breakfast at tartine is so totally worth the wait.
other matters of interest to the wandering northeasterner:
• san franciscans have uncommonly lovely noses. what’s that about?
• the castro, where we were graciously hosted by friends of family, does not look much like it does in milk.
• spaced-out people who approach you on the sidewalk to ask personal questions are not necessarily bat-shit crazy. (the ones that are seem content talking to one another, as their community here is rather extensive.) one leering, tottering menace, for example, stumbled my way and inquired how long i’d been in town.
“about twenty minutes,” i replied, honestly but in as unfriendly a manner as i could manage, narrowing my eyes, tightening my fists, and wondering if my comic-filled backpack would be too heavy to swing into this fucker’s skull.
“just got here, huh?” he continued to pry. “where from?”
we were standing across from the mission street bart station, where my host was to retrieve me any minute. “new york,” i said, immediately realizing that it’s been a decade, at least, since that answer sounded intimidating. i tried to assess my chances of holding my assailant off until my ride arrived.
“your friends picking you up here?”
“yes,” i told him, confidently, grimly. and when they do, i rehearsed internally, you don’t want to be hanging around.
“well that’s great, man! all the way from new york! you know, we do a poetry slam in the plaza across the street every thursday night. it’s a lot of fun; you should come by if you’re still in town.
“it was nice talking to you, friend,” he added, squeezing my shoulder goodbye. “you enjoy your visit.”
whether or not he was in the tourism bureau’s employ was never entirely clear.
• a “big fat hippie,” by brooklyn standards, is, in san francisco, referred to as a “hipster.” conversely, a san franciscan “hippie,” should he attempt to cross the hudson river, will burst into flames.
and if you were nearby when it happened, you could probably get a pretty decent contact high.
• the public parks look like college, and their implicit codes of conduct correspond to this optical illusion. it is considered socially acceptable behavior to a) throw a frisbee across the lawn to your white, dreadlocked friend, or b) sing along with the song which may or may not be a jack johnson cover being played on an acoustic guitar by your white, dreadlocked friend, or c) hand out literature published by the radical political action organization you recently formed with your white, dreadlocked friend.
• which brings us, of course, to a.p.e.
○ i shared my table with park-ranger-of-the-soul josh shalek, who is pretty much the swellest gent one could hope to spend a couple of days standing beside. unlike most of us, josh is no less delightful in person than his online persona suggests, and meeting him will not disappoint devotees of his work. he’s friendly and clever and persistently cheerful in the face of the procession of small frustrations that exhibiting comprises. more impressive still, he catches every arrested development reference you can throw at him.
also, he seems to think i have chest hair:
[ josh, kenan, and girlcate, by kenan, josh, and girlcate, respectively. ]
it was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that i found myself wishing the world were more like josh’s cartoons.
josh is best known for his strip welcome to falling rock national park, an intensely charming and consistently quotable comic that follows the day-to-day doings of several southwestern creatures and the maternal ranger who attempts to keep them all out of trouble. the strip’s daily installments can be read online and in college newspapers around the country, but i find them most gratifying consumed en masse in josh’s self-published collections, wherein the dreamy rhythm of the park’s days starts to assert itself.
i finally picked up the newest and most handsomely bound of these books (i’d been eying it since stumptown), which begins with a geological history of its setting but spends the rest of the time revealing the maturation of the strip itself. without an ounce of self-consciousness or pretension, the characters have grown subtly in depth and dimension, and the park they call home seems to abide by an increasingly nuanced magic realism, allowing the impossible in a manner that enhances the world’s overall plausibility.
josh also had a new book called dancing with jack ketch, which he described to potential buyers as his “one-shot pirate comic.” i can only hope this is a willful misrepresentation, and perhaps a clever marketing ploy devised to enhance our surprise and delight upon discovering its imminent second issue. it details “the life of jackson donfaire, notorious pirate,” an escaped slave who finds himself at the helm of a pirate ship loaded with the treasures it has purloined (including, most recently and ironically, an intercepted shipment of slaves) and must balance loyalty to his crew and to his people.
○ after a brief but devastating sabbatical, our director of field operations for folding initiatives and head chef girlcate [ left ] was back behind the boy blue table, assembling our oubliettes, procuring our sustenance, elevating our discourse, and generally beautifying our point of purchase with her presence. i’m not sure what was so important that she couldn’t attend s.p.x., but hopefully she won’t make a habit of it. that festival hurt my fingers.
○ stationed at the opposite end of the hall was reid psaltis, which is to say we had the place surrounded; attendees would have had to work pretty hard to get through the expo without discovering the joys of foldy comics. reid’s newest foray into the format, called “outside in,” aims to settle, once and for all, the question of what exactly is creeping into your bedroom to eat you up in the night.
he was also hawking a stunningly drawn new minicomic, carry on, carrion: a crow funeral, which details the customs and sorrows of a murder in mourning.
○ an attendee named megan metzger approached with a foldy of her own, apparently made after picking up prologue last year. it excerpts obama speeches in chronological order, revealing their steady growth in complexity and rhetorical finesse over the course of his presidential campaign.
○ i had the good fortune to find myself tabling just across the way from minicomics superduo sarah morean and will dinski (winner of this year’s isotope award for his new book covered in confusion). sarah is one of the most interesting and dedicated minicomics reviewers around, and is seemingly always about the task of promoting self-publishers and their work in one way or another. most recently, she coordinated the daily cross hatch‘s indie comics costume contest, which, i was honored to find, included prologue among its winnable prizes.
and in what was surely one of the festival’s most lopsided trades, sarah gave me one of her awesome, hand-stitched, silkscreened, dinosaur-emblazoned tote bags in exchange for a handful of my comics. originally procured for the purpose of transporting the weekend’s spoils back to brooklyn, it now divides its efforts between comic shops and farmers’ markets, and spends its free time hanging beside my apartment door, awaiting its next call to action. i feel truly lucky to have scored one of these; it’s not often the world offers us a way to keep consistent in our politics without looking like a big fucking yuppie.
○ new discoveries:
• it happened here, a collection of three short “historical vignettes” from boston’s storied past written and/or illustrated by dan mazur in collabroation with doug deroucher (a recounting of the city’s slave riots in striking paper collage), susan chasen (an exploration of the booth brothers’ relationship, pre-infamy) and himself (a visual etymology of the “ponzi scheme,” as told by the man for whom it’s named). the book doubles as a preview for inbound 4: a comic book history of boston, a forthcoming anthology from the boston comics roundtable collective.
• the matter, a stylishly assembled anthology of graphic fiction (both comics and illustrated short stories) by a well-curated roster of intriguing unknowns. the first issue’s contents can be read in their entirety on the royal springs entertainment company‘s site, but the ‘zine version, with its printed cardboard cover, heavy textured paper, and elegant layout, is a pleasure just to hold.
• the masterful mixed-media illustrations of annika green, which meld analogue and digital processes as seamlessly as i’ve seen. annika’s short, silent, colorful micro-mini “perry” combines brushed inks, digital painting, and a bit of something else i can’t quite identify (flicked-brush watercolor?) to tell a charming story about a lonely boy who’s full of hot air.
• sid love, a raucous, sprawling “choose-your-own comic” by illustrator, musician, and designer terry toledo. it includes 25 different endings (many of them songs to be downloaded from the artist’s website) and a seemingly infinite number of absurdist avenues by which to reach them.
• arachno-files, an autobiographical 24-hour comic about the joys of tarantula-keeping by christine shea, whose love of spiders, i have to admit, outstrips even my own.
○ when the whistle blew, we packed up for the show and the season. we waved goodbye to our new friends and hugged the old ones, and headed north for a much-needed, if perhaps not entirely well-earned, week of tasting wine, picking pumpkins, and any other available excuse to stand around in open fields.
festivals, after all, are expensive and exhausting and, if we’re to be honest, generally demoralizing. this is especially so in aggregate; the procession of little flaws and doubts that seems so small a downside at stumptown accrues by a.p.e. into something much harder to ignore. it’s easy to question the value of the effort involved, but the alternative, we know, is much worse; lonelier and lesser and even harder to justify. and so we’ll see you next april, when we will again be bubbling with plans and potential and wondering what all that worry was for.
until then, it’s back to the drawing board.