Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pipe Dreams Writes Itself. Part 9

When 1993 turned to 1994 , I was dating someone I loved who believed in my work. I was living in a house that had many roommate types and yet I was not coming up with great new ideas that would move Pipe Dreams forward. I was on cruise control.

I had lived in Seattle long enough to develop ideas inspired by the city. Instead I started to get plagued with self doubt. I spent most of the second half of 1993, looking for jobs, mostly as a bartender.

I needed at this point to make decent money. I had not made it as a cartoonist and any job I had would have to pay comfortably enough so I wouldn't have to work full time. A bartender job seemed ideal. My friend Pro was a bartender in NYC and I felt that the experience would inspire some great work. Instead, I failed in that pursuit. I had to compete with a lot of people with better experience.

I thought it would be a no-brainer. The state of Washington had weird laws involving hard liquor and food sales, so that many places only served beer and wine. Since I didn't have to worry about mixed drinks, I felt I could do the job.

Instead I had to settle for a job at a bakery in Ballard. It was part time, didn't pay much, but it allowed me to indulge in my new favorite past time, making and drinking mochas. The job was dull, but not bad. Still, the owner, Mark seemed to have it in for me. My primary responsibility was to make soup. He had recipes, but allowed me the freedom to improvise. At the time I didn't have the confidence to do my own thing, but I did my best. My customers praised the soup I made without knowing I made it but Mark said the people in the sister bakery stated it wasn't salty enough.

Hmmm, what could these people do to fix that problem?

Anyway, there was a last straw that led to my firing.

One Sunday, I was cleaning up after 5 (closing time) when a woman came in wanting service. I told her we were closed, it was 5:30 after all. She said the door was opened and that the sign hadn't been turned around. Of course she chose to ignore the sign that said our hours were 8-5 on Sundays but whatever.

Anyway, she complained the floors were wet. I was mopping when she walked in.

She complained about the music. The jazz we normally played was replaced by Pearl Jam.

She complained it took too long to get her latte. I had already put all the equipment in the sink.

She complained about the selection of bread left over. We didn't keep bread for a second day, so at closing the selection is limited.

She wanted to eat in and complained that all the chairs were on top of the table.

So I did my best to please her by running around to fulfill all her requests. Most people would appreciate that effort. Most people would make it a point to make the requests easy, knowing that the place was closed . The Jazz was put back on to boot.

Did she appreciate it? Oh no, don't be silly. She actually threatened me that she knew my boss Mark and that she had some influence.

A few days later I go fired. And when I heard the list of the reasons why I go fired, most of them involved this one incident.

So now once again I stressed on trying to get another job. It would take a few more months and a move to the suburb town of Federal Way, WA.

Before I moved down to Federal Way, I sent out another set of Pipe Dream strips. I was more vague in where the gang lived for the most part.

I was trying to create a fictional city, so it could be an "everyman" strip. The boots were made smaller and Bucky was more refined as a short-haired character. I was starting to get away from dialogue heavy four or more panel strips, mainly because the average comic strip is printed so small that it would not be seen properly. I widened the lettering and improved the word balloons.

Looking back, I see I was still trying to keep a sense of continuity with the previous entries and also my pop culture references were a little less dated but I needed to focus more on character development. Other than Skat's dad, I didn't succeed.

I was cribbing from previous sets of strips, trying to see if I improved on my skills. I did, but I was worried that my ability to come up with funny ideas was starting to wane. I put as more thinking into Pipe Dreams as much as possible. Some times this would put a dent in my relationship with my girlfriend.

We almost broke up before I moved in with her, and when I did move to Federal Way, I was hostile to my new environment of suburban dullness and its in ability to inspire good work.

Still, she believed in me, so I worked on Pipe Dreams in my own room as much as I could take, and the fact that I had yet more rejections was starting to take its toll, especially when I was out of work. This time though I got my first rejections with a personal notes. It was by Jay Kennedy of King Features. He said my characters were too foul tempered to succeed.

King Features, the distributor of Beetle Bailey

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