Guest Recommendations: Noah Van Sciver

The cartoonist of Blammo and other comics likes Vonnegut, local history, and long walks.

A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

I haven’t read a lot of Vonnegut. I’ve only read Slaughterhouse Five and Slapstick and thought they were good, but I didn’t become obsessed like many other people have. One day I was waiting for my girlfriend Leah, to come home from work and I walked over to a bookstore near her home. I was looking through the Biographies and Memoirs section for something to read and I came across this book A Man Without a Country. It’s a really slim book which is perfect because I’m a man with a minuscule attention span. It took me three days just to focus long enough to write those last five sentences. If only I was kidding.


Illustration for The Bygone Bureau by Hallie Bateman

Much of this book seems dated now, but it’s still really funny. Unfortunately, Vonnegut’s view of the human race and what we’ve done with our planet is not dated at all, and probably even worse than he knew. He says, “And I said good-bye to my friends, hung up the phone, sat down and wrote this epitaph: ‘The good Earth—we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.’” There’s a lot of slamming of Bush and Cheney and mentions of the rigged election of 2000, which brings me back to my teen years and being frightened of a new draft. I thought for sure the Earth was going to end in those eight years. It was terrifying, wasn’t it?

What I really liked the most about the book is towards the end. Vonnegut urges you to notice when things are good in your life and when you’re happy and to murmur or exclaim or even just think, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

And I really want to start doing that. I think I’ll start doing that.

Learning about where you live

I’m fascinated by the history of wherever I am. I live in a Victorian house right now that’s been split up into apartments, and I sit in bed some nights trying to imagine what my particular part of this old house originally looked like. Who lived here? Who had it built? Every place has an historical identity that you are a part of, and learning about it helps you appreciate everything better.

I have a friend who worked for the Colorado Historical Society and gave tours of the Byers-Evans House Museum. The home once belonged to William Byers, the founder of Denver’s first newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News. He later sold the home to Colorado’s second territorial governor, John Evans. The home has been restored to the 1912 and 1924 period and walking through it feels just like stepping back in time. I got a bunch of free passes and I take the tour over and over.

It’s a great way to escape whatever troubles I have.

Walking through a park

I’m a non-driver. I’ve never owned a car in my entire life, and although I own a bike I still prefer putting some headphones on and walking through Denver than riding through it on a bicycle.

Go for a long walk! Walking is good for your heart and releases endorphins into your bloodstream, making you happy and reducing stress. One day last week I woke up pretty early in the morning and had some coffee with Leah. We had an appointment to look at a new apartment, and wanted to kill some time, so we went for a long walk through Denver’s City Park. There’s a place in the park where you can see into the Denver Zoo, and we stopped there for a moment because we could see a Rhinoceros. It was great!

I found myself on that beautiful morning, with a beautiful woman, some feel-good endorphins rushing through my veins, staring at a megafauna. And if that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.