I've traveled the world exploring its dark recesses; treading those trails lost to the eyes of man, crawling the caverns of the earth and clambering over stones worn smooth by time so deep they've forgotten human touch, and sifted the sands of the most remote deserts uncovering secrets in temples that were old when the bones of this world were formed. Spending countless hours pouring over ancient and molding hidden manuscripts. Hefting tomes of forgotten knowledge written by unknowable hands somewhere out there in the depths of time.
My wanderings have exacted a heavy toll. The physical damage is obvious. What is not obvious, what remains hidden is the indelible mark left on the mind. Knowledge of those Elder and Outer Gods, the Old Ones and the Deep... the knowledge and their touch. Dark whispers run circles threatening to collapse my psyche, robbing me of sleep and at times my very sanity.
An excerpt from part two: One of those old tools caught him. Just before the ground, an old rusty lump of metal jagged and angry caught my father just above and behind his right eye. There he hung bleeding from his mouth and nose and the new orifice that lump of metal had made... I had come for redemption but would have to settle for revenge.
So I ran. Fled back home. I was terrified. Of what I'd done, of the consequences.
About halfway through my train ride home my mind eased and changed. If time heals all wounds, than distance covered all crimes. I wasn't running as a fugitive. I was returning, the conquering hero. Mom saw it differently. I had puffed my chest and proudly declared how I had solved this problem. Mother was devastated. Grief stricken she told me more about my father... more about the man I had killed. She told me he was a deeply troubled man, spending his life running from one thing or another. Trying to stay a step ahead of his problems. That's what this was, his way of running. She told me she wanted him to come home because she was sure that she could show him that there was nothing left to run from. She was sure he would settle down and be the man she could see was in there.
"And now you'll be just like him, always on the run." She was so disappointed, so sad.
The news was out within a couple days. Turns out that despite his shortcomings and wrongdoings, the man was well like. I guess mom was right all along. Apparently my father was a cheerful drunk who somehow managed to keep his debts paid. No suspects, investigation ongoing. A mysterious visitor wanted for questioning. Mom was right, I'd have to stay on the run. Her words stuck in my head. Ringing out with pain. I set my jaw and I made up my mind; I wouldn't walk that path. A couple weeks after my return I grabbed a bag and headed out to the train station.
"Where will you go?" I heard my mother's voice behind me as I stood with one foot on the platform, the other foot on the train.
"I'm goin' back to New Orleans. To wear that ball and chain."
Well, there is a house in New Orleans they call the rising sun. And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy. And God, I know I'm one.
An excerpt from part one: "I'm sure if I could get him to stay home for a time... I know he'd change. I'd could get him back..." I set my jaw and made up my mind; I would chase him to that house in New Orleans. I'd bring him back, I would get back what was hers.
The place was easy enough to find. A simple question asked of a few locals would lead me out of the city to a run down building at the edge of a swamp. This was the gambling house that had such a hold on my father? It was little more than a roadhouse inn. A restaurant & bar, a card room for low stakes poker, some table games, and a dozen rooms for rent. I kicked my way across the sawdust floor, through cigar smoke, avoiding the poor drunken stupefied souls strewn about; heading for the toothless barmaid. She stood wiping down the counter with a rag that threw the smell of whisky and mildew into the already thick air. I asked after my father, the dubious look she gave was telling. Probably more so than she intended. Visions of loan sharks and police flash across my field of view. I explained who I was and her expression relaxed.
"Oh, den he back'air workin' shug." The relaxation in her expression gave way to, what could have been, relief in her voice. It was hard to pick up the nuance in her accent. The completely alien dialect.
I learned that my father worked as a cook and a janitor; anything he could do to make the money that he gambled and drank. He'd rent a room when he could but most nights he spent in his own little place right outside the backdoor of the kitchen. That was where I was told to wait for him. It was a shed, my father lived in a shed. An old plywood structure, barely standing, with a cot and some very rusted tools. It was all probably left over from the construction of the main building, The Rising Sun.
I had been waiting for nearly three hours before he appeared. He smelled strongly of liquor. I wondered how much of my wait he'd spent drinking. I launched into him with all the passion and guilt I could muster. My mother's words and sentiment flowing through me.
"Don't you need us? Can't you be satisfied with your family?"
"Now... The only thing a gambler needs is a suitcase and a trunk. And the only time he's satisfied is when he's on a drunk." He swayed and slurred as he spoke. I could feel my face heating up, my body tensing, the surge of adrenaline that makes your heart beat in your eyeballs.
I lashed out. In an instant of rage and base instinct my fist connected, smack, against his jaw. He fell. He fell for what seemed like hours. Slowly he drifted toward the ground, his booze addled mind too slow to react. He never reached out to break his fall. Maybe I knocked him out. Maybe he never knew he was falling. One of those old tools caught him. Just before the ground, an old rusty lump of metal jagged and angry caught my father just above and behind his right eye. There he hung bleeding from his mouth and nose and the new orifice that lump of metal had made... I had come for redemption but would have to settle for revenge.
Music is central to my writing process. It ranks right up there with booze and candy as creative lubricants. I use it to put myself in the right "head space" for whatever it is I'm writing. I hear this isn't an uncommon phenomenon but, with no explicit knowledge of the practice being exercised elsewhere, I'll assume I'm unique and invented the idea. Sometimes a song will dig it's way into my psyche. I'll start to hear a story behind the melody. The words and music become disconnected and something reveals itself. Sometimes it's a character. Sometimes I hear some dialog. Sometimes a whole narrative will materialize. I'm not talking about those songs that are clearly telling a specific story... that would just be lazy on my part. And again since I have no firsthand knowledge of this happening anywhere else I'll go ahead and take full credit for and ownership of this strange occurrence. It's all mine and you can't have any..
With this in mind I've decided to write some of these stories inspired by songs. I'm going to put them in a serialized format right here on the old C&C blog.... you're welcome. So, for your reading enjoyment (hopefully) I present House of the Rising Sun part 1.
I was twelve when I found out what my father was. Startled awake by yelling. I heard my mother's voice and was vaguely aware of a man's. I only found out later that it was my father. I didn't recognize it, I hadn't had much contact with the man in my short life. The fight breaking up my sleep must have made me restless, I was up before dawn. I found my mother at the kitchen table. The only light coming from a small desk lamp, shinning a spotlight on her hands hard at work. My mother was a tailor, she sat in near darkness sewing my new blue jeans... sewing and weeping. I offered her as much comfort as a child could offer a parent. We started talking and the conversation went in the obvious direction.
"Hmm... There is a house, in New Orleans... They call 'The Rising Sun'..." She told me. She answered all of my questions.
So that was it. My father was a gamblin' man, down in New Orleans.
That house, in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun. It's been the ruin of many a poor boy. And God, I know I'm one.
I didn't see my father again until several years later. I could hear the yelling from down the hall as I approached our apartment. The scene inside was an unexpected let down. I entered tense, body tight for action, ready to face the anger and violence that I had heard. But there they stood. My mother and father on opposite sides of the kitchen, relaxed and leaning on our cheap plastic counter-tops. Their words and volume disconnected from their body language... The obvious result of having done this dance so many, many times. My little sister sat silent at the kitchen table, staring down at her hands. I moved to put an arm around the nearly catatonic girl. My father offered a glance, his only acknowledgement of my being there. Every muscle in my nineteen year old body screamed to strike the man.
"Alright. I'm leaving." He said, throwing his hands in the air. I'd like to think it was my stare or that he could feel my thoughts, that prompted his sudden departure. He stopped on his way through the door, looking back at mom.
"Oh mother, tell your children not to do what I have done. Spend your lives in sin and misery, in the house of the rising sun." And he was gone. When he'd gone my mother explained why he'd come.
"When he burns out. When he's out of cash and credit, he comes back to town." She cried as she told me. She told me he would borrow or steal anything he could. When he'd finished, just before leaving again, he'd stop by our place to take what he could from us.
"He took our money?" I'd been working at a store in our neighborhood for about a year. I made just enough to cover half of our household bills with a little left over. I was saving for a car. With our own car a while new world of opportunities would open up to us. "He stole my money?!" I deeply regret not beating the soul from his body there in our kitchen.
I set my jaw and made up my mind; I would chase him to that house in New Orleans. I would go get back what was ours.
Mom was quick to disarm me. It's hard to burn with hormonal teen rage while being held by your weeping mother. She told me all the reasons that he was good. All the reasons why she still loved him.
"I'm sure if I could get him to stay home for a time... I know he'd change. I'd could get him back..." I set my jaw and made up my mind; I would chase him to that house in New Orleans. I'd bring him back, I would get back what was hers.
It was early in this new millennium, 2004 maybe. I was twenty-two or so and had quit my slacker record store job for the high pay and excitement of used car sales. Yes, I was a used car salesman, and it was awesome. One of the funnest jobs I've ever had. I wont go into the day to day or address the fact that everyone thinks that car salesmen are crooks. None of that is really "on message". I think I met Lyle my fist day on that Volkswagen/Hyundai lot. I recall saying something like "I didn't know Volkswagen made a truck." The other salesmen, most of whom were much older than myself, laughed. Out of this tiny blue pickup stepped an average height average build Asian man. He greeted me with a smile and a handshake. He was excited to tell me about his little truck and the other Volkswagens he owned. He was a booster, an enthusiast. That's probably what made him such a good salesman. That and his seemingly endless cheer. He introduced himself as Lee even though his name tag clearly said Lyle. This was confusing until I got my own name tag and actually learned the man's name. Turns out we had first and last on our tags and his name was in fact Lee (spelled Ly) his last name was Le (pronounced Lay). His name was a funny little ice breaker he liked to use. "Hi, I'm Ly Le. You can call me Lyle." I didn't ever get to know Lyle on any kind of deep personal level, just the surface stuff you pick up from coworker chit chat. I found out that he was a pretty serious family man with a wife and kids that he worked his ass off to take care of. I of course learned of his love for fine German vehicles. The thing I should have learned, the thing he had to teach, the thing I wish I'd had the sense to learn... Ly always seemed happy. I'd hear this or that about things in his personal life. Normal stuff, money argument with the wife or the kids being jerks as kids can be. None of it ever seemed to affect him. He'd lose a sale and it would become another sparkle in his ever present smile. A slow month would hit and we'd all wonder how we would make ends meet, and Ly would comment about how nice the weather was and then walk away with this lightness that he always seemed to have. I wish I could have seen then what I can see now. Not the way he walked, but why he walked that way. I wish I could have heard, not the words but why he said them. Ly seemed to understand and practice that happiness is a choice to be made. Evey day.
I don't mean to portray the man as one dimensional and without flaw. He was a man just like the rest of us, and like the rest of us I'm sure there was contradiction in his character. I heard rumors about anger and violence. But I didn't see any of that. And I can only comment on that which I witnessed firsthand.
I once knew a man that I called Lyle. He was one of those people, we all know one, that always wore a smile. No matter what was going on he seemed happy about something. I never heard the man say a negative thing about anyone. I was young when I met him. It took more than a decade for me to learn what he had to teach, And I still wrestle with that lesson, trying to gain the understanding that he seemed to have. At some point, a few years after I met him happiness stopped being an option. I only heard the story second or third hand so the details are probably inaccurate... Lyle killed himself. He drove his Volkswagen camper van to somewhere on the Oregon coast and overlooking the ocean he doused himself with gasoline and burned himself alive right there in the driver's seat.
Our YouTube channel reboot launches tomorrow and I'm feeling some nervous excitement. I'm nervous not because I'm concerned about the eventual "success" or "failure" of the channel; a successful channel isn't the point. We aren't transitioning into "YouTubers" and literally none of our eggs are in that basket. If the video content we're providing never makes a dime through that convoluted ad revenue system... that would be fine. Hell, I haven't even taken the time to learn how the YouTube advertisement revenue works, that's how unconcerned I am about the financial side of this thing. What I am concerned about, however, is the level of enjoyment our video content will provide. Because that is the point. It's impossible to create something that's meant to be experienced by someone else and not worry/wonder about whether or not your audience is actually going to like it. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar... or an incredible narcissistic. And that is the pivot point, the make or break point, the success or failure, win or lose; it all hinges on whether or not our audience likes our new video content.
Along with the nail biting wonder associated with this reboot, I've gone ahead and put some additional pressure on myself. This is more than just a YouTube video content experiment in hypertension. It is in fact a multi-faceted face lift for Comics And Cognac as a whole. Since the beginning Brandon and I have insisted that the work and brand come first and would be our face. Comics And Cognac as an entity would be presented first out there in the world, and through that we would offer our work as presented by the brand; meanwhile we would cower somewhere behind the scenes safely hidden behind the brand that we're responsible for. This is an old media idea that doesn't really work anymore, not for non-established upstarts like us anyway. In this day and age of instant access to creators via the ever present internet, it seems to me that we need to flip our current strategy upside down. And that's exactly what is happening. The YouTube thing that we've been hyping on social media isn't just about providing content. We're working to expand our internet footprint to potentially expand our audience while putting our own faces forward. We're putting our own faces forward and breaking down the barrier that we've built. This really seems to be the way things work now. Instant access and connection to creators as an introduction to they're work... It's absolutely terrifying. But we're doing it anyway. Going forward YouTube content and blog posts will be coming weekly, Twitter and Facebook activity will increase some, and we joined Snapchat (search Comics And Cognac, you'll find us. Check it out for some behind the scenes stuff). Wish us luck, I think we're going to need it.
Goody Good has made being helpful and kind his life's mission. We recently caught up with him at a downtown hotel and had an opportunity to sit down and speak with this star of web and print comics about his life, talents, and what comes after the comics.
If you're a reader of this here amazing blog... you've heard of our comic Goody Good. And you no doubt know that our self-published first issue is now available. What you can't possibly know, what I'm here to tell you, is that the self-distribution of our little book is going pretty well. Brandon has been pounding the pavement going to meet comic shop owners and show off our work. I, unfortunately and to my eternal shame, have not yet been able to join in the fun. While out there all by himself, braving the elements, traveling store to store, door to door, cold calling... he's been killin' it. He's got a 75% success rate! He's one hell of a salesman. Or our work is good. I don't know, it could be either. I'm more comfortable just giving the credit to Brandon. To acknowledge that our work is in fact good enough to stand on it's own and be accepted onto store shelves would be a little too optimistic even for me. Seeing Goody Good as a product that a business owner choose to put in their store makes the whole thing way too real. I didn't realize how uneasy I would be about this whole process. Making our work a product for sale has always been the goal, that's how you make a living from your artistic endeavors, right? It's weird to see it actually happening. Maybe it's that 25%, that one guy who said no. Not him specifically, but what he represents. The possibility of rejection.
Special thanks to the shops that said yes. If you're near enough, stop by for a visit.
Stargazer Comics, Toys, Games: 2610-A 6th ave. Tacoma, WA 98406
The Comics Keep: 3627 Wheaton Way Bremerton, WA 98310
Avalon Comics & Games: 10315 Silverdale Way NW Silverdale, WA 98383