I was running an errand the other day in Downtown Los Angeles. As a big fan of classic Hollywood and detective fiction, I relish in the landmarks and mainstays, from the outdoor urban paradise of MacArthur Park to the crowds of bustling travelers at Union Station; from the authentic Hispanic heritage so beautifully displayed on Olvera Street to the architectural marvel of the Bradbury building (where, by the way, the most cinematic scene from “Blade Runner” was shot). But none of them tickle me as much as the iconic Felix the Cat sign atop the almost century-old Felix Chevrolet.
The reason for this is that, as a child growing up in the seventies and eighties, I lived for my cartoons. And none of them quite measured up to the antics and personality of Felix the Cat. Back then, there were first-run cartoons of that era, most of those ran on Saturday mornings or after school. In addition to those, there were these “cartoon hour” programs that played classic animated shorts from the 1940’s and 1950’s, which consisted of Looney Toons, Popeye, Woody Woodpecker and, yes, you guessed it, Felix the Cat. True aficionados gravitated to those classics, and less the current day fare. Don’t get me wrong, “Transformers” and “ThunderCats” were cool, but there was something so clever, so mature, so cinematic, in the classic shorts of yesteryear.
This brings me to the title of this article. Yes, Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, and Popeye were clever guys who outwitted their respective antagonists, but none of them had a magic bag of tricks. This was solely the property of the one and only Felix the Cat. As every investigator knows, one trick ain’t enough. One’s wits and brawn can get one only so far. What really gives a detective their edge is the tricks they’ve developed over the years, usually passed down from a mentor or series of mentors. When I attend conferences and watch seminars, one thing stands out to me. There are a lot of tricks out there. However, most of the tricks that you see being taught today rely on technology. Specifically, how to use cool new tools to find information. Those tricks are great and will work for a little while. And I encourage you to learn them. But the classic detective, the one who will withstand the test of time, is the one whose bag of tricks comes from generations before them.
One thing I have learned from several millennia of literature is that, although technology changes, people do not. Ever. The person who has a deep, versatile bag of tricks that revolve around reading and manipulating human behavior will be best prepared against even the most formidable foes.
Don’t take it from me. Take it from Felix.
Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.