if you insist

I took very few pictures at TCAF. I rely on Robin for that kind of thing. (You can see his massive photo archive from last weekend here, if you’re really interested.)

Still, to make up for the unrelenting text of the previous post, I present you with this meager bounty of visual – dare I say it? – delights. 

Here’s Brandon next to British Columbia’s most popular marine predator. Watch that gaping toothless maw, buddy. Remember, it’s known as Orca: the Killing Whale.

Look! Brandon made a little banana lady! She’s so respectable, and possibly in mourning!

But wait, turn her around, and she’s a doughty gentleman! I say unto you, sir, harumph.

Surely this banana can transform no further?

Yegad! A jungle cat! Not… panthera onca?

No! Not my baby! Take me! Take meeeeeeeeeee!

The above production was brought to you by Brandon Graham (lady and gentleman) and Marian Churchland (jaguar). Words by Shakespeare.

Mickey, riding Princess Diana’s silhouette off into the sunset.

James and Marley. Big Bird’s trying to photo bomb them with a West Coast hand sign but you can’t even tell because he’s got like three fingers. What a failure.

James, Robin, and Jho in the Marriott elevator. A  moment worth treasuring.

Breakfast at Second Cup with Farel and Brandon. Hi-jinx ensue.

THE END.



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TCAFETERIA

This isn’t a con report. It’s more like a 13-year-old girl gushing madly in her secret diary about the bestest weekend of like her whole entire life? Picture all my i’s dotted with hearts that I’ve gone back and coloured with a red felt pen. TCAF was that good.

I know I sometimes get paid to write stuff but I never feel like a professional at conventions. This is probably no surprise to anyone because I never have anything to exhibit. I just tag along with my friends, who are, as someone (I think it was the lovely Jordyn Buchon) pointed out to me, LEGENDARY. I liked that.

So this isn’t a professional-type convention review where I talk (as everyone is doing elsewhere) about how well-run TCAF is. Really all I can contribute to this internet cuddle puddle is me talking about how dope it was to have so much fun with so many people, some of whom I never even met before. So, enjoy that.

Deeeeeear diary,

So I flew with Marian and Brandon to Toronto on Friday. What did I watch on the plane, you ask? I watched Wall Street 2 and found myself fascinated by the evenly-tanned dewiness of Shia LeBeouf’s talking head. I guess you could call me an anxious flyer, because sometimes I get this queasy adrenaline rush during take offs and landings, or say, heavy turbulence, but it’s weirdly unreliable. Sometimes I’m fine.

I was talking to Farel about this. See, my fear of flying is, for me, like flying with a baby. If I get lucky, the baby sleeps the whole time. If not, the baby wails continuously and all the comfort I try to give it, all my shushing and attempts to reason with it do nothing to quiet its rage and ultimate distrust. At times like that, I may be tempted to drug the baby, but  I know too well that the baby has a better chance to just fucking GET OVER IT if it isn’t drugged off its ass on benzos.

But it’s not so bad. I think I was more anxious about the con itself, actually. I’ve gotten used to the West Coast conventions but Toronto is like, Toronto. People in Vancouver are often weird about Toronto, and I’m a good example. It represents too many things for me, most of them intimidating and/or depressing. Or it did once. No longer. Here, check this out.

Good Things About Toronto I Never Realized, or Stubbornly Ignored:

- Strangers are usually friendlier than in Vancouver. This is a subtle thing and if you haven’t spent a lot of time here you might never pick up on it. It’s not that Vancouverites are unfriendly, but there’s a city-wide pact, entirely unspoken, that in Vancouver you do not intrude on somebody you don’t know. It’s like, impolite or something. You don’t just talk to people easily and casually like it’s no big deal. If somebody comes up and talks to you out of nowhere, they’re breaking a social code and are probably either crazy or they want something.

- Vancouver has less culture. I’m sorry. It’s a generalization, but it’s mostly true. We coast along on our scenic beauty and I’m sure the Volleyball scene is more rockin’, or something, but we’ve never had to fortify ourselves through grueling winters and psychotically humid summers by staying inside and developing our social scene. We’re probably out kayaking. Whales are jumping over us. It’s never that cold or hot. LIFE IS TOO EASY. (My apologies to  the Downtown East-Side but hey, Kitsilano, I’m looking in your direction).

- Toronto has more places to eat, drink, and stay out late. Vancouver is too busy getting stoned.

- Toronto has worked REALLY HARD to have an amazing creator-centric comic convention like TCAF. Not to mention a comic store like The Beguiling. Us? Still stoned.

My first night in Toronto was semi-awkward. Overwhelmed by insecurity and anxious to GET THIS THING OVER WITH I twitched and muttered through dinner with an old friend and hurried to The Pilot for a TCAF party where I knew my allies were waiting. Once there I immediately found James and Marley hanging out with Mickey and Jho.

I hadn’t seen Mickey or Jho since San Diego, um, five years ago? I like Jho so much. Marian met her for the first time this trip and they have already forged a lifetime bond over macaroons. She can draw, too.

As for Mickey, I have this weird reaction to Mickey where half the time I’m wide-eyed with hero worship and the rest of the time I want to push her in the mud and pull her hair and run away. It’s a schoolyard thing. If we were in elementary school together, she would own me.

So that was fun. But I was drinking to catch up with everyone else and relax, which is a dumb reason to drink. I kept pounding up and down the narrow stairs to the top floor bar, catching glimpses of Robin schmoozing it up. He was like an eel in a bucket of snot, that guy, making introductions and working the room. I trailed around after him for a while but I was starting to crash.

When I left with Brandon and got back to the hotel I was like, guys, did you realize that I actually in reality SUCK AT LIFE? And they were both very nice about it and talked me down and I fell asleep with Marian in the big fluffy bed while Brandon slept semi-upright in an armchair footstool combination that looked like hell. He was very chivalrous about it, too.

I didn’t sleep the night before the con. Kate mentioned to me later that Emily spent that night lying awake in a state of “cat-like readiness.” I enjoyed that, and I think I said “cat-like readiness” about a dozen times that day in different contexts. I never say anything with more satisfaction and confidence than when I’ve overheard someone else say it first. This often happens with current-affairs “factoids” that turn out to be completely false. I think it makes me look smart.

For some reason I was expecting the Toronto Reference Library to be made entirely of glass. It’s not. Brandon set up (or rather I set up for him, because I like to feel a part of things) next to James and Marley, and Marian showed up a bit later, and the convention began.

I bought some stuff right away, which is weird for me. I bought some Micheal DeForge books and he gave me some other stuff to top it off. “You know all my friends,” he said.

“So do you,” I said, “you know all mine.”

We both looked paranoid.

I think Mickey pressed her comics on me FREE GRATIS, and I was like “score”, because people have been warning me about her creepily rape-centric comics for ages. The night before, at The Pilot, I told her how I used to read her teenage blog. She used to draw all these really stacked dudes. Then she went to art school and got perverted or something. She promised to draw some more stacked dudes. [YOU PROMISED MICKEY. YOU SWORE IT.] Anyway, I look forward to reading her latest work.

Then I went other to the Drawn & Quarterly tables and got the last book of Tove Jannson-penned Moomin strips. I used it as a folder for everything else I got after that, and people kept giving me stuff. Everyone was giving everyone comics and stickers and pins and other colourful objects. I had nothing to give anyone but dirty Canadian money and looks of feverish love. They didn’t seem to mind. People gave each other so much stuff that some people got doubles of stuff and gave me the doubles. I was wallowing in swag. One of my most-anticipated scores was Emily’s mini-comic collection, That Night in June, and I barely got to peek at it because it required a quiet room and I was never in one.

I found a great spot to sit next to Kate, on the wooden stage behind Emily’s table, and watched her enviously as she helped Emily slip prints into plastic sleeves. I like the idea of helping my friends sell stuff but I don’t end up doing it much because people obviously want to buy the art from the artist, and get it signed, and anyway Marian and Brandon’s table didn’t have a sweet stage behind it and lacked for extra chairs. But Kate had a whole system. I told her we should definitely seriously for-real-this-time bring our own stuff to the next convention we end up at. I mean, she obviously should, because she’s an incredibly capable, talented artist. And I just figure it will be good for me. Like a kid going to camp, or something. A camp for creatively stunted and procrastinating children.

Brandon had a panel with Paul Pope and Sam Hiti that Robin hosted. I was impressed by Robin’s ease behind the microphone and Brandon was really engaging. He said some funny stuff. People laughed. At some point after that, however, my exhaustion caught up with me and I ended up napping under James and Marley’s table while they signed and drew stuff. It was comfortable there. I felt like a pet. At one point I heard Marley say “don’t we have a thicker Micron?” and I found an 05 Micron under her chair and handed it up to her. So helpful!

Then it was over for the day. I left my swag under the table (thereby sealing my fate, but more on this later) and a bunch of us, Robin, Brandon, Marian, Farel, Jho, James and Marley, tried to go out for Indian food. But James was nominated for a Doug Wright award and Robin had to drag him and Marley off before they could eat. Our food took forever.

Then to Paupers, which I thought for a long time was called Poppers, like pills*. It’s not really a good name either way.

Paupers was packed and loud and the cider was gross. They played some MC Hammer at one point, which was the musical highlight, and people were live-drawing. I watched the Canucks lose to Nashville on the shitty television. Mickey flew across the room at one point and straddled me: another triumph! We all ended up on the rooftop patio, squeezed in with way too many TCAFers. I smoked one of Jho’s candy-tasting clove ciggarettes from Indonesia, which made my mouth taste gross the rest of the night, and tried to pickpocket from Mickey, but her cat-like readiness stopped me, even me, from figuring out what she carries in her ninja-style bag of tricks. Now I will never know. And that haunts me.

At one point I was climbing on a railing like a goof and Brandon said “you know Emily and Kate are here, right?” And I sort of fell off the railing because I really like Emily and Kate. I know they live in Vancouver and I’d talked to Kate all day but I was still excited to see them. Big parties do that to me. People I’m already friends with suddenly glow with special privilege among the strangers and anyway, some people are just awesome.

Kate came over and we both acknowledged that the crowding was kind of insane and that our lives were in peril. Emily was talking to Brandon and Ken Dahl/Gabby Schulz – whose book MONSTERS is so good, oh man! – so Kate and I fought our way through the crowd to an exit I’d found that was actually its own little part of the roof, next to the washrooms, and we did some breathing and looked around. It was peaceful. I think I compared a puddle on an adjoining roof to a reflective pool, or something. There was talk of a gazing ball. Kate said “it’s really good” in response to something and suddenly one of these two drunk guys who’d popped up from nowhere beside us cut in with “I’m really good… AT SEX.”

Now, I already mentioned this on twitter, even after Kate mentioned this on twitter, and there’s only so much mileage something like this has, but I don’t feel bad about telling the story again. I said something like, “And now we’re leaving! Have fun at sex!” And we re-joined the mass of the party, refreshed in our renewed faith that other people are actually just total dorks, you know?

From Paupers I followed Emily and Kate and their friends (who are cool) to a Karaoke bar with a middling song selection, and I sang my first karaoke song, which was 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton. A banner evening all around, really.

I got back to the Holiday Inn alone. In the elevator I found two drunk men. One of them was bent over, trying to pick up a his dropped Visa card, moving in slow motion. I nodded hello to them and the elevator doors closed. Card in had, the very drunk one stood up. The other man said to him, “Are you ready to face Frank?”

The very drunk man sighed. “Oh man,” he said, “Frank is the least of my worries now.”

We arrived at my floor and the doors opened. The less drunk of the two nodded to me. “Have a good night,” he said.

“You too,” I said. “Good luck with Frank.”

He smiled grimly. “We’ll need it.”

I arrived at the hotel room in such a state of goodwill and triumphant high-kicks that Brandon and Marian were amazed and a little frightened.

That night I slept.

Then back to the con on Sunday. It all begins to blend together. I know at some point I ran around with Mickey and insisted that we ride the glass elevator to the second floor. This security guard beside the elevator didn’t really want us to do so, even though other people had been doing it all day. The third floor was off limits to anyone who wasn’t staff.

Wait, I should explain something. Mickey doesn’t like rules. I had to win over the security guy and talk her down just to get her in the elevator. Then she flipped the bird with rapid-fire machine gun action at everyone on the convention floor as we rode upward.

Now, the volunteers at TCAF were great and always cheerful and helpful, but there was this one point, the main door leading to the salon where half the convention took place, that was guarded by a volunteer who would only allow you to walk IN the door, not out. He wasn’t a jerk about it and I’m sure it had something to do with fire code or traffic flow, but it involved taking a fairly round-about route to enter or exit the salon. Not only was this counter-intuitive, but made walking from point A to point B a matter of Rules.

Mickey would not stand for this.

We attempted to enter the exit route, and were stopped by a polite guy in a yellow shirt. Mickey tried side-stepping him, but he stayed in front of her, determined that she wouldn’t pass. Mickey explained, quite calmly, I thought, that she was going to do it anyway.

“Please don’t,” he said.

“What if I run?” she demanded. Then she ran. He ran after her.

She was only testing him. She could have outrun the dude, obviously, because she is basically a parkour ninja who happens to be in two fight clubs, neither of which I’m supposed to talk about, so never mind. She tested the volunteer, and the volunteer did not waver. He could have just let her go, but he ran after and gently (so gently) tackled her and walked her back over to me, holding on to her shoulders.

“I’m only doing this because you’re doing this!” she screeched.

I should mention that at this point, she had almost completely lost her voice from screaming at people (?) and she sounded horrible.

“Are you alright?” the volunteer asked, looking concerned, and Mickey croaked “My fucking voice!” and grabbed her throat.

“She’s very upset about this whole entrance and exit thing,” I explained to him.

His eyes widened. “I’m so sorry.”

The point of this anecdote being that Mickey is an authority defying hero, yes, but also that TCAF volunteers, though empathetic, have balls of solid rock.

The con came to an end and we went our different ways for dinner. I ended up with Robin, Farel and Brandon at a cozy little restaurant that was classy and tasty AND open 24-hours (this would never happen in Vancouver), next to a table full of people Brandon and Robin knew, who I would get to know later. They were friendly. Everyone was so friendly.

We showed up at Clinton’s for the after-party and who should be sitting in the front of the bar but Emily and Kate. The party was supposedly taking place in the back room, but I sat down next to Kate and ordered a cider (a good one, this time) and somehow or another we never got to the back room. Well, we ducked in once to reconnoiter but found it displeasing and returned to our table, which became the set of our late night chat show. We had a rotation of guests. In between guests, we nerded the fuck out.

You know when you talk to people you like, and you mention stuff you like, and they know what you’re talking about? And like, they like it too? And I’m not talking about puppies or anything general but the truest nerdiest parts of your innermost soul? Yes, we nerded out, and our guests kept coming and going and coming back, (we got really good ratings), and people kept abandoning the back room for the front, and I was like “I’ll go when you guys go” and Emily was all “we’ll go soon” and Kate said “we’re never going, are we?” and I was totally like “no we are not.”

It was awesome.

I ended up calling Robin in the middle of the night and waking him when he had to be up anyway in about two hours, and then I sat in the lobby of the Marriot for ages and read Johnny Wander volume one. Strangers – I think they were strangers? – kept talking to me about comics and despite being from Vancouver I talked back until Brandon and Farel finally showed up and Brandon and I cabbed back to the Holiday Inn and I passed out. Despite everything, I’d managed to remember to transfer my swag from the convention to the Marriot and back to the Holiday Inn in spare suitcase of Brandon’s. THEREBY SEALING MY FATE.

I only woke up when Brandon and Farel showed up with coffee the next morning. We had to check out and Marian was already out having breakfast. Her and Brandon are staying a few extra days in Toronto with friends, so they’d already moved their stuff to their new digs, including the suitcase full of swag. If I’d been awake I could have prevented this and be rolling in comics and mini-comics this very second, but I was dead on my feet. We headed to the Beguiling, the famous comic store I’ve been hearing about for literally a decade, (it lived up to the hype) and I scrambled to ensure the suitcase would reach me before I had to leave for the airport, yet it was not to be. My swag is still in Toronto, and won’t be back for two more days at least, and I am sad. But not that sad.

It was fun to take the subway to the airport with Farel and Greg, who publishes Papercutter, a damn fine comics anthology. I had no e-ticket or confirmation number, but I got on my flight anyway (it’s so weird to fly without a passport, since I almost never travel within Canada) and watched The King’s Speech. The anxious baby inside me was sleeping. The four or five actual babies on the plane were not. But no matter.

As the cab pulled up in front of my parents’ house, where I’d left my dog, I heard the Canucks beating Nashville on the radio. Did I care? I did. In any case, it felt right. Another triumph.

*Robin just informed me that “poppers” aren’t pills. They’re little bottles you break open and huff. My apologies to poppers.

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have you looked at my dog lately?

Not lately enough, you haven’t!

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only the names change

A week or so before leaving for Seattle, I had breakfast with Marian, Brandon, Robin, Emily, and Kate* at Paul’s. After breakfast we headed up a couple of blocks to the ABC comic and book emporium on Granville, which is a treasure trove of the sort of weird old adventure books I love. Every time I go there, I have to grab a chair from somewhere in the store and drag it back to the travel/adventure section, get up on it, and pull deteriorating paperbacks from stacks of books wedged between two tall bookshelves. The books are awesome, lots of vintage gems about mountain-climbing and traversing oceans in small sailboats, and being frozen into the arctic ice for multiple starving winters, and all that fun stuff. I always have better luck picking through unknown authors within this particular genre of rousing outdoor hi-jinx than I do with novels. I’m more picky when it comes to fiction, I guess.

So anyway, I got all excited about five or six books – one of which, about the first winter ascent of Denali, is now disintegrating page by page as I read it, which is irritating because it was clearly overpriced by not being, you know, free – and decided that the first book I’d read would be this one: Report from Engine Co. 82 by Dennis Smith. Now apparently this book is still in print and has about a hundred positive reviews on Amazon and so on, and the new editions look like this:

Okay fine, but the book’s apparent longevity does slightly annoy me. See, when I saw it I imagined it as this glorious Nixon-era treasure that nobody else my age would ever come across without my heroic intervention. Not only is it book about real-life fire fighting, which promises, you know, excitement, a smattering of morbidity and… um, actual heroic intervention, the cover of my copy looked like this:

Evocative, no? Look at that nonchalant pose on the back of that fire truck. That carefully placed helmet, the author’s cocky leer so at odds with the prominently displayed wedding ring.

Basically, I saw this cover (actually it’s the back cover but I saw this side first) and thought “this guy is the last guy on earth I would recommend to write a hard-hitting expose on pre-9-11 firefighting in the South Bronx, and therefore this will be HILARIOUS.”

And it is occasionally hilarious, don’t get me wrong, but I guess he actually knew what he was talking about, because the book is like a classic of firefighting literature now and I looked up Dennis Smith’s Wikipedia page and that is a thing that does actually exist. Then I went to his website and saw what he looks like today:

Boner kill! I mean, or possibly not? Silver fox! Whatever, I don’t even know anymore. You can bet, as I did, that this guy was all over September 11th 2001, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way.* I mean he did write a lot about it, yes. Though come to think of it, that’s probably distinctly un-hilarious, so let’s go back to his earlier days of fighting fires. And lighting them. In ladies pants.

So yeah, when Dennis (I call him Dennis) wrote RfECo.82, the United States was still in its  nutty phase where people didn’t know yet that presidents are generally creepy. All sorts of antics were going down. The South Bronx was apparently filled with tenements built out of matches or something, because they burned to the ground constantly. Where there is now a trendy bistro specializing in pork, there was once a flaming building filled with poor people who had this thing about seriously hating firefighters because firefighters are The Man.

Maybe these dudes shouldn't have taken their clothes off during that last fire. Now they're all sooty.

This was before firefighters were universally loved and had calenders that featured them greasy and shirtless, holding a dalmatian puppy in each hand and mouthing the words “I will always protect you”. In my mind. In fact, from reading RfECo.89, I sort of got the feeling Dennis Smith might have single-handedly changed the entire world’s perception of firefighters from “pig white motherfuckers” (a bunch of local kids chant this at Dennis and company throughout the book) to hunky multicultural rescuers you tend not to throw bricks at. That’s another thing people did when Nixon was president: throw bricks at firefighter’s heads, often when the firefighters were still doing that crazy-ass suicidal thing where they hung on to the back of the truck as it sped willy-nilly through the fiery, fiery streets.

Actually, early in the book you find out that one fireman was recently preforming this hang-on-for-your-life routine (anybody know why they did that in the first place?) and he lost his grip and hit the road going however-many miles per hour and bled out before help got there. What’s worse, the fire engine was racing to a false alarm at the time.

Oh yeah, so here’s the first instance of 1970’s Dennis being somewhat kooky. It turns out that the person who pulled the false alarm that led indirectly to the freak accident that led to the fireman dying on the street was a nine-year-old boy. In Dennis Smith’s own words:

“I do not advocate cutting off the child’s hand, but I do think he should have been institutionalized for year.”

Wait, Dennis, what? Surely by “institutionalized” you don’t mean…

“Anyone [he continues] found guilty of pulling a false alarm should be sent to jail for a year. Or, if under sixteen, to a reform school.”

Hmm. Bit harsh. I mean, kid was nine, it’s not like he threw a brick, and a South Bronx reform school in the 1970’s? Talk about school of hard knocks. You are going to turn that little boy into a hardened false-alarm-pulling, firefighter-hating machine. If he lives.

So anyway, Dennis fights a lot of fires, a lot of which are giant piles of garbage that kids or adults light on fire for fun, and more of which are those tenements built of matches I mentioned earlier, in which people die horrible deaths because the exits are chained up against burglars or because, in one case, a guy who hired a bunch of teenage arsonists to do their thing just waited until they’d covered the building with gas before tossing in a match and locking the door. It’s pretty much Gangs of New York-style mayhem without Daniel Day-Lewis and his facial hair around to make it entertaining.

Wow. This is getting long. Okay, here’s some more weird outdated stuff I found interesting:

Fact! This was back when firefighters only wore masks while fighting fires some of the time, like for example when they felt like running back to the truck to put one on, or when their supervisor was all “yep, looks like your face is burning off, better grab a mask.” It seems this wacky disregard for safety and oxygen led to the eventual death (by emphysema or throat cancer) of thousands of hardworking Nixon-era firefighters. Which isn’t in my old edition of the book because, you know, hindsight. So that’s depressing. I don’t know why, if they had the masks, they didn’t wear the masks all the time? Not that I’m blaming them, but just, man. Seriously. Wear some masks, guys.

Nixon-era firefighter. No mask.

Also fact! Almost all firefighters back then were chain smokers. During one dangerous escapade, a couple of firemen and Dennis are trapped on the floor above a fire, which is a very bad place to be, and the fire is all around them and their sudden crispy death seems eminent, when one wiseacre sticks a cigarette in his mouth and says “anyone got a match?” Yeah that was a big hit back at the firehouse, once they all got out alive. At one point Dennis talks about how he maybe should quit smoking for his health, but he’s going into all these burning chemical factories and whatnot without a mask anyway, so why bother? Hard to argue with that kind of logic.

Today's European firefighter. Lens flare!

But the weirdest scene in the whole book is this really out-of-place monologue in which Dennis pervs out over a Puerto Rican girl on the Lexington Avenue subway. Dennis is married and everything with three kids, no big deal, but he describes with bizarre and, (let’s face it), fucking creepy intensity how “the smoothness of her olive skin, the perfect symmetry of her lips, and the brightness of her dark brown eyes excited me beyond control.”

He continues: Her synthetic fur car coat is opened, showing a soft blue pleated skirt, which sits above the middle of her thigh. Tucked tightly into her skirt is a white nylon  blouse, her full rounded breasts pushing against it. The muscles in her legs slope gently, and the underside of her thighs sit flat on the hard plastic seat. Her whole body moves in small, graceful motions as the train starts and stops at the stations.

New paragraph: Thank God that she has not been victimized by the Seventh Avenue mid-calf skirt. [Man, haven't the police caught that skirt yet?] But even if she were, if her legs were completely covered, if I couldn’t see the shadowed triangle where her skirt falls over her thighs, if the nuances of movement were hidden beneath the modern style as she crosses and uncrosses her legs, even then, I would still have her face to look at…

Getting uncomfortable yet? Oh, don’t worry, he’s aware: She is made uneasy by my staring, and pretends to read all the advertisements plastered all over the car. She is probably wishing she had a book, a newspaper, or anything to focus her eyes on. I’ve taken possession of her beautiful face, and if I had a pencil and paper I could sketch her perfectly, even though I know nothing about drawing. Her eyes meet mine occasionally, but she turns quickly away, making a little movement with her lips. I can see as she turns, the soft, almost invisible down at the side of her cheek reflected in the light. How I would light to run the back of my fingers over it in an easy up and down way.

Right? Creepy right? But he’s not purely a lech: I am trying now to look at her in a different way. She is a human being, I say to myself, with friends, perhaps and husband she loves dearly…

Etc, it goes on like this while he tries to imagine her knowing “a lot about something, and enough about everthing, to make her interesting in ways other than sexual” until the train starts up again, “generating in my body a return to passionate perception. Stop it Stop it.”

Anyone else getting a heavy serial killer vibe from old Dennis? Now the best part:

Go sit next to her and say, “Hello, my name is Dennis, and I’ve been trying not to look at you in a dehumanizing, symbolic way, but as  real person, with feelings and intelligence, opinions and a point of view. I don’t care about the tightly tucked blouse, or the shadowed triangle. I want to know what you think, and why you think it. Do you think Spiro Agnew will be President? Will cybernetics ruin us? How are you handling future-shock? Are you a Consciousness III person?

Aren’t those questions fucking GREAT? I love it that they’re almost complete nonsense to me. I vaguely remembered Spiro Agnew as Nixon’s V.P. only because I was obsessed with Nixon for a couple of years in my late teens. But let’s see.

Will cybernetics ruin us?

Tough call. Let me just check-in with Wikipedia to get my exact definition straight… alright, okay. Will the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems, um, ruin us.? Still tricky. Let’s see. When I think of cybernetics, I think of things like artificial eyes and all of that T2-type shit, generally, so um, yeah. Yes. I think it’s safe to say that cybernetics have/has replaced us, and are/is using us as their cattle batteries, yes. Oh, right, and it’s almost impossible to make any money in publishing or the entertainment industry lately because of the dang internet but you don’t have to worry about that, Dennis, you’re going to be a National Best-Seller.

How are you handling future-shock?

Well, lately, you know, I’ve been doing some blogging. No really though, what the hell was going on when Nixon was president that was leaving people in future-shock? Electric typewriters? I’m sure they’ll be saying the same thing about us one day, ho ho ho, but yeah. I still love that question. So sensitive. So now.

Are you a Consciousness III person?

What’s that, like a communist? A stoner? I really did try to understand this concept, and the closest I came was this random musing online. It isn’t as interesting as it sounds, and it never sounded very interesting. But still, very sexy question. No doubt. What’s your sign?

The weird thing is that this detailed passage about the terrorized Puerto Rican commuter is by far the most lyrical or descriptive Dennis ever gets about anything in the whole book. There is an unfortunate incident [SPOILERS YOU GUYS] later on in which a baby is discovered burned to death in a hallway and Dennis’ description of the obviously traumatizing event (I mean he put it at the end of the book for a reason) is literally just another fireman saying to him “it’s a baby.” So why so much about the “shadowed triangle” on the subway for gods sake? Perhaps he was afraid his chain-smoking chums would call him queer for writing a book and wanted to prove otherwise. Who can say.

This book isn’t the hotbed of comedic inspiration I hoped it would be, but it does make me feel like a great citizen for not constantly setting people and buildings on fire, or pulling fire alarms when I haven’t set anything on fire, or throwing bricks and full garbage cans at firefighters even as they try to resuscitate me with their poisonous smoke-tarred mouths!

Also, I’m never riding on the subway ever again.

*I mention this not because it has anything to do with this overlong post, but because it makes me seem popular and Emily and Kate are really cool and I want to show off that I hung out with them, okay?

**nor do I mean that in a hinting-at-conspiracy sort of way. Yo crazy people! Stop looking to me for protection and leadership! Thank you!

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one country over

Brandon and I drove down to Seattle last Wednesday. We wanted a couple of days free before the Emerald City Comicon so we could do our usual Seattle stuff. I, for example, hung out with Corey “the Reyyy” Lewis and Jacob “Cobu san” Ferguson and started accumulating Seattle parking tickets, which incidentally are the worst parking tickets I’ve ever accumulated because they can’t be paid online. You have to write a cheque using a pen filled with your own tears and then deliver said cheque via street urchin to some unknown location within fifteen days or they dispatch a United States marshal to hunt you down like the dog you are and that’s how movie concepts are born.

I also helped Corey fold and staple 300 comic zines, Layered Jacket 2 and more of the sold! out! first Layered Jacket.

There were two other kind souls helping out, but I still wore a hole in the side of my index finger from improperly folding hard-stock, an injury that nobody could forget about for the length of the convention because I talked about it and showed it to people constantly. It was, and is, nearly invisible.

serious bacon waffle

Memories of the first day of the convention are vague. I had a bacon waffle for breakfast and then Corey skateborded all his comics and materials down to the convention center, which was pretty awesome.

That day I mostly ran around and tried to find everybody I knew on the floor, which took longer than it ever has, because I know a lot more people then I did in ancient history when I first met the Dicecat trio (Corey, Jacob and Brandon) and went to a convention and was made afraid.

Let’s talk about fear for a second, shall we? Cue flashback with gong sound effect, please.  A long long time ago I worshiped certain “internet artists” from afar, and sort of got to know some of them in a weird removed way and suffice to say it was freaky. I remember when I first found out about the San Diego Comic Con online, back when Marian and I were still in our late teens and hadn’t done anything professionally (I generally still haven’t, but moving on) and I was all, like, totally, “MECCA!” I had grandiose plans involving road trips and life-affirming meetings of the soul in San Diego, that cleanest of port cities that seemed then about as far away from Vancouver BC, as Florida. And Australia.

Well needless to say (since when you take the trouble to describe your expectations of a past event before explaining the reality, the reality is always the opposite of the anticipatory version, so in a sense it’s a kind of spoiler and has ruined many a fictional twist for me in the past, goddamn it) none of that occurred. What occurred was I got really depressed and had to force myself into comic shops for a couple of years, not to mention out of bed and to class and to eat and breathe. But it’s a long story and one that has been described by its main participant(s) as both “stupid” and “make it stop” so I’ll move right along.

Around three or four years later Marian had to drag me kicking and whining to meet some dudes (the Dicecat trio) who I assumed would automatically dislike me (I’m very glass-half-ugly when I feel like it) but who turned out to be significantly rad. FIGURATIVE MECCA! All kinds of mind-blowing and life-changing alliances were formed, and the end result was that I went to my first out-of-town con and was, bringing us back to my initial detour, made afraid.

Of what? I don’t know. Cons can be scary for the depressive introvert. I mean, face it, living rooms can be scary for the depressive introvert. Cons are like giant living rooms full of people showing off how talented they are, and what a good time they’re having, and how they all know each other and, on the surface at least, like each other too.

Here I was, fresh and sticky from the eggshell remnants of my pre-life crisis, scared of every stranger who stared at me with their big creepy eyes and demanded, however silently, that I state my business. Could I draw and work a tablet as well as the majority of exhibitors? No. Still can’t. Did I have anything to exhibit? Also no. Also don’t. So yeah, I was made slightly nervous by the whole thing. And it’s so gossipy. Oh my god, you guys, the comics scene is so gossipy. I gossip too, so I can’t cast the first stone at that lowly sinner Jesus was protecting (see? I can play that biblical jazz), but cons are pretty much festivals for and about shit talking. See, it builds up and then releases like that geyser in Yellowstone. Which is my ineffective way of avoiding an ejaculation metaphor. Um.

I can't read spanish so I'm going to presume this isn't dirty.

Here, I broke it down for Jacob like this: say you’re in a long distance relationship with your high school sweetheart, if you had such a thing, and you can’t see Bobby/Susie every day in gym anymore or make out under the bleachers or whatever it is that people with successful high school lives do, because high school is over. Back before Bobby/Suzie, say, joined the army, he/she was always around. If you argued, or were dicks to each other, or if when you said “see you later” he/she thought you said “see you hater” and felt hated on, there would always be a ready opportunity to explain your mistake or apologize or just act less like dicks and then you could make out in the rain. (I’ve seen Dawson’s Creek. I know what teenagers who weren’t me are like.) But now it’s long distance and when Bobby/Suzie says, through a haze of cellular static before hanging up, “the missiles are getting closer” and you hear “this missy! Yar! Blow her!” and it totally completely breaks your heart in a really confusing kind of way, you will have to go however long, a day, a week, with that broken heart before another chance to interact comes your way. Assuming, that is, Bobby/Suzie made it through the blitzkrieg. This means the opportunities to feel good about your relationship become fewer, and eventually cease to exist, which is your cue to run off with some coffee barrista that compliments your hair.

Cons are just like that. Because you see the people you only see at cons like once or twice or three times a year, and maybe one time they’re busy or bummed out and they don’t seem incredibly happy to see you, and so until the next con you’re all “Bobby at Image and Suzie at Fantagraphics* totally hate my guts, man!” Even if they don’t actually know who you are.

Gabe Bautista took this photo. I stole it from his facebook page without asking. Dang.

I talked to a cognitive therapist this one time who told me that every time you play a scene over again in your head, like “he said this and I said that and then we looked at each other,” that scene invariably starts to make you feel like a giant asshole. It’s a brain thing. A synaptic groove. A few replays in and you’re remembering how “he said this kind of forgiving thing and then I said that STUPID and OFFENSIVE thing and then he stared at me with eyes of pity and disdain FOREVER“. And it gets worse from there. So try not to obsess over any personal exchange too much because you will end up convinced that you’re evil and worthless and everyone else is pretty much Buddha for putting up with any of your crap. Is how I see it.

Robin of Inkstuds took this photo. I stole it, too. He won't mind. I think.

Anyway, my point being, conventions are hotbeds of paranoia and insecurity. Pour moi. But this con? It felt notably more comfy and fun than others before it. Even when I was exhausted and strung out and even though I STILL have nothing to show for myself, people I hadn’t seen in years must be in a really good place emotionally, or something, because they were all really nice and calming. I may have replayed a few scenes in my head since and have still had zero success re-editing them into personal failures.

So it was fun. The friends part. That part was fun!

Comics too! I got a nice haul of stuff by friends. The Layered Jacket set from Corey, my very own copy of Jan’s Atomic Heart by friend Simon who I worked with last summer, ATMOST 2 by Jacob, the bio of which describes me, cheap drunk that I am, ranting on his bed about how boys are beautiful flaming eggs, so that’s embarrassing, and Joe Keatinge gave me an anthology that his Kelly the Cop strip was printed in, and Farel Dalrymple gave me Paper Cutter 14, and Mare Odomo let me have one of his Pokemon-related Letter to an Absent Father mini comics, and there was also a lot more swag which is now spread around my apartment like so much beautiful paper candy.

That’s it. That’s my first and probably only attempt at describing the last six days. I’m missing out a lot of stuff, including the Lost Wallet Fiasco that filled the return trip home with anxiety and woe until it was eventually stabilized by the Found Wallet Resolution. We left Seattle more than once, is all I’m saying. But all in all, it was good. I’m sorry if I did any shit talking. I don’t know if I’m going to Stumptown yet, or TCAF, but both seem a little more tempting then they did before…

If only because the hippo won’t be attending. OH DISS. Justin, I wuv you. You don’t look at the internet anyway. I understand. It’s too indie. OH DANG. No seriously, thanks for all the drinks.

*with my luck, there probably is a Bobby at Image and Suzie at Fantagraphics who are perfectly lovely and have now been slandered. If so, I apologize and if I’ve ever met ethier of them or even people with similar names, which I have NO RECOLLECTION of doing, I apologize sincerely and suggest they keep on being the bright beautiful shining stars that they are.

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one thing to say

Well, Marian and Brandon, of Hchom and Royalboiler, respectively, did me a solid* by making this site look so good that I may actually do something with it. Or to it. But the pressure is on now, because how do I live up to that banner? It’s all Tove Jannsson-esque and me-appropriate. Me-appropriate? I’ve forgotten how to talk. /write.

Let’s see. I’m like a bedraggled little tar-speckled rodent with dreams of the Vaudevillian circuit (oh gawd) who suddenly comes across a perfectly to (more or less rodent) scale tuxedo with tails and top hat. I just sort of shudder into its ideal fit, sniff, and say (miserably) “this will have to do.”

You know, I’m less self-satisfied than you’d think with that sort of too-long, uncalled-for simile, but I resort to them because they keep me from saying or writing things like “me appropriate”. Come to think of it, magazines should use wordy, pretentious similes more often. It would cut down on specific types of “me appropriate”-ish unbearable shit.

What else to say:

Have you looked at my dog lately? Yes? You have? You don’t need to do it again? Ssh. Don’t talk.

I really like my dog!

*the expression “to do one a solid” always makes me think of someone taking a poo. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is.

Fin!

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postman

Nothing to say.

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