Saturday, December 31, 2016

Little Studio

So ends 2016, after nearly a whole year down of working on the little studio, bit by bit, getting a little better every time I go home. Maybe it'll be finished by the time I get to use it, years from now.

The last photo shows the Ikea wire BBF strung up in the wet room, to keep the shower from dousing the bathroom door and toilet every time it's used. That seems like a reasonable metaphor for life. Try to keep the spray from destroying everything around it.

Foggy Memories

BBF and I had to walk down to the hardware store this morning. We always pass this on the way.

I'm sure this is where AAA took my then-BF Rick's Buick or whatever it was in 1988 when the starter clonked out while he was staying with me on 5th Street in JC. Maybe it wasn't a Buick. It was a classic 70s car, blue. I remember this decor, as it's memorable, and I remember it being in a rough part of town, which I guess to my 22-year-old eyes, Garfield would've been at the time. But I thought the garage was called Ray's. This is definitely not Ray's.

I guess I'm not that sure what it was called, and maybe it wasn't even this place. 1988 is a long time ago, and memory is a funny thing.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Oculus Among Us

The Oculus at night.

Touristing the Woolworth Building

Some years back, I passed this sign and thought how obnoxious.

But then while I was procrastinating online, I found the link to tours. I immediately booked one. I'd get to go "beyond this point," finally! 

The tour is worth your time. Here's a look inside.

Priceless Treasures

I was digging around my garage, seeking some tax documents the tax-y state of California wished to see, when I stumbled over these 1994 notes from Alex Toth. 

I didn't find the tax documents, but this was way better. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Day of Dough

I was home, real home, not where I live.

And I got to spend time with friends. A random passerby took this photo.

Soup dumplings for lunch. Pierogi for dinner.

'Twas a day of dough.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Day After

Back in September, when reviews of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History showed up, I jumped on the timed entry link.

True, I am living in Los Angeles at the moment, completely by accident, but I knew I'd be in northern Virginia around Christmas, so I booked two tickets for December 26.

The day after Christmas, my mother dropped me off at the metro stop nearest her. BBF had gotten on a Greyhound early in the morning, and was on his way from Port Authority.

The DC Greyhound station, once a new marvel hugely improved upon the decrepit one on New York Avenue, had been pronounced too big and itself decrepit, and had closed its doors sometime in the not-too-distant past, so Greyhounds now come into the bus plaza above Union Station, the same place the Bolt Bus arrives and departs from.

I vaguely remembered when I'd left from New York Avenue to go to check out NYU in my senior year of high school. When I'd gone to college from there, stopping at Breezewood the first time, and ending up in Springfield, Ohio, for my first quarter at Antioch. I'd probably headed to New York City a few times from the New York Avenue terminal. I'd no doubt arrived there from somewhere in Pennsylvania the time I hit a deer and had to leave my car at a repair shop for a week. Then, Greyhound had moved behind Union Station when it acquired Trailways. I remember a lot of red from that time. I'd left out of the "new" terminal more times than I could count, once I'd moved to the NYC-area. But now, the bus terminal was a parking structure over Union Station.

It's an improvement, to be honest. Union Station has restaurants, coffee shops, and the metro.

What Union Station doesn't have, and what nowhere in DC seems to have, is luggage storage. Or rather, it does, but it's $30 a day for one suitcase. Seriously. I'd already bought a Bolt Bus ticket to Newark for later the same day before I realized this, or I'd have just booked up a hotel room on Priceline. There was, at least, a sign indicating the luggage storage place is moving to a different location within Union Station, and supposedly introducing more sane prices.

BBF's Greyhound showed up just a little late, but that was enough time for me to pay the $30 and stash my bag. We had a bite to eat, then caught the metro over to the museum.

The timed entry system worked pretty well. If I hadn't read warnings about the line inside, I'd have missed the best part of the exhibits, deep inside the building. Once we went downstairs, we hit a massive line which we stood in for about 40 minutes before getting into the actual exhibit space. This will change in time, of course, and you'll be able to wander about freely, but for now, there was a lot of initial waiting involved.

That was the only complicated part, though. The rest was interesting and touching, and seeing it in the waning days of the first African-American president would have been unique on its own, but seeing it in the context of so many gains being imminently endangered gave me a feeling of dread. But of course, the march of history stops for no one, and while we can pretend things will be brought to a stop, that won't last. Evolution is upon us, and mere mortals attempts at controlling culture will be inevitably cast aside. The museum will not be a memory of a dying dream, but rather, will be a benchmark in progress.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas in Virginia

I dragged myself out of bed at 4 in the morning on 12/23, so I could be on the first LAX Flyaway bus to leave from Hollywood.

This was no fun, but I've learned to be on the first flight out on holidays. Plus, the shuttle driver taught me something, so I'm glad to have been on this bus.

We headed straight to baggage claim, not to Departures. In doing so, we avoided that hour-long crawl around the LAX loop, which had driven me kind of batty at Thanksgiving.

Pro tip: Don't screw around with Departures at LAX on holidays.

The flight was straightforward enough, and I was at Dulles soon enough, where my mother picked me up. We spent a few days around Front Royal, but the highlight has to be when my mother's husband released a mouse from a live trap, and a second later, a feral cat had the mouse in its mouth.

Happy Christmas, kitty cat!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Puppy Day

Puppies came to the office today. Best holiday party ever!

Update: And here's the puppy my sister got me for Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Shopping for Fleas

After our walk in the woods, Tracy and I headed over to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, which holds an enormous flea market once a month.

I'd been meaning to go for more than a year, but it's hard to find the exact right Sunday to commit to hauling myself out to Pasadena from Hollywood. But we were there already, in the mountains right above. Plus, it turned out to be cheaper to get in once it was late in the day.

We parked Tracy's rental car on the massive lawn and headed in. This is a BIG flea market. We could've been there for hours, but inevitably, shopping like this is wearying. I was ready to go after a few hours, and relieved we hadn't spent the entire day wandering through the aisles.

There were no fleas available at the flea market, but we did stumble over a guy selling doormats. I bought two, one little one for my Jersey City back door (that's a magnetic screen you see across the door), and one full-size for my Hollywood studio.

Walking in the Woods

Tracy came to town from JC, and we went hiking. Well, we went walking, really. It was fun.


Here's proof I can sleep through anything.

An alien spacecraft landed on Hollywood Boulevard, and I didn't even notice until I had to get from the metro to the supermarket, then through all this to my apartment. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

New Hair Day

I headed up to Krimson Salon in Burbank today for my very occasional hair fixing up. I'm always amazed at how good other people can make it look...and how that lasts for about three minutes as I walk away from the salon.

Monday, December 05, 2016

More Housing Excitement

I have a new electric meter.

I know, I know. Very exciting. But it is!

A few months ago, I called the utility company to find out how to sort out my bill. The guy who comes by to read the meters can see the gas meter because it's outside, but the electric meter is inside in the basement, and it's a total crapshoot on if anyone is home when he shows up. I tried to get someone to come by when I knew I'd be there.

"You know, we can replace your meter with one which can be read remotely," the customer service rep said.


I don't know why this information isn't commonly shared. Had it been in some junk mail I'd overlooked? It cost me nothing. I just had to make sure my friend who went to NYC for his birthday and was staying in my studio could be there during the appointment. He let the meter guy in, and within a half-hour, I'd never have the estimated bill problem again.

"It's done. Also, the meter guy thinks you have the best job in the world."

Thanks to my friend. And uh, thanks to the guy who somehow made small talk about my job, even though I was across the country.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Space Utilization

It doesn't take much to get me excited, does it?

I bought a new fruit basket off Etsy, and BBF took me to the Despot, where we found the right anchor and hung this on my last trip home.

I love it! But of course, I'm not there. I'm in a rental in Hollywood, and my bananas live in a bowl on the windowsill here.

What I need now is a small hanging pot rack to go over the gas burners.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cracking Fun

Check out this exciting project waiting for me in my Jersey City basement.

Yeah, I'm gonna have some fun in the spring!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


This is one of my favorite things.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's All Gonna Be Okay

“It’ll be okay,” people say. They come from all corners, the left, the right, in-between.

We adapt quickly, forgetting how it felt before, a month ago, a year ago, last decade. I remember 2006 only with benchmarks. Kuwait. Visa runs to Bahrain, to Sinai. Selling an apartment in Jersey City.  

It’ll be okay, because we adapt and continue, no matter how not-okay things become. Even in Mosul, people continue to exist. Even in Aleppo, people laugh as well as cry.

And tonight, I was sick of chasing fruit flies in my apartment, so I went to a coffee shop, stopped at the supermarket, saw the Indian woman who threads eyebrows for seven dollars, and walked along Hollywood Boulevard, thinking about how “okay” is just getting up every day with food, water, and power.  Will we interrupt our migrant-worker food chain, bomb people for no clear reason, incite hatred, cut taxes on billionaires and the filthy-rich?

We might.

Will we mobilize?

We may.

Or will we adapt and not notice when redistricting gets a little worse, similar to how we do little as the environment changes incrementally?


We’ll keep calling Senators, writing the mayor, and posting links about how easy humans are to hack. We’ll march on Washington, we’ll march on New York, we’ll march on MacArthur Park until no one ever talks about cake in the rain ever again. Some of us will quietly check the expiration dates on our passports, look at multiple routes to Mexico, to Canada, to Terminal Island.

We’ll keep working, making our rent and mortgage payments, getting haircuts, shopping for jeans that don’t make a muffin top, and trying to eat more vegetables in case Rome doesn’t burn. But it will be, in the end, okay, simply because we will adapt to whatever reality we get, whether it is the same as now or as bad as our favorite apocalypse movie. 

Because that’s what humans do.

On Hollywood Boulevard, I thought about the definition of okay as I put my feet down over the stars of Melissa Gilbert, Lowell Thomas, Eddie Albert, and celebrities long forgotten. I stopped at Alex Trebek and looked up at sunset over Los Angeles.

Tomorrow could bring anything. Let’s hope for a bit of luck, and keep mobilizing, doing all these little things, being the fruit flies in the White House dining room, until we run out of ideas.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Opposite ends of the Nile here—first is Kampala (2005), second is Cairo (2007). 
I've been at a regular job for a while now, and this week, facing reality without being able to diminish it with an airplane ticket and a rental abroad, I've been nostalgic for the times I could.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Multiple Choice

What do you see in this photo?
  1. Poverty. 
  2. Pity. 
  3. A place I should volunteer though I have no professional skills. 
  4. The best way from A to B where roads do not exist. 
The answer is, of course, #4.

For a long time, I wrote travel books and articles and daily accounts about experiences. I had a few goals, but the most important one was to DEMYSTIFY THE OTHER. Demystify the world. Demystify travel. Demystify the shapeless mass called humanity in places outside of our daily lives. Demonstrate that the travel porn industry is just silly, that there is no exoticism in THE OTHER, that the Noble Savage myth is absurd, that humanity is just you, but in a hut with fewer available channels and more beans. I succeeded with my audience, which unfortunately wasn't all that large.

I reach more people now as an editor—we do not hold back in our material there either. But with travel, I always tried to show that people are pretty much the same around the world and that things that seem impossible are really just a series of small, mostly inconvenient steps.

 The real question here is not multiple choice. It's how do you encourage people to develop critical thinking skills, to learn to dig into something they overhear or inherently believe, at least enough to question assumptions just enough to grasp the world is nuanced?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016


You know how you get those middle of the night missed calls, and you hope it's a bar-butt-call, but it never is?

I had one of those recently, and the morning "Call me immediately" sealed the deal. Something awful had happened. And I was on a plane to Oakland, having gotten the news while on the runway on a cheap-o airline without in-flight wifi.

As the plane ascended into the sky, I started thumb-typing on my phone, jotting down some memories of artist Steve Dillon. None of them worked quite right, but they all had bits and pieces of things I wanted to say.

Partial Ramble #1:

Back in June of 1991, a few years before Vertigo launched, I was at over at the competition, finding my way past my Akira and Moebius reprints, looking for a way to distinguish my comics. 

I found one when Carl Potts returned from UKCAC. He'd met an artist there, Steve Dillon, and we had a limited series needing a team. Maybe I'd like to try him out. 

The series was called Car Warriors--it was based on a game. You probably don't remember it. But I remember it, because it came out pretty well in spite of its questionable source material.

Steve enlisted a friend to do finishes, Phil Winslade. Phil sent me samples by a British writer he knew, one Warren Ellis, and my comics stable, and possibly the entire medium, took a screeching turn at that moment.

Partial Ramble #2: 

One night, after midnight in the early 2000s, I flew into Newark from San Diego Comic-Con, got my car from the long-term lot, and drove to my apartment in Jersey City, only to find my key didn't work. I'd made a copy in San Diego and given the original to John McCrea who'd been planning to arrive there before I did, and the copy just didn't work. John was nowhere to be found.

I got back in my car and drove straight to Openers. Or Johnny Fox's, whatever it was at the time. I figured McCrea would be there along with my key. 

He wasn't, but Steve Dillon was. He was a little surprised to see me--I don't even drink--but he welcomed me and we chatted for an hour. It was so fun to talk to Steve--he was so easygoing, friendly, open. He was in his element, planted at the bar, never a table, never making the social rounds. Steve didn't feel the need to circulate and make small talk. Wherever he went, he emanated a kind of habitat, radiating out a comfort zone. "This is Dillon-land. Stop by for a visit."

I forgot about my key and we just chatted about this and that for a hour, until finally, I called and woke up Yancey, who had my emergency spare, and got home around three. 

I don't get home that late anymore--that's probably the last time I was out truly late. I'd think fondly back on that night for years, any time I went into a bar and didn't know anyone.

Partial Ramble #3: 

The phone on my desk rang three weeks ago, the display showing a UK number. So few people use the phone, and even fewer call me from the UK, so I was surprised. 

Years ago--before email, before texting, before Skype, heck, before Marvelution brought the industry to the edge of ruin--my desk phone rang all the time from country code 44. 
This was before Preacher, before Vertigo, before the British Invasion of US comics was fully in force. Steve Dillon was penciling a comic for me, one called Car Warriors, based on a game. He'd enlisted a guy he knew, Phil Winslade, to do finishes. Phil in turn sent me samples by a writer he knew, one Warren Ellis. I got a lot of +44 calls back then. 

When I picked up my phone three weeks ago, the caller said "Hey, it's Steve." I stuttered a bit and said "Sorry I'm so shocked. It's one calls anymore." 

Steve laughed--he was generous with his laughs. We chatted a bit, and he told me when he was drawing the last Sixpack and Dogwelder cover. He'd created Dogwelder, I bet late one night in a bar with Garth. 

That was my last call from Steve. I'll miss him. 

Friday, October 21, 2016


Came home to...this?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On the Way Home

One of the many benefits of living in Hollywood is stopping to see music on the way home from work. This was a good one.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

A Trip to Fresh Kills

BBF and I took a little Sunday trip when I was in New York for the annual comic book convention. I'd bought us a field trip for his birthday, the sort of thing I do all the time, but the sort of thing he mostly does when I make him come along with me.

I'd bought us two tickets on a boat trip to the former Fresh Kills Landfill, now underway to becoming a park.

Unfortunately, the afternoon was overcast and rainy, which put a real, uh, damper on things. One of the lecturers on the yacht was someone I'd met once, but she didn't remember me, so I didn't say anything. We left from Chelsea Piers--I can't visit that place without remembering my 30th birthday party on the Lightship Frying Pan when she was anchored there. I remember reasoning with myself that I should have a big party on the scale of a wedding, since I'd never have one of those. I wasn't wrong, it turns out. Even 20 years ago, I knew me pretty well.

 We motored out past home—hi, Jersey City!—and into the harbor, under the Bayonne Bridge and past Elizabeth, past the Goethals Bridge, and finally to Fresh Kills.

The best part was the quick look we got at the ship graveyard off Staten Island.

The trip was a bit of a letdown due to the gray sky and the constant chattering by the lecturers, but the experience wasn't one I've ever had before, and BBF enjoyed it, so it was worth skipping an afternoon of comic-book-dom to check this out.

I tried making a sunny day in Photoshop. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Public Transit

I had to run home from the comic book convention on Friday afternoon to meet a plumber.

I caught the train down to Fulton Center and then walked through this thing to get to the PATH train.