I’m old-fashioned about a lot of things, like eating regular meals, wearing clothes that match, and holding a newspaper in my hand. I subscribe to Raleigh’s News & Observer, despite the cost, because I like reading a real newspaper. Not that I don’t also read a lot of stuff on line, but I want to eat breakfast over the morning newspaper, not over my laptop.

I don’t read every word, of course, but there is plenty to interest me, typos to cringe over, and stuff to learn that I wouldn’t otherwise know about.

And, there are the comics. I confess that I read them. Again, not all of them. About half of them are lame enough to embarrass any self-respecting editor, but clever and slightly twisted strips like “Frazz,” “Dilbert,” “Get Fuzzy,” and “Pearls Before Swine” help to fill the immense void left when Bill Watterson stopped drawing “Calvin & Hobbes.”

From gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/

From gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/

I was delighted to learn that the exceedingly reclusive Watterson had recently agreed to draw several panels for a recent series of Stephan Pastis’ “Pearls Before Swine,” with the originals being auctioned off for charity. Pastis, a former lawyer, named the strip after Jesus’ warning not to cast one’s pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6). Not to say that the strip has many religious themes, other than good vs. evil. It has a quirky sense of humor that plays a narcissitic rodent (“Rat”) against a soft-hearted hog (“Pig”), along with a variety of other characters, both animal and human.

Pastis often draws himself into the strip, usually as the butt of his own joke, and a recent series of strips have centered on the theme of his wife Staci leaving him. This disturbed me no end, not just with concern for a marriage ending, but with consternation that Pastis would use his marital trials as fodder for cheap laughs.  It sounded like something Rat would do. I thought about boycotting his strip in protest.

It occurred to me, though, that it might be nothing more than a gag and that his wife would be in on the joke, so I combed his blog/website for clues and read all the “Frequently Asked Questions,” but found nothing to suggest whether the bust up was bogus or benign. A search beyond his page, however, turned up an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal (see, I like online newspapers, too).

In the interview, Pastis said the most common question he gets when making public appearances is whether it’s true that his wife Staci left him. See? I’m not the only one.

And he said the breakup is not true, and that she’s in on the joke. Pastis claimed that his wife doesn’t read the strip, but thought it was funny when friends and others (including a real estate agent anxious to list the house) called to express their concern for her.

What a relief.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how we can get concerned about people we don’t even know? And it led me to wonder how often I express similar solicitude for some of the people I do know — people who might not show up much in a Google search, but who would answer the phone if I called.

Let’s see, where’s that address book …?

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