Monday, March 21, 2016

Late in Life


Welcome to the “Saturday” update, which comes out every couple of weeks like clockwork. If, that is, you happened to fish your clock out of a tar-filled dumpster. And then you gave that clock a laundry list of things to do on top of telling the time. And then you bashed it with a framing hammer.

Brief Progress Report:

“Saturday” is now available at Hastings. But only the one in Moscow, Idaho. Which is great. If you happen to already live here. Or if you happen to be passing through for some reason. Or you got lost and you wound up here. Otherwise, the new venue just isn’t going to be all that helpful to you. I should maybe work on my salesmanship.

I’m also working on putting “Saturday” up for sale through Amazon. And by “I’m working” I mean some very nice, Amazon-savvy people have agreed to do it for me. It’s one of the few times where I’m letting my own complete ignorance stop me from doing something instead of blundering on ahead. And I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize once again for that unfortunate eulogy I tried to deliver in Hebrew. I swear I didn’t know that word meant “buttface”.

I think I can also safely announce at this point that the East Coast book signing and presentation will take place at Gibson’s bookstore in New Hampshire on Wednesday, April 13th. Time TBD. Again, this is a pretty specific location, but if you happen to be near that place on that day, groovy. Swing on by. You can watch me make a jackass of myself in person, rather than having to see me do it through the computer screen. I’ve always believed firmly that jackasserey is a very personal medium and should be done up close. It’s just more satisfying that way. For you, I mean. For me, it’s much, much more humiliating because I have to see the look of disappointment and empathetic embarrassment written on your face in a way I don’t have to when I type these on the magic machine. These are things I’m learning as I go.

Have I ever mentioned that I learn things late?

Last week I learned that the month of August was named after the Roman emperor Augustus, because of his fondness for summer wear. I learned recently that the word “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist”. I also just learned that peanuts grow underground.

That last one messed me up. I seriously thought peanuts grew on trees. Or at least on some kind of bush, like a lot of the other nuts. Nope. Having to admit that I didn’t know one of the most basic facts about one of the most vital building blocks of the snack-osphere…well, it was humbling.

This very slow, arduous crawl up the side of the learning curve doesn’t just apply to small things, like nuts and months named after long-dead Roman dudes. In my case, it also totally applies to big things. Let’s take one at random, like, say…decade-long projects involving lavishly-illustrated books.

With “Saturday”, I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to make until I’d made it. Let’s be clear about this: That’s a stupid, stupid way to do anything.

But one of the things I learned from it was that there’s a certain kind of story I want to tell and a certain way I want to tell that story. Again, I didn’t know that until I had worked on “Saturday” for nine years. Which is weird, right? Who does that? It’s like some kind of crazy automatic writing or a Ouija Board, except with drawing. A LOT of drawing. The kind that eventually reveals as much about the author as it does the endeavor.

That kind of trite premise could easily be the flimsy plot of an inspirational “Lifetime” movie event of the week. Let’s imagine some tag lines for said garbage parade, shall we?

“He thought he was discovering how to write a book. But he ended up discovering…himself.”

“The journey took him into a world he’d never been before…his own heart.”

“He told the story he’d always wanted to tell. And ended up telling the story he never wanted to tell…the story of his heartbreaking addiction to prescription nasal spray.”

That last one really went off the rails. And I totally want to watch it now.


Imagine if you could only learn after you’d already done something. Seems like it would bode poorly for most undertakings, particularly the important ones. It’s inefficient if I have to screw it up royally on the first attempt before I can produce anything half way decent. And by the time I’ve finished that first attempt, it’s too late to do it over again. It’s going to be an awkward conversation to have with my first born. Probably through a plexi-glass window while he or she is wearing an orange jumper.

“Look, Icepick, sweetheart,” I’ll say in my most conciliatory tone of voice, “I know I didn’t do so hot with you. And I’m pretty sorry about it. But on the bright side, your younger sibling is doing super well.”

 Well, that’s how I roll. To quote Ben Bernanke, “It’s like trying to drive a car forward by only looking in the rearview mirror.”  At least my first try at stuff gets to be a surprise for me, too. Granted, the word ”surprise” doesn’t always connote good things. A hamburger with steel wool in the middle is a surprise, but not one you’re overjoyed to discover.

Also in the bright side category: I kind of know vaguely what I want to do for the foreseeable future: Make fun books. Ones with odd characters, crazy drawings, lots of detail, and a very specific kind of humor. I also want to tell different stories every time. I can pretty much promise that there will never be another “Saturday” (not from me, anyway). And, as already discussed, it’s too late to make “Saturday” for the first time. Which is kind of a shame, because it was real fun. But if you’re up for a lot more drawing, puns, babbling, and hand-wringing, I’d also love to share whatever results with yous guys.

So. What have we learned?

I’m not sure. Give me a minute.


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