Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dylan Williams R.I.P.

I'd like to belatedly say a few words about my friend Dylan Williams who died last month. It's been a great comfort to me being able to read other people's thoughts and remembrances and I thought it couldn't hurt to add to the communal memory of Dylan by offering a few of my own.

I didn't get to hang out with Dylan much these last couple of years but there was a period where I really felt like he was one of my best friends. Becoming friends with Dylan Williams was like falling in love. As our friendship bloomed I couldn't help but think of him always. I felt like we needed to see each other once a week, needed to talk on the phone every few days. One time I was even out shopping with my wife Allie when I was excited to find a present for Dylan. She shook her head at me in dismay and suggested I bought more presents for Dylan than I did for her!

Once Dylan, Emily, Allie and I were close he bashfully let us in on one of his secrets: he was living in the shadow of cancer. I had my own private crisis when I heard the news. "No! I can't lose Dylan" I thought. He had so quickly become such a huge part of my life that the idea of losing him was too much to bear. Of course, Dylan lived such a healthy life-style and lived his life with so much spiritual vigor, that my panic eventually faded. Even as we watched him suffer through illness after illness this last year, I was convinced he'd make it through, that he'd keep plugging away.

We met Dylan about five and a half years ago through the comics scene. With no savings or money, Allie and I impulsively opened our own business, Guapo Comics, out in the commercially dead zone of our neighborhood Foster Road. As any good comics fan would, Dylan had come into Guapo to check out Portland's latest comic store. I'm proud to say we were carrying Dylan's Sparkplug comics before we even knew him (or of Sparkplug--I ordered them blindly thinking they sounded cool.) Dylan quickly became a friend and a hugely important booster and supporter of our store. Dylan was the Zelig of indie comics. He somehow seemed to know everyone and be involved with everything. When we opened Guapo, Allie and I didn't have a single friend that liked or was involved with comics. We were completely isolated in our love for the medium. Thanks to Dylan, we were introduced to an entire community of cartoonists and comics fans--many of whom moved to Portland in his footsteps.

Dylan set up panels at events like Stumptown and invited me to participate. We planned readings and parties together. I helped copy edit many of his Sparkplug releases. I took him to my alma mater Reed College to do a presentation on mini-comics and self-publishing. Tim Goodyear and Dylan put together a Guapo comic anthology for our first Stumptown party. It compiled work by all the readers and included a brand new two-page comic Dylan wrote and drew about our store cat Macky just for the occasion. Dylan graded a box of old comics someone gave us to sell in Guapo. In the early days of Guapo we were working 10 hour days seven days a week. When we we needed a break and someone to cover the store, Dylan became our first volunteer. Emily became our second volunteer. We'd go an entire weekend without a single sale and then Dylan would come in and spend a ridiculous amount of money on new comics, DVDs, and reprints. I used to wonder why he didn't buy some of the more expensive stuff discounted on amazon--of course, the point was he wanted to support us. Plus he charged everything on his frequent flier credit card, which he used to get free or discounted air fare when traveling to comic shows around the country. I can't overstate how important Dylan was to our success at Guapo.

A lot of people thought we were crazy running a comic book store "way out" in the underdeveloped Foster neighborhood. We opened the store though for our neighborhood not for money. Dylan and I had many a conversation about small business, about the pleasures of staying small and living with a different view of success in business. For us with Guapo, and Dylan with Sparkplug, the goal of business was to create a self-sustaining enterprise that supported the things we loved. Ever increasing profits or expansion weren't even an issue. Dylan appreciated our attempts to revivify the Foster neighborhood and when he decided to open up his own store front, the Bad Apple, he opened it up right next to us, "way out" on Foster.

Dylan was one of the most ethical people I've ever met. There was a period a couple years ago when he was becoming overwhelmed with Sparkplug work. Many people had inquired about being a Sparkplug intern but he turned them down feeling it would be exploitative to have someone working for him for free. Knowing that unpaid internships are common in the industry, I pushed him to accept an intern--he wouldn't budge and eventually worked his way up to officially hiring an employee, even offering the employee health insurance.

Dylan was an incredibly sensitive soul. One time I was about to flame out from stress and was complaining about my 70 hour plus work week. I made an offhand comment about how he had it easy with his work (my point being how I envied his flexible schedule). Later he made a point of saying I had hurt his feelings with the comment. I felt frustrated by his thin skin but was more than happy to acknowledge how hard I knew he worked. I was impressed with his willingness to talk about feelings, to express himself, and stand up for himself. These were the type of conversations I didn't have with many people. Years later, when Allie and I debuted our first zines for sale at the Portland ZIne Symposium he enthusiastically bought Allie's zine to add to his distribution catalogue. He also bought a half dozen copies of my Macky zine, but later admitted he bought them so my feelings wouldn't be hurt. My feelings were fine either way, but I thought it was sweet and funny he was so worried about them. Later he called me from APE when he heard Macky had in fact died. He offered his sympathies and then with a laugh let me know that my zine was selling way better than Allie's at the show, jokingly trying to fuel the fires of our non-existent spousal competition.

Dylan did bust his butt in life--be it for his publishing, his friendships, or comics in general. I didn't get to see Dylan during what would turn out to be the final couple months of his life. We were going through an overterm preganacy and the c-section birth of our first child while he was in an out of the hospital. However, he did call me out of the blue a couple weeks before he died. He had just had a feeding tube taken out of his throat and could hardly talk above a whisper, b ut it was important for him to call and ask about our plans now after closing Guapo. Dylan had a huge selection of his own published and distributed comics in the back of Bad Apple but he adamantly refused to sell any of them from his storefront, not wanting to infringe in the least on our own sales at Guapo. If a friend came in to the Bad Apple and asked for a zine, he'd send them our way-- sometimes we wouldn't even have the book in stock and I'd have to go over to Dylan's and buy a copy wholesale before the friend could finally get a copy. Now that Guapo was closing, he was interested in adapting the Bad Apple into a zine shop. I was thrilled at the news but ended the conversation slightly foggy on his specific plans. I could barely hear half of what Dylan was saying and felt bad asking him too much to repeat himself in his weakened condition. I was so touched that despite his ailing health he was still excitedly plotting and planning his next move.

I'd like to mention a few endearing details about Dylan. Dylan love-love-loved cats and Allie wanted to make sure I mentioned an oft-repeated story of mine about Dylan. Even before we were friends, Dylan and I unwittingly had some of the same habits. Anytime we were shopping on Hawthorne we would stop by the cat store Cat's Meow to visit and pet the store cats that worked and lived there. It was Dylan that took this routine to the next level though. He told us that if you visited Cat's Meow after hours and went up to the front door you could put your hand through the mail slot. You could reach through and soon enough a cat would appear and rub against your hand, angling for pets and affection. We tried it once or twice before the store went out of business and it really did work!

Dylan with Macky!

Dylan's favorite Peanuts character was Marcie.

When Allie and I were hanging out with Dylan it would be hard for me to say anything without them both turning it into a sexual innuendo. I would be about to say something like "that was hard" and they'd both race to say "That's what she said." I knew it was coming ('That's what she said!') but was too stubborn to change my sentence because of their immature humor. Dylan loved to laugh though and that's how I like to remember him.

Dylan and I spent a lot of time talking movies and music. He knew so much about all art that it was hard to expose him to something new. That's why it was such a treat for me to get him into the music of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. The first zine I consciously made was for a compilation of Dennis WIlson music I had designed. I made the cover and CD art for the album. I wrote an essay and liner notes for each song. I made it an edition of one and I gave it to Dylan. He later seemed to become a real fan of Dennis's music which felt like a real coup for me, a Beach Boys fanatic. I think he appreciated the lack of artifice in Dennis' music. Dennis Wilson wrote the song "Farewell My Friend" upon the death of a close friend. When he himself tragically died, at age 39, his brothers and bandmates played the song at his wake. I always thought to myself that this is the song that I want them to play at my funeral too. The sincere, plainspoken words, tied in with my Beach Boys love, just hit me hard. This song was on a continuous loop in my mind after I heard the terrible news about Dylan's death. I offer this song to Dylan (another D.W.) in appreciation of his friendship. I will always miss him. "Farewell my friend, my beautiful friend."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A little visit

Today we all woke up around 10:30 in the morning after a fairly successful attempt at putting Clementine on a schedule. We lounged around, ate some breakfast and watched a couple of episodes of The Office.

Around 2:30 or so Jeremy's dad arrived with Jeremy's grandmother and Aunt Tracy from Eugene. We chatted and everyone took their turns holding Clementine.  It was a nice little afternoon.

Right now the three of us are laying in bed with Clementine attempting to go to sleep all by herself. Each time we've settled down for a nap today the amount of time she has fussed before falling asleep has been less and less. By the time I wrote the paragraph above, she has already passed out! Yes! She is an amazingly sweet little lady.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lazy Monday

Today Jeremy and I woke up and realized we had a cold. We took it easy and stayed home all day.

Neither of us got out of our pajamas. I took a morning nap with Clementine and Jeremy took the afternoon nap shift with her.

We're trying to get Clementine on a schedule in preperation for Jeremy's return to work in mid-October. With the way today has gone so far, this schedule is going to be hard work.

The supposed schedule is as follows:

6:30-7:00 am
Wake up/feed Clementine

9:00-11:00 am
Clementine's morning nap

Lunch for Clementine

2:00-4:00 pm
Clementine's afternoon nap

4:00-4:45 pm
Clementine afternoon snack

8:30 pm
Bath for Clementine

9:00 pm
Night feeding/bed for Clementine

11:30 pm
Late night feeding

3:30 am
Clementine feeding

5:30 am
Clementine feeding

The hardest part of this schedule is that Jeremy and I are trying to teach Clementine to fall asleep on her own without nursing or bouncing on the exercise ball. It is absolutely heartbreaking to lay next to her while she is crying and not do anything.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Month One, Complete!

Clementine turned one month old today! She celebrated by eating a lot and then taking a nap in her vibrating chair in the shade.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Yep. Still no baby. She's one week past her due date now. But did you know that most first time moms are a week to a week and a half late? In that sense our little Clementine is right on schedule. I started my parental leave yesterday, which means I will be working at Guapo for the forseeable future while Allie rests up before and after the birth. I go back to my day job October 13th. My coworkers held a little goodbye party for me which was very sweet and touching. I've really been enjoying things there since the promotion.

I did FINALLY finish my "2010 Year In Review Zine" and have started distributing copies. Let me know if you want one. We're gearing up for the 2011 Portland Zine Symposium. I am naively hoping I can finish my Beach Boys zine by then. We'll see.

Stay tuned! I will be posting pics like mad once baby is born. Here's the happy family, taken a few weeks back: (to be placed once Blogger starts working again)

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Message from the Void

I thought I'd mention that we still exist. We've been very busy of course. Our baby is due in two weeks. I am trying to FINALLY finish my year in review zine this week. I did finish a music zine a month or two ago. This is the supplement to year in review.

The music zine comes with a mix CD. I plan to release both zines, annually from now on. I think it's doable, despite my tardiness. The Year in Review Zine can have a very flexible format. I've already decided upon the 2011 Year in Review format and it will be MUCH less ambitious then the one I came up with for 2010.

I will be on a three month parental leave from my day job once the baby is born. Although I expect to be tired from having a newborn, I'm hoping I'll have more time to tend to this blog. I'll be working my leave at Guapo where I will have a little more free time.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Eight more weeks

Things are going well in impending-parenthood land. We just had our baby shower last weekend. It was so touching to have so many friends and family come up. And I was pretty shocked by how much stuff we got.

Here's the invite we sent out, adapted from a Martha Stewart template.

Allie added dots of glitter to the final invites. We picked the rabbit image because it is the Year of the Rabbit. The rabbit theme also let us get a lot of cheap decorations since Easter just ended.

As soon as the shower was over, Allie immediately got to work tracking down everything left on our list. It's sweet how on top of it she is. We're going on a shopping trip tonight for some of the final items.

I finally finished a new zine--my MUSIC year in review zine. This is going out with the regular year in review zine which I have finally gotten back to work on.

Other than that, I am trying to get lots of house work done. My parents have been a big help--they painted the baby room and had a heat pump installed in the house.

This weekend I am going to paint the baby's dresser and mow the lawn.

We're naming our daugher Clementine.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fax machining at Oscar Party Weekend

For the second year in a row, Allie and I set ourselves the goal of seeing as many Oscar nomiated movies as possible in time for the Oscars. I don't actually consider the Oscars the best measure of movie greatness, but I've loved watching the ceremony since I was a kid, and their taste in movies is okay to great. This year we got going on our Oscar viewing far in advance and managed to see eight of the ten best picture nominees as well as many of the movies nominated in other catagories. The two best pic movies we haven't seen yet are The Fighter and The King's Speech.

Our friends Gariet, Orly, and Larissa came over to watch with us and Allie treated us all to a feast of chocolate chip cookies stuffed with oreos, bacon-wrapped dates, and pulled pork sandwiches.

Afterwards we played my new favorite game, Fax Machine which I had never played before. Apparently each player writes a sentence then passes the sentence to the left. Each player then draws the sentence they were given. They fold the paper so the original sentence is obscured, then pass the drawing. Each player writes a new sentence describing the drawing they were given. Then they fold the paper to obscure the drawing and pass the paper to their left. A new sentence is wrtten and so on.

Here's an example which we passed around twice:

The original caption was inspired by this hilarious auto-tuned video from the Oscars. Incidentally the four of us (no Larissa) had just seen and enjoyed the latest Harry Potter movie.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Latest and greatest project: a baby girl!

So there's been one other project keeping us busy...we're going to have a baby! And this weekend we found out it should be a baby girl! We're so happy about the pregnancy and the gender news. So far Allie has had a very stable, healthy, and mellow pregnancy. She just passed 20 weeks which means we're over halfway there. These months of pregnancy have whizzed by, while also seeming to take forever.

Here's an ultrasound of our baby girl taken this weekend:

The baby is due July 15.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Updates and Art Show

I figured it was time to shake the dust off my keyboard and finally update this blog. Allie and I have had A LOT of stuff going on. Plus it's been cold and wet which only dimishes our energy. Therefore, anything we get done feels like a massive ordeal. What have we been up to lately?

I'm STILL trying to wrap up my 2010 Year in Review Zine. One problem with it is it has a lot of tie in products I am also making.

I'm STILL trying to wrap up the first issue of my Beach Boys zine. On a recent insomnia plagued night I had a real breakthrough on this but am delaying because the 2010 zine takes priority.

I recently got an awesome promotion at my day job and after cleaning out my old desk on my last day at my old job, I collected all my doodles and spent my lunch break compiling, copying, cutting, and stapling a new zine. Here's the cover.

The title refers to the length of my tenure at my old position. I consider this zine a trifle but it was still a blast to make.

Our friend Emily N. invited Allie and I to participate in her February art show at Pony Club, with art inspired by A-ha's "Take on Me" video. Allie and I accepted the challange, mainly just to pull ourselves out of our various ruts and try something new. Neither of us is fully thrilled with our pieces but I can live with that feeling of self-criticism. I'm glad we did the show. Here's a shot of Allie's piece on the wall. It's a 3D Lenticular painting.

Here's the view from one side:

and here's the view from the other:

I did two pieces for the show. First a pastel drawing of the A-Ha drummer, seen towards the top of this picture:

then a spray-paint stencil on wood, seen at the top of this picture:

I'm most happy with the stencil piece. I had never used this technique before so had to learn as I went. This was my third effort (and it included a 4th pass on the face).

Ours and other pieces (some of which are really amazing) are for sale online here.

I have at least one more blog coming soon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year

Hey People
It's been too long since last we updated. I'm not going to linger here either, just give a quick update. I'm working on wrapping up my 2010 year in review zine. One of my problems with it, is that the format I chose made it huge. It could be up to 52 pages! I've written it all. Now I just need to unwrite it. I want to make it more concise and snappy. I may remove whole portions of text and replace them with a drawing. All of this takes a while. I'm a little disappointed in myself though for being late. I hope to get it printed by the end of January. I've also compiled a 2010 year in review mix cd which will go out to some.

Otherwise, I'm trying to wrap up the Guapo inventory count for taxes. It's my birthday this weekend and we're having an ice cream social at the house.