I Miss You All

I started writing this over two years ago.  I just discovered it sitting around, under “drafts” and took a look.  It was originally titled “John Fuckin’ Harrelson,” but reading it over, it’s about all the people I’d recently lost.

John was way too young to die.  62, I think, but his health was taking a serious turn for the worse for the last year or so of his life.  I remember turning to my wife in January, 2013 and telling her I didn’t think John would see out the year.  I really wish I’d been wrong about that.  I was with him the day before he died, and he was in such bad shape that when I got the news the next day, I was mostly just happy for him that his struggles were over.  Eventually the tears came of course, but I really was happy to know he was done suffering.  When I got the call, I knew what had happened before I answered the phone.

Something very similar to that happened when Jerome died.  The call was a blocked number, which meant either Jerome or my parents.  Jerome’s mother, Bette, said my name and I instantly knew he was dead.  Her next sentence confirmed it.  I wasn’t surprised by the news either, though I was certainly diminished by it.  I can’t remember his birthday now, but he was either 49 or 50.

I found out Dwayne died via a Facebook message from his wife.  They lived in Hong Kong, and she didn’t have my phone number or email address, so that’s how she had to get in touch with me.  Dwayne had been diabetic since high school but other than that, and smoking too much, he seemed to be in good health.  I guess he woke up shortly after midnight, gasping for air, and was dead before morning.  Apparently he had a heart attack.  He was my age.  I spoke at his funeral and reconnected with and/or met all five of his children.  That day kicked me in the heart.

Christmas of 2012, I ran into an old boss of mine named James.  James and I parted ways in 1995 on seriously ugly terms.  In hindsight, neither of us was a very good person to the other.  When I ran into him that last time, he was with his son.  They were walking through the Claremont Village and James was telling him about the old days of The Comic Room.   He invited me to have lunch with him, which just surprised the hell out of me.  Something was noticeably different about him.  None of the bad blood that had existed between us for over a decade was there anymore.  It was just gone.  He gave me his business card and I took it with every intention of calling him and going to lunch with him and, I don’t know, putting the bullshit to rest, I guess.  Then the winter quarter started and I was taking sixteen units, and then it ended and spring quarter began and before you know it, the academic year had ended.  And then I heard that James had died.  No one I talked to had any idea what he’d died from, just that he’d died.  I don’t even know how old he was.

Getting back to John.  John was an excellent friend, and though I was never a student of his, he was something of a mentor to me.  At the start of his last decline, I wrote a bunch of poems about him, one of which was pretty damn good, I think.  I think maybe I’ll post it here soon.  Anyway, I printed a copy of it and took it to the rehab facility he spent his last days in.  I was going to read it to him, but he was really having a bad day.  Then his mom showed up, and some other things got in the way, and I decided I’d read it to him later.  He died the next day.

I’m pretty sure he’d have liked what I wrote.  Maybe not.  I should have read it to him.  I really hope that in the future, I’ll remember the pain of having waited.

These are the only two truths about our time here on earth that matter:

  1. There’s never enough of it.
  2. We never know when it’s up.

Never wait for the things you want, because tomorrow you’ll be dead.

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Mythological Bureaucracy

To schedule a city inspection with Ontario, you have to call a number that only lets you leave a voicemail.  The outgoing message says to leave your address and phone number and nothing else and then beeps at you, expecting the requested information.

They never call back.

You call again, and repeat this process.

They never call back.

You call a different number in the building department and get an actual human on the line.  The human says:

“We only schedule for the next day.  You either make it on the inspection list for that day or you don’t.  We don’t call people to let them know they’ve made it on the list for tomorrow.  We also don’t call people to let them know they haven’t made it on the list for tomorrow.”

The human proceeds to tell you that the window for the inspector to show up at your house is sometime during daylight.  You ask the human if you should just call, leave a message, and then never leave your home until the mythical inspection man comes.  The human says:

*heavy sigh*

You ask the human what they would do if they needed to have something inspected by mythical creatures that may or may not exist.  The human tells you:

“Call tomorrow morning.  Leave a message.  Call back tomorrow after 4pm and ask if you made it on the list.  If you have, take the entire following day off and cancel any plans you may have made.  If you haven’t, repeat the previous step until you’re on the list.”

You ask the human if they happen to know whether or not Santa got the letter you sent him in 1975.  The human says:


and then hangs up on you.

You call the building department, and leave a message, and wonder when everything stopped working, because the why of it no longer matters.

Cream Of Broccoli Soup

I thought I’d posted this here years ago, but it turns out I gave it to a different site.  Anyway, this is a super easy recipe that takes about an hour and a half to make and is really easy to customize to suit your personal taste.  If you don’t like as much garlic as I do, cut it by half (or altogether…freak).  If you’re less concerned about protein than I am, get rid of the edamame.  Play with it however you want.  You’ll need:

2 lbs. Broccoli
2 Med. Onions
1 Celery Stalk
1 Cup Edamame
1 Bulb Garlic
1 Tablespoon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8-10 Cups Chicken Broth
4-5 Cups Water
0.5 Cups Fat Free Greek Yogurt
Juice Of One Lemon

Peel and cut the onions and garlic and throw them into your stockpot.  Likewise with the celery.  Next, cut your broccoli heads into florets and chop the stems into bite sized pieces and throw all of that into your stockpot as well.  Add one tablespoon of your favorite mustard and another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into the pot along with a few pinches of salt (not too much, you’ll be seasoning to taste at the end) and black pepper.

Next, add the water and the chicken broth.  Exactly how much to add of each can vary, but the important part is to keep it at roughly two parts broth to one part water.  Also, if you’re using store-bought broth, try and get the low sodium kind so as not to over-season the soup.  Set your stove burner to high and let it all come to a boil.  Once your soup is boiling, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for approximately 30-45 minutes.

Using either a wand blender or a traditional blender (do this in small batches if using a traditional blender…unless you’re fond of scalding-hot burns, in which case just mash it all together with your hands), blend your soup into a puree.  Once this is done, add the juice of one lemon and a half cup of Greek yogurt and whisk until the soup takes on a creamy appearance.  Season to taste and you’re done.

If you like thicker soups, turn the heat back up to medium high and let it simmer, checking on it every ten minutes or so until you’re happy with it.

Love & Rockets

I was going to write this a couple weeks ago but getting the hour or two of free time has been difficult. And I just realized I haven’t posted anything in over ten days so I’ve decided to simply do this instead of actual work tonight. Thank god I have my priorities straight.

So anyway, LOVE & ROCKETS. Great comic, and also there was a band. I guess the band took the name after the comic. Or at least that’s what I read once. Who cares? Let’s focus on the great comic part.

LOVE & ROCKETS is rare for several reasons. Not only is it one of those few comics to gain attention from outside the comic industry, but it did so twenty years ago, way the hell before there was a “Graphic Novel” section in any of the chain bookstores. Back then almost no comics were able to make that claim and, of those that could, LOVE & ROCKETS was one of the very few (along with Maus) that didn’t feature BATMAN & THE ALL PERVERT SQUAD running around in fetish wear. Mostly though, LOVE & ROCKETS is a rare and precious thing for the simple fact that it’s a fucking great comic and has been consistently for damn near 25 years. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another comic able to make that statement.

The comic primarily features the work of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, affectionately referred to as Los Bros Hernandez, with occasional story and art entries from their brother, Mario.

When it was first published it had heavy sci-fi overtones which, honestly, was one of the things that attracted me to it. Maggie, one of the main characters from the stories written and drawn by Jaime was a comic book character unlike any other before and, most likely, since and the stories that featured her were no less unique. Her life was split into two drastically different parts.

The first, and most important, being her life in Hoppers, “a Mexican neighborhood in Huerta, California (and a stand-in for Los Bros’ hometown of Oxnard).” Her time in Hoppers was spent hanging out with her friends, going to punk shows, agonizing over not having enough money to buy the pair of killer boots she wants so bad, falling in and out of love with various crushes, and all the other appropriate activities a post adolescent would find herself engaged in.

The second, but more glamorous, part of her life was spent working as a Prosolar Mechanic with celebrity mechanic and heartthrob, Rand Race. When working for Rand, Maggie would frequently find herself in exotic locations working on impossibly cool jobs while crushing on / agonizing over her boss, Rand.

One of my favorite stories from those early issues is this story where she winds up having to leave the country for an extended (maybe a month or so) time, to work with Rand. The job takes them all to a dense jungle miles away from anything that resembles civilization, where they have to repair a Flash Gordon style rocket that’s trapped under a dinosaur that’s unable to move for some (it’s been at least a decade since I’ve read this book, my memory is fuzzy…) reason. During her time in the jungle, she hangs out with the natives, gets drunk with her co-workers, pines over Race, and desperately misses and writes letters to her best friend / girlfriend, Hopey (as well as the rest of her friends). The same sort of thing anyone might do while working away from home, only in an impossible and exotic location.

Another great story, actually one of the best stories I’ve ever read – book, comic, manuscript, cave painting…whatever – is a story called Human Diastrophism, which is just one chapter in Gilbert’s PALOMAR stories. This is just an incredible and sad story and by the time it’s over…actually, that’s enough reminiscing. Besides, I don’t want to ruin what is honestly one of the most powerful endings I’ve ever read. What I’m trying to get at is that you should totally be reading these books. Everyone should be reading these books.

Every time I read a new issue of LOVE & ROCKETS, I find myself just a little bit sad by the time I’m done reading. And I think the main reason for that is that this is one of the few comics that doesn’t stay in one place for very long. The main stories in the book, especially those written by Gilbert, are huge in scope, spanning two or three generations. And they’re so well written that you wind up getting to know and love the characters. And you’ll be reading the comic for a year or two and all of a sudden Gilbert will advance the story five to ten years and you won’t recognize some of the characters. And sometimes that’s because the character is new and sometimes that’s because the character is old and looks and acts differently than you’re used to. And that’s another testament to the quality of the writing: the fact that it’s so consistent and so good, that you come to know characters based on dialogue and behavior and not just because they look the same, or because another character refers to them by name.

Another reason the book sort of makes me sad is that many of the stories are narrated in the first person by one of the characters in the story, and the character talks about things as they matter to him at that point in time and NOT as they used to matter to him at some point in the past, which is where the reader is usually coming from. For example, imagine that you were closely following a relationship I was having with one of my ex-girlfriends from seven or eight years ago. And you were really close friends not only with me but with her as well. And then you disappear for the last six years and you come back to town and you run into me and you’re dying to know all about what’s been happening with me and her. Except, it’s six years later and I’m married to someone else entirely and maybe my ex dumped me or maybe I dumped her or maybe she’s dead. It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just…this thing that happened a while back, one of a million events that occurred sometime in the past. It’s not that it doesn’t matter to me anymore, but I’ve had six years to get over it and move on but you’re finding this out for the first time, six years late in the game, and the news that we’re not together anymore might be totally devastating to you. And that’s exactly how much of the ongoing story is presented. Pretty goddamn clever.

And the fact that this book actually elicits an emotional response from me…I think that’s why it’s my favorite comic ever. Somehow, SPIDERMAN just doesn’t get to me the same way LOVE & ROCKETS does.

I need to stop now, I’ve never really reviewed (at least, not without trashing it for being a piece of shit) anything before and I have no idea where a good stopping point is and I’m so crazy about these comics that if left to my own devices, I’ll never shut the fuck up. Let’s leave it at this:

Buy these books goddammit. Buy them and read them. Not all of them, I’d never ask anyone to commit to spending that kind of money just on my say-so. Start small and buy one of the collections. If you’re flush with money right now, you might wanna check out the larger collections like PALOMAR and/or LOCAS. They’re fifty bucks each, but they’re over 500 pages and 700 pages, respectively. You’re hardly getting screwed out of fifty bucks.

OR, if you lack the funds, or just faith in me (sinner), then buy one of the softcover collections of the series. There are like 20+ volumes to choose from and they’re all about twenty bucks.

OR, if you’re completely pathetic and as poor as I am, go to Amazon and get the hardcover collection of the first volume from the “Used & New” section, where you can have it for less than five fucking dollars. Click here to see what I’m talking about. Or you can click on any of the images in this article and they’ll take you straight to the publisher’s site and you can order from them which, really, is what you should be doing if you can afford to. They’ve been putting these books out forever and they’re not exactly a Fortune 500 company for doing it. Okay, that’s enough for now, go buy one of these books and read it. And let me know how you like it when you’re done.

I wrote this about eight years ago and, with the exception of some of the pricing, every word of it still holds true.  Last summer I wound up reading one of Gilbert Hernandez’s non L&R graphic novels and it was so damn good it almost made me cry.  It’d been so long since I’d read any graphic novel that I’d forgotten how enjoyable it could be.  I wound up buying all of the L&R stuff I hadn’t read in the last five years and read it over the winter break and literally all of it was excellent.  I’ve got another stack of his stuff to read for spring break and for next summer and I seriously can’t wait to get started on it.  Seriously, for the love of God, stop what you’re doing and go buy some of these books, they’re just that good.

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Life With The Grammar Nazi

I hate pedantic motherfuckers that always
correct my parts of speech, she said.

I raised one eyebrow a bit and put on my best “Look at me, I’m a prick” smirk.

Are you sure
you don’t hate pedantic motherfuckers

always correct your parts of speech?

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