January Madness

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast Saturday morning here in New York City and there is a light bit of snow blowing outside. This has put my deep desire for a late morning run in question and makes me vaguely peevish. Kim has misplaced several key drawings for his next story (five or so luscious large pencil pages) and is slowing spreading the latter part of an almost finished graphic novel across our one room apartment in search of them. The pages have not left the apartment so we know they are here. A thorough search of piles of original art is underway. A certain frantic undertone to the commencement of our weekend here at Deitch Studio.

The desk in question, being searched.

Meanwhile, Blackie is snoring softly behind me on a very large box which contains an air fryer. While I am a bit curious about air fryers I never would have purchased one (let alone such a large one) except we’ve been informed that a city mandated gas inspection, which commenced Friday, has our cooking gas turned off. It will take a minimum of 6-8 months, but many buildings report that it has taken up to two years or more. (Yes, you read that correctly – they are turning off our cooking gas for what could be years.)

The model chosen after reading the NYT Wirecutter and other reviews.

I have moments of thinking that maybe it would be worth getting involved in City policy long enough to eliminate this bit of idiocy which is based on an incident where someone tied out an illegal gas line with a garden hose and the building ultimately blew up. Manhattan, perhaps all five boroughs, are looking now to eliminate gas cooking. This is a concept that could ultimately roust me from my perch here in New York City – gas cooking is beloved to me.

Life without making soup seems dreadful so I purchased this as well. Let’s see how I do with these new toys.

So, for now and despite Blackie’s fondness for the aforementioned box, I will spend this weekend unpacking the air fryer and an Instant Pot. (I cannot live without soup. One of several recipes can be found here.) I will rearrange our tiny kitchen and somehow fit these new appliances in – some of my beloved larger pots and pans can live in the oven I guess. (An ode to a dying fry pan can be found here.) Of course the adventure of learning to cook with them remains – I suspect you will receive further details. We have a microwave as well which I have generally only used to heat leftovers, but will be pressed into service. I have tried to amass groceries for easy execution at first, baby steps.

Blackie in full possession of the air fryer box.

Maybe the toaster can live in our storage locker and give us back another 12 inches of counter space? Electrical outlets have become prized real estate overnight and we are grateful for a renovation which added one. Additionally, there are two electric burners which the building assigned to us as a stove top. I hear rumors that the power draw for them is huge and that they cannot be used in tandem with the other appliances. Note taken, but I think we can look forward to the odd days when we space on that and blow a fuse.

At work Covid is stealthily making its way through the office again. We talk about it less, but staff are sick with it or living with people who have it. Most of the rules and protocols have fallen away and we are left to our own devices, instructing people to stay home and test – five days clear? I think there is a sense that people will just get it and get it again and again, but we do need to think about the people for whom it can be dangerous for various reasons, or like me have someone in their life who is fragile physically.

A pot of soup from a former post.

Along those lines my mom was diagnosed with pneumonia last week, not surprising given her immobility. I have home tested for Covid, but will go out and get a PCR test in case I need to go back to New Jersey. I mentally add it to the list I am making for this weekend.

I have long thought that TS Eliot had it wrong – it is January not April which is the cruelest month. For me it has uneasy memories of illness commencing and death, truly the nadir of each year which then needs to be reincarnated annually. (Oddly I am a bit distrustful of August too.) There is a gentle but persistent, burgeoning insanity that is barely kept in check in the month of January.

However, the pages in question above have been located at last. Kim is now contentedly inking a page which was his intention when he discovered the pencils missing, so a calm has returned to the house. He has promised to bring me a cup of take out coffee from the diner so I don’t have to face the electric burner and coffee pot quite yet. Blackie has moved onto the bed making way for me to unpack the air fryer and at least for the moment the flurries have paused so maybe I will get my run in. January is half over, we’re turning the corner and soon February will dawn a bit brighter.

A bit of Deitch Studio effluvia that surfaced this week.

Collaboration

Pam’s Pictoram Post: Today is something Pictorama readers really have not seen before – a true collaborative moment in Kim’s work between the two of us! While it is true that our holiday card is an annual collaborative effort (this year’s card is sitting half finished on the couch in pencil as I write, for those comics interested readers who are new to Pictorama, last year’s card reveal can be found here). Additionally, one or two of my bits of writing have been illustrated by Kim (see the appendix of Reincarnation Stories, and my own reincarnation tale – or catch it up here), this marks the first time a whole idea of mine has shown up.

The 2019 Holiday card, a collaborative Deitch Studio/Pictorama production.

Taken from Kim’s next book, How I Make Comics, these pages are an actual story of mine, told in my words, but embedded as part of a longer book length story. More or less just how it unfolds in the book, we were together one night at the Q train stop on 57th Street waiting. I was watching the rats frolic on the tracks and pointed them out to Kim. I have a mixed relationship with rats – mostly fear, but also respect for how smart they are and how adaptable.

Fair to say I take the, I’ll stay in my lane and you stay in yours, Mr. Rat, approach to our ongoing, symbiotic life in a big city relationship. Of course, having grown up on the water and beach, water rats were a part of my childhood and I was cautioned about them in a way that added to whatever fear of them I might have developed on my own. Water rats are significantly larger than their city counterparts (at first I thought city rats were large mice when I got here and saw them frolicking among the garbage pails on an alley), and our story is not about them today – although I may also have a water rat story lurking in me somewhere too.

Anyway, the real life story, which is largely accurately reflected in the book (although it takes you down the usual Deitch rabbit hole shortly after), is that I went to work the next morning, got off as usual at 57th Street and found myself reflecting on the subway rats again as I walked to my office. This story evolved quickly in my mind on that short walk and I shared it with Kim the next morning. (My early morning routine of coffee, paper reading, Kim working and our talking as well as my commute – back in the before world when I had one – has been expounded upon here. In addition, for comics fans, Kim’s process was thoroughly examined by me after the release of his most recent book, Reincarnation Stories, and that post can be found here. That post is a real companion piece to this one and if you haven’t read it and find this of interest, now would be a splendid time.)

As it would happen, it is a story of rat reincarnation. I will confide that Kim has frequented told tales of his friend since childhood, Tony Eastman, who kept rats as pets at one time and what excellent pets they made – smart and likable. (A special memorial nod to Tony who to our great sadness died very recently.) The downside of this ratty relationship is that rodents cycle through their lives at a very fast pace. Now, on one hand, if they didn’t the human race would rapidly be overtaken by them with their prodigious reproduction and cunning survival instincts. On the other hand, as Kim points out, it makes it a bit sad to become attached to them as pets. Just as you get attached, they die. I was thinking of that when this story came to mind.

Preview of How I Make Comics, by Kim Deitch. Copyright, Kim Deitch.

As a student of reincarnation, I got to thinking – you have the sort of classic prisoner in a cell with only a rat who he befriends. Sadly, the rat dies – as rats and I guess we all do – and he is bereft, hesitant to invest his affections in the next one that comes along, yet finally he does. Ultimately that one, and the next one, die as well, but slowly his affection and time invested in teaching the rats is rewarded by increasingly smart generations of rats because in fact it is the same rat, reincarnated. They are gaming the evolutionary and karmic wheel by cycling through rat lives with dispatch. Eventually, the rats surpass him on the wheel of reincarnation and when he ultimately dies, he becomes an elevated rat, now under their tutelage.

Preview of How I Make Comics, by Kim Deitch. Copyright, Kim Deitch.

It struck me as a particularly Deitchenian story so I shared it with Kim the next day. Although intrigued, at first he was reluctant to do another reincarnation story, but then it took root in his imagination and to my surprise he decided not only to use it, but to use it as I wrote it out – and here are two pages from it, for your preview pleasure!

There we have it – a rare view into the inner workings of Deitch Studio. As Kim just reminded me, I have to some degree, in his words, been back-fielding on his work for years – I had forgotten that the title of Reincarnation Stories was my idea. I have always approached this thoughtfully though. After all, as Kim Deitch’s biggest fan, I had no desire to change anything – to damage it unintentionally with my influence. However, years spent together, living a largely Deitchian world existence in this one-room apartment, was bound to have an influence. And today, for the space of a post, we pull back the creative curtain for the speculation and erudition of Pictorama readers.