Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hammett 3:16

John Keane's roughs for the third page of JESUS CHRIST, PI.

There is no cause for alarm. Please remain comics.

So in the absence of much in the way of new North American mainstream comics tomorrow, Happy Harbor Comics is filling the New This Week shelves with work by local creators, as well as running a number of instore events to celebrate the medium. Which is cool.

Less cool: in an uncharacteristic moment of weakne--er, I mean, enthusiasm, I volunteered to be part of almost all of the proceedings that aren't scheduled during my normal shifts.

Which means if you want me to sign the copies of PARTING WAYS, THE HOLIDAY MEN in The Massacre Memorial Day Sale Massacre Extra-Special Collectible Black & White Edition #1, or even Cowboys & Aliens you're undoubtedly looking forward to buying, you'll be able to find me:

-jamming with fellow creators at the store tomorrow (Wednesday) night

-sketching for donations to the Edmonton food bank from 10-12 on Saturday, and

-on Sunday, again for charity, working in tandem with (what I sincerely hope is) a whole bunch of local creators to create a 16 page comic that, if everything goes smoothly (or roughly but according to schedule) will be printed and available the day after.

Details from the Harbor website:

Diamond Comics, the main distributor of new comics in North America, has announced that they will not be shipping any new comics the week of December 30 (with one exception), due to the holidays causing shipping delays to different regions across Canada and the US. So for that Wednesday, there will be no new, mainstream comics on the shelves which leaves Happy Harbor with some very empty shelves for a week.

To off-set that, we have decided to fill the NEW COMICS THIS WEEK rack at all our locations with locally owned and created material - including books we currently have in stock and several new ones by local creators made just for the event! Also, to help celebrate, we've lined up a few extra events!

Wednesday, Dec 30 - COMIC JAM! If you've never tried a Jam, improv comic art making, we'll be hosting Jams at as many of the HH locations as possible. Jams start at 7 pm, there's no charge and no materials are required.
**Volunteers to help run the Jams are still needed.

Saturday, Jan 2 - SKETCHFest! From 10 am to 6 pm at every Happy Harbor, bring a food good or cash donation for the Edmonton Food Bank and receive a custom sketch from any of the several local artists who'll be on hand drawing for the day!

Sunday, Jan 3 - COMIC IN A DAY! Between 10 and 11 am, bring in a donation for the Food Bank at HHv1 (downtown). The biggest donation gets to request the theme/title/characters for a 16-page comic that will be created by a host of local talent! Multiple writers and artists will work until 6 pm to complete the work which will be on sale the very next day!
The story will be credited to the winner as "INSPIRED BY" so this could be your chance to get YOUR comic made! Also, you'll receive a one-of-a-kind signature copy with the names of everyone who will work on the book!
Creators involved so far are professional comic writers Andrew Foley (Done to Death), Robert Richardson (DC Webcomic winner for Aug 09) and new Zenescope artist Daniel Schneider - with plenty of more talent to be named!

** To all interested creators, Happy Harbor will be providing meals and snacks for those attending the full day Sat or Sun.


Sunday, December 27, 2009


I'm tired and my head is pounding. It's been a pretty stressful day all around and I'm not going to stop being stressed until I get a phone call, hopefully inside the next hour though I told Dad I'd give him a half hour beyond that before I started to panic.

It was Lisa's Alberta memorial today. She'd made a home she loved in Ontario, but spent most of the first thirty years of her life in Alberta, so there were a fair number of people here that couldn't make it to the Ontario ceremony who wanted (and given the role they played in her life, I'd say deserved {not that my saying so means much}) a chance to pay their respects/celebrate her life.

I've been trying to put my finger on why this afternoon's ceremony hit me so much harder than the one in Ontario. Maybe it was because of the familiar setting--the church where the memorial was held was also the church Lisa and Harvey got married in. The background on one of the photos in the video memorial was recognizably taken in the same place we were all sitting today. That one hit hard. They all did, really.

Many of the faces I saw today I haven't seen for years, but they're the faces of people I personally associate with Lisa. I know she was a well-liked member of the community out east, but the people at the last memorial were largely strangers to me. Today it felt a little bit more...real?

It may be that my role at the Ontario memorial gave me a bit of distance, physical as well as emotional, from proceedings. As a pallbearer I was seated apart from the family; today I held Mum's hand for most of the memorial and could feel her body shaking next to me when my own shaking was under control.

Or it could simply be that I was feeling some distress due to the circumstances of my arrival in Red Deer. Mum, Dad, and Harvey went there last night; T and I elected to stay home for the night because, well, we didn't want our dogs to destroy anyone's house--OK, the one dog, Data's too mellow to do much damage these days. T's parents were willing to have the dogs over and in fact did for much of the day, but having them during the day and having them at night are different things and they'd already taken care of the dogs for the week or so T was in Ontario with me. I didn't really want to dump more Dare-related hassles on them, at least not more than necessary.

Cevyn, given the choice of hanging out at her weird Uncle's place or going to Red Deer with her Dad and grandparents, opted to stay overnight here with T and I. Which meant that I was driving two of the most important people in my life to Red Deer this morning in my parents' unfamiliar car--which doesn't look that big from the outside but feels like a tank when you're behind the wheel. And it is power everything--an ill-timed cough from the back seat could put the stupid thing in the ditch, it's ridiculously sensitive, esp. compared to our car, which must be wrestled into submission with every single turn. It's not just because I'm an antisocial curmudgeon that I leave the house so infrequently--it's also because I'm too lazy to want to have to deal with steering the car.

The unfamiliar and dangerously accommodating car would have been nervewracking enough on its own, but that wasn't the worst part of the trip. No, that would be the cloud of fog that obscured the highway for the bulk of the trip to Red Deer. Granted, I've frequently said there are few things less interesting than the scenery on the way to Red Deer, but not being able to see the scenery, or in fact the road in front of you, is incredibly interesting. I look forward to my blood pressure returning to its normal level sometime in March.

When all was said and done, I managed to get Tiina and Cevyn to Red Deer in one piece. Well, two pieces, one part T and one part C, but you get the picture. Doing so had left me with a nasty neck strain and the pounding headache I seem to recall alluding to above.

As I also alluded to above, today was more emotionally wrenching than the previous memorial. Seeing Susan, Melodi, half my elementary school teachers, to say nothing of a couple of childhood homes, the Corner Store where I first regularly sought out the comics of the week, and my high school, had me feeling nostalgic for a period I don't usually feel much nostalgia for (partly because I don't remember most of it with any clarity and the parts I can recall are embarrassing enough to make me wish I didn't.) And all of that was before I was once again confronted the loss of my sister.

I don't think I was the only one feeling it more this time around. Dad only barely got through the wonderful eulogy Mum and he wrote; Cevyn was more emotional than I'd personally seen her since everything went chest up. Suzie, who was handling the live singing portion of the program, broke up crying in the middle of one of them...

...Which isn't to say the entire affair was without its humourous aspects. Anyone who wants evidence that God hates technology wouldn't have to look much further than today's memorial. First, there was a massive blast of feedback during a very odd point in the priest's initial speech. Why it would happen almost at the end of her talking instead of the beginning, I don't know, but there it was. She was talking about how great God was or some such and suddenly BRRAARRRNNNGGGGGG!

It went on quite awhile, too. Some people said it was Lisa having a laugh; Dad thought it was her missing her cue during the eulogy when he mentioned her enjoyment portraying a gassy patient in some sort of hospital function. It'd be nice to think that Lisa was there in spirit and able to affect proceedings, but if I were to believe that, I personally don't think that's the point at which she made her presence felt. No, that would come during the powerpoint presentation.

I don't know if it was actually a powerpoint presentation--I thought it was a prerecorded video cycling through a number of photos of Lisa selected by Mum, Dad, and Harvey before the visitation. Whatever it was, it didn't work very well today. First, the thing was frozen on the first image for a long, long time. So long the priest went towards the back to try and help resolve the problem. She neglected to turn her microphone off while doing this, and was apparently unaware that her whispered comments to whoever was running the computer were being broadcast all over the church. If I was one for praying, at that moment I'd have been praying for her to say something really inappropriate, like "Jesus #*%&ing Christ, what the #*%&'s wrong with this thing?", but it was not to be. I must admit I got a little giggly regardless, just because the broadcast whisper thing was funny to me at the time. Talk about grasping at straws...

Eventually, they sort of got the thing working. The photos started to go through the proper rotation, using the a variety of standard wipes for no good reason I could see, but hey, I was there for the photos, not the changes between the photos or the music.

I didn't mention the music, did I? The reason for that is because there was the better part of six minutes without the music that was supposed to play along with the montage. Eventually, some wretched country song (for all her good points, Lisa had no understanding of music, as evidenced by her insistence that country and western material actually counts as music and not an audio crime meriting the most extreme penalty for all who inflict it on the public) blasted a few lines into the church--and the video stopped. For a moment, I was absolutely jubilant--I'd seen the photos, but only had to actually listen to a couple bars of the accompanying "music". If Lisa was influencing things today, this was surely the moment, when she finally took pity on her poor brother and didn't make him listen to crappy country and western music.

Whether she was responsible or not, the jubilation was shortlived. Having resolved the problems, the video was restarted, complete with music. Which is just as well. Being happy at a memorial for one's deceased sister would be unseemly, even if that happiness was thoroughly justified, as I have to believe anyone who heard the tunes and understands that country music is to music what sweet potatoes are to potatoes (which is to say, COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and WHOLLY INFERIOR THINGS that have no business usurping their respective usurped terms) would agree was a completely understandable reaction on my part.

Today's minister personalized things a bit more than the last one, addressing each member of the immediate family and advising us to take a variety of hippy-dippy actions. The term "fill your memory cup" came up more than once, I believe. Still, I'll take a litany of pop-psych advice over friendly reminders that God's just the most wonderful thing, isn't he? any day. There was a fair amount of that going on today too, which is understandable but still faintly aggravating. Irritation has its uses, though. I think I would've been a complete snot and tear-drenched wreck (as opposed to a mostly snot and tear-drenched wreck) if I didn't have a new logical fallacy being foisted off on me as divine truth every ten or so minutes.

The minister said that God would come to comfort us in a variety of ways in the coming days--in the form of supportive friends and family, in our memories of Lisa. I expect she's right about the friends, family, and memories, but the only one I'll be giving credit for that is my sister.

I thought being driven back to Edmonton by Dad would let me relax a little, and it did, right up until we hit the same fog bank that made the trip to Red Deer such an edge of my seat affair. Granted, having someone else behind the wheel did stop me from freaking right out (though I imagine my grabbing the impact bar at the slightest provocation did nothing for Dad's state of mind.)

But as I started writing this post, something I'm doing instead of the thing I dearly want to be doing, which is sinking into a deep, deep sleep, that fog continued to make me edgy. Because Dad wasn't just driving me and T back home tonight--having done that he was also determined to go back to Red Deer. I understood why he felt he had to go: he wants to be there for Mum. Under almost any other circumstances I'd have wanted him there for her, too, but the idea of him driving back through the fog at night in an unfamiliar vehicle (he and Mum rented a minivan to move everyone around over the holiday) without a cellphone, to make things even more dicey... Well, let's just say I wasn't thrilled.

I told him I wasn't going to worry Mum by calling her and trying to get her to convince him to stay here overnight, because I don't think he'd have listened to her if she told him to stay put (in the same position, I don't think I would). So I gave him three and a half hours from leaving here to phone and let me know he'd gotten back to Red Deer safely before I hit the panic button.

He left. I ate some sandwiches. I read a few sentences from Eoin Colfer's "And Another Thing...". And he still had an hour and a half before I could start getting really agitated. So I started writing a blog post, because I haven't done that for awhile.

A few minutes ago, Tiina wandered into the room and informed me that Dad had phoned to let us know he was back in Red Deer safely. In addition to that, I've got standing orders from Mum to take my pills, get some sleep, and stop worrying about her. She's going to have to settle for two out of three.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Twitter hath wrought

BEHOLD! John Keane's roughs for the first two pages of the first (and in all likelihood last) adventure of JESUS CHRIST, P.I.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Visitation Rites

Even though I thought and still think the visitation tradition is, to put it more charitably than I have for much of the last couple days, redundant and more than likely a fiendish ploy designed by a pernicious funeral home owner looking to suck every available penny out of grieving relatives, I attended Lisa's first visitation period with Harvey and his sister Cindy.

As anyone following me on twitter is now aware, I think most traditions are kind of silly (a good excuse for a bad habit, I usually say, though Steve Logan on facebook made a valid argument in their favour). Having said that, Lisa was deeply invested in tradition and she loved this community. I didn't want to go, but I didn't want Mum or Dad to go if they didn't want to, and they pretty definitively didn't want to. And Lisa--who's the one member of our immediate family who absolutely would have been there for any other family member--had a previous commitment. It seemed to me that, as much as the Foley side of Lisa's family does not deal well with these situations (like anyone does, right?), there should be someone there to represent them on this occasion. By default, that someone had to be me.

Fortunately, Harvey and Cindy were also there, as they're much better at talking with people than I am. Also better at talking with people is Lisa's good friend Nancy, who was also there pretty much for the duration and I suspect is back there now.

I'd be there now myself but Mum and Dad are picking up a sizable contingent from the Thunder Bay branch of the family tree and, their previously stated reservations notwithstanding, will be going to the visitation afterwards. So T and I are "taking care" of Cevyn, by which I mean, we're sitting in the basement watching TV and blogging, and she's sitting upstairs watching TV, reading the second volume of Svetlana Chmakova's NIGHTSCHOOL {I'd bought both available volumes for her for Christmas, but decided to give them to her now--as with Svet's previous graphic novel DRAMACON, she's cutting through them {and VAMPIRE KNIGHT volumes} like a cute, cuddly, mildly irritated by her uncle threshing machine} and generally avoiding her silly and frequently irritating uncle.)

The visitation was just as weird and uncomfortable as I'd feared it would be. H, C, and Nancy all interacted with the visitors more than I did, mostly, I suspect, because sitting in a corner and glaring balefully at anyone I didn't personally know (which was basically everyone but a couple of Cevyn's friends) wasn't the most inviting of postures for me to have on display. The pounding magraine I developed seconds after entering the funeral home did not have me feeling particularly sociable, which is a convenient excuse, but I can't honestly say I'd have been much better if head and back were in tiptop condition.

In fairness to me, I did take the initiative to talk to several people unprompted. Mostly these were people standing quietly in a line behind an invisible "Please wait here till the previous mourner has finished talking to Lisa's husband" sign. It was awkward enough not talking to anyone when everyone was talking to someone else; sitting sullenly not talking to anyone when someone else in the room was also conspicuously not talking to someone else reminded me of countless parties I'd rather forget. So I dragged my sorry self to my feet, walked across the floor, introduced myself, chatted a bit.

A curious thing happened during the course of the several conversations I had this afternoon. Everyone who knew her has a Lisa story to tell, and all of them were different (well, almost all of them involved laughter and an interesting percentage involved dressing up in adult diapers, but for the most part, different stories). I wished I could manage the originality and offer up something new, some bon mot designed specifically to put each individual person I was talking to at their ease.

But by the end of the two and a half or so hours, I felt like I'd almost turned into the guy I become when I'm standing behind a table at a comic convention, in that I was saying the same things repeatedly to different people, almost by rote:
-"You worked with her at the hospital? She really loved you guys. The flag at half-mast really touched our family. Mum's going to try and take her family to see the memorial, but I'm not sure Mum's ready to see it herself."
-"Your child goes to school with Cevyn? You guys have been so supportive to her during this time, we really appreciate it...Cevyn? Well, she's a teenager, you know? She seems to be taking it better than anyone, which worries me a little. I'm not sure it's really hit her yet, but she's so quiet it's hard to guess what's going on with her."
-"You work with Harvey? He's over there."
-"I'll have a #4 combo with Coke Zero." Wait, that's what I use at the drive-thru for Wendys.

Now, all of that stuff is true, and I said it in as heartfelt a manner as I could manage. But there was a weird, ritual quality to it. It was hard (for me, for cynical, hard-bitten me) not to feel there was an element of performance to it all. Which actually made it easier to talk to these strangers. Playing the role of a grieving brother somehow let me act like I perceive a grieving brother's supposed to act, rather than doing the things I'm actually inclined to do, like lurking on the edge of the crowd, scowling at people (not on purpose, mind you. I've just got what Michael Ironsides calls "an angry face"), and heaping scorn on expensive, redundant traditions I don't understand.

I suspect I should be embarrassed to admit to any of this. If anyone out there reading is actually someone I talked to this afternoon, I hope you'll understand that none of it is in any way intended to diminish your feelings, and I hope you'll forgive me for giving myself some emotional distance from the situation. It was that or me breaking down in a heap of tears and snot and bitterness and anger in front of you, which would just have embarrassed both of us.

And...I'll admit I feel a little better for having "done my part" this afternoon, however silly I think this particular practice is. There's no question in my mind that being there is something Lisa would have done. And it pleases me to believe my being there would have made her--not me, not my family, not some nebulous community I have no stake in, but my sister--proud.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Lucky Ones

There are a few "Quiet Rooms" adjacent to the Ottawa Civic Hospital's intensive care unit. According to the signs on the doors, they're primarily intended as meeting rooms where doctors can talk with families; also according to the signs, what they absolutely are not to be used for is a personal family space (even though families who have call to spend time in the ICU could probably use it.) According to the signs, families aren't allowed to lay any territorial claim to a Quiet Room for any length of time, with the exception of the aforementioned doctor meetings.

So when, having been asked politely to leave Lisa's side for a few minutes while the nurses took care of some stuff, I wandered by the Quiet Rooms and saw hand-written signs claiming the Quiet Rooms for specific families taped right next to the much-more-official-looking "families aren't allowed to claim the Quiet Rooms" signs, I did something I came to regret. That these families could be so insensitive to everyone else, that they'd so egregiously violate the rules and take for themselves what was intended for communal use made my blood boil. I was seething, so much so that I suggested to Mum that I might go give a piece of my mind to the diminutive woman who had the nerve to give me a slight, anxious smile as we walked past the cracked door of the room she'd staked out.

Mum told me to leave it, and I did, but I was furious. When I ran into the woman from the room in the elevator a few hours later, it was all I could do not to unleash a flood of abuse on her. When she started talking to me--to me, the selfish so-and-so, like she hadn't done anything wrong--I could feel my blood pressure rising. And when she'd finished talking--she was a rambler, so it took awhile--I was absolutely disgusted.

With myself.

This woman's daughter was in a car accident a few days ago. The daughter's boyfriend wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was killed pretty much instantly. The daughter had several skin grafts, which apparently weren't doing whatever skin grafts are intended to do. Worse than that, the doctors believed that somewhere in her daughter's midsection there was a hole, a hole that apparently was doing a fair amount of damage, a hole they were having trouble finding.

I heard this story three times; once in the elevator, twice when I chanced to wander by the woman and hear her telling it to other people she didn't know. She had no one else to tell the story to.

She's a single mom--or she was and I hope she still is and her daughter gets better (signs were positive, last I heard.) Her family consists of her daughter, her mother, and her stepfather--and her mother's not in the best of health and her stepfather's got issues with hospitals. This woman had been in the ICU for three consecutive days, her only respite coming when the doctors asked her to step out to work on her daughter and a few hours spent alone in the Quiet Room I'd so resented her for taking for herself.

I found out about Lisa's heart attack Saturday around 7PM. I'd travelled I don't know how many miles, hundreds if not thousands, to be with her before noon on Sunday. Dad was already here, having spent the week prior to the surgery that led to this disaster to help Lisa and her husband and daughter, Harvey and Cevyn. Mum got there a few hours after I did. When we got the neurologists' first assessment, I called Tiina; she was here in under 24 hours. Harvey's sister, who lives several hours from a city with an international airport, arrived a few hours after that.

Between the half-dozen or so of us, my sister was never without a family member nearby unless doctors asked us not to be. And all of us had each other to lean on.

All this woman had for comfort was a couple hours a night on a couch in a Quiet Room. For support, she had strangers.

It's an odd thing to find oneself in this situation and realize that, for all I've lost, I am so, so lucky. Lucky to have had Lisa as a sister, lucky to have my family, lucky to have Tiina. I have so much I sometimes take it for granted, and intellectually I know I take it for granted but sometimes, when I'm voyaging into the depths of my navel, the forest gets lost behind all those trees.

Everyone should have the things I have. And I need to remember that many don't.


In case you don't follow me on twitter or facebook...

...Lisa officially passed away yesterday.

Thanks again to everyone who sent their words of support, it meant and means a lot.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Check your hope at the door

"A glimmer is better than a black hole."

So says Mum, and she's usually right because she's my Mum. But I'm not sure it's true in this case. For my part, I'm trying hard not to succumb to hope, here. I get horribly depressed when people don't call when they say they will; disappointment in the context of something, you know, actually important to me and those I love is something I can't bear to think of. Best to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised than to get my hopes up and have them dashed if the situation deteriorates.

But it's hard not to grasp at whatever straws are available. Yesterday, Lisa's neurologists left no doubt in my mind that this was not going to end well; today, she's shown signs of improvement they didn't expect to see. Small, microscopically small signs, but positive microscopically small signs. I'm trying to stay downbeat and pessimistic, but it's not easy. What a strange situation to be in, to find myself tempted to hope here, of all places.

It's ten to three in the morning here in Ottawa. Mum and I are on the night shift, sitting with Lisa. Mum's a former nurse and has worked extensively in the palliative care field. I don't know if that's a plus or a minus--well, it's a plus for Lisa, because she knows how to apply the mouthwash and what to look for, but knowing what to look for...I don't know. She seems less optimistic than I am right now, and that's highly unusual. I'm the family doomsayer, this situation has disrupted the natural order of things.

Lisa's being well-taken care of here at the Ottawa Civic Hospital ICU, by a number of healthcare practicioners, a disproportionate number of whom are named "Heather." She's surrounded by all sorts of machines--numerous drips, a dialysis machine, heart monitors. They haven't brought in the machine that goes PING! yet, but I'm confident that should one be required it would be supplied in short order. It all feels a bit like tackling the incoming tide to try and stop the wave from reaching the beach, but there's something comforting in the notion that everything that can be done is being done.

At the risk of being crass, I feel compelled to point out that if we were in the United States, I and the rest of my immediate family would likely be facing debtors prison once this situation is concluded. I always thought the healthcare situation down there was a #*&%-up of monumental proportions, but current circumstances just reinforce to me how lucky I am to have been born above the lower 48. Nobody should ever have to go through what I and my family a re currently experiencing, but that a bunch of assholes' desire to reap profit from others' misfortune should trump what ought to be a basic human right is repugnant.

Trying to keep my gallows humour to myself. Not being entirely successful. Might share some of the funny but completely inappropriate things I've thought of saying recently when I'm sure Mum's not going to be reading.

I said it on Twitter earlier and I'll say it again here: thank you to everyone who for your messages of support. I feel blessed, which is not something I usually feel (I'm sure it'll pass) and my family and I are very thankful.

Take care of yourselves.