Friday, June 20, 2008

June 20, 2008
As I drove down to my second day of cardio rehab this morning I had a strong sense of deja vu. When I arrived at the gym the feeling grew even stronger. Head nurse, Beth, introduced me to several regulars, who were on treadmills. I realized I felt exactly like I felt on the very first day of school, so long ago.

We lived in Swea City, Iowa and I was really excited to go to kindergarten. The whole school was housed in one huge brick building. Kindergarten in the basement and seniors in high school on the top floor. When I went with my mother to register, I was appalled and disgusted by all the mama's boys who cried and hid in their mother's skirts, hugging their legs (we ended up being great friends and, in their defense, they were farm kids and not used to being "in town").

I was perfectly fine with all that, but then came the first solo day when I had to walk the three blocks to the school—and actually go inside. As I approached the front of the building a group of high school kids were lounging on the front lawn, laughing and saying snotty things to the new kids as they walked by (or, at least I thought they were. Thinking back, they were probably not even paying attention to us at all).

I remember being very intimidated, so I turned around and walked home. My mother was shocked to see me, since she had just sent me out the door. "No school today," I said as confidently as I could. Quite bugged, my mother drove me back to school and walked me to class, which was even worse.

Of course, I finally settled in, got used to the routine, actually met some of the "big kids" and felt at home in the school (maybe 200 kids).

Then in 1956, we moved to a bigger town, Kingman, Arizona and I went through the same unfamiliar stress of the first day of school. That's how I felt this morning. Nothing has changed in a half century. Ha. "The New Kid" was still nervous about walking in. Self conscious about finding my heart monitor equipment, wondering if I could remember the settings on the playground equipment.

Beth introduced me to three of the "popular kids". Mary Jane was very friendly and I soon loosened up a little. Bill, who had new shoes (he said quite disgustedly, "Why do they make the shoe laces so long, these days?"), came over to me and said, with a sly grin, "I've got to go see a man about a horse." I thought this was some inside joke that I wasn't privy to, until later, when he said to me while I was on the recumbent cycle, "I see you on the Westerns Channel every night. Remember when you did the one on outhouses and you said, 'Excuse me, I've gotta go see a man about a horse.'"

Speaking of 1955, I finally saw Bad Day At Black Rock the other night. Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan and a very cool Lee Marvin as a redneck cowboy. About a town in Arizona (although it looked to be filmed in Nevada or the California desert) that had a dark secret involving Japanese relocation and racism during WWII.

It really reminded me of Kingman when we first moved there (both the setting and the racism). Most of the businesses were still downtown and I would buy my True West magazine issues at Desert Drugs (see photo below, Desert Drugs at left):

There's something about desert towns that really appeals to me. Also, if you noticed yesterday's post with the checkerboard cowboys, I have a strong attraction to this kind of layout. Here's my illustrations, tweaked by Dan Harshberger, for our Billy On The Brain, which was a cover of True West and a coffee mug we still sell:

And here are a couple pages from my sketchbook, catching up with those I missed:

"Every publisher should have an older brother who is a pimp. After all, the publisher needs someone he can look up to and borrow money from."
—Bob Hofkin

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