Painting the Town Absurd
Cartoonist Snick Farkas parodies Pacific Grove to a mixed response.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Snick Farkas is a town fool.
In this day and age, that’s not an easy task. There’s more to being an effective town fool than a harlequin cap and well-timed tumbling. It takes creativity. In Snick Farkas’ case, it takes an overhead projector, three minutes of the public’s time, and the occasional lobster costume.
“I always expected I was a town fool in a way,” Farkas admits. “But I just want to make them laugh. I don’t want to get beheaded.”
Yet there are many in Pacific Grove who would love to see Snick Farkas’ oddly-shaped head roll, namely most of the city council. Farkas merely interprets this as a sign he’s a good fool.
“I hate politics,” he says. “This is my way of venting my spleen. In the beginning I just wanted to point out the absurdities of politics. Pacific Grove is as absurd as it gets. It started out with freaks and tents and now it’s full of intense freaks.”
So how does one become a town fool? Well, obviously having a name like Snick Farkas is an excellent start.
“My mom always lied and told me it had something to do with St. Nick and Christmas,” Farkas says. “But I was born in September. You’d think it’s a family name but no one in my family has it.”
The name helps, but Farkas actually backed into the “occupation” through his incredibly random and frequently amusing cartoon, Colossus of Gold.
COG was initially inspired by the homemade gold statue of John Steinbeck which stands in front of the small, rogue Steinbeck Museum at 222 Central in Pacific Grove.
“I was really enamored with the thing,” Farkas says. “This guy had made it out of Bondo® and concrete then sprayed it gold.”
Inspired by this homely but heartfelt tribute to the literary lion, Farkas drew a cartoon that became COG #1, in which the statue is struck by lightning, “grows to hideous proportions and wreaks unintentional havoc on the hapless coastal town of Specific Groove.”
“Originally there were only four episodes,” Farkas says. “Then someone knocked the statue over on Christmas Eve and suddenly I had a plotline.”
Before long, local residents had become featured characters and COG developed a cult following. The Pacific Grove Beacon even ran it—until a giant pilchard ate the Beacon’s editor in Episode 30, “Call Me Fishmeal,” whereupon Farkas’ comic was unceremoniously dumped from its pages.
But when the Beacon cancelled COG, an “unnamed” city council member suggested to Farkas that he read the cartoon during the public comments segment of each city council meeting.
Ten years later, Farkas is still at it, faithfully showing up at nearly every city council meeting to read his new installment of COG to the city council with the aid of an overhead projector. Over the years, COG’s adventures have touched on many hot local issues, including raccoon tolerance, taco vs. sandwich debates, Monarch butterfly worship, memorial proliferation, economic revitalization, historic preservation, tidepool politics, intellectual freedom, city employees’ salaries, zoning practices, ADA compliance, mold culture, and museum exhibit controversy.
It’s a shtick that eventually grows tiresome for each generation of city council members whom Farkas frequently pillories in his cartoons.
“[Former Pacific Grove Mayor] Sandy Koffman used to think I was hilarious—near the end of her term she didn’t find me funny at all,” Farkas says. “But it’s my first amendment right to waste three minutes of their time.”
According to Farkas, another person who really doesn’t like him is the present mayor, Jim Costello.
“He’s tolerant,” Farkas says. “You can’t blame him. He’s got business to take care of. People generally don’t respond well to mockery. The thing is, I’m not on anybody’s side. I hate everyone equally. And love them equally too.”
Farkas says his popularity ebbs and flows with the politics but he occasionally gets people downright angry.
“Some people don’t like some things to be mentioned…murders at Point Piños, John Denver’s death, deaths at the butterfly sanctuary…” he says. “Sensitive stuff.”
COG is closing in on its 200th episode and Farkas has no plans to stop. A cartoonist from the age of nine, he says he’s been published in magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle, some kind of pet weekly and Safe and Bolt Technology. By Farkas’ own account, his is “the story of a man who’s involved with many things but he doesn’t make any money at all.”
But, of course, that’s the town fool’s lot. Jobs with the word “fool” in the title don’t usually pay that well. When he’s not playing the fool, Farkas is working various part-time jobs (he’s had 15 different jobs since moving to the area in the early 90s), reviewing movies as part of KSBW News Barber Buzz segment, marching in parades in a lobster costume his wife made him, and creating remarkable pop art. Inspired by Warhol and Liechtenstein, his paintings depict, “nostalgia or what we think nostalgia is. A memory that never existed.”
But Pacific Grove’s town fool has a secret. When the day’s town foolery ends, Snick Farkas returns to his home in…Monterey.