Monday, February 05, 2007

Six Years On...

I had a request today to get on the stick and get my bio written for the Vertigo Site.
I got on the stick surprisingly well. It was a short paragraph; laconic with few errors in grammar, hopefully (isn't it the Editors job to check for that stuff anyway?).
I made to paint aspects of myself in a not-so-flattering light in order not to appear to be tooting my own horn loudly and perhaps flash a bit of that "oh-I'm-such-a-scoundrel" bravado that I imagine people like to envision when they think of artists and the artistic temperament.
Mostly, it was smoke and mirrors; in the bio I told you a lot without telling you anything.
Surprised to be genuinely caught up in a mood for reflection, I thought it time to give blog. Which IS very much like giving devas, thank you very much (I blog therefore I AM).
In October of 2000, at about 3:30 on a weekday morning, in the middle of a job for some advertising agency, I had a nervous break. Not a BREAKDOWN, but a "break". Like a twig snapping. This twig just happened to be integral to the loaded mass of twigs being gathered on the back of the proverbial camel. What lead up to this event is irrelevant at this point; I had folded in the middle of jobs before and always came back to save the day. This was a tiger of different stripes, though. Why you axe? Because as far as the "whole ball of wax" was concerned?...I was GONE!
I entertained the idea of going to the Middle-East as a "stringer". Beyond that, I can't recall thinking of much over the next few months. I remember having a birthday...a 40th birthday and being at a table in my favorite restaurant with beautiful women seated around me. So I guess my game wasn't TOO off. Then it's January (phuck how did that happen?)and I haven't been anywhere else much other than in my bed.
This, people, was what I now refer to as my "seismic" depression.
I've always been prone to depression but this was, by virtue of the way it shook things up and left all views askew afterwards, was a foundation tester.
Two things about this episode stand out in my mind. Without either of these things who knows what part of the Middle-East I'd be buried under (a "stringer",what was I thinking?).
The first thing ("That Thing...") was the awesome, vintage claw-foot tub that my apartment had;second, was "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon. For Body and Mind, a restorative indulgence could not have been better prescribed or more convenient.
If you've never read this book (READING it, not a book on tape), you're missing a literary alchemist doing his best work.
The spark that lives in that book was one of great, galvanizing discoveries of my adult life; more than just reading a good book; more than just discovering a terrific writer; I found a meaning in something that had been lost to me even as it flourished as common tender among so many people I knew and respected.

So, here WE are...5 years on. Call me Josef, returned from the frozen wastes.
Since that time, that seismic shift, I've exchanged email with Mr. Chabon. I got to meet and thank him for "Kavalier and Clay" just after the Eisner presentations of 2005 (I gots to git me one of those!). There's still a good deal of struggle in day to day life, but fuck, who doesn't have that? It's like Winston Churchill said,"Never, never, never give up!" The sureness I find in it is this; I love what I do without reserve. Hopefully, I get to share some of that galvanizing spark with some of you. That's the Magic, no?
On that note, here is a bit of Magic from Chabon's book. This is the very paragraph that walloped me when I first read it and wallops me still.

"A surprising fact about the magician Bernard Kornblum, Joe remembered, was that he believed in magic. Not in the so-called magic of candles, pentagrams, and bats wings. Not in the kitchen enchantments of Slavic grandmothers with their herbiaries and parings from the little toe of a blind virgin tied up in a goatskin bag. Not in astrology, theosophy, chilromancy, dowsing rods, séances, weeping statues, werewolves, wonders, or miracles. All these Kornblum had regarded as fakery far different-far more destructive-than the brand of illusion he practiced, whose success, after all, increased in direct proportion to his audiences' constant, keen awareness that, in spite of all the vigilance they could bring to bear, they were being deceived. What bewitched Bernard Kornblum, on the contrary, was the impersonal magic of life, when he read in a magazine about a fish that could disguise itself as any one of seven different varieties of sea bottom, or when he learned from a newsreel that scientists had discovered a dying star that emitted radiation on a wavelength whose value in megacycles approximated π. In the realm of human affairs, this type of enchantment was often, though not always, a sadder business- sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel. Here its stock-in-trade was ironies, coincidences, and the only true portents: those that reveal themselves, unmistakable and impossible to ignore, in retrospect."

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES of KAVALIER & CLAY, Chapter 12, Page 265, Paragraph 1

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