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.