfect time to hike the Hot Springs Mountain Loop.  Lee and I were both excited because a lot of the wildflowers that had been elusive or gone all year, were and are back.  So are a lot of the birds and butterflies.   This might not sound like much, but remember, we had a whole year of severe droughts and forest fires followed by a brutal blizzard which destroyed about 75% of our beloved forest.  It felt like a death in the family.  All the wildlife was gone for a month. Not a bird. Not an insect. Not a wildflower. 

      Then suddenly we saw a few warblers here, a cardinal there, a few butterflies riding the wind and occasionally landing on the lone wildflower.   Today, still very bare in many parts, little bits of green are returning and pink and red buds and berries are peeking their way out of the end of tree branches.  For a better view of this drop by Lee’s HikeOurPlanet.com.   To see a comparison of what it was like, say 2 years ago, simply go into her archives.  It truly looked like a Peruvian rain forest.  It has a long way to go before it is back to that, but we’re patient, and we still love it, and all it offers.  Lee heard a deer today. Sadly one ran downtown two Sundays ago and into a store window.  Chances are it was searching for food.  It did not survive. 

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     At the top of Hot Springs Mountain two large robins greeted us up close for a photo-shoot.  Lee was too busy shooting and trying to name some rare wildflowers so I took “The Magic Box”, Lee’s old camera that I inherited, and made sure the robins got equal time. 

     We’ve got bears, panthers, mountain lions, snakes, wolves, foxes, and just about every animal you could imagine.  They are surprising in that they are shy.  They do not look at humans as their prey.  Bears are about the most unpredictable and we carry extremely loud alarms which they do not like, causes their ears pain and they move along.

     Today, we heard a wild turkey toward the end of the hike.  We could tell where it was, but it was very shy and not in the mood for human companionship.

      We came home and turned on the tv and ate a lot of whatever was left in the fridge.

      If you look up, you see “the typical day of a semi-retired 58 year old”.  What makes me laugh is that it just seems like yesterday I couldn’t wait for my subscription of Rolling Stone to arrive, see which bands were the hottest, when they were coming to the nearest venue (which used to be The Warehouse in New Orleans), a place many of us have incredible memories, and even more incredible non-memories. Well, you know they say if you don’t remember the 60s or 70s you were probably there.  And though I’m no longer a party person, yes I did inhale.  Don’t worry…I have zero political ambitions.

     But today, I had a drama-free life.  I came up with a few gift ideas for my shops which I’ll make tomorrow, and then at about 6pm CST starts Shabbat.  Ironically, I was born Jewish, Lee is studying to be, and she knows 100 times more about how it is celebrated than I do.  But I’m a good student, and I know I like challah so I imagine I’ll be quite the mensch….a drama-less mensch at that.

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, designer and cartoonist. He founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) in 1997 which became Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 2005 and have remained at that ranking for the past 7 years with nearly 8 million visitors.  He also designs more serious gifts and collectibles at such shops like his RickLondonDesigns.com which carry famous quote gifts.    He is married to popular nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who runs the nature blog HikeOurPlanet.com.  

 

Beware Of The Sighs Of March by Rick London

 March is almost here. It marks several anniversaries that usually only I remember because they were milestones in my life.

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     On March 10, 2007, my late dog “Thor” died in my arms on the floor.  The vet believes (from his teeth) that he was approximately 22 years old.  Some don’t believe me when I tell them but actually for dogs on the b.a.r.f. diet (biologically appropriate raw foods) that is about medium age.  Many have reported having had dogs that lived to be close to thirty (human years) and cats that lived into their twenties.   There is a lot on the Internet about the b.a.r.f. diet for pets.  Thor went vet-free until nearly the end.  And he was an extremely happy soul all the way until his final journey on this planet. 

      March 19th marks the 15th anniversary of Londons Times Cartoons.  I announced that it was 15 years last year but I was mistaken.  I started it on March 19, 1997, and this year marks the 15th.  It had other names “London’s Bridge” and then “London’s Fawg” and finally I settled for “Londons Times”. I instinctively knew that might not be such a great idea by 1999, but we had so many cartoons with that credit at the top, I felt a bit silly trying to change it again.   Some of the web analytics assured me that most people looking for it, type in London Times. I didn’t believe it at first until people would call or write or whatever and call it “London Times”.

     I published our 15th anniversary book last year on Kindle, but it didn’t sell nearly as well as the 1st one, so maybe I’ll re-release it.  Who knows. I usually don’t know until the day or the day before I decide to do something like that; that seems oh-so-important, but of course is not at all.

     Occasionally people would ask me, “Won’t that big newspaper in London, England come after you for swiping their name?”.   Actually no, since their name is The Times Of London and only those who are not aware of that call them The London Times.  Other’s would say, “Are you strange? Isn’t your name Stetelman and ya’ll were part of that real estate group down in S. Mississippi?” 

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Yes, but nobody could remember, pronounce, nor spell Stetelman.  That is, in fact, fine in a town with a pace as slow as the one in which I was raised.  But, try living your life in New York City or Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. spending half your days spelling or pronouncing your name when you’re moving at warp speed, and you listen to advice.

      I had an agent in Washington who was younger than me, but smarter, and he asked me, “Have you ever considered changing your name to something easier?”  My first response was, “How does Floyd Stetelman sound”?   He didn’t even smile.  He said, “If you are going to ever make it, you better have a name someone can remember.”

     I suggested “London”.   He said that London is a great name and easy to remember but “why London”.  Well that was my mom’s maiden name.  He said “Go with it”.  That was 1988 and I’ve used it ever since when doing cartoon, writing or design business.

    One of the most interesting observations to me, after a lifetime of spelling my name for people, and how uncomfortable they feel for having to ask, is how comfortable they feel saying, “London, oh like the city”.  My wife, Lee Hiller-London, more often than not uses her own last name “Hiller” in her work.  I like her name. It’s easy to say and spell, and we get our business done rather quickly sans any spelling for anyone.  Now maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole Hiller.  Or maybe just a bad pun. Sorry baby.  It was there…in my head, so I typed it.  X0x0  Sigh! 

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Rick London is a writer, designer, cartoonist and songwriter.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997.  It has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008.  He also founded Rick London Designs which is a wisdom/life/motivation/inspiration quote gift shop where he designs gifts of famous quotes with graphics of those who penned or said them.  He is married to Lee Hiller-London founder of Lee Hiller Designs where she designs her own brand of unique gifts and home decor. Both enjoy hiking in Hot Springs National Park which is their home, and Lee Hiller-London is a professional wildlife and nature photographer.  You can follow them on Twitter @RickLondon and @LeeHillerLondon.

It’s A Beautiful Day But My Back Hurts By Rick London

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 I love days like today.  When we awakened it was cold outside; and even though the heat was on and our walls are thick, somehow it sends a signal to our feet from the window so we know and turn up the heater in the morning.   My wife Lee, from Oregon, likes a cooler temperature inside than me, a southern wuss-hick from Mississippi who calls the EMT unit when the weather reaches as low as 80 to check for signs for pneumonia and or hypothermia.

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     But as Kroger organic coffee (blog product placement) left the pot into my large red cup and into my large (who knows, probably very dark brown by now) inside of my belly from years of Kroger organic coffee, I started to warm up.  Lee drank a few swigs of hers and she was fine. I don’t think she even notices cold weather.  Sometimes when we hike I’ve got on 3-5 layers and she’s got on this stretchy tee looking shirt that she swears keeps her warm.  And when we reach the mountain-top and the wind blows the cold northern air (and a few ducks and turkey vultures) towards us, she just shakes it off.  She looks behind her and I’m semi-hidden in the roots of a large oak tree hoping it will offer a bit of warmth.

    Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit but winter and I are not best friends. 

     I love our office.  Lee and I share one and I have the corner window.  I always wanted a corner window office when I worked in corporate America for a long time and my superiors, all of whom had corner window offices would give me a snicker and a look like “Are you serious”?  Of course I was serious.  Do you know who I am?”  And they’d have a look on their face that said, “Yes, and that’s probably why you’ll never get a corner office working here”.  Don’t you just  love the end of innocence?

     Twenty years later I finally have my corner office but it’s not quite as plush and roomy as the potential office in my Washington, D.C. job could have possibly offered me if I could have just hung in there about 5000 years.  But I’m here and they’ve been out of business for about a decade. Nah nah nah poo poo. 

      Anyway, today I woke up to my vulnerable office chair that has been my constant companion for about three years.  It was a good chair and fit my desk perfectly and positioned me just high enough to where I could see over my monitor out onto Hot Springs Mountain.  I could even see hawks, crows, and numerous other birds fly in and out of the lower foothills.  This always satisfied my connection with nature when I could not get out in it.  Due to numerous other health issues, there were times I could not get out in it (other than my stubborn back).

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     But today was nice because I worked for about an hour, designed a few products and turned off the computer.  Lee was about to work out, and I went back to bed.  She asked, “Are you okay, Baby?” I always appreciated that.  “Yes, thank you for asking.   But my back feels like it fell out of my body so I’m going to take a nap”.  She said, “That’s nice, so you may feel my feet at the end of the bed ‘cause when I do my sit-ups I use the bed for traction”.  “Ok, that’s nice”, I replied.

     So my point was, growing up, being sick or injured was much more difficult than today and required a small jury of my parents to whom I had to prove it was so.  “I’m running a temperature, and my throat hurts”.    My worried looking mom would feel my head and put the thermometer into my mouth. 98.6.  She would give me the bad news.  Well it must be the pollen in the air because there’s no temperature, no infection. Get ready for school.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!   I’ve got a big day planned in bed.  What in the world big day could I have planned in bed at age 13 and in 8th grade?  Oh, pull out the transistor radio and turn on WXXX and hear Jimmy Rabbit spin the top 30…and if I could pull it off, late that night, KAAY with Clyde Clifford in Little Rock (100,000 Watts mind you).

       But nooooooo. It was off to school.  And since I “was sick; that is suffering from allergies of some sort” mom decided I couldn’t even ride my bike. Mom felt it was better to drive me.   I so wanted to invent a device you could put in your mouth that would trick the thermometer into believing you had a temperature.  I finally figured it out, but it would never work.  Putting a penny or nickel on a stove would indeed make it very hot, but it would also burn a large hole in my tongue…..the size of a penny or nickel.  I nixed that brilliant idea.

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   I gave myself permission today to feel okay that I knew my back really hurt and I would not be making the 400 ft commute again to my desk to create more gifts for all the world to see.  Surely my customers would understand that I had a bad back today.

   And given all my other health issues that was actually pretty good news.  And even better news is the fact that I have no coin-size holes in my tongue….after all these years.

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    Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and writer, songwriter/musician, avid hiker and nature lover.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons LTCartoons.com, Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts since 2005.  He is married to popular nature/wildlife photographer and online shopping gift designer Lee Hiller.  You can follow Rick on Twitter @RickLondon and Lee @LeeHillerLondon. 

 

 

 

 

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.

I Was Finally "Winning"& Had No Parents To Call (Click To Enlarge

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.

In My Younger Days I was Driven & Unpredictable (Click To Enlarge)

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 Just Wanted Money! (Click To Enlarge)

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.