September 30th, 2002


How you like me now

Saturday morning I got an email from my mother that Inverna was in the hospital after going through stomach surgery. She had doubled over a week ago and, after suffering extreme gut wrenching pain, she insisted on going to the closest Catskill's emergency room. For Inverna, like me and most stubborn people, going to the hospital is a last resort. Most folks avoid the sterile cold tiles and sick medical air that fills hospital waiting rooms. For me, hospitals can often equal death. Scar tissue from a hysterectomy 17-years ago was twisting Inverna's intestines, poking holes and poisoning her body. She's been on liquid diet for over a week now and her body has forgotten how to digest and excrete. She is bloating up like a leather balloon and feeling emotionally fragile. Mortal. Doctors diagnose that she is going to make it. So they say.

Inverna is a Cuban refugee/70s minimalist/painter/curator. She recently turned 50 and was my mother's partner-in-crime for over 15-years until their tour ended a short while ago. Now they are the best of friends. This broke my heart, for I wanted to be like them with the woman who's hand I hope to take. When I was 16-years old, my mother separated from my father and moved to Brooklyn with my brother, Mike. I elected to stay and live with my father, knowing that this transition would be difficult for all. In a small yet sacrificial way, I saved my father from premature suicide. Premature, because he still lives and can always decide to revisit that state of loneliness at any time. Especially, now that he will be moving to the humble acre of land our family owns in East Hampton where the winters are cold and desolate and more than an old man born & bred in the wild streets of NYC could possibly bear. Perhaps, his alliance with the dedicated, resourceful, and outstanding German -- Manfred, will postpone the inevitable.

During my parents initial split, my mother went through a few special friends and none of them made any kind of impact on me until I met Inverna, a striking woman who looked like a Spanish Tori Amos, and was as unique and bananas as a football bat. Inverna curated a Spanish Art Institute on 42nd street and was slow in getting to know. A tough cookie to crack, it wasn't until she moved in with my mother and brother on Warren street (near the projects where CLOCKERS was filmed) that I got a better sense of her amazing humor and talent. Soon after, my mother and Inverna would find and buy a wonderful 3-story home in the Catskills on the Denver River in Frog Alley. Suffice to say, during that hard yet righteous transition of my parents break-up, Inverna became my second mother. And that was good. My mom's relationship with Inverna was a force to be reckoned with. They were as fric & frac as they were Tom & Jerry. Movers & shakers, Babs & Vern (as I soon dubbed them) became the Mayors of Margaretteville and brought much needed culture, gossip, levity, and pro-active development to the small town. To paraphrase a line from one of my BILLY DOGMA comix: "King Kong couldn't swat their salvos." So, it really bummed me out hard when their tour went south and the Catskill's got a little quieter when they bought 23-acres of quarry land together and built separate houses no more than 50-yards apart, last year. Suddenly, my mother was alone and Inverna had a new partner-in-crime from Florida, in what could only be described as appearing "out of the blue." Babs & Vern always put up a good public front but were never very good at celebrating their private status even though it was transparent and un-judged, by the community, friends, family, and most importantly, me. As much as I granted my mother an emotional/physical divorce from my father at the tender age of 16, I never said it was okay for her Inverna to leave my mom. Even if it became okay for them, it still hasn't become okay for me. But, I'm trying my best to understand with the limited information I have been furnished. Besides, Mom has made new best friends in Cindy & Erica (the surrogate sisters I never had) and the people are still the same and I love them with all my heart until the end of time.

Fingers are crossed and double looped and triple knotted that Inverna's body will remember to digest nutrients and get to the other side of this set-back.

Saturday afternoon, SBX and I met up on her stoop and she ate a bowl of food she made: buckwheat noodles dressed in a concoction of sesame/tahini/peanut/soy sauce. Sitting next to her lap was the secret surprise gift I had gotten her: Sun Tzu's THE ART OF WAR (for career/divorce melees), PRINCE "The Hits #1" (for my favorite songs to share: 'When Doves Cry,' 'Adore,' and his live version of 'Nothing Compares 2 U'), and the soundtrack to the movie THE MISSION (especially for the way Morricone uses choir, which SBX digs). She was delighted by the gifts and we rode over to the baseball fields in Prospect Park. We layed down a sheet on the grass and took in the sights. Lovely green trees and vast areas of long breezy grass. I read SBX Jonathan Ames' latest piece, and some of Tim Hall's hilarious one-offs in NY Press' "Best Of..." edition. Satiated by perverted humor, we decided to play frisbee when SBX's aim buckled and she fell ill to stomach cramps. She decided that maybe it be better to ride our bikes around the park and shake off the aches. SBX took me down a newly renovated path where we took pictures by a duck pond and she experienced another gut attack. Barely able to walk, much less stand, SBX was in critical pain.

What the hell was happening today? Between, Inverna & SBX, was I about to catch the fever, too? It must have been the noodles.

SBX ordered me to rush back to her house to start a pot of tea and prepare a hot water bottle. I raced back and began the medical attention. SBX arrived, battered and distraught. She laid on the couch and I brought her the herbal items and tried to bring positive vibes to the air by reading her more select choices from NY Press ("Best" vegetarian restaurants, clothing stores, bikini waxes, etc.) while the London choir sang haunted ballads from THE MISSION, in the background. SBX took a nap while I went for a walk and bought hot & sour soup and made a spontaneous Lava Lamp purchase. White hot lava in red liquid. Right on!

SBX got better and we jumped our bikes for a 25-minute spin down to the infamous Grimaldi's pizza joint by the Brooklyn Bridge near the River Cafe, to meet up with her pals Lori & Doug (and some of their pals) for dinner. Damn -- the pizza is hype! We scored four huge pies boasting various toppings and I drank Williamsburg's version of Root Beer, which was divine. After dinner, I made the group walk over to the dock by the edge of Brooklyn and behold the Manhattan skyline. Romantic kisses were traded and we traipsed on over to SUPERFINE, a funky restaurant/bi-level bar with a free pool table. We drank wine and I played a lame game of pool with a fussili haired fella running the orange carpeted table. The evening settled and SBX's earlier bout with stomach rage took its toll on her stamina. We peddled the long bike ride from DUMBO to Park Slope. Snuggled, whispered sweet-nothings, and crashed.

On Sunday, SBX got up early for an 11AM flight to Chicago, packing for a two-day medical convention that she helped design, program, and facilitate. Eyes fluttered and lips puckered as we said our sayonara's for the morning and she was off to La Guardia Airport. I rode my bike and Lava Lamp back home and sat back at the art table to finish inking the final 4pp of TANGLED WEB 20. The lovely Spanish poet/comix scholar/academic, Ana Merino called me and we had a very long and deep conversation about the art of relationships, the repercussions of cheating, and the pursuit of comix career happiness. I told her I was no longer a champion of "Team Comix," and that it was more important to expose and laud "Good Comix." That, it no longer mattered how many people were interested in and practiced the form, but that the form must yield an exemplary catalog of solid entertainment and graphic novels, even if it's the same ten great cartoonists and collaborators making them, in order to justify it's place in the literary world. I've become tired and disenchanted by supporting small boutique art farms and mini-comic entrepreneurs. I'm more interested in solid narrative skills and good stories (no matter who produced them in whatever genre) than avant-guarde experiments and amateurs turned up-and-coming rookies. Even though anybody can write & draw and xerox and staple and distribute their precious little diamonds in the rough, doesn't always mean that they should expect support if ain't up to snuff. Not until they blow me the fuck away.

My new, Asian next door neighbor, Lisa came by for an hour and tape-recorded an interview with me for a magazine class she was taking at NY University. We talked about the freelance life, art & romance, and how they juggle to make ends meet. Shortly after that, I read NiggerKojak's latest opus on the very matter and spit a gasket. I'll have to get on that thread and make some noise.

Eight hours later I had only inked two measly pages and never got to take advantage of the beautiful Sunday weather nor the Sopranos dinner date at Mike & Marie's pad down the block. I was an ink nigger bamboozled by Marvel deadlines -- again!