Sunday, November 4, 2012

Let's all wallow in my mediocrity, shall we?

A more-or-less typical episode of Trolleytown Frolics

The Toonerville Trolley
In yesterday's post about my fear of mediocrity, I mentioned that for a while in the mid-2000s, I drew a crude homemade comic strip called Trolleytown Frolics. Going through the images on my computer, I managed to find at least one strip that I'd bothered to scan. It's pretty representative of what Trolleytown was like. If you're wondering about the name, by the way, it came from my interest in comic strips of the past. There was a famous one called Toonerville Folks by Fontaine Fox which ran from 1908 to 1955, and it featured a vehicle called the Toonerville Trolley. The "frolics" part also comes from old movies and cartoons. The IMDb has listings for Frisky Frolics (1932), Frozen Frolics (1933), Barnyard Frolics (1917), Vitaphone Frolics (1937), and many others. It seems like a lot of these titles are from the 1930s, and at the time I was sort of "into" '30s culture. I still like the music of that era very much.

This particular Trolleytown Frolics features the luckless antihero, Thirsty Lad (my cartoon avatar), locked in a debate with a disembodied narrator. Don't judge the artwork too harshly. I can draw better than this, but it was scribbled in a tiny notebook while riding a commuter train. The handwriting can be tough to read, so here's a transcription:
NARRATOR: How ya doin', Thirsty?
THIRSTY: Me? Swell! Perfect!

NARRATOR: Perfect? 
THIRSTY: Well, uh, maybe not "perfect" exactly, but...

NARRATOR: So what's wrong? 
THIRSTY: Nothing's wrong!

NARRATOR: If nothing were wrong, you'd be perfect!

THIRSTY: Then I guess I am perfect! La-di-da! I'm perfect!

NARRATOR: You seem upset. I'll go.

THIRSTY: I am not upset! Please stay so that we can continue this delightful chat!

NARRATOR: Yeah. I'm gonna go now.

THIRSTY: seriously i'm fine... great, in fact.


As you can see, I had a panel left over, so I filled it with "Random Evil Guys." This would have been written on the way home from work on an average weekday, so you gain some idea of my mindset in that situation. In this scenario, both the Narrator and Thirsty are manifestations of me. So now you have an even better idea of how my mind works. You can also see how influenced I was by the psychodrama of the '90s Nickelodeon cartoon The Ren & Stimpy Show. Thirsty's pose in the fourth panel is taken directly from an R&S episode called "Space Madness."

A comparison: Stimpy in "Space Madness" vs. Thirsty in Trolleytown Frolics

I cannot let this topic of mediocrity pass without linking to a great skit from Mr. Show with Bob and David, a parody of Amadeus set in turn-of-the-century America and centered around marching band music.  You're not meant to identify with David Cross' character, frustrated would-be march composer Salini, but I do anyway. And then there's Jay Johnston's legitimately disturbing "Mediocrity" character. I'm so glad my specter of adequacy looks like the cartoon character Gossamer and not this ghoulish monstrosity. Both Bob and David are great in this sketch. The emotional burden here is on David, but Bob gives such great, off-kilter line readings to dialogue like: "For I have work to do!" As a former marching band member myself, I love the way he wears the hat everywhere and chews on the chinstrap occasionally.

HEALTH NEWS 'N' NOTES: Still feeling fine. The demonic-possession-like fear I once experienced has been replaced with just plain old ordinary "jitters." The appetite continues to improve, though the libido remains dormant. I realize now that my exercise routine revolves around walking, which takes place outdoors. That's going to be a problem as the temperatures drop. I'll have to find another solution. True story: during my last full year as a teacher, I lived in a very small, isolated town in an apartment which was actually part of a roadside motel. The place was tiny, as you might guess, but the rent was so cheap! But best of all, I had access to the motel's indoor swimming pool and spent hours swimming laps. I mean, I'm no Mark Spitz, but I got pretty good... for me. When I left my job at that high school, I stayed on in the motel for a few more months while I planned my next move and used the pool more than ever. My current apartment complex had a pool, a rather nasty outdoor one which was home to ducks and geese, but the owners filled it in several years ago. Today, you'd never know there was a pool there except for the lonely changing room which still stands as a sad monument to its former existence. Anyway, I realize how important exercise is to maintaining good emotional health, so I'll have to figure something else out. So far, though, the meds are robbing me of my ambition. (Damn. That's a paraphrase of something Samuel L. Jackson said in Jackie Brown. Can't I get away from pop culture references? I read books. Honestly, I do.)

My horror
Speaking of which, I somehow got into a position in which my MD appointment and therapist appointment were scheduled for the same day. Now there are going to be phone calls and me writing down numbers on pieces of paper while I sort this out. Meanwhile, I've neglected to schedule a dental checkup or an oil change for an embarrassingly long time. How I wish I had someone who'd sort out all these practicalities for me so that I could just focus on getting better. My MD's office is in someplace called "Elgin," which I've heard of but have never visited. If I were to list my Top 5 phobias, "driving to someplace new" would be right up there, perhaps #1. I hate driving. I hate cars. I hate the whole thing. I didn't choose this doctor, by the way. He was assigned to me in the behavioral health center, and I said something pithy and intelligent like, "Duhhhhh, okay." I don't want to cancel this appointment, though, because there are some side effects which I want to address ASAP. The libido thing is becoming a problem, especially. I want to be a lustful, chauvinist, patriarchal pig again. Kidding, of course. But I do want to be interested again.

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