If you’ve been following the exploits of the Judge clan you know I’ve been drawing on memories from long, long ago and having fun at my family’s expense. My brothers have accused me of not telling the stories that I find embarrassing and all I can say to that is get a blog.
History belongs to those who mangle it.
But today I’m going to do something a little different: write a positive piece about something that just happened to a family member.
First, we have to set the WayBack Machine to when my son Paul decided he wanted a career in music.
(BTW: If you didn’t get the WayBack Machine reference you really need to fill in that tremendous gap in your knowledge of Sherman and Mr. Peabody’s exploits, so I’ve thoughtfully provided a link to one of their cartoons. Watch it and you’ll thank me later.)
Lies we tell our kids
As good parents we lie to our children all the time and perhaps no lie is bigger than: “You can be anything you want to be.” If your kid is 5′ 9″ and can’t shoot or dribble, maybe the NBA is not for him and he ought to pay more attention in shop class.
I wanted to play in the NFL and was a decent high school football player, but in the league where our high school played, football players came in one of two flavors: big or fast – rarely both.
I wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship offer, but did get offers to be a walk-on at all the local colleges. I knew I wasn’t big enough, so I planned to sit out a year, workout with weights, bulk up and then become the “Rudy” of the Sacramento Valley even though the movie “Rudy” hadn’t been made yet, so I really missed my chance although I’m not sure the American public would have fallen in love with the story of a backup offensive guard who wasn’t good enough to play for the American River Beavers.
I visited the local college with the worst team – the one that would give me the best chance to get on the field and it wasn’t the American River Beavers, they were way too good for me – and watched a football practice. After 30 seconds I knew I better have a Dream B because those guys were big and fast and they were still the worst college players in the area.
Realizing my football career was over I settled for being a political cartoonist; a profession that didn’t mind if you couldn’t bench press 300 pounds or run a 4.4 40.
On the other hand, it’s even tougher to become a political cartoonist than a bad college football player; even back in 1974 there weren’t that many jobs available. Generally, one or at the most two, in towns big enough to support newspapers big enough to support political cartoonists.
Even though it didn’t include torn ACLs and multiple concussions, I was still dreaming big.
Little known, but pertinent fact: Gary Cooper came to Los Angeles hoping to become a political cartoonist and had to settle for being an international movie star instead, so I succeeded where Gary Cooper failed.
In your face, Gary!
Sure, you got to co-star with Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman, but I got to make funny pictures of Jerry Brown. So who’s laughing now?
Now where were we before I made this all about me?
When my son Paul decided he wanted to be a rap music producer (the guy who creates the music behind the lyrics) I felt it was my responsibility as a parent to point out that he was pretty damn white and there was already one Eminem and a number of people thought that was one too many.
What were the odds?
I also pointed out that the local Subway was hiring and maybe he ought to quit screwing around with rap or hip hop or the Devil’s Theme Song (pretty sure I don’t have the terminology right) and go make some goddamn sandwiches.
Nobody grows up wanting to make turkey bacon subs or bag groceries or sell insurance, but a lot of people have to settle for something less than their dream job and maybe it was time for Paul to consider professions that didn’t include solid-gold dentistry, half-naked girls on yachts and performing a song on stage while maintaining a firm grip on his dick.
Luckily, Paul didn’t listen.
He just kept making beats (the musical part of a hip hop or rap song) and would create them using a keyboard and laptop computer. I’d come home late from a Royals game and Paul would be hard at work in my garage with his laptop perched on top of his mother’s car.
To my untrained eye, it did not appear that a star was being born.
La La Land
But then a friend of Paul’s signed a recording contract and invited Paul to come to Los Angeles and see if he could sell some of his beats out there. I figured Paul would be back in six months and maybe that job at Subway would still be available.
Then Paul placed a track on a Young Thug album.
Then Migos & Marshmello performed to one of Paul’s tracks and here’s the video:
Then the same track was also used in a Will Smith movie (the worst Will Smith movie I’ve ever seen, but still a goddamn Will Smith movie).
Then Gashi performed “My Year”—another of Paul’s beats – on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and here’s that video:
The most amazing thing about that Tonight Show video is the music was created in my garage, on top of a Toyota Prius back in 2015 when Paul couldn’t get arrested unless it was for smoking weed.
Our worlds collided when that song, “My Year” was used three days ago as the music behind the MLB channel’s Opening Day montage.
Frankly, I wouldn’t know Young Thug, Migos, Marshmello or Gashi if they showed up and performed the 1812 Overture on my front lawn, but when I watch a big league baseball game on TV and hear my son’s music, that gets my attention and inspired me write this piece.
After “My Year” blew up (a beat that had no takers in 2015) Paul had this to say on Twitter:
“Never let ‘em tell you shit.”
My poor example
The irony here is that when I told my family I wanted to be a political cartoonist they reacted like I’d told them I planned on becoming Prime Minister of Ireland or climbing Mount Everest in cargo shorts and flip flops; they found it unlikely.
Nevertheless, I persevered and after two years and over 700 letters of rejection I got a cartoon published in the Sacramento Union.
I was on my way to a career in cartooning that would see me win dozens of awards, become nationally syndicated, lecture at Harvard University, serve as President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, be sued for libel and get fired three times; twice from the same paper, which has to be some kind of record.
When my brother Bob reminded me: “Everybody said you couldn’t do it.”
I reminded him: “You were one of the people saying that.”
Bob replied: “Yeah, but you didn’t listen.”
It’s ironic that I believed in myself, but advised my son to do otherwise. Out of fear for his future I suggested he do the easiest thing in the world: settle for less.
If you’re thinking dreams are only for the young and foolish, consider this: Rodney Dangerfield didn’t get his big break until he was 46, Julia Child didn’t release her first cookbook until she was 50 and Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting seriously until she was 78.
Character actor Danny Trejo (pictured here as a guy you wouldn’t want to date your sister unless your sister was Lizzie Borden) did not appear in a movie until he was 41 and that was after serving time in San Quentin.
It’s never too late.
Right now at this very moment someone we’ve never heard of is writing a bestseller, composing a hit song or embarking on an acting career that will result in an Academy Award.
Why not you?
So dream big and follow Paul’s advice:
Never let ‘em tell you shit.
P.S. If you want to follow Paul’s career you can do so on Twitter @judgebeats. And don’t worry, I gave him a new Royals hat last time he was in KC.