26th January 2003
Two ghetto Eskimos in a Catskill igloo
Took three hours to pass Kingston when it should've taken two. But, it was a holiday weekend what with the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the arctic wind pushing against oncoming traffic and chaffing the roads didn't help to expedite the journey. That didn't stop the four of us from having a grand old time in the car. Like a jukebox, we decided it best to rotate our musical tastes at four songs a clip on the stereo. The Haze launched the musical democracy with ABBA, and SBX insisted on The Beatles. Ola chose Bob Marley, while I mixed it up with Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson's sublime "Off The Wall," and the Boogie Nights movie soundtrack/s. SBX needed a caffeine fix, so we broke for a pit stop off of 87. Somehow, debate of good coffee vs. bad coffee got the Haze and I ranking on France; she pro - me con. I declared that French coffee was inferior to American because NYC flexes cheap Deli brew that you can get any time of the day at almost any corner; whereas in France, they delegate when and where you snag your quaint and dainty espresso shot, and a caffeine fix under those perimeters did me, an artist who doesn't follow the 9-5 herd, no good. The Haze firmly disagreed, opting for quality over accessibility and said that France was "imperior." :
WHAT A GREAT WORD! The Haze had meant to say superior, and in flubbing, created a far superior word by amalgamating it with the word imperial. IMPERIOR is much stronger. Severe. Top choice. Sounds like a super-villain. SBX and I cackled and gave The Haze a high-five for innovation. Chalk one up for the kid. As the blue city night turned country road black, we played a round robin of storytelling, wherein somebody starts a tale and ends it on a cliffhanger. The next person picks up the narrative baton and runs with it until they're ready to pass it off. It's a fun game and excellent for road trips. I had never played it before. The SBX clan were experts. The stories leaned towards fantasy and Ola launched my fave, about a girl who knit the night sky like a blanket until compromised by love and betrayal.
We had originally chartered a course to go straight to my mother's house in Canada Hollow [in-between Margaretteville & Andes] and crash there, but we decided to detour, switch nights w/my mom, and crash at Meredith's mother's house where Mere’s birthday bash was being perpetuated for the weekend. Finally, we made it to Mere & Jason's in Fleischmann’s, just in time to scrape the ice from the INSIDE of the car windows. It was THAT freezing cold outside. Immediately, we started drinking margaritas and set the kids up with a movie, BABE. Dinner was being grilled and the table was set as everyone puttered around. Guests included: Pedro & Nan, Grace, & Reuben, and Marios & Stephanie. BABE caught the adult’s attention and some eyes watered as the pig won everyone's hearts. How the same man who was responsible for MAD MAX could pull off this coup, I do not know, but he did and that's why he makes all the money. Ribs, sausage, soup, fish, and salad, passed around as wine lubricated throats. SBX and I blew up the airbed and kids hit the hay. Adults flopped on the living room couch and watched a collection of JACKASS TV shows, which I had never seen. My comic OPPOSABLE THUMBS had been reviewed in The Comics Journal, and the inimitable Tom Spurgeon had unfortunately compared my work/life to that of charming JACKASS jerk, Johnny Knoxville. My eyes were peeled for any similarities. We all cringed and gagged at some of the most harsh and gross acts of stupidity and violence ever recorded. It was hilarious. Admittedly, I could see how Spurgeon could confuse me with Knoxville, what with Knoxville’s savvy and wit for pain, but The Spurge was still dead wrong. I suppose, that's the kind of mistake an obese, 30-year old virgin who wrote a syndicated comic strip about religious, talking furry animals, will make in his criticism of comix. I love the big bear, so the grudge eventually waned and only took a whole damn year to forgive him.
The girls woke up early Sunday morning and SBX set 'em up with cartoons on the TV in the living room where JACKASS had desecrated the leather couches mere hours before. Our room was freezing and we had spent most of the night with our arms embracing each other to keep warm. It's hard for me to sleep like that, but survival instincts kicked in and we were like two ghetto Eskimos in a Catskill igloo. We took advantage of the sleeping house and occupied kids and stole some hot buttered sex on the air mattress, praying I wouldn't pop the rubber bed and send us flying around the room like Ali Baba’s magic carpet. The smell of fresh brewed coffee lit the entire house and SBX toasted and served English muffins while I had an interesting discussion w/Pedro about the inherent promises and problems of "suspension of disbelief" which the success of solely depends on what you assign to be real, unreal, and how far you're willing to allow the fantastic to occur sans challenge.
We split Fleischmann’s and drove over to Belleayre Ski Lodge where SBX and the girls rented equipment, negated the notion to snow board, and locked into their skis. I elected to NOT ski because the mountains were packed and my confidence for negotiating space on snow was near to nil. So, after waving the girls off as they were pulled up the mountain via the lift, I watched masters and novices get wise, enjoying the spectacle from afar rather than create the spectacle, which is what I often do. It was nice to just...stare. It creates a certain sense of Zen for a city slicker. The girls came back pumped up from their trek down the mountain and we got some grub in the lodge. We shared a table with locals and tourists and I made a spot to draw in. The girls went back up the mountain and I started penciling the first page of AIM TO DAZZLE. An hour or so later, Ola shuffled up to me and was crying. Her fingers were frozen and she was blaming SBX for pushing her stamina to ski in the cold. I warmed her hands up and told her it was going to be okay and that "mommy" didn't mean any harm and so on and so forth. There I was, playing uncle daddy and it was kinda working.
The lodge closed @4PM and we drove over to my mom's house in Canada Hollow where she and Cindy were stoking the fire in the wood stove. The house was cozy and it was good to settle in familiar territory. Spaghetti w/pesto and Eric Saul's home made tomato sauce, salad, and garlic bread, were prepared and served as everyone warmed up to each other. This was the first time my mother was hanging out w/SBX's kids and it was going smooth. We made a quick visit to Inverna and Ali’s abode and the girls got to meet a real life Spanish painter and scope out her awesome studio. My mom was worried that Ryder and Zeke [their two dogs], would wreak havoc and scare the kids, but that fear was put to rest when The Haze became infatuated with Zeke, a dog that stands taller than SBX [who is 6-feet tall] when randy, and they got to be friends, quick. The Haze burst into a series of laughter, having a blast with the dogs. Ola was less charmed but held her cool and fell in love with the Charles Schulz PEANUTS book that design guru Chip Kidd culled. Cindy’s daughter Erica was in NYC hanging with her boy-toy Shay-Shay, and the girls were bummed that they couldn’t meet and hang with a teenager 8-years their senior. We watched the GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS and the chicks in the room ranked all the dresses and hairdos. It was appalling. I was chilling in a room full of Joan Rivers wannabes! Kids hit their individual sacks and we finished ogling the silly awards show, eventually joining the girls upstairs bathing in the glow of the moon's full regale.
The Haze woke up early Monday morning and SBX suggested she read so that everyone else in the house could keep shut-eye sans jumping jacks. We tried to snooze for another half hour, but once your eyes open and you realize you have to pee, sleep becomes a wish. SBX got up first and I stumbled out of bed after her. Sand cleared from my eyes and I saw that The Haze was reading Dan Clowes' CARICATURE, which is a swell collection of comix, but for the adult in question, NOT the child in fact. SBX pulled it quickly from The Haze's mitts and I hid it among my mom's cheap pulps. After breakfast and SBX's delicious home baked raspberry/pumpkin/walnut bread, my mother chaperoned the girls as they sled down the hill and built a snow fort while SBX and I drove back over to Mere & Jay's to grab our bags and drink a cup of Joe. An hour later, we arrived back at my mom's to take showers and do our own bit of sledding. SBX drove my mom to Kicking Stones, her antique shop in Margaretteville, while Cindy gave me a 1/2 hour spiritual healing.
Cindy placed her special hands over the injured parts of my body [right knee, left ankle, hands, and lower back] and I felt the warm "chi" bubble down my legs and through my toes. I often wonder if this is some sort of hocus-pocus or is it that any fool can focus their energies into a body if they want to? I suppose the answer is: yes. Cindy talked to me about perfection and I stalled her by declaring my credo, which years ago was charged to me by my pal Chris Oarr, that I should never seek perfection because it only ever gets in the way of the good, and the ideology of perfection is what messes most people up from ever striving for a satisfactory conclusion. Compromise is what allowed resolution. There is no such thing as perfection. Name something perfect. Go ahead. You can't. Cindy agreed but sought a personal place where material needs, guilt, and anxiety, was zero to none.
We talked about primal fears and my mother, who is one of my favorite and most cherished people in the world yet runs the house like a local mayor and is somebody who can only get really real when push comes to shove. It takes more than a nudge just to get her to reveal them deep dark secrets. She plays a good poker game. When I visit [which is much more less than I'd like to], we'd rather have fun and spark smiles than uncover old stones and visit skeletons. So, I often feel that there is stuff left unsaid because we're making the best of the time we spend. Which, in a way, is a swell policy. I just want my mother to hip me when it's time to knock blocks and bust out the brass knuckles in case we have to throw speed knots at whatever decides to wage war instead of coping. I've seen what coping does to a body, especially to SBX, and I can't stand to see it chip away at her soul like slow stomach cancer -- eating, chewing, picking, gnawing. I have no beefs with mom and I doubt she has any hidden bones to pick with me. We know life is a struggle and my mother never shares the tough stuff with her son because she thinks it’s better to shrug than stress. I could take a page from her book. I just hope it doesn’t stifle her.
SBX and I packed the red rental and drove to Margaretteville to visit my mom at Kicking Stones and browse about. SBX forgot her purse at Canada Hollow and so I took the girls around the modest shopping center while they picked out their favorite fashions to vogue in. We said our goodbyes and took 28 to Kingston and turned onto 87 to NYC. We listened to more Abba, Marley, Beatles, Earth, Wind & fire, and some Ruben Gonzalez. SBX gave me an aisle-by-aisle, breakdown of the Food Co-op as I wrote an extensive shopping list on a paper napkin. Once we hit Brooklyn, I was going to shop for food with The Haze and SBX was going to take Ola back home, unpack the car, order chinky-winky, pick us up at the Food Co-op, and get us back to unpack food and eat dinner. Fully briefed, Plan A was set in motion.
Conversation somehow turned into talk of entertainment and why I like to be scared by horror and suspense. If I'm going to devote 2-hours of my precious time to suspend disbelief, I want more bang for my buck. The Haze couldn't get why anybody would want to feel rattled and SBX had her back. I waxed that it was a taste thing and that, although laughing is important, so is its antithesis, or you'd have no contrast. This got us talking about the philosophy of labels, rating systems, and the proposed intents of censorship. SBX gave a quick history lesson by illustrating the affects of Communism in the 1950s with its “red scare” to explain how censorship is mostly a corrupt government device and not the cleanest tool in the socio-political shed. Me being a lowly artist, I understand the lazy concept behind a proposed ratings system yet disdain the savage sickle of censorship. It made me sick to know that these rating systems were created to sell a certain methodology of appropriate knowledge and behavior for a staggered range of ages, keeping the more radical ideas and stories buried in a ditch of political red tape and financial quicksand. The Haze was hella intrigued by all this intellectual stimulation and weighed in with some keen observations, trying to make sense of such unholy practices.
SBX dropped The Haze and I off at the Food Co-op and signed us in before splitting back home to achieve her half of Plan A. We rampaged the aisles and checked the paper napkin list off one item at a time. A few cell phone calls and last minute shopping additions and we were on line paying for the organic grub in no time. SBX picked us up and we swung by the Red Hot Chinese place and grabbed the Asian fare. Hit home and quickly refrigerated the expendables before sitting down to some bean curd Szechwan style. Lava Lamp was in full effect and we all got to relax after a full weekend in the snow.
SBX put the girls to bed so we could get our groove on under the covers when I did a really stupid thing. I checked my answering machine and received a cryptic message from my Marvel editor. It being late, I called him at home and queried the skinny. Seems that the editor-in-chief, the big honcho, the man that claims final ‘yay or nay’, read the first issue of NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET and "hated it." Hated it? What do you mean he hated it? He. Hated. It.
Bite my pillow and cry
Fear. Anxiety. Paranoia. Horror. :
That's how I felt all night long upon hearing from my editor that Marvel's chief "hated" the first issue of the comic that Dorkin and I have been developing and working on for OVER a year. The editor said that the chief had major issues with the framing device and that there was a "no flashback" law that Marvel had employed across the board [w/very few exceptions] for over two years, now. Fuck, the entire story was told in flashback. We start the story at the end and find out how the protagonist got there. Plus, he accused us of having a flashback within a flashback because The Thing recounts his origin. Bullshit. That, and he felt the dialogue was "overbearing." Overbearing? You hired Evan Dorkin - fer cryin’ out loud, ya numb nut. Ever read DORK? MILK & CHEESE? HECTIC PLANET? WORLDS FUNNEST? Typing and talking and letting words fall like a million dominoes is what he does! There was no word on whether or not he hated the art, but no word was [apparently] a good word. Still, I was ordered to halt production until matters could be hammered out. No drawing meant no money meant no rent meant TOTAL FREAK OUT. I had no other gig lined up on the board for immediate consideration and my bank account took one look at me and slapped me in the face. Hard. I was "in the shit" and wouldn't know jack until tomorrow. Or, maybe the next day. Who knew? I had to play the waiting game. A tactic I have yet to hone. Tick...tick...
SBX was really concerned for me but had faith it would all work out if I just remained calm and handled it intellectually rather than emotionally. She was right but I couldn't muster the acumen and I froze like a deer in headlights. We hit the sack and the attempt at sex, a snuggle, arms around my chest, a caring pout, everything and anything, failed to deliver me solace from my perdition. Often, in rough situations, I try to look at the glass as half full, but if this was my best, then I was drowning in a few inches of tap water. So, I remained afraid, shivered, gasped a lot, and eventually went unconscious from exhaustion.
Woke up Tuesday morning and kept quiet while SBX got dressed for work and prepared the girls for school. We got into the rental and dropped the girls off at school. SBX let me out at the subway and was feeling bad for me but trying to rally. I love her for championing me. She split and I nervously trekked home to continue inking the pages I had left outstanding so that I could AT LEAST turn those in for an invoice at Marvel on Thursday and pray that, by then, matters would have smoothed over.
Frank Pledge swung by to pick up more hospital bills and he walked me over to Ling/Ling where I bought some chinky-winky for lunch and my Fortune Cookie read: "There's someone you should call." You think?
SBX suggested I make as many industry calls as possible and look out for my interests because she didn't want me to get caught out there. I had to look out for numero uno and that meant hitting the comix ghetto and networking for a back-up gig or three. Good call. I was hesitant at first but then started dialing like crazy. I spoke to DC Comics editors: Dan Rasplar, Lysa Hawkins, and Joey Cavalieri, about swinging by on Thursday afternoon to hawk my new wares, update their graphic memory of my work, and hopefully score a job.
SBX has a tough time with revealing problems until it's too late and aggravation snowballs into anger. So, I've been encouraging her to let me know of any issues she may have with me, whenever, wherever. So, she's been doing that a lot lately and I guess, on the heels of such sensitive career traumas, I didn't need for her to add salt to the vinegar. Alas, so be it. And in the spirit of "keeping it real," [even though I wasn't in the mood] SBX shared three issues w/me:
1] it seems that I take an overt tone w/her when she is being critical and/or sarcastic w/me. SBX wishes I could deal with stuff like that sans armor. I told her that I would try better but that it's natural to have certain defenses and I apologized for said tone.
2] SBX felt that when she tries to support me, it doesn't seem to be enough. She was citing the previous nights efforts to console me regarding the Marvel debacle. It occurred to me that, when shit like that goes down, I don't think there has been ANYBODY I know of that can uplift the positivicals for me and that, unfortunately, I'm on my own. Maybe I retreat and freeze, and that's the only way I can force myself into some down time so I can make sense of what's happening. And what usually happens is I get riddled w/anxiety and freak out. Ergo, SBX feels useless and that's not her fault, but I need to figure out a better way embrace support and handle stress, especially events and things that I have no control over: like death. Perhaps this current shake-up at Marvel is a learning experience. Harsh lessons that will inform a behavior in me to find solace in a cuddle, sit and wait drama out…survey the land…and see what happens.
3] since I've been extra broke these days, only spending monies on petty items: comix, a few DVDs/CDs, food, and the occasional gift/dinner out w/SBX, I don't have the funds for extravagant evenings and trips: big or small. SBX has been paying way too much for stuff as of late [dinners/trips/babysitter/etc.] and her pocket book is getting hit hard. I understand the frustration and never once assumed that she would pay my way or "keep" me. But, this third issue gets my goat the most because being able to afford things with somebody else is what helps make a relationship flourish and I have lost many a long term relationship because I was lacking in the bank roll. It seems to me that people shouldn't let money get in the way of their love, but it becomes a harsh reality card to pull when struggling and/or when the chips are down. Suddenly, your resume is scanned for value beyond great sex and internal worth. That's not what SBX was charging me with, but instead, giving me a heads up that we needed to socialize on a more common ground, until I hit Lotto, robbed a bank, or got paid in full. I agreed. Still, having no money makes me feel whak.
A couple of phone calls sparked different perspectives as Molly Tropp rang and we talked about her brand new baby girl - Isobel, and how life flips the script. Pshaw, I thought I had financial woes? Tropp and her lawyer hubby just put their life savings into property and renovating a house, and now they may need to split dodge [a valley in Olean, NY] because the big company he works for is under scrutiny and is going down. Fuck. They have bigger fish to fry. Fish that SBX contends with every day: raising kids and providing health insurance. And I'm worried about how to scrape a few nickels together so I can read next months NEW X-MEN? Hmff. Larrondo called and we talked about the trials of freelance life and the virtues of welfare. He championed unemployment and gave me some good tips. Within an hour I was hit with two very different attitudes on living life and needed to let it trickle down into my own vat of uncertainty so I could deal with whatever was going to throw down w/Marvel and make peace in my place w/SBX.
I inked all night to the silly premiere of AMERICAN IDOL and, I must say, I agree 100% with that snide Brit, Simon, who tears 'em all apart. Finally, there is truth and justice on TV. Maybe they should re-title the show, LAW & ORDER? Exhausted by paranoia, America, my station in life, and the overwhelming questions that each day asks a person, I snuggled up with Jack Kirby's DEVIL DINOSUAR #3, bugged out, and went to sleep.