This week, I attended the Herblock Awards ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. If you follow me on social media, then you already knew that because I’ve bombarded you with pictures. I am not sorry. Now, I’m going to give my summary of it, which should be more accurate than that summary William Barr gave.
First off, people kept telling me over the past few weeks, “Get a haircut. Shave!” I already had but I didn’t let them know. I figured it’d be a joyous surprise for a few people. Some people actually scolded me for that. Some are like, “Don’t cut your hair for the man, man.” The thing is, I really don’t care about the hair. It’s not a statement anymore. It’s because I’m lazy. But, yeah. I cleaned up.
I did have to purchase a new suit for the event. And all you hair people who didn’t want me to cave into “The Man” will be glad to know that I resisted everyone who told me not to wear my Converse. Fight the power! Enough of that. Let’s talk about me.
The event was Thursday and Thursdays are shit for me. If you ever want me to do something for you on a Thursday, go find someone else. I’m useless for you on Thursdays and for most of Fridays. Thursday’s my CNN day where I send them idea after idea after idea, etc. We can go very late. But, I asked them to adjust their schedules and expectations for me this week.
I got from Fredericksburg to my Georgetown University hotel by train, metro, shuttle, and mini-shuttle. My room wouldn’t be ready for a few hours so I camped out in the common area (students and hospital staff all over the place) and sketched out ideas on my Surface Pro and sent them to CNN. Some people told me beforehand I should take my Surface with me like that wasn’t already happening.
CNN selected their cartoon (which you’ll see tomorrow if you’re signed up for their weekly opinion newsletter) and my room was ready. Shortly after, my date Amanda showed up and we headed out to the ceremony at the Library of Congress. It had rained and it’s already crazy in Washington, so it took us about an hour to go six miles in an Uber.
If you ever get an invite to the Libary of Congress or to a Herblock event, GO! It’s amazing. The Herblock people are wonderful and they put on a great event. Excellent food, open bar, and wonderful people.
Matt Davies, the winner of the Herblock Prize gave an excellent speech and even referred to me as his “co-winner.” He’s too kind.
Jake Tapper gave a great lecture afterward. Unfortunately, he had to leave early and I didn’t get a chance to say hello, though we have chatted back and forth through Twitter a few times.
I invited several of my former colleagues from The Free Lance-Star and a few showed up.
Here is former editor and writer Jim Hall, former assistant publisher Florence Barnick, former publisher Nick Cadwallender, myself, and former FLS copy editor and current Claytoonz copy editor, Laura Moyer.
Everyone was impressed with the venue, the food, the open bar, and the company. I was able to get reacquainted with old friends and make new ones.
Other than Eric, this is a group I had interacted with online but had never met in person. To my left is my old young friend and fellow cartoonist Eric Shansby, me, Cathy Hunter and her husband Mike Rhode, blogger of ComicsDC, and to the far right is Washington Post comics writer Michael Cavna. I knew Eric back before he was capable of growing facial hair. I’m glad I finally got to meet these advocates for cartoon journalism in person.
A lot of people came out of their way to meet me but the one person I interrupted to meet was columnist Clarence Page, who I’m a huge fan of. As you can see, I’m not sitting down as I was the one to crash his table. He was so nice and we had about a five-minute conversation about journalism stuff. Before this, someone at my table, it might have been Chris, said, “Do you see who’s at the next table?” I knew who it was.
My two best friends, Gordon Johnson and Chris Fink showed up and since Jake wasn’t using it, we stole his table.
I believe this is near the end of the evening, as I was finally able to get some food and Gordon’s tie is loosened. Here, we’re talking to Sarah Alex, the director of the Herblock Foundation. She’s the one who called me to tell me I was a finalist. Fellow cartoonists, you want a phone call from her. That’s Chris and Amanda over Gordon’s right shoulder. And as you can see here, everybody loves Gordon. It can be sickening.
Speaking of Amanda, she was a wonderful guest. She was great company and helped me out each time I was dragged away. She kept the conversations flowing with her great personality. She’s delightful and made the evening better. Everyone loved her.
The evening would not be complete without a gratuitous mouth-full-of-food shot. The crabcakes were delicious. I didn’t really invite too many people from my music playing and bar days, but Chris is one of them. Chris and I used to be in a band together. He’s a drummer and he’s really good about playing with sloppy guitar players. I knew this event would be incredible and I invited the people I wanted to share it with the most.
This is probably my favorite shot as it’s Matt Davies, me and Matt Wuerker, the cartoonist for Politico.
This is Wuerker, myself, and Sarah Alex on the far right. I’m sorry but I can’t remember who the other woman is. I’ll edit this when I get a note. I’ll get a note. I suck.
Seeing the capitol in the background in the night, I couldn’t resist taking a photo before leaving.
During the event, I was invited to come to lunch the next day at the National Press Club, which is a private thing. There was no way I was going to pass that up. Gordon told me to make sure I did it and as she was leaving, Amanda said the same thing. Of course, I went. I knew I’d probably have to take a later train home, but I also knew it’d be worth it.
At the press club (which only took a few minutes to get to), I had lunch with Sarah Alex, Matt, the other Matt, and Matt’s wife, Lucy Davies and several members of the Press Club. We even got a tour. I had been there before during charity events but this was the first time I was invited to a lunch. It was great company and I got to talk shop. I was seated between two of the best cartoonists in the country.
As you can see, we bummed down after the previous evening’s event. Those are a few of Matt’s cartoons on the wall.
This is my first time to be a finalist in a national contest. What made it even sweeter was doing it with Matt. Over the years, he’s been a great friend. He’s been someone I can call for advice or just to vent. He’s thrown a lot of suggestions, tips, and contacts my way. He’s a very supportive person. And Lucy is the most welcoming person you could ever meet. She and I have a music connection that goes back years. Of course, someone like Matt would be married to a person like Lucy. They’re amazing people. And don’t get me started on their kids who I’ve fallen in love with over social media through the years.
I think I left lunch before anyone else as I had to get on a train, which I did miss. Amtrak kindly moved me to their next train without a fee. I passed the time in an upstairs bar in Union Station.
I didn’t get any sleep the night before so, between the one beer and fish and chips, I fell asleep on the train. I’m very grateful to the Amtrak employee who woke me up at my stop so I didn’t end up in Richmond.
There are a lot more people I want to mention, but I can’t. I can’t remember everything. I’m sorry to everyone I should be mentioning. I will say Bruce Guthrie, a new friend is the one who took all the photos. So, thanks, Bruce.
I also need to extend another thank you to the Herblock Foundation. They are really incredible people and the endowment Herblock left to create it is doing a noble cause. They’re not just recognizing goofy working cartoonists like Matt and me, they’re doing scholarships and a lot of awareness for political cartooning and journalism. The Herblock Prize stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pulitzer and it focuses exclusively on cartoonists.
The one thing that was focused on by the foundation, Tapper, Davies, and others at the event was how important political cartoons are right now. These are dangerous times for everyone in this country when the president attacks a free press and questions their legality. Matt pointed out that people thank him for helping them get through the Trump era, and that’s a message I receive too. I’m thinking maybe every cartoonist has been receiving that from readers, not just the award winners. It always amazes me that people look to my work to help them get through this time.
I had not been out of town since my father’s funeral in 2014. So, this was a real treat even though it was only about 50 miles away. It was nice to get out of the house and socialize. But, now that I’m home, it’s time to get back to work, which I did last night.
The nicest thing was probably resuming my schedule where I make my coffee, put on the tunes, and start drawing around 2:00 am. And, since I feel kinda behind (even though I kept working), you’re getting another cartoon in the morning.
Ceremonies, awards, prizes, and plaudits are all nice and awesome…but it’s still about the cartoons. We still have to make these things and I’m making one for you tonight because it’s what I do.