Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal,April 24, 2006
I’m good at hiding things, but I’m lousy at finding them. Kinda weird. Intuitively, one would think that I would be able to use the same brain functions for, say, hiding Easter eggs for actually finding the Easter eggs. You know, just reverse the process. But no. It doesn’t seem to work that way.
Growing up, my Dad used to say that I couldn’t find my own ass if it wasn’t attached. Actually, I was so skinny that — attached or not — I had a difficult time locating it. I can clearly remember one time being sent to the garage to get a broom. Couldn’t find it. Got sent back. Couldn’t find it. Got sent back a third time. Couldn’t find it. So my Mom, in total exasperation, marches past me, reaches her arm from the kitchen into the garage, and plucks the broom off the wall bracket. You know, one of those brackets for brooms and mops. I never thought of looking there.
My Dad would try to help me. If I had to fetch something from the basement, he’d give me a landmark. “Do you know where the washing machine is?” “Um… yeah.” “Right. Start there and….” He’d try the same thing on my brother, but my brother would be insulted. “Yes, Dad! I know where the washing machine is!!!” I recognized that my father was being sarcastic, but I wasn’t going to turn down a good clue.
Anyway, this odd dichotomy turns out to be useful for editorial cartooning. I’m good at loading up a comic with hidden messages and inside jokes, but then I also recognize how difficult it can be for me to find those sorts of things, so I’m typically able to balance the two. And the best editorial cartoons, I think, are the ones where you give readers enough to get to a point where they can figure out the rest on their own.
Of course, you still have to know the back-story and, briefly, this is it: Downtown Grand Rapids will soon be home to the Michigan State Medical School, which is something like landing a GM assembly plant 40 years ago — lots of jobs, lots of growth. In the meantime, there is another potentially huge downtown project (known to this point as the “Mystery Project”). But this is many, many years away. And so, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Which is especially true for me because I would never think to look outdoors for birds, let alone in the bush….