Wednesday, May 30, 2012


This is my sister's new pet pig, Samantha. Let's hope this one stays small and doesn't turn out like her last pig.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I've been working on a story about something called "the abyss."

I was baffled about "the abyss" at first, not knowing what this was when a man gave me an unsolicited lecture about how he'd walked up to the edge of the abyss, looked in, and changed his life.


This was in the context of advice which I neither asked for nor encouraged. The reason it's absurd is that his "abyss" was him 1) giving up his worldly possessions, job, and life to go traveling and 2) traveling again and moving to a new city. Essentially throwing himself off a cliff into the unknown.

Changing his life, he meant to say, in a daring and unpredictable manner.

Which I, uh...would know nothing about? I shook my head and moved on. People are batshit.

But this abyss idea. I like it. Not because it's right. It's wrong. Dead wrong. But it's a common enough misconception that I want to work with it. I've been writing a piece about this abyss, and the piece is still weak. But I like this part, which starts with when I left my job and home and went around the world the first time, all by my lonesome:

Over the next year, I grew stronger and more confident. I could tangle with taxi drivers on every continent. I'd snarl and fight for my independence from touts, battle my way through power-negotiations, and then I'd sleep. Deeply, unconcerned about murderers and rapists breaking into my budget hotel room.

There's no place for fear in the abyss.

There's also, oddly, no abyss in the abyss. I leapt, to see if a net would appear. Not only was there no net, there wasn't even a cliff to throw myself off of. More like a mild ditch. I landed with a thud. Bruised a bit from an overturned truck and a cracked rib in Ethiopia, but the ditch was just a few feet from where I'd thrown myself off.

That can't be right, I thought. Where is the rest of the abyss? So I did it again. Over and over. I stopped packing and unpacking and instead just got rid of things. That was nice and made it easier to try something pointless over and over. 

Jumping off of cliffs isn't real change. It's just rearranging the furniture.

Yeah, I can work with this abyss idea. But I have a feeling that people who believe that travel effects change are going to hate me.

It doesn't. Travel offers insight, confidence, knowledge, but mostly, it's fun and eye-opening.

Change is something else. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Above the Tunnel

Here are three of the four Holland Tunnel ventilation buildings that Eric and I learned about last week at the Holland Tunnel talk.

I haven't figured out yet how to get all four in one photo. Maybe from someone's balcony or roof.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

On Talking Walruses and Buying Monkeys

I was paging through Time Out while riding the train on Thursday. Some weeks I scan the listings, and some weeks I genuinely read them.

This was one of the weeks where I actually paid attention.

And was first glad, then sad, that I did.

Chris Elliott was speaking at 92Y Tribeca alongside a screening of the demented 1994 movie Cabin Boy on Friday night.

Now I don't really need to see Cabin Boy in the cinema again. Once was enough, and I was there on opening night in 1994. It's bad, actually, but in a deliciously absurd wince-inducing way. But I do need to see Chris Elliott live, because I've been a big fan of his goofy humor since his 1990-92 sitcom Get A Life, where he played a 30-year-old paper boy. Between me, the Other Marie, and Otis, we managed to record most of the episodes, and those I missed out on, I found online or borrowed from some of the guys in the Marvel Bullpen.

A few years ago, I moved all these from VHS to digital, but the quality of some is nearly unwatchable. There was some kind of rights dispute about the show and only a few of them ever made it to commercial release.

When I got to my office on Thursday, I immediately tried to buy tickets to see Chris Elliott.

No! Sold out.

Boo-hoo. This can't be right. I must see Chris Elliott.

So I checked Craigslist. This was a long shot, I knew. People don't scalp tickets to see Cabin Boy.

There was a listing from earlier in the day, offering two free tickets to whoever would come to Williamsburg to pick them up before midnight.

I dashed off an email, knowing that Craigslist is a spazzy way to get anything. It always seems like half the Craigslist community are fakes or flakes.

I didn't hear anything back until right before I was going into the gym at six o'clock, back home in Jersey City.

The woman in Williamsburg still had the tickets.

"I'll be there at eight," I wrote back. I went ahead to the gym and then raced home after, changing clothes before running out in the rain. I drove my car to the Grove Street PATH, and parked across from La Conguita, then raced down the block to the train.

Getting from Jersey City to Williamsburg is a pretty painless commute. The PATH goes to the L train at 14th Street, which whisks you right over. I've gotten home faster from Williamsburg before than from Manhattan.

I was out in the rain in Brooklyn in no time, walking to the woman's apartment just down the block from the original Barcade (the Jersey City one is an offshoot). She buzzed me into the building, handed me the tickets and wouldn't take money for them. I was back to Jersey City in a flash, texting Roberta as I went.

And it turns out that Roberta also loves Chris Elliott.

We had a grand time on Friday night, watching this ridiculous movie and then watching Chris Elliott and his director/co-conspirator Adam Resnick (who it turns out went to NYU film school with some guys I know). I was amused to see a few people I knew there, and this made me proud to know goofballs.

The two men up on stage were fully aware of the absurdity of Cabin Boy, and it wasn't their proudest moment. But everyone on the audience was in on the joke, but more importantly, everyone in the audience was excited to hear this tidbit:

Get A Life is finally coming out on DVD in the autumn. Zoo Animals On Wheels, Handsome Boy Modeling School, and Spewey.

Can't wait.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Is This Your Dragon?

I thought I'd cleaned out the last artifacts of other people living in my apartment months ago. I sublet to a couple in 2011, then to Ray.

But last night, I was tucked up in bed with the bedside table lamp on, meaning to be asleep but steadily distracted by the constant zing of the iPhone telling me my late-night texting chat wasn't over yet, when I heard a popping from the lamp. 

I'd heard it a few other times and taken it as a signal that it was time to sleep, but this time the popping was accompanied by a faint burning smell, so I took a look under the lampshade to see what was wrong and if I could fix it. 


I smiled a little then, and wondered which of the former tenants might be missing a dragon. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tunnel Talk

I was walking along Jersey Avenue a few weeks ago when I came upon a box strapped to a fence.

Inside the folder were flyers like this:

I love this sort of thing. Remember when Michael Kraiger and I went to the talk on the Pulaski Skyway in 2007 before my last trip to Cairo? I ended up buying the speaker's book, which the two of us devoured in short order. The Pulaski Skyway is a glorious, crumbling disaster of infrastructure gone awry, a bit of highway made before anyone knew what exactly a highway was. 

But leading up to (or away from) the Pulaski Skyway is an engineering marvel, the Holland Tunnel, which opened up next to our friendly neighborhood PATH tunnel. (Which had already been there since 1908 and wasn't called the PATH then.)

I went to the Holland Tunnel talk last night, and it was fascinating. The workers basically bored two holes from either end using a giant shield from compressed air chambers, squishing out massive sausages of silt and muck to be carted away and dumped elsewhere, building the tunnel as they bored. This had been done before but never with the question of how to get air in and out, so people didn't get carbon monoxide poisoning. Engineers of the Holland Tunnel solved this with ventilation and giant fans, testing on themselves, Yale students, and dogs.

You couldn't do anything like this today. It's crazy. The question of where to put the muck alone would be argued for a year. And imagine testing on Yale students, with the key point being "Tell us when you get a headache, that'll determine when you've had too much carbon monoxide."

One reason there was enough demand to get such a huge project produced was the erratic Northeastern winters. When the Hudson froze, boats couldn't get coal to Manhattan. Which created public demand for not-freezing, which led to the innovation of an alternate route across the river.

Here's a short summary of what the speaker's book covers. And a short summary of my evening? Shawarma, Frogger, and the Holland Tunnel. A nearly perfect night by my standards. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Yeti Alert

Last night, I went to the Hero, Villain, Yeti exhibit at the Rubin Museum of Art.

A friend had joined me for the excursion and we both became engrossed in the exhibits upstairs—and why not? He doesn't drink coffee and I don't drink beer, so we might as well see art together. The Rubin houses an comprehensive collection of Tibetan art, which was still engaging even after seeing the real thing last year.

We worked our way down several floors to the basement, where the the show we'd come to see was.

Hero, Villain, Yeti was about images of Tibet in comic books. Since I have a thing about the yeti and I make my living in comic books, this show was right up my alley. I studied the credits on the displayed Uncle Scrooge comic, hoping to impress my date with the presence of my name, but it wasn't an issue I'd colored.

Other than that, the show couldn't be more perfect.

Except for one thing.

There were nowhere near enough yetis. But then, there never are.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time Travel

Last night, I was heading into the downtown PATH station at the World Trade Center site as I frequently do after an excursion to Brooklyn, and I happened to casually look up.

And saw this.

I blinked a few times—confused—and pulled out my camera.

Where had this come from, this emblem of rebirth mixed with hubris?

When I head out on extended trips, it's like time doesn't exist for me. I operate outside of time-lapse. Everything is so brutally authentic that home isn't real to me. I've sometimes said that I left home at age 34 in 2001, and when I returned at the end of 2007, I was still 34 in all but official years. Time hadn't existed for me. Except that then I'd realized that I wasn't 34. I was 42. I'd missed some essential years, the ones where everyone else had married and spawned and city, my home, all had changed, and I'd missed the changing.

I only missed ten months in 2011, and that's not enough to throw me for the loop I went into after the on-and-off for seven years stuttering journeys of the last decade.

But it's enough for change on the home front, for family and friends to relocate, break-up, for babies to come into the world, men to go from lovelorn to hostile, for mice to infest and lose their lives to snap-traps before vanishing into condo lore, old friends to cheerfully, hilariously reappear after some twenty-plus years, and for the tallest building in the city to materialize.

And for me, it's still March of 2011. Or even January of 2001. And I still have plenty of time. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Jewel in the Crown

I've long heard rumors of the grand, closed subway station under City Hall. This is one of those rumored New York things, something everyone knows about, but no one is quite sure how you see it.

Then, a few years ago, the #6 train starting taking passengers through it. But the inside of the train was light and the station dark. It's hard to get a good look at the defunct stop as you whirl through it while the train turns around to head back uptown.

I finally read about tours on some blogs.

But how can I do this, I thought.

I had some incentive to find out earlier in the year, when there was a guy hanging around who liked to take photos of cool and unusual spots. So I bought a family membership, which allows me to purchase more than one ticket for the members-only Transit Museum tours, including the "Jewel in the Crown" tour of the City Hall station.

Mr. Snapz is gone, leaving me with an excess of member-rights. I drafted Michael Kraiger, much as I did Roberta when I had Magnetic Fields tickets in 2008, Helen when I had two free canoeing slots in the Meadowlands during that same break-up, and Stuart when I recently had to pawn off an extra theater ticket during the Public Theater's production of GATZ.

My friends don't do too badly off of my misadventures. I mean, aside from having to listen to me be baffled and waffling about my own self-worth for weeks on end. Which admittedly can't be a lot of fun, and I'm horrified when I look back and see what nuttiness on the behalf of others I assumed had something important to do with me.

Kraiger and I headed over to the Brooklyn Bridge Downtown 4/5/6 station yesterday morning, where we were buzzed in behind the turnstiles. A small crowd had gathered by the dispatcher's booth at the southern end of the #6 platform.

We were given radio devices so we could hear over the trains, and sent in on a #6 to see the station.

Which is amazing, though I did think there would be more to it.

Here are my photos of the "Jewel in the Crown." 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cover Girl

One of the reasons I bought an iPad is that I liked the Flipboard app, which compiles your social networking links and friend's posts into a digital reading experience resembling a magazine. Which makes more sense when you see it.

I haven't used it yet, mostly because I've barely used the iPad I bought myself for my birthday. I need to make time to get over the learning hump, and I don't mean for browsing things on it. I want to be able to make things for the iPad, rather than click and scroll around on it.

But yesterday, a friend of mine sent me an iPhone screenshot of his Flipboard app. This is the random image it posted on the cover—I'd posted this on Facebook after seeing my colorist, Paola, who is also my neighbor. I started with her when she was a student and have gone through three salons with her.

Hilarious. I feel like a star.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Spotted On Sunday

Funny grass at the southeastern end of Hoboken.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Calculated Cost of Self-Esteem

I've gone through a ton of cash since I returned to the US. More specifically since...well, you know. That last major blow to my personal concept that I'm swell. Men problems.

I added it all up the other day...yikes. I've sure spent a lot on me since then. But I felt these things were worth it, from the personal trainer to the acting classes to the new clothes and haircut.

When I think back to the last break-up I went through, in 2008, I spent more because that time I went rafting on the Grand Canyon to get away from the noises in my head and from the pesky tempting Internet. So I'm doing all right, because this time I'm only up to $2341 for the cold hard cash effect on my psyche. (I include my party in that since this was required to avoid feeling like total shit on my birthday.) 

I have one more assignment to get through after today, which is that I promised a friend of mine I'd get a makeover for fun, but here are two cool things I got this morning.

Both are from Flirt Brooklyn. The top one is a denim pocket skirt with a custom-added ruffle just for me. The other is obviously an octopus bracelet, to match my octopus necklace. I blame my friend Marc's little brother Eric for this--he reminded me of the octopus right when I was at the cash register.

Of course, I don't think I can call him Marc's "little" brother anymore. I'm stuck in a moment in time when he was 17, but he's probably about 41 now. So maybe I need to revise my description.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Space Ducks

I've told the story here before about how I met musician Daniel Johnston back in 1986, in Austin, TX. How he spotted me in McDonald's, then found me later at the Austin Chronicle. He even introduced me to Rick Linklater during those three winter months I lived in Austin, and we all went to see a Bunuel movie together at UT.

This was all so long ago, and seems unreal now. If I didn't have cassette recordings of me interviewing Daniel in his little room behind Dobie Mall, if I didn't have a stuffed donkey named Balthazar that Rick won me at Coney Island skeeball in 1988, I'd almost think these were dreams. Or delusions, same as most things seem to be decades later.

I used to try to get Daniel to draw an entire comic when I worked at Marvel, but it was impossible to get him to concentrate, and back then I couldn't justify him using Captain America.

I'm impressed that someone pulled it off with his new graphic novel, Space Ducks. And almost not a single Cap reference in the entire volume. Okay, one.

My hope now is that Marvel will eventually print another issue of Strange Tales. They use alternative cartoonists for these, and I'm sure there would be room for Daniel to draw a Captain America short story.

In the meantime, here is Space Ducks on display at the BOOM! table at MoCCA last weekend.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Some Things Last A Long Time

In my imagination, I didn't look quite so dorky in this photo taken in 1986 in Austin, Texas, or I wouldn't have bothered trying to track it down and scan it.

Oh. Yeah, that's dorky. 

But look at Daniel when he was young!

And here we are in the late nineties, in my Avenue B apartment with Mark Powers (then-editor of the X-Men). Babcock must have taken the photo. We had a Captain America drawing session (I didn't know what else to do with Daniel when he asked if he could come over).