This is Sam. It even says so on his sign. I’ve been drawing him, on and off, for well over thirty years. In many ways, he’s the longest lasting non-familial relationship of my life. He’s been useful to me. He’s been antagonistic towards me.
I used to dream about turning Sam the Chicano hippie into a nationally syndicated comic strip. I envisioned a one panel strip where Sam would pronounce witty and insightful slogans using his trusty and ever present protest sign. I envisioned Sam as my ticket to fame and fortune.
There were two, sad problems: 1) I don’t draw well; and, 2) I couldn’t, for the life of me, write anything on Sam’s protest sign that was anything close to witty. Forget insightful.
Still, as a fifteen year old skirt chaser, Sam came in handy as a love-note illustration. It was really the only time I could get Sam to speak: When I myself hid behind his trusty and ever present protest sign. I could say anything to a girl, as long as Sam did it for me. Otherwise, Sam the Chicano Hippie starred in a serious of one-panel comic strips holding a blank protest sign.
I remember one time, Ms. Tapia tasked my Senior theater class to bring in some representation of the way we saw ourselves. Though she gave us a week to complete the assignment, there I was, eleven O’clock the night before it was due searching around my room looking for something that I could pass of as how I see myself. Nothing. But, then, right before I gave up, I stumbled, really, I tripped and stumbled on my sketch pad which contained Sam’s sad series of comic strips. There he was: I would use Sam the Chicano Hippie as the way I see myself.
Ms. Tapia wasn’t impressed. “A Chicano Hippie? C’mon, why would you, of all people think of yourself as a Chicano Hippie?”
“Well,” I said, “I’d like to think of myself as being free from the rat race and able to live the way I want to live, just like a Hippie protester.”
Her eyes didn’t erupt so much as oozed anger. “you have no idea what we went through: sit-ins, protests that ended with tear gas thrown at us, beatings at the hands of the police. How dare you mock what we did.”
Really, I wasn’t mocking her or Chicano hippie protesters, for that matter. I was just trying to complete my assignment on time. I used a little poorly rendered comic as an example of how I saw myself. If anything, I was mocking me.
She didn’t agree, apparently.
Still, Sam was useful that day and in dozens of love letters I scattered around town. But, in terms of my dream of syndication: Sam the Chicano Hippie had nothing to say.
It’s time that I use him, as he’s always been entertaining to me and in trying to bring changes, I need the entertainment more than ever. So, Sam the Chicano Hippie will be set free into the world (he’s already made his presence felt) and say what he needs to say….