Wednesday, December 21, 2022

And In The End...

By the time this gets published, I'll will have celebrated my 50th birthday, and completed my goal of spending my 50th year telling my story, and the story of Furble.

Over the past year, those that have followed along have experienced my thoughts and feelings about things as diverse as video games, bullying, historic weather patterns, and why an 8th grade nerd thought it was possible to get his comic strip published in a local newspaper on a weekly basis. I thank everyone for sticking around for my mostly-weekly rants, barring medical conditions and various other issues. And, now I suppose you want to read, as Paul Harvey would put it, the rest of the story...

The summer of 1990, after I had finished my junior year in Kiester at South Central, we prepared to move from Minnesota to Blair, NE. It's never easy moving, especially after you've spent a significant time in a location, and have acquired a large amount of, well, stuff. But, we were facing the prospect of moving from a rather spacious farm house to a 2-bedroom apartment in married student housing on the Dana College campus. So, while there was a bit of downsizing prior to the move, there was a much larger amount of deciding what actually needed to be in the apartment, and what would go to a storage facility for the time being. 

So we loaded up the truck, and we moved to Blair, NE.

I don't know how many of you have ever experienced a move from a rural area to an urban location, but let me tell you, when people talk about culture shock, they are not kidding. Don't get me wrong, I was very familiar with large cities, much larger than Blair. We spent a fair amount of time in Albert Lea (around 60k people), and my Uncle Bob's family lived in the Twin Cities. Blair clocked in at around 8000 people at the time we were there, which, while being significantly smaller than the large cities I had spent time in, was significantly larger than the 650-ish people living in Kiester where I spent the bulk of my time growing up. My graduating class in Blair was around 140 people. The entire school in Kiester (before we combined with area schools) was just over 250. This was going to be a time of adjustment, for the entire family.

While dad was starting back at college after nearly 2 decades away, and my mom was starting a new position at the college library, my brothers and I were embarking on our first days at a new school system. Since I was only going to be spending my senior year here, I wasn't sure how involved I wanted to become. Did I just want to get the classes out of the way and graduate, or did I want to immerse myself in the opportunities that this new start could offer?

I'll preface this with a bit of family history. Besides my parents going to Dana College in the 70s, our family had other connections to the community. My Uncle Bob, after graduating from seminary, took a call in Blair at First Lutheran Church, and was there during the late 60s and early 70s. With less than 20 years removed from when he had left the community, there were a significant number of people that remembered him (my uncle has always left an indelible impression wherever he went). So, when I started school at Blair, there were some expectations floating around that I wasn't aware of. 

When I registered for classes, I hadn't decided whether or not I wanted to get involved with the music program for a single year, so didn't sign up for choir or band. At some point during the first week of school, I was sitting in typing class, when an elderly gentleman came in. He whispered something to the typing teacher, and they motioned me into the hallway. The gentleman was Mr. Carlson, the vocal instructor and choir director at Blair. He explained that he knew my uncle (he was also the choir director at First Lutheran) and knew through my uncle that I had musical talent. He asked why I hadn't signed up for choir, and I explained that I didn't know if I wanted to. Mr. Carlson convinced me to get involved with the music department, and that decision set me up for success at Blair.

It was through choir that I met most of the people that I would become friends with. It was through choir that I met my first serious girlfriend. Involvement in the music department dovetailed into involvement in the drama department with the fall musical. And my choir involvement allowed me to finally participate in All-State Chorus.

Another music-related opportunity that I was able to participate in while at Blair was the musical production at Dana College. Often, the college theatre department would invite students from the high school to audition for the musical that they produced each year on campus. During my year at Blair, they did Jesus Christ Superstar, and a few of us from the music department got cast. I was one of the high priests at the beginning of the show, and then a crowd member/chorus member for the rest of the show. It was an unforgettable experience, not only because we got to work with a director who had directed shows on Broadway, but because we were able to work in an atmosphere that was a level above high school. Truly eye opening. And I made friends that not only became classmates when I went to Dana after graduation, but that I am still friends with to this day.

With the method in which educational credits transferred to Blair, I could have graduated at the semester mark and taken a semester off before starting college. But choir, and the friends I had made because of it, informed my decision to stay for the entire year.

One year of high school in Blair was better than the entirety of my schooling in Kiester. I wasn't once bullied. I had many friends. And I excelled, both academically and creatively. It was, quite literally, the best thing that could have possibly happened to me at that point in my life. And it helped to prepare me for life after high school.

From there, I went on to Dana College. My dad was there for the first two years of my college career, and we became the first father and son to attend the college at the same time in its history, which was pretty cool.

After college, unsure of what I wanted to be when I grew up, I came to Dubuque (where my parents were at the time) to reset and work on the rest of my story. I got a job working with computers at a local prepress publishing company, where I would eventually meet my wife, Emily.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

My life has been a series of stories that make up the person that I am today, the good and the bad. Would I change things? I can't say that it isn't tempting, if I had the power, to make things a little better or a little easier. But, it is all a part of me, and on the whole I think I'm a pretty okay person. There's something to be said for that. And maybe someone can read my story and realize that it does get better. Maybe not perfect, but better. With the right people around you supporting you, better is hope.

"And, in the end. The love you take is equal to the love you make." ― Paul McCartney

Strip 166/166 - The final strip

Here's the final Furble strip ever printed. I haven't attempted to work out the calendar math on it, but it would have been published sometime during the beginning of the summer of 1990.

It looks like we're continuing with our spinoff, but they Furble wakes up. And it was all a dream!

It may sound like some sort of cop-out, but it is a direct reference to the end of the 80s sitcom Newhart, staring comedy legend Bob Newhart. He had originally starred in a different sitcom in the 70s, The Bob Newhart Show, as a different character with a different premise. The final episode of Newhart had Bob waking up as his character from the 70s show, next to his wife from that show, Suzanne Pleshette, realizing that the entirety of the 80s show had been an extensive dream. It was a great way to end the show, and a fun call-back to the earlier show and character.

So I decided to do something similar for Furble's final strip. The entire comic strip had been one long dream, and now FC is in for months and months of endless stories about this dream from his friend. Sorry about that.

When I started this blog, I began toying with the idea of creating new Furble content, using modern tools. I came up with a couple of new comic panes. I've included them below for your viewing pleasure. I may continue with them, I haven't yet decided.

I took more of a web comic approach to the style of layout, not having to be constrained by the layout of a newspaper. I also tweaked FC's personality, making him a bit sardonic, much like Rizzo the Rat from the Muppets. Just because I really like Rizzo.

When I got around to doing a second comic, I realized that I still wanted our duo to be tiny aliens in a human-sized world. But from the scale of the tree in the first comic, that clearly wasn't the case. So, instead of redoing the drawing of the first comic, I decided to come up with a more creative solution to the problem. Thus, an accidental shrinking.

Well, that's about it for this project. I want to thank everyone that made it all the way to the end with me. There is no one more surprised with the fact that I made it this far than me. I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings, and will take whatever lessons there are within to heart. Not sure what I'll do with this going forward, but what is here will remain as long as possible for posterity. 

This is Marcus, signing off. Good night, and good luck.

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