Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Hanged Man, the Moon, the Two of Wands

I asked my friend Leigh to read my three card Tarot, and, obliging, she told me to ask a question before I drew my cards.

The past year had been ineffiably charged. Awash in trouble and success in seemingly unpredictable tides, and the water was always around my feet, if not up around my neck and coming up to drown me with the good and the bad. I'd accomplished so many enormous things in only 12 months time, and each seemingly eclipsing the one before. I'd printed a thousand copies of my Xeric-funded book in a spring blizzard in a freezing garage, screaming and singing in equal parts all the way through. I'd traveled for the first time out of the country (while not having a severe panic attack) for TCAF, the largest convention I'd ever been a part of. As part of the insanely-hard-working AUTOPTIC crew, I'd helped establish a arts/comics/printmaking/music convention of our own for the city I loved and called home, and it was amazing.

But the pain had come almost in equal intensity. Stress cultivated anger and I turned it at myself and friends and anyone who might cross my path and appear a threat to my fragile balance. Like being tied to an operating firehose with no one to hold me steady. And then, as guilty as a tulip is brief, I'd loathe myself and do so behind a shut and locked door so I could punish myself, uninterrupted. I worked constantly to keep myself away from myself. I was my own abusive step-father, my own whiskey stashed behind the sugar and flour, my own attacker. Given an idle moment, I became the devil's instrument and I was such an easy fucking target. I knew just where to jab the knife and how to twist just so. My depression, the thing I couldn't even bear to acknowledge with its goddamn name, was back and she was not leaving this time. I walked out of my studio into an unlit hallway on a summer morning, and as I locked the door to leave, I swear I could feel it, as a cold-hearted, cold-handed woman in the dark, staring daggers into my back. I shivered as if I had walked over my own grave as I left, hoping that she was just not real.

Unfortunately, facts were that indeed she was. Even more real, because she wasn't a metaphor woman haunting me, she was a chemical reality, an endogenous and exogenous mental illness. 

As I've said before, I hated medication. For many reasons ultimately irrelevant in the face of how fucking terrible I felt, in the knowledge that I wanted to stop existing and I was reaching my limit of just silently coexisting with that profound sentiment. But still, I wouldn't. So, instead, I tried everything else available. I didn't accrue hundreds of "Conscientious/Diligent Student" comments on my school report cards for nothing. Astrology, numerology, Meyer's-Brigg's, enneagrams, work-books for every stripe of mental illness, nutrition, and poorly-advised mixtures of vague anti-depressants available at the gas station, for fuck's sake. Therapy, specifically, as the main counter-attack. As a naturally very selective person about opening up, this was fucking hard. Pulling teeth, but with some string and a door, not even a set of pliers. And paying the person to do this to me, out-of-pocket, to boot.

And as it turns out, a big part of what gave that imaginary woman with poor circulation in her hands her power over me was this heavy guilt, this overwhelming shame, this abject fear I had about her. That I was imperfect, a burden, and worthless because I was weak enough to let her in, and - haha, the joke's on you, Skaalrud - I had been probably from the day I started differentiating cells in the womb. Pathetic, and it was my true nature.

But thank god for people who know better, for people who saw and loved and understood me better than I did - because I didn't, and sometimes it's still difficult to keep in perspective - because they told me the truth, told me how to try and fight back, told me they loved me, told me about their own unseen fights, and told me to fucking keep trying. I have never hated silence more than when I learned it was keeping me sick to keep quiet about what was happening to me.

I got medication, again. It made me sick, tired, trembling, unable to eat, unable to sleep some days - unable to see any goddamn light to work towards - and then, as low as I had gone, I began a climb up. That is not over. In truth, I don't know it ever really is. But then I was able to be happy, to be level-headed, and to sleep, as well as experience a reasonable-sized negative reaction to something. Not being laid flat, turned unreachable emotional wreck for no reason at all. I don't get to set it and forget it, either. This is a new part of the work, and I am conscientious and diligent, goddammit.

One of the tennents of the Shitty Religion I worship, as I heard it called once, is that my needs must never supercede or interfere with anyone else's, otherwise I am selfish and selfish people are not loveable. I am only of worth if I can serve other's needs, or, in the absence of others, my needs never infringe upon another person. That taking care of myself, at even the slightest inconvenience to another, was tantamount to crime. If I did, I was sure to punish myself when I laid down at night and it was just me and my brain in the dark. Call me Libra Ascendant, but it tore me up to think I needed to be selfish, but I could understand that I could not help others if I did not know how to and did not help myself. That if a body should try to catch another body, coming through the rye, I had to stop underestimating my own strength and my own worth. I needed to be whole, with arms out and ready.

I asked the Tarot that day, "How do I learn to be selfish, in order to become selfless?"

The take-away of this odd-numbered, tumultuous, glorious year would be just that. Be whole if you want to help others be so, be ready to never stop trying, and know that I will meet you out in the rye if you need me.

And to Leigh, my Kiddo, to Zak, my North Star, and to Alicia, the Woman with the Joy Spark, thank you for it all, and I love you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"destrier" + somebody drop a hat already, I've been crying for hours

I drew a story called "Destrier" and I thought here I would be posting the finished comic, and elaborating on why I'd come to make it in the spirit of someone recovering from something and on an upswing. Thought I'd post it and it would be outside of me and I'd have escaped it. I did that - I wrote out the story of what happened to me and got ready to post the comic once I'd finished drawing it - and then I realized I was lying to myself, even if it were a white one, and immediately stopped. And I might never post that story, but I do still want to write this.

So instead, there will be no lying to anyone in the process. Myself included. And it's one of the hardest things for me to talk about this - which is exactly why I'm going to.

The summer of 2008 was the first worst time of my life. The Bad Summer. I was 20 and I was diagnosed with depression - a word I hate even typing but was unfortunately the truth of the matter, as evidenced by crying for three months straight. By wishing every time I stepped in the shower I'd accidentally topple over and out would go my trouble like a light, by wandering the streets of the small town where I'd spent the first years of my life wondering and deep-down hoping it would be my last because this was no good, I was no good. Exhausted, hollowed-out, a burdenNo goddamn good. 

I told absolutely no one. Somehow I'd been convinced nothing of this sort ever happened to happy, normal people. I'd never been normal in my life, and only ever happy at some seemingly lower, distorted level than my classmates, my family, my friends - so logic followed this horrible feeling I couldn't shake was simply me. Our small town "didn't have" people who were gay and it "didn't have" people with depression. Mental disease and any public discussion of it was utter Greek to those small town folk. Sure, there was gossiping about someone going "nuts," but even if someone was aware of this Greek language, they sure as fuck didn't speak it and would deny ever having met a Greek to keep face, as far as I could tell. No one said a thing otherwise and so I said not a thing as the grip this disease had on me worsened. I curled into it, too. I was this weird, short, half-gay, bookish kid going to school in the cities to learn cartoons and who also cried at night, a lot. Convinced this was my story and that was simply dyed-in-the-wool me and ashamed of it, I let it eat me up. And I still do to this day, to be honest.

In August of 2008, I was curled up in a tiny closet and crying as terribly as I ever had on the phone. My friend told me to go get help, and then ended the call. And, after surviving another long bout of sobbing, I did. With a tiny, tiny kernel of courage it was hard to hold on to, but I did. Thumbed down to "River Falls Clinic" in my contacts (which took a damn long time to even program into the phone, being so terrified) and made the most awkward appointment of my life.

Without telling another soul (are you sensing a theme, here?) I drove myself to that clinic. Feeling like a balloon full of cold vomit, waiting for something to accidentally pop me and spill the smelly remains everywhere. The waiting room was even empty except for me, even, and I sat against the far wall while I waited to be called in. The nurse walked a big, slow, silent line over to me holding that stupid clipboard with that little questionnaire. I swear, a crummy indie-movie director couldn't have staged it better. At the time, it was too frightening to be anything close to funny.

But I got the medication. Still, no words were said between me and my friends, between me and my family about this really, really obvious thing I was going through. Only a few days later I took my new bottle of pills back to school for my sophomore year of college. And I took those pills. Faithfully, at first, always without a word to my roommates, and I put that bottle next to my pens at my desk - the same desk I draw at, still.

And after taking them for a few months - away from small town, away from the people I'd never felt I could really be myself with, away from people who said cartoons with a half-sneer or perplexed shock - I felt better. Then I felt good. I didn't cry at night. Maybe I didn't lay down and bop right into the sleep of the righteous, but, then again, probably I never will. I didn't spend the day waiting for the crying and the empty to come barreling on down, the price is right. I drew a lot. I could be myself, and things were becoming okay.

And then I stopped taking the pills because I was happy and I'd always hated them. Because I always will. Because I wanted to quit being Greek this fucking instant and forget I ever had been and get on with being myself.

The thing about depression - and it's not the noun to describe the mild pang of regret that your status update didn't get likes, or the disappointment that you had a less-than-stellar critique in class - is that it's a disease, a disorder, a thing that happens to you and isn't you and you can't control it. Humanity had been struggling it for longer than you have been and still none of us really understand it and we sure as hell can't control or eradicate it completely. I had it and I still have it. Some years have been easier than others, and for a few, I felt free of it, even as setbacks and stress came my way in stinking heaps. I shook it off and worked through like I didn't know a lick of Greek.

I felt it come back slowly but insistently. It'd been a long year, courting stress at work, home, personally, emotionally. And I didn't just shake it off this time. I couldn't just tell myself I didn't have a legitimate mental disease because I didn't want it. I started crying again like I would at 3AM in the middle of the afternoon. In the morning. Outside the grocery store, at the bank, in the bathroom. Started watching my hands clench obsessively and stewing in my head until I'd stewed away a whole day and crying all night and locking myself away to hide my less-than-normal feelings away from sight. I didn't want anyone to know because I still didn't think it was okay to be this way.

I was terrified to tell a soul. Terrified that even the people closest to me, my dearest friends, could never possibly understand. They'd look at me past the tip of their noses in disgust and turn their heads in rejection of how weak and awful and too-needy I'd proven and then I'd be alone going through this again and I didn't think I could do it twice. In fact, I knew I couldn't. That the idea made me so angry and shockingly cast aside that I wouldn't, if it came down to it.

Now I'm going to try and turn around and cut that shitty religion at which I worship off at its knees, and I'm going to try and tell people. I'm telling you now, as best I can at this point.

This isn't the thing I'm writing to you as some victor or triumphant beacon of inner strength. I don't have the answers in black and white. I don't have it figured out. Sometimes I drop my coffee and I have to go have a breakdown for the rest of the day. There are nights - and late afternoons, too - when I have to cry or drink (not booze mind you but really not any better) myself to sleep or suffer in the dark, chewing myself up inside. I blame humanity, then myself, then my friends, then myself, then the stars, then Norway, then myself, and 'round and 'round the mulberry bush we go. I can't draw and I beat myself up for that, which only feeds my depression and on the cycle goes. People stomp on me and push me around and sometimes I let them and it eats me up, or I lash out and that eats me up, too. I push out goodness when it comes because it hurts too much. It seems to me my therapist diagnoses me with some new "wrongness" every week. Depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, splitting, betrayal trauma. There is broken glass on the floor of my studio the scared, dark part of me still wishes I had the nerve to use - still the idea of putting Night Moves on loop and "slipping over" in the shower haunts me. The terror of those things is crippling.

But now I see that my fear is becoming anger, and that, in turn, will become real hate, soon. Towards myself and towards people who don't deserve it. And I'm only pitying myself if I let myself wallow there - where, were it anyone but myself, I would forcibly yank them out of the depths if it were in my power to do so.

So I have to try to be actually brave and get myself out of that. I'm going to therapy again today. Which terrifies me. Maybe I've got some new diagnosis coming to level me completely, or maybe nothing. Maybe something good will happen and I'll get closer to turning that corner. I'm probably going to have to drive alone to that clinic in River Falls in the near future full of cold vomit and fill out that fucking clipboard again. Which terrifies me. The distinct pleasure of crying in front of a medical professional is probably also going to be mine again. I might learn to not hate having to take meds to feel better, and maybe I never fucking will. Which terrifies me. This is not a resolved story. Which terrifies me.

The fact remains I should try. So I'm telling you and I'm not lying about any of it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Still here.

I've got a lot to say. A convention to recap, a crisis to recount, and a cluttered head to get straight. An all-too-brief summer to wrap-up. Something to explain to myself, which, put out into the world, might do somebody good, sometime, somewhere - so I'm going to. A new comic to finish and post, and a new mission starting tomorrow.

But just Date Palms and inking for tonight.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

AUTOPTIC/the eight month.

It happened. The Day of Plans. The spiritual con. A feast(fest) for the eyes. The French came, conquered, and made merry. Jaime made knock-knock jokes. People drew, threw down a beautiful mess, and we all made something together. I wore my battle boots and got older.

Monday, July 8, 2013

July = DUH/UGH

Today begins the summer comics class, and I am happily joined with my comrades Amaya and Jack. 

And thus today begins the no-sleep, all-work-substitute-play-with-more-work month of July. I'm feeling a little physically and mentally overwhelmed with it. A little damn overwhelmed. Two comic deadlines, in a WEEK and a little over a WEEK. Plus, convention planning, printing, and that damn thing called a  second job. 

See all of you on the flip.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Houses of the Holy

 New comic!

How to Walk Thru Fire.

"seek first to understand, then to judge"

And for those of you interested in back story, the working cogs, the spoilers of a thing - I started this 14 weeks ago, or so my time-keeper Instagram tells me. That was March. Just before I dove headfirst into printing the Xeric, and at a moment of really awful personal and emotional stress. The feeling I'd very nearly ducked at the end of last year was cycling back again. Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead of me and feeling out of line with the values of people populating my days and out of favor of loved ones - not a pleasant feeling. It'd already been a long, drawn-out winter - and there was more to come, as I would soon find.

So again, I put my nose down on a stack of twenty sheets of paper one particularly shitty day while sitting at Le Spyhouse and hacked that feeling out. The only goddamn thing to do about it. This story was another one that seemed to unearth itself in large heaps. Had most of it fleshed out by that night, and my own unhappiness slightly eased. 

I'm a quietly a believer in moony-things. Stars, numbers, the works. If you do believe, using the stars to navigate yourself  is a seemingly obvious avenue to take. And I was fucking confused. About everything. Waking up meant rising out of bad dreams into visceral dread. I couldn't understand the actions or read my friends' intentions, and it scared me. So I read them wrong and got hurt. I turned to those moony-things to tell me what was wrong with me, why I was so out of step with everyone else. Whether it was purely exhaustion, bad stars, or simply reaching my fill of the cruelty of humanity I felt washing over me too often, I thought I was going through an emotional beat-down. In reality, more just an internal re-structuring. A hardware update.

I have always processed the world through my internal framework, taken in and processed against an invisible metric that, admittedly, I cannot articulate. A system of ideals and moral bracketing through which all earthly information had to pass, and pass judgement. A trait I also have not been fully aware of - and, until very, very recently, not aware at all that this is not how everybody functions. A reason why I might seem quiet or clam-mouthed, or why I look too intently when people speak, or withdraw from the over-stimulation of things other people consider so goddamn "fun." I'm taking in a shit-ton of information, only a fraction of it verbal, and running it through this cotton-gin brain. And it'll fry my circuit on a bad day. It's also why I have, now admittedly, high expectations of myself and everyone - but most of all myself. I came with pre-installed, ancient hardware of processing right/wrong, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

And the moment I seemed to realize that every other person on earth just functioned differently than I did, and that was simply the truth, without it being "right" or "wrong," I sort of freaked out. Lashed out for a while, withdrew for another while. Drew this story. And very slowly came to terms with it. Realizing that if I changed my mind, it was not destroying the integrity of this internal framework by taking out a crucial piece - and by extension destroying myself in the process, as I've always felt internally like one, unchanged and unchangeable thing - but just fixing one piece of that thing. A new spark-plug a different car does not make. And in this analogy it's not even a spark-plug. It's a fucking rear-view mirror I'm switching out, so why burn the car down for that?

That's one long-ass mixed metaphor about my head and heart being a computer and a car, but that's I guess how it is.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The summer of Hi-Balls and Eyeballs.

In the effort to be elaborate and detailed about what's happening with me this summer, I accidentally erased the original copy of this post. And in writing it all down, I realize I should not be making a goddamn blog post when I have 8 pages to finish inking at the my hot little elbow, waiting, waiting, waiting. So, the brief-ish run down of this stormy Minneapolitan summer to come.

 - Excimer - a show featuring local cartoonists part of AUTOPTIC this August, put on by Paper Darts Pop-Up in SooLocal, with a lot of my friends, a few real intimidating wall neighbors, and me.

- Sequence Now - another comics show, this time hosted by SooVac proper, and also, friends, intimidating ones at that, and me. Currently finishing a new 40-pager called "Houses of the Holy," and taking my sweet ass time on it. But, hopefully, a damn good one because of it.

- Mager's and Quinn is hosting copies of Sea Change as part of their notable books display for July, as curated by my friend, faithful champion, and keeper of the faith, Jim Keefe. Thanks to that wonderful guy, again and again.

- Rock Ink Roll - cooking a submission up for that. Involves a lot of layering and scanning. I'm goddamn excited to make it.

- MCAD PCSS Comics - being taught by Britt Sabo, with myself and my good friends Amaya and Jack Kotz as the loyal, whip-smart, Cowboy-Bebop-obsessed TA's.

- AUTOPTIC. yeah. That thing. At our Wednesday meeting at Jordan's studio, took our first pass at the seating chart for 2 1/2 hours. At the end, everybody rushed to take pictures on their fancy-schmancy iPhones, and I rushed to take a picture of them taking pictures.

And after a long, long harried morning today, staring into the dark heart of retail and the flinty faces of uncaring suburbanites for too long just for some stupid thing called money- after beginning to see smoke where there should be a spark behind people's eyes, and wondering why the fuck I bother, came to find my reimbursement check from the Xeric waiting in the mailbox. Like a bird sleeping in a nest, or some other beautiful, small benediction. Small mercies. God bless the Xeric.

Playing "Spirt of Eden" by Talk Talk on loop, too. I think it just happened to me. Beware.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CAKE 2013

Printing reports seem far simpler to relate than convention reports. But, this one is both - so first, to printing.

I decided to print a new book, Godhead #1, for CAKE. And I will begin by saying, yes, of course, I managed to screw it up. Which is more funny than painful to me now. You'd think I'd have learned to stay clear of simple, obvious mistakes, such as laying the book out incorrectly in the first place, but, hell no. I haven't. And each time at press there was a new issue I'd never encountered before rearing it's nasty little head. "Everyday a new problem," I'd say, before the frustration came boiling up my neck and I'd look for the nearest thing to kick as hard as I could. The only lesson I'd seemed to have learned from printing Sea Change was not to go wailing into failure, but square up and suck down my overreactive emotions, and stop. Still not easy for me.

Printing plates, while also burning my retinas on a loaner computer. 

Laid out the book for 8 1/2 by 14 sheets of paper, which I'd mistakenly picked up for make-ready for Sea Change, and just so happened to have 10 reams for 9 plates. One for each plate, and one left over for make-ready. Made for a square book, but not ugly. Seemingly perfect. Got some good-looking plates out of the HP, and found myself with two days off (in a fucking row, no less!). Two weeks from CAKE at that point. Seemingly smooth sailing. How could I possibly fuck that up? Oh, you...

I printed the plates incorrectly, and without noticing my mistake, went ahead and printed them on my stock. I printed half of the book on Thursday, the 6th. Had I done the odd-numbered plates first, things would have progressed more quickly, but ha! I didn't! I printed the incorrect ones that day (and even put the press out of commission for a hot minute, again, by simply not locking something down tightly enough) and they looked great. Came to press Friday and quickly realized my mistake. Hung my head and slunk out like a kicked dog. Spent the rest of Friday afternoon drawing away the awful feeling in my gut, and then continued into my five-day workweek slinging coffee and food at well-rested yups with all the gusto of a freshly-kicked dog.

But, picked myself up, and went at it again. After working straight through until Wednesday - now the 12th of June, and 3 days before CAKE, mind you - I spent the night trimming down cover stock. By hand, of course, because I'm apparently encoded with stupid that way.

I essentially started over with this book from scratch on Thursday morning, only two days from CAKE and only a day before I had to hit the road. Got out of bed nursing that same, low and persistent dread that I'd greeted so many times in April, looking out into the snow and down at the crumpled paper strewn everywhere. Picked up a new 10-ream box of paper from the old OfficeMax at 9AM, turned up the Replacements on the radio, and picked up caffeine at the co-op. Found another unopened Hi-Ball awaiting me, like angel scat, at the press. Armed with a new mock-up guide and fresh paper, off I went.

Again - a new problem, though mild. Vacuum for the powder on the delivery end was jammed, and didn't fix itself by blowing out the excess powder built up in the tube. Disassembled it, cussing through out, and cleaned it out as best I could before reattaching it and tightening the rig. Still didn't work, so I let the vacuum run and called my "press consultants." As soon as I hung up, having recieved no answer, the damn thing started working. Plowed onward.

Printed 15 plates that day from 9 to 5, like a real goddamn job, and put my cover stock on for the color - with a full bleed black on the back - and couldn't get it to feed consistently. Sheets were getting pulled in erratically, probably either because the 100# cover stock I'd picked up was too heavy? or I'd misdialed the settings? Still figuring that one. In any case wrestled with that issue until the machine had eaten up 10 sheets or so, and threw her into night latch and called for help.

That was lesson number two of Sea Change: ask for fucking help. Leigh again came through at 6PM and threw down a whoppingly prohibitive $0.66 to photocopy me 30 or so covers on the same stock, leaving me with viable copies for the show, and still not wasting the pretty penny I'd spent on French Paper, either.

I ate? I think I ate. Sometime between that and the night, I must have eaten? Jesus. Anyway.

(I remember now probably jamming my craw with some caffeine and caffeinated Clif bars. Probably that.)

Then came the folding and the collating, starting at roughly 7:30, 8PM? Took 30 pages of each sheet, my long-arm stapler, the cover stock and hauled them in my new suitcase du jour, a beat-up French Paper box, and settled at the light table of MCAD's fourth floor, intending fully to fold, collate, staple-bind, and face-trim 30 copies in that same area. Left the overhead lights off, hit the lightbox on, plugged in some Ink Panthers and Inkstuds, and listened to the rain pour down against the overhead glass as I worked.

Got through all those smoothly before going to face-trim on the public cutters. Did a copy on the cutter that'd been fine for trimming down Tits!, but didn't quite make the cut cleanly enough to be passable. Kind of ragged. Whether it was the combination of more pages and heavier stock that did it, or my relative strength or sharpness of that blade, it wasn't going to work. And the public guillotine cutter has never worked for me, so, as I stood staring at the damn thing and pawing the ragged edge of my book, calculating, Zak called for an update on how the trip to Chicago was unfolding and asked how it was going. At t-minus one day, all I had to do was trim the goddamn things and it'd be good. He, with more clarity of wit than me at that point, said, "Use my gulliotine cutter, dummy." That was at midnight. 

Trotted down to the studio to use said cutter and piled out of my car and across the lot just as, one, a guy seemingly jogged down Central wearing big winter gloves in the middle of the goddamn night, and Zak emerged from the side entrance on the phone with Grace, one of the CAKE organizers. He'd just had to call off the performance of Pretty Ladies (probably the only real let down of the show, in retrospect) due to a very sick drummer. I went to folding the covers, stapling the books together, and chopping them down on the guillotine cutter as he climbed through a metaphor-mountain of boxes to pack for the show. Managed to finish the books (and even salvage the one's I'd trimmed horribly at first) and get home to pack up myself and lower into sleep by 3 that morning.

Hauled out of bed at 7:30AM and before my alarm exhausted but awake, and met Alicia for coffee at the Seward Co-op. Then got on the road with Zak by noon and east down 94 we went.

CAKE 2: Electric Bugaloo was a great sequel to a great convention last year. Too many good things happened to recount individually, and too many good road trip stories on the way down (and on the way back in the dead of Sunday night with a tired pair of Zak Sally and Tom K. firing off constant conversation until Minneapolis came into view) but the show itself was a wonderful experience. My personal sales were way up from the year previous in Chicago, and better overall for me than TCAF, even. Godhead, which was originally the only debut for the show, got a little write-up on the CAKE site along with Sea Change, and I'd either sold out or traded or consigned all but three of my stock, and each copy of Godhead was off of my hands. At the busy points of Saturday and Sunday both I was backlogged on signing and drawing in books by a couple people for some time. Something I was not really ready for, as I thought I could spent more time putting meticulous drawings in each book. 

The venue was spacious, especially in the space within the rows for exhibitors. So roomy, in fact, both sides of exhibitors could comfortably store their bags, extra chairs, etc., without bumping into each other. Which meant the aisles for visitors sometimes got clogged past the point of comfort, but it was relatively manageable to move about without disturbing people trying to browse through books at a table. The Center on Halsted was beautiful, and apparently also a host to a gay cowboy line dance on the roof patio, which I sadly missed. The Whole Foods downstairs was like a revelation to have, as I was often reaching for an empty coffee cup that weekend. All the satellite events happening that weekend (the Deitch signing, comic battle at Quimby's, music at the Observatory, listening to Blackhawk fans squawk) were fun to attend, but meant I was crawling back to the couch cushions on Grace's floor as a barely-put together bag of bones in the night. Generally, there was a pretty happy and productive atmosphere each day of the show, though the definite trend among exhibitors was that those who'd gone to TCAF a month previous felt so-so on sales, and those who hadn't were pretty happy with them. Sitting in Minneapolis row, with Evan Palmer, Tim Sievert, Anna Bongiovanni, Hannah Blumenrich, 2d Cloud and Will Dinksi at the back of the auditorium didn't seem to pose any logistical problems, either, as traffic was pretty steady. Some of those along the walls of the auditorium itself mentioned a little lackluster attendance for their tables, but not all of them.

The organizers did a fantastic job. Having dipped my toes into that realm now, I see it is no simple, easy, or quickly-done feat. I owe all of them for the wonderful show and overwhelmingly positive experience I had, and especially to Grace Tran, who kindly let me crash on her floor and called me a "wood nymph," which I take as a high honor. 

CAKE 2013, as it grows increasingly small in the rearview, seems to me an up-note ending to the cycle of a year. At the 2012 show, I'd just recieved word I'd gotten the Xeric, and I'd sent in my expense report a week before the 2013, with a huge stack of printed paper and a whole lot of experience and support in the time between. I'd gone from putting out a small amount of work while living at my parents' house in rural Wisconsin post-graduation, to living in Minneapolis again, making as much work as I ever had and becoming competent with the printing press. And in the few days since CAKE, I've only felt buoyed by the experience and the new-found connections with other cartoonists resulting from the show. A lot of good news for my friends has also followed in its wake.

For me, it was good. It was great. It was one not to have been missed.

My tablemate, good friend and hardworking gal Leigh Luna, with none other than -- 

 -- Evan Palmer's back.

The view from the Observatory roof, which was obscenely cinematic.

TCAF 2013

Just pictures for now. The Recap, later.