It's been a million years since I posted here. Just running out of energy I guess. Which will likely be the theme of this post.
Been working on King-Cat 76, and got so much done in January that I went ahead and inked the indicia page with a "February" publishing date. Ha! I got exactly nothing done in the month of February. March rolled around, and all I could think about was how I was supposed to go to Denver for the inaugural DINK show at the end of the month, and how there was going to be a blizzard that weekend, because in Colorado there's ALWAYS a blizzard the last week of March.
So, I tricked my bestie Noah Van Sciver into flying into Milwaukee so we could drive out together. Sure enough the day before we left 15" of snow fell on the Front Range and was moving east at quite a clip. So we got in the car and drove towards it. It turned out fine, but a lotta people freaked out.
Here's a pic of me and Noah having a steak brunch just before heading out on the road.
Where's all the blizzard at?
Noah sketching in bed at the Howard Johnson's in Lincoln, NE.
This was my breakfast/lunch, outside of Denver. You may not be able to tell, but that serving of guacamole is approximately one tablespoon. Thus begins our descent into madness.
Thursday Night we had a "meet and greet" at our beloved Kilgore Books, where I mostly hid in the corner. I was already brutally tired from two days of driving and not eating well. Back in the day, when I occasionally worked a Sunday shift at Kilgore, I made some of these Shelf Markers. Here's US History.
And they still have my window sign up!
DINK was held at what was once known as the El Jebel Ballroom. During the many years I lived in Denver this remarkable building was continuously boarded up, but I always heard old-timers describe the ornate impossibilities it held within. Having walked past it hundreds of times, only imagining the jewels inside, it was pretty great to not only finally get to go in, but to go inside because there was a comics show taking place!
View from the mezzanine, during setup hours.
All of this "wallpaper," which covered every square inch of space, is actually HANDPAINTED. Imagine that, and try to determine the precise moment this country took a long walk off a short pier.
Saturday night was the first annual DINKy Awards, and I was getting a very nice "Industry Achievement Award." At the event where my old pal Jason Heller interviewed me before the awards, a handful of people showed up. When we began, there were maybe three people in attendance. The absurdity of the moment prompted me to rig up some alternative nameplates for the interview.
Here's the award. Again, I thought it was ironic that I got such a special award at a show where I sold maybe nine copies of King-Cat, but such is comics.
Saturday night, walking past the Capitol Building.
Visiting Denver was rough for me. I lived there off and on for 12 years or so, from the time downtown had an 80% vacancy rate in its apartment units, to the arrival of Medical Marijuana in 2010. By that time the rents had become impossible for me to deal with. Now of course, it's only gotten worse. All every single Denverite I spoke to over the weekend, who hadn't had the good luck or resources to buy property at some point, could talk about was how sad they were that they were going to have to find a new city to live in.
The city itself has given itself over to pot and blogging. Now I'm not a teetotaler (sorta) and I do believe pot causes about as much damage as alcohol, and that shit's legal, but there was no denying the downward spiral Denver has taken since legalization. I'm sure in terms of tourism and money and real estate values things are great. In terms of a decent city where regular people can live and work, I was heartbroken to see what's happened.
So maybe this stuff was getting to me. A cranky week on the road with poor sleep, exhaustion, bad food, incredible stress. When we got back home I dropped Noah off at O'Hare and slept for two days before crawling out of bed to finally face my responsibilities. After a classroom talk in Madison that Wednesday night, I went to bed and woke up in the morning with intense pain and swelling in my right ear. If you've read The Hospital Suite or Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man or Map of My Heart, you know about my struggles with Hyperacusis. This felt similar, but different. The pain continued to grow worse, and by Saturday night I had started to lose hearing in the ear. Sunday morning when I woke up I was completely deaf on the right side.
At my exam Monday, the audiologist looked grim. With this amount of hearing loss, the likelihood of a full recovery was slim, he said. I was put on Prednisone for swelling and Valtrax in case the problems were viral in nature. But it could be anything. It could have been caused by a mild stroke, a tumor pressing on the nerve, MS, or it might be one of those things where I may never know what happened. We shall see.
Day by day there has been some improvement. I can hear faint sounds now when I touch my ear. I've been seeing an acupuncturist, and she's hopeful I will improve. And I am too. I don't want to jump the gun. Many cases like mine resolve themselves within a few weeks. But when I tried to listen to my favorite Carpenters album with one ear, I felt a wave of fear and sadness roll over me.
I've been through enough stuff in my life to know it's not the end of the world. Hell, Brian Wilson wrote Pet Sounds with one ear, right? And I may very well come through this all right (I hope!). But the whole thing feels like a "Come to Jesus" moment for me.
Since 2007, right after Maisie died, I've been hauling ass around this country, attending every comics show and zine show and book signing and etc I could do. It was fun, and it helped me overcome the decade of isolation I felt during the really bad OCD years. But a few years back I started to notice the toll it all was talking on me. I couldn't spring back like I used to. I was tired all the time. Beyond tired. When I was setting up the Spit and a Half table in Denver all I could keep thinking was "I'm getting too old for this."
Each year I tell myself this is the year I'm going to cut back on travel, and each year before I know it I'm scheduled for 10 or 12 shows. I remember last year, when my pal the amazing cartoonist (and fellow Road Dawg) Nate Powell got shingles following the SPACE show in Columbus. His Facebook post about it, and how it made him realize he could no longer keep up the pace he was on, affected me deeply at the time. I've now had the same type of experience.
Last week with some sadness, but to be honest, some relief, I canceled my SPACE visit, as well as a trip to Durham for what I'm sure will be an awesome event: Zine Machine. I just can't do it anymore. Maybe in a year or two I'll be rested up and feel different. I will still attend CAKE and Chicago Zine Fest and the other more local shows (Madison, Milwaukee), and the day before I lost my hearing I paid for my SPX 2016 table, so I'll likely be at that show (we're hoping to debut the Jenny Zervakis collection there!).
Meanwhile I'm going to try to stay home and draw, volunteer at the Bird Banding Station, spend time with my family, and concentrate on healing up, on the things that lower my stress level rather than add to it.
King-Cat 76 is almost done. It should ship in May. If you have a subscription and have moved since last time (May 2015), please drop me a line with your new address. Additionally, I have four pages for KC 77 already drawn and inked! I'm hoping to pull off a release of that one before the end of the year. I'd love to get back on a two-issue per year schedule.
Some raw pages for King-Cat #76.
I don't want to end on a total downer, but the last few months have been heartbreaking. Steph and I have seen the death of her stepmom, our beloved cat Ninny, Alvin Buenaventura, Jess Johnson, and there are more family related traumas going on behind the scenes. We're getting older. Let's take care of ourselves and each other. I love you all.
Prince Ninny (2006-2016)
Princess Michi, the Secret Cat, who's just getting to know everybody.