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Dean Haspiel

History

31st January 2003

9:15am: Riddle me this
I spoke to Harvey Pekar early Saturday about the AMERICAN SPLENDOR movie, and he said it was tough to see the audience laugh at his misery, but understood that comedy was the intention. It's just that, he's gone through such a tough transition between retiring, the cancer rearing its ugly head [twice now], attempted suicide, the trials & tribulations of marriage, and raising an adopted girl, is all so overwhelming that he needs some serious stability, praying that this movie gives him the break he desires. I wished him well, rallied for him to write some new comix, and get Dark Horse/Maverick to publish a few collections to bank off the movie, and we rang off. I walked over to the bathroom and looked in the mirror for a very long time. I almost picked up the Want Ads section of the NY Times and circled for a new career.

So -- I sat back down and took the afternoon to finish penciling NIGHT FALLS 2/pp23, and then Mike & Marie drove neighbor Lena and I to Eric Saul's pad in Greenpoint for Lasagna and salad. The lasagna was amazing. The closest you'll ever get to a lasagna frosting. Like Italian chow-fun. I mean that as a compliment. Eric continues to out-do himself with these meals he creates. Guests included: Eric's gal Michele, Tom Hart & Leela Corman, Bob Fingerman & wife Michele, and a few other Saul regulars. While chewing down chow, I got a nice call from my pal Doug Brod, who is at Sundance [because he is the senior features film editor at ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY] and he told me that AMERICAN SPLENDOR - the Movie, won the Sundance jury prize for Best Dramatic Feature!!! Amazing! This was so cool. I was so energized by the news that I went home and wrote until way too late. I read DEVIL DINOSAUR #4 and was 500 by 5AM.

On Sunday morning, I watched HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. Michael Myers finally backstabs his sister to death and Busta Rhymes kicks his ass? Right. Sure. "I'll see you in hell, Michael." No cuddles to have w/SBX [her job was holding her hostage in Texas], no bike rides and Frisbee in Prospect Park [the arctic weather made sure of that], and no reason NOT to work [my life was playing a joke on me], I sat down at the art table and penciled AIM TO DAZZLE pp2. Mike & Marie came by and we watched David Lynch's MUHOLLAND DRIVE. Not much to say except that it's weird...guy. The lead actresses were saucy and, no, I didn't care what happened, but it was kinda spooky to watch the macabre silliness unfold. The 2nd act was quite fun, but by the 3rd act, who cared how it was all throwing down? I just wanted some answers for the time I had paid. They weren't mind-shattering resolutions but sufficient enough to save my TV from smashing to bits against the wall. It's funny how some filmmakers invite the viewer to become their screenwriter, dropping clues and carrots everywhere, suggesting that YOU find the movie. I believe that Lynch is a happy camper who likes to hide all the marshmallows under the bonfire so that nobody gets one.

I went over to SBXs and drew her a bath, read a piece that she wrote while in Texas, a chapter pertaining to a larger novel she has in mind, which was very good. I’m excited to see her expressing herself. She is a classic writer and would do very well if ever published. We sat in bed and tried to get comfortable but for some reason SBX was feeling out of sorts. We made attempts to get randy and they all backfired. At one point, the side of her head pressed against my ear really hard and I screamed. I thought an earring might have stabbed me. She wasn't wearing any earrings. Instead, we wound up having little bouts of static and gave up trying to make the love. By the time we squared things off, she rolled over to sleep and I got dressed to leave, even though I was invited to stay. Our weekend together had been stolen by her job and I was trying to pack in two missing days into two thin hours. No dice. I lay in bed reading CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS, fully dressed while SBX slept. An hour later, I killed the light, rolled over on my side, felt my keys and wallet and cell phone bunch up into an annoying lump, poking me in the thigh, and enjoyed a terrible night of what I would barely call sleep.

Monday morning was quiet for me. I was saddened by the lack of pizzazz in SBX. I subscribe to the adage "action speaks louder than words," and SBX's actions, or lack thereof, were speaking volumes. Only they were riddles. Was she apathetic about us or just too damn tired? If it's just that she is tired, can I be okay with dating a woman who is perpetually exhausted? Is she always downtrodden because she is suffering from depression? Is there anything I can do about it?

Perplexed.

We rode in on the F-train together and I waved SBX 'good day,' grabbed a bagel and coffee and did a massive laundry/vacuuming of the floors in-between inking/lettering ATD/pp2 and penciling most of NIGHT FALLS 2/pp24. SBX came over and we ordered Baluchi's Indian food and watched Soderbergh's subtle yet emotionally charged, surgically edited tour-de-force THE LIMEY, a crime noir specifically tailored for actor, Terrence Stamp. Satiated by good food and entertainment, SBX and I hit the clean sheets with the Lava Lamp in full bloom. Before messing up the sheets with or wild abandon, I wanted to clear the air and discuss feelings of possible apathy and/or exhaustion. SBX really didn't want to talk about it. By the end of the night, she has no capacity for debate. I've never dated someone like this before. Someone who virtually shuts down like clockwork. Was SBX protecting herself? A safety device? Escape? I couldn't tell. All I knew was, she lost her foundation and slid into the darkness again. Frustrated that I would want to discuss a problem rather than table it for when she could weigh the issues, she cried that we should quit dating and go back to being friends. That, relationships were too hard for her. That, we shouldn't do this anymore. We were failing it each other. I'd seen this negative response in her before and I shushed her to sleep. Even though she had an argument FOR breaking up in her coma of incoherency, I knew that breaking up wasn't the answer for now. In the middle of the night, she put her arm around me and I wrapped my leg around her. Those two simple actions were loud and clear.

Tuesday started just right. We enjoyed make up sex and I turned up Madonna's "Like a Prayer" anthem for SBX while she got ready for work. Feeling chivalrous, I walked her to the subway and kissed her good luck for the day. I caught up on some emails and finished penciling NIGHT FALLS 2 pp/24 and went on to pp25. I took a much-deserved break from the art table and went over to Mike & Marie's [my surrogate family] to watch the horrific double bill of: AMERICAN IDOL and The President of the United States' THE STATE OF THE UNION speech. Looks like we're going to war with Iraq to annihilate Saddam Hussein and his proposed connection with the Al Qaeda terrorists, adding his name to the despot/tyrant/dictator gallery: Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, Osama Bin Laden, The Joker, Lex Luthor, Dr. Doom, et al. Plus, Bush coined a new term for Nazi's when he said "Hitlerism." Weird. Marie made meat & zucchini lasagna sans cheese [Mike is lactose intolerant] and salad. A neuron misfired and I joked that the next incarnation of DVD should be called 3VD [three dimensional video]. I went back home and kicked METAMORPHO ideas around w/Bertozzi. Thought about making him a pseudo-schizo while assigning personalities to each element he manifests. Allowing the more popular elements he employs to dominate his frame and debate control. Spark a mutiny inside his body. I thought about the concept of superpowers hitting puberty and what happens when your x-ray vision gets zits. Insane stuff like that. To be sure I wasn't heading in the wrong direction, I read a METAMORPHO "The Element Man" comic by Bob Haney & Ramona Fradon, and slipped from sanity.

Yep, we were heading in the right direction…

Woke up Wednesday to a call from SBX. She was running late to work and frustrated that she had yet ANOTHER fight w/The Haze which resulted in them smacking each other. SBX was worried that she wasn't cut out to be a mother and wondered how other families seemed to avoid violence. I told her that I thought ALL families flexed a degree of discipline, from an ineffectual finger waving warning to shouting and scolding to full out physical spankings and smack down. SBX said that maybe "we" were products of such irresponsible behavior; but that she didn't think children today were victims of such damaging resolve. I couldn't answer that and then she was running down the subway to get to work and prepare for an early afternoon meeting w/Mr. Ex where they would be signing divorce papers, once and for all. I'm sure that this monumental event, COUPLED with the frustrations of being a single parent, ON TOP OF her demanding career, was pushing her to the very corners of her limits, taxing her frame and frying her mind. If only I could be METAMORPHO and become her spa for a week.

I finished penciling NIGHT FALLS 2/pp25 and trudged through the snow to get new comix at Jim Hanley's Universe where I met up w Lisa Lippman for a quick spree and catch up. SBX rang me on my cell and came over from the natural shock of officially signing her divorce papers. 6-weeks to process and then that was it. Finito. Period. The end. Her eyes started to water. It was right to do. Sad to happen. Comforting words would become bubblegum in my mouth.

Needing to rally something...anything, feel adequate SOMEWHERE in my life, I wrote Ted Hope about reading Fingerman's BEG THE QUESTION graphic novel for movie consideration and he bit. Now that GOOD MACHINE is defunct and Hope runs his own shop-- THIS IS THAT [Hope and James Schamus split ways], and I did him a solid with AMERICAN SPELDNOR, I figured he'd give my sensibilities a few more looks, see who I had to shuck and what I had to jive. I worked on the METAMORPHO pitch w/Bertozzi and penciled NIGHT FALLS 2/pp26 while AMERICAN IDOL did its wretched thing on the tube. Feeling proactive, I went to sleep reading X-STATIX 7, wishing I had a monthly BILLY DOGMA series of my own and SBX to sink into.

Despite my previous days rally; I woke up Thursday morning feeling despondent and blue. Went to go look in the mirror but elected to keep the light switch off and study my silhouette rather than confront my pupils. Maybe working in my house all day everyday with nary a plan to eat with anybody else, much less recreate, during these bitter freezing cold days was making me stir crazy? I was boring and torturing myself at the same time. If I had a Uhaul, I'd haul it all away.

But, what was “it?’

And then -- the kick in the pants. I turned on my computer and got an email from my ex-girlfriend Linda Dawkins, confirming my blue halo, telling me that she was pregnant. I was really happy for her. If there was anyone I knew that SHOULD be a mom, it was she. Seems that EVERYBODY was married, getting married, pregnant, with child or more, looking to buy a home, or a country house. Where was I? I was a half-lucky chump making my everyday bar napkin drawings into professional scribbles about bigger chumps with more paranormal problems than me BUT making hay despite obstacles. “Swing batter!” So, I took the day off from my funny book responsibilities [Marvel owed me one for messing with me last week], and I drew AIM TO DAZZLE pp3. I got an email from DC editor Stephen Wacker re: OMAC and rang Bertozzi about polishing off our original OMAC proposal.

That evening, I was supposed to eat dinner/hang w/SBX after she went for drinks w/a co-worker that was leaving her job. SBX didn't call me until 9:40PM when she was leaving the bar. Knowing her strict bedtime was 10:30PM sharp [11:PM if she's occupied], I was confused. Was she sabotaging our plans? Was she suddenly absent-minded, having a blast and got caught in the fun, or telling me something? Why were we having such difficulty getting together these days? What was going through her mind? Once again we were having telephone static and she was standing on the streets of Manhattan freezing her tits off and just wanting to get home and go to sleep. After round 4,512 of miscommunication and hurt feelings, she didn't want to meet up with me and I was left hanging on my futon staring at the computer glow in the next room. A half hour later, SBX called to talk and make sense of the botched evening. She admitted having a plethora of limitations and how frustrating that was for her and MUST be for me. She admitted to how hard this divorce was for her. I could only sympathize. I talked about the word "can't" and how SBX "can't" meet certain relationship fundamentals and I need to either accept that or walk. I talked about my fantasy to fly to the moon and how "can't" wasn't a word in my lexicon. Desire fueled my rockets. "Can't" is a word that SBX knows all too well and flexes on a daily basis. It is a part of her genetic make-up. There are so many things she wants to do but "can't" do.

Cannot do. Won't do.

SBX knows her limitations all too well while I coast on dreams. She is an astronaut in training while I orbit the galaxy waiting for our rockets to meet up. As I wished SBX "sweet dreams," we found a virtual oak tree, cut our initials inside the heart of the bark, and rang off. With all these mini-battles and time constraints, it's nearly impossible to convince anybody else how much we love each other. Sometimes we forget ourselves. But, as we all grow old and come to understand, explanations become nil and doing the do is what gets us out of bed [and sometimes into it] sans sense. It just may be that we’re experiencing a lousy case of the right thing at the wrong time.

I penciled half of NIGHT FALLS 2/pp27 and finished ATD/pp3. Dizzy. Alone. The blasts of heat and steam from the radiator was the only thing that made sense to me at 3:AM before the night shut me down dead.
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