Hey fans: the 2011 Troubletown calendar is yours for the asking. This year's is so tacky and controversial it has to come in a wrapper! It will make for a memorable souvenir you and your family will be talking about for days and days. Just email me, lloyd (at) troubletown (dot) com, with your address and I'll shoot one out to you!
Hae and Oscar and I are on an adventure in the Sierras. Even though the pavement was clear of snow and ice on the way up they made us put on chains to cross Donner Summit. The noise was deafening. It sounded so wrong we pulled over to check. One of the chains had broken and was flapping into the wheel well and making a horrible racket. Hae used her girl scout ingenuity to fashion a solution, tying off the flapping chain with a nylon rope. It held for a while but then the nylon gave out. The sound was twice as bad but we drove along anyway. Eventually we just couldn't stand it anymore so we stopped and took the chains off. A three foot length of plastic shell from the wheel well was completely mangled and just hanging there. We broke most of it off but one last end wouldn't come free. Hae pulled out some super sharp scissors she just happened to bring along and cut it free. She didn't want to litter the roadway so we packed it and took it with us as a souvenir. I was glad she had those scissors.
We have a cute little house on the west side of Lake Tahoe surrounded by snow-covered firs and there's a tiny sliver of a view of the water. The snow is many feet deep and Oscar likes to roll around in it until he's soaking wet from head to toe. I did that when I was a kid too.
Hae was determined to get me out on the slopes this year with skis attached to my feet. Oscar and Hae ski like experts, so I agreed to try it. The first thing to get used to about skiing is the monstrously painful boots you have to wear. You cinch them down with big buckles and with each pull your feet are bound more tightly into the heinous plastic devices. They are impossible to walk in but you have to walk across the huge parking lot to get to the office where you buy obscenely expensive tickets. The place is crowded with hipster snowboard dudes who come sailing down the mountain at a hundred miles an hour. Once the skis are on your feet you are next to helpless. You can't go anywhere on flat land without strenuously pushing yourself along on the poles. So of course the bunny hill requires you to cross three hundred yards of flat ground to get there. Skis only allow you to go downhill and they are waxed and sharpened to go very fast. They tell you to point the fronts of your skis together so that your feet are awkwardly pigeon-toed. You have to stay in that knock-kneed position for hours, fully concentrating on preventing another fall. You try to control your speed, but you end up going faster and faster and then the only way to stop is to crash into something or someone. It looks like a lot of fun for expert skiers, but having fun as a beginner would take a very rosy attitude.
Oscar's Auntie Soo and cousin Sarah came up from LA to meet us. Sarah is a heckafresh fourteen-year-old fly girl. She just gave herself two lip piercings, a procedure so gruesome that they wouldn't even make Marines do it. I'm considering putting some hardware into Oscar's lips so I can hook them together when I want him to shut up. Just kidding! Sarah is also taking a break from vegetarianism. Last night we had bulgoki. Sarah made cookies. Tonight I'm going to make one of my signature dishes, a spicy coconut curry with spinach and tomatoes, except I'm doing it with chicken instead of squid or scallops.
Oscar is happily prodding the fire in the fireplace. Sarah, Soo, Hae, and I each have a laptop computer with us, and we usually have them all out at once. We're all checking our Facebook. Hae and I had an argument in the grocery store about a piece of ginger and now she's all pissed off at me.
Today we went to Squaw Valley and rode up the mountain in a gondola. Soo and I drank coffee in the lodge and watched the rest of them ice skate. I'm as terrible ice skating as I am skiing, so I decided to pass. I sketched ski bums and skaters and shot some video of my son break dancing on the ice. We had a panoramic view of the rink and the vast frozen Sierra mountains with the plummeting skiers looking like tiny specks. It was outstanding.
Like many dudes, I proclaimed Julian Assange innocent of rape because I consider him to be a hero for founding Wikileaks and taking it to the man. As soon as I heard that his accuser had CIA ties I Facebooked the article thinking that I was being really smart. I'm the kind of guy who was suspicious of Pee Wee Herman's arrest in Florida and Iraq war critic Scott Ritter's bust for internet sex crimes. Like my old buddy, Michael Moore says, never trust the official story. But now I don't know what to think. Some of the reporting said that Assange was being charged with "sex by surprise," or a "condom malfunction," both of which sound trivial, but neither are true. Some of the criticism of Michael Moore here, and here, is pretty compelling, and a lot of the articles defending Assange, including Naomi Wolf, are creepy in the way they attack the accusers as being jilted lovers, feminist bitches, or Swedish sluts. It's impossible to know what really happened. But one other thing to consider: Julian Assange looks like kind of a dick. He's probably guilty.
I had to cancel my trip to see Geoffie in Michigan because of an ice storm that hit Chicago and closed down the airport. I guess I’m lucky I didn’t have to be there when it hit the mitten state. I don’t really have the boots and scarves and clothes for it anymore, let alone the fortitude. In California we panic if it rains or if the temperature goes down to forty. Anyway, now I’m kind of pissed because I was looking forward to escaping my family duties for a few days but now I have to deal with a week of “minimum days” as Oscar’s school. That means days where the school does the minimum amount of teaching and lets the kids out at 1:25. I was going to pawn that off onto my wife but now I'll have to figure out what to do with the kid.
Oscar picked out a nine-foot-tall Christmas tree and I bought it for $93. We must be doing pretty well. I’ll bet a lot of families are buying those two-foot trees. Oscar made a list of presents he wants. He’s not a very materialistic kid except for Nerf Guns. He wants every model. Some of them are over thirty bucks. He has an arsenal but he never plays with them. Kids are strange. He also wants a lie detector. Yeah, I bet that’ll really work. Put the batteries in and then discover how much the toy sucks.
I talked to my friend Simms Taback this week who has cancer and only has a couple months left to live. He’s stopped the chemo since it made him feel terrible and wasn’t going to help anyway. The cancer has spread and remission isn’t going to happen. Simms has a special place in my heart not only because he’s about the nicest guy in the world, and that he illustrated many of my son’s favorite childrens’ books, but Simms was the only guy who had my back during my darkest days at the Graphic Artists Guild when I inherited seriously screwed up financial situation and had to fire everybody. He came to New York and hung out at the office with me and tried to help me figure out what to do so that the Guild wouldn’t go out of business. I’ll never forget that weekend. It was raining like hell and Simms had his car. He gave me a ride uptown to the skanky little flophouse on 17th Street where I was staying. We had dinner at some raucous steak house over by Gramercy Park. Anyway, Simms and I kept in touch but it had been a while since we’d talked. In the meantime he became ill. I only found out because Paul Basista sent out a message on Linked In. Paul is going to Ventura to pay Simms a visit.
Some friends and I had a studio sale at Hae’s office on Saturday. Michael Wertz, Isabel Samaras, Jim Winters, Dave Warnke, and I tried unloading our stuff. We had a decent crowd at times but it wasn’t overwhelmingly successful. If the jewelry guy in the building wasn’t having a studio sale on the same day we would’ve had a lot less; his customers wandered into our studio looking confused because we had no jewelry.
I imagine some people were scared to come to West Oakland, the area has a reputation for shootings and criminal activity. One guy emailed me and asked if it was safe. I told him that if he drove a nice car he might get carjacked. He never showed up. Many people just have no money this year. I talked to two people who either lost their jobs or have a spouse who did. Or both. Another friend has been looking for months.
I have such a goddamn accumulation of inventory from so many years of making “art” that it’s ridiculous. Everywhere you look in Hae’s office I have boxes of books stashed away that I’ll never sell. A couple of old titles did actually sell out but it took years. The only new product I made this year was a Sarah Palin sno globe with the title Sarah Palin’s Big Ass Alaska. I don’t really know if Sarah Palin has a big ass, but I think it’s funny anyway. She brings out the sexist pig in me big time.
Anyway, if you want to come by West Oakland and buy some Troubletown stuff email me and I’ll meet you over there.
During holiday season all the newspapers send me notices of their confusing holiday publishing schedules and tell me on which days they need to have the cartoons in. So far I’m cool I think, but it’s hard to manage. You’d think after all these years I’d have a system for getting three cartoons done ahead of time so that I could sail through the holidays without any problem. I just can’t do it. Maybe now that there’s no Detroit trip I can just do a couple extra cartoons and then forget about the deadlines until after the first of the year. Yeah, right. I just can’t do it.
I went to LA and did a graphic recording gig at USC’s Norman Lear Center. It was great. It was an academic symposium full of the brightest minds. I’m beginning to feel that my graphic recording is really coming along. The work looked pretty good to me.
Now that I travel all the time for jobs I’m becoming a connoisseur of hotel accommodations. The Radisson at USC was perfectly located for my gig, right across the street. The Russian gal at the front desk was wonderful. It went downhill from there. Firecrackers went off all night. A pep rally took place a hundred yards down the street for the big USC-UCLA game. There were lots of college students staying in the Radisson, which I thought was odd. College kids are so young! They seem only to be a year or two older than my son who is only eight.
In the morning I got up at six and the shower didn’t work. Literally no water came out. I wondered if it was some kind of unusual bathroom fixture that I wasn’t understanding. Some of the better hotels put in novel shower controls; this one was simple but just didn’t produce water. Luckily, I looked in the mirror and my appearance wasn’t that bad. The hair was puffing out a little in back but that’s not unusual. The restaurant didn’t open till seven and then it sucked, the food was awful. I checked out and headed across the street with my gear.
In LA, taxi drivers sort of adopt you when you ride with them. They give you their card and ask you to call them the next time you need a ride. I don’t get how it works, or that it could be profitable driving from one side of LA to the other for a fare, but there’s obviously more to it than meets the eye. When I met Geoffie in Venice Beach, whenever that was, when he was on a cross-country bender, he had found a taxi driver named Mohammed, who was a hilarious Iraqi dude. Geoff kept calling him a terrorist motherfucker and Mohammed told us stories about how the Department of Homeland Security questioned everyone from his mosque one by one at the Starbucks across the street.
This time I met another guy whose native country is being bombed by the United States, a Pakastani taxi driver named Zahid who’s been in America forever but who lost his job as an electrical engineer when they outsourced and off-shored everything. "One thing about driving a taxi," he said, "they don’t lay you off." When I called him to pick me up for the airport he met me in his family car. “I don’t start until six when the other guy drops off the taxi, so I came to get you in my car,” he said. “Afterward I will drive back to my house and pick up the taxi.”
Saturday there is going to be a holiday sale at my wife’s studio in West Oakland, with Michael and a gang of other artists. I’m migrating a lot of merchandise from my studio over there. God I hope I can thin the inventory. Check my earlier post for information. Come and get some bargain priced stuff!
I’m also getting ready for a trip to Detroit to see Geoff and Hank and roam the streets of Ann Arbor. Gordy couldn’t come from Florida because his wife lost her job and they’re having trouble with money. I have to get a Troubletown cartoon done ahead of time. I’ll have to do it today but I haven’t got a clue what the subject will be except that I’m pissed about Obama caving in the the Repubs on the Bush tax cuts. Yeah, I’m a sanctimonious bastard from the left.
Attention fans: I'm having a big holiday sale where I'm dragging out all the Troubletown relics from the archives, books, prints, t-shirts, novelties, holiday ornaments, mugs, Sigg bottles, puzzles, you name it, and selling them for fantastically low prices. It will be not only me but these fantastic artists: Isabel Samaras, Dave Warnke, Jim Winters, and Michael Wertz. Almost all of our last names begin with the letter "W!" Not only will our items be on sale but you'll be able to hobnob with our effervescent presences! This is an event of biblical proportions.
Saturday, December 11, 11 - 5 3264 Ettie Street in Festive West Oakland
Not much time for this week’s Dose. I’m on the road in an hour to LA for a graphic recording gig at USC. It came out of nowhere; I have to remember to ask how they found me. Monday we finished the shoot for that whiteboard animation thing. It went well and I really enjoyed the people I worked with. They might have more animations in the future which would be great. I have proposals to write for potential clients for making more of those videos. Last week I had nothing, now I’m up to my ears in work. I know the client I’ve been working for today will email me with changes five minutes before I need to leave for the airport. I just know it.
I’m going to Detroit next week. I had a free flight from all the rewards I’ve been stacking up. Going to see Geoffie and my pals, Hank and Gordy. Three guys I’ve known for thirty years. Gordy’s delivering pizzas in Florida, Hank is retired from the City of Ann Arbor with a sweet pension so he goes to the gym and sits in the hot tub every day, and Geoffie, as previously mentioned, is going for a mental health disability. Maybe I’ll see Mike Cole too, an equally old friend who has decided he’s had enough of Geoff. It’s a three day visit, but Michigan gets boring after about an hour so it’ll be fine. I have an ex-girlfriend there too but she always makes a point of letting me know how unimportant and meaningless our time together was, so I won’t bother to look her up.
I saw Kite Runner. It was faithful to the book and very well done. I’d recommend it. It’s heartbreaking. Also saw the opera, Aida. I like the opera because it's a cross between a ballgame and a musical. Verdi is good.