Blog

Essays

First Crush and Much More: Dec 2011

To set up this story, you have to know a bit about where I am from. I grew up in the Central Valley of California, between fields of corn, rice, and cotton with dairies and orchards all around. When your nearest neighbors are old farmers that are still a couple of country blocks away, you learn to appreciate the social aspects of school, no matter how positive or negative they might be. That being said, all I wanted to do was to make friends and be accepted.

We were rather isolated growing up. My parents worked hard to support us and my sister was always buried in the books, so I was left to my devices which normally revolved around music, movies, and video games.

Our elementary/jr. high school was placed smack dab in the middle of all those aforementioned farms and ranches, and while we only had around 80 kids in our 8th grade class total, most of them were either the offspring of the richer farm owners, or the poorer kids which included the migrant worker’s children and a few others such as myself.

While I had started going to that school since 3rd grade and knew all the kids rather well, only a few of them I would have called my friends. We were the geeky, video game playing, rock music listening, comic book collecting few. While we sometimes mingled with the rich kids, it was mostly because they needed us to do their homework for them. Once we were in 8th grade, I had gotten smart enough to make some extra pocket cash off of them from charging a couple of bucks to copy my work. This at least gave me access to some snacks and soda or whatever. What I lacked in money, I made up for in brains.

That was all well and good, but in the end all we really wanted was to belong to the group. We wanted to be accepted by the rich and popular kids, no matter how much we acted as if we did not care about their opinions. Now, what made this difficult was the fact that I was always a rather tall and chubby kid. By this time I was already 6’1, somewhat overweight, not huge, but I did not flatter much because I wore sweat pants and baggy shirts everyday. I could not find pants that were comfortable to my awkward size, so sweat pants were the way to go. This made me a huge target for ridicule of course.

I mean, not only did I not have decent looking clothes, they were not name-brand, top of the line stuff. We also could not afford to get my nice sneakers or the name-brand backpacks that most of the other kids had, so therefore I was even more of an outcast. Like I stated before, I was overall a happy child, but I just wanted to belong. Add that to the fact that my hormones had recently started raging out of control to that point where even the slightest touch from a girl could set you off, and I was not comfortable in my on skin.

To move on though, 8th grade started off as most years did, nothing special, just back to school stuff. While we were trying to figure out all of the new comics and cards to trade with each other, we were also trying to gauge where we stood with everyone again. About a month into the year, a new girl appeared at our school. We will call her Annie for this story.

I was immediately drawn to Annie, not due to a sexual attraction even though she was cute, but due to the fact that she was wearing some kind of grunge band t-shirt. I cannot remember for the life of me what band it was, but it was that signal, that flag that we wear on our chest. Your t-shirt was a way to signal to others things you were into, hoping to get a response. Add that to the fact that I knew how hard it was to be the new kid, I reached out to her within the first few days.

We immediately hit it off. She was obviously one of us outsiders that was not into designer jeans and top-40 music. She was someone that was into rock, movies, and Star Wars. Up to that point I had never met a chick that was into Star Wars before like us geeks were. This was an immediate point of convergence.

Needless to say Annie and I became good at-school friends rather quickly. If you are not aware, an at-school friend is someone that you talk to and hang out with, but only at school. Never outside of that. We started writing each other Star Wars and other assorted film quizzes, always trying to stump the other with our facts and useless knowledge of the film industry. We also started recording all of the band names and singers we could think of, writing them down in a notebook. She would go for awhile, then pass it to me to think of more. We held this fantasy that someday we would name everyone. We thought we were so smart, but thinking back we really only had knowledge about a small subset of music. Mind you, we were more informed than most of the people at the school, but still, it was small in the grand scheme of things.

Being in this group of outsiders, most of just wanted to be part of something, but Annie…she was different. She came with this walk, this air, this attitude that strongly signaled that she did not care about what they thought. She was happy with who she was, or at least she faked it rather well. It did not take long for her to pair off with one of the other outsider guys. Up to that point, I did not even think about things in terms of having a girlfriend, but I knew then that I had a crush on her. Oh well, she was now taken.

Mind you, in my mind, I had no idea what having a girlfriend really meant, or hell, I was not even sure how to handle a crush. I just knew that I liked this girl, but she was taken, so that took a lot of the stress away from those thoughts anyway. Up until that point, the idea that a girl would actually like me back was so far removed that it was alien. I held this belief that no girl would ever be interested in me enough to even hug me or hold my hand. The idea of sex with a girl was something that I thought about, but never once actually considered it a possibility in my life. Girls were like foreign creatures to me. Like I stated before, until Annie, I had no idea that there were even girls that were into the same things as us guys were. What a revelation!

To move on, even though I was in a small group of outsiders that even contained a couple of girls now, I still wanted to be accepted by the “cool” and “popular” kids. I believe the others had similar feelings, but they would never admit it. We all got picked on and shoved around some. Rarely did anything escalate into anything more than words, but once in awhile a small shoving match would break out. We would all make up stories about girls outside of school, or elaborate lies about thinking that X girl liked us. It was just a way to try to help our self-esteem by feeling more connected to those “cool” kids. Of course most of it was bullshit and while we were smart enough to know it, we all accepted it because our lies reflected each others lies. If one tumbles, they all do.

One day I was rather ripped-apart for the awesome sweats that I was wearing. Then during the next class period, Annie asked me “Why do you let them pick on you like that? So what if you like wearing sweats. They are comfortable, fuck ’em.”

Now, I did not think much about that at the time, but in the years since, I came to realize that this was the first time that a girl showed any kind of concern for my personal well-being. She cared for me, even if only on the most superficial level. She hated that they picked on me and wanted to try to help me through this rough time that was adolescence.

Then, as 8th grade moved along, she broke up with that guy she had dated, started dating this older guy from another school. I thought that was so weird. I barely knew anyone that was not from our school, so first, how did she even meet someone different and then how did they hook up? That was such a strange and confusing idea to me, being an isolated farm kid.

So I had a crush on a girl that I only saw at school and dated a guy from outside of the norm. How cool was she?! How could I compete? Well, this was the age that I learned about the powerful tool known as the “mix tape.” If you are unaware of this brilliant, yet hard to wield device, the mix tape is where you record a bunch of song on a tape, from your own collection and/or off of the radio and give it to someone in an attempt to let the songs tell your feelings for you. You give it to the person you have a crush on, silently screaming to them “Just listen to the words…it sums everything up! Just listen!” We would trade mix tapes back and forth, talk bands and songs, but mine were not so much to express my feelings as they were to try to get her to realize that we were so in tune with each other that we MUST be made for one another. We are kindred spirits, so please, be with me.

I know it is silly. Hell, I couldn’t even muster up the courage to call her once in awhile just to chat. I mean, what if I called and she was like “What the hell are you calling me for?” I would have been mortified!

At the end of the school year, I decided that I wanted to give her a present. Something to remember me by, but also as a gesture of affection. While I did not really have much money or know what I could buy for her anyway, I found something in my room that was perfect. We were both fans of Pink Floyd and I was given, sometime before, a huge poster for their album “The Division Bell.” That was it. I would give it to her after our graduation dance. She would finally know of my affections towards her.

The last week of school came. We went on some field trips to the bay area and whatnot. In a store on Pier 39 she wanted a shirt that had the “Fruit of the Loom” logo on it, but instead of saying the brand name it said “Freak in the Room.” She was short a few bucks, so my mom, who was one of the chaperones on this trip, gave her the couple extra bucks to get her shirt. Alright mom, more bonus points for me!

The day was finally here. The last period of the last day we were given an extended recess period to sit outside with our friends or do whatever and let it all sink in. During this time, some people got together, signed year books, exchanged good byes, some tears flowed. For the most part, I sat alone, away from everyone. I wept a bit. I was not mourning for this thing, this society that I loved, but for the loss of a certain step of childhood. I was about to leave the only real group dynamic that I had known, even if it was a shitty one. At least I knew my expectations here. To top it all off, many of us were going to different schools, including Annie. She and a few others were going to one high school, most of us were heading to another, just due to location. I was about to lose the first girl that was truly nice to me, that showed some form of concern for me, that tried to teach me that I could be happy without being part of the exclusive club. That was a big deal to this 14 year old boy.

Once we had our graduation ceremony we all shuffled into the auditorium for our final dance. We were not ones to enjoy the dances much as they were too poppy and all of the “cool” kids went to them, but as this was the last moments together, we all decided to go. For the most part our small group of friends just sat alone, danced a bit, but tried to talk the DJ into playing something that was not hip-hop or top-40 garbage. We did finally get him to play one Pearl Jam song. That was enough because Pearl Jam was Annie’s and my favorite band at the time. For the most part though, I counted the seconds until we were forced into the world as separate people, no longer the friends that I hoped we would continue to be.

When the dance came to a close, I told Annie that I had a gift for her. My mom brought it with her when she came to pick me up. When I showed Annie the Pink Floyd poster she jumped for joy, said thank you, and gave me a hug.

A hug. I know it does not mean much, but to me at the time, it was the greatest moment in my life. This was my first real crush, the first girl to care about me as a human being outside of family, and we just crossed the threshold into the world physical contact. No one but family had ever shown me affection before. My heart jumped and a smile was on my face for the next two days.

My mother drove me home, and the entire way I felt new. Finally I understood what Annie was trying to tell me many months ago when she told me to stop caring about what the “cool” kids say. I looked forward to the future in a new school with a positive attitude. Maybe I could reinvent myself? Maybe I could finally be the person that I felt I truly was, and no longer this awkward guy that planned everyday around how to avoid ridicule. Maybe, just maybe, life would hand me new friends and people, new adventures, and maybe I would find more girls out there like Annie.

That hug signified the first step into a world of manhood and I am happy that she was the one to give that to me. Over the years she and I talked a bit, wrote a couple of letters, chatted over social networking sites, but really never had a friendship again. While I reached out for her on multiple occasions, she rarely reached back. I don’t know much about her life since as she never really wanted to talk about it, but she always accepted friend requests and chatted a little bit.

I wish that I could find her today. She still has an old myspace page out there, but no updates or contacts in years. I hope that wherever she is, however she is doing, she knows that she made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how insignificant that may seem, or how insignificant I may be.

Essays

Best Friend Blog: Sept 2011

Here is an old essay I wrote many years ago…just posting it here for historical sake.  This was written on 2-September-2011:

So for those that have seen, I have been writing about my various friendships lately. The point is to start documenting my adventures and travels in relationship to those that were with me, but from my point of view. Today I have decided that it is time to talk about one person that meant the world to me for some time. She was not a girlfriend, but a best friend during this time…

I used to hang out at the college a lot, in between classes, or just because a lot of my friends were there. I was sometimes seen as a glue that held groups of people together. One friend once looked around and saw a bunch of smiling people, talking and playing games, and called me the Patron Saint of this group, claiming that it was because of my influence that this existed at all. It was a compliment, but an overzealous one.

On a particular set of days I saw someone walking about the college by herself. I noticed her, as you do, but not in any sexually attracted sort of way, more in a sense of how she moved, walked, ignored the world around her and lived in a happy contemplation. Then this day came a long where, while sitting outside and assisting a friend with homework, quietly talking and smoking or whatever we were doing at the time, I saw her walking towards us. She was still wearing that coat that caused her to not care what was going on, but this time she was obviously coming towards us for some kind of engagement. I was thrilled. I had found myself intrigued by her for a few days, so this was a chance to meet a new friend.

There was some awkwardness at first as she was attempting to figure out how to, well, basically how to make friends. Come to find out she had just recently moved there, was young (17) at the time, and did not really know anyone at all. She came from Oregon and had later told me that she was amazed by the Central Valley because she had never seen a land so flat before.

We got to talking and right away we hit it off. We had a lot of the same tastes in music, in reading, and in movies. We talked philosophy, friends, and the world which we grew up. It was like finding your soul mate. We would clash and argue sometimes, but I like to believe that she looked up to me as an old brother. She would ask me questions, not just about the world, but about personal stuff, stuff that a parent should have taught her but didn’t. Needless to say she was extremely smart for her age, but lacked some of the normal social common sense and niceties.

Later that first day, I saw her walking around town. I stopped to talk, gave her a ride to where she was living. That was a strange situation on it’s own. She was staying with this person all the way across town, the other side of the tracks you might say, payed a shit ton for rent, the woman made her sleep on the couch, and refused to give her a key.

Over the next week is when we really bonded. We argued about the nobility in the action of Socrates, what a songwriter meant when choosing certain words, and which poets are better than others. It was fun, informative, stimulating, and most of, it was all done without a sense of pretentiousness or fuss. It was just good conversation. We stayed up together every day after classes talking. After only a week of knowing her, I went to give her a ride to the place she was staying. When we got there, it was cold and late. I would not leave until I knew she was inside and that night, it was not going to happen.

She banged and banged on the door, kept telling me to leave, she would just stay outside and wait for someone to come home. After awhile I just refused and told her to get in the truck. It was 2 in the morning, cold, and I was not going to let her freeze out there. I told her she is coming to stay at my house tonight, no arguing. She slept on the couch and the next morning we went back to school.

This became the norm. Giving rides and just plain being friends. She introduced me to the music of Bright Eyes, I showed her The Mountain Goats, and we would spend so many nights just talking and listening to music. We taught each other a lot of things.

Then she started falling for this guy from back home. She was going to go back up to see him soon and started asking me those questions about sex. Like I said before, she never seemed to have much in the way of common sense guidance, but a lot of good stories about her father otherwise. I remember this night because of a hilarious tangent our conversation went on when she became confused about a certain term for the woman’s anatomy and my descriptions. She thought I was talking about one thing when I was talking about another and it caused some rather weird fears in her for awhile until we finally got on the same page. We laughed about that night and some hilarious imagery associated with it for many nights to come.

Soon, she was kicked out of the housing situation she was in. This caused her to become a squatter. She stayed on my couch most nights, but was always gracious and always kind. She was not a bum or a mooch by any means, but she always needed someone for a place to crash. She was in college with no place to live. All of this caused some tension between us because it got to feeling that maybe she was only my friend for a couch, maybe she only wanted to hang with me because she needed to sleep some place safe. I got frustrated with it, got somewhat cold towards her…

I feel awful for ever thinking that. It was not her nature and I was wrong to question her motives. Luckily, not long after she took that trip back home and to this guy she liked. When she got back a couple weeks later…she brought him with her. That was a bad decision, nay, a horrible decision, but they got a place to live together. That took all of the strain that I had felt and removed it. She later said that our friendship was much better and stronger after that. It meant a lot to me. She did not blame or judge me for my feelings, she understood them completely, but I still believe they were unjustified.

Well, as time traveled, she made friends with our whole group, she made new friends and brought them into the fold, and we were always there, like a brother and sister, close as could be in that way.

Then a huge moment happened. I decided to move away. I decided that it was time, with various other things falling apart around me, to move and start a new life. I wanted so badly for her or other friends to come with me, but that was never to happen. At my going-away party we had bands and musicians play. When it was the end of my set, I sung and played her favorite song for her…she was in the crowd, singing and crying…I was crying too after seeing her and trying to finish my song. I knew what I was leaving and most of all, I was leaving my best friend in a scary world where she needed someone there…I couldn’t look at her for the rest of the set. It tore my heart out and still, when I recall it today, I wish I could turn away from that image in my mind.

After I moved, we still talked over the internet and phone, but not as often. She grew tired and wary of some of the friends and normalcies of life. After a few months, she was done with that boyfriend she brought back down. He needed someplace to go. Somehow, in a weird turn of events (another story all together), he came and stayed with us. We gave him a chance, payed for him to get his GED which he failed. We got him 3 jobs, all of which he quit or got fired from in a short amount of time. This guy was a complete train wreck. The reason I talk about this is because it leads to the last part of our tale…

A couple of months after he moved up here, she came for a visit. She had a new boyfriend she wanted to tell me about, moved on in her life, and all the things that had been happening since I left. It was good, but weird because of the tension of her ex that was living with us. It all culminated in us throwing a Halloween party, alcohol, and a sexual encounter between her and her ex that should have never happened.

The next morning everything seemed good. She was leaving to go back to home. We dropped her off, she hugged and kissed me, and that was the last time I saw her. A couple of days later she called me to ask me to tell her ex to leave her alone and not talk to her again, which I agreed to do for her. That was fine, but that was the last I ever talked to this person that means to much to me. She never called again.

I reached out to her a few weeks later. She was not home but her roommate answered the phone. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hey is [girl] there?
RM: Uh, no, she is working.
Me: Oh, okay, can you have her call me later please?
RM: Uh, well, I will tell her, but she does not want to talk you.
Now, this was the first I had heard anything about this at all.
Me: What? What is going on?
RM: Well, she just told me she did not want to talk to you, but I will tell her you called and that you want to hear from her.

That was it. She did not want to talk to me. Still, years later, I don’t know the exact reason for the break in contact. All I know is that I lost the best friend that I ever had. Just writing this gets me weeping because to me, she was my soul mate, or at least the closest thing I have ever known to such a title. Since that time, there have been major events in my life and when I looked over to find that friend to talk to, to alleviate my fears and work out my thoughts, she wasn’t there. That was the first time I realized my isolation from the world that I knew.

Since that day I have found her on social networking sites, attempted contact a few times, but I have not heard a word in response, not even a “fuck off”. That I could handle, but this silence has been about the hardest thing in my life to deal with. That fear, that unknown, it is a killer. I have recently found her once more, but I do not have the guts to reach out again. I have this extreme sense of fear that if I did, I would get the same silence and it would tear open this unhealing wound that I have learned to live with. I tell myself that if she wanted to talk to me, she could find me. I am not a hard man to find at all.

I heard some stuff through the grapevine about her, some stories, some whispers of her life. I listen intently, hoping for some clue as to what happened, but rarely do I get any good leads to work off of. One time recently I was back home, went out to a bar that a lot of my old group frequent. I saw a girl that might have been her there. My heart sped and I just could not contain myself very well. I kept looking over because I was not sure if it was her. It has been years and she was still growing and changing. After catching her eye a few times, I convinced myself that it was not her. There was no reaction at all. Mix that with the fact that I was not sold it was her in the first place, I finally settled down some.

That brings us to today where I write about pining for a friendship that I feel was stolen from me. I have a theory that she cut ties to everyone associated with her ex and me due to the influence of her boyfriend at the time. I have no real evidence of this, just suspicions from knowing him some and knowing things she said to me about him. I am saddened by this though because I thought she was smart enough to not let a guy control her life, unless, well, unless she wanted to. Maybe she did not need me anymore. This is the most heart-breaking theory because I would have thought that she loved me enough to tell me to fuck off at least. Years of friendship down the drain just like that.

I wish that I had more insight to add to this. I wish that I had some lesson to take, but if there is anything, it is this:

I feel that I will always be her friend. I will not let her decision to cut ties so dis respectively destroy my love for my best friend. I have told myself that if she ever comes calling again that I would treat her as I always had and be that brother to her that I liked to feel that I was. I would not treat her with scorn and possibly push her away again. This pain that I have is just a signal telling me that that I care, that she is a friend, reminding me that even though friends do some fucked up things sometimes, a true friend will always be there for you and accept you with open arms if that is what you need.

Take it or leave it. I just needed to write it down. Thanks for reading.

H%C

H%C #2 Is Live! Download #1!

Hey there indie comics troopers – this week we have seen the release of H%C #2 – the second issue in my indie, underground, creator-owned zine made specifically to connect new voices to physical comic readers all over the United States.  Between issues #1 and #2 I learned a lot about the publishing process, different paper stocks, and what I wanted.  Now that issue #2 is released I couldn’t be happier.

hpc2First of all, I want to thank all of the creators from both issues – their generous support for this project is the only reason I was able to do it so make sure you check out their websites, instagrams, facebooks, whatever, and support them.  Let them know where you found them and how awesome they are!

Since issue #2 is on the stands and can be ordered by contacting me directly and issue #1 is down to just a handful left unclaimed I feel it is time to release a FREE DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of H%C #1 as a gift for all the support.  Please download the PDF, share it, show your friends…but make sure you READ IT.  The link will be below to that PDF.  Let me know how you like it!

 

H%C #1 – Click think link to download the PDF!

H%C

Update: Podcasts, Publishing, and More!

For anyone that follows the “I Love You, California” podcast you know we have been on a break after the end of season 2 as I work on other projects and play with ideas for season 3.  Don’t worry, I have every intention of doing season 3 and have been actively bouncing ideas around for a theme for it.  With this project, just like almost all others, I am the sole person working it so I often have to move stuff around to fit each project into my creative schedule, but again, it will come in time.

For anyone else who has been following my social media, Twitter and Facebook most notably, you might know that I have also begun working with another podcast network on a very different project centered around comic books.  If you know me you know that I run a small business dealing comic books on the side, have on and off for a long time, and I had ideas for a comic-related podcast brewing in my mind for quite a long time.  Well, a few months back I partnered with the Epic Marvel Podcast over at the Thunderquack Podcasting Networking to create monthly special episodes with my friend Jim Mason about Marvel Cross-over comics.  It is a project we call the Epic Marvel Crossover Podcast and it comes out once a month.  You can find it on the Epic Marvel Podcast feed so feel free to let me know what you think about those!

On top of that I also published my first underground zine focused on comics!  Just like all my ideas it was something that was bouncing around in my head for a year or so before I woke up one more and just decided that I had to do it.  With that I was able to publish “H%C #1,” a 16-page comix zine with submissions from artists all over North America.  It had a meager 251 copy print run and we gave it away for free in comic shops all over Central California and the Bay Area.  I still have copies that I can ship for a small shipping cost, so hit me up if you are interested.

As for the publishing project we are also hard at work on issue #2 of H%C which will be much larger than the first.  We had such good feedback on the first issue that we have received a lot more submissions for issue #2.  My goal is to publish as much good stuff that meets our criteria as I can and see just how big we can make this book before it is crushed under its own weight.  I will soon be creating a new page here on my website for all comic and publishing related ventures and have links on how to order a copy if you are interested!

Right now I have a lot of project work to catch up on but keep in touch here or via social media and let me know what you think.

100PC Flyers

 

i love you california

Episode 30 – Portola

054

Last season we went way back, hundreds of years ago and talked a bit about Sir Francis Drake and his legacy along the California shoreline.  Today we are going to close out season 2 by talking a bit about another historical figure, still hundreds of years ago but after the time of Drake.  In the 1700s the Spanish Empire was looking to expand its reach more into the new land. While they had already landed in areas of South and Central America, there was little foothold going up from Mexico and into California.  Previous explorers had described and landed in the areas that we now know as San Diego and the Monterey Bay. This led the crown to dispatch another group led by Gaspar de Portola, with the mission of displacing the Jesuit Catholic order and creating settlements for the Franciscan Catholic Order in the new world.  This mission is why today we know the name of Portola.

https://shows.pippa.io/i-love-you-california/episodes/ep-30

i love you california

Episode 29 – Mokelumne City

tumblr_ou9vo9WqjQ1sfoezro1_1280

There are many ghost towns in California.  As is the case with towns like Bodie, Drawbridge, or Idria, many have buildings spotted around signaling the once active and prosperous town.  There was once a ghost town in California that few know much about today. It existed at the meeting point between the Consumnes and the Mokelumne rivers in Central CA, somewhere between Stockton and Sacramento.  It was a growing city center with everything looking up for it – so what caused the quick rise and fall of this town that is now remembered as Mokelumne City?

https://shows.pippa.io/i-love-you-california/episodes/ep-29

i love you california

Episode 28 – The Weedpatch Camp

IMG_5230

After the Louisiana purchase and the Mexican-American War our country found themselves with a lot of land causing the great westward expansion.  Many families ended up in the mid-west, states like Oklahoma, where they were given land to farm and ranch and make something that was their own.  In the 1930s those families faced one problem after another – first it was the great depression – then it was the Dust Bowl. A series of poor rain seasons left the central part of the countryside thirsty and left the people hungry.  Without food many families were forced to look elsewhere – this is when they heard about our state, CA, and the agricultural mecca that it was. As all those families starting coming here looking for work and opportunity in what is called the largest American migration of people ever, we had to find someway to house and help all these workers.

Many were stopped and turned away at the state line, but then the Farm Security Administration came into action and built several worker camps up and down the valley.  The most famous of those still standing is our destination today.

https://shows.pippa.io/i-love-you-california/episodes/ep-28-the-weedpatch-camp