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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

 
The Canadian Invasion -- My wife and kids and I are back from visiting Oshawa and Toronto. We stayed with Jay Marcy and his wife Kris and son Xander (click here for Jay's side of the story!) over the weekend, and had one of the best trips of our lives.

Jay and his family live in Oshawa, which is about 45 minutes out of The Big City of Toronto (or "Toronno," as I noticed the locals pronounce it) but still has a population of 150,000 so is still a much bigger place than Glens Falls, at about 30,000 or so.

We had a blast, me, the wife and kids -- Jay and Kris are EXACTLY as depicted in his comics, which I expected, but Lora was nervous about meeting people we'd never met, that we wouldn't be comfortable with them or whatever. As it turns out, Lora and Jay's wife Kris got along GREAT, which I expected since they seemed to have a lot in common. Little did I dream, really, they have almost EVERYTHING in common. All Kris's complaints about Jay are the same as my wife's about me, too, which made every minor criticism or request of either me or Jay by our particular wife into a moment of high comedy as far as I was concerned.






We got there about 1 PM Friday, having left the house at 3:30 in 20 below zero weather. The car windows were coated with ice on the inside (yes, it was THAT cold!) until about halfway there, when the sun came up, so, that was interesting. For about an hour of the ride there (Lora did ALL the driving on this trip), I was sitting in my seat wondering what the FUCK we were going to Canada for, and trying to remind myself that once we were there, all would be well and I'd be wondering why I had such doubts. Which turned out to be true, of course, but there was a bit of anxiety for a while there, buyer's remorse on the whole idea of going.

The first culture shock was when we stopped in Belleville (still 90 minutes from Jay but well into Canada) and my daughter ordered toast and eggs for lunch. "White or brown toast?" asked the waitress. Points to Kira for understanding that brown toast is whole wheat. Since all my other Canadian visits have been to Montreal, I was surprise how LITTLE difference in language there is. Among the highlights, Jay said "eh" at the end of a sentence only twice the entire time we were there, whereas Kristine says it a lot more. We had fun discussing the dialect differences, Lora being most bewildered by "ta ta," which apparently means "bring that over here," rather than "bye bye." NEVER heard that one before. Chris Butcher says "eh" a bit more than Jay, but much less than Kristine.

Ah, Chris Butcher. That leads us to The Beguiling. All right, it is EVERYTHING they say it is, and more. Basically, it is the shop that I sometimes have this recurring dream of, that has everything I have ever been unable to find, all in one place, and there's so much that it's too overwhelming to adequately process. Like that library in Hicksville, you know? The biggest ego boost of the trip, by the way, was Christopher seeing me walk in and telling the person he was talking to on the phone "I have to go, Alan Doane just walked into the store." Biggest ego deflator was my longwinded stories and theories about comics literally putting Jay's wife to sleep as we chatted in the living room Saturday night. But I digress.

The Beguiling: Two floors, with the stairway walls fully lined with framed art by Jaime Hernandez, Jason, Hornschemeier, and many more. Upstairs is corporate comics and The New Mainstream, as well as a huge waterfall rack of floppies from Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly. Series I've never seen anywhere are almost fully represented as if they just shipped last week, like all David Collier's floppies, Chester Brown's, Zero Zero, etc. Bit of a shock that they are, OF COURSE (duh!) priced at the higher Canadian price, so I didn't get as much as I might have otherwise...some weird psychological inability to overcome the differences in currency.

Downstairs is where the magic happens; gigantic, huge, incredible selection of alternative and artcomix TPBs and HCs, like, a whole WALL dedicated to nothing but Alan Moore collections, books, TPBs etc. Full sets of all the good D&Q guys ouevres, as you'd expect -- including many OOP books. A FULL waterfall rack of mini-comics from total unknowns to Jason's stuff and James Kochalka. Funny moment, they had some Jay comics he was surprised to see and didn't know how they got! I handed him my pen and told him to sign them. He got all humble and demured, until Chris Butcher came up and encouraged him to, indeed, sign 'em.

This was our first trip to The Beguiling, Friday night. On Sunday, we went again, with the express purpose of meeting Butcher and some of his friends for dinner and drinks. While I realized as we were waiting for him at the store that the last night before we left was probably the worst time we could have done this, being tired from the entire weekend by now, as it turned out we had a great time. About 5 or 6 of Chris's friends came along, someone brought the new Previews, and it was sort of like a live Previews Review show, if you can imagine that. We took over "The Vault," in the restaurant we were in, this semi-private room that actually was a vault when the building was a bank instead of a restaurant. So, that was extremely cool.

Total haul from the Beguiling, two trips, filled two of bags. Half was minis and magazines and such, half GNs, TPBs, etc. Maybe the coolest thing about the shop is when you ring out, they bag your stuff in this cool-looking black plastic bag and seal it with a piece of tape. You couldn't miss someone on the street if they'd spent money at the shop.

Really, though, as exciting as it was meeting cartoonists and bloggers, oh, my, the trips to The Beguiling were the icing on the cake. The whole weekend, from the moment we got there on Friday until our goodbyes on Monday morning, were spent immersed in good conversation and time well spent with good friends. You know, on our way through customs at the border on Friday morning, there was a funny incident:

Canadian Customs Person: "Where are you going in Canada?"

Wife: "Oshawa."

CCP: "Why are you going to Oshawa?"

Wife: "To visit friends."

CCP: "Have you been to Oshawa before?"

Wife: "No."

CCP: "Then how do you know these friends?"

Me: "We met them on the internet."

CCP: (Pause). "How do you meet people on the internet?"

Me: "I have a website, and he used to write for it."

CCP: "What's your website about?"

Me: "Comic books."

CCP: "Do you have any comic books with you?"

Me: (After mental inventory of car) "My kids brought one or two. I didn't bring any myself."

CCP: "Enjoy your stay."

It's hard to express in words the oddness of this exchange, but the woman was clearly stunned to think we would drive 7 hours to spend time with people we'd never met. I'd bet anything that as we pulled off she was thinking "I bet this is some sort of sex thing."

The fact is, I really met Jay Marcy, coincidentally enough, three years ago this week, when I received Jay's Days Volume One and was so knocked back by it that I felt the immediate need to interview him and interview him and interview him.

I got to know Jay through his comics, through his great work for Comic Book Galaxy (I am trying to twist his arm into writing more reviews, keep your fingers crossed), and even the occasional phone call. So, even though the first time we technically met was last Friday, really, he's been one of my very best friends on earth for the past three years, and I am thrilled, moved and delighted by the fact that now our entire families have met and become friends.

How do you meet people on the internet? That's easy. How do you make great friends on the internet? That's a little harder, but Jay and Kris and Xander Marcy make it look really easy. Thanks for opening up your home to us, gang, and I can't wait until we can do it again.

Update: Jay has posted his comic strip version of the trip here, here and here.


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