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Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 SUMMER TOUR DIARY: Part Two


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Part Two: BUTTE TO PORTLAND

 After leaving Butte, we headed west again into the mountains.  The driving was beginning to take its toll.  We'd spent the previous two nights sleeping in the car, and, well, everybody who ever complained to you about driving through North Dakota/Eastern Montana...  they have a point.  Noah and I kept our sanity by jamming along to Ol' Dirty Bastard and Patrick Porter records.  We were determined to make it to Portland that evening, and to (hopefully) sleep horizontally at last.

Western Montana


Noah and Rainbow Trout; Truck Stop, St. Regis, MT.






After driving through Montana for what seemed like FOREVER (how big IS that state, anyhow???) we cut through the panhandle of Idaho, stopping only to get gas, but completing my checklist of visiting all 48 contiguous states. (The only three I had left were ND, MT, and ID, so I nailed them all here in one trip!)

From Idaho the highway drops sharply into Eastern Washington, and Spokane.  We stopped in town to check out the local comics shops, and I picked up a Marvel Monsters hardcover I'd had my eye on for awhile, as well as a paperback collection of old Marvel romance comics, including a bunch of work by My Hero™ Jack Kirby.  Both used; not bad.  I kind of liked Spokane, the little I saw of it.  Reminded me of a smaller, quieter Denver.  Anyhow, we had some driving to do... driving through the most god-forsaken batch of land I have ever seen in America.  And I've seen Nevada. 

Welcome to Eastern Washington/Oregon.




"The fields have turned brown..."




Endless stretches of DIRT, punctuated only by occasional (and slightly scary) dust devils.






Noah passes the time with the new Ku(ลก): (amazing Latvian comix anthology in English!)


"Ever feel as if your mind had started to erode?"
(Note scalloped tongue due to Spleen Qi deficiency/exhaustion)


After what seemed like forever, we dropped down into Oregon and the Columbia River Valley.  Which was scenic... for the first 1000 miles.

God help us.


We stopped in this little town along the river for gas, where I was harassed by a bunch of partygirls from California in an RV.  I was starving but was convinced better food would be available up ahead somewhere.  WRONG.


Oregon Apocalypse.


Welcome to Mordor.


"Gimme the mike so I can take it away..."


"Robin... help!"


I was so hungry I didn't even stop to look at Multnomah Falls (which I instantly regretted) (I saw it briefly by glancing over my shoulder), but ultimately we arrived safely in Portland.  We found a Whole Foods, where I paid $13.00 for a cardboard container of tasteless salad, and called Dylan Williams, who we strong-armed into letting us stay at his house.  At last we were horizontal!

The next morning we traveled around town, visiting comic shops, including the excellent Cosmic Monkey, where the owner Adam asked us to do some drawings for their wall...  it was great!  Everywhere you turned in this town there was another awesome comics shop.

Noah's cosmic monkey.


Mine.

Friday night was free-day at the Portland Art Museum, which just happened to be showing the complete pages and ephemera from R. Crumb's Genesis masterpiece.  Noah and I were freaking out.  We spent three hours in there absorbing every line of the master.  Simply amazing.  What was really impressive to me was the totality of depth and observation with which Crumb imbues each of his drawings.  Simple landscapes, made up of a few scraggly lines and crosshatching, look absolutely REAL coming from his hand.  I guess that's what a lifetime of drawing gets you.


"It's not about a salary, it's all about reality."

The next day was the first day of the famed Portland Zine Symposium.  This was, strangely, my first time ever in Portland, and it was great.  It's easy to see why everybody loves it there. 




Me and Chris Cilla.  I swear we didn't plan this.  Hi Zak!

At one point two random people were standing at my table, when one said "This is kind of weird, but I wanted to show you my tattoo."  When he did this the gal next to him's eyes popped out, and she said "Now, this is gonna be really weird, but..."  They both happened to have King-Cat tattoos.

Dave's tattoo, from Perfect Example.


Reba's, from Map of My Heart.


Afterwards some good-natured fool (the wonderful T. Edward Bak) accosted me and Noah in the parking garage and took us out for the most awesome Middle Eastern food I've ever had.

We went back to Dylan's and spent the evening talking about comics and the comics business.  The next day we got up early and headed north to Seattle, where I had a reading and workshop that afternoon.

NEXT TIME: SEATTLE, VANCOUVER, AND SAN FRANCISCO




Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 SUMMER TOUR DIARY: Part One


In mid-August I headed back out on the road with my friend, the great cartoonist Noah Van Sciver.  I left from Gainesville and he left from Denver, and we met up in Chicago.  From there we went to Minneapolis for the brand new MIX Festival, and then out to the west coast and southwest before returning to Denver.  Here are some highlights...

* * *

Part One: GAINESVILLE TO BUTTE

I left Gainesville early on the morning of August 16, driving up through Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville and Paducah, and then into Illinois, where I stopped at a rest area outside Metropolis in the wee small hours of the morning.  At the rest area I encountered this beautiful but thrashed cat that looked awfully hungry.  Luckily, I had a can of chicken in the car.  I poured some water into a cup and opened the can for the cat, who came running.  She ate ravenously until it was all gone, then drank a bit of water.  After eating you could tell her vitality had really picked up and she seemed happy. 

After I fed her, I went back to the car to sleep.  She came up outside the driver's side door, and sat down on the asphalt with me, looking content.  I wish I could have taken her home with me.












I made it to my mom's house the next afternoon and immediately went over to visit my sister...  because a few days earlier she had found a shivering baby squirrel in her backyard being menaced by her dogs.  She took it out to the front yard where it would be safe from them and placed it under a bush.  It was still there the next day.  My sister loves animals, and it wasn't long before she brought the squirrel inside, got it some gerbil formula at the pet shop, and named it Peanut.







So, for the first time in my long-legged life, I got to know what it feels like to have a baby squirrel curl up in my hands and fall asleep.

I met Noah the next day, picking him up at Union Station in Chicago.  We went over to Quimby's, and then out to dinner with a bunch of friends.  The next day we packed up the car and drove to Minneapolis.  We made it to Big Brain Comics in time for a signing by Zak Sally, Will Dinski, Aaron Renier, and others, then crashed for the night in preparation for the big Minneapolis Indie Expo the next day.


John P. enjoys a Diet Dr Pepper® at MIX. 
Photo by Sarah Jordet.

I have always loved Minneapolis, and if it wasn't for the winters I would probably already be living there...  Anyhow, this was only its first year, but MIX was fantastic, and hopefully it will keep on going!

The next day we went out to Mount Holly to visit Mr. Mike and his family, then stopped back in town to have lunch with Zak before starting the LONG drive across the plains to Portland.


North Dakota






Montana








The tour is just beginning...


The guy can't stop drawing comics!


Full moon over Bozeman.






Montana sunset.



We made it Butte, Montana that night, and boy were we in for a surprise!  I must say I've never really thought about Butte before, but what we found there was incredible.  Butte is a decent-sized former copper-mining city, built on "the Richest Hill on Earth".  During its boom days it was one of the largest, most diverse communities in America.  Nowadays it's fallen on harder times a bit, but its beautiful downtown (the "Uptown" area, built on the hill) of Victorian-Western buildings is almost entirely intact. 

That night Noah and I drove to the top of the hill, in amazement...

The lights of Butte.


Partial view of downtown from the hill.


The remaining mining headframes are illuminated at night.  That's Noah walking up the hill.


We slept in the car that night, in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and awoke to a glorious dawn.




We headed into town, up the hill, to check out the old buildings.


(but first...)






























Butte is home to a large Irish population, and its annual St. Patrick's day parade draws 30,000 people.

But, from Wikipedia:
"The larger and better known annual celebration is Knievel Days, held each summer. This event draws over 50,000 bikers and daredevils from across the world. The highlight of the event is when all participants share a moment of silence for the whole Knievel clan traditionally observed at 4:20 pm on the second day of the event. The moment is broken by five daredevils simultaneously jump[ing] 19 trucks while fireworks explode and fifty foot flames of fire shoot up through the trucks while God Bless America plays."

But time was a-wastin' and we headed out west again, towards Portland.

NEXT TIME: Western Montana to Portland, OR