“But I was not a domesticated animal. The dirt and grit of a city, the unending wakefulness of it, the crowdedness, the constant light obscuring the stars, the omnipresent gasoline fumes, the thousand ways it presaged our destruction … none of these things appealed to me.”
– Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation
Confession: Sometimes I don’t wash the coffee pot between uses. I just give it a good rinse and get on with it.
The Italian decided to start getting the Sunday Seattle Times. She said that it has better international news than what she gets from CNN. Of course I’ve suggested that she could get better news than CNN by studying the dregs of her tea, but the blackest habits are hardest to break. Last Sunday I came downstairs to see The Boy laid out in front of the fire, propped up on his elbows and reading the Sunday funnies. It was a sort of grand and old fashioned sight, almost Rockwellian, full of the sense of nostalgia, but also a little decay. But what is nostalgia if not a willful, wistful forgiveness of rot? It gave me memories, yes, because I read the Sunday funnies as a boy as well. I looked forward to them. I’d sit at the table, hunched behind the box and over a bowl of Cheerios (with a few spoonfuls of sugar added) or Honeycomb cereal or Raisin Bran (two scoops!) and I’d read them all. I used to take special care – and satisfaction – from deftly folding the sections cleanly back against their creases in order to keep the sprawl of newsprint manageable. I felt grown up giving the paper that adroit two-handed snap in order to pop out a little inversion.
My favorite was always Garfield. Something about his casual sarcasm always worked for me. And I had a predictable soft spot for Odie. For some reason Andy Capp stands out in my memory as well, though I doubt very much that I had any real idea what was going on with him and his ruddy nose that always preceded him back into the house, where an angry wife awaited. Wiki’s got him summed up:
“Andy is a working-class figure who never actually works, living in Hartlepool, a harbour town in County Durham, in northeast England. The title of the strip is a pun on the local pronunciation of “handicap”; and the surname “Capp” signifies how Andy’s cap always covered his eyes along with, metaphorically, his vision in life.”
I also remember The Family Circus – classic single panel comic. There was Cathy, but I think my status as not an angsty, self-obsessed girl kept me from enjoying it too much. And for some reason Fox Trot, though I remember little of it. I get the sense that it was a new comic when I was a kid. Lemme check…yep, April 1988. I don’t remember anything about it, I just remember it.
Anyway, the other part of the funnies was the word scramble, and I loved it. I was always good at that. I think the crossword was kept somewhere around there also, and I always did as much of that as I could. It was how I managed to feel kinda smart before going back for a second laugh at Garfield falling asleep in a plate of lasagna.
The first comment even references Garfield. It’s like the internet woke up and brought me the paper today.
The Italian said that she always called them “the comics,” and her parents told her they used to call them “the funny papers.” That’s what it was in my house, I think, though usually just “the funnies.” The Sunday Funnies. I never had a paper route, but I often was sent out to the driveway to bring ours in. I remember the perfect little button-drops of rain on the orange plastic baggie it was wrapped in, the dusty smell of newsprint, of insubstantial lightness, that sighed out as the paper was removed. I don’t know if I pawed through it and grabbed the comics myself, or if I waited for them to be handed to me, but that hardly matters. And I’m sure I did what The Boy does now – read my favorite parts out loud to a bunch of people who I was sure thought it was all as funny as I did. And, just like now, from my siblings I probably got a “nobody cares, shut up,” and from my parents a charitable chuckle. But what do I really know? Memory’s not much different than nostalgia – just a theatrically generous reading of expiration dates. That same charitable chuckle at a joke that’s only really funny somewhere else.
As far as coronavirus goes, in order for this post to earn its title, I’ll just say this: at some point my attitude is going to make the full shift to “screw it, let’s all get sick and get this over with.”
-The newspaper’s been nothing but comics for decades, Comrade Citizen.-