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The Day I Chased the Bus

Here’s another story about being a freelance illustrator in New York in the 1970’s, from my brilliant cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos.

Some years ago I went into New York City with my young friend, an aspiring illustrator named Debbie; I was going to take her on my rounds with me and introduce her to art directors at NBC, New York Times, National Lampoon and more. I had been working on some big project and I was lugging my biggest black portfolio. I had to show some work to a client and then I was going to go home that evening and work some more on the project and return the next day.

This morning was going along nicely and before we were to have lunch, I thought we’d quickly go to a show of Jean-Michel Folon’s work at the LeFebre Gallery at 47 E. 77th Street. We hopped into a cab and arrived across the street from the gallery/townhouse. As I crossed the street with Debbie, I patted my pockets, as I was accustomed to do, to make sure I had everything … and … I discovered my wallet was missing! I realized it must have fallen out in the cab. I whirled around and the cab was gone! Panic!

We went in to see the show, anyway, which, ironically, consisted of collages in which there were actual coins. Each piece of art re-enforced my sense of present poverty.

Back out on the street, we assessed our financial situation. Between the two of us, we just had enough coins to get us back down near Grand Central Station by bus. So, we got on a 5th Avenue bus and headed downtown.  As we approached 52nd Street, Debbie said she wanted to visit her new acquaintance, the illustrator, Bob Blechman so I told her to get off there and I would continue down to one of the next stops, visit my art directors at NBC, and we would meet later on the train to go home.

At 49thstreet, I hopped off and walked a few steps up the street before I realized that I wasn’t carrying my big portfolio with all the components of the job I was working on. I had shoved it into the space behind the driver’s seat while we had stood in the aisle of the bus. I looked south on 5th Avenue to find my bus and instead I saw about three identical blue busses. Fortunately, I had looked at the driver when I was on the bus and he was a large black man. So, I ran quickly to overtake the nearest bus to me. As I caught up with it, at the next stop, I saw that it wasn’t my driver.

I started running to catch up with the next bus in front of that one. Again, not my driver. It was hot and I was out of breath at this point and panic was setting in as I imagined my fate of losing my portfolio and its contents to the vast black hole of the New York Transit Authority. Who do I call? What do I do? I started running again. I could see that there were two or three busses approaching the library stop at 42nd Street. Big stop. I was sure to find my bus there. My hopes were up. I ran like I have never run and probably will never run again. I swear, as I crossed 41st Street, I think I was running over the hoods of cars. I felt this was my last chance. As I got there, a bus or two had pulled away but there were still one or two left. I checked them out……. not my driver! I looked down the avenue. I couldn’t run any more. My chest was heaving, I was sweating.

Just then, a police car came creeping up. AHA! I dragged myself over to the curb and flagged them down. The window went down. I … I … tried… to … tell … them my problem. I was incoherent. The two cops looked at me puzzled. I kept trying to get the words out but I couldn’t catch my breath. They gestured for me to get in the car. I collapsed into their back seat telling them, as best I could about the lost money, the portfolio and the big black bus driver. The cop next to the driver said, “What was the number of the bus?” The number of the bus? The number of the freaking bus? How the hell did I know what the number of the bus was! He then instructed the driver to overtake the bus we saw ahead of us and see if a “n****r “ was driving. We caught up with it and driving by the left side we could see that it wasn’t my driver. I pleaded with them to catch up with a few other busses we could see. They did… to no avail. Finally at 23rd Street, where 5th Avenue forks, they tired of me and decided that I should consult the bus dispatcher we could see on the curb at our left. “He’ll help you out” they said. I went over to the man holding a clipboard and started telling him my tale of woe. As I was speaking, I looked across the fork in the avenue and saw a bus pulling away… WITH A BIG BLACK GUY DRIVING!!! The dispatcher blew a whistle and flagged him to stop. I ran across and the driver opened the door and there was my big black portfolio just where I had left it!

I slowly dragged myself along the street completely worn out with my precious portfolio in tow while a crazy bag lady screamed something at me. I paid no attention for I was now concerned with how I was going to explain why I didn’t have a ticket to the train conductor, because it was in my lost wallet where I always put them. BUT … maybe not. Sometimes I put them in my shirt pocket. I patted my pocket. My ticket was there. A little wave of joy … just a teensy one, wafted over me.

As I slunk into my train seat next to the ebullient Debbie, she was chortling about her visit with Blechman. She asked if I had a good time at NBC. I grumbled something incoherent and glared her into silence.

At home that night, I received a phone call from the man who had gotten into the cab right after me and found my wallet and my phone number therein. I told him that I was coming in the next day and he gave me his business address.

The next day, in a downpour, I trudged across the street from Grand Central to a small liquor store to buy my benefactor a nice bottle of wine. Then, with bottle in hand along with my portfolio and umbrella, I made my way up the street to the address he had given me. It was a labor union office. I climbed up a narrow stairway on which were seated a few of their members to a little office at the top with a little pay window. I asked for the man who had called me and I was directed down a hall to an office from which I could hear serious negotiations transpiring. I dragged my dripping self to the open door and was spotted by a robust fellow standing behind a desk in the midst of an argument.

He spotted me, “I know who you are” he smiled, “I saw your driver’s license picture in your wallet.”

He drew my wallet from his drawer and handed it to me. I, in turn, handed him a soggy bag which contained my gift of wine.

“No… NO” he said, “I can’t take that!”

“Please take this” I said

“No, I couldn’t take that!”

“Yes, you have to take it!”

“Oh no no no, I can’t accept that!”


“Oh… okay” he said, “Thanks!”

Randy Enos

Email Randy



Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories:

The Other Ol’ Blue Eyes

8th Grade and Harold von Schmidt

Rembrandt of the Skies

The Funniest Man I’ve Ever Known

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part One”

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part Two”

Famous Artists Visit the Famous Artists School

Randy Remembers Tomi Ungerer

Randy’s Overnight Parade

The Bullpen

Famous Artists Schools

Dik Browne: Hot Golfer

Randy and the National Lampoon

Randy’s Only Great Idea

A Brief Visit to Outer Space

Enos, Love and Westport

Randy Remembers the National Cartoonists Society

Blog Columns

“Gotcha” Questions for Scott Walker

I get lots of e-mails with the same message, like this one from little Johnny in Nashville, who writes, “Dear Mr. Cagle, Please explain your cartoon to me. My paper is due tomorrow.”

I hate having to explain myself. So does Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker.

Walker doesn’t like “gotcha” questions from the media. When a reporter asks a politician a question, and knows that an honest answer would be an answer that many people won’t like hearing, that is a “gotcha” question. Walker has been clumsy while learning to avoid “gotcha” questions.

I drew a cartoon showing a reporter interviewing Walker.

Reporter asks, “Gays?”

Walker says, “I don’t wanna answer that.” Walker thinks, “Homos are so nasty.”

Reporter then asks, “Evolution?”

Walker says, “I won’t answer.” Walker thinks, “This liberal ape doesn’t know that evolution is only a ‘theory’.”

Reporter asks, “Do you think Obama is a Christian?”

Walker says, “I never asked him.” Walker thinks, “I never asked that liberal, Muslim, Kenyan atheist.”

Journalists must be accurate and report the exact words a politician says. My job is better. As an editorial cartoonist, I have the freedom to put any words into the mouths of politicians that I want; I can even choose to put any thoughts into their brains.

Republican candidates must pander to the basest of their conservative base, especially in the presidential primaries. My worry is that politicians really believe the blather that they spew. I would like to hear honest answers to the “gotcha” questions.

The problem with avoiding “gotcha” questions is that I’m left with the impression that Walker really believes the knuckle-dragging nonsense that I write into his thought bubbles.

An even bigger problem is that cartoons are not so funny when they are explained.

Sorry, Johnny.


Clay Jones Loses Free Lance-Star Cartooning Job

Clay Jones, a funny cartoonist who have been a long-time contributor to (check out his cartoons here), announced today that he’s been laid-off from his staff cartooning job at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie of the newsroom, election night pizza, breaking news, racing to the newsroom at midnight on a Sunday to cover the death of Osama bin Laden, receiving angry phone calls from readers, physical threats from a fireman, and that exasperated look on my editor’s face every time I showed him a cartoon he didn’t like.”

Jones doesn’t know what he’ll do next, although he does mention he’ll still be drawing two cartoons a week for the Free Lance-Star, and will continue drawing for syndication.

“I do know my career as a staff cartoonist, something I spent seven years fighting for before it finally happened, is over.  I do have other skills and I’m going to try to figure out what those are.  There’s gotta be an opportunity for a professional smart ass somewhere out there.”

UPDATE: After his editor killed his final cartoon and asked him to draw a new one as he walked out the door, Clay has decided not to freelance two cartoons a week for the Free Lance-Star. Interestingly, the killed cartoon (which I have featured above) is live on the Free Lance-Star’s web site.


How to Draw President George W Bush

How to Draw President George W. Bush

Political cartoonists are not much different from comic strip cartoonists; both draw an ongoing daily soap opera featuring a regular cast of characters. While comic strip cartoonists invent their own characters, the political cartoonist’s characters are given to him by events in the world. For the past eight years, political cartoonists have been drawing little daily sagas starring the same main character, President Bush. Most people won’t miss Bush as a president, but we should all miss him as a great cartoon character.

Around the world, cartoonists almost always draw President Bush as a cowboy. Outside America, a Texas cowboy is seen as: uneducated, ill mannered, a “trigger-happy marshal” or outlaw who is prone to violence. Cowboy depictions of the president by worldwide cartoonists are meant to be insults, but Americans see cowboys differently. In the USA, cowboys are noble, independent souls, living a romantic lifestyle by taming the wilderness and taking matters into their own hands whenever they see a wrong that needs to be righted. We are a nation of wanna-be cowboys.

The image of President Bush evolves with each cartoonist’s personal perspective. Back in 2000, Bush started out as most political cartoon characters start out, as a caricature of a real person, meant to be recognizable from a photograph. The cartoonists soon stopped looking at photographs and started doing drawings of drawings, then drawings of drawings of drawings, so that the George W. Bush drawings morphed into strangely deformed characters that looked nothing like the real man, but are instantly recognizable because we’ve come to know the drawings as a symbol of the man. It is surprising that each cartoonist’s drawings of the president look entirely different, but each is easily recognizable as representing the same character.

For most cartoonists, the president’s ears have grown huge; a strange phenomenon, since the president doesn’t have unusually large ears, and isn’t well known for listening. Some cartoonists have seen President Bush shrink in height; a combination of these has the president sometimes looking like a little bunny rabbit. Barack Obama’s cartoon ears have also begun to grow in cartoons, for no good reason – maybe big ears are the cartoon presidential curse of the new millennium.

The president who shrank most in cartoons was Jimmy Carter. At the end of Carter’s term he was a Munchkin, standing below knee height on almost every cartoonist’s drawing table. President Bush shrank for only the more liberal cartoonists early on, but is short for all of us at the end of his term. President Reagan grew taller during his cartoon term in office. President Clinton grew fatter, even as he lost weight in real life. Bill Clinton’s personality was fat, and the cartoonists drew the personality rather than the man. President Clinton is now skinny, but he will always be fat in cartoons.

Another cartoon characteristic that has grown from years of drawing President Bush are his eyes, two little dots, close together, topped by raised, quizzical eyebrows. The close, dotted eyes are an interesting universal phenomenon, shared by almost every cartoonist, that doesn’t relate to the president’s actual features. Over time, most cartoonists will draw a character with eyes that grow larger, but President Bush’s eyes shrink, while his ears grow. There may be a political message in that, but I can’t figure it out.

I once played “Political Cartoonist Name That Tune.” The game went like this:

“I can draw President Bush in SIX LINES.”

“Well, I can draw President Bush in FOUR LINES!”

“I can draw President Bush in THREE LINES!”

“OK. Draw that President!”

…and I did, two little dots topped by a raised, quizzical eyebrow line. It looked just like him.

Now I need to learn how to draw Obama with three lines; it may take me eight years to do it.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 850 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. Daryl runs the most popular cartoon site on the Web at His books “The BIG Book of Campaign 2008 Political Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2009 Edition” are available in bookstores now.

See Daryl’s cartoons and columns at