Where the Hell I've Been All This Time

I look at the last date in this blog, rapidly approaching two years ago - even being generous to myself because of the circumstances that’s far too long.

Every time I’d open the window and try to begin, every post of ‘I have not died, I will be proving it shortly!’ - the tides that conspired to keep me from doing so would come crashing back. I’d have a less-than-stellar day emotionally, I’d get called into a job I hated, someone would level a comment or snotty remark that I spent the remainder of the day fighting off, or I’d just end up exhausted and choosing instead to flop into bed with my partner and watch SNL. So I didn’t, until now. But that means anyone not in direct contact with me probably assumes I’m out of the game. I’m not. It’s just been changing.

So the recap, very briefly:

I moved to NE and I spent a bunch of time nannying a great kid, in a great neighborhood. I went on my first date with Scotty Gillmer, the long-time collaborator of our mutual friend Carl Thompson. We, uh, fell in love. That day, like a flash fire. I asked him to marry me not even two months after that date. We’re now less than 4 months away from the big day. I’m supposed to BE A CURMUDGEON, WHAT IS THIS. 

I left the Art Cellar, an arts supply store at my alma mater, MCAD. Somehow, I then worked at 3M. I know - ALSO VERY BIZARRE. 3M conspired to turn me to stone, to make me care about the days of a week (oh noes, a Monday!!), and engage in dumb water cooler talk. NONE OF WHICH I CAN DO, THANKS. And I left there after nine months. I was gestating a Fed-Up-With-This-Shit Baby, and when she’s born, you gotta go. The Autoptic Crew and I pulled off another show in August. I took my first graphic novel from Uncivilized Books to Bethesda for baby’s first SPX. Then I came back and started teaching comics. Add multiple moves, the addition of a new, devilish kitten, and a few successful and many stalled-out projects, here I am. In the snow of a late March, in a planting season, creatively-speaking.

Aside from the completion of Houses, I haven’t made significant headway on any large project. A majority of the other projects I undertook - a painting for this show or that show, personal drawings, collaborations, design gigs for friends - have also found themselves small and burnt up on the floor of my mind, unfulfilled. Since ink went down on the last pieces of art for Houses, it’s been an excruciating and confusing dry period for almost a year. Looking back, it’s been another blurry period of my life, marked with all the more frustration with every passing month. In the wake of my mental crisis, I’d found renewed interest in life and actively participating in it a way I’d only imagined up until this point. Comics was my person, and we spent all our damn time together. And then I fell in love, and in the interest of never ending at my previous emotional nadir, invested my time and emotions fully into my partner. I thought, maybe arrogantly, that the art would simply fall in line behind me like a tethered puppy. That my actual work was somehow completed - that the life-work balance was gonna sort itself out from there. That I’d have the exact amount of work I needed to survive financially and the exact amount of time I wanted to draw, and also to be in a relationship and SEE MY FRIENDS, I REMEMBER SEEING THEM SOMETIMES.

If there was anything I should have taken from my experience working in a cube at a corporate compound, it should have been that life-work balance is a holy grail, an ideal to be grasped at, but will rarely be reached to perfection and forever-more. That it’s a balancing act everyone plays until the curtain call.

So! Here I sit, waiting for spring. Good old Minnesotan snowstorm blowing in, delaying the re-birth. Hopefully the seeds I’ve been struggling to plant in the last few months will be ready to bloom after this, because I sure as hell am.

April. Still snowing.


Last year this time I was screaming in a cold garage at the printing press as snow came down and down and down. This year, the snow is still coming down in APRIL. Whatta shonda. 

March was a blur. Inking, breakdowns, early bedtimes, new beginnings, old patterns. Moving house in roughly a month to spend the (supposedly on its way) summer in Northeast being a part-time live-in nanny to an awesome kid. Attempting to put together a work-space in my live-space and seeing if I don't just nap the whole time I'm supposed to be "working." Going to quit one of my jobs to bring the total down to 2 rather than back-breaking 3. Both book projects going slowly but going. 

This month I'll have a little show up of Houses of the Holy related work at the White Bear Lake Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi, MN. Yeah, you heard right, church. 

And because I've been slaving over them, have some in-progress pages.

From Houses of the Holy, parts 2, 3, and 4.


from North Star Letters (working title)





February Update


This has been a long winter. Let's hope for some goddamn springtime.

In updates, personally, I am doing three-elephant's-worth better than before. This time last year was the beginning of a long, slow rocky ride down, and here now I feel at least the ground underneath my feet.

News-wise, I was interviewed by the lovely ladies at LE SIGH a little while back, and they asked some wonderfully in-depth questions it was a joy to answer. Check it out.

Comics-wise, working on two different books has put me through my paces, and on both I've run smack dab into the seemingly mandatory crisis-of-faith right in the middle. Because of a change in my process for print quality's sake, I'm no longer inking straight on to the copy paper which I draw on (You read correctly - I said copy paper). Sort of begrudgingly going to blue-line onto bristol proper and ink with a big-boy brush and everything. Which means better quality, yes, but also strips me of some of the speed in working I'm used to. Speed, which, I suppose, I used to outstrip project fatigue in the past. If I was already done inking by the time the crisis-of-faith could catch up with me, well, then, there was no crisis to be had. That wily jerk.

But these pages feel good to me. Really, really good. Hopefully that translates to something that makes sense to the outside world and people outside of those whose language overlaps with mine, but that's gotta come after. The work's gotta come first.

With that, going to read some Peanuts then get back to it.







The Hanged Man, the Moon, the Two of Wands



I asked my friend Leigh to read my three card Tarot, and, obliging, she told me to ask a question before I drew my cards.

The past year had been ineffiably charged. Awash in trouble and success in seemingly unpredictable tides, and the water was always around my feet, if not up around my neck and coming up to drown me with the good and the bad. I'd accomplished so many enormous things in only 12 months time, and each seemingly eclipsing the one before. I'd printed a thousand copies of my Xeric-funded book in a spring blizzard in a freezing garage, screaming and singing in equal parts all the way through. I'd traveled for the first time out of the country (while not having a severe panic attack) for TCAF, the largest convention I'd ever been a part of. As part of the insanely-hard-working AUTOPTIC crew, I'd helped establish a arts/comics/printmaking/music convention of our own for the city I loved and called home, and it was amazing.

But the pain had come almost in equal intensity. Stress cultivated anger and I turned it at myself and friends and anyone who might cross my path and appear a threat to my fragile balance. Like being tied to an operating firehose with no one to hold me steady. And then, as guilty as a tulip is brief, I'd loathe myself and do so behind a shut and locked door so I could punish myself, uninterrupted. I worked constantly to keep myself away from myself. I was my own abusive step-father, my own whiskey stashed behind the sugar and flour, my own attacker. Given an idle moment, I became the devil's instrument and I was such an easy fucking target. I knew just where to jab the knife and how to twist just so. My depression, the thing I couldn't even bear to acknowledge with its goddamn name, was back and she was not leaving this time. I walked out of my studio into an unlit hallway on a summer morning, and as I locked the door to leave, I swear I could feel it, as a cold-hearted, cold-handed woman in the dark, staring daggers into my back. I shivered as if I had walked over my own grave as I left, hoping that she was just not real.

Unfortunately, facts were that indeed she was. Even more real, because she wasn't a metaphor woman haunting me, she was a chemical reality, an endogenous and exogenous mental illness. 

As I've said before, I hated medication. For many reasons ultimately irrelevant in the face of how fucking terrible I felt, in the knowledge that I wanted to stop existing and I was reaching my limit of just silently coexisting with that profound sentiment. But still, I wouldn't. So, instead, I tried everything else available. I didn't accrue hundreds of "Conscientious/Diligent Student" comments on my school report cards for nothing. Astrology, numerology, Meyer's-Brigg's, enneagrams, work-books for every stripe of mental illness, nutrition, and poorly-advised mixtures of vague anti-depressants available at the gas station, for fuck's sake. Therapy, specifically, as the main counter-attack. As a naturally very selective person about opening up, this was fucking hard. Pulling teeth, but with some string and a door, not even a set of pliers. And paying the person to do this to me, out-of-pocket, to boot.

And as it turns out, a big part of what gave that imaginary woman with poor circulation in her hands her power over me was this heavy guilt, this overwhelming shame, this abject fear I had about her. That I was imperfect, a burden, and worthless because I was weak enough to let her in, and - haha, the joke's on you, Skaalrud - I had been probably from the day I started differentiating cells in the womb. Pathetic, and it was my true nature.

But thank god for people who know better, for people who saw and loved and understood me better than I did - because I didn't, and sometimes it's still difficult to keep in perspective - because they told me the truth, told me how to try and fight back, told me they loved me, told me about their own unseen fights, and told me to fucking keep trying. I have never hated silence more than when I learned it was keeping me sick to keep quiet about what was happening to me.

I got medication, again. It made me sick, tired, trembling, unable to eat, unable to sleep some days - unable to see any goddamn light to work towards - and then, as low as I had gone, I began a climb up. That is not over. In truth, I don't know it ever really is. But then I was able to be happy, to be level-headed, and to sleep, as well as experience a reasonable-sized negative reaction to something. Not being laid flat, turned unreachable emotional wreck for no reason at all. I don't get to set it and forget it, either. This is a new part of the work, and I am conscientious and diligent, goddammit.

One of the tennents of the Shitty Religion I worship, as I heard it called once, is that my needs must never supercede or interfere with anyone else's, otherwise I am selfish and selfish people are not loveable. I am only of worth if I can serve other's needs, or, in the absence of others, my needs never infringe upon another person. That taking care of myself, at even the slightest inconvenience to another, was tantamount to crime. If I did, I was sure to punish myself when I laid down at night and it was just me and my brain in the dark. Call me Libra Ascendant, but it tore me up to think I needed to be selfish, but I could understand that I could not help others if I did not know how to and did not help myself. That if a body should try to catch another body, coming through the rye, I had to stop underestimating my own strength and my own worth. I needed to be whole, with arms out and ready.

I asked the Tarot that day, "How do I learn to be selfish, in order to become selfless?"

The take-away of this odd-numbered, tumultuous, glorious year would be just that. Be whole if you want to help others be so, be ready to never stop trying, and know that I will meet you out in the rye if you need me.

And to Leigh, my Kiddo, to Zak, my North Star, and to Alicia, the Woman with the Joy Spark, thank you for it all, and I love you.

"destrier" + somebody drop a hat already, I've been crying for hours


I drew a story called "Destrier" and I thought here I would be posting the finished comic, and elaborating on why I'd come to make it in the spirit of someone recovering from something and on an upswing. Thought I'd post it and it would be outside of me and I'd have escaped it. I did that - I wrote out the story of what happened to me and got ready to post the comic once I'd finished drawing it - and then I realized I was lying to myself, even if it were a white one, and immediately stopped. And I might never post that story, but I do still want to write this.

So instead, there will be no lying to anyone in the process. Myself included. And it's one of the hardest things for me to talk about this - which is exactly why I'm going to.



The summer of 2008 was the first worst time of my life. The Bad Summer. I was 20 and I was diagnosed with depression - a word I hate even typing but was unfortunately the truth of the matter, as evidenced by crying for three months straight. By wishing every time I stepped in the shower I'd accidentally topple over and out would go my trouble like a light, by wandering the streets of the small town where I'd spent the first years of my life wondering and deep-down hoping it would be my last because this was no good, I was no good. Exhausted, hollowed-out, a burdenNo goddamn good. 

I told absolutely no one. Somehow I'd been convinced nothing of this sort ever happened to happy, normal people. I'd never been normal in my life, and only ever happy at some seemingly lower, distorted level than my classmates, my family, my friends - so logic followed this horrible feeling I couldn't shake was simply me. Our small town "didn't have" people who were gay and it "didn't have" people with depression. Mental disease and any public discussion of it was utter Greek to those small town folk. Sure, there was gossiping about someone going "nuts," but even if someone was aware of this Greek language, they sure as fuck didn't speak it and would deny ever having met a Greek to keep face, as far as I could tell. No one said a thing otherwise and so I said not a thing as the grip this disease had on me worsened. I curled into it, too. I was this weird, short, half-gay, bookish kid going to school in the cities to learn cartoons and who also cried at night, a lot. Convinced this was my story and that was simply dyed-in-the-wool me and ashamed of it, I let it eat me up. And I still do to this day, to be honest.

In August of 2008, I was curled up in a tiny closet and crying as terribly as I ever had on the phone. My friend told me to go get help, and then ended the call. And, after surviving another long bout of sobbing, I did. With a tiny, tiny kernel of courage it was hard to hold on to, but I did. Thumbed down to "River Falls Clinic" in my contacts (which took a damn long time to even program into the phone, being so terrified) and made the most awkward appointment of my life.

Without telling another soul (are you sensing a theme, here?) I drove myself to that clinic. Feeling like a balloon full of cold vomit, waiting for something to accidentally pop me and spill the smelly remains everywhere. The waiting room was even empty except for me, even, and I sat against the far wall while I waited to be called in. The nurse walked a big, slow, silent line over to me holding that stupid clipboard with that little questionnaire. I swear, a crummy indie-movie director couldn't have staged it better. At the time, it was too frightening to be anything close to funny.

But I got the medication. Still, no words were said between me and my friends, between me and my family about this really, really obvious thing I was going through. Only a few days later I took my new bottle of pills back to school for my sophomore year of college. And I took those pills. Faithfully, at first, always without a word to my roommates, and I put that bottle next to my pens at my desk - the same desk I draw at, still.

And after taking them for a few months - away from small town, away from the people I'd never felt I could really be myself with, away from people who said cartoons with a half-sneer or perplexed shock - I felt better. Then I felt good. I didn't cry at night. Maybe I didn't lay down and bop right into the sleep of the righteous, but, then again, probably I never will. I didn't spend the day waiting for the crying and the empty to come barreling on down, the price is right. I drew a lot. I could be myself, and things were becoming okay.

And then I stopped taking the pills because I was happy and I'd always hated them. Because I always will. Because I wanted to quit being Greek this fucking instant and forget I ever had been and get on with being myself.

The thing about depression - and it's not the noun to describe the mild pang of regret that your status update didn't get likes, or the disappointment that you had a less-than-stellar critique in class - is that it's a disease, a disorder, a thing that happens to you and isn't you and you can't control it. Humanity had been struggling it for longer than you have been and still none of us really understand it and we sure as hell can't control or eradicate it completely. I had it and I still have it. Some years have been easier than others, and for a few, I felt free of it, even as setbacks and stress came my way in stinking heaps. I shook it off and worked through like I didn't know a lick of Greek.

I felt it come back slowly but insistently. It'd been a long year, courting stress at work, home, personally, emotionally. And I didn't just shake it off this time. I couldn't just tell myself I didn't have a legitimate mental disease because I didn't want it. I started crying again like I would at 3AM in the middle of the afternoon. In the morning. Outside the grocery store, at the bank, in the bathroom. Started watching my hands clench obsessively and stewing in my head until I'd stewed away a whole day and crying all night and locking myself away to hide my less-than-normal feelings away from sight. I didn't want anyone to know because I still didn't think it was okay to be this way.

I was terrified to tell a soul. Terrified that even the people closest to me, my dearest friends, could never possibly understand. They'd look at me past the tip of their noses in disgust and turn their heads in rejection of how weak and awful and too-needy I'd proven and then I'd be alone going through this again and I didn't think I could do it twice. In fact, I knew I couldn't. That the idea made me so angry and shockingly cast aside that I wouldn't, if it came down to it.

Now I'm going to try and turn around and cut that shitty religion at which I worship off at its knees, and I'm going to try and tell people. I'm telling you now, as best I can at this point.

This isn't the thing I'm writing to you as some victor or triumphant beacon of inner strength. I don't have the answers in black and white. I don't have it figured out. Sometimes I drop my coffee and I have to go have a breakdown for the rest of the day. There are nights - and late afternoons, too - when I have to cry or drink (not booze mind you but really not any better) myself to sleep or suffer in the dark, chewing myself up inside. I blame humanity, then myself, then my friends, then myself, then the stars, then Norway, then myself, and 'round and 'round the mulberry bush we go. I can't draw and I beat myself up for that, which only feeds my depression and on the cycle goes. People stomp on me and push me around and sometimes I let them and it eats me up, or I lash out and that eats me up, too. I push out goodness when it comes because it hurts too much. It seems to me my therapist diagnoses me with some new "wrongness" every week. Depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, splitting, betrayal trauma. There is broken glass on the floor of my studio the scared, dark part of me still wishes I had the nerve to use - still the idea of putting Night Moves on loop and "slipping over" in the shower haunts me. The terror of those things is crippling.

But now I see that my fear is becoming anger, and that, in turn, will become real hate, soon. Towards myself and towards people who don't deserve it. And I'm only pitying myself if I let myself wallow there - where, were it anyone but myself, I would forcibly yank them out of the depths if it were in my power to do so.

So I have to try to be actually brave and get myself out of that. I'm going to therapy again today. Which terrifies me. Maybe I've got some new diagnosis coming to level me completely, or maybe nothing. Maybe something good will happen and I'll get closer to turning that corner. I'm probably going to have to drive alone to that clinic in River Falls in the near future full of cold vomit and fill out that fucking clipboard again. Which terrifies me. The distinct pleasure of crying in front of a medical professional is probably also going to be mine again. I might learn to not hate having to take meds to feel better, and maybe I never fucking will. Which terrifies me. This is not a resolved story. Which terrifies me.

The fact remains I should try. So I'm telling you and I'm not lying about any of it.

Still here.

I've got a lot to say. A convention to recap, a crisis to recount, and a cluttered head to get straight. An all-too-brief summer to wrap-up. Something to explain to myself, which, put out into the world, might do somebody good, sometime, somewhere - so I'm going to. A new comic to finish and post, and a new mission starting tomorrow.

But just Date Palms and inking for tonight.

July = DUH/UGH



Today begins the summer comics class, and I am happily joined with my comrades Amaya and Jack. 

And thus today begins the no-sleep, all-work-substitute-play-with-more-work month of July. I'm feeling a little physically and mentally overwhelmed with it. A little damn overwhelmed. Two comic deadlines, in a WEEK and a little over a WEEK. Plus, convention planning, printing, and that damn thing called a  second job. 

See all of you on the flip.

Houses of the Holy

 New comic!


How to Walk Thru Fire.

"seek first to understand, then to judge"

And for those of you interested in back story, the working cogs, the spoilers of a thing - I started this 14 weeks ago, or so my time-keeper Instagram tells me. That was March. Just before I dove headfirst into printing the Xeric, and at a moment of really awful personal and emotional stress. The feeling I'd very nearly ducked at the end of last year was cycling back again. Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead of me and feeling out of line with the values of people populating my days and out of favor of loved ones - not a pleasant feeling. It'd already been a long, drawn-out winter - and there was more to come, as I would soon find.

So again, I put my nose down on a stack of twenty sheets of paper one particularly shitty day while sitting at Le Spyhouse and hacked that feeling out. The only goddamn thing to do about it. This story was another one that seemed to unearth itself in large heaps. Had most of it fleshed out by that night, and my own unhappiness slightly eased. 

I'm a quietly a believer in moony-things. Stars, numbers, the works. If you do believe, using the stars to navigate yourself  is a seemingly obvious avenue to take. And I was fucking confused. About everything. Waking up meant rising out of bad dreams into visceral dread. I couldn't understand the actions or read my friends' intentions, and it scared me. So I read them wrong and got hurt. I turned to those moony-things to tell me what was wrong with me, why I was so out of step with everyone else. Whether it was purely exhaustion, bad stars, or simply reaching my fill of the cruelty of humanity I felt washing over me too often, I thought I was going through an emotional beat-down. In reality, more just an internal re-structuring. A hardware update.

I have always processed the world through my internal framework, taken in and processed against an invisible metric that, admittedly, I cannot articulate. A system of ideals and moral bracketing through which all earthly information had to pass, and pass judgement. A trait I also have not been fully aware of - and, until very, very recently, not aware at all that this is not how everybody functions. A reason why I might seem quiet or clam-mouthed, or why I look too intently when people speak, or withdraw from the over-stimulation of things other people consider so goddamn "fun." I'm taking in a shit-ton of information, only a fraction of it verbal, and running it through this cotton-gin brain. And it'll fry my circuit on a bad day. It's also why I have, now admittedly, high expectations of myself and everyone - but most of all myself. I came with pre-installed, ancient hardware of processing right/wrong, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

And the moment I seemed to realize that every other person on earth just functioned differently than I did, and that was simply the truth, without it being "right" or "wrong," I sort of freaked out. Lashed out for a while, withdrew for another while. Drew this story. And very slowly came to terms with it. Realizing that if I changed my mind, it was not destroying the integrity of this internal framework by taking out a crucial piece - and by extension destroying myself in the process, as I've always felt internally like one, unchanged and unchangeable thing - but just fixing one piece of that thing. A new spark-plug a different car does not make. And in this analogy it's not even a spark-plug. It's a fucking rear-view mirror I'm switching out, so why burn the car down for that?

That's one long-ass mixed metaphor about my head and heart being a computer and a car, but that's I guess how it is.

The summer of Hi-Balls and Eyeballs.



In the effort to be elaborate and detailed about what's happening with me this summer, I accidentally erased the original copy of this post. And in writing it all down, I realize I should not be making a goddamn blog post when I have 8 pages to finish inking at the my hot little elbow, waiting, waiting, waiting. So, the brief-ish run down of this stormy Minneapolitan summer to come.

 - Excimer - a show featuring local cartoonists part of AUTOPTIC this August, put on by Paper Darts Pop-Up in SooLocal, with a lot of my friends, a few real intimidating wall neighbors, and me.


- Sequence Now - another comics show, this time hosted by SooVac proper, and also, friends, intimidating ones at that, and me. Currently finishing a new 40-pager called "Houses of the Holy," and taking my sweet ass time on it. But, hopefully, a damn good one because of it.

- Mager's and Quinn is hosting copies of Sea Change as part of their notable books display for July, as curated by my friend, faithful champion, and keeper of the faith, Jim Keefe. Thanks to that wonderful guy, again and again.

- Rock Ink Roll - cooking a submission up for that. Involves a lot of layering and scanning. I'm goddamn excited to make it.

- MCAD PCSS Comics - being taught by Britt Sabo, with myself and my good friends Amaya and Jack Kotz as the loyal, whip-smart, Cowboy-Bebop-obsessed TA's.


- AUTOPTIC. yeah. That thing. At our Wednesday meeting at Jordan's studio, took our first pass at the seating chart for 2 1/2 hours. At the end, everybody rushed to take pictures on their fancy-schmancy iPhones, and I rushed to take a picture of them taking pictures.


And after a long, long harried morning today, staring into the dark heart of retail and the flinty faces of uncaring suburbanites for too long just for some stupid thing called money- after beginning to see smoke where there should be a spark behind people's eyes, and wondering why the fuck I bother, came to find my reimbursement check from the Xeric waiting in the mailbox. Like a bird sleeping in a nest, or some other beautiful, small benediction. Small mercies. God bless the Xeric.

Playing "Spirt of Eden" by Talk Talk on loop, too. I think it just happened to me. Beware.

CAKE 2013

Printing reports seem far simpler to relate than convention reports. But, this one is both - so first, to printing.

I decided to print a new book, Godhead #1, for CAKE. And I will begin by saying, yes, of course, I managed to screw it up. Which is more funny than painful to me now. You'd think I'd have learned to stay clear of simple, obvious mistakes, such as laying the book out incorrectly in the first place, but, hell no. I haven't. And each time at press there was a new issue I'd never encountered before rearing it's nasty little head. "Everyday a new problem," I'd say, before the frustration came boiling up my neck and I'd look for the nearest thing to kick as hard as I could. The only lesson I'd seemed to have learned from printing Sea Change was not to go wailing into failure, but square up and suck down my overreactive emotions, and stop. Still not easy for me.


Printing plates, while also burning my retinas on a loaner computer. 

Laid out the book for 8 1/2 by 14 sheets of paper, which I'd mistakenly picked up for make-ready for Sea Change, and just so happened to have 10 reams for 9 plates. One for each plate, and one left over for make-ready. Made for a square book, but not ugly. Seemingly perfect. Got some good-looking plates out of the HP, and found myself with two days off (in a fucking row, no less!). Two weeks from CAKE at that point. Seemingly smooth sailing. How could I possibly fuck that up? Oh, you...



I printed the plates incorrectly, and without noticing my mistake, went ahead and printed them on my stock. I printed half of the book on Thursday, the 6th. Had I done the odd-numbered plates first, things would have progressed more quickly, but ha! I didn't! I printed the incorrect ones that day (and even put the press out of commission for a hot minute, again, by simply not locking something down tightly enough) and they looked great. Came to press Friday and quickly realized my mistake. Hung my head and slunk out like a kicked dog. Spent the rest of Friday afternoon drawing away the awful feeling in my gut, and then continued into my five-day workweek slinging coffee and food at well-rested yups with all the gusto of a freshly-kicked dog.

But, picked myself up, and went at it again. After working straight through until Wednesday - now the 12th of June, and 3 days before CAKE, mind you - I spent the night trimming down cover stock. By hand, of course, because I'm apparently encoded with stupid that way.


I essentially started over with this book from scratch on Thursday morning, only two days from CAKE and only a day before I had to hit the road. Got out of bed nursing that same, low and persistent dread that I'd greeted so many times in April, looking out into the snow and down at the crumpled paper strewn everywhere. Picked up a new 10-ream box of paper from the old OfficeMax at 9AM, turned up the Replacements on the radio, and picked up caffeine at the co-op. Found another unopened Hi-Ball awaiting me, like angel scat, at the press. Armed with a new mock-up guide and fresh paper, off I went.

Again - a new problem, though mild. Vacuum for the powder on the delivery end was jammed, and didn't fix itself by blowing out the excess powder built up in the tube. Disassembled it, cussing through out, and cleaned it out as best I could before reattaching it and tightening the rig. Still didn't work, so I let the vacuum run and called my "press consultants." As soon as I hung up, having recieved no answer, the damn thing started working. Plowed onward.



Printed 15 plates that day from 9 to 5, like a real goddamn job, and put my cover stock on for the color - with a full bleed black on the back - and couldn't get it to feed consistently. Sheets were getting pulled in erratically, probably either because the 100# cover stock I'd picked up was too heavy? or I'd misdialed the settings? Still figuring that one. In any case wrestled with that issue until the machine had eaten up 10 sheets or so, and threw her into night latch and called for help.

That was lesson number two of Sea Change: ask for fucking help. Leigh again came through at 6PM and threw down a whoppingly prohibitive $0.66 to photocopy me 30 or so covers on the same stock, leaving me with viable copies for the show, and still not wasting the pretty penny I'd spent on French Paper, either.

I ate? I think I ate. Sometime between that and the night, I must have eaten? Jesus. Anyway.

(I remember now probably jamming my craw with some caffeine and caffeinated Clif bars. Probably that.)


Then came the folding and the collating, starting at roughly 7:30, 8PM? Took 30 pages of each sheet, my long-arm stapler, the cover stock and hauled them in my new suitcase du jour, a beat-up French Paper box, and settled at the light table of MCAD's fourth floor, intending fully to fold, collate, staple-bind, and face-trim 30 copies in that same area. Left the overhead lights off, hit the lightbox on, plugged in some Ink Panthers and Inkstuds, and listened to the rain pour down against the overhead glass as I worked.


Got through all those smoothly before going to face-trim on the public cutters. Did a copy on the cutter that'd been fine for trimming down Tits!, but didn't quite make the cut cleanly enough to be passable. Kind of ragged. Whether it was the combination of more pages and heavier stock that did it, or my relative strength or sharpness of that blade, it wasn't going to work. And the public guillotine cutter has never worked for me, so, as I stood staring at the damn thing and pawing the ragged edge of my book, calculating, Zak called for an update on how the trip to Chicago was unfolding and asked how it was going. At t-minus one day, all I had to do was trim the goddamn things and it'd be good. He, with more clarity of wit than me at that point, said, "Use my gulliotine cutter, dummy." That was at midnight. 

Trotted down to the studio to use said cutter and piled out of my car and across the lot just as, one, a guy seemingly jogged down Central wearing big winter gloves in the middle of the goddamn night, and Zak emerged from the side entrance on the phone with Grace, one of the CAKE organizers. He'd just had to call off the performance of Pretty Ladies (probably the only real let down of the show, in retrospect) due to a very sick drummer. I went to folding the covers, stapling the books together, and chopping them down on the guillotine cutter as he climbed through a metaphor-mountain of boxes to pack for the show. Managed to finish the books (and even salvage the one's I'd trimmed horribly at first) and get home to pack up myself and lower into sleep by 3 that morning.

Hauled out of bed at 7:30AM and before my alarm exhausted but awake, and met Alicia for coffee at the Seward Co-op. Then got on the road with Zak by noon and east down 94 we went.


CAKE 2: Electric Bugaloo was a great sequel to a great convention last year. Too many good things happened to recount individually, and too many good road trip stories on the way down (and on the way back in the dead of Sunday night with a tired pair of Zak Sally and Tom K. firing off constant conversation until Minneapolis came into view) but the show itself was a wonderful experience. My personal sales were way up from the year previous in Chicago, and better overall for me than TCAF, even. Godhead, which was originally the only debut for the show, got a little write-up on the CAKE site along with Sea Change, and I'd either sold out or traded or consigned all but three of my stock, and each copy of Godhead was off of my hands. At the busy points of Saturday and Sunday both I was backlogged on signing and drawing in books by a couple people for some time. Something I was not really ready for, as I thought I could spent more time putting meticulous drawings in each book. 

The venue was spacious, especially in the space within the rows for exhibitors. So roomy, in fact, both sides of exhibitors could comfortably store their bags, extra chairs, etc., without bumping into each other. Which meant the aisles for visitors sometimes got clogged past the point of comfort, but it was relatively manageable to move about without disturbing people trying to browse through books at a table. The Center on Halsted was beautiful, and apparently also a host to a gay cowboy line dance on the roof patio, which I sadly missed. The Whole Foods downstairs was like a revelation to have, as I was often reaching for an empty coffee cup that weekend. All the satellite events happening that weekend (the Deitch signing, comic battle at Quimby's, music at the Observatory, listening to Blackhawk fans squawk) were fun to attend, but meant I was crawling back to the couch cushions on Grace's floor as a barely-put together bag of bones in the night. Generally, there was a pretty happy and productive atmosphere each day of the show, though the definite trend among exhibitors was that those who'd gone to TCAF a month previous felt so-so on sales, and those who hadn't were pretty happy with them. Sitting in Minneapolis row, with Evan Palmer, Tim Sievert, Anna Bongiovanni, Hannah Blumenrich, 2d Cloud and Will Dinksi at the back of the auditorium didn't seem to pose any logistical problems, either, as traffic was pretty steady. Some of those along the walls of the auditorium itself mentioned a little lackluster attendance for their tables, but not all of them.

The organizers did a fantastic job. Having dipped my toes into that realm now, I see it is no simple, easy, or quickly-done feat. I owe all of them for the wonderful show and overwhelmingly positive experience I had, and especially to Grace Tran, who kindly let me crash on her floor and called me a "wood nymph," which I take as a high honor. 

CAKE 2013, as it grows increasingly small in the rearview, seems to me an up-note ending to the cycle of a year. At the 2012 show, I'd just recieved word I'd gotten the Xeric, and I'd sent in my expense report a week before the 2013, with a huge stack of printed paper and a whole lot of experience and support in the time between. I'd gone from putting out a small amount of work while living at my parents' house in rural Wisconsin post-graduation, to living in Minneapolis again, making as much work as I ever had and becoming competent with the printing press. And in the few days since CAKE, I've only felt buoyed by the experience and the new-found connections with other cartoonists resulting from the show. A lot of good news for my friends has also followed in its wake.

For me, it was good. It was great. It was one not to have been missed.



My tablemate, good friend and hardworking gal Leigh Luna, with none other than -- 


 -- Evan Palmer's back.



The view from the Observatory roof, which was obscenely cinematic.


Time for TCAF!


Time to pile into the mini-van (you read that correctly, mini-van) of nautically-themed cartoonists and get ourselves to Toronto for TCAF!

I am very pleased to say that I will have copies of "Sea Change: A Choose-Your-Own-Way Story," debuting at the show and available for purchase at my table on the 2nd floor, 234! It's been a hard-fought publication, and I'm leaving a very messy studio space, a daunting pile of printed detritus, and a few hundred unassembled books behind me that I will deal with after this wonderful comics-shindig. "TITS! The Spiny Northern Maid," the mermaid-copulation mini-comic companion to Sea Change, will be at my table as well! (If, should Customs not like the, ahem, feeling-laded penetration of that one,  it'll still be available to read online and purchase at my store.)

If you want to connect with me, I'm trying to do this whole "Twitter" thing again... with all the trepidation and confusion of a person born in 1914, but trying! My handle is @caitlin_rude - plus I maintain rosebudskud talkweirdpress on tumblr, if that's more your thing.

Speaking of which, I'm also delighted to say I'll be in the excellent company of Cathy G. Johnson (tumblr) and Kevin Czapiewski of Czap Books at 233! Hell yeah! If you're not familiar, you should darn well get familiar - you won't regret it. Both are wonderfully talented artists and forces to be reckoned with, and two of my absolute favorites.

Plus, my partner in crime and fellow lover of Spanglish grammar jokes, Leigh Luna, will be selling her comics, "Clementine Fox," and "Banjo Girl," with me at my table (and generally keeping me in line and in one piece). 

I'm sure, scattershot as I am in the post-Maisie Madness of printing this Xeric book, that I've forgotten something, but it's time to go. I'm so excited to see Toronto and meet a bunch of wonderful people there, united in enthusiasm for comics. Uff da.




Howl, who will be slutting it up for pets and love to all my roommates, I'm sure, in my absence. 

 I am so happy to be going - and to hopefully to return to a very green and very gay Minneapolis in a few days! Don't disappoint me, Moony City!

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, DAY 16 + 17 + 18

 

D-O-N-E!

At the moment, there are about 30-some good copies finished and ready for the border crossing and the comics-shindig in Toronto happening the 11th and 12th. Which would not have happened without the support and schedule-wrangling and generosity of Amaya and Ian, Nicki, Chrissy, Leigh, Zak, Clint, or Claude. I would have been a pile of wet, blubbering rubble without the help of each of them.

I will do my best to put down these days with coherency and accuracy, but the caffeine high of the last 30 hours or so has finally begun to wane and real exhaustion is setting in.

Day 16, Saturday, May 4th

Or, the first of the three days of furious collaboration.

Worked a busy morning at the cafe - but then again, what weekend morning isn't busy? Collated copies of the book in Amaya and Ian's garage before sitting down inside and playing the first few turns of Tokaido, a game about sight-seeing Edo, Japan designed by a Frenchman. Just about eating things, collecting souvenirs and, as was my favorite, sitting in hot springs with monkeys. Had to jet over to Zak's studio to get the covers printed on the larger press, so, when the clock hit quarter-to and the turn in the game became mine, I promptly knocked the old man character I was playing into the water, announced I'd been eaten by kappas, and scooted out the back door.

Printed covers on the 9810, which went better than I think either Zak and I thought they would. A huge favor paid to me by Mr. Sally, by the way, for coming down to the studio and basically printing the run for me with finishing the next book of Sammy heavy on his mind. While I stumbled about beside him, half-way in the way and tripping on stuff. I had no real familiarity with the 9810, even though the same principals apply, and the time spent this month screaming at Maisie still hadn't worn off. Trimmed down the oversized French 80# cover to 12.5x17.5 and got them going on my make-shift too-small left-over already-printed plates.



And that went pretty damn well. Debated whether or not to do the second color, which, at the press, was very light. I'd changed the covers because full bleed = pain, and the ever-fluid set of circumstances and setbacks around this book meant I needed to make due with the capabilities I had and things I had access too within the time frame I needed to operate within. Setbacks, mind you, that might have been solved in the designing process months ago, so the lesson is - again! - a stitch in time saves nine. So, we scratched the second layer of light blue for toning the front and back, as Zak had to get back home and we'd been at the press for these covers for four hours.

But my Animal-Farm-draft-horse tendencies to just work harder, just endure more menial labor in the face of hardships (remember everyone, that horse dies well before the end of the book) were not disappointed. Decided to hand-color them instead! All of them.

Woop woop. Neigh.

Day 17, Monday, May 6th

After a 8 to 5:30 shift of insanity at the cafe on Sunday, rose, bones full of ache and energy, and got my ass to MCAD. Where upon I, save for a few instances of having to run an errand and grab the paper out of Amaya's garage so desperately needed, I sat for the last 30 hours. Seeing as it is also the thick of MCADian finals, I was in good company and there was cheap food and good coffee at my disposal. Just like old times. Went to figuring out just how the hell I was going to color these covers A) cheaply enough as not to weep, B) quickly enough to go in to be bound and trimmed by midnight and ready for TCAF on Saturday, and C) to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of that goddamn voice in my head always bugging me about covers, and markers and that crap. Settled for an acrylic turquoise ink in a water-color brush pen, half-diluted, and colored, colored, colored. Took the majority of the day, all the way up to Leigh calling me up to bat with my books in the Service Bureau, and all the strength in my knotted up hand. Watched a little Adam West Batman in the middle as I did so, thanks to Bob's Intro Class.

Every single person who came close enough to peer at me, with my sprawl of French Paper, French Paper boxes, and ink bottles, I wrangled in to ask them about the covers and weighed all opinions as evenly as I could. Worked on the big tables of the 2nd floor studio and soon found myself swamped with a MCAD finals homework drum circle. Furiously colored 25 covers or so in the 3 hours leading up to midnight.

Then, at midnight, with two energy drinks (totaling 280 mg of caffeine), a large cup of coffee from Dave's, and an Iced Blackout from Le Spyhouse at 11:30 (totaling 400? mg of caffeine? More? enough, in any case, to keep me going until noon today and beyond) in me, Leigh and I went to work.

Or, Leigh did. Again found myself either too damn incompentent (or too damn sleep-deprived to become competent) at any of the tasks required to finish this mini-run for TCAF, except for creasing. Which, still, I managed to screw up on occasion. But Leigh Luna was a star. She was a wunderkin. I pushed her in the river and ella swim-ó. Bound and trimmed my inherently deeply flawed book-shaped things into real, god-damned books. She had also printed, assembled, and bound a run of her own good-looking books, Clementine Fox, before tackling the lumpy disaster box that was my run of books.


Leigh used Bind! It's super-effective! (Yeah, that's just for you, kiddo.)




A night in which we also seriously discussed getting ourselves something like this. This very, very, very nice binder.


Finished at 2:45AM, dropped Luna off at home at 3AM, and finally got my little head under the dark water of sleep at 4AM.

Day 18, Tuesday, May 7th

STILL COLORING. Nope, didn't finish all of it - just the big parts. Went back to color the back to try and balance the annoying color composition I'd saddled myself with. All in all, I'm happy, and they're so damn corporeal it overtakes my perfectionist-streak.

In any case, there's still more to do. Of the 500-750 possibly viable copies of these books, there are forty-some assembled and 30-some ready to go into the mitts of venerable strangers. That's a lot of work. So it is with a noted, obnoxious little asterisk next to my statement I declare this book "done," but I'll take that.





Howl, in the window, on what feels like the first real day of summer. My stomach is eating itself as loudly as a lawn-mower at the time of this picture.

ON TO TCAF!

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 15

As of 10:28AM this morning, the guts of this book are DONE.

Had to get up around 6:30 to avoid a parking ticket from the strange, arbitrarily-sanctioned "No Parking by Police Order" signs that seem to be systematically sweeping Whittier for no reason I can see. Probably looking for revenue from ticket fees? However it came about - the only parking to be found last night when I got home was on Grand, a verboten spot. Rose grumpily and got dressed and got out early because of it, though. Got an unhealthy breakfast in and went down to Amaya and Ian's in Seward.

Chatted with Amaya a bit before both of us had to get to work, if in slightly different rgards. Found out shortly after someone had set fire to my elementary school, where my Mom still works. She called me back after I sent her a worried phone call and text message - she was fine, but we were both deeply saddened by the apparent arson/vandalism. Tried to put it out of mind for printing and got rolling about 9:15.

I knew I could knock out the last two plates and a small run of plate 33, which I had accidentally run with too little paper, in what would feel like no time - and it did sort of breeze through. Even with a clear finish line ahead, with Maisie dialed in from 7 hours of printing the day previous, and with a lot of time to accomplish it today, I was sick with nerves. Stomach in knots, as if I had already run into horrible setbacks. Even as the last plate and run of a hundred-some replenishing sheets went through easily and the last sheet fed through to the ending chords of "Eating Paper" by Dave Bazan, I still felt horrible knots in my gut. They had a semi-happy tinge to them, but I can feel them still, reminding that the BOOK is not done YET.

Collated a copy of the guts to show Zak and Leigh at a stop down at the 'CAD (Leigh, who at first did not me notice whistling at her, then throwing the book on her desk, and then knocking on the damn desk, dutifully reminded me she had not seen me since before the beginning of April) and then went back to the task of collating. From that point on in the day, felt exhausted, hungry, sleepy and vaguely pre-illness. Which sometimes happens after a giant stress disappears - my body suddenly releases the illness I'd been too damn busy to have before.

Collated for a couple hours. Ate pizza and chatted with Ian, both worked on stuff in the garage 'till sundown.

So tired. Hard to feel accomplished yet, but let's see how I feel when I know I don't have to get up and print like a madwoman tomorrow.


The total from Monday.


Martian-looking.


The last three.




This mock-cover is as accurate about the content of the book as it was about my emotional state while making the book.


Leaning tower of French paper.






Total of Monday and Tuesday combined - now the counter is being put to use as I collate copies of the book together, but that process is going much, much, much slower.


Plus, Katara the weirdo.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 14

Did 14 plates on day 14.

Cleaned/organized and swept the crap out of that garage on Sunday; spent seven and a half hours dirtying it back up today. Roughly two plates in an hour. Really goddamn nice weather.

Got interrupted by a neighbor dude who trounced into the garage as merrily as he pleased and then, of course, had to spend the next hour getting back into rhythm and back on my way. Almost pulped up the rollers. He kept insisting how "cool" it was. I would keep saying, "Yeah, it's cool, but it's not as easy or as fun as it might seem," especially with the machine off. Awkwardly then invited me to "come sit outside and relax in the sun while I do my homework," to which I had to offer a polite, "No, thanks - I gotta get back to this."

When really, I wanted to snap at him, "Take your tea party to the goddamn moon, asshole." And how old are you that you still have homework but think the woman across the street with her head almost stuck completely into a whirring machine wants to be awkwardly picked up in the middle of a run? But, eh. What can you do?

He also proceeded to sit on his back porch across the alleyway and do his homework, but always facing me. For the rest of the afternoon. Cripes.

2 and a half to go. Plus covers. Then a collating party and bind, bind, bind.




The total from Friday.




Only thought this crumpled up wad of paper was memorable because it wasn't part of an ocean of wadded up paper today.





SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 12 + 13

Day 12, Thursday April 25th

Otherwise known as, "getting in the car and driving to Richfield"-day.



It was the first real beautiful day in Minneapolis - filthily sunny as evidenced by that picture and actually becoming warm. A real goddamn relief. A day that never dips below forty degrees means my window for working is expanded to whenever - which, at the beginning of April was about five hours long from noon to five in the afternoon, when the garage was warm enough not to freeze ink to the rollers. Not that I managed to avoid disaster or rookie screw-ups to print for more than four hours at that point (or still).



I'd just started shoveling some breakfast into my mouth at the Seward Co-op when I'd gotten a call from Claude, a pressman I'd heard lauded as a pretty darn good guy and a reliable source for parts. The day previous Zak (and sometimes-Krakken Floss) had come by to help me fix up the idiot mistake I'd made on the press and made a call to Claude about a new part.



That part? A latch pawl. Sonorous name, I know. An inch or so long, but yet another crucial linchpin to my sanity.

What did I do, you ask? My problem this time was not that I'd misaligned my feed, or needed some WD-40, or had flipped some lever I was unaware of its mechanism, but made a real idiot mistake. I'd started running the press on a really, really, really simple plate. Two words, mostly white plate. Very little ink needed. Should have been a snap. I inked up on low, left the fountain wide open, and got the feed lined up. Fed beautifully on the make-ready and switched to the good stock - and almost immediately it started scumming up bad in the middle. I was perplexed and, as I turned down the ink and wiped off the plate and the blanket before going again, increasingly enraged as the problem kept returning again and again.

Well, what I did was forget to engage the top fountain roller, which distributes fountain solution on the top oscillating ink roller and the back of the plate cylinder before it hits the rubber blanket. So absolutely nothing was washing the ink off the blank parts of the plate, and ink was accumulating and transferring to my stock. Simple. Had I simply looked up half an inch to where the fountain sat, just slightly above my nose, I'd have knocked it left into place with the heel of my palm, as I've done hundreds of times before, and I'd be done with this book at this very moment (possibly). Definitely wouldn't be out another couple hundred bucks.

As it happened, I instead assumed it was my ink fountain, which I'd loosened on plates past, which were full of lots of dark gray and black, to make sure enough could pass through. I took my screwdriver and tightened that inkwell as hard as I could against the ink roller. AS HARD AS I COULD.

Told you. Stupid.

The machine kept chugging away. Maisie didn't know any better to stop, but then I also cranked the ink up off of zero - at this point I STILL might have saved myself pain and sorrow - but nope. At which point the mechanism which automatically turns the ink roller in the well reached down, settled into the teeth of a gear, and tried to CRANK it back up. That moving part hit an unmovable object, and that energy had to go somewhere. The latch pawl caught, the solid-metal lever assembly it sat within warped to the right and up to try and relieve the pressure, but not enough. The latch pawl bent, fractured, and part of it flew, one assumes, right over my oblivious head and to the floor in what was probably a few seconds. And I missed all of it. I was soon bent over in tears and fury, bereft of another day of work. Three days of work, as it turned out to be.


Hard to see, I know, but the straight bar between those two gears holds the latch pawl. The latch pawl reaches back and rests on the smaller, left gear and uses downward pressure from a spring to catch the teeth - which is turned by the gear on the right to move the ink roller to the left. You can see it's not flush.


The new lever assembly - I really don't know that's the proper term, but that's sort of what Claude referred to it as - is the one on the left. The one I warped is on the right.

The story of Thursday is that I received a call from Claude at 9am, offering me a new latch pawl he'd found in his menagerie of AB Dick parts. I'd ordered one from Illinois on rush (in the desperate hope to get  printing in the next few days. As Amaya can tell you, I do weird things when I really need to work but I can't, like look for Japanese dinosaur dating sims for the iPad). The price on that one, minus the exorbitant shipping, was $99.90. Claude offered me one for $10, with the addendum, "I've got nine more of them!"

I ended up driving to Richfield, the first time, that morning to pick up that latch pawl. I got back to the garage and installed it, but still the ink roller and the mechanisms wouldn't run normally. It did, for a minute! Ian had been home early on lunch break and he'd come out to help me remove the old latch pawl, and for a second, she rotated, but soon lost tension and started sliding uselessly over the teeth again. I then thought it was the spring (I still hadn't figured out what the fuck had happened on Tuesday at this point). So I tried to wrestle it back into fighting shape - with absolutely no idea what that was, mind you - with two pliers and just my plucky, angry resolve.


The one I attempted to "fix" is the left. What that spring should look is the one on the right.

Had another crisis of faith in Amaya's living room, in the middle of which she pointed out, "Well, do you wish you didn't have the press?" And I immediately said, small but true, "No." She continued to say that, and with extreme accuracy, that had I not elected to print this book myself and shipped it off to a publisher, I would be in the same damn pits about how I should be trying to print it myself.

I then figured out my lever assembly was bent and surmised the real events of Tuesday. Called Claude back and described my problem - a second later he hummed and said, "Yeah, I've got that. Another $10 bucks." I told him, "I'm willing to pay anything at this point to get this machine back in running order." And again, into the car I clamored and rushed out into 35W in the thick of the rush-hour clog. I got to Claude's and he showed me around the garage a bit and explained he had an enormous stockpile of AB Dick parts that were too numerous to ever sell, so he felt no need to rake me over the coals for a latch pawl at a nine-time mark up. I wrote him a check for ten bucks and he graciously offered me a new spring for it and an old catalog of parts, which I was so happy to accept.

He also kept assuring me that part was often broken off, but I still have a hard time seeing how I didn't make a really dumb mistake that Tuesday afternoon. Now you all have to read this horribly long blog post instead of looking at a picture of me holding a printed book up. Bleh.

Claude was great. Gracious and patient and really willing to help me out. Because I also left my folder, holding my replacement-computer iPad and the comic I'd been working on since March, sitting in a patch of sun on his garage desk. I of course didn't realize this until safely navigating rush hour back to Seward. And for the third time, called Claude and clamored into that damn car and back into rush hour.


Also lost the ring clamps on that bar that connects the gear to the lever assembly as well, and mechanically-clever Ian improvised some for me. And figured out that damn spring and how to enact tension on the thing, which I'm sure I would still be wrangling with stupidly. 




"Same day service" is the damn truth. I'd still be grounded without Claude, which is good, because the back up plan I'd had for the book - Zak, also having graciously offered me to use his press to finish my plates if need be, called to let me know that his press had also gotten fucked up. He wished me luck with Maisie, now that I'd fixed it back up, and hoped everything would go well. I said, "Well, it kind of has to now..."

Day 13, Friday April 26th

The Day of No Fucking Crying



Got into the garage, after breakfasting in the Co-op again, around 9:30. Jogged and sorted paper to the new Ink Panthers episode, put them into the boxes from whence they came and labeled them. Finished around 11:30 - ran to shove some pasta into my mouth, having planned to print for as long as physically possible. Maisie was feeding without problems and the ink fountain was back in running order. Cranked some Arcade Fire and went to it.



The paper for the remaining odd plates - five of them, needing varying amounts of paper run through.

Ran the odds and was finished with half the book at roughly 1:30, 2. Plowed through onto the evens, or the back sides of these sheets, and did 4, 6, and 8 before I did something screwy to the feed side and started getting dog-earred sheets and interrupted feeding of sheets. Something was wrong with how I'd set the vaccuum settings, the buckle - something. Because it stopped feeding. And, in my attempt to fix it, around 4 or so, I'd thrown a sheet up into the ink rollers and it was pulped-up to shit. Quit for the minute, went to eat dinner, and came back at 5:15, ready to go again.





Still ran into the same feeding problem, but I was not going to stop. I'd already screwed up one perfectly good plate - and, considering I only have three extra blank ones left at this point, I wasn't going to quit in the middle of another one. Printed through the feeding problem, lost a couple sheets, dog-earred a bunch, but the ink/fountain balance was pretty goddamn beautiful. Also got image-quality loss from the accumulation of anti-offset powder on the rubber blanket from the previously printed sheets going through. But, at this point, I want books that are imperfect but exist, rather than the dream of a better-looking book. A really tough pill for my overwhelming perfectionist-streak to swallow, but...

You can't build a couch out of a blanket draped over a stack of dreams. And you don't have to check a dream with Canadian customs.

Printed 12, 14, 16, 18, before it hit 9:00 PM and a nine-hour run of printing. I seriously debated putting on plate 20, but I knew if I did I would have to commit to finishing it, no matter how badly things went. Or how long.

But my favorite Yo La Tengo record (and one of my favorites, period) Painful came on, and, taking the cue from the drowsy echo of "Big Day Coming," decided to put everything to bed.


I'm keeping that crumpled old Kinko's sleeve just for this, Sally.



A really gorgeous Minneapolis night. Nothing quite like it, especially with the products of a solid day's work covering all the flat surfaces.


A sheet that, having gotten stuck to the rubber blanket while I was crap-shooting the feed problem, that instead of flying up into the rollers or going flat-footed into the pile of good sheets, flew cleanly out back between the rubber blanket and plate cylinder like a paper airplane and straight into my open hand.




Tried to write this post last night around 11:30, but couldn't focus. Howl and I equally ready to conk out.


Until Monday.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 10

Bad night - couldn't get/remain asleep so overslept my goal of getting up early and cramming in two more hours of printing in the day. Another snowstorm on its way (and currently pouring down) and the abject terror that had my stomach in my shoes again didn't help either. Spent most of last night after work printing new plates. Met Alicia and her date for a minute at the studio while I did, too, and was definitely not prepared to have company. I.E., a stinking, bleary, scruffy mess.

First five plates of five-hundred were great this morning; ran into the same thing I had before. Troubleshot with Clint and figured out another stupid mistake I'd made. Fixed that and went fine again.

It is a fucking relief to know that I am wrong some days. This is definitely one of them.

Ran 11 plates in 5 hours. One to redo. Odd sides nearly finished.















SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 9

So. It snowed. This is the coldest, snowiest April in the past 10 years here in Minnesota, and it's making sure we all pay attention to that fact. It's yet to hit 60 degrees, when in March of last year parts of America were 20 to 30 degrees above average. Thinking I could bank on Winter following some sort of reliable pattern was a mistake. Thinking the small repairs and replacements needed wouldn't knock me flat until I'd finished this print run was also a mistake.

I've made a lot of them in the pursuit of this project - but giving up hasn't been one of those mistakes.

Terrified, worried, freezing, I trudged back out into that tundra and turned on some space heaters and went for it again.



And it went fine.

I KNOW! When have I come onto this goddamn log of events and said things went WELL? OR BETTER THAN EXPECTED?

Today, for starters. I think I've figured out the root problem of my issues - and yes, Clint was/is right. It wasn't the press. It was me.

Ran copy through the machine as make-ready, to test the feeding. Machine sounded good, greased up, the vacuum on the feed was good and consistent-sounding, the base underneath the paper goddamn robust, and nothing bad happened. Maisie ran like a fucking saint - that is, to say, ran like she always does when I pull my head out of my ass and pay better attention. Ran 500 more of the 'Thank You' plate, which didn't need strict registration since it had no flip-side to print and stayed pretty far from the left margin. THERE WAS NO GODDAMN INCIDENT. The ink went on like butter and the new rubber blanket was great. It was beautiful. I nearly cried from joy, but I'm not a camel - I have no water left in me from all that damn crying I've done.

I did notice it was a little far to the left since I hadn't adjusted either the plate or the paper to align. Clint's warning rang in my head to keep that feed side centered to avoid trouble. I moved the paper over on the second plate to where I'd been printing all month, off-center to the left.

And the damn problem came straight back. Paper flying down into the machine again.

I stopped, moved the paper back into the center, and it went away.

Lesson to be learned, kids: register, register, register good.

I'm going to reprint the plates yet to do. A time-sucking task, but if the plates run as smoothly as this just because I nudge them over a quarter of an inch, then it's well worth it. Did 1500 sheets without almost any loss. Only got stopped by needing to reprint plates. Otherwise, Maisie was good and I was good to keep going. GOOD DAY.

Larry from Printing Equipment and Supply also called back with info on the missing part of the feed table - when he relayed to me the price for one of the missing pieces, 140 hot buckaroos, I responded that was well more than half of what I paid for the whole damn press in the first place. He joked I could add it and drastically increase the value of my press. You know, if I wanted to resell or something. HA!


April skies, February blankets.


Space heaters doing their best - once the room hit 40ish degrees, though, the temperature was a non-issue.



Back to the drawing board for a minute.