Sunday, December 15, 2019

Not That Secret Santa

I made this for DC editor Jessica Chen, whose name I pulled in Secret Santa. I'm pretty pleased with it. Fortunately, she was too.

Of course, she knew immediately who her Secret Santa was, since I make lots of bags.

Thursday, December 05, 2019


Here's a view I don't see every day. When I got to LAX (while en route to a meeting on Long Island), the escalator to Departures was out of service. I went to the elevator, but it was full of Marines, so I went over to the elevator in the parking garage instead.

Turns out the Marines did me a favor.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Conversations in Lyfts

Two more for the road:

11/16 Lyft driver: "New York City is now a ghost town, because everyone has moved to LA after becoming sick of paying $15,000 a month for studio apartments."

12/4 Lyft driver: “You know that movie Willy Wonka? My theory is that it’s based on LA. Because people come here and they indulge too much and it destroys them. They have to moderate their behavior like Charlie and his grandfather. And the 405 is the chocolate river.”

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Yard Work

Do you remember when I discovered my backyard leaking water into my Jersey City basement on New Year's Eve?

Water was pouring in through the closed-off hatch (maybe an old coal chute? hard to say) and through cracks in the wall nearby. I had a hard time finding anyone to deal with it. I called the landscapers in town—the best-known of them sent over a guy who showed up with alcohol on his breath, then kept saying he'd send me an estimate.

He never did.

Friday, November 29, 2019


In October, something was happening with squirrels and corn in the backyard. It may be that the nuns grew the corn and the squirrels stole the corn, or maybe they only stole from the nun's trash.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Happy Holidays

Los Angeles' train station was all decked out in holiday cheer tonight.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Making Stuff

Today's accomplishments!

The mug is too small, but maybe you can't tell from a photo. The bowl is the right size for eating oatmeal or fruit and yogurt or anything that fits in a regular bowl.

Friday, November 15, 2019

National Bundt Day 2019

Today was National Bundt Day!

I haven't celebrated for years, but today I made a Bundt cake and took it to work.

The tunnel of fudge didn't really form this time, but there's always next year.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


September 12, Tokyo Airport.

I mailed a small box to myself, containing work clothes, a few odds and ends, and some Japanese fabric from the Tokyo garment district. I intended to send it airmail so it would beat me home, but the airport post office didn't take credit cards. All the yen in my pocket amounted to enough for sea mail.

My new fabric arrived today!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Fun With Ride-Sharing

Last night, as I do every Monday night since the buses stop before pottery class stops, I used my phone to summon a Lyft to take me home from the Burbank Rec Center.

The driver told me her stomach hurt.

She said she'd vomited, but she lives in Sun Valley so at least she didn't too far to drive home.

She thinks it was the fish tacos.

Sunday, November 03, 2019


I was reading up on my JC house this morning in an article from 9/26/1895.

And now I have a new question. Or three.

Where is my well? What is in it? Can it be excavated, like a privy?

Is my house a red house secretly a buff (tan) house covered in reddish-brown paint?

Where can I find this speaking tube?

Friday, November 01, 2019

Funny How Things Work Out

When I was a college radio dj in southwestern Ohio, I remember talking to one of the classical announcers who asked about my plans for the future.

At this point in my life, I'd just learned it was possible to get a master's in pop culture or American studies, and mentioned I was considering doing that.

He was horrified and said so.

"You can't be serious. You'd have to write papers about Batman."

I remember the disconnect between us in the conversation. He was saying this like it was a bad thing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Grocery Shopping

Cashier at the supermarket a few blocks from my Burbank condo: "You gonna go home and watch basketball on TV now?"

I stared at him a moment. I was certainly going home, yes. Not sure where else he'd think I was going with all these groceries I'd picked up for my empty kitchen after my trip to Europe.

The rest? What?

"Or baseball?" He added.

I was still struggling to respond. Was the World Series on? I was sure I'd have heard something about that. (It was,  I learned later, which shows you how little I follow sports events.) Did they even play basketball this time of year? Is there even an LA team? There must be. Wait...they had a famous guy for a while. Lakers? Why would an LA team be called Lakers? That can't be right. Los Angeles isn't famous for its lake. The Silver Lakers?

The guy could see I had no idea what he was talking about.

"Not into sports?"

"No, not really," I respond. "Shame on you."

I'd been shamed by a Vons cashier for not watching sports on television.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Gaping at Greenland

I glanced out of the window on my flight from Munich>Denver>Los Angeles.

Lo and behold. I've never seen this before. I didn't even know it was possible to get such a great view of Greenland from a commercial jet.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Independent Travel to Neuschwanstein Castle

Several months ago, when I was first told by my job I would be attending Frankfurt Book Fair, I attempted to book an entrance ticket for Neuschwanstein Castle. 

"Booking for this day is not possible." Was I too early? No. I tried again several times. Apparently, I was too late.

How could this be? Too late for a Sunday in October? The following Sunday had plenty of space. Oh well. 

I decided to just hang out in Munich on Sunday, October 20th, but then when I took an early train from Frankfurt to Munich on Saturday morning, then walked 26,299 steps (more than 11 miles, according to my Fitbit), I fit in pretty much everything I felt I absolutely had to see. The castle took precedence over any museums, and shops are closed in Germany on Sundays anyway, so I decided to wing it on public transit.

I know, I know. What's the big deal about public transit? Aren't you the queen of public transit, you may be thinking.

Sure. The train wasn't the problem. It was all the reports of ridiculous queues that seemed problematic. The castle isn't the only thing King Ludwig's house has in common with Disney World.

I decided my sleeping schedule had been so erratic (thanks, jet lag), getting up at 5 a.m. to get the first train out would be easy. And it was. I'd purposely booked a hotel by the train station so as to avoid dragging my luggage all over Munich, so I was on the platform ten minutes after leaving my room at MARC Munchen. I was a bit early so I headed down the escalator to the Starbucks that opened at 4:30 (I'd scouted it out the night before), and that's how I was able to avoid one of my big early-travel problems now that I've been avoiding cow dairy. I'd learned to deal with soy lattes in Tokyo, but here in Germany, it's easy enough to find mandel milch, or almond milk. I've only seen one place with Oatly so far, but I've only been in the country for six days. (If I do MariesWorldTour 2021, I realize I'll have to go back to drinking black coffee like I frequently did in 2011, or switch back to moo-milk. That's far enough off I have no idea if I'll still be avoiding cow and goat dairy by then.)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

To Bavaria

I boarded the 6:29 a.m. train out of Frankfurt this morning, my work duties done.

Holiday mode activate! A’schnitzeling I shall go!

Though it's a short holiday as I fly back to LAX on Monday. More a mini-holiday than an actual vacation.

I was in my Munich hotel near the train station by 10:30 a.m.

I've never been to Munich before, for complicated reasons. Not that complicated, I guess. Everyone has that ex they don't like to think about, the one where things went horribly wrong and you don't let them out of the dark recesses of your brain, and mine is Bavarian—Herr Marlboro—from a small town near Munich. He's in Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik, nicknamed this in my work because when I met him, he was wearing his sister's brown leather trousers and riding his XT-Tenere home from doing development work in Nyala. Like a German Marlboro man. (I usually nickname people in my books unless they have given me permission to name them, and given we weren't on speaking terms by the time the book came out, I couldn't very well ask him.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Helping Out at Frankfurt Book Fair

Frankfurt Book Fair. The largest trade book fair in the world.

A woman in gold lamé trousers walks up to me and a colleague at the DC booth.

"Are you publisher?"

"Um...yeah." (nervous glances, not sure where this is going.)

"I am writer!"

She's beaming and reaching into her bag to pull out her manuscript.

We stopped her short with "Sorry, we make comics," but I have to give her points for ballsiness.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Friends and their Books

I read up on the Frankfurt Book Fair and studied my guidebook on the plane.

This might be the only time I page through Publishers Weekly to find two different books by two different friends reviewed on the same page.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Gah. 0457 train to the airport.

Good news though. My plan to stay right next to the Barceloneta train station (Estació de França) worked. I practically rolled out of bed and onto the commuter rail.

I have seldom stayed in a hotel in Barcelona, having only stayed in apartments up until the one time I stayed in an empty dorm, following that up with a stay in a Gracia hotel last year.

My regular apartment complex had space, but once I found listings for Hotel Santa Marta in Barceloneta right next to the train, I had an idea. I needed to get an early flight from Barcelona to Frankfurt on Monday, and if I stayed at my regular spot, I'd have to walk or get the metro up to the airport bus. What if, I thought, I caught the first train to the airport?

The later trains involve connections but this one is direct.

Easy-peasy. Bonus—the airport shut down later after protests. I was lucky to get out when I did. Imagine if I'd been sent to Frankfurt Book Fair and gotten stuck on my own plans in Barcelona. This would be a bad thing.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Caganer Jackpot

A caganer and souvenir store opened near my favorite Barcelona clothing store.

Most of the caganers sold in tourist districts these days are poor quality, but a few were better than the usual.

I bought the Putin one to add to my collection.

Jet Lag and Cinnamon Rolls

You know what happens when you sleep on a plane?

Sure you do. You end up with a kind of dazed hallucinatory desperate need for coffee, a shower, and breakfast in the afternoon.

Only problem is oh god, in what order?

I went for breakfast and coffee first, or maybe I didn't. Predictably, the morning I arrived in Barcelona en route to Frankfurt Book Fair is a bit of a blur. I'd always flown from New York or Kuwait, and never flown straight through from Los Angeles in the past.

Once I had my head on a bit straighter, I headed over to On Land, a clothing shop I always stop by in Barcelona. They gave me a suggestion to stop over across the street for a coffee, and wow, that's not all the shop across the street had...

Monday, October 07, 2019

Feeling Centered

Tonight, centering the clay went smoothly and within a few minutes, I had made this thing.

This never happens. I usually struggle with all of the above. I don't usually blow it completely anymore, but I don't have control over the clay like an experienced potter.

Anyway, I wrapped the piece in plastic to let it dry out slowly between tonight and next week's class. That's how it works--you let the piece dry to leather-hard, then you trim it or carve it or add handles. You can't let it dry completely or else you can't trim or carve it.

I was feeling pretty smug until I remembered I'm missing the next two classes due to going to Frankfurt Book Fair.

Jersey City Walkabout (for them, not us)

I put all the game camera photos from 9/1 to 10/3 into one slideshow.

Fun to watch, at least for me. Be warned this is 11 minutes long.

I'm getting a new patio soon so the view will change a little by Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Trash Flow Radio

Hey, through the magic of technology, I was at New York Comic Con while magically talking about Daniel Johnston on Ken Katkin's Ohio radio show!

Download: Trash Flow Radio Oct 5, 2019 (RIP Daniel Johnston Special Part Two) (120 mins | 111 MB): Link here.

Playlist for Trash Flow Radio -- Oct 5, 2019 (RIP Daniel Johnston Special Part Two): Link here.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Feeding the Spirits

I added Chatuchak Market fruit plates to my little spirit house in my Jersey City kitchen.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Exit Stage Left

8 p.m. on a Thursday night at the ass end of the Javits Center is a tall order, but members of theater company Die-Cast Philly were undaunted. They made their way to New York Comic Con to perform a shortened version of their Tennessee Williams Festival staged reading of Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, our GLAAD-award winning comic book series.

I don't want to overstate the audience's reaction by saying "Not a dry eye in the house," because I was sitting raptly in the front row and not doing a survey, but I think it's safe to say most people thought about getting a little teary—when they weren't laughing.

Special thanks to my pals who put off their dinners and drinks and sleeping and trips home to see this remarkable event. I know who you are and owe you each one. Except for those of you who owed me one already. We're now even.

And THANK YOU, Chip for putting the people in touch with the people, enabling this to happen! I already added this production to my very short list of career highlights last year, so this is just the bonus round, but in the annals of my job life, this is right up there with "opens theme park in Kuwaiti desert and everything goes wrong in front of the BBC."

Monday, September 30, 2019

Dream Machines

My pal Steve and I met up and went to the Petersen Automotive Museum on Saturday. We were there for the exhibit called "Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy."

The hand-out I picked up from the front desk said it all. "Curated in collaboration with Comic-Con Museum."

We were both pretty pleased with the day.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Outside my office, today's food truck has rice bowls with veggies and option of either beef or chicken.

Me: Is it possible to get a rice bowl without onions?

Worker: Which one?

Me: Ummm...chicken.

Worker: We don’t have the chicken.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Show and Tell, 2016

Here's a spectator's account of a special night in May, 2016, when my editor pal Jim Chadwick was kind enough to accompany me to an event where Louis Black and I showed some of my old videos. I'm not sure if footage of this night exists, but I'll look around. The unexpected gem was Daniel narrating over his most embarrassing moments. At one point he turned to his brother and said "Where did they get this video?" And Dick said "Marie had it," and Daniel swiveled his head back and stared at me, and you could see the gears clicking as he recalled all those times he'd said "Bring a video camera," and yes, I'd saved all those moments.
    "Another highlight of the evening was hearing Marie Javins, a former intern at the Austin Chronicle, talk about her experiences in meeting Daniel and documenting his musings and performances in the later 1980s. Daniel fondly recalled Marie’s presence in those halcyon days, although he and Marie had different recollections of whether she was fully clothed the first time they met! Historical accuracies aside, there was a sweetness to both Louis and Marie’s recounting of their early experiences with Daniel and it was evident in their interactions how they still treated Daniel with a gentle reverence three decades later."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Funeral Home

Here are some photos of Daniel's favorite things from his house and from the 9/21 memorial honoring him.

Accompanying these photos is some audio extracted from an unaired interview I did with Daniel in 1986.

Thanks to Jonathan Babcock for digitizing my ancient cassette. I don't think I'd listened to it since the day Daniel and I recorded this, and it's a gem. I'll share more of it one day.



I finally got home to Burbank at 1:21 a.m. after a night and a day in a Houston suburb, where I was one of many in attendance of a funeral for Daniel Johnston. The day was long and hot, and I caught up with a few old friends over the course of the odd mishmash of Daniel's friends and family, including people he knew from his West Virginia childhood and from his early years in Austin (I fall into the latter category).

I had only been back from my Asia trip a few days before racing off to Houston, so I didn't have a lot of food in my Burbank condo. I scrounged around and ended up eatgin three strawberries and a handful of walnuts, then went upstairs to crash.

And that's when I saw clothes all over my bed, from Friday when I'd been trying to find something appropriate for a funeral. Back downstairs. Gonna need more strawberries.

Here's Kathy McCarty performing a Daniel song most of you have probably heard by now. Credit to the guy who posted the video, Peter Blackstock. I don't think I know him, but it seems like I should. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Burbank Zebra Shrine

My ugly zebra from Chatuchak Market made it to California in one piece!

It's ugly because the details are shoddily made. You can't tell from the photo. I hope to get a proper Thai zebra one of these days.

Also, I added the zebra shrine to Google Maps, so if any of you want to do a zebra pilgrimage, it's now easy to find.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Eulogy for a Friend

Daniel Johnston smiled into his own personal hell so many times his friends and family had all lost count by the mid-nineties, long before his personal myth outgrew his aspirations. He never just threw his last dime in the wishing well—he launched himself straight in with a chirpy greeting to the abyss below, immersing himself in whatever caught his fancy. The Beatles. Jack Kirby. King Kong. Captain America. The undertaker’s daughter, his muse. Kathy. Me.

The last two hung around, successfully navigating from crushes to genuine friendships. Even Daniel seemed mystified when he’d explain me to people later. “At first I wanted her to be my girlfriend but now we’re really good friends.”

I chalked up my skill at navigating Daniel’s childlike crushing to my ability to hold my own on a topic dear to Daniel’s heart. Comic books. I originally used a cassette recorder to keep him at a distance, asking him questions for my college radio show. This evolved into a video camera, and I have all that footage, not yet turned into a project. Eventually, I got my first job at Marvel and Daniel was ever-after my proudest friend, delighted at my success. So delighted, I had to get Caller ID and turn off my landline ringer at night. At this stage in his life, he’d forget he’d already called. He’d forget what he’d said and say it all over again. His meds were still being tweaked, his diagnosis evolving. He was genuinely embarrassed when he later saw some of the video footage I took of him during this era.

“It’s okay, Danny,” he told his video self at the screening a few years back in LA. His video self had been worried about Satan and the upcoming year 2000. “2000 came and went and the world didn’t end.”


Number 4 is the 13 of several Asian cultures. Or 13 is the 4 of America.

Third and Final Taipei Day

Tuesday morning. I awoke too tired to get real involved in touristing. But it was the third day of my three days in Taipei, so I'd have to go out and do something.

My hotel had free washers and dryers in the basement, so I let my clothes wash while I ran out and got my morning coffee. The one negative of my CityInn Plus Hotel Ximen is it has no breakfast.

Once my laundry was done, I finally convinced myself to head out. I walked across Peace Park to the National Cultural and Creative Gift Center, then took the metro to Taipei 1010. That's a super-tall highrise, the tallest building in the world for a while, until Dubai took the title.

After my trip up to the observation floor, I moved on to Hua Shan 1914 Creative Park. It's an old winery converted into a place with a bunch of independent shops and cafes. I enjoyed it, bought a few shirts from an independent designer with a rack in a corner, then headed back to the hotel until dinner.

Dinner was soup dumplings in a dumpy storefront. They were a grand total of $2.26, and they didn't make me sick like the fancy place had in Bangkok.

I went for one last dose of street mango, then called it a day and said bye to Taipei. In the morning, I had an airport taxi picking me up super-early, and would fly from Taipei to Narita, where I'd switch back into business traveler mode, stop by the lounge, and get onto my business class seat back to LA. I made a mental note to not dress like a backpacker.

I hope you've enjoyed this small break from our regularly scheduled program of working bunches.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Jiufen Morning and Datong Afternoon

My plan was to head to the picturesque mountain town of Jiufen, a former gold mining village. I'd read about it online, and I'd looked at various day tours initially.

But day tours do what they say on the tin, so to speak, which is to take up your whole day. I don't have the patience for that, so I'd gone to the tourist information desk in Ximen station and asked about how to take public transport to Jiufen.

They'd marked the #965 bus stop on a map and sent me on my way. When I'd asked at the hotel front desk, the clerk confirmed the info and gave me even more explicit instructions to go to the bus stop in front of the Armed Forces Cultural Center. The buses came by frequently, but I'd downloaded the bus app ahead of time so I could see how long I'd have to wait.

From Bangkok to Taipei

The airport lines were nuts at Bangkok's big airport today. I didn't remember that being the case from my past trips. Maybe it was a freak thing? Or maybe I'd left so many times from the old airport, I just hadn't been in a position to notice.

After passport control, I had just enough time to grab a dollop of Duty Free Shop sampler moisturizer (I'd run out yesterday), buy a soy milk latte and croissant (I'm in the middle of not eating wheat, corn, or dairy for reasons to complicated to explain, but basically I'm fighting off gut bacteria with a month of antimicrobials and orders to not eat what I was about to eat and this was my first bread in four weeks), and only just got on the plane before the doors shut. I quickly purchased the Lonely Planet digital guide to Taipei and downloaded it before takeoff. This was my reading material for the flight.

Travel=glamour, I thought with a touch of irony. Next stop: Taipei. All-out tourism stop for three days. "Why would you want to do that to yourself," Mr. Fixit had asked when I said I planned to get out of bed at four in the morning. I stared at him blankly. Obviously, I wanted to get as much time in Taipei as I could in the next few days.

Leaving Bangkok

Last night, after dinner with Mr. Fixit, I'd caught a taxi back to Banglamphu. I'd had a Thai massage earlier in the day, walked around the Khao San area one last time, and then gone for dinner.

I'd awoken at 11 pm with food poisoning. That was no fun, but by morning, I was ready to go.

At 4:30 a.m., I dragged my bag down to the reception area, where the clerk was waiting for me in her pajamas and flip-flops. She walked me down the alley to meet the taxi she'd booked, and I was off to the airport.

Here is my photo album of this trip to Bangkok.

Next stop: Taipei.