I was born in 1961 in Akron, Ohio. (...) I hated school. I just never fit in. I spent most of my time alone. I liked it that way and still do. I had terrible math difficulties that only brought on humiliation and abuse by some of the miserable teachers I was subjected to. My goal was to miss as much school as possible. I was much happier exploring the large amounts of woods that surrounded me at home. I was never happier than when I was sitting high in the branches of some tree listening to the birdcalls. I also had a broken down pony to spend time with. Calico was her name and I used to ride her like I saw some Native Americans did—with only a rope on her halter and bareback. For an old girl she was fast and I won many ribbons in local horse shows competing in racing and games. For a poor as we were I was never unhappy except at school.
David Baldinger at the age of 11
I was able to escape high school (ages 15 to 18) by going to a vocational school during the day. I entered a three-year Commercial Art program. From there it was just a natural progression to continue on to an Art school after graduating high school in 1979. My Mom and Dad divorced at this time and my Dad moved back to Pittsburgh to live with his mother. My Mom and I moved into an apartment in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t the best of places but we had a bathroom and hot water!
That year, when I started art school in September, I moved into my Grandmother’s attic. All I can write about that was it was tolerable. I had decent space and could ignore everyone else. I had a black and white television, a record player and a radio. I also hauled all of my art books in too. My Grandmother died in 1995, I think and my Dad died in 2004, both from cancer so I’ve got that most to likely look forward to.
I wish I had more guidance back then about choosing a school but I was a member of the “Vo-Tech” kids so we weren’t expected to have higher aspirations. I just followed my other art classmates to The Art Institute Of Pittsburgh, a two-year visual arts school. I chose Visual Communications as my course of study. This was mainly advertising art with some basic photography thrown in. By my second year there, I knew I had no real interest in advertising art and enjoyed photography much more but I didn’t want to have to start all over again. Money was an issue also since I was limited to government grants to the poor for education. I was really disappointed by the school’s complete lack of interest in helping me explore cartooning. It was to be airbrush or watercolor images of products, type fitting and paste up or nothing. Looking back, I realize that I was being trained for the lowest form of art and to be a drawing table slave. I knew I had no interest in making pictures of toasters or slamming produce photos and prices on a page for supermarket ads.
(…) Once I graduated art school in 1982, I found myself desperate for work. After being rejected by most companies I applied for, including Hallmark Cards and American Greetings, I decided I could stand poverty no more and enlisted in the US Air Force. I had hoped for a decent job in the service but found myself stuck in P.O.L. (Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants) as a fuels specialist. My job was going to be a mobile gas station attendant for aircraft. Sure, it was a necessary job but deadly boring for me. The only good thing was being sent to England after basic training. I was stationed at RAF Mildenhall in East Anglia for two years. I loved England and its people. I loved not being in the USA. I loved taking weekend trips to London and I especially loved cider.
After the Air Force, I found myself right back where I started in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. First, I took some photography and video classes at a local college. Then I found a job making photographic prints for a very strange guy who made large aerial photographs for businesses. The guy was creepy in some way I couldn’t put my finger on. That didn’t last long but I was hired, luckily, by the local Community College as its Public Relations photographer. I really had no clue what I was doing but I threw myself into it and learned as I went along. It was very difficult at first because I am a very shy person and having to deal with the public gave me great panic attacks. I did this from 1989 to 1995.
I was married in 1990 and have a 19-year-old son who is a total guitar maniac. My wife is a wizard of everything. I don’t know of anything she is incapable of doing. She is an artist, an awesome quilter and textile artist. She is a fantastic cook and just the best at tearing stupid people a new asshole. She is a never ending river of information that just boggles my addled mind.
In 1995, I became a news photographer for a small local rag. My job was mostly high school sporting events and old women holding signs announcing their upcoming church dinners or fundraisers. The hours were miserable and the pay pathetic so, after my car died for one last time, I quit. By then I had a family so I had to find work doing something. I then worked for a national office supply chain selling computers and electronics. Shortly after that, I was able to move back into the merchandise receiving department as the data entry person.
I attempted to teach photography a couple of times at the same Community College where I formerly worked but I just don’t have the temperament. I found the students uninspired, lazy and just plainly without talent. Technical skills can be learned but without an eye or artistic sense, it just seemed pointless. I turned one day from the chalkboard to find myself staring into a sea of blank faces and dull eyes. It was then I knew that teaching was not for me.
By 1999, I was so mind-numbingly bored I quit to work for one of the big home satellite television providers as a customer service representative. What a huge mistake that was. People calling in were horrible to deal with. I didn’t enjoy being screamed at for eight hours a day. I started taking Xanax to keep calm and ended up in the hospital. That was the end of that job.
In the hospital, I was diagnosed as Bi-Polar with chronic depression, anxiety and an attention deficit disorder. Subsequently, I was also diagnosed with Asperger syndrome that explained a lot about my miserable educational experience as a child and my horrible interpersonal skills as an adult. I suffer from a lot of unreasonable anxiety. I find it nearly impossible to read since I lose focus very quickly and forget what I just read. Constantly re-reading gets exhausting. I forget things so easily that I am compulsive about rechecking everything I’ve done. My wife gets mad because she will ask me direct questions and I find it impossible to verbalize a response. The cacophony of city noise overwhelms me. I am able to have more emotional contact with my cats than any person and that really upsets the wife. I can’t tolerate quickly changing routines. Panic sets in immediately. I have to work myself up to accepting anything new.
Not to let the whining about my physical problems get out of hand but I haven’t worked since 2000 in an actual job. To keep sane, I draw political cartoons and spot illustrations for The People’s Weekly World newspaper.