Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Love LA

My wife and I decided to move back home to LA (after 14 years in the SF Bay Area), and then just a few weeks before we drove all our worldly belongings down the I-5 in a rented Penske truck, the LA Times canceled Candorville. We got a great apartment overlooking Griffith Park, and then just days before we move in, Griffith Park burned down. I was beginning to sense a pattern.

But as my Grandfather always says, "it's important to have faith. Everything works out in the end. And why isn't my cable TV working?"

In any case, as I was pedaling along the Santa Ana River yesterday, losing myself in the lazy dips and rises of the bike path and the warm desert breeze, thinking about faith, I realized one thing: I didn't know where the hell I was. So naturally, I kept going. This is the Southland, after all, I was sure to run into something that'd be familiar: a Carl's Jr., a Honda dealership, a mugger -- Something. Faith. Then it caught my eye...

A big halo fifty feet in the sky, and the familiar International Orange-colored "A" holding it up. Angel Stadium was just ahead, like a big, dilapidated anchor on the horizon. I crossed over the freeway overpass and looped down to the other side of the river-bank, and headed straight for the big A.

I'd been riding for nearly two hours, and as I sat under a tree next to the A, I began to relax. I began to think. I thought about how the last time I'd seen the Big Red A in person, I couldn't have been more than seven or eight. We'd driven down to catch an Angels game, and managed to lose our car. My dad, my brother and I wandered around the huge parking lot in the middle of the freezing night with no jackets, no light, and - for me at least - no hope. Hours later, when all the other cars had left, we saw ours, parked right under the Big A. I thought about how important it is to believe everything's going to work out, because it usually does unless you sabotage it yourself with doubt and anxiety (And if not, it just wasn't meant to be). I thought about how someday Griffith Park would be just as beautiful as it was three days earlier, when I'd hiked from Fern Dell Road to the observatory. I thought about how it's not a good idea to sit on a nest filled with red ants.

After shaking my clothes out and shrieking like a little girl, I crossed the river and headed for a restaurant I'd spotted earlier. Acapulco, by Century Theaters in the City of Orange. I ordered my shrimp enchilada and then checked my e-mail on my phone. There was a message from Sherry Stern the LA Times' Deputy Features Editor. The header read "Good news!" After nearly choking on my chip con guacamole, I closed the phone. I opened it again, fully expecting the message to have disappeared - it had to be a hallucination brought on by the Anaheim sun. It was still there. I closed the phone again and looked at it to make sure it was mine. I opened it again, expecting the message header to read "Just kidding." But it didn't. The LA Times had reconsidered its decision to cancel Candorville, she said. Candorville would return on Monday, with Sunday strips to return on or after June 3.

I resisted the urge to hug the waiter as he delivered my beans and enchiladas.

Someone else at the Times told me a couple weeks ago that the response from readers had been tremendous. Hundreds - maybe billions (but probably closer to hundreds) - of readers wrote in, called, and voiced their opinion about the cancelation. I'm sure that made all the difference. "Thank you" isn't enough, but then I know it wasn't for me. People didn't want Darrin Bell back, they wanted to continue to hear a young, dissenting voice in their newspaper - something Candorville provides with annoying regularity.

Score one for patriotic dissent, zero for the corporate media's dastardly plan to silence alternative viewpoints. Well, I guess that would be score 289,975 for the corporate media, and one for patriotic dissent, but you get my meaning.

As I waited at Acapulco for my wife to pick me up with the bike rack, sipping my Sierra Mist and downing a forkfull of sautee'd vegetables, I thought about faith. I thought about how hard it was to leave the SF Bay Area, the friends and the life we'd made up there. I thought about LA, the city where I was born and raised, and about how the city seems to have welcomed us back home. And I knew everything was going to work out in the end. Then I checked my socks for red ants, just in case.

19 comments:

Tiffany said...

Congratulations!!! I'm so happy for LA (and you)!

Anne said...

Go Lemont! and hey, as a formerly outraged ex-Angelino, now happily content to know LA can still get its candor on, where's my autographed you know what?

Melissa said...

Congratulations! Denny's is hiring! (I especially loved the part about ME!!!)

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Keep it up!

-Fan who still lives in the bay

texanesone said...

Ah, congratulations! On the new home, being back in the LA Times and on having faith in faith.

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I cried (and I don't do that too often)when I read your e-mail this morning, because I know what you went through to get where you are. Most people probably don't know that years ago you faxed one of your cartoons to the L.A. Times every day, for one year, before you got a response. I would have given up after 2 or 3 days. They probably don't know that you began drawing Lemont and your cartoons when you were a teen-ager, and that now you are 32. Welcome back to Los Angeles, and I hope to see you soon. I have always been so proud of you!!!! Your father.........

Anonymous said...

YOU'RE BACK!!! Yippee!! Whoo-hoo!!!
(can you sense my excitement?) I was completely shocked when I saw the strip this morning. Back when you were hoping to get your strip into the Sunday comics, I wrote the Times an e-mail an actually heard back. When they cancelled the strip, I wrote them...and didn't hear anything. As time passed, I figured it was a lost cause. But the masses were heard! I'm so excited to have my Candorville back! Congratulations, Darrin!!

Hugo Estrada said...

I am so glad that you are back on the LA Times. Congratulations! :)

Morgan said...

Congratulations! We're very glad to have you back. The comics section wasn't the same without you.

motherseer said...

I'm sure it was my brilliantly written incisive defense, and incredulous query as to what exactly they KEPT if they ditched you, that got you back in. No need to thank me. Seeing the best new strip around back in the Times is my reward. GO DARRIN!!

Anonymous said...

dear darrin-

i was pleasantly surprised to open the LA times comic section this morning and see Candorville starring back at me.

i was one of the "hundreds" (i am guessing that it was probably many thousands) who wrote to the LA times on behalf of Candorville. i was shocked to read it had been canceled in the first place. especially since they kept a lot of strips that (in my opinion) were much inferior and that definitely had less social relevance. when i wrote to protest, i was hopeful they might change their mind since they did a quick turnaround on LA cucaracha (also a favorite). i wrote to them about Candorville on march 26th and never heard back. i had almost lost hope.

i really hate to write. in fact, i have an ongoing argument with a coworker about the effectiveness of letter writing (i had been taking the "it's a waste of time" position). but in your case, i took her advice, and probably for the first time ever (outside of calling the white house about the pitiful Katrina response), took the time to complain. which i guess just shows how much i missed reading your strip. (especially since this is my second letter about it). it is insightful, witty, fearless and most of all HOPEFUL.


in your blog you stated...

“People didn't want Darrin Bell back, they wanted to continue to hear a young, dissenting voice in their newspaper - something Candorville provides with annoying regularity.”

i have to disagree, while it is very true that i like hearing a young dissenting voice in my newspaper, i have to believe that the creator of such an uplifting strip must be a pretty decent human being. and that good guy got what he deserved today. yes i am happy your strip is back. but i am even more happy that you are back.

congratulations on your return to the times! keep up the great work!

best regards from your target audience,

a forty-six year old white guy in alhambra.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad the strip is back! I missed it, and now I can't wait to see what you'll say about the death of Jerry Falwell. We need you! Dios mio! Sandy in LA

Mike said...

Congrats, man! Happy to see it back. We've been covering the disappearance and re-emergence over at Franklin Avenue.

dB said...

Congratulations! I was also one of the people who complained and got a form letter back.

I was pleasantly surprised to see it back in the the TIMES, but now I have no idea what the hell is going on since I've missed two months worth of strips!

Brent Hartinger said...

I enjoyed the AfterElton interview. I knew I would like you from your comic, but now I KNOW I'd like you... ;-)

Rich said...

Congratulations! I'm still periodically writing to the Chicago Tribune. But it's good to know there's at least one paper left in the country that listens to its readers.

Darrin Bell said...

Thanks, everyone!

Anonymous said...

"Alternative viewpoint"??? In LA??? Give me a break. There's nothing alternative about your viewpoint.

But congratulations, anyway.

Carson F. said...

"Anonymous," I think "alternative" refers to the Media, not the city. I remember when the LA Times was beating that war drum along with the rest of the media, and Candorville & Robert Scheer (who the Times fired) were the ONLY ones in the Times saying the opposite.

Nice to have you back!