Wednesday haiku

This attempt inspired by my ride on the D train this afternoon:

Little Asian woman

stop pushing against me

my elbow to your head


A day late and a dollar short: my two days at Comic Con (in a nutshell)

Sadly, I have no pictures to post because....well, I despise the people who stop short in the middle of the walkways to snap pics of people who should never wear spandex in the privacy of their homes, much less in public. Plus I have this weird thing about people dressing up and going out in public anyway. Yeah, for Hallowe'en, sure, go nuts....but to spend three days indoors in a hot convention center?

And that goes double for the 300-pound guy dressed as Lion-o from Thundercats. A loincloth and orange body paint? Really?

  • Walt Simonson said he'd heard the organizers expected upwards of 100,000 people this year, up from the 70,000 at last year's show. I would've guessed there were 100,000 on Saturday alone.
  • Jerry Ma and his Epic Proportions booth kicked ass. Unfortunately, the distance between Artist Alley and civilization (more later) made it impossible for me to get back to him by the end of the show to get the Simonson Thor shirt. Jerry, I still want one!
  • Last year, Artist Alley was in the same area, towards the back on the 35th street side. This year, they moved it to the dark side of the moon, which required navigating through the gaming hordes near the Nintendo booth and the booth showing a demo of some kind of new Alien movie (direct to DVD?) with some kind of virtual pods for people to climb into. There was also an IDW Doctor Who table, which made me drool looking over their stuff....but $40 for an Adipose stress relief squeeze toy? Seriously?
  • Artist Alley is always a double-edged sword to me. I know some people who take tables, and it was good seeing some people I knew would be there, and some that shocked me, and it's always great to catch up with people and see what they're doing. But, occassionally, I turn into a stuttering goofball when confronted with someone who I idolized as a kid (see Bolland, Brian a year ago, and my inability to say anything other than "Hi". Gaaaaaaah). And, knowing some of 'em are doing commissions to pay for their table, I hate bugging people I don't know well or at all. I amaze myself: I can meet Mickey Rourke, shake his hand, talk to him and shoot the shit like it's no big deal....but let me meet a comic artist I grew up idolizing and it's instant drooling imbecile.
  • Big thank you to Ken Knudsten for his vodka pick-me-up on Saturday (and the nifty My Monkey's Name is Jennifer shot glass) and Jerry Ma (just for being his usual self).
  • We went to Art & Design a hundred years ago, but Jamal Igle is still the nicest guy in comics. I just hope he didn't have problems getting a cab back to Park Slope outside the convention center lugging all that stuff....
  • You know you're having a good time when you start reminiscing about a guy from college who was the worst swiper around (for those who don't know: in comics, a guy who swipes is someone who copies from another artist exactly and adds their own details; in other words, the lowest of the low), and said swiper is hiding out at his booth two tables away. Classic.
  • I go these days to keep up connections and make face time with people, it's more a networking thing for me than a fan thing like it was when I was a kid (and back then, they held these things at hotels like the Pennsylvania or the old one on Vanderbilt & 45th, where my father would take me to buy Silver Age books and maybe meet an artist or two in attendance....and nobody was dressed in a costume) the whole running around at the Marvel/DC/Dark Horse booths looking for free stuff is just kinda meh to me. I'm a people person!

All in all, aside from the impossibility of walking at a normal pace and the ten mile gap between the Alley and the floor layouts (and, as per Jerry, the limitations of wifi availability), it was a good time. Hell, even my wife enjoyed herself, although I'd like to know what she bought for me after sending me out of Artist Alley.....



Busy busy busy

Been a busy month or so, and October's going to be even crazier. A quick hit on what's gone on and what's coming up:

  • Robbing Hoods made it to the semi-finals at the Austin Film Festival. Considering it's the big event for screenwriters, I think that's pretty cool.
  • Robbing Hoods was also a finalist at Slamdance. Didn't win, but still pretty cool to make it to a final round knockout after something like 4,000 scripts were entered.
  • An indie director friend expressed interest in making RH his next project.....with a bunch of conditions, no money exchanging hands and no guarantee I'd get any kind of screen credit. We're still friends, but that's not happening.
  • I finished round one of The Captain in early September, and, on the advice of a couple of people who saw how crazed I became towards the end, took a long break away from it to gain a fresh perspective. Then I had someone who isn't a hockey fan read it, tell me they thought it was really good....and that it needed work. He pointed out the primary flaw that I couldn't see because I was too closely tied to the script. See, a little perspective helps sometimes.

And for October....

  • Comic Con is this weekend. I've got a weekend pass but not sure I'll be there beyond Saturday, things keep popping up schedule-wise. Still, I'd like to say hey to some people I know there, maybe sell a couple of Silver Age books....maybe meet some editor-types looking for some hot new talent with a new take on an existing character? <wink wink>
  • The aforementioned Austin Film Festival. I'll be staying with my brother and sister-in-law (and new niece) in San Antonio, about an hour outside Austin to save on hotel expenses, and I've got a cheap car rental (thanks Dollar!) with unlimited miles. A lot of production companies will be there, and I've heard it can be a great launching pad for a screenwriter.
  • I'm launching into full re-write mode on The Captain, and prepping a li'l battle plan to get it into the hands of a couple of hockey-fan producers. Hoping to roll that out before Thanksgiving, schedules permitting.




A postscript to my 9/11 story

In the course of trying to 'go back to normal', in February 2002 I went skiing at Camelback out in Pennsylvania. The crappy weather (and by crappy I mean crappy skiing weather, too warm for snow) led to them using a lot of fake snow, and then a sudden cold snap led to icy conditions, which they layered over with more fake snow.

Why is this important? Bear with me.

In the course of the morning my left ski wound up getting caught as I came up on a right turn; I couldn't get the ski to lift off the snow/ice which was important considering I would've hit a tree otherwise. As my body pulled to the right, my left leg kept veering to the left, until I finally yanked and heard a loud POP.

My leg wasn't very stable after that, but I kept skiing for the rest of the afternoon, until the leg finally gave out on me around three in the afternoon....roughly four and a half hours I first had the fall.

After a few days of icing it down at home didn't help, and after having the leg give out a few times in the street, I went to see a doctor. An orthopaedic doctor, as per my cousin, the physician's assistant. The diagnosis: Torn left anterior cruciate ligament. With my consent, surgery was scheduled for April 18th, to be followed a week later by physical therapy.

The surgery went off without a hitch, and I started rehabbing shortly thereafter. In the course of the rehab, Matt, the guy assigned with the task of rebuilding me better, stronger than I was before would put me on a stationary bike for fifteen minutes next to another guy as a warmup, who he told me was rehabbing from the same thing.

While I was getting ready to get on the bike one day I noticed the guy's knee. Whereas I had a scar running horizontal down my kneecap (where they'd cut to remove the middle third of my patella tendon to become my new ACL), this guy had a cross-shaped scar on his knee, and another long scar running horizontally down each side of them. Being the personable guy I am, I started making small talk with the guy, lameting our situations. The guy would smile, not say much of anything, and keep on looking ahead.

"Matt," I asked my therapist while he was torturing me by forcing me to stand on a balance board, "that guy couldn't have had the same surgery, his knee looks like Frankenstein's face. What kind of quack did his surgery?"

Matt looked around before answering. "It's a long story, I don't know all the details, but he tore a bunch of ligaments in his knee getting out of the World Trade Center on September 11th. Julie's his therapist, she may know more."

During the electrolic stimulation part of therapy, I asked Julie about the guy. Turned out she didn't know more than Matt.

"He doesn't talk about it. Doesn't talk about anything really. I know there was some severe damage, he tore the ACL, MCL, his meniscus, he needed a couple of surgeries but he won't say how it happened."

The guy interested me, but I was focused on my own situation. I was determined to rehab myself faster than the expectations were, and had set a target for myself to start running three months after surgery. To that end, I was in rehab three days a week, and spent three other days during the week at the gym,  walking on the treadmill and doing some extra work on the leg press to build up strength.

Some time in late June, when Matt asked me to leg press 30 lbs, I laughed and jacked it up to 50. Before Matt could stop me, I started pressing it without much effort, stunning him to silence. After I finished I got to my feet and stood on my left leg for thirty seconds, something I couldn't do for more than five three weeks before.

I kept this going for almost another month, and I started playfully taunting Matt, who couldn't understand how I was progressing so fast. The guy on the bike, whose name I'd learned was Dave, would occasionally laugh when he heard me discussing my options with Matt.

"Hey Matt, you think I can leg press a hundred pounds tomorrow?"

"Matt, I bet I could do that circus juggling kick with you, wanna try?"

"Go get some bricks and build a wall, I want to try kicking through it"

All of it was self motivational, occasionally it was amusing.

On a Saturday at the end of July, without telling anyone, I drove myself to Marine Park in Brooklyn and ran the circular lap twice. Three months after surgery. When I went to rehab the following Monday, I told Matt about it while I was on the bike.

"Are you out of your mind? Do you know the damage you can do?"

"I had a knee brace on, I wasn't running that hard or fast, I just needed to know I could do it. Besides, I've been working outside of this place, you know." And with that, I outlined my diabolical scheme, the work I'd been doing in the gym, etc. Matt was stunned.

So was Dave.

"You're pretty crazy, huh?" Dave asked.

"I've been called worse," I told him. "But I don't want to hobble around for the rest of my life, I'd rather push myself as hard as possible to be better than I was before."

At the end of the session, Matt signed off my paperwork that my rehab work was complete.

"You son of a bitch, I doubt you'll need to but if you need to come back for anything let me know."

With that I went to the locker room to shower and change. As I was getting dressed Dave came in.

"I hope you don't mind my saying this," he said. "I really admire the way you worked in this place. Makes me think about how hard I'm working."

I said something about being motivated to just get my life back to where it was pre-injury.

"Good for you. My knee's pretty bad, I should feel like you do about going back to what I was but I don't know if I can. See, this all happened when I was escaping from Two World Trade Center."

"Wow, you got out? You're lucky."

"I don't know if I am. The elevator I was on going down had stopped working, they got the doors open between floors for us to get off it. As this woman was trying to climb out she fell into the shaft. I was able to get out of the shaft, I jumped to the ground and landed on my leg, then I ran to the emergency exits. I jumped down a few flights, and then I got outside and I saw people who'd jumped, and I saw other people looking up, and all the smoke, and I just started running. I ran all the way home, to the upper east side. Once I got home I got into bed and I didn't leave my apartment for a month and a half. By the time I went to have my knee looked at all this scar tissue had built up, I've had three surgeries to correct it."

I'd been sitting there the whole time, half-dressed, not knowing what to say. I could tell he hadn't told this story much, if at all, so I just kept my mouth shut and listened.

"Every time I sleep I see the woman in the elevator falling. I hear her screaming. I see the people's bodies smashed to pulp on the street, all the blood. I hear how lucky I am, and I haven't believed it."

"Well....when I first had my ACL tear diagnosed, I was given a choice: do surgery or don't do it. I was told if I planned on having any kind of active remainder of my life I should do the surgery, otherwise I'd be hobbled forever. Not that I wanna compare situations, but it's up to you what you do with the rest of your life now."

He laughed. "Yeah, I know. I just want to say thank you. I think maybe I need to work a little harder to rehab myself, seeing you work that hard, hearing what you did outside this place, it really does give me something to think about."

We shook hands, and I finished getting dressed while he showered.

Once I got outside the building I sat on a steampipe and started bawling my goddamned eyes out.




Spectre of Death

I hate this day. I really do. 

I try to avoid all the politicized posturing and ranting of what the extremists on both sides have made this day about in this country, about the number of people whose memories of what was going on in this city nine years ago are completely warped and wrong. I really despise what's happened to us because of the cracks that have spider-webbed out as a result of that morning.

I lost friends, I lost co-workers, and I went to I can't remember how many funerals and memorials in the aftermath. And I heard enough horror stories about the rescue efforts, the body recovery, the rivers of blood in the street, the makeshift morgues at Brooks Brothers & Century 21 to last me a lifetime. 

And every year I can't help but think about how a quirk of fate saved my life on September 11th, 2001.

In November 2000 I was employed by a private investment firm and was having issues with my manager, to a point that I'd started looking around for another job. The tech boom had gone bust, though, and jobs in the IT field were suddenly hard to find. 

Still, I got a call one afternoon from a recruiter, who asked if I'd be interested in interviewing with Cantor Fitzgerald. He arranged a phone screen, which lasted twenty minutes and which I thought had gone well. 

Turned out it went very well. He calls me back and says they want to meet with you face to face, they're looking to move fast on this spot so this is probably a one-shot interview. What do you think?

Sure, I said. Only issue was this: my office was located in midtown, at Rockefeller Center. To get all the way down to the World Trade Center and back would eat into a lot of time if I went during lunch. I'd  need to make sure the interview wouldn't take very long, or else I'd have to do it after work or figure out something else.

The recruiter got back to me: Sure, no problem, they said it'd be pretty quick, you'd be there maybe thirty minutes for the first round of interviews, maybe gone ninety minutes total from work, could that work?

Sure it could. Everything was arranged, and on a Friday afternoon a week before Thanksgiving I snuck out of the office about twenty minutes after eleven, and caught a train headed downtown. I got to One World Trade Center's security desk at ten minutes to noon exactly, at which point they called upstairs to the manager I was meeting with. The call went to voicemail, they left a message, and asked me to wait on the side. 

Which I did. For fifteen minutes.

At five after, I asked security to call back upstairs again. They did, and it went to voicemail. I waited another fifteen minutes and asked them to call. Voicemail again. 

Now it was almost 12:30, and I was getting concerned. Thirty minutes of interview plus thirty minutes of travel back to midtown, give or take, meant I'd be back at my desk around 1:30, more than two hours after I'd left. I called the recruiter and filled him in.

Don't worry, he said, I'll get a hold of the guy.

Ten minutes later he calls me back: Ummmm, he's not answering his cell phone, have you heard anything?

No, and if he doesn't show up in the next ten minutes I've got to leave.

Hang on, he said, I'll track him down. 

Meanwhile, security kept calling him, to no avail. The recruiter called me a half dozen times in ten minutes to report no success. 

At ten minutes to one, fifty minutes after we were supposed to meet, the manager finally called downstairs and told security to send me up. Which they did. 

And I sat in the reception lobby upstairs for an additional ten minutes before he finally emerged. 

"Yeah, we had some issues up here this afternoon, you know, stuff happens."

I wanted to strangle him.

"You do realize I've been away from my office almost two hours already, right? We could have re-scheduled this."

"Hey, like I said, shit happens sometimes."

I met with him and another guy over the next thirty + minutes, then left, caught a train back to my office...but not before making a pit stop in my company's tax department to stash my overcoat in their rack and make a quick round of saying hello.

When I got back to my desk, my boss asked where I'd been.

"Downstairs in the tax department, they had an issue with Pro System, why?"

Hello, king of bullshit.

A day later, the recruiter called me. "So the Cantor guys were really impressed with you, they told me they're putting the numbers together to make an offer."

I laughed. "I'd be reporting to this guy directly, right? The one who kept me waiting in the lobby and refused to apologize?"

Yes, I was told.

"Tell them to forget making an offer, I won't accept. I'm not leaving a job because of an asshole boss to go work for a completely different asshole, thanks."

The recruiter went apeshit. This was a great firm, one of the best on Wall Street, I'd regret doing this forever if I walked away from it now, etc....

Well. Ten months later I didn't regret it very much.

The thing is, if not for that manager, I liked everything else enough that I would've accepted. And that means I wouldn't be writing this right now.

I think about that every single day.

By another quirk of fate, three years later I was approached by a different recruiter. "Hey, you've heard of Cantor Fitzgerald, right? I got a spot open there...."

I relayed the story to him about my previous Cantor experience.

"Wow. Well....not to sound like a dick, but chances are, nobody you met with are alive, and I'd bet they don't have your resume on file anymore."

This time around I had no hitches during the interview process, and they made me an offer I accepted. And I spent three years in the hell that had become Cantor. 

But that's a whole other story.

Quirks of fate.