Vacation

It’s been weird lately. Something in the back of my mind keeps on feeling like I’m on vacation, and I should be getting ready to pack up and go back to where I actually live. Somewhere colder. Somewhere more stressful. Somewhere I feel like I’ve gotta burn a certain amount of energy dealing with a constant low-level incompatibility with on some deep instinctual level.

But this is home now. I never expected to be living here again, but here I am in a place in my life where returning to the weird swamp city that I grew up in seemed like a sane plan. Despite global warming.

Maybe I’ll stop feeling this way when I have a decent desk in my studio. Maybe once it’s been around a year it’ll feel like I Live Here.

And until then, hey, I’m on permanent vacation I guess. This place is a tropical resort compared to the past fourteen years I spent in the North. Maybe having a whole winter pass with me barely having to break out a coat will convince my body I’m not about to have to go back to somewhere cold and miserable any day now.

Fourteen years.

Fourteen years ago today, I was in a motel room somewhere in the South with my mom and one of her friends. I’d moved back in with Mom after a decade in Los Angeles chasing the dream of animation; I’d gotten off a train barely a week ago. All my stuff except for one suitcase and the stuff Mom had never shipped out yet was in a shipping container in a warehouse.

Fourteen years ago today Hurricane Katrina sloshed in up through Lake Ponchatrain and drowned half of New Orleans. Mom’s apartment was on the second story; the wind took the roof off the other side of the building but her stuff survived. My stuff was thoroughly inundated. With nothing tying me down I ended up in Boston with Nick and Rik.

A little under half a year ago, I came down from Seattle to look for a place. Moved in about a month and a half later.

There’s a restaurant a few blocks from here – Mandina’s – that has a plaque commemorating where the flood line was. It’s above my head when I’m in there. I think my place is on ground a few feet lower than Mandina’s. When we left ahead of Barry and the scarily high river, I didn’t really bother trying to put any of my stuff in high places around the apartment. If the bowl of the city fills again, I know that everything I own is gone.

I keep on feeling like I’m waiting for this vacation to end. Waiting for me to have to get on a plane and go back to Seattle, where I will resume dying for half the year due to lack of sun. Maybe lingering trauma from Katrina is part of why.

This city is absurd and improbable and wonderful and I hope I get to live here a good long time.

depression begone

I am looking through some old tweets on the Locked Account than I haven’t hooked up to the autodeleter.

I was a giant fucking mess my last couple years in Seattle, holy shit. People say you should never pin your hopes on moving away from your depression because you’re still the same person after, but you know what? I’m a very different person when I’m getting enough sunlight, and when I’m not having trouble sleeping due to a loud, near-subsonic HUM that fills my home. And when I’m not watching the rent go up and up past my affordability zone.

I’ve still got some shit gnawing at the back of my head but I am dealing with it a LOT better now that I’m back in the tropics. Plus being able to visit my parents’ grave makes dealing with the part of that shit that’s from my mom dying a couple years back a lot easier.

Fuck, I have forgotten that damn hum. Seriously. Even though it lasted for like two fucking years. Nick couldn’t hear it and I was constantly gaslighting myself into wondering if it was just something wrong with my body or brain. Even though I never heard it when I slept away from my place. Tonight I’m gonna really enjoy sleeping in a bed where the only sound is occasional creaks from the overhead fan, and the faint sound of the neighbor’s window AC unit.

but yeah. Sunlight. Sunlight is good. Lots of it. I’m probably at risk for skin cancer now or something but it’s worth it to actually feel alive again and not be fighting suicidal urges eight months out of every year.

I like layers.

This is the entire layer structure for pages 18/19 of the Mixolyne side of Parallax. It is pretty average for the number of layers per panel.

I threw together this quick composite screenshot due to a post on the Illustrator subreddit where someone questioned a statement that “most designers don’t use layers”. I am neither “most designers” nor am I “a designer” but layers are super useful.

kitty?

So uh I think we might have a cat now.

A week or two after we moved in, we met our neighbor on the other side of the double shotgun we now live in, and the black cat who lived with her, and the kittens this cat had just had. Shadow was a local stray who’d decided she was Crystal’s cat, or at least that Crystal’s apartment was the best place to have some kittens. There were four: one black cat with two white toes, one stripey grey, and two calicos. Over the ensuing months all but one of the kittens stopped showing up one by one; they seem to have wandered off to find places to live in the general society of Mid-City Stray Cats. (New Orleans has a lot of stray cats; when people got lifted out of flooded houses in Katrina, the rescuers made them leave their pets behind, and the survivors have been living here and there ever since.) I’d pet them whenever they were on our side of the porch, if they’d let me.

At the beginning of last month, Crystal and her family seemed to vanish. The cat tree and food bowl next to her door were gone. We were concerned about Shadow and the remaining kittens; she reappeared after a few days. This happened again this past weekend – maybe she’s just making a habit of going on a little vacation near the beginning of the month? I’ll have to ask about this next time I see her, if she reappears.

For the past couple days I’d been finding eviscerated roaches close to the front door of the apartment. Something about them felt like cat offerings: the ancient bargain, where the cats kill small annoyances, and get a nice warm place to live. Yesterday as I was leaving the house, I turned around to close the gate that leads to the back of the place, and saw the black cat with the two white toes leaping in the air, chasing after a dragonfly or butterfly or one of the other numerous flying bugs that hangs out by the wildflowers growing there.

And then today I got back from brunch and there she was, just sitting on one of the chairs. Waiting. I looked at her and she looked at me, and then I sighed, and got out my bike and ran out to the pet store for a scratching post and a couple dishes and some food.

I think we’ve got a cat now.

If our neighbor doesn’t reappear in a week then we are gonna get this little fleabag a flea collar with her name and address on it.

edit: Sugarfoot may have just claimed a rolling suitcase that’s been lying around open on the floor since we first got here as her temporary Cat Bed.

Your Own Personal Lilith

click for naked snake lady

A while back I doodled this out in about a half an hour. It sat around unfinished for a good while. Today I pulled it up to experiment with some texture techniques, and ended up spending an hour getting it to where it is now. I’m still not entirely sure it’s finished but it’s good enough for now.

Dunno why I felt a need to draw my cobra sorceress character as a lamia, but here it is. I should really draw her with clothes again; it’s been forever.

illustrator: updates

I just got a note from the Adobe beta program about a new build of Illustrator 24.x, so I guess maybe it’s finally time to move from 22.x (CC2018) to 23.x (CC2019).

Herein are my notes about the new features.

 

Continue reading

a walker

So today I was sitting in a coffee shop with a sandwich and a drink and my computer and a game when the door opened and a dude walked in from the night with a very… distinctive… gait.

Leaning backwards, arms held stiffly out behind him, knees unbending. Skinny, maybe even emaciated – I fought to capture that in this drawing and don’t think I really did; I’ve programmed myself to hint at muscle and fat with a few quick lines.

He went into the shop. After a while he left. Same gait.

I am sure there is a rational explanation for why he was walking this way but damn if the only theory my brain isn’t serving up is “zombi”.

But hey, New Orleans. It’s a weird town.

47ish

Forty-seven is maybe a little late to be learning a new physical skill. And yet there I was cycling up and down Diagonal Drive in City Park with both hands off the handlebars for longer and longer periods of time.

Forty-seven years old and I’m finally trying to learn how to ride my bike hands-free. Growing up never felt like the time to do it; I was always on my way somewhere and didn’t want to take the time to slow down. Seattle wasn’t the time either; all those hills meant I had to constantly worry about trying to shift, trying to get enough leverage to make it up a hill when I’d failed to shift into a climbing gear before getting on the incline, hanging onto the brakes to keep control while going back down a hill. But now here I am on my way to being an Old Lady, with a life carefully arranged to give me enough time to just slow down and bike aimlessly around the very flat, fairly-well-paved park.

It felt like the right thing to do after finishing off the roughs for one side of Parallax. There’s a lot left to do; I’ve only finished thirty-six of the ninety pages that will make up both sides of this chapter – 45p apiece – and I’ve still got six pages to rough out of the other side. But I found myself thinking ahead to stuff I’ll have to do when it’s time to put it all together in a book – put together acknowledgements, make title pages, decide what kind of backmatter we want after the stories, stuff like that – and I really just wanted something to keep my mind off of that. It’s nowhere near time to worry about that stuff. So I distracted myself.

Riding hands-free is nerve-wracking at first but it’s getting easy pretty quickly. I keep pedaling, using the subtle back-and-forth balance change that creates in the whole system of myself and the bicycle to keep things mostly upright. I decide to change lanes and something happens to how I’m interacting with that back-and-forth; I couldn’t tell you what’s going on but the part of my body that’s been balancing me on a bicycle since somewhere in the late seventies knows what to do, and I sort of… drift over to another lane, and, if I’m lucky, even straighten out, without much thought. It’s kind of spooky to think about how little my conscious mind is involved in this.

There’s probably a metaphor for something in there. I dunno. I’m gonna go to one of the cafes around here that’s open into the evening, plug my computer in, and see how far I can get through those remaining six rough pages in the hour or so I’ll spend there.

considering obscure media that shaped me: The Books of the Black Current

I decided to spend today re-reading Ian Watson’s “Books of the Black Current“.

What a strange little trilogy. It starts out feeling like some kind of riff on familiar territory – an alien world where humanity lives along the banks of a single river, surrounded by desert, with a weird current of thick black goop down the center which drives you suicidally crazy if you try to cross it, and will drive any man who gets on the river suicidally crazy the second time he tries to take a boat ride; one side is run by a guild of Riverwomen, the other side is run by a bunch of misogynists who stay away from the river and burn any woman who tries to get on it. Then after turning this world upside down over the two hundred or so pages of the first book, the second sees the narrator dead and in the mystic service of the sentient, serpentine Black Current, which sends her soul to Earth, to be reborn as a permanantly-nine-year-old girl who fights against the “Godmind” (probably a semi-transcendent computer) that seeded humanity out in the stars and plans to eventually use its psychic link to all of humanity to kill everyone at once so it can seek Pure Enlightenment. She gets sent to Lunar Prison and blows herself up along with the Godmind’s lunar rose garden. Somewhere along the way I began to suspect I was reading a Satanist parable.

And then in the third book it gets weird. The heroine time loops herself, wanders around trying to get the people of her world to link themselves to the Current so they can’t be destroyed by the Godmind, and trying to get them to care about the impossible task of saving the rest of the galaxy as well. The ending is basically about the same as the last few pages of my Decrypting Rita except in text. And with more rose imagery.

All of this in three books of about 250 pages each. I feel like nowadays the modern SF/F market would demand that each of these books be about 600 pages, follow the exploits of about a dozen vaguely-connected characters, spawn a fan wiki, and dissolve into a vague smear of unfinishedness instead of quite decisively grasping the impossibility of the task laid before the heroine, finding an excuse to shatter into an infinite number of possible worlds a little before the Godmind destroys the universe, and ending with an in-world historians’s note that basically calls half of the last volume fanfic of the first two.

They do not write ’em like this any more. Or if they do I sure am not running into them.

I dunno if it’s exactly “good”; there’s not much time for much character development or more than vague sketches of secondary characters. It’s all about sketching out the shape of a world bent by this big weird idea running down its middle, then abandoning that for a bunch of even crazier ideas. Really this is a pretty good example of what people mean when they call SF “a literature of ideas”. I remember enjoying this when I read it in the eighties, and I still enjoyed it now.

But now I think I’m gonna meditate and go to sleep because I sure did cram a lot of crazy stuff into my head rapidly today.