Sunday, September 25, 2005


I had my very first anxiety attack yesterday!

I was walking home, carrying a few bags of groceries. My heart started to beat very fast, I could barely breathe, and my eyes welled up with tears.

Man, oh man, I can't wait until I can afford therapy.

A Strange thing happened last weekend...

I'm not a big fan of kids, children, rug rats, etc. There are a few exceptions, though.

When I hang out with Francis & his family, his sons are generally playful, smart and curious. The boys are naturally mischievous, but well behaved. Fran & Mickey actually talk to them, and they LEARN. In short, good parents, good kids.

Last weekend, I had arrived at Chris' house in a miserable, zombified state. He said I looked really pissed off when I walked through his door. I chugged 32 ounces of sugary, caffeinated goodness, sat down on the floor of Isaiah's room with his mother Yanellie & grandmother, and just relaxed.

I hadn't seen Isaiah since he was but a blob in his crib. Now, he's over a year old, walking around, and has a personality. He's also fascinated by the magnetic clip of my cell phone case. He already likes wrestling, thanks to his dad. He's a pretty bright boy, very curious about the world around him, and very playful. Like I've said before, good parents, good kids.

There was a really sweet moment when Carlos & Tara arrived. Tara sat down a couple feet from me. Isaiah walked right up to her, gave her a hug, and kissed her on the cheek.

Chris said, "Look out, Carlos, you have some competition!"

As I was sitting there playing, I became a bit more relaxed. Maybe it was the insomnia, maybe it was the caffeine coursing through my veins, but something that resembled paternal instincts kicked in.

Later on, when we all came out to the living room, I'd pick him up to sit on the couch. Chris said, "I never thought I'd see the day..."

I was pretty surprised, too.

I've realized I DO want to have kids; I DO want to be a father.

It's just going to be at least 8 years before I even consider procreating. The whole tired screaming and dirty diapers stuff, I'm not ready for.

So, yeah, my charred, scabbed black heart isn't as charred, scabbed and black as we all thought it was.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Let me tell you about the time I went to a goth club.

Last winter, I made a couple attempts to come out of my shell and try doing things that normal people do, like drinking and going to clubs. I'd try a few drinks my roommate would mix for me, and no matter how little alcohol she'd use, I'd still hate it. I don't get it. The alcohol simply burns right through any flavor the drink might have, and it's fucking nasty. Even Bailey's on ice cream was gross. With that in mind, I've never been drunk. I'm too grossed out to drink enough to get plastered.

Later on, a bunch of us went to Contempt. My roommate, her boyfriend, and a few of their friends somehow convinced me to go. It was a freezing cold, windy Saturday night. They were all gothed up with varying levels of makeup, and I dressed as I normally am: button down shirt, khakis, boots, trench coat; all black, of course.

We got there, paid the entrance fee, and descended the stairs to the bar. Further down was the dance floor. Obscenely loud (and some of it was crappy) techno/metal was blasting and reverberating through the entire club. I was introduced to people, and then they flocked to the dance floor. I watched for a few minutes, checking out what the kids call dancing these days.

That's another thing I don't understand. Well, I do understand it, but I don't "get" it. I've never felt the compulsion to dance. Without trying to sound like a snob, I process music intellectually and emotionally. If I tap my feet or fingers, that's as far as it goes physically.

One of the guys in our group wasn't much of a dancer either, and suggested we go upstairs to the viewing booths. There's a bunch of black and white video cameras placed all over the club, and at the top of each of the screens. You can cycle through all the cameras. If you see someone you like, you can pick up the phone, hit a button, and talk to them.

We scrolled through and played around. There were a few cute girls, but they were not in my league. We came across the camera for the booth we were in, and Frank made sure the camera had me in its sights. I IMMEDIATELY became self conscious and turned away.

After a while, we went back down stairs, and watched everyone dance. I stood in a corner, trying to stay out of everyone's way. A couple of people stopped a few feet in front of me to pose for a picture. I closed my eyes so I wouldn't get blinded by the flash. They stopped, looked at the pic on the view screen. I was in the background of it. They then took the pic from a different angle.

Yeah, I already felt unwelcome in the place. Thanks for dehumanizing me, too.

I went back upstairs to sit down and rest. It was late, I didn't care for any of the music, and just feeling more out of place than Britney Spears at a MENSA convention.

My roommate, on a break from dancing, came up to see how I was doing. We chatted with the DJ for a few minutes, and I decided that I should leave.

I walked out, said "good night" to my friends who were smoking outside, and went on my way to the subway station. It was so cold that night, my breath didn't even hang in the air; it dropped and shattered on the concrete.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Katrina News

(Of course I'm still awake. Ice cream, remember?)

Here are some blogs, news, & photo sites about people surviving in New Orleans ad other areas devestated by the hurricaine. I am purposely leaving out politically charged sites and trying to focus on the actual experience of living there. If you come across any other blogs, please contribute, and I'll edit them into the post.
; includes a link to a 3 MB sattelite photo. If you have problems viewing it, save it to your desktop & open in a photo-editing program.


Allow me to explain. Or not. See if I care.

I work second shift at a small printing company in lower Manhattan. I get into work around 4 PM, and leave shortly after midnight, occasionally later depending on how busy things get.

This past Thursday, I worked a 15 hour shift. I did not leave work until 7:13 AM Friday morning. What tends to happen when I pull all-nighters is that I get mentally wired. My body gets pissed off, but my brain refuses to shut down. I took the train home, picked up some groceries, and chatted with my one of my roommates, who just finished breakfast. My goal was to stay up the rest of the day and crash around 10 PM, so I could experience the weekend like a normal person. I wanted to get up early so I could visit Chris & his family, two weeks before their next child is due.

I did sleep for about two hours Friday, from 11 AM to 1 PM. I forgot to switch off my alarm clocks (yes, "clocks" is plural for a reason). I was up and about again, and spent most of the time reading message boards and news articles. When prime time came around, I watched a couple hours of television. It made me a bit drowsy. I reset my alarms for 7:30 AM, and shut everything else off in anticipation of a temporary coma.

I fell asleep around 11 PM, but woke up again at 1 AM, FOR NO REASON. The brain just would not stop working. It was playing four vastly different songs on top of each other, trying to re-write the ending of the story I wrote two days ago, reminded me about a mail-in rebate form I need to fill out, pondered what time of day I need to take reference photos for the story and when I'll get my camera back from Bowie, reminded me that one of my roommates' birthday is on Sunday and that one of the gifts I ordered hasn't come in yet, and contemplated how gloriously smooth Godiva's milk chocolate ice cream is.

After many attempts to silence my mind, I finally passed out around 6 AM Saturday. The alarms went off on schedule, and I hit the snooze buttons many times. A little after 8, I turned on my phone and sent a text message to Carlos that I'd be late meeting him & Tara at Grand Central Station, and not to wait for me. I finally got out of bed at nine, and left the house at 10:30.

The subway had some delays due to construction, and I was able to catch the 11:37 train with minutes to spare. When I got to Port Chester, I chugged two 16 ounce cans of a Red Bull-like substance, and started to wake up. Little Isaiah was adorable, and that helped a bit, too.

A good time was had by all, and I got home around 8:30 PM, obviously very tired. I was asleep by 10.

I woke up 90 minutes later, for no reason. I thought, "did I sleep for 24 hours or something?" I walked around the apartment, no one was home. I didn't feel very tired, and since I wasn't sure of what day it was, I turned on my computer. Sure enough, it's still Saturday. I shut it off, and tried going back to sleep.

Then the mental noise kicked in.


What's an insomniac to do?

I've read more message boards & blogs, started writing this, and enjoyed more ice cream. The ice cream probably isn't a good idea. Like I need more sugar.

Before anyone suggests it, I've tried sleeping pills. They don't work.

Once I get insurance, I'll see a doctor about it. Until then, I'm screwed.

And very tired.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Sorry for squealing like a kid, but I wrote up a quick story for a comic anthology my friend Francis and I are SLOOOOWWWWLY working on. It's been a while since I've come up with anything creative, and it felt pretty good. I was typing it into my phone today on the way to work. I need to finalize the script, lay it out, take some photo reference, and maybe...just maybe I'll DRAW this mother fucker.

Also, I'm buzzing from some chocolate chip cookies my mom sent in the mail yesterday. Fucking AWESOME!

Rant Bomb, part 5

Last year, I went upstate for Christmas and visited my family. I don't really fit in with any of them. I'm either a few years older or a few years younger than everyone else in my generation. And we all know how I feel about my sister, who's only three years younger than I am.

I have family scattered across the country, mostly in the west. Those I would feel most comfortable with live in Minnesota, Arizona, and California. However, I have two cousins in New York that I don't feel terribly out of place with, so the 200-mile annual guilt trip isn't a total wash. Logan and Danielle are roughly the same age (19), just five months apart. They both have skills and/or natural talents, A PURPOSE, outside of being 1/2 of a baby factory. Logan's becoming a computer scientist or something like that. Danielle, aside from myself, is the only person in our generation with artistic talent. It's only developed in the past four years, but she knew she had something that could grow. Danielle is an only child. When she was younger, she was more of the girly princess type. In her mid to late teens, she became more tomboyish, with a hint of gothness. I guess all that came out with her artistic abilities.

Last Christmas marked the end of their first semesters in college. Danielle came home with her boyfriend, a guy from Canada, who's my age. He seemed decent enough at the time, but I got a vibe from him I didn't like. I left it alone, though. Danielle made a decision to drop out of college and live with the guy and his mom across the border. I put on the façade of "hey, fine, whatever," but my brain was screaming, "are you out of your fucking mind?! Go back to school, stupid!"

A few weeks later, Danielle moved back with her parents. Her boyfriends' mother said there was no more room at the inn. Oh, and by the way, she's pregnant. Imagine that. Little Noah was born last week, premature, weighing just under five pounds. He's in an incubator in Albany right now. Meanwhile, Fuckstick McDouchebag is in Canada, with his mom, his girlfriend, and their kid.

Now, she's yet another single mom, another sad statistic, without much of a future other than raising her son. Her hopes and dreams died the day she gave birth. She argues with her parents a lot. She's unemployed, stuck in a small, shitty town. My family has a Catholic background; abortion was never considered. I certainly wasn't going to suggest it. Despite all my liberal ideals, I really don't like that, even though I believe it should stay legal. One sentiment that got passed around by some family members was hope for a miscarriage. It's an extremely sad idea, and you can't even think it without feeling like a monster, but when you look at the situation everyone's in, you start thinking about alternatives. Who knows, maybe she'll decide on adoption?

With all of that in consideration, actually going forth with the pregnancy and deciding to care for the child and taking responsibility for her actions is a pretty brave and noble thing. I'm not about to fault her for that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rant Bomb, part 4

One cool thing I've noticed since I'd become a vegetarian in April of 1998:

Bugs don't bite or sting me. They fly towards me, hover for a second, and buzz the hell away.

There are a couple of exceptions, but that happens when you push an industrial lawnmower over an underground hornets nest a few times.

Rant Bomb, part 3

The view from my old house in Brooklyn. One month before on the left, two weeks after on the right.

I'd been living in Brooklyn since April of 2001. I was still getting used to the city after being away for so long, and I'd NEVER been used to lower Manhattan. The street layout never made any sense to me. And since that day, I don't think I'll ever get used to it.

I got off the train at 9:03 AM, as I was running a little late for work that day. I came up out of the Franklin Street Station on the 1/9 line, and saw lots of people on the sidewalk, looking up and pointing. I looked up.

“Well. This will be an interesting day.” I plugged into my radio to find out what was going on as I walked three blocks to work.

A month previous, the production supervisor had left for greener pastures. We needed all the help we could get. So I put in a good word for Carlos. He used to be a messenger in the financial district, running back and forth between Wall Street and Jersey City via the PATH train. When I got to work, he was there holding down the fort. Everyone was making phone calls. People walked in off the street to use the phones.

I called my parents house upstate and left a message; mom was out walking Tasha, our adorable black lab.

"Hey, Mom, you might have heard something about the WTC blowing up or something. I'm 15 blocks away from it, so I'm fine. I'll check in later. Love you."

Then she called my dad at work; he was out of the building at the time, so he was out of the loop. When he got back, he saw the news. One of the secretaries said, “Some lady called and said that ‘Jeff was okay,’ whatever that means.” My dad, who was already a wreck from his father dying a few weeks previous, was relieved.

After the north tower fell, we locked up the store and walked uptown. We ran into one of Lynne’s (and mine) freelance clients, and walked with them for a little while until they found their friends house. Carlos & I were worried about Bowie. He worked on the floor of the stock exchange. But there wasn’t much we could do. After I had worn a hole through the cuff of my left pant leg, we entered SVA’s main building at 23rd street. We sat in the cafeteria, listening to the radio, eating junk food, trying to make sense of what was going on, trying to put together a narrative for the events. After all, that's what Cartoonists do: construct a sensible story. After a while, we needed some real food. I offered to buy Carlos lunch; I had a hunch that the “last hired-first fired” rule was going to happen (and it did). But Carlos told me, “If you hadn’t got me that job, I’d be goo right now. I’m buying you lunch.” As the minutes passed, we called just about everyone we knew. It was a relief to hear everyone’s voice. Lynne, who had immediate Internet access, kept everyone else in our Cartoonists community updated on who has checked in and was okay.

By three o’clock, the subways had resumed service. We sat on the R, shell shocked just like everyone else. I got home and sat with my roommates, just trying to make sense of everything. Every so often, I’d call Bowie’s house and leave a message. By 7:30, I went up to my roof. The pillar of smoke extended from the pit all the way up, over and behind Brooklyn. I was bending over backwards, Matrix-style, trying to take it all in. The smell of the barbecue was setting in. And I was ready to give up on ever hearing Bowie’s voice again.

Naturally, that’s when my caller ID lit up with his name. He had walked from Wall Street to 125th street. There, he found one of his friends, who gave him a ride home to the Bronx. After he called his mom in St. Croix, he called me. The 25+ times I called him had registered on his caller ID, so he could tell I was freaking out. The next couple days, Bowie couldn’t walk; the blisters on his feet were numerous and excruciating.

Everyone I knew was okay, but not everyone was untouched. Chris’ dad knew two people that died.

I didn’t know it at the time, but one of Francis’ friends, Evan Forsch, was on the 89th floor of the north tower. A few minutes after the second plane hit, his floor was being evacuated. He and his co-workers made it out moments before it collapsed. Evan, a fellow Cartoonist (go figure), wrote a short story about his day called “Down and Out” for the 9-11: Emergency Relief comic, from Alternative Comics.

Rant Bomb, part 2

Let me tell you about my friend Inger.

I had been living in Brooklyn for a month. My good friend Francis, who had already hooked me up with a decent place to live, also had some artistic friends in the city who could help me out with getting a job. He gave me Inger’s home and work numbers, and her email address. I called her up eventually.

“God, I’m so sick of helping people. I’m just fucking tired of it, you know? But Fran & Mickey [Francis' wife] said you were a good kid, so it’s probably the last favor I’ll do for them.”

That was one of the first things she said to me. So, I was a little uncomfortable. Inger was able to get a few of her & Fran's friends, to meet us at a bar downtown. I was to bring my portfolio and sketchbook. I met her just after 5 on a Friday at her company. She took one look at me and froze for a second. And so did I. “If she and Fran had a kid…”

So we walked over to the bar and I was introduced to everyone. Cary, a very cool cartoonist & illustrator, was the first one to ask how I met Francis. I explained to him about the printing company I worked at upstate, where I met Francis, and the Kids in the Hall & South Park quotes. Cary’s response was, “Ohhhhhhh, you’re that guy. I get it now. I was wondering how Fran would meet a 21-year-old upstate. I mean, you’re a bit out of his age range.” All these people are in their early thirties.

After an hour of talking, Inger understood exactly why Francis told her that I was a younger version of her. We both have similar relationships with our fathers, and while she was at Pratt, Inger used to dress a lot like I do now (all black clothes). As our ranks thinned, and as she became a little drunk (well, only three or four beers, but she barely weighs 100 pounds), we found ourselves holding hands, like we’d known each other for ages. Inger exclaimed "You're so touchy, too!" I'm very physically affectionate to those who are open to it. She began to talk about her problems with family. It wasn’t long before she was crying in my arms, kissing me on the cheek, and thanking me for listening. “I don’t even know why I’m trusting you with all of this…I just met you two hours ago. I’ve never met anyone that I’ve been able to open up to like this.” She looked into my eyes, and it felt like she was begging for an answer.

After a moment, I told her, “Some time ago, one of my more thoughtful teachers [who was also a psychologist] suggested that maybe it was my purpose to bear witness, and to help whenever I could. Maybe it’s true. I mean, look at us. Look at our friends. Maybe it was fate that I met Francis. I know I certainly wouldn’t be here without him. If I had never met him, I would still be trapped in Bumblefuck, losing my mind. Francis helped me, and he made it possible for me to help you now, even though he doesn’t know you need it.”

After she had recovered, she told me that there was a spare computer in her office, and that I could come in whenever I wanted to use it in my quest for employment, and to practice with programs. Inger would give me some practice assignments to put in my portfolio, and helped me write my resume.

We had come in on a Saturday. She had to work on a project that needed to be done by Monday, and Inger didn’t have the time to work on it the previous night. When she came to the door to let me in the office, I could see that she was a wreck. I asked her what was wrong. One of her friends had done something particularly nasty. I held her for hours as she cried, her tears soaking through my shirt. “God, I’m sorry, I’m getting you wet,” she said between sobs. “Inger, I don’t care. Just let it all out. I’m here for you, remember?” She held me so tightly, I could feel her abs flex against mine, wrought with fear. All I could do was pull her closer. I didn’t want to…no, I wouldn’t let her feel alone. Not in the shape she was in. At one point, I almost cried. Seeing her in so much pain was taking its toll on me. I suggested that we go get lunch. We walked along, holding hands, to the South Street Seaport. We each got a slice of pizza and a soda, and sat on a bench looking out at the river, our arms around each other. That was when she told me about Mickey calling her up. “She said, ‘I saw Jeff; when the hell did you and Francis have a kid?’”

That became a running gag. At a birthday party later that year, Fran & Inger were sitting across the table from me. I pulled out my camera to get a shot of them. Cary commented, “It’s only fitting that Jeff gets a picture of his parents.” Some people looked at Cary like he was nuts. He said, “What? Look at Fran & Inger, then look at Jeff.” They looked at the couple, then at me. “Holy shit!” was the most common response.

A couple weeks ago, Inger wasn't feeling well. Headaches, dizziness, puking, fever, trouble standing up; your basic flu symptoms. Inger's about 5'9" tall, and maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. With that kind of build, the flu is going to knock you down a few pegs. What was odd, though, was she didn't get better after a week. Her fiancée Michael, with whom she bought a house with last year, was getting worried. He drove her to the hospital to find out what was wrong. The doctors ran some tests, and found there was too much pressure on her brain. So they cut her open and drained some fluids, and got a bit of a surprise:

A sizeable tumor. Phase 3 Astrocytoma, to be precise. They took out half of it, but not enough to leave her a vegetable. She was in a coma for a few days. Right now, she's being treated at a very reputable hospital in the city. She's on chemotherapy, steroids, and blood thinners to prevent clots forming in her brain…although she's probably off those by now.

She's kind of weak on her right side, so they gave her a cane. Of course, she tries to beat people with it, but she's too weak to do any damage…for now.

I just found out all this stuff, and still in a bit of shock. I've been getting most of my information through Cary, who's one of her best friends. Because of a bad relationship with her parents, they're trying to give Michael Power of Attorney over her in case something happens.

I can never get in touch with her, but letting her rest is probably best. Cary will be up in mid-October. Hopefully I can squeeze in a visit then.

While everyone else in our circle of friends is being optimistic, I have to stick with my pessimistic nature. I actually PRAYED for Inger. If you know me, you know how much she means to me. She taught me it's possible to be massively fucked up and still find happiness. She is very dear to me, and I can't help but worry.

Rant Bomb, part 1

What did I have in common with the levees in New Orleans? We're FUCKING BROKE.

Seriously, though, DONATE, if you haven't already. If I can scrounge up $50, if extremely poor kids can donate $1, so can you.