I keep remembering Dad’s wedding reception
when Grandpa lost the word lily.
My hand out pointing to one of the centrepieces,
white flowers spilling over onto the table like wine.
I had the garden in my head
when I asked him to name them.
The garden out behind the bungalow he built
that he always kept so neat. I saw him on his knees
in blue overalls, pruning. I saw him pretending
not to mind as a football went crashing
through the fuchsias. Then I saw his eyes,
panicked and dark as the hole where a word should be,
some kind of —
and my dad said lily and this is how we manage.—Joshua Judson (2020), via today’s installment of Pome.
Dad keeps the word lily. I keep the sunlight and the grey squirrels
cascading across the lawn on Sunday mornings.
And together we remember everything.
Interactive! Illustrated! Compendium!
This is one of those situations where the “About the Project” page contains just as many delightful surprises as the project itself. Just a treat from start to finish.
(Reminiscent of An Ocean of Books, a project I blogged about back in November of 2020.)
I am wired for coming home in the same way it is assumed we are wired for leaving. Any adventure that lures me out is no match for the ties that draw me home again. I come home in the way you’d fall asleep after a day spent in the heat of the sun—before you know it’s happened, before you know you want to. Half the pang of growing up for me was realizing that I’d somehow have to create a sense of home wherever I went, that for all the effort I spent trying to leave, all I would ever want to do is figure out homecomings, ways of returning to the place where I feel the most like me.
Where do you feel safe, and like you belong? Are you homesick for many places, like a hometown and a college town and maybe somewhere entirely different? Is it possible to have roots in multiple places?
The last one: woof.
I spent so much of my childhood wrestling with confusion over where I was supposed to fit in. English parents, California upbringing. Older family, only child. House full of books and in-jokes and accents and cultural references my peers didn’t get. A voice that sounded out of place on family visits to the UK. I wanted so badly to figure out why it was so hard for me to feel a sense of belonging, or why, when I did find a place that seemed to capture the rare scent of home, I couldn’t quite fit in.
It’s a much longer conversation than I have time to dive into now, but that question—the notion of being homesick for many places—just knocked the wind out of me. I stopped wrestling with it quite as much as I got older—partly because I began to grow more comfortable with myself, but also because I started to feel shame around wanting to explore immigration or dual nationality or being a third culture kid when a) my nationality is split between two massively privileged, problematic countries, and b) I’m white.
I know it’s not that binary. I’ve had rich, magical conversations with friends from varied nationalities who have enunciated things I never thought I’d hear another person capture. We’ve found common ground in those moments and it has felt like a form of belonging—of home. But I’m still scared to claim it. The focus at this moment in time (rightly so) is on making space for the intersections of identity that have been elided or repressed by White Supremacist culture to be heard. I don’t feel like I have the right to take up space with my own investigation into why I feel out of place—at least not in public. I know, on some level, I am robbing myself by doing this, but I’m still trying to find my way toward the method that feels both ethically considerate and true.
Anyway, the Stauffer essay. It was very good.
This morning I opened Twitter and saw that John le Carré had died.
I don’t know how to talk about this.
He wasn’t John in our house, but David—his given name. I grew up alongside his grandchildren in California, fellow offspring of English parents who had come to LA to work in film and stayed to raise families. Those eight children formed a counterpoint to my existence as an only child; a reassurance that I’m not the only person who pronounces certain words with a different vowel emphasis, or who feels like she needs to have a foot in two countries at once to make any kind of sense.
They’ve also become external sources against which I can confirm my experience of my parents. As dementia alters the way my father moves through the world, I’m more and more attached to the people who knew him as he was before. I don’t believe I’m capable of fully expressing the kind of remarkable and loving man he is and was. I need witnesses.
At 81, the majority of updates my father receives from friends and family are about death.
He and David were eight years apart in age, two patrician Englishmen dual-wielding charm and intellect. They delighted in each other’s company whenever they crossed paths at parties and family gatherings. We’d receive Christmas cards from David’s house in Cornwall and my father would send cheeky handmade bookmarks in return (although, to be fair, he was exceptionally generous with his bookmark-gifting. This week alone I’ve talked to three people who have them sitting visibly on shelves in their homes or offices).
I’ve always had a hard time bridging the generational and international gap between my parents’ worlds and mine. So often, when I go to try and explain my family to my peers, they don’t know the first thing about the people I’m referencing. It feels alienating and strange. Whenever a friend or relative in the UK passes, it feels like losing a fragment of an impossible world I got to be part of as a child.
I remember David taking us to a Chinese restaurant in London where I ate crispy duck with plum sauce for the first time. There was a fountain running down an indoor staircase and everything felt glamorous and grown-up. I’ve never had duck that good since.
I feel strained and strange because the public grief sits at odds with my own experience of this man. It’s not the intimacy of family, nor is it the distanced attraction of fandom. It’s something tangled around the fact that David and my father were of a type, and his death points at something looming in the mist of my future.
The loss of creative people is complex. If we have nothing to do with a creator in person, then our grief is often more to do with the loss of potential future output—the books unwritten and songs unsung. But we are not our work. It is a part of us, but not the whole of us. Certainly no substitute for the love we give—or are unable to give—to our children. No shortcut to understanding our innermost selves, or what we meant to the people who loved us.
The one cult hit my father played a hand in writing is so far from what I want him to be remembered for—but sometimes it’s the only thing I can point to that might help a stranger understand what he means to me.
There is so much about his life that is improbable, delightful, complex. I can’t recount his escapades without feeling like I’m trying to brag. He came of age in the midst of Britain’s satire boom, bucked familial expectation to travel halfway around the world, and ended up touring America as a stage actor and writing movies in Hollywood. Each time I think I know every celebrity anecdote in his arsenal, he surprises me with another.
I can’t tell so many of the jokes he told because my Yorkshire accent is abominable.
How am I going to tell anyone about who he was if I can’t tell his jokes?
The news of David’s passing shakes me because I realize there will be no pageantry of this scale when my father goes, but there will still be some kind of reckoning between what he represented to other people and who he was to me. I’m grieving for my friends, who have lost a father and grandfather, but I’m also grieving this dwindling thread to a place that made me; to something I cannot hold.
Greetings from England, everyone!
I’m back in the UK for my biennial pilgrimage to table at Thought Bubble (and catch up with English friends and family in the process). Since I was last in the country they’ve changed the date of the festival to September, which has been an enormous improvement so far. The weather is just beginning to turn autumnal, with a good few sunny days still in reserve.
If you’re planning on heading to Thought Bubble in Leeds this weekend, you can find me in the Ask for Mercy Marquee at Table 43. Thanks to some cunning distribution work, I’ve got a TON of 100 Demon Dialogues books and plushies already in the country, plus copies of Baggywrinkles and fresh sets of watercolor skyline postcards!
As per usual I’ve made a goofy graphic to help you locate me at the event. Here’s a map:
Being in the country a week early has left a lot of room for acclimatization and a bit of exploration. I’ve been going on six-mile rambles near Egham with my current host, cartoonist Dave Whiteland. We’re not far from Runnymede, site of the signing of the Magna Carta. Interestingly, it’s a landmark more beloved by Americans, who tend to view the Magna Carta as the precursor to our written constitution, but there are also a number of beautiful memorials and installations by local artists scattered throughout the open meadows.
I have so many childhood memories of England coming into view out a plane window. It’s a patchwork quilt in hundreds of shades of green. Each border is picked out in dark hedgerows like raised lines of embroidery. After the rigid grids and circles of American crops seen from the sky, it confirms this sense of being somewhere other.
England is walking through fields and turnstiles and picking up fossils from beds of flint. It’s the particular smell of petrol and peat and cold air and river water. It’s tea and smooth wood floors and the familiarity of gentleness. It’s not perfect here, but it brings me back to a part of myself that feels foundational and true.
After the chaos of touring all summer, I decided to forego scheduling a separate last-minute event in London or Cambridge. It’s enough to be here, and to see friends, and to have the festival to look forward to. I hope to see many of you there in a few days.
The time has come for me to fly away for my FINAL convention of 2016!
This has been a very, very busy year indeed, but I’m planning to go out with a bang at the wonderful Thought Bubble Festival November 5th and 6th in Leeds. If you’re a UK reader, now’s your chance to get Baggywrinkles, A Life in Objects, Bombshells, Irene #6, and all my minicomics without having to pay those pesky international shipping fees!
I’ll be away in the UK for two weeks total, mostly seeing family and friends since I don’t get to come out very often, but I might see about staging another sketch crawl while I’m in London. Drop me a line on Twitter if you’re interested.
Here’s a map of the Royal Armouries Hall (one of the show’s three exhibition spaces), where I’ll be exhibiting at Table 67. There’s also a load of other wonderful creators in the same hall. I’ve taken the liberty of pointing out some of my favorites on the map below.
I’ll also be on a Sunday panel with the great Dan Berry (whose podcast I had a really amazing time guesting on here) talking about MONEY IN COMICS. I’ve got a lot to say about this one.
If you’re coming out, be sure to let me know! I had a great time at Thought Bubble two years ago, and I really can’t wait to see everyone again. Tickets for the convention are available right here.
As for all you American pals, I’ll see you at the end of November!
Well well well, December already and I’m back in the States! I hope you all had a fabulous month.
England and France were absolutely spectacular. I had a sell-out show at Thought Bubble, met a load of great UK creators, explored some of London’s best museums, decompressed in the French countryside, and ate waaaaaaay too much cheese.
(Just kidding. You can never eat too much cheese.)
This is just a quick post to let you all know that my shipping deadline for holiday orders is THIS THURSDAY (December 4th), since I’ll be out of town visiting my family in California for most of December and won’t have access to my stock. If you’ve got a maritime enthusiast in the family, why not get them some quality nautical comics? You can check out all the stuff I’ve got right here. Be sure to request if you’d like me to sign ’em to someone special.
Also, because I feel bad that I don’t have enough time to do a full, in-depth write-up of the trip: have some pages from my sketchbook! (If you’d like to see absolutely everything I’ve done each month, there’s a Patreon tier especially for you! Supporting me making more comics gets you access to exclusive high-res PDFs of all my sketchbook stuff month-by-month.)
That’s all from me for now!
Oh blogitty blog how I’ve been neglecting you…
For those that aren’t aware, I’m in California for the next month churning out the latest issue of Baggywrinkles and working on some other secret comics projects. Comics vacation, if you will.
Freelance jobs have kept me pretty busy, so here’s a bundle of stuff from that plus some doodles to be going on with. I’ve got a Reed-related comic coming out for you later today or tomorrow, as well as an exciting conclusion to the Chacos saga, but those will have to wait until next week.
In the meantime, here’s some stuff!
Portraits for families and couples…
Logo designs for family…
Landscape sketching from a trip to Bellingham…
Reflections on leaving Portland…
And a mess of everyday stuff from being home, watching Game of Thrones for the first time, seeing ParaNorman in theaters (AWESOME, AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, GO RIGHT NOW), practicing tigers, getting stung by a yellowjacket, etc.
(My leg is STILL swollen three days later. Jerks.)
I think that’s it? Maybe? There’s a bunch of other stuff I don’t have permission to share yet, so this’ll have to do for now. Remember you can keep tabs on my less formal Internet movements on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend!