Back when I was working for the Kansas City Star and we became dimly aware there was such a thing as the internet (AKA: a series of tubes) the newspaper decided its employees should get involved and start blogs or websites because we were all such fascinating people and readers would not be able to get enough of our dining and gardening habits.
I felt the ice water around my ankles even then and put up my hand and volunteered to jump in a lifeboat; I would start a blog or vlog or website or whatever the fuck they wanted to call it and feature sketches of political cartoons I couldn’t get published in the paper and explain why they didn’t make the cut.
So far, so good, but then I was told nobody at the newspaper actually knew how to build a blog or vlog or website yet and it would probably involve our IT people shaving their heads and traveling to the Himalayas to study with Tibetan monks, then need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states and blessed by the Pope when he wasn’t busy dealing with child-abuse scandals and Lord knows that meant he didn’t have much free time to give His Holy Seal of Approval to blogs about knitting sweaters.
Plus, once they figured out how to launch one of those rockets I was waaay down the list of internet space travelers awaiting their digital trip to the moon.
So I went home and did what every adult of that era was doing; I asked my kid for help.
Despite being a recent descendent of the Pepsi Generation my son Michael said he would have absolutely no idea how to build a blog or vlog or website and I was shit out of luck.
I said I’d give him $50 and buy him lunch to try and Michael said: “Weeell, I guess I could take a look.”
We went to an early lunch cause Michael had my website up and running well before noon. When an editor asked how in the world I managed to pull that off, I suggested he kidnap a teenager and lock him in a room with enough Doritos and Mountain Dew to feed a small nation and all our technical problems would be fixed by happy hour.
As with most of my great ideas, nobody listened.
A digital book
Many of you…OK, make that some of you…or at least two of you…have been enjoying the stories about my family and sordid past and have suggested they ought to be collected in a book.
Having done two books…one local and one national…I can tell you books are a shitload harder than they sound and I’m not talking about the writing. There’s a whole bunch of hoops that have to be jumped through and you could turn in Gone with the Wind and if the publisher doesn’t support and market it, frankly Scarlett, the public doesn’t give a damn – oddly enough, people don’t buy books they’re unaware of.
And then there’s the editing.
I have spent my entire career with an editor standing between me and the people I want to reach, deciding what I can say and you should hear. So despite the occasional typo, this forum has been a Godsend if God were in the business of throwing rope ladders over prison walls.
So when my son Michael – my technical advisor – suggested the idea of a digital book…or in this case more of a novella…I was all ears.
More and more artists of every type are putting their stuff on the internet and asking people for a fraction of what a book or album normally costs. That can work well for the artist and the consumer because it eliminates the middle men who were siphoning off most of the money anyway.
Consumers pay less than they normally would for a book and, if enough people buy in, the writer makes more than he normally would for writing one.
The internet owes me
I’ve got no clue if this is going to work, but the idea is intriguing and I’m in a position to give it a whirl. I also figure the internet fucked up my first career so it owes me another one and I guess we’ll find out if the internet agrees.
Unless I run into some unforeseen object – and keep in mind you’re listening to a guy who whacks his head on the same pipe in his basement every month or so – from now on the story links on Facebook and Twitter will direct you to this new Substack website.
Some of you have asked how you could see the political cartoons I do for King Features, so I checked with them, got their OK and I’m going to start posting some of those cartoons here as well.
For now it’s all going to be free, but sometime this summer it will change over to a pay site with the occasional free article just to remind you there’s some really good shit you’re not seeing.
(From this point on it would be helpful if you imagine what I write as it would sound if Jack Lemmon’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross were desperately trying to sell you some shitty real estate.)
“It’s free at first cuz that just the kinda guy I am, but you know at some point I gotta make a profit and I think I know what kinda guy you are and I don’t think you could put your head down on your pillow at night or look your kid in the eye without doin’ the right thing. Am I right?
And coffee is for closers.”
Like most people I cannot watch that movie without thinking: Jesus, Alec Baldwin has gotten fat. (That was in my voice, we’re done with Jack Lemmon until he’s needed again.)
For now, enjoy – if possible – what I post on this Substack site for free; meaning no cost, without charge, nada dinero, you don’t owe me jack shit.
I will post cartoons, family stories and some baseball stuff and there should be something new several times a week. And when it begins to cost you a pittance – and I say that without knowing exactly what a pittance is – I hope you decide to stick with me.
And if you do, that’s when things will get interesting, or hopefully, even more interesting.
I’m going back home to Sacramento, California for the entire month of August and will post something pretty much every day and you get to help decide what that something will be.
If you want more stories about my mom, I’ll spend the day with her and let you know what she said.
If you want to hear what I think of modern-day Placerville, I’ll take a tour.
My nephew Beau (pictured above) is a three-time UTV World Champion driver and he’s promised to take me for a ride. We’ll make a video and you’ll be along to see if a poop my pants before, during or after the ride. (I think I’m capable of all three.)
My brother Paul T – a guy who wrecked more cars than Harland Sanders fried chickens – has ridden with Beau and pronounced Beau crazy, but said I shouldn’t worry; Beau has gotten a lot better at driving since that picture was taken.
Paul T said Beau flipped his ride end-over-end about 15 times that day, so I figure we’ll only flip end-over-end 10 times on my ride because he’s gotten a lot better.
(Actually I figure Beau will walk the fine line between doing something really dangerous and doing just enough to scare the piss out of me which at this point of my life can be accomplished by a hasty lane change on I-70.)
It’s been a while since I darkened the door of Poor Red’s in Diamond Springs and since I haven’t puked up their signature drink – the Golden Cadillac – in a few years, time for a visit. (Maybe you’re not supposed to drink 10 of them and follow that up with a rack of ribs.) You’ll be along when I write a story and post pictures and if I actually puke, I’ll do my best to provide video.
For the entire month of August I plan on visiting places I remember – Rocklin, my grade school, the house where I grew up, Folsom Lake, Folsom Prison (actually had some good times there and I’m not kidding), Buckeye Elementary, Ponderosa High in Shingle Springs – and writing about the memories those places bring back to me.
I’m guessing I’ll wind up visiting with some of you that have been reading along and if so, you’ll wind up in the book or project or novella as well.
Which brings up cost.
It looks like $5 a month is pretty standard and then the writers come up with different levels of support, just like your local PBS station.
(Sorry, PBS, I actually like what you do a lot, but would also like to see your pledge drive hosts savagely beaten with a tote bag full of live weasels which would also make a fascinating documentary that would draw huge viewer support. Think about it.)
So where were we?
Right: I think I’m going with $5 a month for regular subscribers and $10 a month for my “Blackmail” membership; drop a $10 spot on me once a month and I promise not to write about you at all.
For $15 a month you can become a “Blackmail Elite” member: I not only won’t write about you, I also won’t make veiled references to you, as in: “One world-famous cartoonist I know.” (I assume Gary Larson will become a lifetime member.)
For $20 a month you can subscribe at my “Hero” level and I will totally make up a bullshit story and you’ll be the hero.
Ever wanted to save a child from a burning house? I can write that for you. Rescue a drowning puppy while singing America the Beautiful? Gotcha covered. Stop a bank robbery in progress while protecting the virtue of the female teller who looks like a librarian until she takes off her glasses and shakes her hair out and then we all realize she’s smokin’ hot? That shit write itself.
In fact I will let you specify the heroic act and who and or whom you saved and fill in the rest of the details.
This has to be a first in what currently passes for journalism, unless you count Fox News. (Oh, shit…probably lost some subscribers with that joke.)
So if you decide to join in, we’re kinda, sorta going to write a book or novella or travelogue together in real time.
My mom’s birthday party on August 25 will be the final event in this project, but I’m hoping this project is just the beginning of a new phase in my career and you all stick along for the ride…as long as Beau isn’t driving.
So for now, look around the new website and see what you think. Kick the tires and take a test drive. When the time comes, if you decide to buy I’ll throw in rustproofing and set of floor mats.
And if you hate the idea, blame Michael.