And I Wish I Could Have All That She Has Got, Hey

As soon as it was revealed that she was sick, people were asking me how I felt about the Queen. When she died, people were looking at me expectantly, waiting for some particular statement born of my nationality and whatever that might mean for my feelings towards a 96-year old woman I’d never met. It was a strange experience for a few days there, I have to say.

I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about the monarchy, I’m ashamed to say, beyond feeling as if it’s a ridiculous and outdated institution. That said, that could be said for more than half of what makes up British culture at any given moment, so that’s hardly the most damning criticism; I’m not someone to yell about how corrupt and evil the Royals are because of their connection to colonialism and slavery — and, as social media has shown over the last week or so, there’s certainly a lot who’ll talk about that at length — nor am I someone who romanticizes and makes excuses for the Royals and their behavior because they’re national institutions or whatever, either. They are just particularly expensive wallpaper to me, in a strange way — always there, only occasionally notable if nothing else is happening at the time.

The need others — all American-born, of course — had for me to have a take, an emotional reaction, to the Queen’s death reminded me of the response surrounding Brexit, or earlier, the Scottish Independence vote. This want for me to be at once entertainingly vitriolic and also help them understand what was happening, as if I had a verisimilitude due to where I was born that could help them navigate their own feelings. Alas, I failed them all.

I did think this, though: my parents met the Queen. It was two decades or so ago, and it was at an official event my dad got invited to through his work. There was a list of detailed instructions they received ahead of time, in terms of how to act and behave around Her Majesty, somewhat unsurprisingly, but my favorite was a rule that women’s hats were limited in size so that they wouldn’t overshadow whatever the Queen was wearing on her head that day.

There’s a level of petty there that I think is unintentionally hilarious. Let’s remember that about old Liz, and forget the rest.

Compression Comprehension

“After New York Comic Con, we’ll have done a year’s worth of conventions in four months.”

I was on a call with my editor when he said this, and it’s stuck with me ever since. He’s right, as it turns out; the weird scheduling of comic shows this year — driven in part by late planning and a belief earlier in the year (and late last year, for that matter) that COVID might be a thing of the past by now — meant that a series of big events that would traditionally run from March through October have instead all been squashed into a tiny window between the end of June and the start of October… and I’ve done almost all of them.

(I signed up for my job too late to attend things like Star Wars Celebration or Florida Supercon, as it happens. Everyone else was there, though.)

It’s something that I’ve found particularly useful to keep in mind when I’m feeling tired or run down lately; as I write, there’s another convention happening — D23 Expo, in Anaheim, California — because, of course there is. The way things feel right now, there’s always another convention happening somewhere, and even if I’m not there, I’m working it somehow. I’m not at D23, but I’m part of the support team, writing stories and quick news hits from home connected to what’s being announced.

There’s actually another convention this weekend, right here in town, that I don’t have time to attend… because I’m working as support for the California one. There’s a strange point being made there, I feel, even if I don’t know what that point actually is.

Maybe the point is that I’m not imagining that things feel a little too non-stop right now. There’s a year being squashed into four months, and I’m squashed in there with it, trying to find space to do everything while keeping up with the outside world.

Never Stop Never Stopping

To go from being, essentially, a hermit for two and a half years because of COVID to traveling across the country repeatedly in a five week period was, I’m sure you’ll be able to imagine, a surreal and dizzying experience. Prior to taking on this new gig, I’d eaten a meal outside of my house literally once since everything got locked down; then, I was spending a week in Southern California, followed by ten days home, then a week in Illinois, then another ten days home, then a few days in Washington State. There were things that didn’t get unpacked. There were countless COVID tests being taken.

To make matters more strange, Portland had an impossibly hot summer this year — I suspect this’ll be something that happens every year from now on, sadly — and I live in a house where there’s no air conditioning except for a window unit on the first floor; for most of my time between conventions, everyone in the house was sleeping on couches in the living room because it was the only place in the house cool enough to actually sleep. I’m pretty sure that I spent maybe seven or eight days total in my own bed between the middle of June and last week or so, adding to the feeling that I didn’t really get a lot of home time this summer.

It sounds ridiculous, but I started to think about all the songs I’ve heard about how lonely and shitty touring life is during all of this, as well as imagining myself as a businessman who had to travel nonstop for their job; if there was an alternate reality where I could project myself into having to travel continuously for my job, I’d do so, feeling a mix of frustration and exhaustion that I imagined people in those jobs would feel. I spent the summer wanting to be home, and longing for the calm and stillness I imagined fall will bring. The cool weather, too.

Theme From “Welcome Back, Kotter”

I didn’t, I promise, intend to take more than a month off from this site; I didn’t intend to take any time off at all, but if there had been a break in mind, it would have been both shorter and announced in advance. What happened, quite simply, was my new job, and its demands on my time.

It took quite a while for me to find a way to negotiate my first full time staff writing gig in more than a decade in terms of how it fits into my everyday life. I didn’t expect that in advance, I’ll be honest; I had this idea in my head that it’d simply be like being a freelancer, except that I’d only be writing for one outlet instead of multiple. Moreover, in my imagined scenario, because I’d had an ongoing staff position, I’d have new amounts of free time because I wouldn’t be looking for new gigs all the time, nor invoicing at the end of the month. Oh, what an innocent I was…!

The reality includes daily timekeeping, eight-hour workdays (plus an additional hour lunch, meaning it’s nine hours total, necessitating an earlier start time each day than before), more meetings than I’d imagined, and no shortage of training and internal communication to keep track of. I spend probably a similar amount of time writing as before, but now I have all manner of additional duties. (And, not unimportantly, additional things to think about, too.)

Add to that the fact that, for the first six weeks of my official employment, I had three different comic conventions to attend across the country — San Diego Comic-Con, followed by C2E2 in Chicago two weeks later, then Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle two weeks after that — and the reasons for my accidental absence become clearer, I suspect. I was in motion, constantly, both literally and emotionally. Things kept happening.

I’m back now, or at least I intend to be. There’s one more convention I’ll be attending in person this year (New York Comic Con, next month), and another couple I’ll be working on from the comfort of my own home, so I’m sure I’ll feel busy and overwhelmed again at times. But this is somewhere I don’t want to leave for too long, I promise. I’m sorry I was silent here for as long as I was.

Roads

There was a point, many many years ago now, where I spent a night with a girlfriend and we were both convinced she was pregnant. I say “convinced,” but the correct word to use, the only one that actually explains how it felt at the time, would be “terrified.”

She wasn’t a girlfriend at the time; she was an ex, although we’d get back together after this — as a result of this, really — and the split would be blurred out of our shared story as an awkward, uncomfortable inconvenience. But I remember the night we spent together, neither of us able to sleep, our minds spinning silently, separately, about what it would mean if she really was pregnant.

In retrospect, the details surrounding everything slip away and feel almost fictional. I know there was one night of this uncertainty, this Schrodinger’s Pregnancy, but I can’t remember why, why it was one night and then we’d know: was it that she was late, and we couldn’t get to a store to buy a test until the next day? Had something happened? I genuinely can’t remember. All I remember was that night, the lying next to each other awake and quiet, thinking to myself what if what if what if.

Both of us were still in art school, both of us not ready for the reality of being parents. Looking back, neither of us even had an idea what that really meant despite being uncles and aunts at the time. I spent the night with that hopeful, childish thought that maybe it would all go away and everything would be better in the morning. Surreally, the next day, we found out that she wasn’t pregnant after all; my pleas to the universe being answered.

I found myself thinking of this the other evening, out of nowhere, with the sudden realization that, had things turned out differently, had she been pregnant, that kid would be older than I was when everything had happened on that night. Suddenly, I felt older.

Got My Mind Made Up I Got My Finger On The Button

I missed the 25th anniversary of In It For The Money, the Supergrass album, earlier this year — apparently, it was in April, now that I’ve thought about it enough to go check — but even just thinking about its release and where my life was at at the time has had me thinking over the last few days.

In April 1997, I was speeding towards the end of my BA course in art school, and filled with no small amount of panic about the fact. I had no real idea what I was going to do next — I’m sure that I must have already interviewed about continuing into a Masters degree by that point, but I almost certainly wouldn’t have known that I’d gotten in — and, equally, no real idea about what I was truly working towards with the final exhibition that was going to make up the majority of my final grade. That spring, I was in mild panic the entire time.

I was, however, still a music fan and someone who obsessively went to record stores every week to check out the new releases and see what was happening. I remember being into the first couple of singles from In It For The Money, and convinced with the confidence of someone who genuinely knows no better that the full album would be integral to getting my work done in a timely, successful manner. So, I bought it.

I can still remember the sheer panic I felt when going to the bank immediately afterwards and realizing that I’d accidentally spent the last of my money on the album, and wouldn’t be able to buy food as a result. I am, thankfully, far more financially solvent today, but I’ll never ever forget what that felt like; the sense of regret, of panic, and of suddenly being aware of the value of things. Or, more accurately, the lack of value of other things.

In It For The Money, ironically, didn’t even come close to living up to those first two singles. I should’ve bought some groceries instead.

Welcome Back Welcome Back Welcome

As you read this, I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con for the first time in three years. (I’m writing this ahead of time, because at the show itself, I’ll be writing up… well, a lot of other things.) I’m genuinely nervous about returning, for reasons that have nothing to do with my very real fear of getting COVID from a convention center filled with 150,000 people; I’m nervous about returning to the show and the exertion required to cover it across its five-day span, and whether I’ll have aged out of being able to do that without getting too exhausted and overwhelmed on a regular basis.

My editors, bless them, have been particularly generous about building in time for me to relax and not lose my mind. There’s an official schedule, and on it, there’s a note that repeats in all caps, telling us to RELAX; there are even asterisks surrounding it for emphasis. We’re all seasoned Comic-Con veterans, and yet, we’re also all aware that it’s been three years and we’re all a little older and a little bit wary at this point. We all need reminders in capital letters, putting our health and well-being on the schedule just in case we lose track of the important things.

I am excited about it all; I should say that. As nervous as I am, I’m excited to get back to this thing that I really have been missing for all this time. There’s something about a convention (and, especially covering a convention for work the way that I’ve been doing pretty continuously for the last decade-plus) that is an experience unlike any other, and it’s something that I’ve surprised myself by missing to the extent that I have. So, yeah: I’m glad to be going back, all things considered… I’m just quietly expecting disaster at any given opportunity, because, well, given the past couple of years, why wouldn’t I?

Meanwhile, Two Decades Earlier

I wrote awhile back about missing the 20th anniversary of my moving to the States; real life had intruded and I was too busy just… doing stuff (probably work) to keep track of when that had actually happened. Well, as I’ve been filling in paperwork relating to my new job, I’ve recently been revisiting my immigration progress and can happily report: it was March 17, 2002, that I left the UK for good and moved to the United States.

I’d actually forgotten just how convoluted and involved all the immigration stuff was, to be honest. My brain had blurred it all into a list of lengthy meetings and headshots taken at photographers who made their living helping immigrants with last minute government-ready images; something that was, repeatedly, a drag but not necessarily hard or unpleasant. It went on for years and it was expensive, sure, but it wasn’t that bad, I’d told myself.

Looking back at all the paperwork, and there’s a lot of paperwork to look back at, is a reminder of how incremental the process was, and how nerve wracking that felt at the time. Every decision, no matter how seemingly small in retrospect — going from a Conditional Permanent Resident of the US to being a Permanent Resident of the US, for example — would take months, and would require written requests, supporting documentation, and no small amount of patience.

Amusingly, my memory proved to be faulty in the different direction, as well; I remember the wait between the marriage and getting a green card as taking a long time, in part because of the complaints I was getting from Kate on a regular basis about my not bringing money into the house. Turns out, I had a green card three weeks after getting married. There’s no small amount of retrospective maybe there were earlier signs that I didn’t pick up on to learn from looking back, it seems.

Looking through all the paperwork was a sobering, surreal reminder of things I’d clearly filed away mentally with no desire to revisit. At the same time, though, it’s almost exciting to excavate your own life and relearn your own history.