Friday, September 28, 2012

Radium Girls Graphic Novella

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm working on a graphic novel(la) of "The Color of Silence is Radium Green". Of course, finding the right amount of motivation is not so hard, but the right about of confidence? Let's say it's an uphill battle. Over the last two days, working intermittently, I've inked half a page and almost finished two larger image cells. (You'll see that one is not entirely shaded in.)  Here's a glimpse of the progress so far....
Half an inked page from The Color of Silence is Radium Green

Two larger cells from The Color of Silence is Radium Green

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Discoveries

This weekend, Michael and I went with my brother-in-law Glenn (know to the family as 'Bub') to the Mother Earth News Festival, held at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. While Michael and Bub went to a workshop on homestead butchering, I went to workshops on making winter salads and on supplementing homestead and farm incomes by blogging. In the Mother Earth News Bookstore, a temporary area set up to showcase the authors associated with the festival, I picked up food activist Sandor Katz's book The Art of Fermentation. See, Friday a week ago, I went to visit writer Karen Lillis. We ate at the always excellent Red Oak Cafe, in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. Karen, who had started a special diet, picked up a bottle of Kombucha tea, a fermented beverage with probiotic cultures. I had read about Kombucha some years ago, learning that kids were picking it up because of its alcohol content. Karen said they've since cranked the alcochol content down, as the bottles had been pulled from store shelves because of it.
The morning I went in to see Karen, I had woken up with a terrible headache, not improved by the usual traffic nonsense I encounter coming in via the tunnels. Side Story: I am really fortunate not to have been shoved from my car into someone else's by a garbage truck that couldn't stop outside the Carnegie, PA exit this past Tuesday, when I went in to visit my folks. Someone was looking out for me, and I am very grateful for it. It was raining, and a driver in a silver car cut me off by diving into the two-car length between myself and the car in front of me (having learned back in 2010 on the Veterans Memorial Bridge that wet roads are usually slick roads, I usually leave the extra space, which most people interpret as open room for lane merging). I had to brake because they were suddenly braking and a moment after I did, I heard  brakes squealing behind me...big air brakes. I looked in a my rear view, and I saw a garbage truck coming for me, which I will say scared the living hell out of me. There was nowhere for me to go because everyone in front of me was stopped and there was not enough shoulder or left-hand lane room. Again, someone was definitely looking out for me because the garbage truck did a 270 (not a complete 360, but more than a 180) in the process of trying to stop. For a moment, I was afraid he would tip over, but thankfully, he didn't. I don't know if anyone behind him hit him. I was just fear-fuelled energy at that point. He had stopped both lanes of traffic, and because of this, I got into the left hand lane and got out of there. I was shaking the whole way into the city and had to 'take myself in hand' not to start freaking out from the adrenaline. Experiences like that remind you of what's most important. When I woke up the next morning beside Michael, I remember feeling really happy.  And now, back to main story: Karen and I sat down and started catching up. My head was still throbbing a little, but I could function. I opened the Kombucha and started to drink it,and within 15 minutes, my headache had lifted. By the time we were done with lunch, it was gone. I couldn't believe it. I'd had the headache for two days, and it had waxed and waned in intensity, so I'm not entirely sure if the Kombucha was to credit for its passing or if there were some other factor involved. Yet on my way out of Red Oak, I picked up another bottle. When I found it was something I could make at home, I figured sign me up! And so, I purchased Katz's book. So far, it's a wonderful read, both informative and cautious, as it offers relevant cultural information alongside receipes and descriptions of 'elixir' pros and cons (such as the problems associated with ascribing too significant a healing property to certain fermented products or the dangers of bottling sweet fermented beverages, which can quickly become explosive when capped). I'll be purchasing a 'mother' (SCOBY culture) soon, and I'll track the Kombucha-making process on our farm blog (
File:Blankets cover.jpg

Another new discovery I've made is the work of Craig Thompson, whose book Blankets I found in Barnes and Noble's graphic novels section while Michael and I were waiting to get into a movie. It's nothing short of amazing. More on this soon....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

W is for Wallis....

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor at
the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV
      Michael and I just returned from a trip into Southern West Virginia. We stayed in Lewisburg, voted Coolest Small Town in 2011. There's a small, very official looking sign that says just that along each inward-leading road. The town itself is pretty, artsy, filled with a kind of hipster energy that, a generation ago, would have been attributed to urban pioneers. With Beckley being the closest city, I wondered just where the money to support so many artists was coming from, since there are numerous galleries and artisan shops along the three blocks of Lewisburg's historic district. Neither of us knew. Is this a refuge for politicians and lobbyists seeking to escape Washington, D.C? A psychological haven much like the physical haven offered by the nearby bunker we toured?
     Speaking of the bunker, I got my first glimpse of The Greenbrier Hotel, where that bunker--a carefully guarded secret until a 1992 expose in the The Washington Post Magazine revealed its location and purpose (to assure the safety of members of the House and Senate in the event of a cataclysm during the Cold War)--was located. When I was young and my father and mother were in business, they (I'm grateful to say) took me along to places like The Ritz Calton and the Hay-Adams. I've seen some fairly interesting decor choices, some informed by the era in which the surrounding building was either constructed or refurbished. The Greenbrier Hotel, first built in White Sulphur Springs in the 19-teens and expanded at the end of the 1920s, was renovated in a beautiful, if slightly shocking high style by Dorothy Draper in the late 1950s. There's a "Well, Good Lord!" kind of beauty to the rooms: bold wallpaper and color combinations that (when analyzed) made me think, "Hey wait, that shouldn't go together. For example, the carpet of the Trellis Room, where we met for the Bunker Tour, carried shades of grape purple, magenta, and kelly green,while the chairs and window valances had candy apple reds, peachy corals, and light lavendars in their patterns. But even though this sounds like it might lead to visual discord and the possibility of making room inhabitants green around the gills, there was a surprising airiness to it, an unexpected crazy kind of harmony. I took pictures of an out of the way sitting room and several of one of the bathrooms, although I've included just one bathroom picture here.
A coral-colored sitting room, off the beaten path at the Greenbrier.
Although you cannot see it here, to the left of the door in which I'm standing
is a giant, full body portrait of Princess Grace (Grace Kelly) in a tiara and
white and gold brocade evening gown.  

A conversation and vanity  area in a ladies' bathroom at the Greenbrier.
One of the many amazing ladies' rooms there. This bathroom has a hallway
and individual rooms with individual vanity tables in the place of stalls.This
is serious swankery, no?
But why 'W' is for Wallis as my title? Because Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor spent a great deal of time at the Greenbrier, often as celebrities (I suspect with a complimentary tab in return for their drawing capacity), handing out golfing awards and simply being photographed while similing. It seems that every photograph of Wallis at the Greenbrier features her winning smile. In fact, the photograph above, of the couple dancing, appears as a life-sized poster in the President's House (where U.S. Presidents stayed before the Civil War and certainly before the hotel itself was built...during the era when White Sulphur Springs was the annual meeting place of the South's landed gentry). These photographs of the Duke and Duchess, which reveal so much historically and psychologically speaking, has opened up a new reservoir of interest for me, one which I plan to plumb in the next few weeks. But more on that later.

Michael and me in a train car on the Cass Railroad in Cass, WV
A new collection of short stories, some of which have not been published anywhere before, is now available for your Amazon Kindle. In the Aftermath: Stories is just out today. You can learn more about the book by clicking here.  
My new short story collection, available on
Kindle. You can download it here.