July 2nd, 2009

The Zombie

"Everyone you ever thought was cool died last week," and I'm still alive

July 1 -  Uh, yeah.  It's been a while....like three months.  As you have no doubt guessed, things here at WOMP H.Q. have been...interesting?  Challenging? Bewildering?  Whatever the proper adjective, I'd like to add "...and boring."  In a nutshell, I was unable to post, but now I think I can.  It may not be daily (in fact, I'm virtually certain that it won't be), but I feel like I am back to as much as 90% of where I was before the "continued fun" happened to me, so I should have the energy to get back in the saddle, even if I fall out every now and then. 

So, what have I missed?  It's like the world has completely changed since I last sat down to write in the ol' WOMP-Blog.  For example, as the lovely WOMP-Staff put it, "Everyone you ever thought was cool died last week."  That's not exactly true, of course, but for someone my age (118), it felt like it.  Coming right during the week of the 25th anniversary of my graduation from high school, the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson seemed to re-enforce the obvious: I'm not young anymore.  I'm not even sure whether I count as youngish

But I used to be young, and if it wasn't exactly yesterday, it doesn't seem like more than two or three years ago.  During the last week in June of 1984, as I prepared to accept my diploma, how could I have foreseen the ironic impact that my actions would have a quarter-century later?  Virtually everything that happened back then now resonates with unexpected emotion and bittersweet nostalgia.  In no particular order, those last seven days in June of 1984 included...

...a "Meet The Artist" reception/performance for/by me!  I had the good fortune to be awarded a scholarship from the Bluff Country Arts Council, but it came with a string attached; I had to exhibit my art for the members of the council (and their invited guests).  Since I was being rewarded not just for my cartooning, but also for my sculpting, writing, singing, and acting (yes...my singing and acting actually won me a scholarship), I had to showcase several different works, act in a short play (which I co-wrote and performed with Michael Haefer and Joe Shulka), and even sing.  Right then and there, as I learned that I was getting not just the expected honorarium, but everything from the Council's bank account because it was folding, I decided to find some way to pay my community back for their generosity.  Jump ahead to this last week in 2009, and I am on the Design Committee of Prairie du Chien Downtown Revitalization, helping plan our own "scholarship" of sorts (more on that in the days to come).

...sending my application and portfolio to The Joe Kubert School.  Since several of the portfolio pieces were on display at that reception thing, I was shipping them off at the last possible moment.  In fact, I nearly skipped it altogether.  After all, what were the chances that I'd be accepted anyway?  Jump ahead to this last week in 2009, and I have been making plans to teach my own cartooning and comic book classes on July 8th, 11th, and 18th (details to follow soon).

...singing in our last high school chorus performance.  Chorus, as a class, was one of the few (only?) places where my friends and I could actually hang-out together while at school.  Our final concert, then, was symbolic of the ending of our school days.  We (Mike Haefer, Joe Shulka, Joe Becwar, and I) sang as a barbershop quartet, as part of the larger ensemble, and as featured performers in our  - and I swear this is true - tribute to Michael Jackson!  We sang a medley of Jackson's hits, including a memorable version of Beat It....where I portrayed The King of Pop himself!  It all sounds much cooler than it was, especially because my "impersonation" consisted of nothing more than donning a black fedora and a single white glove.  I gave it as much attitude as I could (remember, I did get a scholarship for my singing and acting), but I was still an awkward six-foot-four white kid from Wisconsin...with a hat and a glove.  Jump ahead to this last week in 2009, and, well, my odd connection to Michael Jackson has forced me to once again face my own mortality. 

...at the Class Night before Graduation Day, unexpectedly receiving "Hall of Fame" awards in both Art and English.  Seriously, I did not expect that.  I egotistically thought that I might be in the running for the Art award, but to be named the top graduating student of all English courses?  That really shocked me.  These awards, given every year from about 1920 to about 2000 (when they mysteriously ceased), were chosen by the teachers of each subject category.  Since our school had only one Art teacher, Mr. Porvaznik, I had a feeling that I was in the running for an Art award based solely on his actions in those last few days of school.  The English award, though?  The entire English Department had to vote on that one.  It still shocks me today...speaking of which, jumping ahead to this last week in 2009, I found myself dealing with many of those former teachers.  My dreaded "real" job often puts me in contact with people I haven't seen for years, which, this last week, included two English teachers, a Geometry teacher, and Mr. Porvaznik.  In fact, he and I will be together again this coming weekend as Pete's Hamburgers celebrates their 100th anniversary (more on that later)! 

...receiving my diploma.  Finally.  And, even today, as I almost daily drive past my high school alma mater, I still think to myself "I am so glad that I don't have to go back there."  Oh, don't get me wrong.  I have many pleasant memories of those days.  Some may even have been the cliched "best days of my life," but, over all, I did not enjoy attending high school.  Jump ahead to this last week in 2009, where plans may very well be underway for a 25-year class reunion, and I couldn't care less.  I know that sounds snarky (or maybe even false, since I am talking about it right now), but it's just how I feel.  And why wouldn't I?  My closest friends have either kept in touch or died, I've seen most other classmates in the same way I've seen past teachers at my dull "real" job, and there have been no substantive changes in my life recently (that I'd care to share). 

That pretty much brings me back to right now.  I have had a few interesting things happen while AWOL from the WOMP-Blog, but I'm not going to over-reach tonight by trying to tell you everything all at once.  No, for now I am happy to just get back on my horse, even at a trot.  So, look for more posts as my recuperation transitions into rehabilitation (or words to that effect).  For now, for no particular reason other than satisfying my own dementia, let me leave you with what should have been April 4th's Comic Book Father Character of The Day - Herman Munster!

WOMP-Blog Archives Exclusive - OK, just to reward you for checking in on me (thank you, by the way), I present photographic evidence of my performance as Michael Jackson!  It's not the best picture, and it's clearly not an action shot, but - sigh - that is indeed me with the black hat, striped shirt, and single white glove.  Ugh.  Gotta love the Eighties, I guess.  Ok, now....BEAT IT!