Art, History, and The Road Not Taken

So ….

Today is a birthday, and not just any birthday, but the big one.  The BIG one.  The big Four-Oh.  40.  Oy.

Often, this is supposed to be the point where you look back on life and reflect at all the stuff you've done and experienced.  Alternately, you are supposed to look back and have yourself a mid-life crisis.  I am going to split the difference here.

In my last entry, I mentioned that I witnessed another death of a semi-famous figure.  Back on 15 Aug, I read that comic book artist Joe Kubert – first comic artist to draw WWII comic Sgt. Rock – died on 12 Aug.  Major downer.

Back in the way, way, waaaaaaay before I was ever a committed writer, I had aspirations of being an artist – specifically a comic book artist.  I scribbled, I traced, I studied the way others did it.  I really thought I had a little talent.  What I had was an impeccable ability to draw schlocky-looking stick figures but that's neither here nor there.

The Kuberts – Joe, and his sons Andy and Adam – were a few of those I really admired and appreciated.  They were never the rock stars of the comic artistry world but they were solid and consistent, at least to this guy’s untrained eye.  I remember seeing advertisements for the Kubert School in New Jersey.  At one point in my freshman year of college, I very seriously considered dropping out, moving to New Jersey, and getting a night job in order to attend the School, to become a comic book artist.  I had even started adding up how much money I would need to do make it happen.  Without question, there is a certain amount of romanticizion in the notion – about two orders of magnitude more than the reality would have been.

Alas it was not to be; I was too practical (or cowardly, if you prefer) to take a chance and give up what I already had.  So I stayed in school, got my military commission, and here I am now, some twenty-plus years later.  Up to now, I don't believe I have ever told a single person in my life that I was on the edge, very much about to take such an action.  Sure, I've mentioned that I wanted to be comic artist … but I have never said I was a hairsbreadth from gambling my future on it, or the burning, soul-shattering disappointment in my heart when I chose the "safe" path.

Joe’s passing brings those memories flooding back.  Could my life have zigged instead of zagged?  What would have been different?  Would I have found success and steady work?  More likely, would I be working as a bartender trying to make ends meet, scraping together what little I had?  Would the mantle of failure fluttered down over my shoulders?  Would I have even tried to start writing?  Could I have made friends with drug addicts who ended up stealing from me?  Might I have been in the World Trade Center when it went down?  And if hadn't been where I was, when I was, would I have had the misfortune of never meeting my wife?

Is this one of those moments where you wonder where your life might have gone on the basis of a single keystone decision?  Kind of scary to think about.  I mean, I have no regrets, really; my life has turned out pretty well and I am happy and enjoying it.  But I will always wonder what might have been.  Maybe I can tap into that and fuel some better stories.  Maybe?

(Muse:  Maybe.  You also might get struck by a meteor while getting a b***-job from a unicorn tonight, too.)

For what it's worth, I still can’t draw worth a shit, and am jealous of anyone who can.  Mrs. Axe is a phenomenal artist, so I just have to live vicariously.  And live I shall.

Daily Update #26

Hey, didn't I just do this?  Well, yeah.

–  I completed a short story about a deep-dwelling ocean entity and posted at FWO – my first such post in over a year.  I am having a very hard time forcing myself to carve out the time to write, so any impetus – in this case, the website monthly contest – that keeps me moving is a good one.  I’m working on one for the next prompt.  Even if I don’t submit, it still keeps me writing.

– On that note, sometimes providence smiles upon you and gives you the kick in the rear you need.  I was invited to participate in a reprint anthology to be posted on Amazon.  True, I don’t have a wide swath of published stories to choose from but I will pick something out.  With the exception of my most recent tale, I believe the electronic rights  have reverted to me on all my publications (which I will confirm beforehand).  It's a nice ego-boost to be invited.  More importantly, ever since then, I have been thinking more about writing and pushing stories for publication.  Sometimes it’s good to get a nudge.

– But on the other hand, my progress on Pilgrimage has almost ground to a halt.  I did several thousand words a few weeks ago and nothing since.  Annoying.  I need to go ahead and get that draft finished.  Mrs. Axe jokes that I need to have a novel sold by mid-2014 or I won’t be able to come in the house anymore.  At least, I think she’s joking.

– I finished reading a book titled Ancient Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire on my Kindle.  It doesn’t do a blow-by-blow chronicle of Roman history but looks at some pivotal moments throughout, from the inception of the Roman Republic, to the fall of Rome in 476, which finished the Western Roman Empire for good, a full generation after the word “empire” had been rendered a mere fiction.  If you like ancient history, it’s a good read.  Sex, violence, betrayal, rebellion – in other words, lots of good Roman stuff.  And there is a lot of discussion about how the old Republic wasn’t as egalitarian as one might think.

– I see that Harry Harrison died.  I never got around to reading Make Room! Make Room! but it has always been on my long list.  Another big guy goes down.  Rest well, my brother.

I have another death-related post but I will cover that in another installment.

In the meantime, stay thirsty my friends.

How did I miss this?

I saw that Ray Bradbury died.  This is what I get for being 12-hours off the American news cycle:  I am always learning stuff way after the fact.

I was never an enormous fan but I do recognize the staggering impact and influence he exerted on spec fiction.  The genres are poorer for his passing.

RIP, brother.

Sad day in Oslo

Sorry I haven’t been on lately, folks.  Medical issues have kept me on the back-burner this week.

Just wanted to extend my thoughts to the people of Norway.  I’ve been there and it is a very beautiful country, populated by pleasant, friendly citizens.  Such a pointless waste.

Stay strong, Oslo.