Oh my stars and garters.
I woke up and felt WORSE. Amber colored vomit stained the porcelain. This was not the fortune cookie I wanted to crack open on the first day of 2003. I called SBX and she was on the other line. Said she'd call me back. I couldn't wait. I hopped my bike and rode over to her house in the pouring rain. I shouldn't have been in this anxious place, by myself. Feeling terrible. A monster banished from the castle. I should have been waking up next to SBX, rolling over and kissing her good morning. Instead, I was a shit heel and a bastard of irreconcilable behavior.
SBX was surprised to see me walk into her door, yet offended. We talked for a few hours, trying to fix what had happened. On the verge of breaking up, we made a truce. SBX aired her troubles with my negative and sour default. I agreed that this needed to change. Pronto. Had we broken up, it would have been a horrible shame, but worse, I would not have missed certain fundamental institutions that star-crossed lovers cling onto in times of turmoil. I would not have missed our dinner table. We didn't have one. I would not have missed our bed. We didn't share one. What we had was hopscotch security and a plethora of desires soaking in the promise of a better tomorrow. Only, I wasn't Chow Yun Fat and this wasn't a John Woo movie. I was King Kong to SBX's Fay Wray.
I rode back home in the ice-cold rain, my punishment for bringing such brittle sadness to the New Year. I crawled into bed with my cats, wishing SBX had been there with us. Instead, I paid penance. I slept, alone, intermittently. All day.
Hueston called and we spoke about anger, sulking, and happiness. I promised myself [and SBX] that I would rally better. Ignore the default to get angry at what I couldn't control and, instead, know that there were people out there who love me and have my back and that I bring solid stuff to the table. Still, it's a behavioral problem that takes long to shed and rewire. I guess the first step is to recognize the cancer before you can begin to nuclear radiate it. I looked back at what I had done last year. I didn't have it in me to survey 2002. To look back and wonder how I did what I did. I know it was really tough: going full-time freelance/working at home alone, living small/month-to-month, stepping up to the plate and scoring a dream job [thus far], dating a beautiful and amazing girlfriend in an incredibly difficult situation, meeting many challenges head on, finding a place to express on LJ when SBX's shoulder was too drenched w/her life coupled by my topsy-turvy spirits. I admitted to myself that I have some gnarly anger management issues that carry across the board, and I need to tend to them. Understand their origins and then murder them. Sarah is the stressed out single mother who works way to hard at a job that brings her no smiles. Adding my needs to that mix maximizes her resources and she collapses under the strain. I need to be a better caretaker and find the stuff that works best for "us" so that we're not just coping in separate corners. Dig? So, I've made a commitment to do just that.
A weird year, I'm becoming as fragile as I am strong. A year I hope to look back on in a decade and realize what THAT was all about. For now, I can't wake up sad again. I just can't. I wish I looked better in the mirror. Perhaps I should quit looking and just do. Let actions prevent me from typing any more of these words.
I watched the rain clog my window screen as day turned night and the streetlight made the reflecting window look like a fireplace. Later on, I ate dinner at Mike & Marie's as we flipped dials back and forth between the musical OKLAHOMA and the train wreck FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, which were equally surreal. M&M kept me comfortable. Quiet. Serene. I walked back home in the thunderstorm as jetlag, the massive hangover, and the epiphany to work harder at being better, crushed me like a feeble water bug and I passed out.
On Thursday, I dropped off the Euro-trip pix to be developed and bumped into neighbor Lena for a hug and hello. Got uplifting mail at Postal Plus: a CLASH 3-CD collection [The Clash/London Calling/Combat Rock], Arthur Miller's flawless magnum opus DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and my final Xmas gift from SBX: 'One Nite Alone...Live!" Prince's latest 3-CD effort, showcasing his incredible concert prowess. Hot damn.
I penciled NIGHT FALLS…2/pp15 [drew DRAGON MAN!] and got word from the Dark Horse editor kindly rejecting my HELLBOY submission for the WEIRD TALES anthology. Said every cylinder I hit was exactly what Mike Mignola DID NOT want to appear in a HELLBOY story. Golly, I'm a Hellboy GENIUS. Should've known kernels for demonic romance wouldn’t fly. I decided to turn it into an easy BILLY DOGMA story for an upcoming comic.
I had words w/SBX over the phone. She dropped bombs. Been holding back 'honest' feeling's about certain aspects of my behavior for months. Keeping a poker face about the stuff that bothers her, like how she defaults in life. Piled it on me, brick by brick. Knocked me down. Told her that it wasn’t fair to unload such a mountain on top of me. Could barely cope with the pain. Wrecked my body, mind, heart & soul. Told her about how my flight for fantasy gets beat up by reality. Purported "I can't slay a Dragon, but I can try to slay my Demons." She high-five’d me and we rung off. Walked w/neighbor Lena for a late night stroll and bumped into Gabe Soria and his pal, another chick named Lena. Odd coincidence, but that’s NYC. Ordered lame chicken dumplings and ate them. Ruffled, I went to sleep in some chain mail and a broad sword for nocturnal battle.
I woke up bruised and bloody but cracking a smile, ready to rally a Good Friday and went into Manhattan early. Scored comix and ate lunch w/SBX at the Korean Dumpling restaurant. Gave her SUMMER BLONDE by Adrian Tomine, and we had a splendid discourse. I got a call from my Marvel editor Andrew Lis, telling me he’s moving to Marvel Licensing, but will remain the editor on NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET for it’s duration. I was really bummed by this. So was he. Damn. There goes the promise of a great editor and possible work after I complete drawing this 4-issue mini-series. Must hustle.
I got great pix from London/Paris trip, even though anybody with half an eyeball could see how much of a torture it was for me to smile. Louise, I’d never make it as an under-cover agent. I’m too emotional. I wear it on my sleeve like neon. I drew NIGHT FALLS..2/pp16, and ate a burger deluxe at the Donut House where Sackett Street neighbor, Amanda Houck, swung by for some company and gab.
I walked over to the Park Slope Food Coop in the nasty rain and slush, to help SBX shop for $350 worth of food and taxi it to her home, unpack, shelf & refrigerate said bundle. After she dealt with some late work issues, I shared and gave SBX the doubles to the Euro-trip pix and shared some of the better memories, making fun of my sad flaccid face. We went upstairs and got into bed but she was too tired to snuggle. She doesn’t seem to have the energy for me this week. She can rally for her job and kids but not for me. I wondered aloud if I should leave due to her rules about sleeping over when the kids are there [which is almost all the time], and that I'm only allowed to sleep over once a week when they're are there. I didn't want to blow my one night to sleep with her if she was crashing [I wanted to spend a proper romantic evening with her, and after a year of dating, I don't think I should feel like I'm pushing it] and she said I could stay if I would leave before the girls woke up. She demands a specific amount of private time with her daughters and they have morning rituals that she doesn't want me to be included in. I felt dissed. I had helped take care of her and her domestic needs for the evening only to be told that I could sleep over if I didn't invade her quality time with her kids? I felt like a shine boy. Frustrated, I put my clothes back on and told her I was riding my bike back home. The weather outside was freezing and icy, but she let me go. That seemed almost worse than being admonished for interfering with her quality time with her kids. Nothing more to spill, I left. Rode my bike in the dangerous streets; feeling like SBX just didn't care about me anymore…as if she had fallen out of love with me.
Feelings are not facts. Never was, never will be.
Woke up early on Saturday, depressed. Couldn't sleep. Again. Talked to SBX about our frustrations, swiping at those Demons, one debate at a time. Mike & Marie swung by and we walked over to Postal Plus, where I mailed two original pages of BILLY DOGMA art ["Closet Shut-In", and "No Matter What!"] to Carnegie Mellon University, where my pieces, along with a bunch of other alternative cartoonists' work will appear in a show called "Comic Release," at the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery from Jan. 18th - Mar. 21st, and then travel to three other galleries [New Orleans, Texas, & Washington] until March 2004. Got my KING OF COMEDY – DVD in the mail [which Frank Pledge spliced the ‘extras’ on] and walked down Smith Street w/M&M to window shop. We got spicy noodles at FAAN, and walked over to Court Street for more window-shopping. I scored Rudy Ray Moore’s blaxploitation movie, DOLEMITE, on DVD for $10 at Blockbuster Video [abhor that store but politics fly out the window with such a great deal], and went back home to finish penciling T2/pp16.
I biked over to SBX's home in the bitter cold and the girls [Ola-Bola & The Haze] gave me a unexpected Xmas gift that surprised both me and SBX. It was a copy of SUPERMAN #150 [from 1999] and I was floored by their generosity. It was so kind of them to think of me. I joked that I looked like Superman w/the curled hair and muscles [yeah right, if Magilla Gorilla wore a red cape!] and they semi-agreed when push came to shove. Anyway, that kind gesture warmed my heart and we sat down to a splendid SBX meal: sesame bean curd, sautéed red cabbage, and brown rice, w/red wine. We opened a few outstanding Xmas gifts [Mike & Marie got me a collection of Stanley Kubrick interviews] and played a manufactured version of Hang-Man [plastic, not paper - can you believe the lame audacity of some companies?] that the girls’ *ahem* grandmother [from Mr. Ex's side of the family] had given them. Ola/SBX beat The Haze and I with a compound word: "Sun Down" and SBX figured out my word "Zephyr" w/just an 'e' and an 'h' on the board. I couldn't believe SBX’s Sherlock skills. We watched SBX's favorite childhood movie: THE RED BALLOON, a short French film made in the 50s, and the girls were bored by it [did blue screen and CGI effects ruin everything? Do kids NOT appreciate stories?]. I was quite fond of the tale and amazed at what the filmmaker was able to achieve w/such limits. Less is more, yo. Kids hit the sack and SBX's stretched out yawns signaled our own sacking. We hit the sheets and climbed inside each other's frames and didn't let go.
Sunday morning brought a bought of Ninja style sex w/SBX so that the kids wouldn't hear the song of love. SBX insists on an open door policy because her daughters have never known a locked door in their home. Plus, none of the doors have locks to achieve such private sanctuary. THAT has got to change if I am to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Long strokes to keep it slow and good, but damn, I kept my eye on the crack in the door expecting to see two young pairs peeking right back at me in bewilderment. Wondering why their mother's boyfriend is making those funny humping motions atop their mom. With all the anxiety, SBX meets Allah and I'm too anxious to kneel before Mecca. Gotta get used to the idea that sprouts may bamboozle the fun and get on with it. That, and teach 'em to knock on a door before entering.
Piggyback dancing w/Ola clinging to me, and The Haze gripping SBX, goofing to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was what we did next. We skipped and slid, hopped and bopped to the nauseating 80s love tune and laughed a lot. We made the girls bump butts to their dismay, slamming into each other occasionally. It was a great way to wake up in the morning.
Breakfast and then some errands w/The Haze yielded small talk. I suggested she help out her mom out with the afternoon chores and The Haze expressed trepidation. She told me that she didn’t like to help her mom out ‘cause she never felt it was good enough. I told The Haze that I sometimes faced the same issues with SBX and told her about the time SBX asked me to wash a pot, inspected my work, and it wasn’t up to snuff, so she re-washed it herself. I told her how my mother recently told me that she was accused of wanting to be right rather than happy, and that sometimes it’s best to split the difference. I suggested that SBX adopt this harmonious policy.
I biked home and made the decision to publish a BILLY DOGMA comic for MOCCA [reprinting short stories that appeared in anthologies and other venues, including a few new tales] in a joint venture w/my two independent publishers: Top Shelf and Alternative Comics, titled AIM TO DAZZLE.
Later that evening, SBX threw a Twelfth Night/fondue affair. The eclectic guests included: Mike & Marie, Jason Little & Myla Goldberg, writer Sheri Holman & husband Sean, SBX's best friend/therapist Meredith & husband/carpenter Jason, filmmaker Sam Hoffman & his wife, German Expressionist expert and art dealer, Andrea, SBX's next door neighbor Helen and her two daughters Isobel & Carmen, and finally, SBX's backyard neighbor, the crunchy granola - Bennett. It started to snow like in the movies and we all hung out, drank spiked eggnog and dipped cut farmer bread into a pot of melted cheese. SBX made a delicious roast chicken, salad, hors-d’oeuvres, etc. I talked to Little about his next BEE book and the future of Doubleday Book's venture into graphic novels and Myla told me she was finishing up her final draft of her next book, WICKET'S REMEDY. Mike & Marie gave me a lift in Little Man to my house and we watched The Hughes Bros. Cinematic truncation of Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell’s award winning ‘Jack The Ripper’ graphic novel, FROM HELL, starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. I wished SBX a good night, finished T2/pp16, read some comix, and went boom biddy-bye-bye.
Snowed all day Monday. I started on NIGHT FALLS…2/pp17, and wrote the first draft of a BILLY DOGMA story called “Little By Small,” featuring Dogma's arch-nemesis, THE UNDER-COLOR COP, in a ditty about my intimate hatred for tobacco smoke. @1PM my brother Mike and his pal Cory visited my studio for lunch and we grabbed some soup and fried rice at Ling Ling Young Young. Caught up about the 79th Street Apartment that my Father is leaving [for Easthampton] and Mike’s taking over of said tenement. I finished penciling pp17, and spoke to Marvel editor, Lis. Seems that Marvel has officially pushed NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET up the schedule and the 1st issue comes out May 28th [3-days before my 36th birthday]. Which might mean that I won't be inking the 3rd and/or 4th issue/s. Fuck. I'm rallying to do it all myself. I REALLY, REALLY want to ink/finish this dream of mine. If not, we're going to try and seduce Jack Kirby's/"Fourth World" inker, Mike Royer to hop on board to ink me, which would be very cool if I couldn’t ink it.
I biked in the snow to SBX's house and she baked mincemeat pies while I updated my 2003 Date Book and laid out the first two pages of my next BILLY DOGMA story, "Aim to Dazzle." SBX helped me work out the ending to "Little By Small," which needed a better punch line. SBX invited me to sleep over, which was sweet, but I had too much work to catch up on and declined her tender invitation. We got into a tiff about how to spat in front of the kids and I split back home in the heavy snow to do MORE work. Read GOTHAM CENTRAL #2 [DC’s best BATMAN book, thanks to Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark] and was 500 by 2AM.
On Tuesday, I revised "Little By Small" and locked in a solid ending. SBX read it and agreed. I did laundry and went to the bank [HSBC] only to be hassled. SBX signed over a check to me for $100 and they wouldn’t let me deposit it w/out her presence. They would allow me to deposit it if they could match her signature with a photo I.D., and it got me steaming mad. I proposed, what if I had beat up said SBX on the street corner, stole her purse, copied her signature onto the un-cashed check, signed it over to me, and showed off the I.D. to prove said signature? Could I THEN deposit said check? They said ‘yes.’ Fucking assholes. HSBC’s policy made no clerical sense. Fuming, I left vowing to pull my account.
Worked steadfast on NIGHT FALLS…2/pp18 and the cover to #4. SBX was to meet up with me at Mike & Marie's for dinner [Marie prepared julienne vegetables with bow-tie noodles and salad] and watch the next episode of '24' . SBX worked late, ergo, arrived late, but just in time to eat yummy grub and get caught up in the insanity of television. She split for home and I went back to my place to exhale. We were getting back on track, maybe going a little further than the station we had derailed in. Looking forward to traveling along the water to the next patch of dry land. With that notion planted firmly in mind, I actually got a good night of sleep.