Here we go. Page one of the story I’ve been talking about. I’ll post more commentary on it as it goes, but for now I think I’ll let it remain a little mysterious. I will say, though, that I liked the reaction it received when I read it at Space Galley on Polk. The first read-through went fine, but the crowd was a little bit smaller, mostly just the other artists.
After we finished, the venue decided to bring in some people to liven the place up, I don’t know if it was some sort of rent-a-crowd or what, but this group of 20-ish 20-somethings all poured in at about the same time, so the bar was much busier and Dylan thought it would be a good idea if we started the readings again. Drunk as I was, I thought it just might be a good idea, too. It wasn’t. They asked us to stop part way through my sencond reading of the story because, they said, it was interfering with the music they were playing. OK then.
My roommate, Ignacio, was upset that they told us to stop, so he decided to flip ahead to one of the most pornographic panels in this story (And there are lots to choose from, if you’d like a little tease about where this particular misadventure is headed) and he left it up there, projected on the wall about six feet tall, bright on a white wall in a dark room. I had no idea what was up there until I started hearing some or the random guys around me muttering.
“What the fuck is that?” “The fuck?!” And so on.
A few of them really seemed like they were starting to get pissed by the time I went up there and changed the panel. So, there you go, I have the ability to offend people at a relatively trendy San Francisco bar in a pretty young, progressive neighborhood. I take that as a pretty big compliment.
So, as the caption indicates, I did this sketch for a friend named Marshall. One of the first places I discovered up here was Vesuvio Cafe across from City Lights Bookstore, and everything about it made me feel compelled to draw, write, be there. City Lights is the bookstore that originally published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and it’s still an amazing bookstore today. Across the street, amongst strip clubs and restaurants and eclectic housing, is a business that designates itself The Beat Museum. You can buy T-Shirts with a picture of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan standing together in a doorway that’s visible from the tables on the second floor of Vesuvio, near where I drew that picture of myself. Vesuvio has pictures of Kerouac, Neal Cassady, all those guys, hanging on the walls, and most of them allegedly hung out and wrote there. I think it recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Downstairs, they sell absinthe, melt sugar and pour it through the slotted spoon and the whole bit. The absinthe makes me think of Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, what they would have been doing if they had been there, what they would think of me and that hat and sweater I’m rockin’ in that picture. The picture of Dylan and Ginsberg makes me wonder what Rimbaud would have made of Dylan, an admitted fan of his. What would Woody Guthrie have made of Paul Verlaine? I like to imagine that, in this cafe of my imagined poetical pantheon, Rimbaud would have found his way onto Neal Cassady’s lap. If we’re all there, he would be welcome on my lap too, of course.
The first time I came to Vesuvio, I immediately felt a rush of heady electricity, imagining all these connections and permutations rushing backwards through time and forward to Broadway and Columbus today, and hopefully forward further into the future, if those who can do there best to make sure it does. My first night that I wandered in there, I hadn’t brought a sketchbook with me, but I knew that I had to draw something, or write something, and I knew that if I had a pen in my hand something would come out of it, so I ran to the nearest store I could find, which happened to be a Walgreen’s, they’re everywhere up here, and I ran (literally) back, to the alley where that Kerouac quote at the top of the drawing is written in the ground, near the Ginsberg-Dylan door, and I wrote it down in the notebook. Of course, after spending a little more time in Vesuvio I noticed that on a lot of nights it’s overtaken by annoying twenty-something guys talking loudly to impress the vague, confused, and too-buzzed twenty-something girls they’re trying to fuck, will fuck if they can just get them a little more buzzed so they aren’t sure any longer whether loud, assertive men remind them of their inclination to rebel against their fathers or their inclination to seek their approval. Those people are a lot more interested in the titty bars than in the psychic residual permutations of William Burroughs. They’re not everybody, though, and the bar is still one of many places that make me profoundly grateful to live in this city where so many things have happened, and walk streets that Hitchcock and R. Crumb have walked.
A while after doing this sketch and sending it to Marshall, I was in Cinch, a bar on Polk where I seem to enjoy getting blindingly drunk a lot of Fridays, and I was stopped by an older man who pointed at my sketchbook. I try to carry my sketchbook with me as much as possible when I go out, I never know when I’m gonna need it, and it also serves to give guys who might want to talk to me an easy excuse. I couldn’t understand what the older man was saying, so I leaned in close to hear him. He was wearing a scarf and a hat, and so was I.
“Do you do poetry?” He asked me.
“Some,” I say. “I write. Comics, different things.”
“Do you like poetry?”
“Sure,” I say. He asks my favorite poets. I don’t really know that much about poetry, so I name the obvious ones, most of whom I mentioned above. When I get to Ginsberg, he smiles and taps my arm. “I knew Ginsberg, ” he says.
“Seriously?” I don’t know if I believe him or not, but I’m interested.
“Can I see your sketchbook?”
I open it for him. I get to the sketch above, and the man becomes visibly excited.
“Kerouac!” he says, pointing to the quote. “People your age, they seem to know Kerouac now.”
“Did you know him?”
“I talked to him once,” the man says, “but I don’t really remember about what.”
The fact that he’s admitting that he doesn’t remember rather than making something up makes me more inclined to believe him.
I ask him to tell me more about Ginsberg, and he starts to tell me about a reading he went to where Ginsberg and another poet took apart a piano with a hatchet. He tells me about a love-in in Golden Gate Park, with people openly selling acid and other Beat poets reading. He tells me about being in a cafe one afternoon, maybe 10 blocks from where we were, and Ginsberg coming in and asking them to listen to him read something he was working on. It was an early draft of Howl.
“The things that were happening in this city then, the ’50′s and ’60′s, people you’re age feel like they’re relevant now?”
I tell him that the more I explore art, poetry, music, comics, prose, all of it, a lot of my interests seem to go back and revolve around those times. He nods and says that he feels like it’s coming back, that whatever cycles we travel in are coming back around to those times. I feel like we’re saying the same things from two sides, because it’s something that I’ve been grappling with recently. Politically, culturally, artistically, there’s a sense that something needs to be done and a relevance to idealism that seems to be an echo of other historical crash-and-burns. Maybe it’s Obama.
“What are you here for?” the man asks me.
I was in the bar to get laid, but I took it he meant San Francisco in general rather than the Cinch specifically. “I don’t know,” I say. “I just felt like it was where I was supposed to be.”
“You know,” he said. He put his hand on my chest and smiled at me. “You just need to find out.”
I stared at him, a little drunk and confused, not quite knowing what to say to that. What do you say to that? But somehow, it seemed completely real. In a movie, you probably would have shifted in your seat or maybe rolled your eyes. But I thought I knew when he was referring to, even if, like always, I can’t quite be sure I wasn’t confusing knowing with hoping.
Shit like that never happened in Riverside.
OK, one more of these as I work feverishly (By which I mean occasionally) on the story I’m trying to finish in time for the reading next Thursday (If anybody’s interested, I’ll be posting more details soon), and then I’ll cut it out with the cute guy drawings for a little while, I swear. This one is actually a little bit older, but I decided not to post it when I posted two other drawings of the same guy because I felt like it was a little too racy. In the interest of getting more of my recent work posted and accounted for, and as a small step in my slow slide from cartoonist to pornographer, I’ve decided to go ahead and post it anyway. With this particular guy, nothing really happened between us and I’m not sure that we had anything in common, but man, did I try to pretend like we did.
Another one. This particular drawing actually already appeared in my collection, but I don’t think I’ve posted it online before. That’s another thing I’m going to be doing: posting some older stuff that appeared in other places, but not online yet. I’m not going to do it all the time or anything, but I’ll mix it in. I’m also planning to start organizing the older stuff that I’ve posted online elsewhere into galleries, maybe on Comicspace, and making them available that way.
It’s true– if you ever see me as ecstatic as that first panel these days, the cause of it can probably be revealed by a urine test. It’s not my fault life sucks, though. I blame that god character Christians keep telling me about. He seems to start a lot of shit, but then it’s all YOUR problem. I would also blame all the guys who I’ve liked who haven’t much liked me in return, if I thought any of them would feel guilty about it. In that sixth panel there, that’s a Jonas Brothers calendar hanging on the wall. I suppose I could claim that it’s a fictional addition to my apartment, but I won’t.
And here’s another one of those guy sketches. The general plan at the moment is to post a few more odds and ends like this for the next week or so, and then to start in with a longer storyline to be posted in installments. So stick around!
The next couple of posts I want to do are part of a series of drawings I’ve started of various guys that have been in my life in one way or another. I’m not gonna specify what, “in my life,” means, because it means something different for each of them. This series of drawings is, in turn, part of what I’d like to include in my next single issue, “It’s Like Heaven,” depending on how the final piece works out. That comic is planned to have two long-ish stories, and then some short pieces on connected themes. The two longer stories are about relationships, boy troubles, etc., all that stuff that autobiographical cartoonists love to go on (And on, and on) about, and they could be construed as being pretty cynical, so I want to follow them with a section of these drawings. I’d like to start the section off with the a quote from the Bob Dylan song Mississippi: “But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free/ I’ve got nothin’ but affection for all those who’ve sailed with me.” The drawings are all of people that I have or have had affectionate feelings toward, and I think that you can tell something about my feelings toward each of them through the drawings.
The particular drawing above is of somebody that not much ever happened with, besides me having something of a crush on him.
The point is just to say something in a non-verbal way regarding my sum feelings about my experiences with the same sex, and to let people take away what they will from how I’ve chosen to draw the people I picked, and so of course here I am spending quite a few words explaining it. So it goes.
It probably took longer for me to figure this out than it did for some of my readers, but when the rabbit and the robot are talking to each other, it’s usually just me talking to myself. This particular comic is a debate I’ve been having in my head. Part of me keeps saying, “He’s just not that into you, don’t be a stalker!” and then there’s the other (Most likely victorious) part that wants to send him this comic and see what his reaction will be. Yep. Hey, if I ever knew when to quit, I probably would have given up these comics a couple of years ago and went back to school or something. Of course, going back to school would be a lot of work. Welcome to my world: that fun place where obstinacy meets inertia.