Stuck in the Mountains

I’m writing this post from a Safeway cafe area in Frisco, Colorado while I wait for parts to be delivered from the East Coast (which is pretentious enough to deserve capital letters, evidently.) I stayed in Silverthorne, Colorado last night because I-70 eastbound was closed due to blowing and drifting snow.

Today is my day off, actually. But since I was stuck here overnight and my employer is kind enough to pay for my hotel room and last night’s meal, I figure the least I can do is stay here long enough to get the parts to fix the self-checkout machine at this Safeway.

I considered writing last night, but didn’t get back to the hotel room until a little before 9:00 PM, due to an overcrowded restaurant. (35 minutes to get seated, another 35 minutes to get my sandwich, and 20 minutes to eat it and pay the check.) After that I talked with my wife on the phone for a while, then talked with my bandmate John about new domain names for the band. lapsed because I didn’t have the money to renew it at the time, and a company called New Ventures Services Corp. (which is, I think, a subsidiary of Network Solutions, though there may be evidence to dispute that) snapped it up. When I inquired into purchasing the domain name back, I found out that it would cost a minimum of $100 plus a $19 fee just to make the offer. Even more ridiculous is the estimate that Network Solutions suggested I make for the domain name. Based on the fact that it’s a .com domain, and on the domain’s traffic history, the suggested offer was $8,800 to $11,300! Um, no. If New Ventures Services Corp. is truly an underling of Network Solutions, it seems that there is a conflict of interest here, and frankly, I think it should be investigated and regulated. But that’s because I’m a registered Democrat, of course.

At any rate, John and I settled on a new domain name, which I will publish here as soon as I get it activated. We will also have a MySpace presence for the first time, and some of our songs will be available for streaming on the MySpace page. Maybe that will generate some gigs for us.

As I look out the window at the bright blue skies above Frisco, shielding my eyes from the glare of the snow, I realize that things are good. If I’m bitching about Network Solutions fleecing me, things must not be too bad. And there are definitely worse places to be stuck on a Saturday morning.

Enduring Inspiration

A few days ago, I found myself in a Walgreen’s store, passing through the magazine aisle. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a copy of MAD Magazine. I resisted the urge to solve the back cover Fold-In (a sure sign that I have gained some willpower at some point over the last 20 years) and flipped through the pages backwards. I stopped suddenly when I saw a feature about Multiple Personality Disorder, not because the topic gripped me, but because I recognized the artist immediately: John Caldwell.

During the mid to late 80s, “Caldwell” was my favorite single panel newspaper cartoon. It was carried by King Features Syndicate, and featured cartoons that often dealt with literary, music, or technology themes. The strip only ran for a few years, but I found it to dovetail so well with what was important in my life that I eagerly sought it out every day in the Rocky Mountain News. Occasionally, I would find a panel that made me laugh so hard I would cut it out and hang it on the shelf above my desk.

I kept some of those panels over the years, and they moved with me from house to house, state to state, office to office, marriage to marriage, always reminding me of my goals. Below are two of those panels, reproduced here with the gracious permission of the artist.

Things You Don't Say to a Poet #25
Jerry Lee Lewis School of Computer Programming

Anyone who has followed my website over the last ten years can see why these panels appealed to me. The “read your meter” cartoon tied together my love of puns with my desire to be a poet, and the “Jerry Lee Lewis” panel linked my music and computer interests. Integration has always been a theme in my life, and the “Caldwell” strip consistently brought together my interests in ways I didn’t expect.

I remember another panel in which a man is sitting in his pajamas, buried in a continuous roll of paper. The caption said something about the subject’s friend faxing back the copy of War and Peace that he had borrowed a few years earlier. Again, that panel tied together literature and technology. (It might not make sense to younger people these days, but those of us who were around for the commercial explosion of the fax machine remember that faxes originally printed out on continuous rolls, much like teletypes. See the prior post for more about teletypes.)

As the years went by, I dropped out of college, went through some hard times, climbed back up out of the pit, and now I’m finally realizing some of those college dreams. I’m a published writer and poet, I’m a computer professional for a major three-letter acronym, and I’ve played music in dozens of venues. Though I was slow to achieve some of those things, I never lost sight of them, even when times were hard, and I have John Caldwell’s tattered single-panel cartoons to thank for that.

Thanks, John. I’m glad to see that you are still writing, drawing, and making people laugh.

Update 3/2/2007 — I’ve been corresponding with John recently, and he pointed out that some of his cartoons were used in a pre-MTV video called “I Quit” by the band Blotto. That video is here on YouTube if you are interested in checking it out.