Month: March 2016

Telling Stories around the Fire

Fire – the Storyteller’s Fundamental Friend

It’s such a treat to listen to a story that’s told by a fire—

storytelling by the fire


especially an outdoor fire (apologies to presidential fireside chats and digital firespaces of the 21st century).  The snaps and hisses of burning wood provide a lovely soundtrack to accompany the teller’s spoken words.  The dancing light and shadows created by the flame add drama to the teller’s face.  The lighting and music established, the storyteller need only be concerned with his or her primary function: to tell the story.

Mysteries and tales of revenge and horror play out especially well by the evening blaze, but any tale will do.  Before theater popcorn and movies, youngsters would be drawn to these natural outdoor cineplexes.  Here, the same source would light the stage and pop the kernels.  Here, they’d gather to be mesmerized, and often to be scared to death by the storyteller’s tale.  No Hollywood director had so intimate an encounter with an audience.

The next time you’re looking to escape modern entrapments, go and experience a story delivered in the age old way. Yes, consider calling on a friend who owns a fire pit.  Or better yet, build one yourself. Then you’ll have a story to tell.

Weekly Cartoon Panel – Bigfoot Growth Spurt

Bigfoot Leaves an Impression

Bigfoot and Littlerfoot
Bigfoot is my favorite mysterious creature.  Yep.  BF is my BFF.  I can identify with him more readily than the other camera shy monster types.  For one, he walks upright–just like I’ve been doing since about 11 months.  And, like me, he’s American (Washington state counts, right?).   Sorry Nessie.  I may have some Scottish roots, but I’ve never called her home.

Bigfoot, or Sasquatch as it is often called, is also presumably a forest lover. The same goes for me.  We both have hair and we both like to walk around barefoot.  I cannot imagine him in a pair of Tevas, and I sincerely doubt that Timberlands come in BF sizes.

But what I might find most appealing about the Sasquatch is his take home factor.  Bigfoot, I feel, would be the easiest creature to domesticate.  The Jersey Devil might assault (or worse, eat) your loved ones and aliens might do similar, though by more high tech means.  No aquarium at the pet store is going to be able to contain the Loch Ness Monster (or Champ, his relative known to inhabit Lake Champlain).  Conversely, you’d be able to invite Bigfoot home to meet the family.  A solitary sort, Bigfoot would naturally take to games of hide ‘n seek with the children, and if you’ve a daughter, she’d enjoy combing out his hair.  But be wary of mites and burrs.  And don’t ask him to play kickball with your loved ones, as injuries are certain to occur.  And buy earplugs, ‘cuz the snoring!  And also, consider dowsing him with a strong-scented perfume or cologne, ‘cuz the smell! Hmmm…maybe Sasquatch is best left to the wilds after all.

Weekly Cartoon Panel – At the Auction

At the Auction…

Ping Pong table at auction

It’s thrilling to win in a competition—even when victory is sealed sheerly because one offers to pay more money for an object than the next guy.  That’s precisely the victory I experienced many years ago at an auction house near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In fact, I don’t even remember what I “won” the right to purchase.  What I do recall is the feeling I got when the auctioneer pointed at me with his gavel and said, “SOLD!  To the sharpest dressed man in the room.”  I felt a popcorn popper rush of energy, a surge of adrenaline like back in my high school sports playing days.

Local auctions didn’t always get my heart pumping.  But the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow put a light on the possibilities of discovering rare and unique items at neighborhood estate and garage sales.  The show’s appraisers became rock stars; when they stood onstage, I listened.

I even visited a Roadshow taping, traveling five hours with some dusty old wares to Hartford, Connecticut. Though my items were essentially worthless—family heirlooms I should continue to treasure, as I was told—I did find my way on camera…accidentally.  My father and I were caught on tape as we wandered around the Roadshow set aimlessly, searching for the collectibles appraiser.  Though not an ideal television debut, as I sat and watched my image on plasma, my heart did begin to race.  You could say I felt an auction house high.



An Homage to The Sunday Funnies


Remembering back to the holidays and birthdays of my childhood thirty some odd years ago, I realize that I’ve forgotten many of the presents I was given.  Generally speaking, I could count on my uncle for a Lego set (at the time the only options were Lego town or space) and my grandparents on my mom’s side were always good for an outfit.  I never did much appreciate the clothes they gave me–but I was always grateful for the wrapping paper.  You see, my grandmother would wrap my gifts with the pages of the Sunday comics, aka “The Sunday Funnies.”

I loved reading comics.

I especially loved reading them on Sundays, when they were given the color treatment.  I would come home from church and stalk the house for the paper, so I could get my hands on the latest escapades of Beetle Baily and Hagar the Horrible and Heathcliff and Garfield and–am I forgetting any other orange cat cartoons?

My hometown paper had a couple pages of color comics, but my grandparents?  They lived much closer to New York City, and their “big city” Sunday paper had two or three times as many cartoons!  Those that didn’t end up as gift wrap sat in a pile in gran’s attic, awaiting my arrival.  Truthfully, there wasn’t much for a kid to do at my grandparents’ house when the weather outside was poor, so I just sat–sometimes even in the attic, immediately after grabbing the topmost pages from the pile–and read and read.  I would read so many colored comics that my fingertips would ingest the ink from the pages and my eyes would begin to see halftone dots everywhere I looked.

Looking back, my grandmother, alive during the Great Depression, was probably just being thrifty when she chose to wrap my gifts in Sunday funnies.  But in doing so, she presented extraordinary blessings–blessings of laughter and artistic appreciation that stimulate me to this day.

See the evidence as follows:

cartoon by Jeremy Gates, an homage to the Sunday funnies


(My crack at a punchy 1-panel comic, a la “The Far Side” or Bizarro.”)

I’ll venture to post a cartoon such as this every week.