Hitch-22

Journalist Christopher Hitchens was a fellow guest of the Sydney Writers Festival last month, and we shared the same hotel, the Sebel Pier One. The establishment offered us guests a complimentary breakfast buffet every morning ’til 10 am, and one morning, just after ten, I was leaving the restaurant to see Hitchens coming in. He looked the part: puffy, rumpled, slightly hung over.

Even though the kitchen staff were putting away the food, much of the spread remained, and Hitch busied himself putting a plate together. The maître d’ ran over. "Sir, sir! Breakfast is over!"

Hitchens paused for a second and eyeballed the maître d’. "No, it’s not," he declared, and he went back to loading up his plate.

"No, sir," the maître d’ huffed. "Breakfast service ends at ten o’clock. It’s after ten. Breakfast is over."

Hitchens gave him another look, served himself some eggs, and chuckled. "You’re going to have to work a lot harder than that to keep me away from food." And with that, he found a table and began eating his breakfast.

Extra Bored to Death

Last week I was an extra on the set of Jonathan Ames and HBO’s Bored to Death. Along with a cohort of other Brooklyn cartoonists — particularly Dean Haspiel — I got to play myself at a fictitious comic convention. It was easy to get into character. Just like a real comic convention, it was crowded, repetitive, and no one buys anything!

Although exhausting, it was altogether a fun experience. In addition to getting to hang with Dino for a couple of days (an all-to-rare occurrence nowadays), I got to banter with Ames and Jason Schwartzman, and ogle Zach Galifiniakis and Ted Danson. Look for the episode to premiere some time in September or October.

I can’t say I remember (or recognize) fellow cartoonist Gabby Schulz from the shoot, but he was set up behind me and must have kept to himself. He didn’t mention me either! But he wrote an excellent synopsis of the experience: http://www.gabbysplayhouse.com/?p=1124

P.S. Despite my joke above, in addition to getting paid as an extra, and for providing “set dressing” for the show, at the end of the shoot I ended up selling eight or nine copies of A.D. to members of the “Bored to Death” production staff. Three income streams from one event!

P.P.S. As is S.O.P., I did a (rather uninspired) sketch of the actors. Wonder Woman is a character created just for this episode. Particularly egregious is my "Ted Danson." Apologies to all involved.

Bored to Death

R. Crumb, tailor

I guess The Book of Genesis didn’t do as well for Crumb as he hoped. I shot this outside a tailor shop on Henry St. in Brooklyn. If you need anything taken in or shortened, please give Bob the work

R. Crumb, tailor

SPX ’09 Report

road to SPXMy first SPX in three years — but by my count, my tenth overall — got off to a great start with the ride down. The four musketeers of JahFurry, Heidi MacDonald, Brian Heater, and Ben McCool added my fifth wheel since Ben was jetting off to England for a fortnight, so Jeff, Heidi, Brian and myself made the rest of the trip after dropping Ben off at Newark. Good times — with lots of cutting people off — were had, including a stop in Baltimore at Atomic Books for the Nerdlinger Awards.

The Awards set a Rip van Winkle tone for me, as I barely knew a soul — or their comic — there, and that carried through for SPX itself. I saw a few familiar faces, of course, like SPX regulars Chris Staros, Jim Dougan, Rob Clough, Mike Rhode, Calvin Reid, Ed Piskor, Rob Ullman, and the Fantagraphics twins; and of course SPX programmers like Karon Flage, Warren Bernard, and Greg Bennett; and even some sporadic returners like myself: R. Sikoryak, Peter Kuper, James Kochalka, John Porcellino, Mike Fiffe, and Kat Roberts, to name a few.

But there were so many ol’ pals missing: Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, Alex Robinson, Tony Consiglio, David Lasky, Mike Dawson, Chris Radtke, Joan Reilly, Jason Little, Gabrielle Bell, Jon Lewis, and Karen Sneider, just off the top of my head. I guess what with book deals, kids, and of course the continuing allure of MoCCA, the drive down to D.C. is losing its appeal for those folks. (I have to confess I stayed away from SPX the last few years because I didn’t have anything new to hawk until this year.)

However, despite my sadness at missing so many folks, I have to admit that SPX is alive and well! The great funky/DIY/artsy tradition is still very much in evidence, and the comix tribe is rejuvenated with lots of new blood. That included my tablemates this year, fresh-faced 2009 Xeric winners J.T. Yost and Sophia Wiedeman. I was under strict luggage (and economic) constraints, so I only picked up a few things, but everywhere I looked there were young cartoonists offering tempting delights. I couldn’t resist some purchases, of course, and came away with Yost’s Old Man Winter, Wiederman’s The Deformity, Jeffrey Brown‘s Funny Misshapen Body, Liz Baillie‘s My Brain Hurts, Picture Box’s crazy oversize Real Deal #1, and a decrepit Robin T-shirt by fellow SPX returning veteran Tom Galambos.

As for my end of the show, A.D. sold respectably, with about 30 copies finding new owners. (I also signed a fair amount of previously purchased books.) I had some great conversations with people connected to the NOLA scene, including a high muckety-muck of the Louisiana Redevelopment Authority. And Gina Gagliano was kind enough to moderate my spotlight panel, where I presented my A.D. slideshow and answered questions about the project.

The only major negative for the show this year was the frigid temperatures inside the room on Sunday. I tend to run hot (body temperature-wise) but even I was shivering. I was pleasantly surprised that my nose didn’t fall off due to frostbite, but all the same I think I’m coming down with something: I’ve been achy and off my game ever since Sunday.

The ride back with Jah, Heidi, and Brian was as fun-filled as the trip down, with the added excitement of seeing how far the car could go with an empty tank of gas and the "Change Oil Soon" light flashing. And did we really almost run down Philip Seymour Hoffman on his bike as we tore through the West Village? Brian swore it was him. Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. *Cough*

“I’d like you to meet my fiancé, James Ellroy”

Last night was the opening reception for my A.D. exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library. It was a nice event, with drinks and food, and all the artists in attendance, including David Rees. I enjoyed talking to him about our alma mater Oberlin, and meeting his wife Sarah, who also went there. Sari went to Oberlin too (even though we didn’t know each other there) and we all chuckled over the fact that us Obies tend to marry each other. There was a nice turnout: my dad and step-mom, Sari’s parents and brother Warren, moviethinker and his girlfriend Michael, wjcohen and his brood, mikedawsoncomic and his wife and baby, man_size and sazzabee, PopFeminist, and a gaggle of other cartoonists and pals.

The most surreal part of the event was right after I said some words about A.D. to the assembled folks and had wandered back to the sidelines. An old high school pal approached me, a lady I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. She came over with an older gentleman who I confess I first took to be her dad. Then she introduced me: "This is James Ellroy." Huh? The James Ellroy? The novelist? The one who wrote L.A. Confidential? I was confused. Mr. Ellroy said some nice things to me about my little talk. I mumbled something gracious. Then he said, "We’re engaged." Again: huh? My high school friend is engaged to James Ellroy? And they just happened to come to my opening? Fortunately, I recovered quickly enough to congratulate them on their engagement. They both looked pleased as punch; they left to go look at my show; I stood there in surprise and confusion.

Here are some shots of the show:

Celebrities & Cranks on the 2/3

Because I work at home, I’m lucky enough to not have to ride the NYC subways during rush hours. Instead, I end up on the trains at odd hours, or on reverse commutes, where I’m heading into Manhattan when everyone is coming back into Brooklyn. It’s a much different experience — not the least because the trains aren’t crowded, you can always get a seat, and you can indulge in one of the great New York pasttimes of checking out the other riders.
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A Trip Down the Red Carpet

man_size and I (and our dates) went to the American Splendor NYC premiere on Wednesday night (August 12) and I had the time of my life. It was my second time seeing the film and I enjoyed it just as much this go-around. Dean and his girlfriend — a film editor — are old hands at movie premieres, but I ate it all up. The red carpet, the limos, the star treatment for Harvey & Joyce — it was exciting, thrilling and bizarre, all at once. I finally met Toby Radloff — someone I’ve drawn a number of times in the comic — in person, and he was just as strange as I’ve always imagined. I also met Judah Friedlander, the guy who plays Toby in the film, which was surreal.

The after-movie dinner was held in a giant studio in Chelsea, filled with kitschy set pieces from the movie: old 70s furniture, jazz records, cheesy diner tables, the works. To top it off, they served all manner of white trash junk food, from White Castle hamburgers to orange soda (Harvey’s favorite?). Totally ridiculous, but all in the service of the film, I guess.

Anyway, It was nice to catch up with Harvey, who I hadn’t seen in person in quite a while. He seemed dazed but unchanged by all the hype — the same old uncompromising, grouchy, needy, intense oddball. At the end of the evening, Dean & I found him slumped on a couch at the very darkest corner of the hall, zoned out and exhausted. I also gave a copy of The Vagabonds to Sean Astin (Sam from Lord of the Rings) who asked me to sign it for him and seemed genuinely thrilled to be getting a free comic book. Plus, I got lots of free trailer park grub and a pocket-full of jellybeans to take home with me. All in all, an evening of splendor in America.