J.T. Yost is putting out a food and eating themed anthology that he's very kindly asked me to contribute a comic to. I've been contacting people involved in urban agriculture to interview for my ten page piece (hence the chicken photos in the last blog entry). I met Blaine about a month or so ago at a square dance, he and his girlfriend are old friends of Clif's. Blaine somehow became enamored with dairy and cows and enrolled in the dairy science program at SUNY Cobleskill and is working hard to graduate next year. When we both got to talking about our respective interests in milk and comics, I asked him if I could go see the farm he works on.
Friday night I took the bus to Albany and was retrieved and ferried to Cobleskill in Blaine's silver Chevy Impala, about an hour west of Albany. It was really late. Despite both of us being very tired we went to a dive bar, The American ('Can' to locals) that was pretty lively for 1:30 am. We didn't stay very long but I had time to draw Craig, who is homeless and attends school full time for programming or design, I am not sure which. He was celebrating his receipt of a design award from his department and let his hair down for the portrait with a toothy grin. I also drew one of the bartenders. I asked Blaine what makes him happy, because his brow seemed to be in a furrow, and he said, "I love being lost".
Blaine is an RA in one of the dorms and was able to get me an empty dorm room to stay the night in. After foraging through a closet full of left-behind linens he procured a fetching set of turquoise sheets and a bright pink quilt. I told him I was afraid of the dark (true) and he found a really charming white lamp. I didn't have time to draw it yet but plan to draw from a photo I took.
After going to bed late (and waking once at 3:30am to the sound of the neighboring teenagers having sex, which was sort of depressing because there were sexual assault awareness posters in all the bathroom stalls in the women's bathroom, and I couldn't help to think that they were both probably very drunk) I woke up for good at 7:00, and after packing and repacking and showering, I looked out the window and drew this rather anemic-looking landscape. The trees there are way leafier in real life but I like the spareness of the lines. I didn't finish the drawing because the hills reminded me so much of all the mountains I saw in North Carolina and made me lonesome to see them again.
I got back to the city around 8 and hauled my bags and a small potted plant (I got it from Noah, who gave us a tour of his contributions to the greenhouses and proudly showed us his small, four year old mango tree) and managed to just barely get in to a presentation on Comics Journalism at a place on Union Avenue in Williamsburg called Union Docs. The lecture was down a narrow hallway in an old long room with white painted tin tiles and dark brown wood flooring, with little circulation and full of people mostly my age in folding chairs. It felt a bit like a church in the Delta (though I have never been inside of one). When I got there I was an hour late (and smelled like cow poop) and the outside door was locked-- I thought for sure I'd missed the chance to see Josh Neufeld and Seth Tobocman talk about their stuff. I was hoping to hear them speak about their work, since I'm interested in taking Seth's class this summer, and applying to the residency Josh is teaching in the fall. One of the event workers came to the front door (for no apparent reason other than there is a God and he loves comics) and let me in. I was beyond happy to be on the inside of that cold, locked door after shuffling my feet wondering what to do. The talk was really informative, encouraging and exciting. When Josh Neufeld talked about Hurricane Katrina and showed slides of the wrecked houses; he spoke movingly about why he thought it was important to make comics about the tragedy. He was stationed as a disaster worker with the American Red Cross in my hometown of Biloxi and said exploring loss helped him deal with feelings he had about being a New Yorker during 9/11. I always felt like the rest of America (and New Yorkers especially) didn't understand the great loss and sadness of Katrina, and it was incredible to hear him say that it matters so much to him. Matt Bors, Brooke Gladstone, and Bill Kartalopoulos were also panelists (well, Bill was the official moderator, as he tends to be at these sorts of events). Everyone was super smart and funny and I thought I was going to pass out from being worn out from traveling, losing sleep and eating poorly. I am so thankful I managed to keep myself together and tried really hard to get there because it was an awesome experience.
More photographs and drawings from Cobleskill to come. Thursday I'm going back to Walter Reed with Victor Juhasz, Fred Harper, and some other people, too. I'm humbled by all the peer inspiration and traveling insanity. Time to draw!