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.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


I jumped up and pulled the call cord on the ratty old bus from Chatuchak to Banglamphu. I'd just spotted my stop.

The driver looked quizzically at me, probably wondering if I'd made a mistake.

I hadn't. I was here to see the zebra shrine.

I went over in my zebra t-shirt to pay my respects. An old woman was at the shrine—I couldn't tell if she was homeless and slept nearby or if she was the caretaker. Maybe both. She looked at me in my zebra shirt taking photos of the zebra shrine and she howled with laughter. She called two men over, men who wear lazily sitting by a canal.

She pointed at my shirt and laughed and pointed at the zebras. I laughed too. Then she kissed my hand and kissed it again.

I thought this was all quite hilariou, but nevertheless, I was glad when she stopped.

The Hunt for Zebras Continues

I'd been near the Giant Swing yesterday, asking around for places that might sell ceramic zebras. As you may recall, I've been on a hunt for ceramic Thai zebras since 2011, since I first noticed them at spirit houses.

The receptionist at my guesthouse had sent me to the stores by the Giant Swing. All I found there were huge golden Buddhas, but a guy told me I could find my zebras at Bang Bua Thong. I looked this up and found I could get there by a combination of metro and bus or taxi, and I'd do even better if I left from Chatuchak Market after my regular pilgrimage.

I didn't make it. I made it to JJ Market on Saturday morning, sure. I managed to buy an ugly ceramic zebra, but didn't find the source of all things zebra, and I didn't have the energy to go to Bang Bua Thong and start asking random strangers "Have you seen these?" Plus I had to meet Mr. Fixit later in the early evening. Remember my colleague from Kuwait? We used to communicate daily for 7-8 years. It's weird when circumstances change and you suddenly have less interaction with someone. It trickles and then nearly dries up completely.

At Chatuchak, I bought a few tiny pieces to put in my spirit house back in Jersey City, browsed the market, then headed to the bus. I may not be buying the right zebras, but I knew where to find all the other zebras. I'd even added it to Google Maps. 

Friday, September 13, 2019


Villa Mungkala is near a canal in residential old Bangkok, a few blocks south of Banglamphu and close to Democracy Monument.

I'm interested in staying in this area again, to see more of it, though I might try different lodging to get an idea of what's out there. I loved being able to easily walk over to all the services of Khao San--Boots, the supermarket, street food, coffee shops, laundry, and best of all, endless inexpensive Thai massages--but being out of the loud fray was fantastic. When I first went to Bangkok in 2000 and stayed at the Viengtai, Rambuttri was so much more off the beaten path. Now it's pretty chaotic, nearly as much so as its neighbor, Khao San, and my 2011 home-away-from-home, Sakul House, is no more. Still, it's hard for me to leave the area for the glossier downtown, since I like the old character of the neighborhood as well as the conveniences.

I followed my Bangkok routine this morning, dropping off laundry, mailing a box from the post office, then heading downtown by canal boat to hunt for the Naturalizer platform sandals I like (they're not available in the US, and I'm pretty hard on shoes so I've been through a lot of them), and then end my day at MBK, the big Thai mall with local character, as opposed to all the high-end malls that could be anywhere in the world.

Exhausting day, but you know I love Bangkok...

Old Bangkok

Morning in a Bangkok neighborhood.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Break in Bangkok

Since I was on a business trip to Tokyo, I burned some frequent flyer miles and added two more stops to my journey.

First stop was Bangkok for a few days. I hadn't been in six years, plus I wanted to catch up with my old pal Mr. Fixit from my Kuwait days. He'd just moved to Bangkok last time I was there, but these days he's back and forth to Jakarta, so I wasn't even sure up until the last minute if he would even been in town for my stopover.

On arrival in Bangkok, I headed to the S1 bus. Many years ago, there used to be an airport bus, but it stopped when the airport train opened. This "new" airport bus started a few years ago. There was nothing particularly new about the bus, and it took forever in comparison to the airport train to a taxi, but it was cheap. I took it to Democracy Monument.

I walked down the road to a path along a small canal, eventually arriving at Villa Mungkala, a colonial villa turned bed-and-breakfast. I'd spent so much time in Bangkok over the years, but I'd only ever stayed at the Viengtai, Sakul House, and for a few nights in 2011, at Feung Nakorn Balcony. I'd probably spent a grand total of three months in Bangkok over my various trips, and only stayed off Rambuttri for a grand total of four nights.

So I was really branching out this time, but I still like old Bangkok and the easy access to tourist infrastructure, so I didn't want to go too far away from the tourist mecca of Khao San Road. I'd found a nice compromise in this little canal district a mere ten minutes walk from KSR. I checked in and dropped off my bag, then followed a winding path up to the main road, and headed over to Tang Hua Seng department store.

No, I wasn't trying to buy stuff, aside from a tiny container of coconut milk to use in my morning coffee at the guest house. I was hunting the AEON ATM. It's got the lowest fee of any ATMs in Bangkok, and the department store one has been there since at least 2011, though back then, it had no fee at all.

Next up was dinner at the little sidewalk cafe owned by Max, the guy who does magic tricks for his customers. The food isn't any better or worse than any other sidewalk cafe, but everyone who works there is nice, the food is cheap, and Max has a good sense of humor. He'd gotten the cafe from his aunty in 2008, long before I ate there nightly in summer of 2011.

KSR just keeps growing and developing, but it's still got the same chaotic but charming flavor. I noted a self-serve laundromat. That's new. Usually, you drop your laundry off.

I was tired from my day of travel, but I was also delighted to be in one of my many "homes." This is the place I know best of anywhere I've stayed outside the US and Barcelona. I'd done all I needed to do tonight...check-in, ATM, dinner. Now it was time for my favorite Bangkok pastime.

An hour-long foot massage for just a few bucks. Excellent.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


photo by Jeff Feuerzeig
This morning, in my hotel room in Tokyo, I awoke to a message from my writer friend Warren Ellis on my personal email. As opposed to my work email, I mean. That's how I knew to sit up and read it.

He was passing on news. Daniel Johnston, an outsider artist and musician, and more importantly, a friend of mine since 1986, had died.

This was confirmed by the next email I received from Daniel's former manager.

I didn't have time to process this. Daniel died on September 11th, but I was a day ahead in Tokyo and I had to get to the airport on the morning of September 12th.

I finished packing my bag and headed over to Tokyo Station, to get on the Narita Express. My next stop was Bangkok. I sat on the train and thought about all the things I wanted to write, but this wasn't the time.

"Don't write something personal while rushing to the airport," I thought. There would be plenty of time on the plane.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fan Girling near Tokyo

You guys, I did something fun!

I met Gurihiru, the artists on Superman Smashes the Klan with Gene Yang. It's a series I am editing at DC, along with always-chipper Diego Lopez.

I took the shinkansen (bullet train) to see them out in the 'burbs. We had tea and talked via their translator, and they didn't even mind the few tiny art corrections I'd had to do on issue #1 (going to press Friday). The pleasure was mine.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Touristing Tokyo

I've been through Tokyo many times en route to other places, but I hadn't actually stopped and been a tourist in at least, what, 20 years?

I was in town with two colleagues. The first day, we met up with our local rep and went to some comic stores and stopped by a few sights.

I went back to the hotel early to wait out my jetlag and see how long the typhoon took to hit us.

Be Vigilant

Oh, sure.

I get to have all the fun.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Last Thing I Expected to See

I should be asleep. I’m in Tokyo and hallucinating.

Friday, September 06, 2019

So Long As You Have Your Passport

My sewing machine jammed while I was putting the finishing touches on a new handbag for my Tokyo business meetings.

Like really jammed, so I abandoned that and grabbed a DC Comics messenger bag. At least I’m on brand, I thought, as I shoved a bunch of stuff in a bag and called a Lyft to LAX.

I remembered my passport and my chargers and my snacks. I probably forgot something. Oh, I know. My new business cards.

Somehow I’m on a plane, waiting for takeoff.

I hope the hotel in Tokyo has an iron. I’m guessing it doesn’t have a sewing machine.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Stuff You Should Not Tell Passengers

Last night's Lyft driver:

 "I couldn't sleep at all last night. I went to sleep at 3, woke up at 5 and went to work. Then after work I couldn't sleep either. So here I am driving for Lyft, figured I might as well be doing something."

(As I quietly belt up in the backseat.)

Another fun thing he told me:

He was moonlighting from his job as an airplane engineer at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. He used to work at LAX, and the commute was killing him, until one day he realized he could just hop on a flight.

I don't know how that works since there are no commercial flights on this route. Maybe it's something private or utilitarian. Or maybe he was pulling my leg. 

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Back West

Red Line at 11 at night, Vermont and Santa Monica.

“Excuse me, I have to touch the pole!”

A large woman runs in the open door and taps a pole in the center of the car, then runs back out.

Everyone is like “Wha—?”

The doors close and pretty much everyone had glanced up at her on the platform.

That’s when she raised her shirt and flashed the whole train as it pulled out. Everyone cracked up. I did too.

“And we’re not even in Hollywood yet” said one old man.

PATH Darleen

I want to write fan fiction about Darleen and her animal pals from the backyard.

New Paint on the Block

The new neighbors bought their house for double the price of mine and then they immediately lowered the value...

Of course, Halloween IS right around the corner.