Is This an Improvement?

Alright, I’ve changed the strip.  I think I like it better now. As some of the comments noted, I think the “explosive” element and car element in the prior version were too distracting (Makes you momentarily search for a physical connection between the pogo stick and the event).  Now the joke is simpler, and perhaps more relatable.

Here is the new version (Click to enlarge):

So what do you think?

I Need You to Play Comics Editor

I just finished drawing this strip.  (Click on the strip to enlarge it.)

When I came up with the idea yesterday, I liked it.  At least in my head.

Now that I see it drawn, it just seems strange.  But I’m often wrong.  So don’t let me influence you.

So tell me in your own opinion, what should I do with this strip?

I Digress for One Quick Thought of the Day

I’ve been watching the NFL playoffs. Which means watching truck ads.

Why do all these trucks have to have tough, outdoorsy names?

It’s all so redundant. There’s the “Ranger”, the “Tundra”, the “Yukon”, the “Silverado”, and my favorite, the “Avalanche”. Because nothing says tough quite like a natural disaster. Then there’s the “Dodge Ram,” which the deep-voiced announcer says is “RAM TOUGH!”

If any of these companies really want their truck to stand out in a crowded marketplace, why don’t they call it the “Snuggler”, or the “Fluffer”, or if they really need to conjure up the outdoors, the “Fairy Utopia”?

What about just calling one “Barbra”? Or the “Dancing Queen”? Or the “Mani-Pedi”? Or, if we can use a verb, the “Let’s Dish.”

Or what about only naming trucks after Emily and Charlotte Bronte novels? Like the “Jane Eyre.” Or the “Wuthering Heights”?

Or better yet, what about just naming them after women’s sexual aids? We could have “The Tickler”, the “Magic Wand” and the “Aqua Rabbit”.

And if they want, they can still use the same announcer with the deep voice. With only slightly modified slogans.

“The Dodge Aqua Rabbit….It’s AQUA RABBIT TOUGH.”

I really should have been in marketing.

We Pause for This Commercial from “Head and Shoulders” Shampoo

More honeymoon stories to come.

But in the meantime, I recently spoke at an event in Walnut Creek, California with fellow cartoonist Darrin Bell (“Candorville”).  As it turns out, the event was videotaped.

I’ve had it suggested to me that the videotape would make a great drinking game, where people watching could drink beer every time I scratched the back of my head.  But that’s a bad idea, because you’d pass out before the end of the video and miss even more of my head scratching.

Click HERE for the headscratchapalooza.

Get Me Out of Brindisi, Pleasie: Honeymoon of the Damned, Part Two

It was 7 am and Staci and I were stuck in a bleak train terminal in a place called Brindisi, which I’m now certain is Italian for “you don’t want to be here.”

We didn’t plan to get off the train in Brindisi.  That was determined by the other four passengers in our six-passenger train cabin out of Venice.  Three of them smoked the entire train ride.  That was too bad because none of them were seated by the window, so all the smoke had to first be filtered through my lungs.

I was bummed about the seven packs of Lucky I didn’t plan on smoking, but I was even less thrilled by the fourth stranger in the cabin:  Signore Spitter.

Signore Spitter was an older Italian man who spit every ten minutes.

The good news about Signore Spitter was that unlike the smokers, he did have a window seat he could utilize for his unpleasant habit.  The bad news was that he didn’t utilize it.

A travel tip:  A long train ride is made longer when the man next to you is spitting on your shoes.

So when the train suddenly stopped at a town called Brindisi, we fled.  That might seem rash, but it was an improvement over Staci’s plan, which was to jump off the train while it was moving.

In fact, I’m not even sure Brindisi was a scheduled stop.  I’m fairly certain Staci pulled the emergency cord that hung above the train window.

Alone with our suitcases in an empty train station, we opened our guide book.

It said Brindisi had a ship terminal and was “the jumping off point” for many tourists traveling from Italy to Greece.  The phrase was appropriate because at that point in our Italian adventure Staci was willing to jump off the dock and swim for it.

We walked to the ship terminal, lugging our heavy suitcases the whole way. Staci was sweating like I’d never seen her sweat before, in the clothes she had been in since the day before in Venice.

Romantic honeymoons did not get any better than this.

When we got to the port, it was empty.  Not a soul in sight.  Like a bomb had dropped on Brindisi.  That would have been okay if it had landed on Signore Spitter and the three smokers, but not even they were dumb enough to get off the train in Brindisi.

The schedule of boat departures indicated that the first ship out of Brindisi was not until 7:00 pm at night, which meant we had twelve hours to kill.

That was more than enough time for Staci, who estimated she’d need just three to kill me and dump the body in the Adriatic.

Now let me just say here that twelve hours is a lot of time to waste even when you’re at home with a television and a refrigerator.  It’s even longer when you’re sitting on two uncomfortable suitcases in a post-apocalyptic ship terminal and your wife is homicidal.

The guidebook also said that Brindisi held the remains of St. Nicholas, or as we call him here, “Santa Claus.”  It seemed fitting that a place like this would bury Santa Claus.

Five hours into our twelve-hour wait, a boat arrived.  It was leaving for Greece. It was not on the terminal’s schedule.

That’s when Staci and I learned about Italian schedules.  They’re not actually schedules.  They’re more accurately termed, “Whimsical Suggestions We May or May Not Follow Through On.”

But the boat was here.  And it was leaving Italy.

So we got on it.  And learned it was going to some place in Greece called Igoumenitsa.

Igoumenitsa was a destination so popular that this large ship held at least three other passengers and a dog.

But the boat had beer.  So we bought six.  And sat down to drink them.

Then the dog bit Staci.

This, my friends, was a honeymoon.

Honeymoon of the Damned

In the summer of 1989, I backpacked through Europe with nothing but a Eurorail pass and a Let’s Go travel guide.

Each day, I took out a big rail map of Europe and went to the places I felt like visiting.  The red light district of Amsterdam.  The cafes of Paris.  The beaches of Sicily.  I slept in railroad stations, strangers’ houses and the occasional hostel.

Four years later, in 1993, I thought I’d do it again.  Same spontaneity.  Same free-spiritedness.  Same sense of adventure.

The only difference:   I was now with Staci.  And we were married.

And it was our honeymoon.

Cue disaster music.

——————————

The Honeymoon Debacle of ’93 started out auspiciously enough.  With a nice day in London.

It was raining.  And the hotel was far away from everything.  But it was great.

Great because it was the only day of the trip where we were (a) not injured; and (b) not crying.

That would change in Venice.

Venice the Menace

We were booked to stay in a $200 per night hotel.  Which, when neither of you have jobs, is about $200 more than you can spend a night.  We rationalized that it would be our one fancy hotel of the trip.

That illusion was erased when we found the fat guy’s house with the homemade “hotel” sign.

Picture a place where prostitutes are killed, but not as classy.

Our room was painted four different colors, one per wall.  I think the fat man painted one wall, ran out of paint, and bought whatever color was next on sale at the Italian Home Depot.

But that was nothing compared to the bathroom.

The bathroom stood three feet below the bedroom, which meant you had to remember to walk down two stairs every time you needed to use the bathroom.  The steps were tiled and there was always water on them.

Here’s a rule the rest of the world needs to learn about bathroom entrances:

They should not cause concussions.

The good news is my falls got better over time.  By the fourth time, I was downright skilled at catching myself on the bidet.

I say bidet like I know what one was.  I do now.  I didn’t then.  Which is why I will give you this tip:

They are not drinking fountains.

The best part of the bathroom were the dimensions.  Thirty feet long and six feet wide.  Rarely do I stay in hotel rooms where the bathroom is a converted bowling alley.

And all of the surfaces — floors, walls and ceiling — were covered in tile.   That was due to the “shower.”

I put “shower” in quotes because I fear it may conjure up images of an actual shower.  You know, four walls, maybe a soap dish.

But not in Italy.  Here’s what a shower should be called in Italy:

A hose in the corner.

Allow me this brief historic digression:

Somewhere during the three centuries that have passed since America’s split with Europe, the two continents took wildly divergent courses.   One discovered that showers involve water and should have walls.  The other decided that the entire bathroom should be hosed down like a car wash every time wants to be clean.

Your toiletries, the toilet paper, the bath towel — all should be thoroughly soaked by anyone taking a shower.

The other advantage of the European method is that the entire tile floor becomes wet.  So when you fall off the stairs and onto the slick floor, you can ping off in any direction, like you’re the little metal ball in a pachinko machine.  That’s good, because it can be boring to crack your head on the same bathroom fixture every time.  You need variety.

After one day, we wanted out.  But we had already booked the room for two nights.  That meant talking to the fat man.  Who didn’t speak English.  Or at least didn’t speak English when it would be convenient for him to not speak English.

It was an odd fight.  In one corner was a fat Italian man making a lot of hand gestures and saying a lot of things that didn’t sound like compliments.  In the other corner was me, trying my best to communicate that we were not going to pay for a second night because the fat man’s “hotel” was not what we expected.  Of course, my Italian was not perfect, so what came out was this:

“Me-o not pay-o you-o.”

All I knew for sure as Staci and I were fleeing, er, walking briskly, out the door was this:

The fat man was now peppering his conversation with a lot of “polizia” this and “polizia” that.

Which is a good time to be on the first train out of Venice.

Wherever it’s going.

Ahh, spontaneity.