Another year in the bucket. Around here, things are cuspy. I mean, they’re on the cusp of change. It’s not always fun or exciting. It’s that period when the old way has passed its time but the new way hasn’t yet started. Limbo. Waiting, wondering.
In my case I’m talking about my future on this planet. As an artist, and as a person. The big news is I’m in the process of slowly backing away from the Spit and a Half distro.
When I restarted Spit and a Half , in 2009 or so, it was with the hope I could grow it into a part-time job... something to do a few days a week to bring in some extra income and lift the financial burden off trying to survive as an artist alone (which is tough, everybody knows). Then there was a point when things kept growing where I thought, "Wow. This is really filling a need in the comics community… this is a real business." It became a full-time job (but it didn’t really pay like a full-time job). And then it became a six-and-a-half days a week job that paid like a full-time job. (Thank you !)
Now if you’re working a six-and-a-half days a week job, packing comics in boxes, answering the endless parade of emails, texts, Facebook messages, Instagram messages, twitter messages, dealing with problems, headaches, setbacks, mistakes, first of all, one thing is clear — you sure as hell aren’t gonna be drawing your own comics. Second — every tiny lapse compounds upon itself. Wait, you have a doctor’s appointment ? The pile of work grows higher. You have to take your dog to the vet ? Higher. You’re just so depressed and tired you can’t get out of bed ? Higher.
It was a case of bad timing. If only this had happened when I was 25... When I had a community around me (ie in the same town as me) to help out, hell, to hire... And when I had energy and nerve and youthful idealism. But I’m fifty years old now and I have none of those things.
So now I’m fucking up. Maybe not super bad, but the writing’s on the wall. I’m hundreds of books behind on updating the website. I’ve got 1000 titles scattered throughout our house (and a storage unit !), spilling everywhere and messing with the Feng Shui. I’m misplacing people’s books... which one of a dozen stacks of boxes are those twelve missing minicomics in ? I DON’T KNOW.
Like Cometbus said, "I wish there was something I could quit." So I just kept getting deeper and deeper behind, and feeling worse and worse. And then I was listening to Joni Mitchell’s Hejira album. I’ve listened to it many times and never wondered about the title. Turns out hejira is an Arabic word meaning "a journey, especially when undertaken to escape from a dangerous or undesirable situation." (Good ol’ Merriam-Webster.) And it clicked. I need my hejira. My tactical retreat.
Like all of us I’m sure, I grow more and more alienated from the modern world with each new day. I’m broken down by the constant cycle of bad news, horror, stupidity, greed, anger. In the pre-Distro days, if I was overwhelmed like that, I’d be able to retreat for a while, hide for a bit, regroup. Draw, think, walk in the woods, heal. But with the Distro that’s an impossibility. There’s always another email, always another order. PLEASE don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly humbled by and grateful for the support the Distro has gotten from the community. It’s an honor to serve you all ! But the time has come for me to pass on this mantle to the next generation. It’s just not a job one old dude can do on his own anymore.
As a survival instinct, I’ve started drawing more (from life), and playing music again... and in those acts I’ve begun to touch parts of my spirit that have been neglected for a long time. It feels like the start of a rebirth. I’m fifty, and I hate to talk about it, but men in my family don’t live very long. Early sixties maybe. My Dad made it to 64 by a few weeks. I have a lot of work still to do in this life... personal work. Comics to draw, letters to write, birds to feed. So I’m beginning to break down the distro... culling old titles, returning books to publishers... in an effort to restore some balance. Knowing me, it will be a long slow process, but over the last few months I’ve begun taking the first steps.
I love you all ! Thank you,
PS : Thanks everyone for the well wishes I’ve received in response to this blogpost. To clarify, I’ll (likely) continue to run the distro going forward, but it will be at a drastically reduced level, with a small, highly specific and rotating selection of books. Something that I really can take care of easily on a one or two day per week schedule.