Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of Sadness

Wrote a story for school.  It's based on an actual person I once met, an artist by the name of Brom.

The Sacrifice

I walked into the convention center. I was there to meet a few artists and show my portfolio around. Really, the comic book industry is like any other art industry. You don't have to be good, you just have to be persistent. You only need to want it enough. I walked around the hall, checked the competition and potential collaborators, eyeing the merchandise like it might bite me. As I wandered, I saw the booth of an artist I'd heard of but hadn't known was attending. Huge prints of his baroque, Lovecraftian art hovered over him as he sat staring off into space. I got the impression that he wasn't fully aware of where he was. Nobody waited to see him. I made a mental note to come back after I'd hit all the booths on my list.

Toward the end of the day I came back to his booth. He was in more or less the same position, still staring off into nowhere, still fan-free. I walked up and stood in front of him, waited for him to acknowledge me. He didn't. I cleared my throat. Still nothing.

“Excuse me.” He started a bit, surprised, like he hadn't been expecting anyone to talk to him.

“Oh. Yes. Hello!” He smiled, tentatively. I noticed that it never touched his eyes.

“Could I get a copy of your new book?”

“Oh. Oh! Sure. Yes! Twenty dollars.” I handed him two ten dollar bills, the last of the money I'd allowed myself to spend on swag. He set a copy of his book, The Jack, on the table in front of him.

“Who should I make it out to?”


“Like this?” He uncapped a black marker and wrote J-A-Y on the piece of butcher paper which covered the table.

“Yeah, that's right,” I confirmed.

“Are you from around here, or are you just in town for the convention?” I asked, as he scribbled something inscrutable on the title page of the book. He sighed softly, marker frozen, and offered a too-long pause before replying, “No. No, I don't live around here.” He looked at me then, and I noticed a deep and profound sadness in his eyes. He still had a weak smile, hanging precariously, ready to fall off at any moment, but now I saw it for what it was: the sign he gave me to let me know that this was not my fault. I knew it as certainly as if he had whispered it in my ear, at length, a steady murmur of forthright apology, endlessly heartbroken and precise. I thought that if I lived his life for one moment, I'd be crushed under whatever burden had turned down his eyes and made his face so gaunt.

“I live up North,” he said to me, closing the book and handing it to me. “Is that your portfolio?” he asked.

“Oh. Yeah,” I stammered, still reeling.

“Can I take a look?”

“Sure.” I unslung the black nylon portfolio from my shoulder and handed it to him. He opened it and starting paging through my drawings. He was in his element, focused, looking at everything critically but rarely lingering on any one drawing. He stopped at one unfinished piece toward the back, something I had only included as an afterthought. I'd given up on it because I couldn't get it to work, had been too frustrated by it.

“That one-”

“It's the only one here you cared about. Finish it,” he interrupted.

“You think...?” I asked. He nodded, already disconnecting.

“Oh. Well. It was nice meeting you. Thanks for signing this,” I replied, reeling. He nods, and waves his hand.

“You too. You're welcome,” he says.

I collected my portfolio and walked away from the table, lost in thought, book in hand. Eventually, I remembered to read his inscription:


Thank you.

Some days are easier than others.
That's all for now.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Of Negativity

Rarely, people have asked me why I'm so negative.  I can't explain that, not completely, because from my perspective it seems like such a fundamental character trait.  I can give one (probably insufficient) explanation, though.

A lot of pop culture is bad.  I point this out, partially because doing so is fun, but also because I like to be helpful.  I'm a cultural tank, breathing deep the greasy exhaust of our social art engine so that you don't have to.  Later, I can refine these fumes and perhaps expel them as something incrementally better, or at least less odious.  So,  "You shouldn't read Twilight," I say to you, "because it is worse than child abuse, and reading it will give you ultracancer."

This way, when I recommend something, you know that I'm not faffing about:  this is a thing that will enrich you.  "Yes, The Sandman is incredible.  When you are done reading it, your life will have changed for the better - you will see the subtle things in our world that belie beautiful magic."

"After playing Planescape: Torment, you will be able to punch people through the moon, into the sun, but will have hands that are as soft and supple as a newborn piglet."

And so on.

So, let me tell you: Sloane Crosley's new book, How Did You Get This Number, is really quite good, despite the conspicuous absence of a question mark.  Her essays are funny, and nostalgic, and then they culminate in moments of aching beauty.  Then you're at the end and you realize that for all its mundanity and monotony, life is worth living.  She is a treasure.

Moving on.

A sneak peek at something new - my first attempt at a longer form piece in quite some time.  We'll see how it goes.  No title as of yet, though I called the version I put on Ficly, "I Will Force You to Know".  We'll call that a working title.


The first thing I remember is the way it smells  – so bad that it had lost its connection to any thing and had instead come to represent an idea, like hatred, or welfare. Maybe it had started off as rotten garbage combined with stale cigarettes and rancid diapers, then it was left to stew in some irrelevant crack of life in one those American cities we prefer to forget about.

Since then, I've discovered that every day is just another opportunity to experience the very worst that humanity has to offer. Any second you're awake is a second where you might take an unfortunate step and see some geriatric coprophiliac eating his lunch and polishing his knob with twenty-grit sandpaper he found in a dumpster next to the literal clown from whom he bought figurative magic. You might wonder why, but in doing so, you've already failed by assuming that the answer might make any sense to anyone who doesn't spend the bulk of their time eating shit, or that there is even an answer at all.

It's too close to the edge, here; too easy to look down and lose your mind.

That's all for now.