Letters to Holly

Thursday, April 10

UpDad and a New Gig

Dad called after his most recent chemo on Wednesday to say he felt OK. A bit tired, of course. He's lost three pounds, which may be the most since he was diagnosed. But he thinks the next chemo won't be as harsh. He spends his days watching baseball and sleeping; if I send him the DVD of the play, he might finally call the cable folks to hook the player to the new HDTV configuration. He again mentioned buying me a new lawnmower, but he shouldn't worry about that now. I don't want to dismiss something he wants to do, but I told him we can do it later. Because I'm convinced there will be a later.

We had dinner with the play director and his wife last night, and he threw me a curve. Remember that play he had me read and comment on? Turns out he wasn't so much grooming me for a part as testing me. And I passed. He asked me to join the Play Selection Committee for the theatre. I get to read and recommend shows. I was handed four scripts last night, and I'll start one today during lunch. It's volunteer, but this is nothing less than fate challenging me after I spent years complaining about the theatre offerings.

I again got up early to draw the page, and I managed to sketch through two panels. I now have three days to draw, ink, color, and letter the page. But I can do it.

Picture of the Day
That's what I'm talking about.

Starting the Comic Page

As I made dinner last night, and Your Sister finished reading The Mist, we found salad makings from the cast party that were never used. or used up. An entire box of mixed greens had to go, and she was tempted to toss out the leftover basil. I suggested we dry it out and chop it up for cooking, and up I went to hang it in a paper bag over the garage. I always forget that the previous owners left stuff up there: Christmas paper and boxes and a broken table.

I started the comic art last night. You can see the previous jam pages here. I sketched out my thumbnails beforehand, and created the panels on the artboard.

But then I took stock of the schedule and decided I should use photo references for the figures. I'm playing with awkward camera angles and tricky poses. I recruited Your Sis and showed her the previous jam comic pages to explain how we got to this point. Then I showed her the thumbnails so she'd know what poses I'm looking for and how they'll work on the page. It went very smoothly. I'd like to think I can do this better than the theatre photographer. I also took shots of myself for reference and dusted off my figure reference flip book for artists.

I feel good about where I am and what I'm trying to do here. I should be able to hit the Sunday deadline easily. This is the sketch for the first panel, when our stupid hero wakes up.

Tuesday, April 8

Small Things

I volunteered to work on a jam comic with other members of a message board I haunt. I signed up for this months ago, and I was the 13th person on the list. That meant I had to wait for the previous 12 to hand in their stuff, and then I was to make a page based on what had come before -- a collective serialized story. Unfortunately, people flaked out, and the scheduling went wonky, and months later, I finally got the call that it was my turn. Only eight pages have been produced. I downloaded those pages to work on my own, and I have until Sunday to produce a drawn and lettered comic page. No problem. I just didn't think it would happen in April. This pushes back the painting work for a week, but Your Sis says that's OK.

I mowed the lawn, and there was great rejoicing. The first mow of Spring is just a reminder to the lawn that it has vertical boundaries, and if the grass blades do not respect that, they get beheaded. The mower cranked back to life after months of hibernation, and made cranky noises as it blinked its way back to work. I'm eager to get to work in the garden, but we have to burn off the ivy first, and then we can till the soil.

Picture of the Day
I'm sure these things are easily confused.


A few days ago, I began cleaning the lawnmower for the new season. I enjoy it; it's a pleasant checklist of simple tasks that even my limited mechanical experience can manage:
  • Clean out the oil filter, soak it in oil, and replace. I keep a spare and swap them out each year.
  • Sharpen the blade.
  • Change the sparkplug.
  • Drain the oilpan and put in new oil.
The neighborhood is suddenly buzzing with mower noise, and I noticed that our next-door neighbor mowed his lawn last night not long after I went into my workshed. This happens almost every time, and I imagine his wife pestering him to mow the lawn after seeing me walk out of the house with my iPod and work jeans.

Those folks are moving and trying to sell their house themselves. Because affordable housing is rare in the county these days, Your Sister called them up to ask their price to pass the info along to co-workers. They called back and left a message with the asking price, and she almost dropped the phone in shock. It's more than twice what we paid for our house, and it's just shy of a half-million. I don't think this is the market value, although I have heard how much our house's value has increased since we bought it. But this is because all local prices have soared.

The new subdivisions -- built on promises of low prices -- are all beyond the resources of many local employees. A chunk of teachers have to live outside the city limits (and the accompanying city utilities), and some live outside the county. Their taxes go to school systems other than their own, and of course they have to travel farther in these days of high gas prices.

The county high chiefs have debated affordable housing and living wages, and it's a crucial matter: This county has already shooed away middle-class residents as companies closed left and right, leaving retiree subdivisions and gated communities. Clearly, if not for the teaching gig, we wouldn't live here. While the restaurants are nice, the store selection is weak, and there's nothing to do at night. Thank God we like to walk; the forest is right there. But we are assuredly living in a retirement locale and tourist trap, and the economy is ever-more leaning that way. Convenient downtown stores are replaced by year-round Christmas shops and expensive craft-jewelry galleries. These ain't for the locals.

Anyway, I'm sure the neighbors appreciate us planting new flowers and working on our garden and mowing our lawns as this can only help their sales pitches. Any potential buyers will see what the neighborhood features, and we're part of that. We're quiet folks, usually, and I have refrained from installing a basketball goal on the house. But it's almost certain we'll have another retiree couple living next to us; no one else could afford that house.

Picture of the Day
A moon of Saturn.

Monday, April 7


Friday saw another of our small-group dinner and conversation nights. I handed the hosts a copy of the play DVD, and they let us borrow Cast Away, which I've tried to get Your Sis to watch for years. She saw it Saturday night and enjoyed it as much as I thought she would. But I was surprised by how much she wanted to watch The Mist again. It's possible that she's open now to watching good horror films, and now I gotta cobble together a list for her to work through.

I made stir-fry for that night's dinner, and we thought a picture of the dish might make for a good picture. The photos look alright, and I will start sketching the canvas by Wednesday. I hope to take pictures to document its progress.

I ran Sunday morning. I didn't plan to do two miles, but I managed it, and feel only small leg tension this morning. I'll try to jog today. We took a late-night walk during the rare lull in the rainfall.

Picture of the Day
The last thing you expect to see at a BBQ party for a local mail center is an Imperial Stormtrooper. But there you go. The Orange Crush (in a bottle!) was a plus.