Monday, June 9, 2008

MoCCA Art Festival; June 8, 2008

When I arrived, I spent the first fifteen minutes trying to recover from the intense heatstroke I was convinced I had suffered on the humid train ride from Brooklyn. Wandering around three loud rooms filled with hundreds of faces, both real and drawn, only exacerbated my anxiety. I took a few sips of my water and stood in a doorway. Then I recognized Neil Swaab and went to his table. I looked at the original pieces he had for sale, and told him “I love your work.” His face lit up. He asked me how I knew him, and I said I’d been reading his stuff on-line for about three years. He seemed impressed until I started sweating profusely and muttering incoherently about how overwhelmed I was. “My brain isn’t quite working,” I said, panting as I walked away with a few postcards and a button. He smiled and nodded, glancing in my direction every so often throughout the afternoon.

I soon found myself in one of three rooms on the first floor, standing in front of Hope Larson’s table. Bryan Lee O’Malley was sitting next to her and they were busy eating noodles. I felt incredibly creepy (I’ve been to their flickr! Their cat’s name is Foley!) and tried to avoid eye contact, maintaining a severe amount of distance as I stared blankly at a pile of copies of “Chiggers,” the table, the floor, et cetera, which was probably the most unseemly behavior I could have exhibited. They looked like nice folks, and in hindsight I wish I could have managed to offer my praise, or a question regarding upcoming projects, or something other than whatever it is that I did. I struggled, perhaps, because don’t really know or like Larson’s work, and it seemed in poor taste to try to talk about Scott Pilgrim instead, especially since there had been no merchandise promoting the series.

I met Godfrey Chan, whose table was perpendicular to Hope Larson’s. He tried to engage me in his semi-autobiographical webcomic Wrong Turns, which revolves around a man and his “gay-best-friend Apple laptop computer.” When I didn’t seem sold on the idea, he handed me a flyer, assuring me that it was free. I pointed to a picture of a young Asian boy in a sweater, asked, “Is that you?” to which he replied, “Yes. That’s me. In my favorite sweater. Take it.” His frantic enthusiasm fascinated me, and I put my name on his mailing list.

I promptly went to the bathroom, which, unlike every other part of the Puck Building, was heavily air-conditioned and offered me a great amount of relief. I drank more water and put on my cardigan.

Questions seem to be ubiquitous at comic book conventions, from the mundane to the mind-bendingly obscure. I remember standing beside a nondescript table and overhearing the person next to me (yes, male) haranguing an artist with questions. “Are you, this? Yes? What do you do? What is this?” He sounded mildly autistic, and when I looked at him, I noticed that he was wearing a Star Trek t-shirt and cargo shorts. He had a small amount of dark facial hair on his upper lip and nowhere else on his face. He also had dozens of flyers and programs stuffed in his hands and pockets. He seemed to have a complete disregard for his surroundings. Meanwhile, there were other people in the room (female, yes, but a small minority) acutely aware of where they were and who they were talking to. These people bragged nonchalantly about how they had partied with Michel Gondry the night before, how they thought Charles Burns was “just okay,” and so forth, amounting in an endless stream of pissing contests left and right. I felt like I was at the Pitchfork Music Festival again. Who is the most original, most nonconformist hipster in the room? Who is the most well-versed in independent comic books? Who is wearing the best glasses? Me! Me! Me!

I remember walking by a table, feeling exhausted, wishing I could wear glasses, when I saw someone wagging a comic strip at me. Isaac, a jolly, bearded, horn-rimmed sort from Satisfactory Comics had his arm outstretched with a postcard in between his thumb and forefinger. He furrowed his brow. I stepped over and took the postcard. “It’s an actual postcard,” he said, “You can mail it.” Then I leafed through a few of his books. He has an interesting series of postcard comics, each with an escalating level of suspense, urging the reader to anticipate the next postcard.

I bought a “litany of beer” sticker from Jonathan Rosenberg, who writes Goats. I think it might make a neat coaster.

On the seventh floor, Michel Gondry was apparently drawing caricatures of his customers, so I immediately took the elevator up to see my favorite French music video director. He looked weary and irritable. I kept my distance. I did not mention "Be Kind Rewind." Instead, I walked the perimeter of the seventh floor, a vast space, where an overzealous young artist, Joshua Smeaton, practically begged me to read his comic, Haunted, which I hated. I contemplated purchasing a copy of “Tool Cool to be Forgotten” by Alex Robinson, but it only reminded me of my ex-boyfriend and his endearing attempts to quit smoking. This train of thought led me to think about how hard, yet completely worthwhile, it is to do things by myself. And to not just tap away at the computer in my room, but to complete overtly, publicly solitary acts. I have a tendency to avoid going places by myself, and I'm not sure why, exactly, especially given the city in which I live. Nearly every day I see a person eating in a restaurant by himself, ordering a single movie ticket, or milling around a bookstore (granted, most of these people are likely to pop open a cellphone within ten minutes). Most days I probably don't even notice when a stranger is alone. But when a relationship ends, there is a period of slow desperation, as you come to realize you have no one person to take you places, to stand next to you, to laugh at your dumb jokes and agree with your studied opinions. This is the time when you have to quiet the voices in your head and just silently observe. Otherwise you sound like a crazy person, talking to no one.

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