Tuesday, January 01, 2019

End of Year Check-In

I have a lot of bad-to-mediocre years and some incredible ones, and in spite of the domestic and international shit-show as our world spirals into madness, 2018, as an arbitrary marker of the passage of time, marked a decent set of events of the course of my personal and professional last 52 weeks.

Here we are at the start of the new 52, so taking a quick look back, here are some highlights of the past year:

  • I bought a sofa. (First time I actually sat on it and watched the television was 1/1/19, after my flight landed before I could finish season 1 of Mrs. Maisel on the plane. So sue me.)
  • Learned (sort of ) to play my ukulele, handmade by my deceased friend Edward Readicker-Henderson’s brother.
  • Used the Greyhound bus to move a table across the country.
  • Finally crossed that age threshold where I have to worry about a deteriorating physical form and pay attention to food and exercise. Hooray. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Backyard Safari

Coffee shop conversation, this morning in Bergen-Lafayette, JC:

Cashier: "Trust me, you don't want a dog."

Barista: "Get a fish, man."

Owner: "I got that, I got four fish. Guess who has to clean the tank?"

I don't have any pets myself. I like pets a lot, but they hamper one's ability to move freely across the world.

But my mom gave me one of her game cams, and I rigged it up in my backyard in Jersey City. Within hours, I had photos of cats and squirrels and raccoons.

I put in fresh batteries and a 64 GB memory card. Can't wait to see what I have next time I go home.



Monday, December 24, 2018

Deer Safari

My mother and I headed up to Skyline Drive on Christmas Eve.





Monday, December 17, 2018

On the List

An email showed up in my vanity in-box (my name at myname with a dot com after it). This email said I was on someone's end-of-year list, did I want to give a quote and a photo?

I ignored it for 24 hours, sure it was some new way of trying to lure me into responding to spam. But it seems a bit too authentic--spelled correctly, used my full name...I sent it to one of my job's senior publicists.

"That's real," she said. "Better get that photo going."

The quote was easy enough, though I ran out of time to edit it down to a short one. When you provide too many words, you never like the cuts. And my photos were all the wrong size--most of my attempts at an author photo are on film in NJ.

Steve Cook, one of our art directors, is a photographer, so when I came back from winter break, I went to him straight from the airport. He wouldn't let me blur the skin or lighten around my eyes, but he did a great job even au natural, and the site is for young women. "Screw it," I thought. "If I'm setting an example, let all 52 years hang out." (I did tweak it a little later, just a tiny bit.)

Here is the list as it showed up on Refinery 29. I sort of knew this was coming, this tying my career to that of a former male colleague, and for the record, I was already a group editor long before his story ended. I was even an editor in chief before--remember the Kuwaiti job? I earned my position over 30 years, gender aside. I had to take a step down to go to DC.

Below is the uncut comment I provided.

Q: You began your career as an intern at Marvel Comics in the '80s. How do you feel having a woman at the helm of the company would've motivated or inspired you back then? How do you think we can help women see themselves as superheroes today?

A: By the time I interned at Marvel, Jenette Kahn had been in charge of DC for more than a decade, so I didn’t have to look far to see women at the helm of a comics company. And at Marvel itself, women worked both in the office and as freelance writers, artists, colorists, and letterers, but maddeningly—like centuries of women in teaching, nursing, and childcare—history tends to ghost them, to overlook their contributions. The stage was set for me by Louise Simonson, Marie Severin, Ann Nocenti, Jo Duffy, Bobbie Chase, Flo Steinberg, Carol Kalish, and countless others, and I honor their legacies by supporting the younger women at DC now. I try to teach the staff to navigate complex situations with fearlessness, strategy, patience, humor, and a small dose of subversiveness. Sure, it helps that I’ve gone around the world alone twice on public transport, lived in eight countries, written nine books, and been the editor-in-chief of a comic book staff based in Cairo and Kuwait, but I find the younger generation doesn’t need me to show them how to be superheroes by fighting with corrupt border guards or pickpockets. They were already crashing into the glass ceiling of their own accord before I started pointing out the weak spots.


Thursday, December 06, 2018

Holiday on Wheels

The WB holiday party actually involved roller skating this year. Roller skating! I was good at this as a pre-teenager at the Alexandria Roller Rink, long since destroyed and replaced by condos or whatever.





Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018

Haiti Souvenirs

After carrying my souvenirs from Haiti to my mother's house, I posted them all across the country. They arrived today.

They look great!


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Archives

I just followed a link to a 1940 b&w tax photo of my first condo, the Avenue B one.

52 years after this photo, I bought this 463 square foot apartment for $56,500. The rest, as they say, is history.

Well, history I care about and very few others do, but history nevertheless. This is how I have been able to travel freely around the world and treat jobs with curiosity rather than necessity.

My building didn't change all that much in 52 years.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Transit-giving

I woke up at 6, had a quick shower that never really got warm, enjoyed a good breakfast at La Lorraine, and headed to the Port-Au-Prince Airport international terminal. In addition to my small backpack, I was carrying a paper maché chicken along with a horse head, three iron wall decorations, and four paintings among my souvenirs.

As the flight took off from Port-Au-Prince, I reflected on my incredible week, and how Haiti's general strike had altered my plans. As the protests and work stoppages had led to roadblocks, I'd lost my itinerary a day at a time, eventually going from four days in PAP to a little less than 24 hours, with most of the city shuttered.

And yet my singular experience had likely been made better for having to wing it. This week in Haiti—no, less than a single week—had been one of those rare trips, the kind we seek out year after year, holiday after holiday, where our goal is human interactions of the sort you can't get at a theme park. Well, maybe you can, if someone in a dog outfit is tasked with repairing plumbing and asks you to hold their wrench. But it's unlikely.

Haiti has few enough tourists that Haitians do not appear to be sick of us. They are not jaded by our selfish requests and attempts to interact for our own satisfaction. We tourists are still individuals here, treated with far fewer clichéd expectations than in many destinations. Heck, I'm not even sure Haiti is a destination. That's something you say in glossy travel magazines. Haiti is a place. A destination is something involving a lot more infrastructure and many more ways to spend your tourist dollars.

And yet, the exquisitely human interactions my delays had led to were in no way good for the country itself. One day of protests had been planned, and this had so far led to five days of paralysis. I felt guilty for having enjoyed my trip. Ten Haitians had died, according to news reports. One tourist had been shot by bandits on a road near a resort. And here I was, thrilled by the minor interactions with artists and schoolchildren.

I do not believe there is an inherent difference between a tourist and a traveler. I believe the difference is merely one's opinion of one's actions--people say "I'm a traveler" because they are embarrassed to admit how frivolous planned adventures really are. I am unabashedly frivolous in a way, as I carefully spend money purely in service of my own need for adventure. The people I visit with likely think me quite mad, and I am reminded of a Namibian travel executive I met who rolled his eyes and suggested tourist dollars might be better spend in a hundred different ways. He's not wrong, of course, but possessions aren't all that special either, so maybe there are only 99 different ways. Later, I'd count every cent I'd spent on the trip—including vaccines, guidebooks, the private plane, the booze for the vodou ceremony, every coffee downed in airports, the malaria meds I'd decided not to take—and learn my careful spending still added up to $2,800 for my week away from home. If that's not frivolous, I don't know what is.

But I wouldn't trade this past week. Well, I would, but the offer would have to be pretty damn good, because this had been one of those rare trips where pretty much everything had been fascinating, and I'd been alone the whole time without once being circumstantially isolated from those around me.

Less than an hour into my flight, I looked down and saw Cap-Haitien. That seemed like so long ago now! But today was Thursday and I'd taken that photo the previous Saturday morning.

An hour later, I saw Florida beneath me. We landed in Ft. Lauderdale, where I met a friend for a Thanksgiving BLT at a hotel restaurant. Later, I put on my socks for my connecting flight into winter, and by evening, I was at my mother's house near Washington DC, contemplating the nature of life and paper maché chickens.