Jim Strouse is from Goshen, Indiana. Howard Hawks was also from Goshen, Indiana. Jim Strouse does not think he’s as good as Howard Hawks nor ever will be. He just thought it was an interesting coincidence. His film People Places Things is currently available on Amazon Prime. And The Incredible Jessica James is on Netflix. You can find his cartoons @jimdrewthis on Insta and/or jimstrouse.com.
Hey! How are you? Cry today? It’s OK. The fear and sadness is so intense in all of us right now. And there’s nowhere to go to escape it. But maybe that’s not totally a bad thing? Maybe this is an opportunity to really feel our feelings and face some things we’ve been avoiding until now. I guess when I say “we,” what I really mean is “me.” Obviously, I don’t know you at all. But I feel like this pandemic has united us as people like never before, right? Goodbye, FOMO. For once, we all know what everyone is up to. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have. Each and every one of us is stuck inside, thinking about life and death. (Although some have much nicer houses than others.) My emotions have been all over the place since this whole thing started. I’ve noticed the good days are usually immediately followed by a crash of some sort. What helps me maintain a little bit of equilibrium is cooking for my kids, talking and texting with friends and family, long runs around Red Hook, and drawing cartoons.
I used to draw cartoons all the time when I was a kid. Don’t ask me why. I wasn’t particularly good at it. It was just always something that made me happy. And I kept it up all the way into my twenties. I actually moved to New York City from Indiana with the unlikely dream of becoming a professional cartoonist. Instead, I became a filmmaker. How funny is that? Come here with one impossible dream and end up falling into something almost even more unlikely. But that’s the draw of this city. Or one of the draws. That sense of infinite possibility. At least I know it was for me. Yet somehow as my career took off and I made a life here, that sense of possibility slowly started to erode over time. I started doing things less for the pure enjoyment of it and more because I thought maybe it would help me get up the ladder or bring in a decent paycheck. Maybe that’s just growing up? Paychecks are important. And it’s not like I wasn’t not enjoying what I was doing. (Are triple negatives a thing?) I know not everyone has the privilege of doing work that brings them joy and creative satisfaction in the first place. And I’m the last person you’ll ever hear complain about making movies for a living. I truly love what I do and feel so grateful to be able to do it. Like, for realz. But, for whatever reason, I did stop drawing cartoons. Maybe partly because I couldn’t see how to make any money out of it. And I felt guilty wasting time on something that wasn’t going to help pay for groceries and/or rent.
But now here we are, stuck inside our little apartments (in NYC) and/or our huge summer houses (in the Hamptons, not jelly). And, for once, most of us have a surplus of time. Time to think about what really matters. And maybe focus more on things that truly make us happy. My daughter’s really gotten into baking and Tiktoking. Meanwhile, my son is creating the greatest NBA team of all time on 2K. Right now, one of my things is drawing silly cartoons and posting them on Instagram for my dedicated band of 91 followers (hey, cousin Doug!). And, for whatever reason, these little drawings are really helping me get through the day. In a weird way, I feel like I’ve returned to the exact same place I started back when I moved to New York 20 years ago. Just doodling stuff to make friends laugh. I’m even still listening to same music (Pavement, much to my children’s displeasure). And just like that 20-year-old kid that moved to New York with a camping mat and can of Dinty Moore beef stew (no joke), I have know idea what the future holds. Are movies even still going to be a thing after this? What does “after this” even really mean? Who the hell knows? The only thing I do know is, I miss you guys. And I can’t wait to be out of quarantine so we can ignore each other in public again like proper New Yorkers.
Until then, I hope you all are finding your own things, whatever they are, to make it through your days. And if, like me, it’s something that maybe you had lost touch with prior to the pandemic, I hope you find a way to keep hold of it after we finally do return to the streets. I think if this moment has taught me anything, it’s what a short and precarious ride life really is (duh!). We’ve really got to do all we can to help each other (even when that means doing nothing). Beyond that, I think we should just try to enjoy ourselves as much as possible. Don’t you?
P.S. I’m selling limited-edition T-shirts, “Dick Pics” (see below), on Bonfire. All proceeds go directly to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. Buy a shirt and help the cause: https://www.bonfire.com/dick-pics-t-shirt/
Picture of Jim Strouse by Grover Strouse.