Good Times, Keep On Coming

All sorts of things going on in Gregland as of late. Most of them? Pretty good. Let’s see.

I hit the big 35 yesterday, which went rather pleasantly. Work was super-busy and my 3-miler in the morning was less than thrilling, but hey, no big deal. Julie made cannoli pies and brought them in, and trust me when I say that they were as delicious as they sound.

(The crusts in the photos below are slightly different colors because, well, they were! One was graham cracker, one was chocolate.)

Cannoli Pie! More Cannoli Pie!

After work, despite a six-car pile-up on the GW Parkway, I made my way downtown to meet Charlie. He’d scheduled me a massage at BodyCo, which felt fantastic, and then we went to Kotobuki over in the Palisades neighborhood for a delicious dinner. Add in some lovely gifts from my family, Charlie, and Julie (some books, Patapon and Crazy Taxi for the PSP, BSG Season 3 DVDs, the new k.d. lang CD, a beautiful new shirt, some new shoes) and I must say it was a wonderful birthday indeed.

Today was apparently “Greg Registers For Things” day. I put in my application for the NYC Marathon, so we’ll see if I get in this year or not (there’s a lottery system; I tried last year but came up empty). I also put in my registration to exhibit some of my photographs at Artomatic, which is a non-juried art exhibition here in the DC area. I went last year and while some parts were more interesting than others (I challenge anyone to truthfully say they liked all of it) there were some very, very good pieces there. So on April 12th I get to select my space at the exhbition (I got a nice and early slot, hurrah) and it runs May 9th through June 15th. Expect me to be talking about this more as it gets closer.

Oh! And I got a very interesting freelance offer yesterday, which I can’t talk about other than to say that I accepted it and it’s something that is really a logical extension to an existing activity of mine. But once that goes live, I’ll talk a bit more about that.

This Saturday will be the half marathon, and while I must admit I’m actually a little nervous about it (I have a bad feeling I will not be beating last year’s time, which would make me a little sad) we shall see. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. In some ways I’m looking more forward to cheering Charlie on as he runs the full marathon. That alone will make the day worth it.

Add in having just gotten my workout schedule for essentially mid-April through the end of October in front of me (thanks to a rigorous running spreadsheet courtesy Fred) and it feels like I’ve got a lot of great stuff mapped out in front of me. And I, for one, am all for that. I’ve got an adorable little patch of wheatgrass sitting on my desk, there are some balloons floating across the office, and the world is full of life and possibilities.

Hurricane Greg

I was originally going to start this post by saying that there is no actual Hurricane Greg of note, because my name is trapped on the Pacific Ocean list of names for hurricanes, and as we all know hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean usually don’t hit anything. (Not to be confused with typhoons, of course, smashing into parts of Asia.) But I was wrong! Hurricane Greg in 1999 actually hit the Baja Penninsula in Mexico. So yay for Hurricane Greg!

Anyway, Hurricane Greg seems to finally be slowing down. Several weeks of super-busy stuff at work has kept me plowing through all sorts of graphics and storyboards and other such exciting things (ironicaly, some of the photos were of hurricanes), plus already-determined-in-advance commitments plugged in there as well, but things are a little more sedate right now. I knew things were getting better when earlier in the week I went home and the top of my list was “go through the stack of mail from the past two weeks” and “vacuum.” (The latter of which really couldn’t be achieved until the former had gotten rid of all the piles of mail scattered around my living room.)

I actually hate being overly busy; it gets me tired and a little stressed out the longer that it happens. And once it’s over, I usually end up veering sharply in the other direction so that people ask me if I want to do things and my answer is, “No.” I’m too busy recharging my batteries.

Meanwhile, I have two races coming up and they’re 8 and 16 days away. I’m honestly not convinced that I’m 100% prepared for either of them. I’ve got enough mileage under my belt that a half-marathon and a 10-miler shouldn’t kill me, but I don’t think at the same time that I will do as well as I could. We’ll see what happens. I’m absolutely running the half-marathon no matter what, but I can play it by ear on the latter. (And of course, Charlie is running his very first marathon as I run my half-marathon! He is quite well prepared and I expect him to rock it out, and probably beat my personal record to boot.)

Other than that, things are going normal as per usual. Charlie and I hit our one year mark next month, which is a little hard to believe that it’s already been that long. It honestly feels like it was just a couple of months ago that we met. We were talking about going away for the weekend, but prior commitments mean that it almost certainly won’t happen, unfortunately. Oh well. We actually have (through sheer luck) tickets to see Tamerlano performed by the DC Opera on the actual day, so that’ll do for a celebration.

I’m still trying to decide if I will renew my Shakespeare Theatre subscription for next season, or just pick-and-choose plays. The selection (and pricing) isn’t quite as top-notch as this season’s, although three of the seven are must-sees for me. (King Lear, Ion, and Twelfth Night.) The nice things about a subscription, though, include the ease in swapping out to a different night as necessary, the fact that it gets me out to see things I wouldn’t otherwise, and better seats. We’ll see, I have a week and a half to decide and I keep flip-flopping back and forth.

Now all I need is the temperature to go up just a wee bit and stay there and I will be one happy camper. Hurrah for the return of spring!

(And hopefully more regular updates from now on.)

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Nick Bertozzi

Nick Bertozzi is a great guy—every time I see him, he’s got a big smile on his face, and you just know he’d give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it. I first discovered Bertozzi’s comings through Boswash, a comic having to do with surveying that was formatted and unfolded like a gigantic map.

Since then, he’s had graphic novels like The Masochists and The Salon, plus a wide plethora of online comics; his current story Persimmon Cup is like a strange little puzzle box that keeps revealing new hidden compartments every time I look.

For his illustration in my book,  Nick took up the entire page, every last piece he could. And the result? I think it’s lovely. This was the last sketch that was finished at MoCCA back in 2002… although there is one more piece that was started then. But you’ll have to wait until next week for that story.

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Matt Madden

Matt Madden is one of those creators for whom I don’t think there’s ever an appropriately huge amount of buzz around, even as he continually turns out smart, literate pieces of work. I really liked his graphic novel Odds Off, and in the past couple of years he’s put out two very good books on the making of comics; 99 Ways To Tell A Story: Exercises in Style takes the same script and shows 99 different ways to tell it, and Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics from Manga to Graphic Novels (co-written by Jessica Abel) is hitting stores later this year.

More people should read his comics, they’re great stuff… just like this drawing. (I love that he didn’t erase the pencil marks after he inked it. Seeing the genesis of the drawing entrances me.)

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Josh Simmons

Josh Simmons is an odd person, but I think he’d be happy to hear me describe him as such. His first series, Happy, was a deranged collection of short stories, many of which could best be described as having the intensity cranked up to 11. He also did comics about a sideshow carnival called Know Nothing Zirkus, a group that infuses its performance with sexuality and gross-out tactics.

He recently shifted into a different genre of comic; his graphic novel House was a silent journey into horror and claustrophobia. He also has the first volume of a new book called Jessica Farm coming out later this year, one where he’s drawing one page a month for the next 50 years. Which sums up Simmons in a heartbeat, really.

It’s hard to describe meeting Simmons in person, but there’s a combination of intensity and playfulness and insanity wrapped up into one.

This drawing, like Simmons himself, makes me laugh.

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Renée French

Renée French is a real treasure. Her books are a combination of sweet and creepy, some titles meant for older readers like The Ticking, others more squarely at children like The Soap Lady. She has a soft, gentle art that feels at times like if I blow on the page it will just float away.

Her compilation of short stories, Marbles in My Underpants, is out of print and fetches really high prices on the secondhand market, but I can’t bear to part with my copy. It’s such a great combination of amusing and strange and bizarre that I don’t think I’d ever be able to find again.

This cute little drawing from French at MoCCA just makes me smile. There’s something about a faceless stuffed toy walking around with a glass of wine that just seems right.

Five Things That Make Me Happy (part 7)

“Why Not Smile” by R.E.M.
I’ve always loved this song from R.E.M.’s much-maligned album Up; the first sans drummer Bill Berry, there’s a much quieter, almost etherial nature to the album in general. There’s such a sense of hope about this song that it gets me every time—for a song that starts with the quiet lyric “the concrete broke your fall” it’s surprising how upbeat this song ultimately is. (There’s a not-very-good fan video of the song on YouTube that at least lets you hear the song itself.)

TrioThe Cactus Fairy
Laura came into my office today with both hands full of tiny little pots, each with their own little cactus. She’d been replanting some of the cacti from a large number that she’d raised from little dots, and by the time she left, three cacti were sitting on my bookshelf next to the window. They’re wee little things and adorable. Hopefully I won’t over-water them (as some other co-workers have accidentally done).

Han Ah Reum’s Wasabi Green Peas
I used to think that all wasabi green peas were the same. You know, crunchy, tasting of slight spice and heat. That sort of thing. When I work at Big Planet Comics on a Sunday (about once every six weeks or so), I’ll stop at Han Ah Reum (also known as H Mart) and do a little shopping. It’s a Korean chain of grocery stores that has a location near the store, and it’s always a journey into excitement. I wouldn’t have expected my best purchase from the last trip, though, to have been some wasabi green peas that I threw into the basket as an afterthought. They’ve got an amazing level of spice to them; not just in terms of heat, but rather in flavor. I ate the last handful this evening and it took all the control in the world to not have devoured them all sooner.

The Wire Series Finale
This actually made me both happy and sad. I started watching The Wire on June 2nd, 2002. The show began that night, and a combination of a love for HBO’s shows at the time as well as recognizing cast members from Oz and, well, I decided I should give it a try. To be honest, I wasn’t terribly sure at first if I was going to stick around. The first season began very slowly, but I decided to hang in there and I was definitely rewarded for doing so. Sunday’s episode closed out its fifth and final season, and it makes me so happy that I’ve been able to enjoy 60 fantastic episodes. I’d stood up to get something across the room about ten minutes from the end, and ended up standing in place, staring at the screen through its finale. That felt right, somehow. Standing at attention, some sort of show of respect, to what I came to feel was one of the best shows on television. It never got high viewership numbers, but the amount of critical praise continually heaped on the show probably kept it alive. I’ll miss this a great deal, but I’m so glad I got to enjoy as much of it as I did.

Driving Home In Daylight
Now don’t get me wrong, I hate the fact that when I wake up for work it’s still dark out. But being able to leave work while it’s still light is a huge thing for me. It gives me more incentive to exercise, to do things, to have the chance to do more than just go home and eat dinner and prepare for bed. I went out and ran after work yesterday, and it was lovely. I can’t wait for it to be a month from now, by which time it will be a little warmer and lighter even later. Hurrah!

A First for Everything

This will sound strange to many people, I’m sure, but amidst runs to the grocery store and other errands (oh, the excitement) I ended up doing something that I’d never done before—I met one of my neighbors.

I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t ever met any of my neighbors before. At Peachtree (1996-2001), I honestly didn’t even see the three neighbors on my floor for a couple of months, and then I just felt silly introducing myself at that point. I know, I should’ve said something, but… well, there we go. Then at Archstone (2001-2005), I only had one neighbor on my floor because the ground floor was built into a hill and so two of the four areas were equipment storage. There I’d occasionally smile and nod at the person who lived across the way, but neither of us ever talked to the other person. So there you go.

Now that I’m in Woodbury Park (2005+), I had once or twice held the door for the older woman on my floor, but she never seemed really ready to talk. (And she’s since moved out, and while I think there might be someone else there now, I have yet to see any real evidence of him or her, just that flyers on the doorstep vanish.) The people on either side I also hadn’t ever seen for months, and I am never even entirely sure at any given moment if there’s anyone in apartment on my left.

However! The apartment on my right which went vacant about two months ago now has a new inhabitant. He had the door propped open while I was heading out, so I said hello and gave him my name (and vice versa). That was painless.

But… I dunno… for some reason I’ve never felt like really introducing myself. Like doing so would be saying, “You’re going to be living there forever, time to know the locals.” Is this just me when it comes to a rented apartment?

(That said, I do quite love my neighborhood. If I could afford to buy in it, I would!)