Good 'ol California

Wed 1/9/2008

Well, another week has passed and I'm back in Brooklyn. The last leg of my West coast journey was completely overflowing with awesome people, some of which are shown above.

I put up more photos from the trip in my ever-expanding "PRO" Flickr Account, or you can read on to hear all about it...

(It's kind of a long post, as I had some "L.A. Baggage" to get off my chest...)

Wednesday I hopped on the TRAIN and rolled away from a rainy Portland. I gotta say, I was pretty pumped about the 30-hour trip to L.A. I got a ton of scripting work done on Basewood Chapter 4 (breaking through the hardest part of the story!) I read a bunch, got some sleep and enjoyed the amazing view as it scrolled by.

The only lame part was this crazy drunk vet guy who woke everyone in our car up in the middle of the night. The conductor came back and threatened to stop the train and kick him out in the middle of nowhere if he didn't go to sleep. Then the next morning the guy was trying to be all buddy-buddy with everyone, even though we all pretty much hated his guts. Plus he made fun of my beard!

I actually hopped off the train early, in San Luis Obispo, to catch a 6 hour connection (via bus then train) to Bakersfield, where my friend Lindsay grew up and now lives. It was so great to see Lindsay, who really is one of my favorite people on earth. I got to meet her new guy, Ryan, and see their house. The next day we went out to a real Basque meal (there is a huge Basque population in Bakersfield for some reason?) and hung out with both of Lindsay's parents who I hadn't seen in YEARS.

Then early Saturday, Lindsay drove me down to Los Angeles. I was happy, because driving in a car with Lindsay, singing together, listening to music, is one of my favorite parts of being alive. But I was also sort of nervous about heading back to L.A...

Now, in the past five years I have often said that I HATE Los Angeles. But really, it's more complicated than that. I lived in Los Angeles for five months, after graduating from college in 2002. It was hands-down the worst five months of my life so far. I was completely heart-broken and miserable. I'm not even kidding, I cried myself to sleep every single night that I lived there. For FIVE MONTHS.

That time in my life was SO HORRIBLE, that it tends to skew all of my memories of living in Los Angeles. And worse, I tend to just lump the entire city in with those bad memories and write the whole place off. When REALLY, if I am honest with myself, there were a few really great things that came out of my time in Los Angeles:

  1. I became really great friends with Andy Hentz, who previously I had only sort of hung out with a few times in college. He was the ONLY person I knew in L.A. and singlehandedly kept me sane.
  2. My friends Stefan and Julie came and visited me during my last month in L.A. with their newborn baby, George. It was one of the rare happy hilights of my time there.
  3. I started self-publishing PHASE 7.

So as Lindsay and I got closer and closer to the city, driving South on "The 5," I was trying my best to keep an open mind. It was hard, as we drove through part of my old commute home, but I tried to think of L.A. as just another place. And really, it is!

When I moved to L.A. in 2002 I had not lived anywhere other than Seattle, Mercer Island (a suburb of Seattle) and Oberlin, Ohio. For me, Los Angeles was this terrifying, gigantic city. But since then I've lived in Sydney, Portland, and NEW YORK CITY. Los Angeles??! PFF!

Anyways, this is all to say, that I was not as intimidated by Los Angeles on this trip. Certain streets and stretches of highway felt very familiar, in the same way that I know streets in any NUMBER of cities in the USA.

Lindsay dropped me off at Stefan and Julie's house. They now live in L.A., George is five and a half and they've added Nia (or "Goldie" as she is known) who is two, and newborn Rex to their ranks. It was so awesome to meet the newest Grubes and to see Julie and Stefan again. As a bonus, Stefan's sisters Nikka and Mia were also in town.

Even with FIVE ADULTS three kids is a LOT of kids. It was pretty much non-stop action the whole time I was hanging out with the Grube clan. The little ones wake up at 7am sharp and things get going immediately. There is breakfast, and cartoons, and games, and the washing of hands, and errands to run, and lunch to prepare, and naps, and the drawing of comics, and more games, and trips to the zoo, and the changing of diapers, and accidents, and spills, and dinner, and the washing of dishes, etc. etc. etc.

Stefan and Julie are AMAZING parents. I was really in awe of how cool and supportive and loving they are as parents. It was definitely a great experience for me, watching them "work." If I am ever a parent someday I will have definitely learned some good tricks on this trip!

Anyways, it was great fun. I got to draw comics with George (my favorite was our epic Sponge Bob INDIANA JONES cross-over), play "checkers" with Goldie and Julie (it's her made up game.... it's more like charades crossed with dancing?) and I got to hold Rex for like half an hour in that way where you are thinking, "Oh my god, I am holding a little human being." We also celebrated Stefan's Birthday with a trip to Meltdown comics and a delicious home-cooked meal, which we ate in the DARK, the power having been knocked out by a huge windstorm. :)

And so, after an exciting weekend at the Grube's house, Andy came and picked me up for the last leg of my journey. It was so good to see him again after almost five years. We went and got some breakfast and caught up with each other's lives. Then we went back to Andy's place where we did a sort of "show and tell" (or "listen and tell"?) with some of the amazing music that Andy has been turning out. Then we set off for the Will Rogers State Historical Park, where we hiked over a few of those California hills and saw some amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.

That night we went with Lisa and Andy's girlfriend, Sarah, to meet up with Nate and Soon-Bok for some Korean BBQ! It was a pretty delicious meal (this coming from food-hating ME!) and it was totally surreal ACTUALLY seeing Nate in Los Angeles. I mean, I know his blog said he moved there, and I've talked to him on the phone there, and exchanged emails with him... but to actually SEE him there, in Los Angeles, with my own two eyes... it was too much!

A flurry of phone calls later we met up with my old friend Patrick who now lives in Pasadena and Michel, who does the excellent School Daze zine! We all got some ice cream and sat around drawing until the place closed. A perfect end to my trip. I got to see almost everyone on my list!

Sure, I still hate that L.A. has an almost non-existant public transportation system. I still hate that you have to DRIVE everywhere to do anything there. But I can at least say that it is currently a city that houses many people that are very dear to my heart. And for that, I am at least glad that Los Angeles exists! I had a lot of fun there this time and actually look forward to my next visit.

NEXT: 2008!

2 comments on this entry

You hate food? Man! I'd marry food if it wasn't frowned upon...and that I'm already happily married. heh-heh. Welcome back, Alec!

Arlene Jan10

Your relationship with LA is like mine with Boston, I lived there for my freshman year of college at the Art Institute of Boston. Even though I say I hate Boston when I went to visit a few years ago I did actually have a good time, despite the fact that it's fucking Boston there.

Liz Jan10

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