Friday, December 31, 2010

A Bloody Nutcrackin' New Year's Eve Story

Warm New Years Eve day, like in California, but I'm living in Ohio. Goodbye 2010. I loved every minute of you. 

Decided the dog and I should send this year off natural-like, but not at our usual park. It was sure to be full of seekers of meaning, blended families in truce, sneaky lovers, and health nuts reflecting deeply on this last day of . . . UGH! Just let me be outside without the schtick.

The Adventures of the Last Day of the Year began when I noticed a pregnant woman sobbing on the side of the road with an infant-in-car-seat-carrier and a 2 year old.  She was standing next to one of the last dirty salt-road-ick piles of melting snow, there at the entrance to the Bread Store. I hollered assistance to her, but she waved me off and so I went inside to get my day old wheat loaves. 'If she's still there when I come out, I'll insist on helping her in some way.' Instead - she was gone. Like a new year's apparition.

OK. So I turned off onto the side street looking for her, but ended up in an old industrial park. The kind that in 1979 was probably the trendiest place on earth to work, if you had to work at an office/warehouse-y type place. Lobby ferns. Receptionist with Rolodex. Smoking permitted. Most of the buildings, however, had huge AVAILABLE signs out front, with chained driveway entrances keeping out the long gone employees. Imagine the forsaken landscaping, randomly buckled asphalt  sprouting growths, foolishly discarded hamburger wrappers hung up in the weedy fence, a 'dumped by a brother-in-law' sofa way back in the back where nobody will ever notice, near the former employee break area  -- you get the picture. When I go walking around a place like this, I always look for 'the body'.

What I did find: pecans. At least I thought so. Hooray!!! And as many nuts as I could load into 2 grocery bags. That took almost an hour. I was feeling so very happy and lucky, yet wishing I knew for certain if they were really pecans. But who would I be able to ask out here in this deserted industrial park? Especially on New Year's Eve. Nary a soul. Maybe over there.

Across the road was what looked like a photo/digital processing center that definitely had its glory days behind it. And parked on the side was this really nice candy blue Ford F-150 truck -- a sign that somebody had to be there, current. I pounded on the double glass doors. Soon, this small older guy appeared. I guess about my age. Feeling that I should ask him something legit for interrupting him like this, I came up with 'Do you convert 3/4" video tape to digital?' He replied 'No, we quit doing that years ago.' How bout did he didn't know if those were pecan trees. He didn't know what the heck they were. He doesn't pay much attention to such things. So I thanked him and walked with the dog back over to the woods skirting the property that circled his building.

I noticed he didn't go back in the door. I figured he was dumping trash or something. Next thing I hear: "Fuck! Fuck! fuck! Goddamn Fuck. Shit!" and I see him flailing about. So I'm thinking 'oh boy, this guy's a nut case. I better get out of here.' But then I saw that he had blood literally pouring out from the top of his head like a fountain, and it was running down all over his face. 

It went like this: while stepping forward to view the tree I inquired about, the door locked behind him. Inside were his keys, cell phone and a machine was running (some job he was doing). So when he went over to jimmy a loose back window, instead he caught a metal protruding thing that sliced across the top of his scalp. 

Being nowhere near my vehicle and with a very slow moving geriatric dog, all I could do was take charge "Sir, just sit down and I'll run for help. Put your hands on top of your head and apply pressure. Seriously. Don't move."

He did and I ran like hell, first dumping off the old dog back at my truck, then running on breathlessly, criss-crossing the forlorn lawns of industry looking for anyone who might still be on the job.

Hard breathing, yet driven. 'Onward.  >pant<  No point dropping dead here.   >pant<  >pant<  Gotta help this guy from the photo processing place, bleeding like bloody hell.   >pant<  >pant<  How crazy to turn the wheel of inquiry with a guy I met two minutes ago and this happens.' 

I felt the limits of my chest, my lung capacity, a too-filled torso. Had to override concerns about the latest bad foot malady. Thirst, suppress!   >pant<  It's December 31, yet I'm hurling massive weighty sweat grenades off my steaming heap of middle aged body. Fucking smelly armpits, in my favorite thrift store cashmere sweater. Dammit. Quit with the stupid thoughts. Focus on that poor man.

About three expansive buildings over, finally. Two warehouse guys behind an 'employees only' steel door, thank GOD! Turn the stainless silver doorknob,   "Call 911!!!  >pant<  This guy's head is   >pant<  gushing blood   >pant<  please don't make me explain, etc."

All appropriate emergency vehicles responded as quickly as you can imagine and Gary (found out his name) was taken off in a tidy ambulance. 

Questioned by the officer. All he wanted to know from me was if it was a break-in. Was this a crime? "No officer, bla bla" I went on. He didn't know what kind of trees they were either. 

Later I found out from my friend Mr. Internet that I had stumbled upon the best little old wild nut out there: carya ovata, aka the shagbark hickory nut. Tough to crack open but oh what a sweet treat! 

Happy new year everyone. Especially you, Gary. I'll circle back to check in on you next week. And to get more nuts. Hopefully the squirrels have left me plenty. And hopefully you still have your job.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's the light.

I love the space between Dec 22 and late March. I love thinking of it not by its calendar symbols and traditional time markings or what the weather is up to, but as this time when the light gets better, gains quality. It's the angle or something. Not so dreary. Makes me not mind the cold, knowing winter's days are numbered. It marks the slog towards mud season, the slippery slope towards Spring.

Today, on almost the western calendar New Year, I remembered this picture taken 6 months ago while at the SD Comic Con. My sister, her daughter Joy & I wanted to escape to put my toes in the Pacific Ocean. On the way there, we couldn't resist a stopover at the Coronado Hotel, an elegant, historic tourist destination. This image is from the lobby.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Last night the eclipsing moon drama unfolded behind the snowy Cincinnati cloud cover. :( Although the snow was pretty. Gosh this year I feel like I'm living back in snowy Syracuse (Graduate School 1981 - 83). Inspirational for drawing. Many many snows already. A lot of work done. I love it.

Russet moon and eye. At 3 a.m., I discovered a weird blood clot in the corner of my left eye. I think since it happened on Solstice, the simultaneous confluence of all these factors means something. But WHAT????!!!!

Or not. The doctor said while it looked bloody awful, my eye would improve slowly. Medical drawing on the left. I'll spare you an actual picture. 'Ease up on the eye strain,' says he. Hello, Doc. That's whut comics is. So there you have it. Another stupid workplace related consequence of doing a graphic novel. Working so hard my eyeballs are bleeding!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sketch to Art

This is an example of how a page looks before it becomes final art. I work on tracing paper first because of the tooth. I like the feel of it. I found a giant stack at a thrift store years ago, so it's the good old kind.

Then I transfer it over to the 1ply plate Strathmore paper and then ink it.

It's always kinda sad, inking over the pencils. But with the way technology has changed, I might be able to do a pencil only book someday.

Both images ©Tyler, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Stay

As happens sometimes.

My crown had come off the other night while listening to Paul McCartney sing JET on Saturday Night Live. Tell me why this happened, Sir Paul! Was it because of Jet? Out of all the songs in your entire awesome catalog of music, why did you pick that one?

Or was it because, driven by nostalgia, I was chomping popcorn. -- oops! FAIL. Well, I wasn't really chomping. I am careful how I eat crunchy things because of concerns over that iffy crown. This was the third time it's come off and so I was just kind of letting the popcorn melt in my mouth before spitting out the kernels. A goofy way to eat.

I wasn't going to be able to get to the dentist until Tuesday, due to the weekend/snowstorm/arctic blast. I went into full-blown catastrophe thinking about this tooth. What if I loose it completely???!!! What are the alternatives to a crown over a root canal? According to my 24 hour a day friend, the internet: a bridge (won't work because of compromised, neighboring teeth) an implant (way too expensive) and a partial, aka stage one of getting false teeth (think dominoes). All treatment options signaled another affront upon what's left of youth on my face!

It didn't seem fair. I brush & floss twice a day. I don't eat crap (well, I do like cookies and ice cream). In general, I'm a very healthy eater. What is there to all this prevention if I'm just a denture, walkin'.

Finally, I decided I wasn't going to spend 3 days with my mind in such a woeful state. What could I accomplish despite this?

First, I completed 'The X-Mas Tale' for YNK Book III, aiming toward perfection. I might look like a toothless hag, but my work wasn't going to look that way.

Then I worked on my 10,000 thank yous project. My sister and I wanted to show appreciation to our parents on their 67th wedding anniversary. I suggested we string 10,000 cheerios to show just how much. I'm doing 5K, she's doing 5K. Wooh, was a job! Guess how many boxes of cheerios I've gone through? I did this while watching my one TV weakness, Lark Rise to Candleford, a Nineteenth Century British soap opera that I've seen 10,000 times, but it brings great comfort. Wonder how the string theory is going for my sister.

The weather man said Sunday night that the storm was moving out and it would clear up. 'If you look straight up on Monday, you will see quite a meteor shower.' Actually, he began with a call out to 'insomniacs, 3rd shifters, night haulers, musicians after a gig, new parents and anyone else who's up during the night willing to brave the 4 degree temperatures-- you folks have a chance for a real treat.' That was nice, to be personally invited to the party.

So, I was out there at 4 A.M., bundled up in my down coat with a wool babooshka, boots and a blanket, with a hole in my face looking up beyond cold to the JET black sky. Serious brittle, cracking sounds occasionally. Complete awareness of the risk if I were to fall on the ice out here alone. Whatever stopped up my nose earlier has now disappated. Realizing that exactly a year ago, this very night I was in the hospital, recovering from major abdominal surgery, the outcome of which was at that time uncertain. Grateful for a happy ending on that.

He wasn't kidding about the shooting stars -- t'was a sky riot! Need to make a wish right now, wish right now, wish right now. So many wish opportunities. I covered everything, my family, the world, you, me, the tooth. Health, wealth and happiness all around. 10,000 wishes. Wishing for the impossible. Wishing for the good probables to really happen. Wishing more people would buy/read Book II.

Today, my nephew's wife Jenny lent some good advice by email, which gave me hope. Thanks for that.
At the dentist appointment, I wasn't about to project my fear and uncertainty. I let my friend do his job. He was able to reattach the crown, no problem, although instinctively I believe this is my last chance with this tooth. I feel I was given a Stay.

Am resolved to change my chewing habits forever now. And will let Paul's JET, whenever I hear it, serve as my reminder.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Doggie See

Can't see in darkness or even low light. Such is the word from Baby's veterinarian. Canine cataracts. So I stopped at a store and got her a headlamp to wear around her neck. Seems to work just fine.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When I heard of Lennon passing.

I was 29 years old, living alone in Knoxville Tennessee in a funky apartment. You know the kind, when someone takes a big old drafty house and chops it up into apartments – architecturally and feng shui-wise, it was all out of sorts. I was in my "living" room, which was really the old dining room. The central motif was this diamond shaped piece of frosted plexiglass in place of where at one time the probably beautiful stained glass window used to be. The thing was stupid looking, but I incorporated its stark diamond shape into my latest drawings.

I was broke, out of school and working part-time at a small bookstore, located in the last little half-vacant strip mall before the highway. It’s no wonder that during this time, I also developed the inability to fall asleep easily, a pattern that’s never left me.

The drawings were simple abstractions based on suggestive shapes, done with India Ink on opened paper bags and cardboard. Seriously I was beyond having no money during this time, but had just saved up enough to get 3 pints of latex house paint in goof colors: off white, blue and red-pinkish.  After Thanksgiving, I began a new series of paintings exploring shapes with these new colors.

Early December, what ‘emerged’ was a solid blue shape with this pink skin sheath thinly splayed out over it. I knew the blue was something having to do with a Man. But the pink: I kept thinking, it looks like (I know this is weird) a heart that’s exploded.

You know where this is going. On December 8, the moment I heard what happened to John, my favorite Beatle, it was super chilling because of that painting. How could I have picked up what was coming?

That night, my stupid apartment seemed lonelier than ever, so I went out in search of others to commiserate with. Which felt even more awkward since I wasn’t a bar maven nor did I belong to a church or a club. So it was come home to the idiotic diamond window and cry, cry, cry. Call my mother who didn’t quite understand. Cry, cry, cry. Cry all night for days, no sleep.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ron Santo, Summer Boy

Sad news today about the passing of Cubs Third Baseman Ron Santo. He is one of my all time baseball heroes and I'll tell you why. Not only was he a fixture of the game when I was young and got started watching and playing baseball back in the 1960s, but also because of what he did for me this summer.

Jump back for a moment now to June 2010. Dad's garage in Indiana. Too spectacular of a day to be indoors. Couldn't get Dad motivated to get out of his recliner. Yes he's 91, but he's usually busy making stuff. So I tried to think of something to get a workshop party started. 'How 'bout a wooden spoon? How hard could it be?  How 'bout I carve a spoon out of this sweet block of cherry, or is it walnut? Walnut. And I'll listen to the radio while carving.' Dad had it set to WGN.

So there I was in flat, green, farmlandy Indiana with all the doors and windows open to a perfect early summer breeze when in blew my old buddy Ron Santo. Announcing the game from 'Chi-cog-oh, home of the Cubbies, live from the Friendly Confines' -- not far from where I was born & raised. The tembre and syncopation in his voice took me back to my roots at Wrigley. "Oh fer cryin' out loud, that's just . . . uuuuuuuhhhhhhh Gaaaaad that's just a bad play all around. Wake up fellas. J--   uuuuuuuhhhhhhh."

It was a Reds vs. Cubs series. Here's the situation:

I live in Cincinnati these days. However, over the years, which team to root for had been a no brainer: the Cubs. Duh. But I wasn't a fan enough to go to games again or even stay tuned past the Weather report. Sticker on the pick-up, that's all. But on this day, Ron astutely pointed out in his inimitable radio way that the Reds were looking pretty sharp and that they could go all the way this season (they went on to win the NL Central). I loved how, despite his obvious loyalty to the Cubs, he became a fan of the electricity Cinci was generating. I started to feel kinda proud of the Reds.

The way he talked about the players and what was going on with each at-bat, the little details from a guy who's been there, who KNOWS fer Chrissakes -- completely the  Chicago of my youth. What a treasure to be there in Dad's classic, funky woodshop making spoons with Ron Santo!

Thank you, Ron. You scooped me back onto the Diamond and into loving baseball again. Since that weekend, I'm back to radio listening, reading the sports pages, going to games (this past year I've attended many UC Bearcat games and 2 games at Great American Ballpark). And also started this blog.

Everyone likes the spoons so much, I've decided to make more this summer. While listening to baseball, of course. From now on, I'm gonna call them my "Santo Spoons".

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homing Device

My sister and I found this hat for Mom on a recent thrift store outing. Here she is modeling it in the chair where she spends most of her day. Let me point out a few things: her wedding picture on the wall (67 years ago), copy of Late Bloomer, Dad's sailboat he made in the 1920s (as depicted in YNK Book I), her carts, the chair in a tilt-up position (forgets to put it down), tin-foil on the lampshade (put there to keep glare off the TV), her bra-less comfort shirt, Jesus & Mary wall plaques and the last bouquet of geraniums from the yard. Also, note the athletic shoes, never laced and never worn with socks either. ? OK. She's 91! I love this woman.