As a boy from Saint Paul, Charles Schulz was brought up with a deep appreciation for the two things Minnesotans hold most dear: hard work and hockey.
The first equipped him to become the greatest artist in the history of comic strips, creating Peanuts and introducing the world to Charlie Brown, the siblings van Pelt, and the space-faring, air-combating, insurance-selling dog Snoopy. All 17,897 Peanuts strips published during its 50-year run were conceived, written, and drawn by Schulz himself. In industry talk, this is what’s known as “crazy.” Because most long-running strips, like say Garfield, end up being manufactured by a team of underlings while the strip’s creator does nothing more than take all the credit and devour pan after pan of lasagna (I’m assuming). That’s why Schulz hated Garfield.
But he loved hockey, and this second Minnesotan obsession inspired him to build an ice rink next to his Santa Rosa, CA studio.
As a boy from California, I had never seen ice outside the context of a water glass or the word “Vanilla.” But I was brought up with a deep appreciation for Peanuts. So one day in 1991, when I was ten, my parents took me to get my ice legs at Schulz’s rink. And while I only have faint recollections of the actual skating, I clearly remember what happened afterwards.
Because for all his hard work, Schulz always took the time to survey his ice empire and welcome its visitors. And that was how my parents and I ran into him on our way to the parking lot.
Unfortunately, I had no idea this was the creator of Peanuts. I just assumed he was some nice old man, and spent most of the conversation quietly thinking about Game Boys or something. But eventually Schulz turned to me and asked, “So do you like comics?”
“Yes!” I said.
“Oh? Which ones?” he asked.
To which I responded, “Garfield!”
To which he responded by turning back to my parents and bidding us all good day.
The Normal School---America's favorite, non-The New Yorker journal of literature and analysis---has a new issue out, and you might see someone familiar on the cover!
No, not the worried-looking guy, that's my old flatmate Anthony.
No, not the bear, that's Jerry the Bear. Also known as "King Diamond Claw" in his native forest tongue, and "Painbringer" to the shadow mages of the Twilight Canyons, upon whom the forest dwellers vowed revenge after the destruction of their sacred cerulean citadels in the spell blitz which ended the War of the Seven Domains. Also, Jerry's still mad because the shadow mages laughed when he got his snout stuck in that bee hive. Oh, Jerry!
No guys, it's me! It's my name! I did the cover of the most recent issue, on newsstands now. So go buy a copy!
As soon as Tom Waits entered my bookstore I assumed he was a shoplifter. Now, even if I couldn’t recognize a Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated musical genius when I see one, his impeccably distressed jeans and coiffed soul patch should have tipped me off that this guy had a more lucrative career than petty thievery.
But being an anxious, sheltered suburban boy, I couldn’t see past the tectonic features and fedora. All I saw was Wharf Thug #2 from The Eye-Gouging Angels or some other pre-code gangster film. All I saw was trouble.
I took it upon myself to track trouble through the store. But he never veered far from the art section, and its huge volumes were unlikely candidates to be snuck down someone’s pants. After 20 misdemeanorless minutes passed, I began thinking maybe this guy wasn’t a shoplifter after all.
But my anxiety still desperately felt for a foothold. I recalled among the art section’s Monets and Matiesses was The Last Day of Summer, a book of photographs featuring French beachgoers. These included a discomfiting amount of nude preteens.
His proximity to the book was fuel enough for my worry. How could I have been so blind? This guy wasn’t a shoplifter. He was a pedophile. I suddenly cared less about what he might sneak into his pants, and more about what he might sneak out.
But another 20 minutes passed, pedophilia-free, and he finally brought his purchases to the counter. I swiped his card and thought just how relieved I’d be when he left. Sure, he didn’t commit any crimes today. But I just knew he was someone to watch out for, someone with a record.
And when I glanced at the credit slip he handed back, my suspicions were confirmed. “Thomas A. Waits,” it read. He did have a record, plenty of them: Bone Machine, The Heart of Saturday Night, Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs.
“Uh, hey, you’re not THE Tom Waits, are you?” I asked my shoplifting pedophile.
“ME? Nah nah nah,” he replied, waving his hands like he was trying to wipe away his unmistakable, chain-smoking bullfrog voice that shattered the possibilities of sound for generations of music lovers.
I stood there blinking as he fulfilled my wish and left.