Last Friday, May 2nd, 2014, while driving through rainy conditions from the Florida Turnpike unto the entryway to the East-West Expressway in Orange County, I managed to hit a well known puddled area of the road and proceeded to spin across the curved over pass bumping off the concrete walls of the overpass. The car ended up more than three quarters across the overpass over the Florida Turnpike. The Sheriff’s deputy asked if I saw my life fly before my eyes. i might’ve if I wasn’t already doing all I could to get control of the spinning car. It was commented that my skill and vast amount of driving likely saved me from a far worse fate.
Best is that no other cars were involved. Plenty were around, but all safely handled their cars to avoid my careening vehicle.
The damage was in two corners of the car and I walked away a bit dazed and mighty upset. The Florida Highway Patrol officer refused to wait for Allstate to send a tow truck so we waited for him to send a tow truck. The reasoning, rightly, was that the car needed to be moved to get backed up traffic moving. However, I’m not sure if Allstate would’ve taken much more time than the other tow truck from Johnson’s Towing, based in Orange County. The FHP officer claimed he needed to give me a ticket and gave me my very first one for reckless driving, though I find that an odd finding. The officer gave me advice as to how I might get out of the ticket. All raising the question as to why he really gave it to me. He wasn’t real happy with me as I realized my car was, in essence, confiscated or impounded by the Florida Highway Patrol and a towing company – Along with all of my caricature equipment, supplies, overnight suitcase, etc. The towing company is known for being difficult involving access or retrieval of vehicles.
Well protected by an unelected bureaucracy, there seems little to be done about the confiscation of private property by contracted towing companies. One reason I learned to greatly dislike privatization by government was learning of actions by towing companies. That and my 20 years with the City of Orlando and nearly thirty years in politics.
I realized I needed to keep Swampy’s Florida through all this. So, i re-interpreted the incident in terms of Swampy and friends being involved. Came to my atention a few weeks ago that I need to better chronicle Swampy, the Swamp Ape, and his adventures in cartoon form by drawing my adventures as his. I did that this time. Not sure how I’m going to interpret my birthday yet.
The next trouble was that, accident or no accident, the show must go on. I was due to draw at, my friend, Joan Milligan’s 57th reunion of the Edgewater High School class of 1957. Due to a lot of fancy footwork involving borrowing my father’s car, I got to the event and drew the night away. The time was so close that my father had to come with me. One of the drawings from the event is above. I was surprised that I was able to draw at all. I was having a bit of dizziness at this point.
There was more show to go on in Cocoa Beach the next morning. So stayed at my father’s and headed to the next event – the Pitts Wedding – in Cocoa Beach Saturday morning. Got a chance to also collect information around the event location for future needs for Swampy’s Florida. Above is a photo from the wedding I performed.
After a night at my friend Jim Fern’s house, i had a much needed meeting with Tim Reynolds of The Knowledge Exchange about upcoming Swampy’s Florida projects. That same day was Free Comic Book Day and free Swampy’s Florida comics were distributed to Famous Faces and Funnies in Melbourne.
Headed home in my father’s car Sunday from The Knowledge Exchange meeting and discovered the problem my father’s car has. Losing water suddenly. I had to pull over a number of times to refill water into the reservoir. The first stop had a HUGE help of the fellow above, Michael Gotti. Michael happened to be bicycling by as I pulled over to figure out what to do. He helped me get water into the car and then did something I would never have done – Find a spicket on the building where I stopped and refilled the storage container with water. Can’t thank Michael enough!
Later my cousin, who works at the Florida Turnpike’s Okahumpka Rest area, also helped get water in my father’s car. By then i was pretty good with getting water in the car. 🙂
The next few days had me heading back to the tow lot to get my car out. Thankfully the car started and the Allstate agent was extremely cooperative in helping me get the car out of the lot and to Apopka to start the process of getting the car looked over and repaired. Muffler Man of Apopka, Complete Auto Repair came to the rescue – again – for the car. A thorough investigation came up with the definite need for an alignment. The trouble with doing that was that other work, exacerbated by the accident, had to be done first.
Finally got my car back Wednesday and was able to head home. But I took the backroads. I prefer those anyway. Even more after the week’s ordeal.
Our USO National Cartoonist tour continued from Tampa to Jacksonville in a very fancy bus provided by the USO. Gave a chance for done members to get a bit if rest. We stopped in Ocala for dinner in a place arranged by me. In the photo is the cartoonist gang, our USO team leader and Morrey Deen, who was a big help coordinating the spot in Ocala.
Yesterday myself and nine other cartoonists of the National Cartoonists Society were brought in from around the country by the USO to give something back to our great military service men and women and, hopefully, put some smiles on some faces.
We were taken to draw at Brooke Army Medical Center, the Center for the Intrepid and USO welcome areas. The cartoonists on the trip were Debbie Schafer, Bill Hinds, John Read, Bruce Higdon, Todd Clark, T. Lewis, Glenn McCoy, Paul Combs and Rob Harrell.
On the trips we all tend to have an occasion when something really special happens. That happened to me as Bill Hinds and I drew a Vietnam veteran named Greg who was in a wheelchair in the hallway of the V.A. hospital. Greg had a face that told of a long, tough life. His hair, at his advanced age, flowed down to his shoulders. His mustache and beard were as long.
Bill was the one really connecting with Greg as he drew a caricature. They both like hard rock music and sports. But it was me he said he had something for. I handed him the drawing and Greg asked me to follow him to his room. One he had gotten himself wheeled into the room, he carefully got down his baseball cap and proceeded to take something off it. I had to help him as he explained how his hands don’t work as well as they once did. What he insisted I have was his metal Marines emblem. He explained it was attached to his uniform while in the war from 1967 to 1971. I insisted that he pass it on to family, when it occurred to me he might not have any.
He told me to attach it to the USO baseball cap I was wearing through one of the holes at the top like he had done. I told him I would and wouldn’t remove it. I vigorously shook his hand and told him how honored I was to be selected to have the piece.
It really staggered me to receive the Marine pin. It will stay on the hat and go with me on all other USO events I am fortunate to be chosen for. A photo of the pin is below.
The comic strip, Beetle Bailey, turned 60 years old today and some cartoonists on Facebook drew their version of Beetle. Here’s mine.
I drew this at Reececliff Restaurant in Lakeland, Florida, while lunching with my friend, Jeremy Buchanon.
After the National Cartoonists Society annual meeting I found myself hanging around Philadelphia courtesy of Debbie Schafer. I pulled out the sketch book and doodled these last June 1st around Downtown Philadelphia.
We had our first Suncoast Inkslinger meeting in a few months. We gathered at Bay Coast Coffee Market in Clearwater. Below is a photo of the gathering. To the right is a sketch I made during a discussion with Ron Johnson and Jim Fern about the possibility of Ben Franklin being a mad scientist.
Wednesday morning I drew our friend Stuart. Above is a short film of some of the drawing. The battery died in the camera as it filmed. Below is Stuart and the finished art.
Sandra and I took one of the last tours, touring the architecture of Charleston. Below is the “Four Corners of Law”: Federal, Municipal, County and God’s Law. Each building holds one of the four divisions.
Here are some sketches I made as we made our way through the tour.
I’m spending a lot of time putting these together and need to cut it a bit. So please excuse me for just placing the following photos in without comment from the architectural tour in Charleston.
The next day (the 9th) I slipped over to the 1713 Powder Magazine. Please click on the links to lean more of each location.
The first tour for Tuesday was to Patriot Point. Photos below. Patriot Point is home to the U.S.S. Yorktown naval ship which is so large that inside is a naval air museum full of airplanes.
The locations honors our Medal of Honor recipients. Below is a photo of the wall of those who earned the honor.
Below our exemplary guide, Ken Goodman, helps writer Stuart Newman locate a school buddy of his who posthumously received the first Medal of Honor during WWII. The terminals are set up to look up all those honored with the Medal of Honor.
From Patriot Point we made our way to Fort Moultrie. The fort is where Seminole leader Osceola was imprisoned and then killed. More about that soon at our Genuine Florida site.
Our next tour was a movie set tour. Amongst the places we stopped is the current working set for Lifetime network’s ‘Army Wives’. Below are sketches from around the sets we visited. We got to get a very private tour just for our group that included watching scenes being shot.
Below are photos from the costuming area. Buckets of military boots and racks of military shirts.
Later that evening we were driven out to Middleton Place and had a farewell dinner with some fine entertainment from this bluegrass band. Middleton Place is a fantastic site of gardens and history.
The next morning (the 8th) was a breakfast meeting for the SATW. I went out and got a photo of one of two neon signs left in Downtown Charleston.
The first of our tours of Charleston was to The Citadel.
I loved these hand painted metal soldiers. I wish I had that kind of patience to paint such intricacy!…Well, a lot of people wish I had that kind of patience!
The second tour was to Magnolia Gardens. Below is a page of sketches made there.
Below is a few photos from Magnolia Place.
We made our way north to the annual meeting of the Society of American Travel Writers/Atlantic-Carribean Chapter in Charleston, South Carolina. Upon arriving the Chapter board hit the town and had dinner at a snazzy spot (I forget the name of). Above is a sketch of folks at the bar just beyond our table.
The next morning (the 7th) I ran outside and got photos, including the one above of a staue of the father of our country.
There was a reception for the membership. Afterward we went on a ghost tour. Photos below.
We got ourselves together for an early morning trip home. Here Jeff Mallett, Bil Hinds, Mike Ramierez and Jeff Bacon wait for the van to take us to Frankfurt airport.
On the plane I sketched Jack Davis, who sat just in front of me. His airline tickets are in his top pocket.
After landing in London, we had a looooooooooooooooong wait at the Heathrow airport. Here Bill Hinds, Bill Amend and Mike Ramierez relax and chat.
Jack Davis and Jeff Bacon share tales.
We finally got to Washington DC and stayed overnight at a nearby hotel. We exchanged good byes and a hope to gather again for another trip to entertain our troops and realize how incredible our military is and more over how lucky we are to live in the USA!
I had a ton of time before my flight. The rest of the guys were gone and I was told that going into Washington DC itself might have me missing the plane. Soooo, I went to a mall….and I found the Easter Bunny!