Today, this guy is my hero.
Not only is Lar de Souza a brilliantly talented artist and cartoonist, not only is he one of the brightest, kindest personalities in my Twitter feed, not only does he have one of the most epic beards on the planet and wicked cool vintage glasses, but this guy has traveled from Canada to Kennedy this week for a NASA tweetup and a chance to see the final flight of the shuttle.
Had you asked me in middle school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you I’d like to be a cartoonist, but I’d definitely be working at NASA. You know how overachieving kids have the unreasonable dream and the more realistic yet lofty goal.
Funny how things work out.
Challenger blew up four days before I was born. I grew up in a southern Houston suburb, surrounded by NASA employees during the brave post-Challenger years when the American space program stared death in the face and then dared to keep moving on. A childhood of reading Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein put crazy ideas in my head, and then regular school and scout trips to the Johnson Space Center told me that no, those weren’t that crazy at all. I wanted the moon and the stars, and I had plans to get there. I was going to college to become an engineer, and I’d be helping to build the next shuttle (which, at the time, was already being planned – sort of) as part of NASA’s ginormous brain trust.
Then in 2003, two things happened to bring all of that to a screeching halt: Columbia and Calculus 2. On the morning of my seventeenth birthday, breakfast was interrupted by shocking news footage of the future of American manned space flight silently burning over north Texas. NASA all but shut down until further notice.
Columbia was the last straw. After a series of embarrassing mishaps brought about by an agency trying to run too fast on too little funding, people had died – again. The true end of the shuttle program was finally visible. The plans for the International Space Station were scaled back. The designs for the shuttle’s successor were scrapped. Higher-ups were canned. A lot of my neighbors lost their jobs.
I no longer saw a viable future for myself in the space program.
The same year, I barely passed Calculus 2, and chickened out on my plans to be an engineer. That kind of math was *hard* and really, why did I need that much pain and suffering? What was the point of engineering school now, without my bright shiny future at NASA?
Today the final shuttle mission has launched with absolutely no concrete plans for what is to follow. NASA has general ideas about how America will be launching humans into space in the back half of the decade, but today’s launch is the last until further notice.
In short, I’m feeling pretty jaded.
I share all this not to be a “Debbie Downer” on this auspicious occasion, but to make you understand how emotionally invested I am in this final flight, and to show just how much it means to me that Lar de Souza has been showering the internet with kid-in-a-candy-shop tweets from Cape Canaveral for the last two days.
Here I’ve been getting all weepy and philosophical about this final flight, and he’s been geeking out, unperturbed by threatening weather, thrilled to the point of incoherency just to be there, to see a launch.
He’s taking me back to hopeful, starry-eyed, fifteen-year-old me, and making this experience more sweet than bitter. And for that, I love him more than I can possibly say.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
So, in regard to the odd comic… hilarious story this week!
After the fantastically annoying down-the-street move a month ago, I finally managed to score a new day job in Austin, so I’m moving again.
My first day was Monday. The actual move is happening Sunday. I spent last week meticulously planning out how to survive one week with as little junk as possible. I cleverly planned ahead and drew and scanned comics for the next two weeks – the hat strip for May 14 and a special birthday comic for my niece for the 28th – and left the scanner in San Antonio.
About two days ago, I realized that I left out a whole week, and generally fail at reading the calendar.
I am pleased to announce that my camera and some surprisingly simple photo editing has produced the perfectly-legible-and-not-too-spotty image you see above.
Now for the content of said comic-
For those of you outside of Texas, we’ve been experiencing a state-wide drought for several months now. At one point last month, even the coastal counties were under burn bans. Wildflower season was a total dud. Until last week, San Antonio had not seen more than an inch of rain in any one go since January 6.
Add to this that the vast majority of the Central Texas water supply is drawn from aquifers that are filled by rain water and, well, you have a worrisome situation, and a whole bunch of people who really, really want it to rain.
Then last week we all woke up one morning to dire warnings of tornadoes and hail and… rain.
And there was much rejoicing.
I finished Saturday’s comic. I will finish the jacket tomorrow if it kills me.
Roommie can’t procrastinate forever.
The weekend was a smashing success. I got up to Austin early enough for a lottery improv show where the boy’s name was drawn from the hat to go be foolish on stage. Class went well on Saturday and we had our student showcase on Sunday.
It’s been a very long time since I did any sort of performing in front of people, and longer still since I performed without an instrument to hide behind. Somewhere around high school graduation I developed a truly unhealthy stage fright habit (this after 10-plus years of music and theater performing with nerves of steel – what gives?), and that definitely returned on Sunday, but somewhere within the first thirty seconds on stage it just totally disappeared and we had a grand old time. Between the comfortable chemistry the class has built up over the last few months, and the instructor blatantly screwing with us as he directed the show, I guess I just forgot to be nervous.
My immune system was kind enough to wait until all of that was done before it mutinied. Tonight, I am doing battle with seasonal allergies with a piping hot pot of chicken soup, a piping hotter pot of tea (with a bit more lemon juice than I intended to add), and…
a healthy dose of charcoal dust thanks to my sudden urge to make messy doodles:
Well, I tried to help myself, anyway. There are only so many creative endeavors one can pursue in near-dark while avoiding the glaring light of a computer screen and -err- lights.
As a side note, working through the early Beatles albums will do surprisingly strange things to the brain while grasping for doodle ideas.
Freehand copy of my favorite photo of my brand new niece.
I am generally very bad with shadows, so the very-still life of the photo helped. The blanket especially took me back to the draped fabric we did in charcoal in Drawing I (as in my one and only drawing class). I was really starting to miss the charcoal by the time I finished the blanket. That “additive” process was much more forgiving than ink. I did, however, appreciate the cleanliness of the ink.