Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The only comics blog post-San Diego report that has nothing to do with a Con

My brother got married a few years ago, and my participation in his wedding is always brought up at family gatherings. My brother is the kind of Irish-American who is very much into being Irish-American, so much so that he regularly denies the otherwise incontrovertible concept that my mother’s German and Italian genes found a home in his body. Along with insisting on an open bar at his wedding reception with both Guinness and Harp on tap, he rounded up the sausage side of the bridal party for a road trip to and from New Hampshire in order to be fitted for Irish kilts. It was because of my brother’s enduring loyalty to his Irish heritage that I got stinking drunk at the wedding reception (and, truth be told, was already tipsy during the ceremony: there was champagne in the limo). As I tell him every time he brings it up, “You had an open bar, and you made me wear a skirt. Of course I got drunk.” I propositioned every woman (except the bride) under 40, destroyed a few patio chairs, and dropped so much stuff (wallets, condoms, keys) out of the kilt’s front pocket that my brother sent the Best Man after me, in order to pick up my debris. Despite the fact that my brother always tells the story with sighs and shakes of his head, he doesn’t realize I was consciously doing a younger brother’s duty in such a situation: I was working damn hard to make him look good by comparison.

Being a groomsman is fun. Being the significant other of a bridal party member at the wedding of a man and woman who are strangers to you - and whose participating family and friends are likewise strangers - sucks. It sucks long and hard, and not in a good BJ kind of way. In a Bruce Jones kind of way.

Even though you won’t be wearing a matching tux, or standing with the bride and groom as the vows are read, or accompanying them in their limo, or sitting at the head table, or any of that stuff, you are more than just a guest. You are attached to the bridal party and they want the same sweat and blood from you that they’re going to excrete in the incomprehensible madness that is the preparation for an American wedding. But, in spite of the work that’s expected, you just aren’t as essential, and are left to fend for yourself. So, for example, when your girlfriend makes plans for you to dog-sit on the night of the bachelor and bachelorette parties and to sleep on the bride and groom’s couch that night, and the groom either ignored or was unaware of this, and an argument ensues between the bride and groom about whether you’ll be snoring on their couch or in a hotel suite with a bunch of drunk bride’s maids, and the bride tells you to not worry about it, it doesn’t hold much weight. She’s gone with her drunk bride’s maids, you’re on a couch watching Michael J. Fox on In The Actor’s Studio, and you’re at least 20% sure that shortly after you fall asleep your snoring will be interrupted by rude, drunken groomsmen hands, followed by a swift kick in the ass and a cold night in a stranger’s backyard. Thankfully, that didn't happen, but the potential didn't exactly aid my sleeping process.

So, in spite of the big pile of school books and trade collections I hefted with me to San Diego, I’ve got little to show for it. I had plans to write at least three or four reviews before I got back, but there just wasn’t time. When I finally did have a chance to sit in our hotel room with the laptop, my girlfriend was so exhausted from the wedding stuff that doing so much as putting a plug in an outlet or unwrapping a candy bar kept her awake. The wedding dominated the trip, and it wasn’t until the last day that we got to strike out on our own.

There was one notable exception. See, our sleeping arrangements were a little complicated for the trip. The bride wanted us in the hotel she was staying in, but it was a little pricey. We only stayed there Friday night (the night before the wedding) and Saturday night. On Thursday night, my girlfriend crashed in the bride’s hotel suite while I stayed on the groom’s couch. Wednesday night, the night we arrived, we stayed at a Best Western. It was conveniently situated a mile down the street from the bride and groom’s apartment.

When I travel, I like to find new comic shops, and visiting one was my only ironclad, unswerving, fuck-your-wedding rule for the trip. As I became more educated on the schedule of the pre-wedding stuff, that rule became more swervy. I tried to find some help in the form of my fellow Comic Book Galaxy writer, Chris Allen. I e-mailed him only hours before our flight out of NY. Unfortunately, while he did e-mail me back, we managed to completely fail in finding any kind of Internet access while in California (the more pricey hotel did have a wireless network, and my girlfriend’s laptop was supposed to have wireless access, but for some reason they just didn’t like each other).

Thankfully, the gods either don’t always hate me, or when I travel it takes time for their hatred to lock back onto my ass.

The morning after we arrived, I woke up early. Around 7 am. My cell was short on minutes, so I went out looking for a store that might have a phone card. As I stepped out of the Best Western, a big-ass sign directly across the street caught my attention


Abandoning the quest for a phone card, I walked across the eight-fucking-hundred lane road to check the store hours. It opened at 11, the same time we were supposed to get picked up by the bride’s mom. I told my girlfriend that they could just give me the address, I would help her pack the luggage into the car, and I would make sure I was at the apartment by 2 pm (at which point, everyone was supposed to leave the apartment for their gender-segregated night of drunkeness, though they didn’t really leave until about 6 pm). The bride’s mom, once she arrived, refused to leave me without a clear idea of where the apartment was (and also, I suspect, wanted my help unpacking stuff), but was gracious enough to drive me back to the comic shop once all our stuff was dropped off at the apartment. The walk back was pretty simple. It was on the same street, and I’m used to taking long walks, so the only hassle was crossing the eight-fucking-thousand-lane roads that you can find in just about any major or semi-major Southern California city.

It was a nice shop, with a great selection of graphic novels. It was confusing at first, because they organize their trades and Hardcovers by company. Lots of manga. Also, lots of sculptures and other collectible stuff. I’ve all but abandoned my desire for collectibles, but I had to invoke a great deal of discipline to leave without their Sam Kieth Hulk mini-bust.

I browsed for about two hours, and had to pass over a lot of stuff I was itching for. In particular, they had a rare (I never even knew it existed) hardcover copy of The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect. They had almost all of the manga books Rob Vollmar recommended to me. I came close to getting the first volume of Usagi Yojimbo, a series I’ve been meaning to check out for a while, but I was limiting myself to $35 or $40, and there was other stuff I wanted. Finally, I settled on the fifth and sixth volumes of Lone Wolf and Cub and the hardcover edition of Young Avengers: Sidekicks. In spite of all the trades I brought with me, those were pretty much the only books I got to read during the trip, other than a library copy of the first volume of Fables for my next Overdue Books column.

So, if you’re ever in San Diego check out Comickaze on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Very nice selection of stuff.

Our last day there, Sunday, Nicole and I finally got to do some corny touristy stuff. We tired ourselves out touring the decommissioned aircraft carrier Midway in the bay. It was only a few blocks from the hotel (the second, more expensive one, not the one near the comic shop), and right next to the pier where I used to spend my lunch breaks during the few months that I lived in San Diego.

We didn’t get a lot of pictures. Nicole set the camera for high resolution, so the memory ran out quick. But here’s some of what we got:

“Mick, honey, we need a picture that really evokes our love and devotion for each other.”

“You’re right, sweety. If only there was a flying machine designed to kill people that we could take a picture in front of":

Mick’s tribute to the final moments of Top Gun's Goose:

Nicole enjoys listening to Franz Ferdinand on her ipod while escaping the fiery death of a dogfight:

Mick comforts his girlfriend as her hair attacks her:

And just an incredibly cute shot on the boat where the wedding ceremony was held of the ringbearer, flower girl, non-affiliated high-energy girl, and an ugly dog:

I should also note that I was happy to find a package of trades waiting for me when I got home - trades I'd ordered specifically for the article on supervillains-as-protagonists that I will hopefully get done this decade providing I don't have many more weddings to attend - specifically I got Thunderbolts: How to Lose, Sabretooth: Open Season and Bullseye: Greatest Hits.

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