Saturday, February 18, 2012

Distinctly Vague

In an IM conversation with Scott the other day he made a reference to something – fittingly, I don’t recall what it was – and I said, “I think I vaguely recall that.  Then again, vaguely is pretty much how I recall everything.”

I used to have a good memory.  I don’t know – or remember – what happened to it.  I would say that it was probably booze, but I think my ability to remember things had started to fade long before I started drinking heavily, so who knows?

In talking about the amazing memory I had when I was younger, a woman who had worked at my elementary school made a reference to her belief that I had a “photogenic memory.”  I can’t say whether or not that’s true – I don’t know what pictures of my memory would look like – but I certainly never had the photographic memory she meant to say that I had.

Still, it was a pretty decent memory, I think.

To this day, there are still some things that I remember distinctly, even decades later.  I don’t think it would surprise anyone to learn that most of those things actually revolve around comic books in some fashion.

Not all of the details are clear – I don’t remember specific dates, necessarily, or even issue numbers – but there are a lot of surprisingly specific things that I do remember clearly.

As an example – and as part of the ever-lengthening and roundabout path I’m taking to get to my actual point – I remember a Friday in May of 1982* that was a good day in general, and a kind of momentous day as well, which is why, almost 30 years later, I remember it as clearly as I do.

It was a good day, first of all, because it was Friday, and summer was rapidly approaching.  Reason enough for a 10 year-old to be pleased, I should think.

But it was also a good day because my mom had made a trip to town and picked up a bunch of new comics for me.  This was always a dangerous proposition – my mom didn’t keep track of my comic book purchases or the titles I was most interested in, so there was a good chance that she would, in her random purchasing, buy me something I already had, or something that I wasn’t interested in, though the former was more a danger than the latter.  After all, as I often say, there’s one thing that could be said about my taste in comics when I was a kid:  I didn’t have any.  I happily read pretty much anything back then.

In any case, on this particular day my mom had done very well, picking up the latest issues of  Swamp Thing, The New Teen Titans, and The Flash, which, at the time, were all favorites of mine (I mostly liked The Flash because of the Dr. Fate backup story that ran in every issue).

Still, while the selection of comics was very good, they were not, in and of themselves, what made it a momentous day.

At least, not for the stories they contained.

That month, all of the titles published by DC (such as the ones listed above) ran an ad for something that, to my young mind, was the most extraordinary thing in the world:  The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.

A school.

That specialized in teaching people how to draw comic books and cartoons.

It was on that day that my fondest wish was born.**

”In eight years,” thought young Jon, as he looked at the ad over and over again, “I will be living in…Morristown, NJ, and will be a student at that school.”

And, of course, as we all know, that’s exactly what happened, and I went on to put my education to good use by becoming a superstar comic book artist.

Oh, wait.

So, yeah, that didn’t happen.  Still, at the age of ten I could hardly be expected to think, “One day I will be an Integration Manager at a cable company and will be a Subject Matter Expert*** for something called Netcool and will spend most of my time developing and conducting operational readiness testing and creating document templates and writing Ops Guides and looking at spreadsheets.”

What is the point of this stroll down memory lane to the cul-de-sac of abandoned dreams?
I suppose that, in part, it’s an attempt to answer the question, “How did I get here?” and possibly the follow-up question, “And how do I get out?”

Mostly, however, it’s my very circuitous way of getting back to examining another set of similar questions, not asked by me, that keep popping up:

”What are you doing here?”
”Why aren’t you working for Marvel, or Disney, or someplace like that?”
”Why are you wasting your talent doing this?”

…and so forth.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I understand that these questions – and the assertions, such as “You’re in the wrong line of work.” – are intended to be complimentary, but they feel more like criticism, or an indictment, and they’re not questions I can quickly or easily answer, and hearing them over and over again begins to wear on me after a while.

”I have my reasons,” I say, which is usually greeted with puzzlement, or dismissive head wags.
One of those reasons is that I didn’t, as young Jon had hoped and expected, move to Jersey and go to the Kubert school.  Or any art school, for that matter.  I never developed a formal basis from which I could fully explore and develop my talent.

This, of course, raises the obvious question of “Why not?”

That is, I’m afraid, the subject for a later post.

*I must confess to cheating a bit here; I remembered that it was probably 1982, and I knew that it was sometime in late spring, but I had to actually look up the cover date for one of the comics I remembered getting that day in order to narrow it down.
**That is, until later that summer, when my reading of X-Men, and the discovery of one Kitty Pryde, dovetailed with the onset of puberty, and a whole other set of fondest wishes developed…

***The notion that I’m a “SME” for anything – and I’m actually considered to be a SME for a lot of things – is laughable, given that most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing or talking about.

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