Five Easy-To-Remember Workplace Rules for the Monday After Thanksgiving

1) Please stop asking me about my Thanksgiving.  I ate food.

2) Please don’t tell me about your Thanksgiving.   It probably looked a lot like mine.

3) Please don’t smile and pat your stomach and tell me you ate too much.  If you can’t stop shoving things in your mouth, that’s a personal issue.

4)  No, I didn’t watch the football game.  And no, I don’t want you to re-enact any of the plays.

5)  While were at it, please never tell me about your weekend.  We have weekends so can avoid each other.  When you sum up yours, you defeat the purpose.

And in preparation for Christmas:

Please, no exchange of presents with co-workers.  I’d sooner buy something for a pack of wolverines.

Thanksgiving

“The Holidays:  A time of year when people who otherwise try to avoid each other can’t.”

— Stephan Pastis

It takes a certain kind of ass to quote himself at the beginning of his own blog.  Fortunately, that’s me.

But I think I’m more than just an ass.  I’m also a misanthrope.

I don’t like people.  I don’t like parties.  I don’t like the holidays.

Given that, the following will be woefully out of character.

Purists, look away.

. . .

We have in this country an all-volunteer army.  It creates two parallel universes.

One is at home getting their latte from Starbucks, upset that the best the cable company can do is give them a four-hour window for their appointment.  One is standing in 100 degree heat with 130 pounds of gear on their back, 9,000 miles from home, trying not to get killed.

The two groups’ collective experiences create a chasm deep and wide enough as to be seemingly unbridgeable.

But I learned on my USO trip to Iraq that it is bridgeable.

I have never been thanked by anyone as I was by those soldiers we visited in hospitals and on military bases.  Their thanks were as sincere and heartfelt as anything I’ve ever heard.  And as much as it was for our being cartoonists whose strips they might enjoy, I think it was also simply because we were there.

I obviously can’t speak for any of them, but I think it has to be pretty difficult to be living under the conditions they live under while many people here appear to have no awareness that they are even over there.  For everyone but their immediate friends and family, the war is something that just does not impact their lives.

I wish I could introduce them to you.  They were sincere and direct and respectful to a degree I have never experienced in my day-to-day life here.  And if something were to have posed a threat to any of us while we were there, I had no doubt they would have protected us before they protected themselves.

Obviously, you can’t pack your bags and book a Southwest flight to Baghdad.  But that’s not necessary.  Because it doesn’t take flying to Baghdad to have an impact.

You see, things that might not mean much in your daily routine — the receipt of a package, a letter, a phone call, an email — can mean the world to one of them. It makes the gap between us and them that much smaller.  So whatever you can do, no matter how small, do it.   Do just one thing for one soldier in a hospital or overseas.

For me, I was fortunate enough to know a cartoonist named Jeff Bacon.  While having absolutely no skill at ping pong and even less hair, he put together a trip under the sponsorship of the USO so that ten cartoonists could visit the military hospitals in Washington D.C. and Germany, and the military bases in Kuwait and Iraq.   And it brought an unbelievable amount of joy to a huge number of people.  As one dad said to us as we were leaving his wounded son’s hospital room, “That is the first time I’ve seen him smile since he got here.”

Of all the things I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish in my eight-year cartooning career, I have never been as proud of anything as I was to be associated with those other nine cartoonists:  Jeff Bacon, Chip Bok, Bruce Higdon, Garry Trudeau, Rick Kirkman, Mike Peters, Mike Ramirez, Jeff Keane and Tom Richmond.

I may give them shit in this blog, but it’s only because I care for them like they were my own brothers.

Maybe I am starting to like people.

Happy Thanksgiving.

And Now A Word About Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

The car in front of me yesterday had a bumper sticker that said, “Spay and Neuter Your Pets.”

It made me mad.

Yeah, I know, it’s important and all, so don’t send me your complaints, but let me just say this.

Why do we let dogs and cats off the hook that easy?  Alright, fine, it’s a little tough on them physically to lose some of their pink parts.  But why is it taken for granted that their sexual instincts are so strong that that they can’t act in a morally responsible manner?

In other words, how about changing these bumper stickers to read:

“Hey, Dogs and Cats, Show Some Self-Control”

I mean, I have to.  And I’m an offshoot of the monkey family.

It’s just not fair.

And don’t suggest I get neutered.  Because (A) it would hurt; and (B) my wife already suggested it.

All I’m saying is I think we need a new approach.  And a public service campaign designed to reach the horniest dogs and cats of the world.  I already have the slogan around which we can center the campaign:

“Yo, Fido…Abstinence is cool.”

 

 

From the Frontlines of My Gym

I am at the gym.  I am on the vertical bench press machine.

The guy next to me is grunting with each rep.

It is a very loud grunt.

Why does he have to grunt?

He also smells.

I want to tell him to stop grunting and to stop smelling, but he is very large.

I am going to stop writing now because if he sees my iPhone screen, I am dead.

 

Because One Day I Will Die

Years ago, investment advisers told everyone to put their money in real estate.  That didn’t work out.

Then they told everyone to put their money in stocks.  That didn’t work out either.

So I have a new alternative.

Me.

That’s right.  Buy books signed by Stephan Pastis and when I die, you’ll be rich.

And rest assured, I will die.  That is my guarantee to you.

And that is why I today I went to THIS bookstore and THIS bookstore and signed books, so that you, the fan, can retire comfortably.  They will even ship them.  And if those bookstores run out, there should still be some at THIS bookstore.

Even better, I have drawn a character in each book.  Granted, I drew them quickly, but so did Picasso when he drew those doves.

So buy them as holiday gifts.  And on the card write, “Now hold on to this, because one day he will die.  Merry Christmas!”

And Merry Christmas to you.

Through a Glass Darkly

I go to a gym.

It is a typical gym.  Free weights and Nautilus machines filling the spacious floor.  Annoying people grunting everywhere.

Yesterday, I was doing what I normally do at the beginning of a workout, which is to stretch in a corner of the gym.

Briefly, in the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a guy.

I immediately concluded from how he was dressed and looked that I didn’t like him. It was a snap judgment, taking less than a fraction of a second.  But something about him rubbed me the wrong way.

Then I realized something else.

I had caught sight of myself in the mirror.

Me had bothered me.

Now I feel like I should apologize.

But I’m not sure I’m in the mood to hear it.

In War, No One Retrieves the Golf Balls

I grew up in San Marino, California.  It is a conservative, wealthy suburb of Los Angeles.

It has a lot of rules, or at least did when I grew up there.

For example, when I was there, you could not park on the street overnight (without first calling the police department and getting permission).  You could not pump your own gas (the attendant at the station had to pump it for you).  You could not blow or wash your leaves into the street.

McDonald’s were not allowed.  Nor were movie theatres.  And you could get a ticket for jaywalking (as my sister did from a police officer who was hiding in the nearby bushes).   I have feared jaywalking ever since.

It is all about preserving status quo.

And it is not a land of surprises.

Fast forward 30 years.

To midnight in Baghdad.

Where I, child of San Marino, am standing outside the palace of Saddam Hussein.  The air is warm and still.  It is tinged with a hint of smoke.

Next to me is Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau.

We are hitting a bucket of golf balls into Saddam Hussein’s lake.

“Who gets the balls out of the lake?” I ask the soldier who gave us the bucket.

“We don’t,” she said.

Of course, I think to myself.

In war, no one retrieves the golf balls.

I immediately imagine the island of golf balls that must be forming at the deepest depths of Saddam’s lake.  One day it will crest above the surface, like a coral island made of Titleist.

While this is happening outside the palace, cartoonist Mike Peters is inside, looking for someone who can fix our room’s thermostat.  He finds a two-star general.  The man is in charge of 22,000 soldiers.   But we are chilly and we need him to fix our thermostat.

If that’s not far enough from the pristine lawns of San Marino for you, consider this:

Twenty yards to the left of me is editorial cartoonist Mike Ramirez.   He has won two Pulitzer Prizes.  But he is not drawing that night.  No, Mike Ramirez is feeding Cocoa Puffs to Saddam Hussein’s fish.

And these are not normal fish.  They are ugly, scary fish.  Some appear to be five-feet long.  I assume they’re eating golf balls.

One of the soldiers shows us a video of a duck landing on the surface of the lake.  A fish ate him. In Baghdad, even the fish are evil.

I hit a long drive.

Watching the golf ball ascend, I see in the distance the faint silhouette of a Blackhawk helicopter.  It is firing its guns.  It is a deep boom you feel in your rib cage.

I cannot sleep that night.  All ten of us cartoonists have to sleep in the same room in five bunk beds.  We end up sleeping with the light on, because not one of can remember to turn it off.   So I now know the answer to the joke, “How many cartoonists does it take to turn off a light bulb?”  It is something more than ten.

I walk outside at 6 a.m. and hit more golf balls.  The air is grayish brown.

I’m a long way from San Marino.

And I am not afraid of jaywalking.

get-attachment