Where’s Arlo?

Someone asked recently on Facebook, “Has Jimmy ever told us where A&J live?” The short answer would be, “No, he hasn’t.” However, as is the wont of Facebook, a discussion ensued, and much was made of their proximity to “the coast.” It is true, the fact they’re within a day’s drive of an ocean, or a gulf, is one of the few tangible references to geography. More broadly, there is the weather, but that becomes a less reliable indicator every year. Speaking of weather, that does remind me of a backstory, which some of you have already heard. When United Media began syndicating Arlo & Janis, my editors in New York City were scrupulous about monitoring my work for any reference that might cause Arlo & Janis to be pigeonholed as a “southern” strip. I should mention that I am, by accident of birth, a native of the southeastern United States. My editors were not being condescending; they wanted A&J to have a broad appeal and not unintentionally be perceived as “Snuffy Smith, the Next Generation.” Choosing to ignore the slight slight that I couldn’t be trusted, I was on board with this completely. I, more than anyone, wanted the strip to have broad appeal. However, inadvertent cultural identifiers did slip in occasionally. I remember one conversation in particular, about black-eye peas being considered luck on New Year’s Day and whether it was a “southern thing.” However, I couldn’t help noticing it was always acceptable in cold months to depict a foot of snow on the ground, although probably half the nation’s population rarely sees an accumulation of show. So, where do Arlo and Janis live? Obviously the answer is going to be “nowhere in particular,” but that won’t stop me from talking about this more tomorrow.

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