When I created the "Josh Pincus is Crying" character
over a decade ago, I did my very best to maintain the illusion of the outspoken, opinionated, little red-headed stepchild that lives inside of all of us. I decided that rascally persona would remain online and online only
, presenting my twisted illustrations, my somewhat dark sense of humor and my cranky demeanor as a goofy magnified version of the real
me. I was able to keep the online
"Josh" separate from the real-life
"Josh" for quite some time.
and, more recently, Facebook
, I gained followers from all across the country and even across the world. Soon, I started to let small bits of my real life trickle into the online version of me, I infrequently posted photos of myself (previously a big no-no), although I tried to obscure my face, only allowing my "trademark" red hair to identify me. Sure, there are plenty of people who knew me in my pre-Josh Pincus days, but the more personal information I let slip out on my blogs (the one you're reading and my illustration blog
), the more my two lives were brought together, making me more recognizable to those who only know me as that red-haired smart-ass who complains about everything and draws dead people.
Still only a handful of people who know the online
Josh have met the real
Josh. The first was voice actress April Winchell
. Among her many talents, April briefly ran a website called Regretsy.com (now defunct), a hilarious dig at the artsy etsy.com. April relentlessly scanned the numerous entries on etsy.com, seeking out (and making fun of) the cream of the crap. I was a frequent commentor on Regretsy.com, regularly acknowledged by Miss Winchell. One year into the website's run, April published a book based on the Regretsy site, presenting the "best of the worst" that etsy.com had to offer. She went on a limited book tour that brought the transplanted Californian back to her native New York. My family and I attended the book-signing event and when I approached the table to get my book inscribed, I sheepishly (well, actually boisterously
) revealed myself as "Josh Pincus." April lit up and afforded me a warm hug. We have remained in touch, albeit infrequently.
Surviving my first real-life "Josh Pincus" encounter, I dove headfirst into my second one. Through my long-time association with Illustration Friday
, an online weekly artistic challenge, I have interacted with fellow artists around the globe. One of those artists — Indigene
— I discovered, lives near me in the Philadelphia suburbs. Indigene is a real
artist (not like me and my silly little drawings), using all sorts of media to create unique pieces of striking beauty. I saw that she was participating in a small showing at a house/gallery not far from me, so I decided to surprise her. After a morning traipsing through a couple of cemeteries
, I arrived at the location of Indigene's art exhibit. I entered the house. Towards the back of the cramped basement, I spotted Indigene's work displayed along a long wall. I surmised that the woman alongside the pieces was Indigene. She was speaking with some prospective buyers, so I waited patiently. When she turned her attention to me, I smiled and introduced myself, first by real name, then as Josh Pincus. She shrieked and threw her arms around me. I suppose this is the reaction I should have expected. From her perspective, it was like meeting an imaginary being — finding out they are, in fact, real. Suddenly, I'm like Santa Claus
. Maybe a little closer to Freddy Krueger
One evening at the end of last year, my son and I went to see local (but soon to bust out worldwide) rock and rollers Low Cut Connie
at a hometown show at the grand old Trocadero, a one-time vaudeville theater - turned strip club - turned concert venue. Before the show began, my boy and I were standing in our usual "down in front of the stage" position chatting, when we were approached by a woman. She hesitantly spoke to me, asking the single syllable, "Josh?" I had never seen her before and, at first, I found it a little unnerving. My son E.
, a DJ on a Philadelphia radio station and a self-proclaimed "minor local celebrity," is used to getting recognized. But, me...? I'm just a regular guy... with bright red hair. She introduced herself as "Amy" and confessed to being a Twitter follower and a big fan of Josh Pincus. In the darkened lights of the venue, it must have been difficult to see that I was blushing. It was equally
as difficult to see that E. was rolling his eyes. Amy jabbed her husband in the ribs and pointed in my direction. "This is Josh Pincus!
," she excitedly explained. He appeared as disinterested as everyone else
in the room. "Who's Josh Pincus?," he obligingly asked. "You know," she said sternly, "the artist from the internet!" He obviously didn't
know, nor did he care. But, it was still pretty cool — and a little embarrassing — to get recognized. I have seen Amy at other concerts, as well as on Twitter. She says she proudly wears her official "Josh Pincus" buttons, but "proudly" is a relative word.
Mrs. Pincus and I just returned from our sixth cruise. That's right — sixth!
I realize that I have become the person that I made fun of on our first cruise
. We had a great time, but, to tell you the truth, all cruises are the same. Our experience has been nearly identical
on each sailing. Sure, the faces change and the entertainment may be slightly different, but the overall experience is the same. That's not a bad
thing. It's enjoyable, fun and relaxing, it's just the "cruise experience."
A few weeks prior to our departure date, Mrs. Pincus joined a Facebook group specifically for our cruise. She began interacting with various members of the group and soon, she was referring to "Marilyn this" and "Richard that" and "George said this." "Who are these people?," I asked. She explained that I would meet them all on our upcoming cruise. After a week or so, I felt like I was going on this cruise with my wife and a bunch of her friends. One evening, my wife was telling me about a member of the Facebook group who blogs about cruises and mentioned that she has a child with severe food allergies. I paused and, out of nowhere, I asked, "Does she live in Toronto?" Mrs. P shot me a look of confusion. "I don't know. I'll check.," she replied. A quick scan of Facebook yielded an affirmative answer. This woman did indeed reside in Toronto. It turns out that we have been following each other on Twitter for years! I write regularly about my past adventures in Disney theme parks. She contributes to a blog that asked to use one of my illustrations. Since our initial connection, I have been sending her links to my Disney-centric blog posts. Over the years, we discovered that, among other things, our children both saw their first baseball games at Toronto's SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre). And, of course, I have made playful fun of Canada at her expense... but I make fun of everything. I shot her a quick private Twitter message to let her know that — ta daa! — we would be on the same cruise.
A meet and greet gathering was scheduled for the Facebook group for the first full day at sea. On that morning, Mrs. P and I headed to the ship's buffet, what would be the first of many, many visits during our week at sea. We called for an elevator and when the doors opened, there was already a passenger inside. The woman looked at Mrs. Pincus and exclaimed, "You're Susan!" By strange chance, it was Hiromi, my Twitter pal. We all laughed and embraced. An hour or so later, we formally met at the meet and greet, along with many other members of the Facebook group. I had to explain to Hiromi that "Josh Pincus" is a pseudonym, but she took to calling me by my real
name almost instantly. Later in the week, we had a lovely dinner with her, her husband and son. (Hiromi has a teenage daughter that we met for a fleeting moment, as she spent the week off doing "teenager-y" things, sans
parents.) Mrs. Pincus, the nicest person in the world
, prepared little gift bags for Hiromi's children. We were sailing over Hallowe'en and she didn't want them to miss out.
On the evening of the day Mrs. P and I arrived home, I went to a concert with my son, my brother and a few friends. Before the show, I was telling my brother about the Twitter-Hiromi-Cruise internet triangle, and how my "online" life was slowly crossing paths with my "real" life. Our conversation was interrupted by a young woman who walked past me and cheerfully said, "Hi, Mr. Pincus!" I cocked my head and tried to place her. She said she follows me on Twitter and we had met earlier in the year at an outdoor music festival. My brother, surprisingly impressed, shook his head and laughed. "Boy," he observed, "you are quite the celebrity."
After the show, singer Nicole Atkins
was busily attending to her merchandise. Nicole, a stellar performer with a magnificent voice, is friends with my son. My pal Steve approached her merch table to purchase an album and he asked me if Nicole knew me. I said, while we have met, it was some time ago. I would probably have to explain who I am. As we drew nearer to the table, Nicole looked up, gave a little wave and, with a smile, said, "Hi, E.'s dad."
Okay, now, it's getting weird.