I Just Won a Gold Medal

So I’m watching the Olympics and I’m rooting for the U.S. four-man bobsled team to win the gold, mostly because no U.S. team has done it since 1948.  The U.S. bobsled, nicknamed “Night Train”, is driven by Steven Holcomb.  After three runs, the U.S. team was in first place with only one run to go.

Then I had a random thought.

I wonder if Steven Holcomb has a Facebook page.

So I look him up, and he does.

Then I have another random thought.

I should friend the guy.  He seems like a nice guy.   What the heck.

So I send him a friend request, thinking that maybe after the Olympics he might actually approve it and I can say I’m friends with an Olympic star.

Within a minute,  my Facebook page tells me the following:

“Steven Holcomb has approved your friend request.”

Now wait a minute, I think to myself.

Steven Holcomb is supposed to be preparing himself for the fourth and final run, trying to be the first American driver to win this thing in 62 years.

So then I think, okay, someone else is obviously taking care of his Facebook page.  So I check his page and lo and behold, there’s a posting from him just minutes old where he explains he is holding his Blackberry at that moment, because he likes to check his Facebook page between runs.  He says it relaxes him. 

So right in the middle of Steven Holcomb’s HISTORIC, once-every-62-years-athletic-achievement, Steven Holcomb took some time out to friend Stephan Pastis.

Now maybe I’m inferring too much from this, but I think it’s fair to assume that just before he friended me, he was probably saying to himself, “Well, I want to win this bobsled thing, and I’ve come this far, but do I really HAVE to win it?  After all, winning isn’t everything.”

But then AFTER he friended me, everything changed.  Because then he started thinking,”I CANNOT LET MY NEW FACEBOOK FRIEND STEPHAN PASTIS DOWN!”

And what happened?  He went out and clinched first place.

In other words, I won a gold medal.

Alright, fine….WE won a gold medal.

Hope there’s room on the medal stand.

The Barber of Da Grill

My friend Tim never combed his hair.

The front of it looked like a tangled bird’s nest dangling from his forehead.

And though he was smart, he had no common sense.

In short, not a guy you want to see try and operate a propane barbecue.

But try it he did one summer in Los Angeles when we were both in our twenties.

Tim wanted to grill a plate-load of hamburger patties for a party he was having that night.  So he turned up the gas and pushed the igniter button, but the barbecue wouldn’t light.  So something in Tim’s head told him to keep turning up the gas ’til it would.

By the time it lit, Tim had enough propane swirling around his head to light all the barbecues in California.

Tim was lucky.  Despite the huge flash of flame, his only injury was the loss of that bird’s nest worth of hair that hung over his forehead.

Later that night at the party, Tim, who never had much luck with girls, was approached by the prettiest girl at the entire party, a girl he knew from his work.  A girl who knew nothing about Tim’s accident.

“Hey Tim,” she said.

“Hey,” he said.

And then Tim got the only compliment about his personal appearance that I believe he ever got in his life.

“Your hair looks great,” she said.

But his euphoria wouldn’t last.  Because of the next question.

“Where’d you get it done?”

He could have lied.  He could have ambiguously said, “The place down the block.”  Or made up the name of a barber shop.

But he didn’t.

He said this:

“My propane barbecue blew up and singed all my hair off.”

The girl said nothing.  Either did Tim.  So the girl walked off.

I can only imagine what Tim said the next time his barber asked him how he wanted his hair cut.

“Do it just like my barbecue.”

Mr. Pastis…Tear Down That Wall

I am constantly confused by the rules of etiquette for the little plastic dividers you use to separate your groceries from the other guy’s groceries on the conveyor belt at checkout.

I never know if it’s my responsibility to lay it down behind my own groceries, or if it’s my responsibility to lay it down behind the guy’s groceries ahead of me.

Sometimes I end up doing both, guarding the front and the rear.  That makes me mad, because it means someone in line has shirked their responsibilities.  It’s people like that who deserve to pay for my wandering Wonder Bread should it stray across our shared border.

My own personal philosophy is that each man and woman must guard their own rear.  Although I admit that a sign saying “Guard Your Own Rear” could be misconstrued.

Angry over the ambiguity, I decided to protest.

You see, normally, you use your divider like this:

But yesterday, I decided to do something new.  Rather than set the divider down perpendicular to the conveyor belt, thereby neatly walling off my groceries from everybody else’s, I laid it down parallel to the belt, right down the middle of my own groceries.  Like this:

When my groceries reached the checker, I thought his head was going to explode.  He stared at the groceries for a good five seconds.

“Are those your groceries?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“On both side of the divider?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Is there a reason you divided them up that way?” he asked.

“There’s no sign posted,” I said, “So I didn’t know how to use these things.”  I held up one of the dividers.

“You use them to divide your groceries from other people’s groceries,” he said, obviously annoyed.

“Oh,” I said.

“You didn’t know that?” he said, now squinting angrily at me.

“I did,” I admitted.

“So why’d you put it that way?” he asked.

I didn’t know what to say, so I blurted out the first thing that came into my head.

“Because in my groceries, there are internal divisions.”

When You Complain About Pearls, You Just Might Get a Musical Response

All cartoonists get complaints.  I probably get a few more than most simply because my strip is considered “edgy.”  That’s a joke to me because compared to what’s out there, I feel about as edgy as Captain Kangaroo.

In any event, although I rarely respond to these complaints, I did to this one.  And in a musical fashion, no less.  It is my singing and guitar-playing debut.  And when I say guitar-playing, I mean that last month I taught myself three chords.

So have a look by clicking HERE.

Oh, and once you’re there (if you’re already a member of Facebook), please click the “Become a Fan” little thingie, because then my fan count goes up and it makes me feel very warm inside.

And You Thought Lindsey Vonn’s Slalom Fall Was Bad

When I was a little boy, my family used to take long car trips from Los Angeles to Yuba City, California, a distance of about 450 miles.

Despite the hours I had to kill, I didn’t bring books.  I didn’t bring anything.  I just stared out the window.

My parents found this odd because all there was to see were miles and miles of agricultural land.

But I wasn’t focusing on the crops.

In my mind, I had created a little man.  And he was on skis.  And he was trying to ski through these fields.

But because this was agricultural land, it was filled with fences and tractors and equipment and most of all, trees.  Sometimes whole groves of them.

And this guy had to ski around all of it.  An impossible task.  Because in my mind, he was a good skier, but not a great skier.

So there were accidents.  Lots of them.  He ran into trees, got caught in fences, smashed into tractors.

Worse, there was an imaginary boat pulling him, and the boat driver never slowed down.  So sometimes, when my skier was knocked unconscious by the trees, he would just be dragged along for miles.

When we’d arrive in Yuba City, there would never be anyone to greet him.  Worse, he was dead.

And in my mind, a group of scientists in white coats always ran out to scoop him up and take him back to their lab, presumably to improve his safety equipment, which had failed him again.

And would fail him yet again three days later when we drove home.

Lousy scientists.

I’m So Tired of the Weirdos

Standing in line at Starbucks this morning, I started staring at the ceiling, wondering what would happen if the earth lost its gravitational pull.

Starbucks has all these floating wooden platforms that hang about a foot below the ceiling, attached by narrow metal rods.   All I could think was that if we all floated up to them, some of the customers would get wedged between the platforms and the ceilings.  Which would probably be the safest place to be, because everyone’s hot lattes would be pouring up and out of their cups.

That’s when the fat guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder.

“You gonna move forward?” he said.

I looked ahead of me.  There was an eight-foot gap between me and the person in front of me in line.

“Sorry,” I said, knowing I should leave it at that.  But I couldn’t.

“I was just thinking how dangerous this place would be if the earth lost its gravitational pull.”

The man said nothing.

I pointed to the wooden things hanging from the ceiling.

“We’d get wedged up there.”

The man just stared.

I was tempted to establish my credibility with him by telling him that way back in 2006, I picked the winner of the 2010 Super Bowl.  But before I could say, “I predict the future,” the Starbucks employee asked if she could take my order.

So I gave her my order and waited for her to fill the cup.  And the whole time I waited, the guy behind me kept staring at me.  Like he had nothing better to do.

What a weirdo.

Buy this Pearls Drawing, Because I May Die Soon.

I have a gray, four-door Honda Accord.  It’s a nice car.  But it’s a boring car.  Except for one thing.

It goes 160 miles per hour.

How do I know that?

Because I looked at the speedometer. And that’s how high the numbers go.

Fine, I haven’t tried it yet.  But I plan to.

And I don’t want to hear your explanations for why a speedometer might go that high even if the car can’t go that fast.  If my speedometer goes to 160 mph, the car can go 160 mph.

It’s basically a Lamborghini hiding in the body of a four-door Honda sedan.

Speaking of hiding, no one can see my strip today on comics.com.  So here it is (just click on it to enlarge):

Speaking of strips, I’m often asked if I sell my strips.  I don’t.  But every year or so, I do sell the occasional drawing for charity.  (I’m not all evil.  Only 90 percent.)

So I’ve gone ahead and drawn a picture of the entire Pearls cast (well, eight of them anyways…my hand got tired after awhile), which I’m now auctioning on Ebay.  As of five minutes ago, it was yours for a mere $9, though I suspect that price may rise.  All the proceeds from the auction will go to the Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund.  To go to the auction, just click HERE.

And bid a lot.  Because if I die, that drawing’s gonna go up in value.   Oh sure, I’m young and it’s statistically improbable, but consider this:

I drive 160 miles per hour.

The Son, The Backpack and the Angry Parents

Every morning, I drive my 12-year-old son Thomas to middle school.  He sits in the front seat with me.  He keeps his weighty backpack in the backseat.

When we get to the school, he gets out of the car, shuts his door, and opens the door to the backseat to reach for his backpack.

That’s when I reach over the front seat and grab one of the backpack straps.  When he pulls on the backpack, it doesn’t move.

A tug of war ensues.

This is a little embarrassing for him because he’s in junior high and we’re right next to the central quad where all the “cool” kids hang out before school.  So while they do whatever it is “cool” kids do, Tom’s playing tug-of-war with his dad.

Today I made a point of holding on to the strap longer, to the point where he was about to give up on the backpack altogether.  I call it my “death grip extraordinaire.”

That’s when I heard the car horns.  A lot of them.

I looked back.  We were holding up a huge line of cars.  Cars filled with parents trying to drop their kids off at school.

I can only wonder what these parents behind me we’re thinking as I maintained my death grip on Tom’s backpack.

Actually, I can do more than wonder, because I could see their faces in my rear-view mirror.  And they were not big fans of tug-of-war.

That’s too bad, because the Olympics begin tonight, and you’d think the thrill of athletic competition would be in the air.

Save the Zebras! (And Improve Your Love Life)

You may have seen this story this morning.

The headline says it all:

Kenya rounds up zebras for starving lions

Yes, the country of Kenya says its lions are starving.  So they’re herding up zebras to feed to the lions.  That is going to ruin many a zebra Valentine’s Day.

Little did I know the message on my Valentine’s Day crocodile would be so prophetic:

Not to mention the message carried by Rat:

Then there’s poor Zebra, begging for peace in light of Kenya’s decision:

And angelic Cupid Pig, hoping to spread the love:

So if you want to help the poor zebras of Kenya, just go HERE or HERE and buy one of these fine Valentine’s Day gifts for that special someone in your life.

And how will that help the zebras of Kenya?   I’ll tell you.

For each plush you buy, I will think about doing something to help the zebras of Kenya.

So do the right thing this Valentine’s Day and buy these Pearls plush.

You’ll be helping your love life.  And more importantly…

You’ll be helping me.

When Is the Right Time To Retire a Comic Strip?

It’s always tough to know when to retire a strip.  If you use as your example Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side or Bloom County, the right amount seems to be somewhere between ten and fifteen years.

But if Peanuts had retired at that point, we’d have no Flying Ace or Woodstock or Peppermint Patty. In fact, Schulz’s most famous Sunday strip, the one with the characters lying on their backs identifying cloud formations, did not even come until the 10th year of the strip.

For me, the decision is a tough one.  I have to balance the freshness of Pearls with financial considerations, because after all, I’m only 42, and need to make money for a number of more years.

But the decision was made a whole lot easier for me last week, when I received this:

From: “BARR JAMES ALFRED”

Date: February 5, 2010 1:28:48 PM PST

To: unlisted-recipients:; (no To-header on input)

Subject: Notification of Bequest In Your Name

Notification of Bequest In Your Name

On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the Estate of Late Scott Kennedy ,I hereby attempt to reach you again. I wish to notify you that late Scott Kennedy made you a beneficiary to his will.He left the sum of thirty one Million five Hundred Thousand Dollars.($31,500,000.00 ) to you  in the codicil and last testament to his will.  This may sound strange and  unbelievable to you, but  it is real and true.

Late Scott Kennedy until his death was a very dedicated Christian who  loved to give out. His great philanthropy earned him numerous awards during  his life time, Late Scott Kennedy died at the age of 71 years.According  to him this money is to support your activities and  to help the poor and the needy.   Please You should fill the information below for more directives

1.Full Name

2.Telephone number,

3.Age

4.contact address/Country

5.occupation

6.identification

Yours In Service,

Barr.James Alfred (Esq)

At first, I questioned the email because I found it strange and unbelievable.  But he knew I would think that.  Look, he says:

“This may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true.”

Then I started thinking, “But why would this Scott Kennedy guy leave me this money?”  But he explains that too.  See, it says Scott Kennedy was:

“…a very dedicated Christian who loved to give out.”

But then I was like,”Wait, wait, wait… how does Scott Kennedy know me?”  But he obviously does.  See, he says:

“According to him this money is to support your activities.”

See, he knows I have activities.  Which I do!  I like to sit on the beach and drink, and I want to do that for the rest of my life.  But that takes money.  Which now I have!

I know what you’re thinking.  There’s still the formality of sending him the information he wants.  But I’ve already done it!  And to be extra thorough, I threw in my social security number.

So when is the right time to quit a strip?

When Scott Kennedy dies.

Rest in peace, friend.