Now where could my pipe be?? Gaaarrrfieeeld! When I was 18, 18 years old, I saw for the first time in my life, I saw a vision of clarity I saw a comic strip, a 3-panel comic strip, that though simple as it seemed, changed me, changed my being, changed who I am, made me who I am… Enlightened me. The strip, Garfield. The comic strip was new, no more than maybe a month in a half since inception since, since coming into existence. And there it was before me in print, I saw it, a comic strip… What was it called? Garfield. The story here is of a man, a plain man, He is Jon, but he is more than that. I will get to this later, but first let’s just say he is Jon, a plain man. And then there is a cat Garfield This is the nature of the world here. When I see the world Th- the politics, the future, the… Th -the satellites in space, and the people who put them there… You could look at everything as a man and a cat… Two beings in harmony, and at war. So this strip I saw about this man, Jon, and the cat, Garfield, you see? Yes, hmm… It… it is about everything. This little comic is… oh… Lo’ and behold, not so little anymore. So yes, when I was 18… I saw this comic and It hit me all at once, it’s power. I clipped it and everyday I looked at it and I said, “Okay…” “Let me look at this here” “What is this doing to me? Why is this so powerful?” Jon Arbuckle he sits here, legs crossed… …comfortable in his home, and he reads his newspaper. The news of the World, perhaps. And then he extends his fingers. Lightly, delicately. He taps his fingers on an end table, and feels for something. What is it? It is something he needs…. …but it is not there. And then he looks up, slightly cockeyed, and he thinks… …his Newspaper is in his lap now, and he thinks this: Now where could my pipe be? This…. …I always come to this, because I was a young man. I’m older now. And I still don’t have the secrets, the answers, so this question… still rings true, Jon looks up and he thinks. Now where could my pipe be? And then it happens, you see it, you see… It’s almost like divine intervention: Suddenly… it is there. And it overpowers you! A cat is smoking a pipe! It is the man’s pipe – It’s Jon’s pipe – but the cat This cat Garfield is smoking the pipe. And from afar, and someplace near, but Not clear, near but not clear. The man calls out. Jon calls out, and he is shocked, “GARFIELD!!” He shouts.. Garfield. The cat’s name. But, let’s take a step back. Let us examine this from all sides, all perspectives. And when I first came across this comic strip. I was at my father’s house The newspaper had arrived, and I picked it up for him. And brought it inside. I organized his sections for him, and then, yes… The comic strip section fell out from somewhere in the middle. Landed on the kitchen floor. I picked up the paper pages, and saw.. Up, somewhere, near the top of this strip And just like Jon, I, too was wearing an aqua-marine shirt. So I thought, “Ah, interesting.” “I’ll have to see to this later.” I snipped out the little comic, and held onto it. And five days later, I reexamined. And it gripped me. I needed to find out more about this. The information I had was minimal. But enough. An orange cat named Garfield. Okay.. That seemed to be the lynch-pin of this whole operation. Yes. Another clue, a signature in the bottom right corner. A man’s name “Jim Davis” Yes. I’m onto it for sure. So: 1) Garfield, orange cat. And, 2) Jim Davis, the creator of this cat, And that curiously plain man. I did not know at the time that his name was Jon. The strip, you see, had no mention of this man’s name, and I’d never seen it before. But I had these clues: Jim Davis, Garfield And then I saw more. I spotted the tiny copyright mark in the upper left-hand corner. ©1928 to… What is this? Copyright belongs to a… “PAWS, Incorporated.” I used the local library, and mail services, To track down the information I was looking for. Jim Davis, a cartoonist, had created a comic strip, about a cat, Garfield. And a man, Jon Arbuckle. Well, from that point on, I made sure I read the Garfield comic strips. But as I read each one, as each day passed. The strips seemed to resonate with me less and less. I sent letters to “PAWS, Incorporated” Long letter, pages upon pages. Asking if Mr. Jim Davis could, somehow, publish just the one comic, over and over again. “It would be meditative” I wrote, “The strength of that.” Could you imagine? But… No response. The strips lost their power. And, eventually, I stopped reading, but… I did not want my perceptions diluted so I vowed to read “The Pipe Strip” over and over again. That is what I called it, “The Pipe Strip” “The Pipe Strip” Everything about it is perfect. I can only describe it as a miracle creation Something came together. The elements aligned, it was like the comets. The cosmic orchestra, that is up there, over your head. The immense, enormous void, is working all for one thing, to tell you one thing. Gas, and rock, and purity, are nothing. I will say this. When I see “The Pipe Strip” And I mean every sing time I look at the lines. The colors, the shapes that make up the 3 panel comic. I see perfection Do I find perfection in many things? Some things, I would say, some things are perfect. And this is one of them. I can look at the little tuft on Jon Arbuckle’s head. It is the perfect shade. The purple pipe in Garfield’s mouth.. How could, a mere mortal, even make this? I have a theory about Jim Davis. After copious research, and yes of course now we have the internet, and this information is all readily available, but Jim Davis, he used his life experiences To influence his comic. And like I mentioned before: None of them seemed to have the weight of “The Pipe Strip” But you have to wonder about the man who is able to, even just once, the perfect form, A literally flawless execution of art. Brilliance just isn’t a word I think there’s a spiritual element at work I’ve seen my share of bad times. And when you have something, well it’s just emotions and neurons in your brain, but something tells you that it’s the truth. Truth’s radiant light. Garfield the cat? Neurons in my brain, it’s harmony You see? Jon and Garfield It’s truly harmony, like a continuous, looping, everlasting harmony. The lavender chair, the brown end table, the salmon colored walls, the floor’s green carpet, and Garfield is hunched, perched, perhaps with a pipe Stuck firmly in between his jowls. His tail curls around. It’s more than shapes, too, because I… Okay, stay with me… I’ve done this experiment several times. You take the strip You trace only the basic elements. You can do anything, you can simplify the shapes down to just… blobs, just outlines, but it still makes sense. You can replace the blobs with magazine cutouts of other things Replace Jon Arbuckle with a car parked in A driveway, sideways. Cut that out of a magazine, stick it in. replace him there in the second panel with a… food processor. okay… And then we put a picture of a planet in the third panel over Garfield. it still works. These are universal proportions, I don’t know How best to explain how it works, I’ve studied “The Pipe Strip” And analyzed Jon, and Garfield’s Proportions against several universal mathematical constants. e, π, the Golden Ratio. the Feigenbaum constants, and so on. And it’s surprising. Scary even. How things align. You can take just tiny pieces of “The Pipe Strip” for instance, take Jon’s elbow, from the second panel. And take that and project it back over Jon’s entire Shape in the second panel. And you’ll see a near perfect Fibonacci sequence emerge. It’s eerie to me. It makes you wonder if you’re in the presence of a deity. If there’s some larger hand at work. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jim Davis is a smart man. Jim Davis is capable of Anything, to me. He is remarkable. But this is so far beyond that. I think we might see that This work of art is revered and respected in years to come. Jim Davis is possibly a new master of the craft, A genius of the eye, they very well may say the same things they say about Jim Davis
in 500 years that we say about the great philosophical and artistic masters from centuries ago Jim Davis is a modern day Socrates, or Davinci. Mixing both striking visual beauty with classical, daring, unheard of intellect Look, he combines these things to make profoundly simple expressions This strip is his masterpiece, “The Pipe Strip” is his masterpiece. And it is a masterpiece and a marvel. I often look at… Garfield’s… Particular pose in this strip. He is poised and statue-esc. And his cat stare is reminiscent of the fiery gazes often found in religious iconography. But still his eyes are playful, lying somewhere between the solemn fathers expression and Rembrandt’s “Return of the prodigal son” and the smirk of Davicini’s “St. John the Baptist” His ears stick up, signifying a peaked readiness It’s as if he could at any moment pounce, he is after all, a close relative and descendant of he mighty jungle cats of Africa that could leap after prey. You can see the power drawn into Garfield’s hind quarters, powerful haunches indeed. The third panel… Now just saying this now, this is just coming to me now. The third panel of “The Pipe Strip” is essentially a microcosm for the entire strip itself. All the power dynamics, the struggle for superiority, right? Who has the pipe? Where is the pipe? All of that is drawn, built, layered into Garfield’s iconic pose here. You can see it in the curl of his tail. Garfield’s ear whiskers stick up on end, the smoke billows upward, drawing the eye upward. The increasing scope. I’m just, Amazed. Really, that after 33 years of reading and analyzing the same comic strip I’m able to find new dimensions. It’s a testament to the work. For six years I delved into tobacco research. Because, can a cat smoke? This is a metaphysical question. Yes. Can any cat smoke? Do we know? Can just Garfield smoke? The research says no. Nicotine poising can kill animals, especially household pets. All it takes is the nicotine found in as little as a single cigarette. Surely Jon’s pipe holds a substantial amount of tobacco. It is true that pets living in the homes of smokers are nearly twenty-five percent more likely to develop some form of cancer. Most likely due to secondhand smoke. But these are facts of smoking and it’s tolls on our world. But after visiting two tobacco processing plants in Virginia, and the Philip Morris Cigaret Manufacturing Facility, I came to closer to cracking the meaning. I was looking for any insight. A detective of a homicide case has to look at every angle. So I’m always taking apart “The Pipe Strip”. I focused on every menusha, every detail of this strip. Jon Arbuckle’s clothing. I have replicas. I am an expert in textiles. So you see this smoking thing’s a hangup for me. What was the statement here? Until… This is key… This is the breakthrough. The pipe is not a pipe really. Obviously there’s symbolism work here. I saw that from the beginning, and I looked at the literal aspect of the strip to gain insight into the metaphors at play. I worked I worked at a newspaper printing press for eighteen months in the late 1980s. I was learning the literal to inform the gestural the… subliteral, the in between. Jon reading the newspaper means so much more than just Jon reading the newspaper. But how could you ever hope to deceiver the puzzle without knowing everything there is to know about newspapers? Okay. For example: Jon holds his paper up with his left hand, thumb griping the interior. I learned that his particular grip here is the newspaper grip of 19th century aristocrats. And this aristocrat grip was a point of contention that influenced the decision to move foward prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century! So Jon’s hand position is much more that that, it is a comment on class war and the resulting reactionary culture. But I didn’t know about the aristocratic newspaper grip until I came across microfiche archives at the printing press. It’s about information. You have to take it apart. And the breakthrough on a smoking cat came late. It was eight years ago actually. “smoking cat” is an industry term It’s what the smoking industry calls a tattletale teenager who tells on his friends after they’ve all tried smoking for the first time. And it is actually a foreign translation; bastardization, of the term smoking rat! But the phrase was confused when secret documents went back and forth between China and America. These documents are still secret. And the only reason I know about the term is because I know a man, a friend… let’s call him Timothy. Yeah. Yes. It’s a fake name for his protection. Timothy worked for Philip Morris for sixteen years, and he had seen the documents. When he told me, it was a “Aha!” moment. And he said: “but how?”. “How could this cartoonist Jim Davis know about this obscure term from the mid seventies used exclusively by a few cigaret companies?”. This is still a mystery to me. But I connect the dots by noting Jim Davis’s childhood experiences on a farm. He must have seen something. What could it be? Timothy went on to tell me there was one particular smoking cat. A boy, from… yes… Indiana! A boy named Ernie Barguckle who became a thorn in the side of the Tobacco companies’ for a couple of years. He did more than tattle to his parents. He and his family took legal action and they eventually received a huge settlement payout. But that name is too similar. Ernie Barguckle… Jon Arbuckle… Jim Davis must have used this. There’s more here, Ernie Barguckle spent nearly half that settlement money on experimental medical procedures to cure his… impotence. He was impotent. So, he was a smoking cat with a… … a metaphorical pipe that did not work. Are you starting to see the layers here? This is exciting stuff! You start to get a whole picture here and it informs the work. It’s just remarkable… Jim Davis took these raw ideas, these pieces and he transformed them into smart social commentary that is… Oh, so ravishingly beautiful. I have cried. I’ve cried, I’ve cried. I’ve cried, cried over this piece. It just… gets into my soul. I tried to explain this to people, I’ve the news paper articles about Ernie Barguckle People have fought me on this. They don’t see it. Or they’re close minded. How can a comic strip about a cat smoking a pipe mean any more than that? But it is more. When I feel spiritual or start to think existentially, I still see this comic. Here is something from 1981 that I wrote thinking about the implications of this strip. This is just an excerpt here, there is more before and after but this part in the essence to me: If a comic about a cat smoking a pipe can be the only thing in the universe, then maybe this is strongest evidence for that. Many of you say, “Oh but I am not blind. I have never been blind.” But when you truly see, you will understand just how truly blind you once were to even think it right to say you were not blind! What does a blind man see?? Blackness Darkness Blankness Black darkness Dark blankness The absence of things Quite literally no thing No things Nothing Nothings So you see, nothing, and I bring you into the light. A cat has your pipe! You’ve been blind! DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS ? The cat has your pipe! You can’t fully immerse yourself, you don’t have the light, you don’t have the radiance, the radical light, the radically radiant light of truth, and truths’s belonging love and and nature of light, and loving light and loving truthful radiance. So don’t be bold and make bold statements, I know of you. The cat has your pipe. The… cat… has… your… pipe. Remember that. That writing well… it’s kind of rough. Kind of a early eighties feel. And I see that. But I’m still, I’m still proud of it. Sometimes I imagine that it is the editorial column on the newspaper Jon Arbuckle’s reading It’s an exercise on recursion, it’s like a vortex opens up. It’s like you hold two mirrors up to each other: one is reality and the other is a cartoon script. Let’s see… Oh yes. I must bring this up. Because I think surely Jim Davis is again speaking on multiple levels by including the details set before us in the comic. Notice the glimpse of Jon Arbuckle’s foot in the first panel. The size of the shoe would indicate that maybe the man just has small feet? But a deeper investigation takes us to the foot binding rituals of certain Asian cultures. Inflicted usually on woman, for the desire of men this practice was incredibly painful and crippling. Aha! Mr. Davis is here presenting us with man or, rather man who engages in foot binding. A body modification for woman on top of being without his pipe or impotent. This is a man facing extreme inner turmoil. the panels tell that story subconsciously. Notice the background wall shading of the first panel points inward towards Jon in the second panel. And the sharp tapered end of the purple pipe in the third frame also points at Jon in the second panel, inward. The eye is drawn to the center panel. You can connect these points and draw a triangle across the panel, and this triangle will aline with a reoriented points of Jon’s collar. This, this is majestic artwork! And to uncover this hidden order is bliss like I’ve never known. Comforting, in an empty world. I can’t help but read the thought bubble, again and again. Now where could my pipe be? Now where could my pipe be? It is a profound question. Why am I here? What is my purpose? It is reflection and self-examination here. It is facing the dust, the misery of a cold, careless universe. You can feel the weight of it. Now where could be pipe be? One imagines the author, Jim Davis, teetering on the edge of insanity, his rationality, his lucidity, hovering over the void, and he seeks the truth. You can see it in the line quality of the drawings; the thoughtful, controlled outlines mixed with the, occasional, chaotic scribbles at work in the shadows of Garfield’s dark stripes. It’s almost as if Garfield is chaos himself. Yes. He is the embodiment of chaos, disorder, hatred, fear. Thievery, death, destruction, desolation! These are the things Garfield represents; HE stole the pipe, HE sits with his back to Jon, Garfield Garfield! Garfield, this chaos cat, Garfield has turned his back on everything, everyone! One recalls the great existential forces in literature, Camus’ Meursalt, Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, or Sartre’s Antoine Roquentin Garfield the Cat sees the hopelessness of life, which… ah, yes… This is why Jim Davis has chosen smoking. It represents a recklessness, a… a disregard for what some would define as the beauty of life. Garfield may die from the nicotine, he may not… He defies life; he sits defiant, saying nothing, but looking as if he could say: “Then let me die it does not matter.” It does not matter. And we are faced with this: Could Jon behave the same? Is Jon the glimmer of hope? He seems to be unsure. Again his question: “Now where could my pipe be?”, indicates that he is wrestling with his own existence. The center panel centers the issue, and again, this hearkens to many of the great religious works of art. I’m talking about “The Pipe Strip” in relation to religion. It’s interesting to assign the roles of God and anti-God, or, as many know him to be, the devil. Or on a much larger scale, simply the forces of good and evil. Garfield, the thief-cat, evil and malicious. He is the devil, placed to the right. And note the two forms of Jon; the Jon on the left, still innocent, still draped in the delight of the lack of knowledge. He is the humans in the Garden of Eden. He feels for his pipe, but he has yet to eat from the tree. And Garfield, the sinister serpent and notice, notice how Jim Davis has framed this; The center Jon is locked in a struggle, between his innocence, and knowledge of the truth, knowledge of the existence of evil. It is stunning. The great struggle, the struggle that transcends time, and Jim Davis floats over all this, as creator God, of sorts, in his own right. and he presents this cautionary message to us all; it is as if he is speaking from high, and he is saying, unto our awaiting ears: “Where will you be, when the cat reveals himself?” [-Jim 7:27:78] I can tell you were you’ll be. You will have a choice. You can face endless suffering, and eternal misery. You can be forced and beaten down with barbarians, who claw at each other just for a view of salvation. They’ll tear your eyeballs out, and rip your gizzards from end to end. They worship this cat, this, this false idol! This evil, horrible cat, do not be seduced by the cat and the pipe! Garfield… thy name is a mark of the demons of hell. Something like this, and to those listening, it is a stark reminder to follow the path of the first panel Jon; be humble, be grateful, honor the law, and honor thyself, be true, and be good, and no harm will come to you. Pray for salvation, and it will be granted unto you. Be like Jon Arbuckle, as he lowers his head. Be like Jon Arbuckle as he lowers his paper, as he turns his head. Bow with Jon Arbuckle, and praise unto the creator, Jim Davis, and banish demon Garfield from your life. So what is all this? What am I saying? Aha… hmm… What does all this mean? Why is this one comic strip so important to me? And why do I feel the need to share this? Obligation. I have an obligation to you all. This is a redemption, this is a belief in redemption, a sacrifice of all the obvious trappings of this false modern life. Look at the simplicity in this strip, in “The Pipe Strip”. Look at the simple clothes Jon wears, look at his simple, basic furniture. No adornments on the wall, even the very pipe his cat Garfield stole; it is a plain, modest pipe. and I have adapted this way of life, it speaks to me. In our times… well, you don’t need me to point out the hyperbole of our times; you have children being born eight or nine at a time, you have more money being spent on a single Hollywood movie than some nations can spend feeding their starving people. Torture, distrust. Look around you, it’s overwhelming. What can you contribute? And every day, I look in the mirror, and I hold this comic up to the mirror, and I look into the mirror, and at this little comic strip. Be humble. Be thankful. It is a reminder. Be respectful. You are a statue. You are fragile. And when you break, when you shatter, Where will those pieces go? Ask, ask, ask, ask this question. Will you ask? Humankind is only as great as you, YOU, the individual, it begins and ends with you! You must treat this expedition, this search, this with a reverence and intensity found only in the smallest sticks. The littlest leaf, the tiniest stone! The most minuscule grain of sand… on a beach of billions! This is the secret. Do you want the pipe? Do you want to know where the pipe has gone? You ask yourself, you ask… you ask… you ask… Now where could my pipe be? When I was a young man, remember, now, I first saw this comic when I was eighteen years old. Ages ago. But I was youthful, vibrant. For weeks, I didn’t hide that a comic strip was having such a profound effect on me. I was much like Jon Arbuckle. In this middle panel, he says, “Now where could my pipe be?” You could look into his eyes, his half-lowered eyes, and think to yourself, “Now, surely, Jon, Surely, you cannot be this naive. This is nothing new for you” And if you’ve read more of the Garfield comic strips by Jim Davis, you understand what I am saying now; Garfield the cat does things like this all the time. He will take things from Jon; food, items, anything. This is his very nature. So you see this, and you want to say, “Jon Arbuckle, come now. You are lying to yourself. You are lying to yourself, and to all of us, if you pretend to not have any idea of where your pipe has gone. Perhaps you think you’ve left it somewhere else, but… hmph, you’re not so forgetful. You are lying to yourself, ah… yes… You are lying to yourself, Jon Arbuckle. You know that Garfield has the pipe, somewhere, deep down, you know this. You don’t even need to think the question. And that was me when I saw that strip. One week passed, and each morning I opened my drawer and slammed it shut again. I would go to look at the comic! But I’d pause and think: “Oh, no, I don’t need this comic.” “I don’t NEED to look at it.” But there I was, lying to myself. I did need to see it. And so I did. It’s… cathartic. You give in and there is the transition from the second panel of life to the third panel of life. It is a simple story structure, the passage from the second act to the third, the twilight of things. Jon gives into his suspicions, he knows the truth, he’s always known the truth, he yells out, “GARFIELD! GARFIELD! GARFIELD!” It is like… pressure from a steam valve, being released; the buildup is unbearable, and then… PSSHHWW, it’s gone. So it is like this… when I speak about the truth… the truth, the light, the radiance, this… this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. This is the essence of this brilliant work of art, the practical mixing, meeting, agreeing with the spiritual, it is all here. But spirituality is not an easy thing to confront. You might find yourself able to wrap your mind around a simple math problem, or a basic newspaper article, or… but intellect… is much less subjective. What is spirituality… and how have I found spiritual peace and serenity in Garfield? A long time ago, after I encountered the Pipe Strip, I spent some time, as I mentioned before, soul-searching. When something impacts you, or alters your very perception so greatly, there is a long period of confusion, recovery time… It’s as if you don’t know who you are, and that can be a… a very scary prospect, especially if you thought you had a good grasp on that sort of thing, Imagine if Jim Davis did not know who he was. Would he be capable of shaping the cultural landscape as he’s done? No. No, of course he wouldn’t. …and how about his characters? Jon… what if Jim Davis suddenly woke up, and didn’t know who Jon was? What if he couldn’t make the informed decisions to accurately depict Garfield’s personality, because of… he could no longer specify, or demarcate the boundaries of Garfield’s behavior? What kind of comic would that be? You see? So draw the parallel. I saw this comic and, yes, I was disoriented… and if I didn’t reconcile this issue with myself, what kind of person would I be? Undoubtedly dire circumstances, but remember; this was not a math problem, this was not an article, this was not something I could just… figure out. and as skeptical as I was, I realized that faith and spirituality were avenues that… required exploring. At first I tried… long nights, reading Garfield by candlelight, or… aromatic meditation settings, while thinking of Garfield, but… nothing snapped. Nothing clicked, I still felt lost… but I kept it up, I hired a shaman, and a young… personal Yogi Sikh Guru; Avram Dahb Singh Sahib. I pushed and pushed, determined to find myself. And then, a miracle happened. Upon retrieving my morning paper, to clip the Garfield comic… I noticed a young girl, selling lemonade two houses down. She sat, occupied at her stand. She had no customers in sight. So, I approached, and saw that she was coloring. I looked at her drawing. Three rectangular boxes. A man, in a blue shirt. An orange cat. I knew what this was. Even in her crude scribbles, I knew EXACTLY what this was. She was drawing a Garfield comic. I looked at her words, and I saw that, in her strip, Jon asked Garfield to retrieve a newspaper. Funny. since I’d done just that with myself.. Garfield is sarcastic, but agrees to it. He returns and calls Jon… (Sahib) “صاحب” Jon exclaims that the paper’s all chewed up, but then Garfield says, and I quote, “Sahib asks fish, paper is wet. Sahib asks cat, paper is holey.” I remember the words, and ran back to my house, and thought, “How odd that Sahib shows up in the strip, and my and my spiritual advisor’s name is Avram Dahb Singh Sahib!” Coincidence surely, but, nonetheless, I spent the next sixteen hours poring through my clipped Garfield comics, looking for the strip this young girl had been coloring… I couldn’t find it… and I eventually fell asleep, right on my kitchen table. Next morning, I retrieved my paper again, and I clipped the Garfield comic. The date was July 12th, 1983. And there it was. The Sahib Strip, in all of its glory. The girl had been drawing the next day’s strip! So, I ran right out of my house, I ran back to where she was… ut she was gone, and in place of the lemonade stand was a “For Sale” sign. They’d moved out. I rushed back to my house to call Avram, but I was informed that he’d moved away as well. I reeled, for several hours, and then it all connected for me. It was meant to be. It it was meant to be this way!