"So tell me, what is it you intend to do with your one wild and precious life?" —Mary Oliver, poet'
Washington, DC: Bored with gestation, John emerges two weeks early, hoping to be Lucille Ball's secret love child. Settles for Dave (actual Johns Hopkins rocket scientist) and Barbara (artist/actress and Benjamin Spock groupie). Parents' rabbit-like mating results in six offspring, John eventually third tallest and fifth brightest (tie).
Maryland burbs: As skinny 5-year-old with flair for playtime and towel naps, John is heavily recruited by the prestigious Forest Grove Elementary School. Loves those duck-and-cover drills and 5¢ milks. Joins paramilitary group (Cub Scouts), bails after allergic reaction to Hawaiian Punch and regimentation. The lovely Mrs. Brennan, John's sixth grade teacher and wife of Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Jr., becomes early influence ("John, do your homework or I'll be cruel and unusual.").
Still da burbs: Still the skinny, shy and culturally confused goy in a sea of Jewish/Catholic tract homes, John selects Sligo Junior High for three-year hormonal adventure. Puzzled by significance of fish as religious icon, he joins clique of utterly gruntled adolescents. With vague appreciation for the future, John anticipates acne, cars, girls, college, actual sex, office job, marriage, kids, incontinent house pets, cranky friends, bad golf, coasting into retirement, practical shoes, canasta cheating scandal, soft foods, grampers™, and demise at 92 from freakish 4 pm buffet-line surge at the Costco Nursing Home.
Burbatopia: Parents replace 64-foot Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon with hot fastback Buick just in time for senior prom. Date is indifferent to John's new-found automotive prowess (but loves corsage!). Graduates from the highly-touted Northwood High School, magma cum lately. Mysteriously under-recruited by Harvard, Yale, Stanford, even Taco Bell's "Outside the Bun" Institute.
Dorms and dives: Complying with Darwin's Law and Quayle's Corollary, John enrolls at the ultra-noncompetitive University of Maryland (motto: "Primates only"). Anticipating seismic shifts in salaries paid by global sociology and geography conglomerates, John wisely chooses those fields to skip classes in. Learns to consume multiple beers and dance in public (cause/effect), yet pull a solid 2-oh!
DC/MD: Decides to save the world through urban planning. Becomes long-haired, glen-plaid-suit-wearing zoning inspector, then city planner, working his way through the hyper-intellectual George Washington University graduate school of urban and regional planning (motto: "Land mammals with deep pockets only"). Fails to save the world but subtly impedes the advancing ooze of exurban blight through bureaucratic foot-dragging.
Yet Lower Ring of Burbatory: Manages friend's campaign for US Congress (Maryland's Fifth Congressional District, now Steny Hoyer's seat). Our slogan (clever at the time): "Elect Jon Stanley, A Man With No Convictions." Stanley isn't quite sleazy enough, loses badly after voters overlook his promise to personally assume the national debt (smaller then). The phrase "utterly humiliating defeat managed by an incompetent pencil neck" is coined by the press, perhaps unfairly.
Interstate 70: Perms hair (couldn't hurt), undergoes burbotomy, packs orange Super Beetle to the gills, and escapes beltway’s evil grip. Figures that with IQ of 103 (after Kaplan course and heavy cramming) he can easily find work in California. Spends birthday at Grand Canyon, contemplating metaphorical significance of earthen hole (half empty or fully empty?). In wild fit of displacement anxiety, nearly changes name to Margaret Thatcher but lacks the testosterone.
San Francisco: In Mill Valley, just north of the Golden Gate (think John Muir on a $4000 mountain bike), John joins architecture/planning firm, drafting Eureka's Coastal Plan (deftly avoinding any controversy about fishing, timber and certain agricultural products).
Berkeley: After window-shopping at the Birkenstock
Footware & Other Birth Control Devices Super Store, John
decides to get a fresh "look" for his new West coast self. Seeking
clothes on Telegraph Avenue that proclaim, "Actually, no, I'm not
some dweeb from Maryland," John meets woman of his dreams (Robin),
who happens to be involved…okay, living with prehistoric knuckle-walker.
After two years of pining away, John receives letter from Robin. Love gurgles, perks, and prevails!
John slowly and slyly begins to move entire 24-piece wardrobe (socks
count as two) into Robin's Marlow-Thomasesque "That Girl!"
apartment. Finally sneaks last pair of underpants past security and the fun
SF/Oakland: Co-founds company (CARDesign, Inc.) to create architectural line of greeeting cards and other cool products. As luck and mismanagement would have it, company crashes and burns after seven years (and $10 million in sales) when 12.9-year-old Jennifers suddenly and quite rationally stop buying overpriced, peer-driven (but really cute!) collectible stickers. Creditors furious, lawyers orgasmic. Unfaithful BMW zooms off to foster home. As my sister Susie's licence plate once read: OH WELL. Link: to a Three Mile Island card, part of our die-cut architectural line.
Santa Barbara: With the lovely Robin, moves south for product development job. Fails to tan evenly, is asked to leave. Returns to San Francisco where movies are films, the light is lovely, people think, and genders mere estimates. John and Robin sell Nob Hill condo and beckon creative muse. (What were they thinking?)
SF/Berkeley: Discovering he draws badly quite well (as a friend ambiguously told him) John begins cartooning while taking life-drawing classes of zaftig models, straining to find out where arms attach to torsos. Makes early sale to Helen Gurley ("Sex and the Senile Girl") Brown's Cosmo magazine, then lands freelance gig at SF Chronicle. But to afford luxuries like small apartments and strong coffee, John takes sales and marketing job with computer book publisher (helping The Macintosh Bible sell over a million copies, and that with his left cortex drifting off because the book was that good). While conspiring to think obtusely full-time, John creates cartoons for dozens of savvy and/or sympathetic editors and spiky-haired art directors. Meanwhile, Robin and John find the perfect flat in the Outre Richmonde near Ocean Beach, with sweeping views of the Pacific, Golden Gate Park and occasional oil spills (not to mention incessant, pea-soup fog and orange shag carpet). Mere fact of rent control proves divine intervention, municipally speaking, to John's satisfaction.
SF/Berkeley: Ten Speed Press publishes Reality Check, an anthology of John's 100 quirkiest cartoons. Book flies off shelves like a proverbial hotcake out of hell like a woman scorned. John illustrates The Little PC Book for Larry Magid, which despite John's involvement becomes nationally-acclaimed best-seller by subliminally suggesting that people should smash their computers into subatomic particles and take a nice walk.
SF: Now on a roll, John illustrates The Little Online Book, The Macintosh Bible, and other page-turners for Peachpit Press. Using media software "Director," helps animate The Macintosh Bible CD-ROM, spending 8600 hours creating fifteen seconds of spastic, mind-jarring motion (cue bobbing-headed dogs on life mats). John continues cartooning for the likes of Ms., NewMedia, Utne Reader, and other former-trees-full-of-happy-chirping-baby-birds.
SF: Lured still farther down the Information Dark Alley, John illustrates Web sites for Peachpit Press, BigBook.com and others. Also light-heartedly embellishes The Little Mac Book, The Little Quicken Book, and The Little Web Book. Notices microscopic bald spot (manliness destiny?) and one long, rogue, gray eyebrow (nip in the bud or cultivate for eventual comb-over?).
SF: Politely asks pushy, moneybags friend to "Get out of here with your crazy Amazon-eBay-Yahoo!-Google Dot-Com IPO gambits! I'm playing it safe with a major stake in John Kerry Jazz Clubs and subprime mortgages from that spammer dude in Nigeria." Then John gets lucky, wins Algonquin Hotel/New Yorker cartoon contest and 4-day-junket in the Dorothy Parker Suite ("One more drink and I'll be under the host."). Watercolors maps (link) for doc, "Rabbit in the Moon," on our shameful WWII Japanese-American internment camps, attends Sundance Film Fest (where film wins best cinematography) wearing Velcro ponytail and bandolier of Sponge Bob cell phones. Launches grimescartoons.com—a series of tubes (aka “the Internets") to deafening indifference.
SF: Continues to knaw away at the tofu-based veal of life, creating cartoons, illustrations and animation for web sites, books, magazines, newspapers and cards. Compiles Fuzzy Logic anthology of 150 Grimes cartoons for Hewlett-Packard promotion, plus 1200+ cartoons/illustrations/animated gifs for WorkplaceAnswers.com (when it comes to harassment I'm not chopped liver) and online Flash animation for NEC. Illustrates best-selling book, This is Not the Life I Asked For about many very brave women. Other Mensa-level clients (some still in business) include Chevron, Salon.com, Hitachi, Pearson, Lightspeed Interactive, ConnectSafely.com, BART, Palm Computing (link), Stanford professor Tom Kosnik, Renaissance, Peachpit Press, Reader's Digest, Conari Press, Yo! Design/Hot Studio, SF Chronicle, iSyndicate, Quaartz.com, Windom Health, ThirdAge.com, ASIFA-sf.org (animation assn.), Funny Times, Pacific Sun, First for Women, New Woman, U.S. Dept of Labor, National Cancer Institute, Bay Guardian, Addison-Wesley, SF State, Publishers Group West, Wabi Sabi Productions, Landmark, Marin IJ and many more. Founds self-esteem group for men with modest IRAs. Helps Robin create award-winning documentary about the incredibly damaging Bush-Cheney reign, "There's Something About W." To satisfy his need for public policy wonkiness, John continues to work with Robin on 60,000-hour TV News video archive of historical events and policy shifts since 2001. Also creates logo and joins board of advisors for coalSwarm.org, which provides research tools to promote non-idiotic energy alternatives. Still manages to harness his legendary self-discipline, now checking email and Facebook only 700 (okay, 900) times daily.
SF: Dodging the Bush-Cheney-Greenspan-Rubin subprime-derivatives-fiasco, John finds safe haven as Chief Marketing Embellisher for two talented architecture firms (Sally Swanson and Gould Evans) while creating cartoons and illustrations for brilliant freelance clients. Environmentally sensitive, John commutes by Muni subway and bus, sharing cooties with like-minded, sardine-packed commoners.
SF: From the rent-controlled bliss of their lovely perch overlooking Ocean Beach, John and Robin launch fizzdom.com featuring a mesmerizing range of cultural and political themes, from Stephen Colbert's snarks on the economy to Steven Spielberg's blasts at social media. A profoundly innovative zine, each amazing post features a "shiny object" (amsuing animated quote) leading to an array of eye-opening videos, cartoons and backstories — gently exposing the truth by "hiding the pill in the dog food."
3.25 children (note to self: check Vlad's DNA): Vladimir "Pathologically-Pectoral" Putin, age 15; Sarah "One-Coronary-Away" Palin, age 10; John "Brit-Wit" Oliver, age 1; Ruth Bader "Hobby-Lobby-My-Ass" Ginsberg, recently conceived and decoupaged.
Awards: Robbed of awards too numerous to mention