Meet Fred. He is, by his own description, the foremost expert about the town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. It was my luck to have found him on a bench along Main Street, not far from the falls themselves.
I had chosen the town by its evocative name on a map. And when a little research revealed it to be the hometown of Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, I knew it would be the perfect bench-stop on my drive home from Cleveland.
Sitting down with Fred, I asked him how long he’d lived in the town. “It’ll be forty years any minute now,” he answered. He said he’d never contemplated moving somewhere else. I could see why. It had distinctive old houses in quiet neighborhoods and a quaint downtown with reminders of its past.
Really, how many towns can boast of a popcorn store?
When I told a friend recently that I’d be stopping by Watterson’s boyhood town, he suggested I look for a toboggan run. It struck me how memorable his creation was that we could both instantly picture C&H flying off some snowy hill. Watterson himself credits this partially to the fact that he stopped at the height of its popularity. It was his signature work. He felt it was finished. So he walked away.
What is your signature thing – that defining work, that effort you can put your name proudly to without a hint of chagrin?
For Fred, it was being his town’s memory-keeper, the conversational touchstone to Chagrin Falls’ communal past. He knew the town. The town folk all knew him.
What is my signature thing?
In a literal sense, signatures are not usually my thing at all. I very rarely sign the corporate art I do. Except for yesterday, when in a flight of fancy, I created this whimsical drawing, inspired by the shape of the magnetic whiteboard eraser. I’m not sure why that called me to sign it.
But maybe that is a clue to my signature work – capturing a moment by creating something quick then looking for the next moment of inspiration. Make it and move on.
Just like these bench sittings. I told Fred about how I’m traveling the country, sitting down to connect to a place and its people. He said, “You’re like a portable Fred!”
Well said, Fred. That’s an idea I can put my name to.