Gone Back Through That Door

Like Billy Pilgrim, I am unstuck in time again.

As I write this, I’m lying in a bed in an AirBnB in Scotland, and it’s 10:56pm; I’m also just off the phone with Chloe who’s on the East Coast of the US, and it’s four hours earlier for her — until the clocks go back in the US this weekend (as I write), the usual time differences are lessened by an hour — and also thinking about everyone else back home, who is three hours in the past from that. At the same time, I feel curiously divorced from the place where I actually am; I had a sudden moment of realization that I am in the same time period as my sisters, which I know is clearly true because I spent the evening with them, and yet, almost feels impossible because it’s so rare. In a very genuine sense, I’m not sure what time it is.

A lot of this comes from the fact that this UK trip has been near-constant motion for me so far, something underscored by the fact that, this morning, I wasn’t just in another city, I was technically in another country — England, vs. Scotland — and it took me a coach (that broke down, and had to be replaced), a flight, and then an additional car ride to get where I currently am. I started my journey at 7am (having woken up at 4am, thanks to an errant text from my US healthcare provider), and didn’t arrive anywhere for the next eight hours, somehow. That’s what every day has felt like for the last… nine days? Maybe before that, even, before I even left Portland…?

It’s Friday night as I’m writing this, and I’m grateful for the fact that I don’t have to work and/or go anywhere for the next few days; I’m not working or traveling until Tuesday, so aside from day trips to Glasgow and spending time with family, I have no plans. That last part, the not having to be anywhere part, feels necessary to a degree which feels almost melodramatic to confess; as workaholic as I am, I had to tell my manager this week that I was overloaded and overstressed, and burned out as a result. I didn’t mean it in any sense that required him to do anything, but it felt important to just say it and leave the truth out there. This trip has been filled with many good, fun things; it’s also just been filled, and it’s time to take a break before I break.

And We’re Back

Yes, the site was down again, and this time for an extended period: a whole month. (Well, just over, as it happened.) I noticed it was down almost immediately, but fixing it kept falling down a list of priorities that had far more important things on it: in the last few weeks, Chloe’s been sick, I’ve been traveling for work a lot — first to New York for a week for NYCC, and I’m currently in the UK for two different conventions and seeing my family once again — and, in between the two trips, sickness and vacations for other people meant that I was running the site at work essentially solo for an entire week, and and and. Things kept happening; fixing the site was something I wanted to do, but didn’t have time at that very moment, no matter when that very moment turned out to be.

The site being down also helped me deal with the fact that, because so much was happening, I probably would’ve struggled to keep up with it even if I’d been able to; on the New York trip — and the start of the UK trip, which was another 3 day convention for work — my days pretty much consisted of getting up, getting ready, and working straight through until dinner, then some more work, then collapsing into bed, with little or no time for reflection or relaxation in between. When I was running the site from home the week in between, my traditional worktime expanded by an hour or so daily, and the idea of spending more time looking at a screen was not a particularly attractive one. So: letting things be quiet here for awhile felt like a plus.

Now, though, it’s back. I’m back, and I have some things to catch up with — two months of comics read, if nothing else! Technology willing, I’ll be here for the long run from now on. As much as I needed the enforced break, I think, I need this outlet all the more. So, hi.

This Is The Day

Is there such a thing as time dysmorphia? I’m having another of those instances where I feel as if I’m living in three different time periods at once, because of the various things cycling through my life as I write. Like Billy Pilgrim, I feel as if I’ve become unstuck in time… but, thankfully, with less trauma as a result. (Well, so I hope, at least; check in with me in a couple of months to see.)

Almost all of this is work-related to some degree. The part that isn’t is The Now, because… well, that’s where we actually all are. The Now is the everyday and everything that entails, from the to-do lists at the job to the simple tasks of eating, sleeping, and making sure everyone else in the house — human and otherwise — does the same thing. That’s the easy part; it’s the things that are happening right in front of your face that you can’t get by, and just need to take care of.

Then, there’s what’s happening three weeks from now as I write: a trip to New York for New York Comic Con, and everything that’s happening there. It’s the biggest show of the year, and the busiest, too (especially after how strange San Diego Comic-Con turned out to be this year; this one, at least, has celebrities and studios that have had the time to work their way around the strikes), and I already know some — but not all — of what I’ll be up to for it. Meetings and emails and plans are happening, and it’s easy to slip forward into that as if it’s already there.

And then, there’s what’s happening a week after I get back from New York: a three week trip back to the UK, which is also currently in the planning stages. I’m booking flights to multiple places at once, hotels and places to stay at multiple places, trying to work out when and where I’m going to be, and why: who to see, who to talk to… It’s overwhelming and dizzying to try to keep track of. (The potential interviewees are also dizzying in their own right.) Time is a flat circle, as the show and resulting joke had it, but it’s a concept I’m beginning to see the appeal of.

The strangest thing about this is, I actually have something approaching downtime before all this happens, but it doesn’t feel like it: there’s so much planning and conversation about what’s coming that the actual downtime, the weekends off, the theoretical relaxation, doesn’t feel real. All the time I should be savoring because things are about to be crazy, I spend thinking about the planning that hasn’t been done yet.

By the time I get to mid-November, I might have lost my mind. But at least I’ll be back in one piece again.


I’ve been thinking about the phrase “To Be Continued” lately, inspired by reading an essay (from Kevin Huizenga, from one of his Riverside Companion minis) that ends with it, as opposed to coming to any kind of conclusion; what really made me think about it wasn’t its use, per se, but the fact that… well, I’m not sure if it was used in the traditional sense. The next issue of Riverside Companion doesn’t pick up the essay, but is instead about something else entirely. I’m not sure if that original essay is actually completed anywhere. And I kind of love that.

Like everyone who grew up reading comics — or reading and/or watching serialized fiction of any kind, really — “To Be Continued” is a promise; it’s a deal that both parties agree to and understand; “we’re stopping this now, but we’ll pick it up again next time.” It’s something used so much as to have become iconic; I think about the end of Superman Beyond in the mid-2000s, where it’s the three words used on the tombstone to signify that the end isn’t the end. It’s something we all know and (most importantly for the purpose of where my head’s at right now) trust, implicitly.

So, what if it’s used insincerely, or incorrectly? What if we read “To Be Continued” and it’s just not true? (I guess, again, comic fans know that feeling: that favorite series that disappears mid-run and we never know why…) Or, alternately: what if we start using it and reading it as something longer-term, a promise to pick up the idea and come back to it far in the future at some unspecified time? That’s the thought I’ve been circling around: why can’t we use “To Be Continued” as a promise to others and ourselves when we can’t resolve thoughts or ideas or stories but don’t want to abandon them, even if — especially if — we can’t imagine when we’ll get around to it?

“To Be Continued” repurposed less as a tease of a serialized idea or story, and more as a signal that we’re not finished, but events have gotten in the way and we’ll come back to something eventually? I’m deep in the land of semiotics and semantics that matter to no-one, I deeply suspect, and yet: there’s something about this that’s very, very appealing to me here, if I can work it out.

To Be Continued, indeed.

But Tomorrow, Tomorrow

I found myself thinking about the turn of the century recently; about the way that culture felt at the time, and the way that I felt inside that culture, and about comparing that to today.

I didn’t buy into the idea of “Y2K” or “the Millennium Bug” or anything similar; although I knew that it was a Big Deal that we were about to cross over from years starting with 1 to years starting with 2, and that it was going to be odd thinking of the next 12 months as being “00” instead of “98” or “99,” or whatever, I wasn’t really paying attention to the increasingly panicked suggestions that disaster was around the corner for any and all technology. Someone will figure that out, if it’s a real thing was pretty much my attitude towards that.

My thoughts, instead, were caught up in the idea of a societal collapse. Not in the traditional sense of that phrase, but instead the idea common in a lot of things I was reading at the time that popular culture was falling in upon itself as self-reflexiveness and self-parody combined and everything seemed to be inspired by, or copied from, something else. I was reading a lot of cultural theory at the time — I had, after all, just graduated art school just a year or so earlier — and it felt as if something was ending all around me, leaving space for something new, and entirely unknown.

I think about that when I consider the internet today, a space filled with ideas and references and commentary that I, bluntly, don’t understand. It’s not just the number of memes or shared jokes that I’m not privy to, but the shared languages of communities I can’t comprehend on almost any level. For all that the internet makes me despair on a regular basis, especially when it comes to social media spaces and the communities and cliques found therein, there are times when I think about such things in the abstract and realize that, in so many ways, this is what I was expecting almost a quarter of a century ago. This is the future I wanted, even if I didn’t know that at the time.

Good News/Let-Down

The dog is… fine, perhaps…? He’s old, and he’s got old dog things wrong with him, which is how it was more or less explained to me, but anything more serious has thankfully, inexplicably, been avoided despite the blood test that sent alarm bells ringing last week. There was another blood test done to check this, and he had his belly shaved and some radiography done as well just in case. It’s been “looked into,” and he’s… okay…?

I found out via phone call. I’d spent the days before his appointment with an increasing sense of doom and foreboding, as if I knew definitively that this was the beginning of the end (if not the end of the end), and I’d been told that I’d get a call with updates during the appointment when I’d dropped him off that morning. Before it came, I’d look at the phone, accusatorially, daring it to ring and give me the bad news: come on, just do it. Just tell me.

But instead, the call was a surprisingly happy doctor giving me the good news. I remember thinking at the time, she sounds happier and more relieved than I am with some sense of wonderment. I couldn’t tell if I was surprised by the seeming lack of professionalism or touched by how much she cared more; all things considered, it’s a nice thing to have to call a draw in.

Even more surprising was how it felt afterwards: an unexpected sense of anti-climax that all it took was one phone call and everything was done, bar a follow-up appointment. I’d spent days thinking the worst, feeling the worst, and it was suddenly just gone. I was happy, I was relieved, but also, there was this very clear feeling of, Is that it? Am I just supposed to move on now? I try, and instead, I write this to exorcise those feelings and share how it actually feels.

A Dog In This Fight

Last week was one that taught me the value of that whole, “don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched” nonsense. You’ll remember, dear reader, that I’d shared my experience about taking the dog to the vet after his dental surgery a couple weeks back…? On the Tuesday of last week, he had his follow-up appointment, which proved to be a scary, difficult proposition: his weight had fallen significantly because he still wasn’t eating enough, and he wasn’t shitting well, either, The vet and I talked options while the dog sat there and shook in quiet terror; a plan of action was devised, blood was taken for tests, and we parted with everyone having a sense of what to do (as well as, on my end, no small amount of medication to give the dog).

Turns out, the dog had a sense of what to do, himself. Immediately following the appointment, he started eating well again. Even before I’d started giving him the medicine, his appetite miraculously returned, and his shits returned to normal. Across the next two days, I watched as he inexplicably returned to normal in seemingly every way. Had the vet visit scared him straight…? I didn’t really care: he was eating again, he was shitting again. Everything was good. On Thursday night, I told Chloe that I felt that I could stop worrying about him for the first time since his surgery, two weeks earlier. I felt a physical sense of relief.

This, of course, was my mistake.

On Friday, I heard from the vet that the blood work was back and it was not good. It wasn’t necessarily bad, either; it was mostly inexplicable, with the potential for things to be very bad: his liver numbers had rocketed through the roof, and they had no explanation why: as I was told, it could be entirely benign and the result of his not eating and being irritated post-surgery, or it could be cancer that they’d never noticed before. Either was a possibility, equally likely, as were all manner of things in between: gallstones, post-surgery infection, a testing error…

New plans were drawn up, for a new appointment later this week. I was advised that it could get expensive (again!) and that there may need to be end of life conversations. I immediately felt guilt, as if my saying that I could let go of my worry was the cause of it all.

Who Knew?

I’m getting around to this later than intended, for the simple reason that I forgot. In the immediate aftermath of San Diego Comic-Con, there was a lot to take care of, not least of which was a sense of exhaustion that meant that I was able to take care of the most immediate business on any given day for a week or so before settling down to simply feel tired and watch TV for the night. (On the plus side, I enjoyed both the Wham! documentary and the series about the background of American Gladiators, so it wasn’t a complete loss. At some point, I’m also going to sing the praises of the extraordinary second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, as well.)

Nevertheless, this year’s San Diego Comic-Con left me with the realization that I’m actually pretty good as a panel moderator, something that I’d never previously felt comfortable or confident enough to actually admit out loud. It was a strange and welcome realization, if one that I still feel uncomfortable sharing because of humility and being Scottish, and yet…

Don’t misunderstand; I’ve been moderating panels at conventions for years, and I knew I was that bad at it even before SDCC this year. The thing is, I’d convinced myself that I was good at doing a particular kind of panel — one that’s somewhat freewheeling and conversational — and that I’d suck doing anything more structured or official… and then I got asked to do two structured and official panels.

To my surprise, I didn’t suck at them. In fact, I actually… enjoyed doing both, even with the added complications of having official announcements to make at one (and giveaways to the audience that I had to declare, as well!) and slideshows and/or multimedia components at both. The two “other” panels, the ones that pushed me outside of my comfort zone, definitely required parts of my brain that I’m not so used to using when moderating — being more professional, less playful, sure, but also having to think about schedules and objectives in a way that was more akin to interviewing than moderating, for me — but I came away from both with that sense of, Did I do okay? I think that went well? Did that really go well? in somewhat mild disbelief.

I wasn’t entirely alone, at least in the sense of thinking things went well; both panels were complimented afterwards, with the publishers attached to each asking if I’d do it again at future conventions. It’s nice to know that you don’t screw up, for sure; it’s also nice to know that you can do more than you thought, and that you might actually be good at it, as well. If there was one good thing to take away from San Diego Comic-Con this year, I’m happy for it to be that.

Tired, Stressed, Dehydrated

If anyone asks how my weekend went, this is what I’d want to tell them:

I spent much of Saturday and pretty much all of Sunday worried that my dog was going to die, or that something was very wrong with him; he had dental surgery last week, something that I was deeply worried about ahead of time because that was exactly what killed his brother a little over a year ago and the fear that history could repeat itself was real. In the days immediately following the surgery, he seemed to be okay and I thought that, maybe, just maybe, things had all worked out.

And then it was three days after the surgery, and he hadn’t eaten. I mean, he’d had a couple of bites of food, but otherwise, nothing. I’d been told his appetite would be back to normal by the day after, the second day for sure. So, the worry returned.

Of course, by this point, it was a Saturday — a Saturday afternoon, in fact, and his regular vet was closed, so I spent an hour or so calling other local vets who told me variations on, Oh, that doesn’t sound good at all, but we’re full up so we can’t see him, but he should probably be seen in case it’s something very serious indeed. Let me tell you, that did wonders for my mood. Eventually, one place told me to call the next morning to set up an appointment for that day, and promised they’d have space; I’d just have to keep trying to feed him in the meantime. He continued to refuse food.

Sunday came, after a restless night in which I tossed, turned, and enjoyed dreams where he got sick and died like his brother. I called and made an appointment, and felt restless and unable to relax while I waited for it. I overanalyzed everything the poor dog was doing the entire time: was he more energetic than normal? Did it mean something that he was drinking more water?

Turns out, the answer to that last question was yes: after a marathon session and a bunch of tests, it turned out that Gus was so dehydrated as a result of the anesthesia during the surgery, and that dehydration was in turn hindering his recovery. All of this was because of his age (he’s 14) and the simple fact that old dogs and surgery really don’t mix. He was given IV fluids, a dose of pain meds, and the hope was that he’ll start eating again within 24 hours or so.

By the time I got him home, it was after 9pm.

I feel like I didn’t have a weekend; I feel exhausted and stressed, still, and I’m still worried about his little dog self and will be until he eats. I’m wishing I had a weekend to recover, it it’s Monday morning and everything starts again right now. I’m very much not ready for the week.

Instead, if someone asks how my weekend was, I’ll probably just say it was fine, and ask them how theirs was.

It Must Be (1)

As I write this, it’s 3AM on Sunday, July 23rd. It’s my last night — well, last morning now — in San Diego, and insomnia has struck.

I could blame the hotel bed, which is almost the archetypal hotel bed: a little too soft, a little formless and with pillows that are more like suggestions of pillows that are somehow too soft and too hard all at once; pillows that you almost have to ignore in order to sleep in the first place, never mind struggle against when your mind won’t stop talking in the middle of the night.

Or perhaps I could blame the fact that it’s a Saturday night/Sunday morning, which has meant a lot of noise in the corridor outside in the last few hours as people return back from drunken nights out and slam all their doors and giggle loudly, in both cases fully believing that they’re being really, really quiet. That was fun to eavesdrop on, and truth be told, it was what originally woke me up an hour or so ago.

That’s not why I’m still awake, though. My mind is racing because I’m headed into the final day of San Diego Comic-Con and it’s been a weird, busy — very busy — and emotionally taxing show, one that’s left me at once exhausted and oddly exhilarated. I both can’t believe it’s almost over and can’t remember fully what life was like before this, if that makes sense.

By the time you read this, it’ll be tomorrow and I’ll be back in Portland again, likely better rested and reality will be reasserting itself. That’s why I wrote this, though; to record a moment in time when I couldn’t sleep in San Diego, and I realized that all I really want to do, despite everything, is just read some comics. I guess that shows the power of Comic-Con, somehow.