Saying My Goodbyes

This isn’t going to be another extremely bleak post; despite the title, I’ve decided that it won’t because, although I still stand by everything I said in Preparing for the Storm (despite how embarrassingly true all of it was), I’m determined to not be as depressed as I was when I wrote that post.

Today’s my last day at Borders at Columbus Circle. Not because I’ve been fired or found a new job; it’s the last day that our store will stay open. Tonight, coworkers have another night of drinking planned, but when I wake up tomorrow, it’s time to get to work.

The thing is, the more pressing matter for me isn’t the work because I’m more excited for that than anything else; seriously, I was approved for a Press Pass to Comic Con earlier this week because of my work on Infinite Ammo, and with that I felt so insanely validated that I’m suddenly absolutely certain I’ll be able to handle this insane, 6 month deadline I’ve assigned myself.

What’s bothering me now is that it’s the last day at Borders; what would happen today only sank in last night when an old coworker of mine, Bill, left. He’s an older man with a great sense of humor, but always kind of gruff; he would do his job and only talk to you to poke fun or make bitter jokes about Borders. He also always left without saying anything to anyone. But yesterday, his shift ended at nine and he didn’t just slip out. I didn’t understand why at first, but when I realized he was giving out hugs, it occurred to me that I’d never see Bill again; he was leaving and he wouldn’t be at any of the parties or dinners. We wouldn’t be forced into the same place ever again for any reason.

We each live with our own cast of characters, their closeness to us determined on their level of development (round or flat). It’s not that some people are more interesting than others; it’s that only some are comfortable enough around us to show us who they really are. And it’s when these people step off-stage, their parts finished, that it hurts the most. Whether it’s time or not–and usually, it feels like it’s not–these people have to move on to someone else’s stage to be watched and loved.

When Bill was leaving, it made me realize that it would be like that for everyone; unlike any other place I’ve ever worked, Borders was full of round characters. Because unlike any other place I’ve ever worked, we let ourselves be charmed and charming. I’m not saying everyone was awesome, but nearly everyone made their mark and said their words and gave us their moments and now, today, the last of us would have the stage pulled from under us. Tomorrow, and very suddenly for me, we would all be missing our scene.

And no, it’s not like we can’t make new ones; I, for one, am amazing at making scenes wherever I go. : )

But it’s an incredible understatement to say I will miss everyone I’ve worked with at Borders at Columbus Circle. Unfortunately, it’s completely impossible to also explain the countless reasons why and thank everyone responsible. If you worked with me, if you were my friend, then thank you. Thank you for contributing to one of the best work experiences of my life. And if I haven’t heard from you in a while, please feel free to text me or write because I bet I miss you (I do that pretty easily).

If I don’t know you, well, thank you for reading this love letter anyway. And thank you for being a witness to this very serious turning point in my life.

Now, I’m heading to my last day at Borders. Tonight, party. Tomorrow, the real work begins.

Preparing for the Storm

Before I get into my thoughts, I wanted to thank everyone who liked The Turning Point. I usually don’t get a lot of attention here in my small corner of wordpress (especially since all of my entertainment posts went over to Infinite Ammo) so getting likes from four people (avelainegauvin, mavisephaneuf, arienneflamand, and, of course, chaosmechanica) at once was really awesome. Especially after the kind of post The Turning Point was. Really, thank you.

_______________

It’s not rare now that I think about what’s coming: the unemployment, the insane attempt to finish War of Exiles in six months, the possibly too depressing trips down memory lane that I intend to take (among which there are already places where I still won’t venture). I thought, particularly, about the last item, the trips, and how I would relate them here to everyone who reads this blog. And I realized that they would be hollow if I wasn’t more honest with all of you than I’ve ever been here. It made me realize that there were a lot of things about myself that I had to say, all of them very honest, none of them uplifting:

  • I’m not a happy man. My facebook comments are always extremely cheerful jokes. I try, at work, in the face of the impending liquidation, to be a source of morale for others. I’m always, unless provoked, polite to people in public. None of that means I don’t stop smiling the moment everyone I know is out of eye shot. My most honest emoting happens when I get home and remain absolutely stoic with my family, who, having lived with me for a long time, do not ask questions about it, a fact that I appreciate because I stopped feeling like I could share things with anyone a long time ago. There’s no question that this is not healthy, but then, there’s no question that I’m an unhealthy person. I would love to say that this is solely out of a desire to not burden anyone with my problems, but I’d be lying. I don’t tell anyone anything about myself because among all of the places I’ve been, I’ve lost the ability to tell anyone everything. I’ve lost the ability to trust.
  • I’m poor. I’m not going to pretend that I go out into the streets and ask for spare change, or that I’m not indoors now, writing this on a computer that I paid for a year or so ago. But since, my prerequisites for lunch have become having enough change in my room for a bagel and finding something edible tucked away from the days when I wasn’t going to be out of a job in a few weeks. I completely understand that there are far, far worst ways to live. But, suddenly, I don’t have any solid clothing to wear; I don’t own shirts without stains or holes. Or shoes with soles. And now, it’s too late to buy any; up until now, I’d somehow just rode this near-poverty wave, coasting on the fact that I always had my credit card and could just go and buy things without worrying because, “I’m getting paid this Friday anyway.” And, hey, maybe I’d finally open a bank account then?… Maybe it’s silly, but there are those little things that make you feel happy and secure and all of those things are suddenly falling out of reach for me. I have to wonder how many steps before being out on the streets this is.
  • I don’t believe in love anymore, which I did not realize until very recently. This may sound silly, but I held the concept in very high regard until I realized the idea of it had turned into something completely unlike what it was supposed to be. Because of this, I’m suddenly unfeeling despite being single. I’ve had crushes and confessed to them, one way or another, and then, the moment when they replied with a smile, the moment they flirted back or casually deflected the compliment, I’ve stopped feeling anything for them. I’ve since stopped trying to make myself feel something I can’t.
  • I have a very hard time letting go of the past. I don’t sit in my room and dwell on things. I don’t stalk people I no longer talk to or even think to ask about them when I speak to people who may know them. But I do remember, and, remembering, regret or rage, as is appropriate. I don’t know if anyone else does this or if I’m normal; it’s been a very long time since I assumed I was normal. What I do know is that it’s one of the myriad things that I hate about myself and wish I could stop doing—a thing I realize I could stop doing if I had a life outside of this room when not at work. If, today, I’d met a friend and walked around New York to check out the damage done by Hurricane Irene; if, perhaps, I’d been at a party last night and woken up somewhere that wasn’t my home; or if I’d even just spent time at a friend’s house and watched hurricane related movies, I would not be here writing this. I would not be here thinking. But I am. And for the next few months, I nearly always will be.
  • Among all of this is the point I’ll leave you with. I understand from being told that I’m a great person—people tell me they appreciate how proactive and creative I am, or women tell me I can have anyone I want, or that I’m super cute—but believing any of this is so hard for me that it’s a perpetual kind of impossible; even after I’ve begun to believe it, I can revert in a heartbeat and no longer find any charming curves in the face in the mirror, nor any wit in the set of its teeth, so suddenly yellow and ill-at-ease. And even at these times, I understand that I must be wrong, but simple facts keep me from feeling it: I’ve never completed anything, I’m poor, and I’m alone.

I know that this will change when I finish War of Exiles and get it published, when I get a tattoo to commemorate that achievement, which can never be taken from me, and when I can again afford to meet people and spend time with them. I absolutely know it will.

But I’m suddenly terrified I’ll never make it to that point.

The Turning Point

I’ve danced around the topic a few times on this site, careful to not talk about the actual experience or give any details about it, but, at this point, I don’t see a reason to hide that I work at Borders. I’m still not going to talk about working there or any of the people I work with because that’s not what this article is about. However, my being employed by Borders Inc. is incredibly relevant to this post.

You’re probably wondering why if you don’t follow the news at all. The answer: Borders is liquidating, and in a week or a month or sometime soon, I’ll be out of a job.

So, immediately, the question becomes, “What am I going to do?” And just as immediately, answers spring up. Some friends have been awesome enough to offer me recommendations at their jobs–places and positions that are completely what I’ve always wanted to move on to. Another opportunity–a tutoring job–would be very easy to get even though it would make me miserable. And, always, there’s the worst choice–natural progression: get a job at Barnes & Noble and lean back into the same spot I was just in.

But, even with the position I really wanted, I knew that I couldn’t. It wasn’t that my resume wasn’t good enough or I wouldn’t do well at any of these jobs.

It was because I knew I had to take the opportunity to really change my life.

I won’t be able to not look for some kind of part-time work, but in the hiatus, I decided I have to stop, collect myself, and finish War of Exiles.

I’m more than vaguely aware that this is a bad idea. I’m aware that it’s going to be very lonely and stressful and incredibly difficult. But I’m also aware that if I don’t take this chance to really finish my first novel and the several short stories I’ve already started on, I may never get any of it done. Or maybe I will, in 2015. Or 2018. Or 2024.

But it’s my dream. It’s always been my dream, ever since I played Final Fantasy III (it was III back then, not VI) and was amazed by the world and the drama between the characters. And I don’t want to put my dream on the back burner; I already have for years and years when I promised myself I wouldn’t. In my eyes, this is the only choice–it’s what I just have to do.

So what’s on the agenda?

  1. Work on the outline for Exiles and short stories everyday. The terrifying goal until I find my speed–a finished chapter outline every week, a finished short in the first month.
  2. For as long as I have an unlimited Metrocard, go to places from my past. I know this sounds weird, but I need to get my drama from somewhere. I’ll blog about some of those places here, killing two birds with one stone. I’ll also blog with updates on my progress, but I’m probably going to want to write about some of these places, and why not here?
  3. If I can, shoot at various locations. May as well work on my photography a bit while I’m at it.
  4. Work with Chaos Mechanica and other partners on a new website. For when I really, really need that instant gratification.
  5. Read fantasy novels when I really, really need a break. There’s nothing like rounding out my knowledge of my genre and keeping my head in the game while enjoying myself at the same time.
  6. Casually work on RED and other art projects when I have time.

And I believe that’s it.

I remember my goal on my 28th birthday–don’t turn 29 without getting something published.  If I hadn’t decided to completely rewrite my first novel, I possibly would’ve been on the way to achieving that goal. But now, I realize that with a few months left, I have to scrap that goal. Because I have a new one now, and it’s not a maybe or a try.

Finish the final draft of your book and get it published six months after you lose your job.

Just typing it terrifies me.

The Death of Ultimate Spider-Man… By the Amazing Spider-Man’s Hand

After work today, I met my good friend @GentlemanMonstr for some Five Guys and a stop at Midtown Comics. As the undisputed overlord of the comic world (in my opinion), the Gentleman had something obscure in mind. For me, it was the exact opposite: Ultimate Spider-Man #160. In all honesty, it was something I wasn’t looking forward to, but it was, of course, something I needed to read, not only because I’m the Spider-Man fan among my friends, but because I loved the whole Ultimate Spider-Man series, from it’s rocky start to… well…

We naturally spend more time than necessary at Midtown. Then it was a casual walk to Penn Station where we parted ways. I got to my train platform and thought that I should wait until I got home to read how it all ends, but I realized that after the countless hours on the train that I’d burned reading and rereading Ultimate Spider-Man, there was no better time.

Now, I’m not going to explain what happens because this is a no spoiler zone. But I will say that something odd happened; something I didn’t expect:

I wasn’t bothered. I wasn’t upset; when it happened, I got a little teary eyed (yeah, I’ll admit it), but I didn’t shed a tear, which is weird because I honestly expected to at least shed one damn tear–I’m the Spider-Man guy, after all!

Now, is this because the writing was off? Was Peter’s death too sudden? Was it lacking real drama and emotion? Did I not feel it? Well, while I’m not saying those possibilities are absolutely out of line, I think I know the primary reason for my ambivalence:

I had Amazing Spider-Man #663 in my bag.

And you’re thinking, “So you’re fine because Amazing Spider-Man is still alive?” And, I mean, overtly, sure, but it’s more complicated than that. The “Big Time” plot line brought serious changes to Peter Parker’s life. For the first time, we saw Peter get a job that pays his bills, new costumes, new side characters (thank God), and even a new love interest. As the arc’s name suggests, things in Peter’s life finally start looking up for the first time in… well, ever. Finally, finally things actually change for Peter Parker. Significantly.

So, what does this have to do with Ultimate Spider-Man? It’s simple: after all of the changes in Amazing, going back to Ultimate  felt like looking backwards. For many of us, there was a time when Ultimate Spider-Man was fresh and young and awesome, and it was probably because at the same time, Amazing was tired and boring. For many of us, Ultimate Spider-Man gave us what we’d always wanted as Spider-Man fans: change. Variety. But then Big Time finally came and we–well, I–realized that… Ultimate Peter Parker is still just a kid. He’s still in high school. He’s still worrying about Mary Jane. Suddenly, Ultimate was the past. A past we’ve all read and watched countless times. A past that some writers burned to the ground by over-using the same tired characters. A past that it’s sadly easy to let go of.

Believe what you want, but somehow, I don’t think the time could have ever been more appropriate for the unfortunate passing of our young, beloved Mr. Parker. Not because I wanted it, but because right now–before a new writer comes along and retcons all of Big Time and FF–right now is the only time I could possibly bare it. In all honesty, while I can’t say I started reading comics because of Ultimate Spider-Man, I can promise you that I never would have become so deeply invested in them if not for the incredible sense of adventure and awe that the Ultimate run instilled in me. For that, I will always be grateful for young Peter Parker and the incredible places Brian Michael Bendis took us with him.

But that doesn’t mean I want to ever go back to how things were. Not after so much has changed. The Peter Parker who was always so worried about Aunt May and MJ and work and J. Jonah Jameson and Venom–that young man is dead. And although I loved him, I’m content to let him rest in peace.

The PDF That Just Wouldn’t Die

I’m not sure how it is for you, but Photoshop projects always take longer than I expect. I have an idea and think, I can get that done in an hour tonight. But then I get in front of my computer and realize I just can’t edit a part of the project the way I’d intended or a part of my design just doesn’t look good on paper. A great example is the first issue of RED Comics; nearly every panel was a trial (although it was one I enjoyed because it forced me to troubleshoot with a lot of methods I made up on the spot [all of which–thankfully–worked]). But at most, that tacked on an extra week to the project (more like an extra day when you factor in getting home from work late and spending only an hour or two of my daily writing time on the comic).

Unfortunately, when a project gets such a tiny portion of work time, they sometimes take way longer than an extra day to complete. Especially if they’re ridiculously (and unnecessarily) complicated. Like my Yonkers 3.31.11 PDF.

Which took all of eternity to complete.

I exaggerate, but if you haven’t taken a look at the Yonkers 3.31.11 PDF yet, please do so now (right click, then download the link) and then continue reading here.

If you think the pictures are awesome, I thank you. But what I really want to get at here is that the design for the PDF (the fonts, the order of the photos, etc.) took a month and a half to finish and I can’t really tell you why–aside from maybe saying that I cycled through a bunch of different fonts, tried to make a different logo, and tackled a bunch of other completely absent concerns that had the project spinning in limbo for way longer than it should’ve been (and, of course, spending an hour a night with it [and sometimes no time at all with it] didn’t help the project’s progress at all).

So, why bring this up? What’s on my mind? It’s simple. Maybe I’m burning myself out? I recently edited my friend Kenneth Broadway’s novella manuscript (a fantastic novella, I might add) and when I handed it back he said, “Let’s actually meet and talk about this though.”

I probably made a face and said, “Well, yeah, definitely, dude. When are you free?”

To which he said, “No, when are you free? I’m not the guy who’s always crazy busy doing a million things.”

I’m pretty sure I raised an eyebrow. “I’m not that busy. I just–”

“Work with Ronin at HotMop Films sometimes.”

“Well, yeah, but–”

“And go take photographs at ruins with Felix Velez.”

“That’s true–”

“And work with Chaos Mechanica on writing and film projects.”

I remember stopping to think about it. And then saying, “Yeah… I guess I am pretty busy. All the time.”

It was a charming thing then; it was nice to think that I’m finally being as creative as I’ve wanted, but I’m starting to realize that maybe I have my hands in way too many projects at once. The divided attention is slowing everything down. But then, the question becomes, “What do I drop?” Photography? The novel? RED Comics, which I just started (even though I just bought a few DVD’s this past weekend specifically to use for issues 2 and 3)? My ink abstracts have already fallen by the wayside for years, and that’s always disappointing to me when I think about it; do I really want another interest to fall by the wayside with it?

Or am I just wasting time thinking about all of this when I should be figuring out a way to optimize my workload? … I think I know the answer to this one.

Apocalypse 2011: The Chillest Apocalypse Ever?

I woke up this Apocalypse at 10:04 AM. I was not in my own bed, but not in an apocalyptic kind of way; I crashed at the “ghetto fabulous” flat of Ronin (the camera-wielding video smith of HotMop Films) and woke up on the sofa bed. The sun was shining through the window and, looking out into it, I found the day the world would undoubtedly change–forever: a sunny Saturday with a blue sky that forbode, with the CERTAINTY OF A THOUSAND HAROLD CAMPINGS,  an extremely pleasant afternoon. I turned on my 360, played Streets of Rage 2 until Ronin woke up and joined me, and then we got burgers, completely forgetting all the while to work on our movie idea. I also got a black and white shake. And then bought Amazing Spider-Man #660 from Silver Age Comics in Queens and read it all the way back to the Bronx.

And now, here I am, casually knocking out this article and thinking to myself, Maybe beer, pizza, and finishing ODST with my brother tonight?

And that’s when I realize it. Not that I kind of love the idea of a fanatic going ape shit and promising doom to everyone on a specific date, because I realized I loved that when I dished out my first (of many) Apocalypse 2011 jokes. No, I lean back in my seat and breath in the warm, summer breeze from my window, I feel the post Beer-and-Video-Games-Night-with-a-Buddy glow I’m still enjoying and think, Yeah… This has got to be the best Apocalypse ever.

I think about it and realize: yes, I cared about Y2K because there was science involved and I was young and impressionable enough to think, Hey. Maybe. <shrug> I didn’t pay attention to the 2008 Apocalypse (to the point that I’m not even sure I heard my friends right when they mentioned it [Maybe it was 1998? Maybe they were talking about a Genesis concert they went to?]). If there were any besides, I’ve missed them… So, yes, this totally is the best Apocalypse so far.

And, really, it makes me want to thank… uh… what’s-his-face. <checks his tabs> Harold Camping! Right! It makes me want to thank that guy, because the Apocalypse is now, officially, a holiday. A magical, moving holiday that sometimes comes after a year, other times after eight or more, but is always the best holiday ever, because you can lean back and think that somewhere out there, a pompous asshole who tried to spread mass hysteria feels like a complete moron–right now. And, in fact, he will (and you can smile as you think that) all day.

Does this mean I’m an atheist? No–I believe, although I do it in a complex way so that pretty much no one agrees with me (whether atheists or Churchies). But I definitely don’t believe in spending a ton of money to tell the world, “Well, too bad you didn’t repent, you stupid heathens! And now, enjoy five months of torment for not being as perfect as me!”

And hey, maybe you disagree, and really that’s fine and completely your prerogative. But all I can say is, we just survived the Apocalypse together, brother. Relax. Have a beer. Read a Bible. Start planning Apocalypse 2014.

Me? I’m going to call my brother about that pizza.

Getting Closer

I realized I have something time sensitive to say, so I have to try to belt it out before that company I just mentioned arrives.

If you haven’t already heard about it, you should know about the Met’s Get Closer photography contest. It’s not a huge deal; you photograph a piece from the permanent collection and then get a close-up of one of its elements. Then you submit them to the contest’s tumblr with a short blurb about why the element you captured for your close-up is meaningful to you. The prize is a year’s membership to the museum and the use of your picture for add campaigns (bragging rights). Like, I said, nothing crazy, but it’s something to do with an afternoon. Make sure to check out the actual contest rules to make sure you know everything you need to before heading over.

Only, if you’re going to head down, make sure you do it soon; the last day for submissions is this Friday–April 8th. And, if possible, make sure you give yourself a lot of time at the Met; it took me longer than I expected to find the piece I wanted to shoot for my submission (and before I found it, it was a solid two hours worth of photographing everything I found interesting, which wasn’t bad because it’s the Met, but still, that meant stopped and photographing just about everything).

Oh, what was that you just asked? “What was your submission, Louis?” did I hear? No wait, that was a car horn outside, but whatever, here it is anyway: The Fist of the Archer Herakles. If you know me at all, you’ probably saw this coming. Mythology? An archer? Yeah. So me that it’s ridiculous.

It’s Been a While

It’s been just about a month since my last post, begging the question “What the $#(*?”

Well, I’ll tell you what the $#(*.

Life. My best friend’s moving to Seattle in two weeks, an event I found out about around two weeks ago. Aside from being extremely bummed about it, my weekends have been absorbed by various going away functions (and my recovering from those functions). I’ve also been… graced with more responsibility at work, permanently stuck with handling the magazines section (a sad thing; I don’t dislike magazines, but I woefully pass through our genre section, looking at all of the terrible covers and heaving a sigh of loss [Example:

<sigh>

Coupled with that are other creative endeavors (just this Thursday, I spent my morning photographing a ruin with some fellow artists, an oddly exhausting and dangerous hike through a single facility, making me feel more like a Belmont than I ever have). It may not seem like much, but it’s definitely been more than enough to make it extremely hard to belt out more articles, even if ideas for them keep on coming.

I had to write something today though, while editing and posting a new background pic (taken during that Thursday outing), before company arrives. I’ll have another post up before the end of the week, even if it kills me. And then, more posts about the afterlife and why it’s great for writing/gaming.