Thursday, September 28, 2006

Refigerators and Phone Books

Been too busy to think. To balance out all the good in my life, my refrigerator quit working JUST as my home warranty expired. Actually, it quit working 2 days earlier. I was only reminded that I had a home warranty just as it expired. It all could be very convenient since my parents are coming in this weekend. I have a sneaking suspicion that my father would rather help me pick out a new refrigerator than go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And that'll give my mother another reason to come back. Plus, it solidifies the fact that we'll be eating out the entire time they're here.

So, the night before their arrival, I'm doing some house cleaning. Trying to at least make the place look somewhat presentable. I decided to do something with all the old newspapers and weekly ads that've been laying around. In the pile, I discovered some phone books that I never even bothered to crack open. In the age of the internet, who uses a phone book? At that point, another memory hit me. When I moved in with my NYC roommate, he pretty much had the main living space set up. In those days, I did use the phone books. And I always left them on the table with the phone. My roommate insisted that phone books belong on top of the refrigerator. I can see that making sense if the phone is BY the refrigerator, but the phone was in the main living area 30 feet away. Somehow, my logic of keeping phone books with the phone defied him and they stayed on top of the refrigerator.

Ah, memories. I still kinda miss that apartment.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Looks like I'll be going to the Pictoplasma Conference in Berlin. Pretty exciting stuff. I finally submitted some images to Pictoplasma. It'll be interesting to see what images of mine, if any, they choose to put up on their site.

Surfin' Monkey

Nearly a year after I bought my house, my parents sent me some money for a housewarming gift. I squandered a portion of it on a surfing monkey. How can you NOT love a surfing monkey? I instantly fell in love with it and proceded to the register. The cashier looked at the monkey, smiled, then looked at me. "Uh... you're not married are you?" And if purchases like this keep happening, looks like I never will be married.

FlashForward.....back from Austin

Back from FlashForward, and I'm exhausted. It was a good time, but much of it focused more on Action Scripting than cool animation and design. I guess that's the way it ought to be, though. At the end of the day, Flash is just another tool to create animation and design. And now that the conference is over, it's time to read all the literature they handed out and explore all the links I've gotten. But more importantly, it's time to create more junk.

I wish I would've had more time to explore Austin. As fun as 6th Street is, I'm sure there's much more out there. I snapped a bunch of pics of the stickers and street art in the area. Although I saw some new stickers, I didn't see too much on the street that really excited me.

I did wander into the Alamo Drafthouse and pick up the SUPER HAPPY FUN MONKEY BASH DX GAIDEN dvd. I watched most of it at the airport. Gotta say, I think it was well worth the $15. I finally got to see a couple of episodes of OH! MIKEY, which is apparently available (legally now) on DVD. I'd previously seen it listed on, but no more.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


It's tough to watch all the stuff abou 9/11, and still, NYC is the only place that has really felt like home to me.

So many memories are dredged up about the aftermath of 9/11-- the smell of jet fuel/cement/plastic, the intermitent scares. So many inconveniences in the weeks and months after 9/11; trying to get back to Hoboken and being told that I have to go back to Newark, getting off at Jersey City into a taxi and the driver saying that eveything on the news is a lie.

A few weeks ago, I fell down the rabbit hole of looking at a bunch of the conspiracy theory websites. That sort of stuff enrages me. I was, in some respects "there," but my heart and thoughts really go out to those who were closer than I was. 17 blocks.

It's a tough call. I've survived cancer. My father has survived a tragic car crash. 9/11 is at the top of the list, too. People survive and move on.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The End of Summer

The 5th anniversary of September 11 is coming up soon. It's affected me in ways that I still don't understand. Below is what I wrote 2 weeks after the fact, typos and grammatical errors intact. It was a year before I could actually make myself read it. In retrospect, some of it may sound naive or misinformed. Take into account that this was well before we invaded Afganistan, targeted the Taliban, and Iraq wasn't even in the picture. At the time, it was still inconceivable that commercial airliners with civilian passengers could be used as a bomb. Also, I realize my erroneous observation of the fire progressing down the building. In the course of the morning, I first saw the WTC from the west side when I was in Hoboken. When I got into Manhattan, I had a view from the North. The fires really hadn't travelled; I was just getting a different vantage point.

There are more things I wish I would've written about at the time when it was fresh in my mind.... going back to work, getting nothing done, then going to McSorley's for lunch and getting drunk with Devin and Sean; sitting alone in Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken at night, just watching the smoke billow out of the hole that was the WTC, and in later weeks looking at the pillars of light that were projected from where the WTC once stood. At least I have the following....

The End of Summer

Change was in the air on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The weather in New York was cooling off. I decided it was time to make the change from wearing shorts to work to wearing jeans. I had worn shorts the day before, but this morning it was too cool for shorts. And it looked like the weather was going to stay cool. It's that in-between weather. The end of summer. In the summer I carry a sketch book, pen and sunglasses in the pockets of my cargo shorts. When it's cold, I carry them in my leather jacket. It's the weather that I have nowhere to easily carry those things unless I carry a backpack.

As I put on my jeans, favorite boots and Backyard Babies t-shirt, I listened to the Donnas first album. They sounded like a female vesion of the Ramones. And the Ramones always put me in a good mood. I was in a pretty good mood already, but I wanted that vibe to stay with me. So I decided to wear headphones that day and take the Donnas with me.

Sometimes it's nice to have music to listen to as you're walking. One of my co-workers says she loves walking through the city with headphones. It makes her feel like she owns the city. Most of the time I like to hear the sounds of the city, to be aware of my surroundings. Headphones block that out. Nothing could block out what was happening as I was listening to the Donnas.

My walk from my apartment in the middle of Hoboken to the PATH, the subway system that goes from New Jersey to New York, seemed normal. It was a beautiful day, blue skies, a cool morning that would warm up to a perfect day. Normal until I got to the newstand just outside the PATH terminal. There were lots of people standing around. My first thought was the lottery jackpot was $50 million and they were all in line to buy tickets. But they weren't in line, they were all looking towards Manhattan. The top floors of both towers of the World Trade Center were on fire. Plumes of smoke billowing like smokestacks. I took off my headphones. The crowd was relatively quiet. Sure it was bad, but it didn't seem THAT bad. I thought about the Windows On The World. I figured the top floors would have some smoke and water damage, but everything would be okay. I thought I heard someone say something about a plane, or was it flames. I wasn't sure.

I did know that I'd continue to work on a Scooby Doo Activity for the Cartoon Network website at work that day. Not a bad job, but one that I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about.

I made my way to the train. The train to the World Trade Center had been stopped. I take the 33rd Street train, so I was happy the only inconvenience was the train was more crowded than normal. I thought maybe people would be talking about the burning towers, but I didn't hear much. It looked like a lot of business men who normally take the train to the World Trade Center were aggravated by the change in their daily commute. I get off at Christopher Street, the first stop in Manhattan. And the closest to the World Trade Center. Some people got off the train and got on the next train back to Hoboken. "Maybe they know something I don't," I mused. At street level, there were more than the normal number of people milling around.

I made my way to Hudson. Small packs of office workers were walking up the street. I cut down Grove Street over to Bedford. Fewer people were there and it's a more direct path to work. There was a lot less traffic crossing 7th Avenue, except for the firetrucks, ambulances and police cars that would intermitently blaze down the street with sirens wailing.

I can't remember whether I saw Tony that day. Tony is normally outside 38 1/2 Bedford, by the corner store at Bedford and Carmine. He's a squat older man with thick glassed in big plastic frames. Maybe he's Italian. I like to think he's Italian. Most of the time he looks the other way as I approach or he's engaged in conversation with his cronies. In the year and a half that I've walked by him, I've only managed to say "Good morning" a half a dozen times. He's one of the people that fascinate me. He alway greets all the pretty girls with a big hopefull smile as they pass. Some of them stop to talk to him. Maybe he thinks of himself as a ladies man like Picasso. He always tries to avoid me. I think it's painfull for him to greet a man besides his old graying friends. I find it funny. It's kind of a game. He tries to ignore me and I try to get in a "Good morning." So I always try to see if I can make eye contact and sneak in some sort of greeting without being too obnoxious. So far he's winning.

Down closer to Houston, I ran into the slight Asian man who I often see in the morning. He takes the same route I take to work, but in the opposite direction. It's hard to tell how old he is with his salt and pepper hair. A smile dominates his face. He always greets me with a "Hi! how are you?" in his accent before continuing his hustle to where ever he goes. On this day, he saw my headphones which I normally don't have on, and probably thought I was listening to the radio. "What's happening? Buildings. On fire! Two buildings on fire! What's happening?" I didn't know what was going on. I knew what he knew "Two buildings! On fire!"

The firetrucks from the firehouse at 6th Avenue and Houston were already gone. More packs of office workers made their way North away from the World Trade Center. They were all nicely dressed. And the scent of perfume would waft by my nose. "How different our worlds are" I thought as I continued my trek to work in jeans and my Backyard Babies t-shirt.

I turned off of 6th Avenue to go down Prince Street. At Prince and Sullivan, I could look down Sullivan and see how far the fire had progressed. The fire was a quarter of the way down one tower and a third of the way down the other. This was much worse than I originally thought.

I paused again at the corner of Prince and Thompson. I quickly looked around to make sure the limping black homeless man who stands outside the corner store wasn't there. He always recognizes me. Sometimes he calls me Mad Dog. Or he yells, "You're my man!" Once he saw me with a bag from an art store and he said, "Oh, man! You're an artist! You're an artist among artists! You're going to be famous!" And I have never given him any money. I recently found out he called one of my friends a white bitch because she didn't give him any money. My guilt about not giving him money was somewhat diminished. Without the threat of him around, I lingered a few moments looking at the flames. Someone had their car radio blaring the news. It wasn't really news, it was just a voice on the radio stating what was right before my eyes.

West Broadway is fairly wide, so I walked towards Spring Street with the World Trade Center blazing before me. Another car had their car radio blaring with a group of people listening. I tried to listen, but there was no information that was new. I quickened my pace as I turned East onto Spring and walked the last 4 blocks to work.

I made it to work at about 9:55. Always on time. It's one of my weaknesses. Even when I TRY to be late, I'm there by 10:15. Once it was 10:30. I asked Maree, our receptionist, what was going on. She knew no more than I did.

I went to my desk and turned on my computer. I wanted it to be a normal day. Or at least as normal as possible. I couldn't sit still. The office was much more empty than normal.

Someone turned on the TV in one of the conference rooms. It's one of the kinds that projects the images on the wall or screen. They showed footage of the second plane hitting the tower. It was a plane that had hit the first tower as well. And the planes were commercial airlines. And they were full of passengers. And the Pentagon was hit as well. The severity of the situation was staggering. People wandered in and out of the conference room, dumbfounded by the shock. People talked about Pearl Harbor and acts of war. The smoke and fire had progressed rapidly since I had last seen the towers at West Broadway and Spring. I still held my optimism. It was bad, but things would be okay. And then my heart sank. The first tower collapsed. New York's skyline would be different. I hoped that that was the end of the damage. And then the second tower collapsed.

How many people were inside the towers? There's no way everyone got out. No way. I remembered sitting by the Huson River with my friend Mary the Friday night before. We had gone to an art opening on 26th Street. We were going to stop a bar to have a beer, but as we walked South towards the West Village, we decided to stop at a gas station and get a couple of beers and sit by the water and drink them out of brown paper bags. We had a view of the river, New Jersey and the World Trade Center. A lot of lights were on there. Who was working there at 9:30 on a Friday night? Mary told me that the World Trade Center has it's own ZIP Code. It's own ZIP Code. That's a lot of people.

I have no idea how to react or how to feel in situations like this. I remained calm, as did everyone around me. The shock and disbelief make you numb. I did have to admit that it was definitely raising the bar for terrorism--taking airline hijackings and bombing buildings and combining them. I wondered why they didn't load the planes down with chemical or biological weapons as well.

Mark, one of my superiors, turned to me, "How old are you?" I didn't respond. "How old are you?" he asked again.

"31," I said wondering the relevence.

"31? This is a day you'll remember for the rest of your life."

I still have no idea what relevence my age has to that question. I remember being in class in 5th grade when the principal Mr. Van Iten announced over the intercom that President Reagan had been shot. Was I 10? Or 11? What year was it? It doesn't matter. I remember IT. And I remember where I was sitting in the class. I have no idea what subject was being taught, but I remember Mr. Van Iten's announcement. And the minute of silence, a thinly veiled minute of prayer.

I checked my e-mail. I sent a few e-mails stating that I was okay. I traded half a dozen with Steve in Kansas City. I was concerned with what this would do to an already unsteady market. And he wanted to know if the whole city was covered in dust. In those minutes, he informed me that 12 more planes were unaccounted for. The phone system was on the blink, but I managed to call my father twice that morning. I assured him I was okay, but I may be inconvenieced. I may be stuck in Manhattan for a few days. The subways ground to a halt. The tunnels and bridges were closed.

It looked like Maree wasn't going to make coffee that morning. My thriftiness allows me to be able to go until 10:30 before I need my first dose of caffeine. It's times like this that I have to buck up and pay for my coffee. Feeling the threat of terrorism, I took the stairs down to street level. We were only about 20 blocks from the World Trade Center. It seemed entirely likely that the power could go out at any moment and I envisioned myself being stuck in an elevator for a few days. The street was alive with talk of terrorism and going to war. I went to a little French coffee shop down the street. They seemed to be doing pretty good business. Even with everything that was happening, people still needed coffee to wake up.

People on the street talked of war and terrorist actions. "Don't take the subway, terrorists love attacking subways!' It didn't matter; I couldn't if I'd wanted to. I made my way back to the office and climbed the stairs to the 4th floor. It was obvious no work was getting done that day. I remember one of the girls saying, "But we've got client meetings today!" I think someone pointed to the TV and said, "No we don't." No one was ready to deal with the magnitude of the situation.

Kristen, one of the managers, told us to go home. It seemed somehow fitting that she was wearing a sweater with skulls on it. And we would be notified if we were to come into work on the following day. Fred and Randy both offered their places to stay if I couldn't get home. I took their phone numbers and hoped I wouldn't have to use them.

Hudson, a programmer who sits by me, had his computer playing the news off of some internet radio station. We heard that Jersey transit was operating outbound. Hudson lives upstate and takes a train to Hoboken and then comes into Manhattan on the PATH. We decide to make the journey together. I figured that if the PATH was running, it would be packed. And with the trains starting at 33rd Street, by the time it got to Christopher Street there wouldn't be any room left. So at 12:30 we headed towards the 9th Street stop.

I was glad to be with someone I knew. Hudson's a programmer. An analytical person. I was thankfull for that too. The morning's events had unified the city. Not only as Americans, but as New Yorkers. It was instantaneous. I was surprised at the calm and poise everyone maintained. And the imediate desire to help. Still, I was glad to be with a friend.

The day was warming up. I already wished I had worn shorts instead of jeans. Few cars if any were on the streets. We walked up Broadway. It seemed like millions of people all walking somewhere. Some towards the World Trade Center, some away. In New York there are always millions of people walking around, but on this day it seemed odd. Already most businesses had closed for the day and there was a curious lack of hot dog and "Nuts 4 Nuts" vendors in the street.

We made it to the 9th Street station and climbed down the stairs, down the long tunnel and down more stairs to the platform. Only to find that the trains weren't running. That led us to option #2. Walk up to the Port Authority at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue and try to get a bus to New Jersey. People were walking everywhere. Buses and trains were stopped. Some of the people had even been in the World Trade Center that morning. I caught a glimpse of a somewhat distraught young woman walking and talking on a cell phone. It looked like her face had been burned on the nose and cheek. I wondered if she was one of the "lucky ones." Ambulances, firetrucks and police cars screamed by with more regularity either going to or coming from the World Trade Center.

The Port Authority had been shut down. People hounded the police for information. Unfortunately, the police knew little more than anyone else. We did hear that the ferries were running to New Jersey. So we walked the 3 blocks to the docks. Police were directing traffic. I couldn't tell if they were letting people through the Lincoln Tunnel. But I told Hudson we ought to pay $20 to someone with room in their car to get us through the tunnel into New Jersey.

By this time it was already after 2:00. Throngs of people were all looking for the mysterious end of the line. Allegedly there were 2 lines. One was a line for the ferry to Weehawken and the other to Hoboken. We made our way to the one that went to Hoboken. There I ran into David, a freelancer who had worked for Funny Garbage. We talked a bit about business. We could see that the line was serpentine and looped back and forth. He decided to cut in line. And that was the last I saw of him. An old man behind me asked me if David had just cut in line. I told him he had, but I thought it was a bad idea to do something like that in a time like this. He walked off in the same direction as David.

The line was much longer than I had anticipated. It stretched from 42nd Street all the way to 32nd Street, looped back on itself and came back up to 38th Street. The sun was beating down on us. And I was regretting not having the foresight to buy a bottle of water. After feeling myself burning in the line for an hour and a half, I took out my umbrella. I should have taken the hint from the other umbrella holders in the line a lot sooner.

Hudson and I talked about war, who was responsible and what would happen next. Our vantage point was obscured by many of the buildings. The line had move far enough South that we could see all the smoke and ash filling the sky. We were all the way up in Midtown. The smoke seemed a lot closer the World Trade Center. And with a sudden rush of emergency equipment, I was sure that the smoke was from another building. Maybe the Empire State Building. But as the line got closer to 34th Street, we could see the Empire State Building was still there.

I kept thinking about how lucky we were. It could have been a lot worse. I envisioned a crop duster coming along and spraying Zyklon B on the thousands of us in the half mile line. Or us being loaded onto cattle trucks and shipped off to Auschwitz or Dauchau. Somehow the crimes of the Nazis seemed to make the situation better for me. It kept my mind off of the people who were in the World Trade Center, suddenly doused in airplane fuel and on fire. Or millions of tons of concrete and steel smashing people to a bloody pulp. And if I thought about it, it was a better way to go than naked and starving to death through a German winter. And I was getting a sunburn on an otherwise beautiful day.

All my thoughts were somewhat eased by the fact that I couldn't think of anyone I knew who would have been in the World Trade Center at the time of the collapse. Except for Jason, one of my co-workers. He takes the PATH from Jersey City to the World Trade Center. We normally get to work at about the same time. I was pretty sure that he wasn't there. He was probably stuck at home; the World Trade Center train was already shut down when I came into the city.

A fighter jet streaked overhead. And the emergency vehicles continued zipping up and down the West Side Highway. The line crept forward at a painfull pace. I was thankfull that things weren't worse. Maybe I'd come out of this with just a sunburn. My mind raced back to Mrs. Renfro's 7th grade Social Studies class. And the films we saw of the Holocaust. Bulldozers pushing piles of naked corpses into mass graves. Gruesome, gruesome images. And I thought about the note Kim Nelson and Tandy Devine covertly sent around the room. It said, "Everyone start groaning at 2:10." So at 2:10 that day, a room full of 7th graders sat and groaned while watching films about the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps. A sunburn didn't seem bad at all. A sunburn, a long walk and a lot of inconvenience. A few criticised the way the lines were organized. "They should have been more prepared than this!" It absolutely floored me. I didn't really care if I was in that line for 2 hours or 2 days. I was happy to be alive and in one piece.

We had been in the line for well over 2 hours. We had hit the turnaround point at 32nd where the National Guard was and we were headed back for 38th Street. All of a sudden the line started moving a lot faster. We were close to the entrance to the ferries. Our line was merging with another line. A few people ahead of me an behind me started yelling about people cutting in line. It seemed to me that somehow we were the ones cutting. If whole bunches of people were cutting in front of us, wouldn't we be moving slower? But we were moving faster. I feebly tried to argue my point, but they weren't in a listening mood. And I didn't want to stoke any tempers. It just seemed so incredibly ludicrous that not too far behind us thouands of people were dead, wounded, trapped in fiery rubble, and here were people upset that someone had supposedly cut in line. Maybe it was just a way for them to vent their complete frustration.

We finally made it to the pier where they were loading the ferries. Two Muslim men with turbans, robes and beards were in the crowd. I immediately thought of them as terrorists. But logic took over. If they were terrorists, they'd be smart enough not to be right in the masses of confused workers just trying to get home. They too were just people trying to get home. I kind of felt sorry for them. I could sense the paranoia and stereotyping of Middle Eastern people to come in the following weeks.

Most people were going to Hoboken and they were loading the ferry to Weehawken. The NY/NJ Waterways workers were conducting the passengers. One was a diminuative Hispanic woman. I think this was her chance to shine. "Weehawken come on through! No pushing! No shoving! Please stand back, sir! Let them through! Have a nice trip!" It made me laugh inside. And I think it made her happy to have power and to use it to help people.

On the ferry, we sat on the lower deck on the left side. As the ferry puttered to Hoboken, we had a good view of the smoldering wreckage of the World Trade Center. I could hear the clicking of someone snapping pictures. The girl behind me was incensed by the action. "Why would anyone want to take a picture of that? It's disgusting! It's disgusting! People have no taste! It's going to be all over the news tomorrow, why would you take a picture of it?" I held my tongue. I thought, If you had a camera, why WOULDN'T you take a picture? This is history. It's bigger than Pearl Harbor. It's a defining moment. It's a document. I was there. This is what I saw. A picture is worth a thousand words. I wished I had a camera. Another thing I regret not having the foresight to carry with me or to buy a disposable one that morning.

We docked in Hoboken sometime after 5:00. They let the people who were within a 10 block radius of the World Trade Center off first. They had police officers and Red Cross workers stationed as we exited the boat. They looked everybody up and down as they got off of the boat. I don't know what they were looking for and I'm not sure they did either. Everyone was a suspect.
I left Hudson to catch his train and I navigated through the rest of the Hoboken terminal.

The triage center that was set up was devoid of victims. A dissappointment to the medical workers. People just wanted to help. The waves of marginally wounded people never came, Unfortunately, if you were in the World Trade Center either you got out or you didn't. They did have a table full of cups of water. I gratefully took one and continued to my walk home. I was home by 5:30. A full hour and a half before I normally am.

My roommate Brian was parked on the sofa in front of the TV when I walked in. He had been unable to get into the city even though he left the apartment before me. He tried to take the bus into the city, but by the time the backed up traffic got to the Lincoln Tunnel, it had already been closed. And the bus had to turn around. He was surprised I had gotten into the city at all.

I called my parents to let them know I was at home. I cooked a frozen pizza and devoured it since I hadn't eaten since breakfast. And I don't miss many meals. I didn't think I'd be able to sleep without a little help, so I went to the grocery store for a 6 pack of St. Pauli Dark. Good German beer. The cashier said that they sold three times more alcohol that night than they did on a Friday night. And when I got home, I drank all of them in front of the TV. There was talk of terrorists, airline security, war, the economy.

The picture became more and more grim. It was becoming apparent that this will be a new type of war with new types of soldiers and new fighting techniques. The enemy has nothing to lose and the U.S. has everything to lose. They sacrificed 19 of their people to kill thousands of ours. The U.S. intellegence failures absolutely frightened me. I thought about how different the terrorists are from mainstream America. About how close-knit it is. How hard it would be to penetrate the inner circle. I thought about different sub-cultures. People like these can smell their own. Once, at a party at my apartment a guy I know said he used to be into skateboarding and was really into the Ramones. He asked me to name a good Ramones album. I knew immediately that he was neither really a skater nor a real Ramones fan. I don't doubt that he rode a skateboard or that he listened to the Ramones. It's the fact that he lacked the knowledge, passion and attitude about those subjects that gave him away. Or maybe it's like the Hell's Angels. They can tell if you're one of them; they can tell if you've lived the lifestyle, if you have the scars and tales to prove it. And even with all that, they'll beat the living shit out of you for your initiation. And then they make you wear a jacket that has been soaked in urine and feces. These terrorists seem so much more horriffic than the Hell's Angels. They are masters of finding weaknesses in the system and exploiting them. They truly are armies of one, each one a fearless weapon of mass destruction.

I thought about all that was lost--lives, buildings, sense of security. And I realized that this cool September morning was the end of much more than the end of summer.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Waiting for the paint to dry on my Grumpy Bears, I've been working on fonts. I'm slowly getting closer to the point where they'll be available for sale. You can check them out here.


Labor Day weekend and I've got a headcold holding me down. Slowly working on my bears for the Grumpy Freak Show, and finding plenty of distractions, like making fonts, updating my sites, organizing files, sleeping. And then remembering that I have a blog.