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So You Think You Know Comics with Professor Donnalyn Washington | Episode #36

So You Think You Know Comics with Professor Donnalyn Washington

Wanna learn the REAL reason indie comics are better than mainstream? Wanna know how comics and graphic novels could, should and are used in college English to teach storytelling, character development and even social psychology? Maybe you want a list of really good writers to learn from or maybe you just want to hear about the awesomeness of The Maroon comic. Look no further than the mistress of comic language and storytelling, professor Donnalyn Washington.

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Holy majestic brain power batman; we’re out-riddled this time for sure! I’m not gonna lie nerd nation, I could barely speak during this interview and thank goodness for that. After a mad-awesome power hour of comic knowledge download, I’ve come to realize that I’m undeserving of words. Donnalyn is the latest and final winner in our Comixcentral Birthday giveaway series and I could not have asked for a better surprise guest.

Donnalyn Washington

Things happened for a reason my friends and her podcast appearance was nothing short of on purpose. Just a few of her chess pieces on the comic information board include: multidimensional character development, subtlety in comics, how to approach a message inside a story, writing from experience and making the supernatural believable to an audience. If you want to learn how to be a better writer, this is THE episode. If you want a slice of this indie college knowledge, click the link to subscribe and download this gem. The skill is all on her side of the table ladies and gentleman, I just nodded my head in amazement.

Not only is this passionate professor a graphic novel junkie, she also dives deep into the research realm of our original African American writers, illustrators and influencers. She’s a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Black Comics. She’s a reviewer and senior editor over at reviewfix.com and she tells it like it is. True love of the comic medium (indie comics in particular) has never been manifested more elegantly than in this weeks interview. Did I forget to mention she’s an interviewer herself as well? I want to give special thanks to her older brother for introducing her to this world of comics at an early age. She supports numerous Kickstarter projects and will give you a list of indie comic companies that are changing the game one book at a time. Her desire to understand the language of heroism and humanity has brought a new level of respect to this art form that is sure to inspire writers and fans for years to come.

Twitter: @Notingshaw

Review website: www.reviewfix.com

Encyclopedia link

 






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Episode #30 | Success in Indie Comic Publishing with Peter Simeti

 

Wanna know what it takes to succeed in indie publishing? Wanna know how to really engage with a fan base, get their attention, and keep it? Wanna know how to come at this industry from a place of service and come out on top on the other side? This is the podcast for you.

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It’s my distinct pleasure to interview the one and only Peter Simeti of Alterna Comics. Peter is also famous for his indie horror masterpiece The Chair, which was ultimately turned into a film not too long ago. Bottom line: this guy knows indie comics and we’ve got a front row seat to his mastery.peter-simeti-interview-comixcentral

Peter and I talked about falling in and out of love with comics over the years. Getting into publishing was initially about giving his own stories a voice, but he kept coming across the tremendous talents of others and he just couldn’t keep the magic to himself. We talk about developing a genuine relationship with your followers and friends on social media. We talk about when and how to go for “the ask.” We also talk about what Peter looks for in a story so if you’re interested in pitching your work than this episode is definitely a can’t miss. Last but not least we talk about the cliches of the comic world and how to make your comic just a little different, even if you do insist on writing another superhero story.

Alterna Comics - ComixCentral Podcast

Peter Simeti has already reset the chess board of publishing by bringing back newsprint.

As a marketer and creator, you can learn a lot from Peter in terms of what it means to really disrupt an industry. This is especially inspiring for someone who was on the verge of considering bankruptcy just before having a book get on the New York Times Bestseller List in 2012. It takes a long period of dedicated hard work to build a service that stands above the rest. There’s no question that Peter Simeti is breaking through the surface and I’ve got a feeling that this is still just the beginning for Alterna Comics. We’re proud to support what he’s doing for creators and fans alike and if you want to be a game changer this is the man to emulate for now and years to come.


Website: www.alternacomics.com

Twitter(Peter): https://twitter.com/petersimeti

Twitter(Alterna): https://twitter.com/ALTERNACOMICS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlternaComics/

Instagram: @alternacomics

 





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2017 Comics Of The Year Awards

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The First Annual Comics of the Year Awards – 2017 Edition

2017 was an astounding year of firsts here at ComixCentral. When we opened the doors in March of 2017, we could have never imagined that so many incredible Comics of exceptional quality would be added to our marketplace in such a short time. We are overwhelmed with gratitude that the community we love so much has embraced us and chosen to sell their work on ComixCentral. We thank you all for joining us on this amazing journey, and we look forward to growing together for many years to come.

With that said, this year’s nominations were excruciating to choose. We love each and every comic on our site, and the competition was fierce! We’d like to thank all of you talented creators, and I hope you know how hard it was for our team to vote this year. But, as my 10th-grade gym coach once told me, “A little competition is good for the soul!” and we’ll add, great for our industry!

 We can’t wait to see what you have in store for 2018! And with that… here are this year’s winners!


“Best Fantasy” 

Comic”Skylin 001: Old Remnants

Long ago, the six nations fell victim to the ruthless tyranny of the Demon King and his Serpen. He burned all who opposed him and spared few. With little hope for liberation, nobles from each nation journeyed to an ancient floating city where they pleaded to the Spirits for help. Six warriors, one from each nation, were granted a powerful Serpen of their own, which they used to defeat the Demon King.

Buy Now »

 “Best Mystery”

The White Room of the Asylum

The White Room of the Asylum focuses on the tape-recorded memoirs of an old man named Steve who recently committed suicide. The tapes tell of the last period of his stay at the Soraberg Asylum and his discovery of what he came to call ‘The White Room.’ The White Room is an infinite space of pure white in which the residents can create anything they can think up. Over time more residents gain access to this mysterious place- Thus beginning a series of events that stretches Steve’s sanity to its limits, offers a chance at redemption, and leaves a man too broken to fix.

Buy Now »

 “Best Action”

Smart Bomb!! Level 1-2

Imagine an alternative gamingverse. One where TV games you’ve never heard of (yet, somehow, find oh-so familiar) are the norm. If only there was an awesome mix of comics and video games magazines to let you in on what’s going on? Thank Mr.Jump!’s ghost, it’s SMART BOMB!!

Buy Now »

  “Best Thriller”

Daughters of Knights – Chapter 1

Seraphine, accused of witchcraft, recalls the demon who slaughtered her companions and framed her. Daughters of knights is a medieval horror story about a disfigured girl, slaying monsters, and an uncomfortable, unconventional attraction.

Buy Now »

  “Best Superhero”

Humalien #1

In a future where humans are extinct. One was engineered in a lab to be a living biological weapon

Buy Now »

 “Best Horror

Bastard Son: Murderborn

Busted Knuckle Press presents: ‘Bastard Son: Murderborn’, a horror graphic novel. ORIGINS OF A SLASHER – 120+ PAGES OF BLOOD AND MADNESS! Created by Frank T. Allen & Marco “Sbrillo” Fontanili. Lettering by Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios. Chapter One cover by Jacen Burrows.

Buy Now »

 “Best Sci-Fi”

Folklore Issue 1

A band of survivors travel across North America after a biological weapon turns the world’s greatest superheroes into horrifying abominations. The first issue of Folklore’s ongoing story, collected in this easy to enjoy PDF! Purchased issues help support the ongoing creation of Folklore, but you can find all our pages for free at http://folklorecomic.com/ or support Folklore directly by visiting our Patreon at patreon.com/Folklore

Buy Now »

  “Best Mature”

Dildo Boy Origins

Dildo Boy Origins is an XXX rated short comic which satirises the chauvinistic, adolescent male power fantasies of the superhero canon. Written, coloured, and lettered by Doktor Geraldo. Illustrated by Stefani Magician’s House. @DoktorGeraldo @MagiciansHouse In association with Digital Pastiche.

Buy Now »

 “Best Manga”

Samurai Shin Issue #1

Samurai Shin is highly influenced by anime such as Afro Samurai, Samurai Champloo, and Sword Of The Stranger

Buy Now »

 “Best Comedy

BOB: NON-UNION PSYCHIC #0 TRUE TALENT

Renegade Psychic. Professional Hairstylist. This is not your usual paranormal adventure. This is about the rise of a new kind of hero. Or, rather, the reluctant rise of a hero. Meet Bob Holbreck, a talented guy who has mad hairstyling skills. He owns and operates a nice little shop in the trendy part of town. His clientele is building with loyal customers. Bob truly knows what looks good on a customer before they do. How does he do it? How does he know what to do with a head of hair? Well, Bob has other talents. There are those who may consider it a gift. Like his great-grandfather, who is at odds about Bob’s future career choice. Bob just wants to be a hairstylist and make people feel good about themselves; Gramps wants him to cash in on his psychic abilities.

Buy Now »

  “Best LGBTQ+”

Alex Priest #1

In a world where vampires and demon ilk are very, very real, two agencies work to keep the world safe from the forces of darkness. Demon Eradication And Denial (DEAD LLC) is a corporate entity that charges itself with the training and employment of demon slayers – specialists in combating magical beings. Living Corpses that Bite (LC & B) is a tax exempt public entity that relies on time proven traditions to keep humanity safe from vampires. When hunting evil evolved into blue collar work, the evil had to evolve.

Buy Now »


 “Best Story Arc”

Project Shadow Breed #1

In the new millennia, SinTech, a private government contract corporation began developing a serum to turn ordinary soldiers into werewolves. With the backing of the US military, SinTech perfected the serum. In 2014, they created the first “wolf pack” of soldiers. What they didn’t expect to create was Marrok.

Buy Now »

 “Best Series”

WOLF HANDS: Season 1

Vaughn Miller is a mild-mannered cellphone plan salesman who was bitten by a dying werewolf. Now, whenever trouble rears its ugly head, he transforms into a werewolf….IN HIS HANDS! Pursued by the evil Professor Orchid and his army of Frankensteins, Vaughn turns to his far-more-capable girlfriend Jenny Rose to get him out of this increasingly sticky situation. Madcap adventures and cartooney ultra-violence ensue! Written by Justin Heggs with art by Nick Johnson.

Buy Now »

 “Best Overall” 

RAGS: PROLOGUE

Marine Corps Veteran Regina Ragowski is trapped naked and alone in the town of Paso Robles during the Zombie Outbreak. In order to survive she’ll need to avoid the zombies and find food, shelter and weapons…but most importantly….a clean pair of pants.

Buy Now »

Congratulations to all our first annual Comic of the Year Award Winners!

You can check out all the Nominated Comics here:

Get your Comics uploaded and available for sale on ComixCentral.com to enter the 2018 Comic of the Year Awards! 

 





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Episode #21 | Joey Oliveira

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On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks interviews Joey Oliveira. Comic book writer, filmmaker and founder of British Comics Publishing house Afterlight Comics.

Come meet Joey Oliveira! A fascinating look what into it takes to be a Comics entrepreneur and the many lessons he’s learned along the way. Find out about his Kickstarter campaign, Comics, how to find an illustrator, the founding and running of a publishing company and so much more.
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Connect with Joey Oliveira

Twitter  |   Website





 

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Joe Francis Totti | Creator Spotlight

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Welcome to our first ever “Inktober Winner Edition” of CXC Creator Spotlight.

Today we are joined by the 2017 CXC Inktober Winner, Joe Francis Totti!

During this year’s Inktober, Joe took the road less traveled and created an entire Comic over the 31 day period. Slow rolling a terrifyingly good mini-horror, delighting his Instagram followers with every gruesome panel. It’s for this reason our selection team chose Joe as our winner and we thought you’d all enjoy getting to know this talented writer, illustrator and graphic designer as much as we did.

Let’s get to the interview!


Hello Joe! First off, congratulations on winning our first ever CXC Inktober Contest! The hundreds of entries we received from incredible artists made choosing very difficult, but your work came out on top as the clear winner this year. A truly exceptional execution of Inktober, we tip our hats sir!

Now, please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your work.

Joe: My name is Joe Francis Totti, I’m 29 years of age and based in Liverpool in the Uk, My profession is Freelance Graphic Designer, but my love, life, and passion are reserved for comics (and my wife haha). I have worked in the creative industry for the past 7 years. Only in the past few years did I puck up the courage to jump into indie comics and social media and try to find my footing in the industry. That is something I am still working on daily to find haha.

What kind of comics do you create?

Joe: So far they all seem to have a dark tone, I find myself working on Horror or Science fiction, but I like to make sure there is humour in everything I work on. It brings you out of the misery and grimness.

When did you get your start?

Joe: I like to think I’m still waiting for it haha!

What made you decide to start making comics, how did you get into it?

Joe: I have one of those personalities, I cant just enjoy something I have to be involved in the things I love, so naturally, I found myself craving the idea of making my own stories up and drawing them.


How about your graphic design career? Did you attend art school, or are you self-taught?

Joe: I studied under two amazing teachers, Alan Baker and Paul C, but even they would say University sets you deadlines and it’s your job to teach yourself.

How do the two occupations complement/ clash with each other? Do you have a favourite?

Joe: It really helps me with compositional work and understanding programs like photoshop & illustrator. So this helps with the colouring and lettering of my work and understanding the print process, but I love comics, they wipe the floor with design hahaha!

What do you see as the biggest obstacle to your success?

Joe: I like to feel like I’m yet to be successful to help me keep pushing haha (ever the pessimist haha) but I would say allowing people to work with me and not being a control freak and doing all the work myself.

What’s the one thing (tool, process, etc) that you absolutely could not live without during the creative process?

Joe: My Mac (computer not jacket) haha.

What resources do you rely on for illustration?

Joe: I love to use my little notebook and fine liners (when traditional) and my Yiynova graphics tablet when working digitally.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the comic realm?

Joe: I would have to say, Tony More, Rick Remender, Daniel Warren Johnson, James Harren, and Mike Spicer all masters of there craft!

Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?

Joe: Usually, a situation sparks a weird idea then I jot it down and develop it from there. Conversations are really important to the process as well, tell people about your ideas it really helps.

What does your workspace look like?


Tell us a funny story JOE!

Joe: Aha! Last year at thought bubble festival I had an opportunity to meet one of my heroes in comics, Jeff Lemire, creator of one of my favourite books Sweet tooth.  We had a conversation at my table and he said come over and say hey and I’ll draw you a quick doodle of Gus.  So I head to his table I stood there like a deer in headlights and he said: “what’s your name again so I can sign this?”  I said, Joe. The room was loud so he said “Jon?” (I thought) so I said, “With an N?” And he said “Joe with an N?” I said “I’m not sure” ….. he then said “do you know how to spell your name?” haha so I went red-cheeked and slumped away from the table embarrassed, but he gave me the drawing below. He was a great guy, gave me multiple prints and books.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years creatively?

Joe: Like most creators, I have dreams of releasing a book with image comics, but I will be happy as long as I’m still making comic books.

What do you think the big publishers could learn from the Indie scene and vice versa?

Joe: I like both for different reasons, I would say they both serve a purpose as well, but there is a real sense of levity with characters in indie comics I would love to see in the big two but, would that be destroying what I love about them? Haha tricky question.

That just about wraps it up Joe, any final thoughts?

Joe: I would love to share my projects I’ve recently been involved with. They are: The Landings, being published through Markosia. It’s a sci-fi horror, super hammy like the old cinema, a bit like (it came from beneath the sea) this is with writer Elijah James. Also a project with Matt fitch and Dead Canary Comics called “Eye in the sky”. This is part of an anthology called “Adventures in science” out next week through the Dead Canary Comics website, http://www.deadcanarycomics.com/product/adventures-in-science/  Another is Self-made hero’s The Corbyn Comic. I worked on a 3-page story in this anthology called – Lethal Corbyn III – with Chris Baker also of Dead Canary Comics. I realize I’m rambling now, but look out for my social media for news on the printing of mine and Matt Fitches Inktober comic that we will be printing in the next few months! 🙂

Lethal Corbyn III
Eye in the Sky

Awesome! This has been such a pleasure Joe! How can people find out more about you and the work you do?

Joe: You can find me @thelifeoftotti on both Instagram and Twitter thank you for all the support through Inktober.


Well, that’s it for this Creator Spotlight! Thanks so much for joining us. Make sure you follow Joe on all his social platforms, you’re gonna’ want to keep an eye on this talented guy! I think we’ll see great things from Mr. Totti! Who knows, maybe one day he’ll misspell your name at Comic-con!

Instagram  twitter


 

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Episode #18 | J Francis Totti

j francis totti_podcast

On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks interviews our 2017 CXC Inktober Contest Winner!

Inktober_comixcentral_winner.6

Join Chris and our 2017 CXCInktober Winner J Francis Totti as they delve into the comic illustrator’s creative process, work habits, the social impact and importance of “Friends” in the UK and why Joe self-identifies as a Chandler.
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Connect with J Francis Totti

Twitter   |  Instagram





 

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Nick Johnson – Comicbook Illustrator and Creator | Episode #13

Episode #13 – Interview with Comicbook Creator and Illustrator Nick Johnson

On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks gets behind-the-curtain access to illustration wizard Nick Johnson, the artist and co-creator of the comedy-horror series “Wolf Hands.” In a world overrun with social media creators are reminded that success lies hidden within the weeds of personal conversation and the belief that art is much more than ink on a page.

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Connect with Nick and Buy his stuff using the links below:

Twitter  |  nickj.ca  |  @nicksoup  |  The ComixShop of NICK JOHNSON




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Adam Ma & Colin Tan of Random Encounter Comics | Episode #12

Episode #12 – Interview with Adam Ma & Colin Tan of Random Encounter Comics

On this episode, Chris Hendricks goes behind the scenes with the dynamic duo creating the heroic horror, Folklore.
Learn how this awesome creative team handles long-distance creation, comes up with jaw-dropping new concepts and keeps the fires burning for the passion project, Folklore.

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Connect with Adam & Colin using the links below:

Adam Twitter  |   Colin Twitter   |   cxc profile: @folklore_comic   |  Folklore on Twitter


Our sweet intro/outro music is brought to you by Pleasure Pool! Thank you so much guys for letting us use your awesome tracks!

 


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Welcome to the Magician’s House

CXC – Hello Magician’s House! We are so excited to have this opportunity to get to know you a little better. We’ve been big fans of your work around here for some time! Thank you so much for joining us today.

MH – I’m super stoked to get to talk to you guys and gush about what an important platform ComixCentral actually is.  I don’t know of anywhere else that actually gets indie comics the way that you guys do.  

You’re 100% about the freedoms of the creators, you bend over backward to support what they’re doing and you have categorically come down harshly against all manner of censorship issues which have cropped up since you’ve opened your doors.  

ComixCentral has really shown me everything that I need to see in order to recommend them to people who might be unsure about where to shop their product.  At a different time it may have been Kitchen Sink Press, Fantagraphics Books or something like that, but now, in this age, I have no doubt that the place to be is ComixCentral.  

Since you guys came along, it’s like indie publishing excuses don’t exist anymore.  You’ve thrown down the gauntlet and said, “Oh you have an idea that you want to express in comic book form but it doesn’t fit the mainstream market?  It’s too rough, too short, too experimental, too controversial?  Well, we’ve got you.”  You’ve put the all-talk people on notice. It’s sort of like, “Ok big girl who says she’s out to make comics… now what’s your excuse?”

But those excuses, they’re plentiful, aren’t they?  “Oh, I want to succeed at comics but something’s stopping me; my finances aren’t straight, I have family duties which eat into my creative time, I don’t want to work at it too much and neglect my self-care.”  Dude, if you’re an artist, making art is the only self-care. It should tear you down.  Art should destroy you.  Every time you approach a page you should be a bomb exploding. Afterward, worry about picking up whatever’s left of you from the floor and reshaping it up to do it again. 



CXC – So you don’t have much patience for those not taking their own destiny in their hands it seems.

MH – Yeah, a theme comes up immediately with me that I completely dismiss complainers and excuse-makers.  If you’re not willing to literally give your soul for whatever it is that you’re after then we’ve got nothing to talk about.  We’re operating on different levels.  I came into comics from a delinquency background so my frame of reference for artists was skewed toward the self destructive edge of the spectrum.  It was amazing to find out just how soft the people in comics actually were.  Doughy tykes who wouldn’t last five minutes in a real world situation building stories off some TV that they’ve seen and still complaining about the process and their personal despondencies.  Meanwhile I’m looking at them like, “Are you for real?”  If your dream is to make comics and you’re finding excuses why you can’t squiggle lines down on paper, go ahead and freaking kill yourself.  Life isn’t going to get any easier for you at this point.  I mean, I never find reasons to quit.  I never have things about which to complain.  I only find more and more motivation to push harder and burn hotter.  I just want to crush my enemies, humiliate my critics and die on my feet while moving forward.

Magicians House Cover work – Project Shadow Breed

CXC – Do you feel like that point of view separates you from the “Comicbook” crowd?

Now, haha yeah, I feel like that alienates me from the herd, certainly.  When you add on that I’m not big into fandom, I hate manga, never seen Star Wars, have no clue about video games or Dungeons & Dragons… it all starts to add up that a big chunk of the standard experience is going to zoom past me, you know?  That’s just the palette I’ve been dealt.  All those aspects of comics just get lost on me but there is something else at work in them which I’m very much interested in exploiting.  It’s the subliminal danger that they pose.

Comics used to be a dirty word.  Comics were smut.  They were at the very least a brush with some subversively-motivated minds. They were hurried, and in that quickness the damaged brains of the creative team shown through the cracks.  Like a game where you blurt out the first thing on your mind and you’re horrified at what you unconsciously said.  That’s comics for me.  And for others, too.  Game recognizes game.

Take Doktor Geraldo.  You talk to that guy for five minutes and you realize that he’s a madman.  You’ve met this guy, he’s a menace, isn’t he?  His every idea is so loaded in ways that will completely unbalance you.  He let me creep up into his world for a minute and he told me that he liked my drawings a little bit. Well I, naturally, was crazy about his throwback unidentifiable concepts and writing.  He offered that we should collaborate on a completely original concept at some point and I agreed but my drawing schedule was slammed for the foreseeable future.  He didn’t skip a beat.  He said, “Ok then I’ll draw it and you write it”.

This is the world in which Geraldo lives, haha.  I’d never written anything so he had nothing on which to base this gamble.  He’s well known to illustrate in a very primitive artistic style, so this whole suicidal concept was simply going to be an exercise at baring our necks to the critics.  Each of us taking the things at which we excel and instead doing the opposite.  It was a jarringly original proposition.  He had no idea what kind of story I’d be asking him to illustrate.  He’s a guy who dives in first and looks for water on the way down.  It certainly got my attention, so I messaged him back immediately.

Let Geraldo’s enthusiasm be known.  No roadblock can be built which will hold this guy back.  Never is he anything other than exuberant about the potential of comics.  Here I was intentionally making the story as self-damning and radioactive as I could conceive.  And yet he had no problems with the two of us using our weakest skills to create the unsaleable. 

CXC – What do you mean by unsaleable?

MH- Unsaleable because the comics community is famously strident in that they take themselves far too seriously.  They love to climb up onto their cross and yell out to the crowd about how they’ve been given such a raw deal.  Victimhood is very much the fashion of the day.  It might be completely lost on them that Kirby obviously occupies a great deal of my constant brain power if his 100th birthday was something rolling around in my head back in March.  I knew to count on the predictable reactionary tantrum for a besmirching title like Fuck Kirby piggybacking the occasion, no matter its content.

I told Geraldo that nobody was going to publish this.  Nobody was going to get near it for fear of the galled backlash from all the shriekers who themselves only know that it’s Kirby’s birthday because Marvel told them a day before in order to sell them their own comic books. So props to ComixCentral, again. We did Fuck Kirby before we did Dildo Boy Origins so I wasn’t yet convinced at just how truly committed you guys were to staying consistent on your position that everyone must retain the power to sink or swim under their own merit.  Personally, if I could turn this interview around on you for a minute, I’d love to know how this concept of creative freedom became so important to you in the first place such that you’d take it to extremes like this to stay in step.

CXC – Haha! Yes. We believe strongly in freedom of expression and have put our “money where our mouths are” so to speak. If you’re going to stand on a soap box and take a stand for free speech, you better be willing to back that up with action. We are very proud of our no-censorship stance.. which is probably why we love your work so much! 

Cover “Fuck Kirby” written by Magician’s House

But, back to you. Tell us a bit about your personal website magicianshouse.com and the blog, “Comix Voodoo Hayride”. How did that come about?

Like I said, game recognizes game.  I’m always here to sing you guy’s praises not because of things that you’ve said but rather the things that you’ve done. I regret that I’ve had to turn down a few of your creator spotlight segments but I got banned from Facebook and couldn’t participate.  That’s one of the reasons I ended up launching my own website.  It became apparent to me that if I was going to continue popping off with inflammatory views then I was going to need a place where they couldn’t throw me out.  Comix Voodoo Hayride” is now my own little corner of the universe where I get to talk to whomever I want and say whatever I think.  I like highlighting the extreme personalities, whether or not I agree with them.  I’m drawn to bad apples.  I gravitate to the self taught and the self made.  I don’t care if you’re a good witch or a bad witch just so long as you’re indomitable.  It’s just the taste I developed due to my background. 

CXC – Now that you bring it up, would you mind telling us a bit of your origin story? We’ve heard from Doktor Geraldo it’s very unique.

MH – I haven’t clued you into any of that yet, have I?  Well, let me give you the nickel tour of the last thirty years. 

My mom was a runaway rambunctious beauty queen, my father a convicted mad bomber who’s doing life without parole.  Growing up I was familiar with comics but they weren’t the center of my world, magic was.  When my mother remarried an African Obeah man it gave me pretty much the keys to the kingdom; anything I wanted to know, I had access.

I was painting a lot of freight trains at the time and eventually started riding them.  One day I just never rode back.  I was fourteen.

If you’ve never ridden a freight train before, they’re sooty and everything about them is designed, from what I can tell, to hurt you.  And they’re loud.  So loud that conversation is useless and you’re left to your own interpretations of what the hand-etched symbols on the interior of all the cars mean.  The symbols were always there.  You could see them in the dark.  I could see them with my eyes closed.  With my background I was quick to assume them to be an unknown magic inscription and I fancied the trains were crisscrossing America, clandestinely feeding the country like a circulatory system with these sigils.  They influenced me to no end.  A whole lot later I found out that they were what people call Hobo Signs. 

Excerpt from “Fuck Kirby”

I met other kids painting trains.  I’d stay at their houses.  If they were into comics I would eat up their collection but the issues were always fragmented, diverse and sporadic, like channel surfing.  I found work in haunted houses, that led to some modeling, I worked a cash register at an all-night sex store.  Comics were germinating in my head all this time but I had far too much ground yet to cover.  Too many walls to bomb.  I got locked up a lot.  And I escaped a lot.  I cut off every ankle monitor ever put on me, got back up on my feet and hit the road again.

I was eventually institutionalized and finally remanded to some unknown extended family deep, deep in an undeveloped swallowing forest in Georgia.  It was like no place I’d hitherto been.  It was a real detour for me.  I found out that my grandfather had been this legendary Hitori Hanzo type character; a mountain man living in cryptic hermitage while hand-forging these widely-sought blades with components he gathered from the forest, skeletons and antlers.

Excerpt from “Fuck Kirby”

Having nothing to paint on and nothing to paint with while being isolated in the forest really dialed me into the history of the soil. Haha, the frequency of all those ghosts in the ground.  So I started drawing and found that comics were calling distantly to me out there from the future like a time-traveling dog whistle.  Now I’ve been drawing for three years.

CXC – Wow. Just wow is all we can say! You really must write an autobiography at some point!

Now, you say you’ve been drawing comics for 3 years. Can you tell us a bit about some of the projects you’ve worked on?

MH – I’ve gotten to work on a lot of books that you can conveniently find right here on ComixCentral like Project Shadow Breed and Dildo Boy Origins.  You can catch me at magicianshouse.com which I update several times a week.  I would invite you to see the pernicious ten page mini-comic Fuck Kirby for yourself and stamp your size eight shoes around angrily if need be.  

CXC – Wonderful. Thank you so much for this candid and fascinating look into your work and the woman behind the art! We’ve enjoyed your story immensely and look forward to all your future endeavors. We have a feeling you’re going to be making some huge splashes and waves in the coming years!

Alright, it’s been great talking to you and we’ll do it again soon.

Corsair is illustrated by Magician’s House

And with that, we’d like to thank Magician’s House again for joining us. You can find out more on her website, connect through twitter or right here on ComixCentral. 

Twitter   |   magicicanshouse.com   |  CXC profile





 

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Stephen Gammell: A Friendship Forged in the Dark

stephen gammell

 Greetings, fellow fear followers. Tis’ another frenzied frightfest filled with eerie exploration.

Grab your torches and pitchforks. Let us mob-march together across yet another murderous moor. Tonight we brave the mist in search of the ultimate bearer of bedtime burdens. He’s the drawer of dark art that gifted us our first ghoul-gasm. He’s the herald of horror headaches, and he put the chill in children illustrations. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m speaking, of course, about the juicy genius of Mr. Stephen Gammell.

He’s one of those mystery magicians who has a reputation for macabre magic among the youth of the 80’s and 90’s. You may not know his name, but trust me, you know his work. He’s been doing his thing as a paid professional since the 70’s, but he’s particularly fear-famous for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. Like many currently-early-30’s children, I was introduced by this dude (along with writer Alvin Schwartz) to terror tales in the best way. You see, fear is a tricky thing. Often times, it keeps us from moving forward. However, true morbid masters of the netherrealm find a way to give darkness a sort of awkward gravitational pull. Fear is supposed to be something you run from, but Gammell turned darkness into a siren’s song that many adolescents are still singing along to today. Gammell didn’t always do horror, but he was always brilliant. Like all kings and queens of creativity, his brilliance had to start somewhere.


From a very young age, Gammell’s parents put a perfectly good sheet of paper in front of him to ruin. Those are paraphrased words from Gammell himself. It’s easy to see how a young son might get “drawn in” by illustration when his dad is the art editor for a major magazine. Encouragement from your parents is one thing, but I think growing up in Iowa must have been an even bigger influence. I mean seriously, what’s in Iowa? I’m pleading ignorance here. Will someone please message me and tell me what exciting thing existed in Iowa as a kid 50 years ago or something? Oh, my bad. I forgot. You guys have Albert, the world’s largest bull. My life is made. Thanks, Iowa. Anyway, sorry for my lack of Iowa knowledge. I’m sure Stephen probably appreciates it a lot more. If you are reading this Mr. Gammell, please accept my sincerest apologies. Des Moines is much more interesting to me now than ever, thanks to your existence.

In my limited experience, I find that art is not something you chase.

It seems to be something that always chases you. I read that, from a very young age, Stephen Gammell found pencils much more interesting than toys. I also read that he credits drawing as the thing that “got him through” school. I don’t know about you fellow creators out there, but I definitely credit curiously cultivated fantasy as the ultimate cure to the soul-sucking scholastic disease we adult children now call boredom. For the record, it’s not the fault of your teachers, my friends. It is the system’s fault. If you don’t believe me, just check out one of the old school houses circa 1876. I hear they have one in Iowa. You’ll find that it looks strikingly similar to our modern day desk dilemma. Alas, my ADD has appeared again, and this is a topic for another time. For now, back to Stephen. P.S. This article does not reflect the opinions of ComixCentral, nor does it belittle the value of education for the youth. P.P.S. Yes it does. P.P.P.S. Go to school anyway. Stephen did. He did not, however, go to school for art.

Like many unique geniuses, Gammell didn’t have any formal artistic training. There’s nothing wrong with going either way necessarily, but those who don’t follow formulas are bound to find something special. I would venture to guess that they find their own way a bit faster, but everyone has influences. Gammell was first influenced by the periodical illustrations his father would bring home from the office. As a songwriter/musician by trade, I was first influenced by Brian Wilson and my mom’s old THK tapes of The Beach Boys Greatest Hits. What can I say? We’re all a product of our surroundings.

Once Gammell came into his own, his first published illustrations came in the form of squirrels declaring war on a farmer. The book: A Nutty Business written by Ida Chittum. Since then he’s illustrated/written over 50 stories and poems. Other illustrated works include: Old Black Fly, Mudkin, and, one of my personal favorites, The Relatives Came (written by Cynthia Rylant). Incidentally, this one came out the year I was born. While these were not especially creepy, you can see Gammell’s style in each picture book. His illustrations have a way of both complementing the writer and maintaining a unique, very memorable signature all its own. He was a runner-up for The Caldecott Medal in 1982 for Where the Buffaloes Begin (written by Olaf Baker) and finally nabbed the award in 1982 for Song and Dance Man (written by Karen Ackerman). The Caldecott Medal is a pretty major award in the league of little kid literary gentleman. Unlike the sexy leg lamp in A Christmas Story, this award actually means something.

Now that some back story has been taken care of, let us return to why we are here together.

While some of Gammell’s literary partnerships may have won awards over the years, no partnership has created more buzz, or more controversial excitement, than his literary marriage of imagination with the flesh fevered folklore king, writer Alvin Schwartz. Both creative wizards remembered something that so many “adults” often forget. There’s this phrase around storytelling and self-esteem every kid grows up getting sick of, thanks to every kindergarten teacher ever. Say it with me, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” It’s a childishly delicious sentiment with a gushy cliche’ center, but the inside truth is that pictures mean so much more than “a thousand words” when you’re somewhere between 9 years old and a “hormonecidal” maniac. As a youth pictures mean everything. There’s no better tapestry of that understanding than the covers on the front of any ORIGINAL Scary Stories tale. We’ll talk about why I capitalized original in a moment. For now, let’s take a ride back ‘round a crooked carousel of magnificently mangled memories full of creaky stairs, angry shutters, haunted whispers, and cat-eye shadows. What was your favorite story, and perhaps more importantly (since Gammell is our focus today), what was your favorite image? I honestly can’t decide. Let’s you and I go through some of them briefly, and maybe you can help me remember the best of the best.

There’s something about “The Red Spot” that sticks with you. I scratch my cheek just thinking about it. The illustration for “Oh Susannah” doesn’t really connect with the story, but it sure reaches into the imagination. If you need immersion therapy into the depths of dying female desperation, definitely check out the images from “The Bride” and “The Haunted House.” Last, but not least, the image (and story) that never left me to this day has to be “Harold.” I can’t really explain it. Maybe it’s because I have a farmhand’s soul. Maybe it’s because the story addresses bullying in the best way, and I was sort of going through some of that stuff in my own life at the time. Either way, trust me on this, don’t torture things you don’t fully understand, even if it’s something as simple as a scarecrow named Harold.

As I examined some of these stories from my past, my girlfriend remarked, “I can’t believe they thought these stories and pictures were okay for kids!” THAT, my friends, is exactly my point. The reason why these stories are so beloved is because both Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell approached their passion with bravery. Even more so, they had faith– faith in their audience regardless of age. Nightmares were not to be shied away from, but exposed for what they were and are still today.  It seems to me that both the artist in question (Gammell) and the writer (Schwartz) understood the difference between “childish” and children, “youth” and young adult. It’s an important distinction. Any artist with an ounce of courage puts passion in front of controversy. They put joy ahead of concern. They value charisma beyond critique. You get it. If you take one thing from this piece, I hope it’s this: push boundaries in order to get pushed back. Otherwise, you’ll always be one step behind the artist you were meant to be. With that said, every artist has their own mental paint brush. The same story project could be given to ten different illustrators, and they would have ten different takes. So let’s take a quick look at the Scary Stories 30th Anniversary blunder and my thoughts around the new illustrations.

Brett Helquist is a brilliant illustrator. Do you hear me people? For real though, he’s really good. He can’t stand up to Gammell, but that’s not really his fault (kind of). Before I start to ramble, let me back up a bit. For those of you who didn’t know, Harper Collins decided to accidentally ruin lives when they had Stephen Gammell’s illustrations redone for the 30th Anniversary release of the Scary Stories series. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the Amazon reviews. All the one-star writeups come from surprised angry readers expecting a night scream and getting a whimper at best. I’d break down how I feel with words here, but again, pictures are worth so much more in this scenario.

Bottom line: Brett’s great. He’s best known for his work with Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) and A Series of Unfortunate Events. The fact is, his stuff would probably work with just about anything else. I did some research, arguably limited, and found all these people hating on Brett for his part in destroying memories of our childhood. Look, stop hating on this guy. He’s awesome. He was hired to do a job, and he did it as he saw fit. It’s not like he stood in a candlelit room cackling while dismantling the dreams of Stephen Gammell after he got the call from the publisher. If you’re gonna hate on anyone, you should probably hate on Harper Collins. They’re the ones who finally caved in to all the helicopter parents and book ban lists. If you’re one out of a million people who actually like the new illustrations, good for you. I know what you might be thinking– something along the lines of, “Brett’s illustrations are more directly connected to the story.” Guess what? You’re right. However, you are once again missing the point.

Scare-reaction is much more about what you CAN’T see.

I don’t know Gammell personally, so I’m not sure whether his vision was a happy accident or a well-thought out gallery of gore. However, it’s obvious that Stephen understood that the one thing more important to a kid than pictures is imagination. Of all the things an adult world can stop, imagination isn’t one of them. Parents can’t protect their kids from an imagination anymore than they can stop them from growing up. A message to all the parents who hate on Gammell’s illustrations: go away. No one likes you. Fear builds strength and character, and as a hopeful father myself, I’d much rather that fear come from Scholastic than some street corner. If fear is learned under the covers, within the confines of a book, in a happy home, then it can be slowly absorbed, explored, and, on some level, appreciated. If it is thrust upon you in some dark alley, then all you’ve got is fight or flight, and that, I’m afraid, is barely human. If anything, Gammell’s art reminds us that we aren’t just animals fleeing from life. We are people. We are people with hearts that beat for the sake of adventure, even if that adventure is so frightening that our hearts seem to leap ahead of our chest. As a kid, Gammell (and Schwartz) taught me that I could handle more than I bargained for, and I felt stronger for it. If you’re still haunted by these images, then good; they did their job. Besides, that’s what therapy is for. There are limits to fear, but they are only as limited as the human experience itself. You might say that bravery is at the heart of storytelling. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s something you find. His gritty imagery helped me smile in the face of darkness. We still don’t always get along, but thanks to Stephen Gammell, the dark and I will always be good friends.





 

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The Red Hyena Dragged Me Into The 21st Century!

red hyena doktor geraldo

Digital art fascinates me.

I usually work in traditional media, such as pencils, multiliners, copic markers, coloured pencils, watercolour, and gouache. I use apps on my phone to manipulate my drawings, making alpha layers and background layers, and scaling and making panels. Then I transfer to my laptop and use Photoshop to build pages and arrange the lettering. That’s as far as I venture into the digital realm.

I decided to draw a pinup of The Red Hyena, a great character from Project Shadow Breed. I started with a pencil drawing, outlined it, then blocked in the areas with flat layers using copic markers. I would normally render with markers, adding shadows and depth, then highlight areas with coloured pencil or gouache. Instead, I uploaded the drawing to Photoshop and decided to finish it digitally.

I was so absorbed in the process that I forgot to save the separate stages, but the last image in the strip was the final result!

Issues 1-4 of Project Shadow Breed are available at ComixCentral.


 


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Jared Muralt: The 2-Dimensional Illusion of a 3D Life

jared muralt

Welcome weird wunderkinder!

How’s your creative genius treating you this morning? Mine has gone into hiding, thanks to the mental magnificence of Swiss illustrator, Jared Muralt. I had the pleasure of interviewing this tremendous talent and it was clear to me that the content of his character is as colorful, multifaceted and exceptional as his body of work.




Whether he’s doing freelance work or running the business rails of his Blackyard Studios, a co-founded Swiss design collective, he really has a people-first approach to his craft. It’s so interesting how microcosm moments, like a young 5-year-old mind crashing headfirst into a sci-fi adventure comic book, can create a relationship with life that no one would’ve seen coming. I’ll let him give you the gritty details, but Jared dispels the illusion of easy art with joy and grace. His tone is playful, yet serious. Much like his style, his insights come alive with a sense of innocence, vulnerability and an undeniable respect for the craft. Join me as we jump off the page and share in Jared’s love of Moebius, Star Wars, nature, and Indiana Jones (except Crystal Skull of course).

 


Chris: Hey Jared, I understand you’re from Bern.  Did that community have an influence on your style?  Did you find art or did art find you?

Jared: No, I wouldn’t really say that the community had an influence on my style, but when art found me was when I found art. When I was five years old, I found a comic book by Moebius, “Le Garage Hermétique,“ that belonged to my mother in our living room. It must have been around our house for much longer, but this is when I found it and when it found me. I was instantly mesmerized!

Chris: I understand you started with sci-fi drawings, did any early sci-fi stories influence your developing style? FYI: I came across Grand Moff Tarkin on your Instagram – AMAZING!

Jared: Again, sci-fi stories by Moebius. Of course, my early fascination and affixation with Star Wars is undeniable and prevails to this day, but I know I am not alone with this!

Chris: Tell me about your year in art school. I’ve been told it’s nothing but criticism.  You either grow from its constructive nature, learn to create despite judgment, or maybe both.  Was that your experience?

Jared: What I really took from art school was the realization that I was too young back then, too young to take life and my education and my career seriously. The following year, I worked as a cashier in a supermarket and that was much more valuable life experience than my year at art school – in that it showed me what I don’t want to do. And that I really, really have to accomplish myself and work on my skills and career unless I want to end up in a job I don’t want to do for the rest of my life. After years of school and then art school, it was this very real work experience that showed me the responsibilities that come with being an adult. It made me thing seriously about a career and how to get one.

Chris: I also understand you have a preference towards the stippling technique.  Can you share a little about what that is?  Do you find creative power in the world of dots?

Jared: To me, it did indeed start with stippling and this helped me to convey surface and structures in a black-and-white drawing. It doesn’t really need to be points – it could be cross hatching for example, but it is a good technique to successfully create the illusion of three-dimensionality in a black and white illustration.

Chris: I understand your mom gave you your first sketchbook.  How did your parents influence your art?

Jared: My father didn’t, he ran out my mom the second he found out she was pregnant, so I never knew him. My mother is herself a creative person and her creativity influenced me and I was raised in a creative household/environment. My mother supported me in living my creative impulses as best and as fully as she was capable. She once called herself my lab assistant because she was always supplying me with everything I needed to follow my creative instincts.

Chris: Do you have a favorite story or comic that has stuck with you or influenced you over the years?

Jared: “Le Garage Hermétique” by Moebius as I mentioned before. The whole Star Wars franchise as well of course. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé. And let’s not forget Steven Spielberg’s original Indiana Jones trilogy (let’s forget “Crystal Skull“, please), just to name a few.

Chris: I also understand that you work with some graphic designer and art friends as part of your team now.  How has collaboration played a role in your success?

Jared: It very much the key point in my career. Since they are not only graphic designers but also illustrators, the creative exchange with my friends/colleges/coworkers brought me to the point where I am now.

Chris: What are your passions outside of illustration?

Jared: Walking and trekking and working in the garden and swimming in our beloved river are, though I only swim in it during the summer. Generally being outside and in nature is what I love to do.

Chris: What accomplishments are you most proud of up to this point?

Jared: Generally, that I can make a living as an illustrator – and whenever someone lets me know that my works inspire them, that makes me very proud.

Chris: Do you have any exciting upcoming projects and what is the most exciting thing in your life right now (even if it doesn’t have anything to do with art)?

Jared: The most exciting thing in my life would be my impending fatherhood – my girlfriend and I are expecting twin boys next month! And my other, (hopefully) soon to arrive offspring, my upcoming comic book series “The Fall“ should be mentioned as well.


Jared, I’m so appreciative of our time together. Thank you for your honesty. Your love of this profession gives us permission to use our imaginative energy without fear of losing our sense of responsibility. You are living proof that art is both a fountain of youth and a pool of wisdom that prepares us for life, freedom and family.

For more of Jared’s awesomesauce, check him out on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jaredmuralt.

Here’s a link to his design collective: https://shop.blackyard.ch and be on the look out for his new post-apocalyptic comic series, “The Fall,” to be released soon.





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Katrina (Ayla Speaker for the Dead)

katrina

I lived through Katrina.

I’m not saying that in a boastful way. I didn’t live in the city, I was across the lake on the Northshore. My home had minimal damage. I didn’t lose any loved ones in the storm. There were a lot of people that had it a lot worse than I did because of that storm. But everyone that was living here during that time will never forget it, no matter how little or how great its impact on their lives.

My roof needed replacing. My BBQ grill was a gone, I had forgotten to bring it inside and a tree limb fell off and pretty much took any idea of cooking on it again away. I cleaned myself out of a bowl for a few weeks, replacing it with bottled water. I used a car battery and solar power charger to run a fan for at least half the night before the charge would die. This was in September, in New Orleans it’s still hot and humid during that time of year, especially without air. We opened the store where I work at to first responders to come in and get sock, shoes, dry clothes, flashlights, whatever they needed. We took notes on what everyone picked up, later to charge whatever part of the government we needed to but ended up throwing the list away. Some of these people were still in the same wet, dirty clothes for days.

During the time of Katrina, I kept a blog, I’m going to reprint some of my posts from that time, just to give everyone a brief glimpse into what was going on at that time.

From that Sunday:

Today started at six. Actually, that was the time I was supposed to be at work, but either I slept through my alarm or it didn’t go off. I woke, rolled over and saw the time was at fifteen till six. Oops. I jumped up, dressed quickly and was on the road within minutes. I made it to the store just a little after six. Steve and Heather were waiting for me outside the building. We were supposed to have about eight associates coming in. We were going to open only till around 11, see if anyone needed to come in for hurricane supplies and to finish getting the building ready for the hurricane. Jessica and Timmy showed up not long after I did. We decided that we weren’t going to open at all, over night they had announced that Katrina was up to cat 5 now and heading right towards us. Slidell south of hwy 12 was under mandatory evacuation, that was only across the street from us. So we figured we’d finish getting the store ready to weather the storm and then head out. First off we got some money from petty cash and sent Timmy to the McDonalds to get us some food. It was open when they passed it on the way to work. We had to finish wrapping the registers and finish putting plywood over the front of the store. I had to do the Sunday fax, which is payroll and sales figures for the week. Need to send that so everyone gets paid for the week. While we were getting things ready Jessica’s parents called, they wanted her home so they could leave, they had decided to leave the city now. We turned on one of those small portable TVs we sell to watch the news. They said the Crescent City Bridge was like a parking lot, they were advising people not to take it. I knew my brother was still on the Westbank, he hadn’t left yet. I called him to tell him he better get on the road. We finished everything by around nine. My brother called me and said he was already in Slidell, I wasn’t expecting to make it until later that day from the way they were talking. He said traffic had not been a problem.

Kenneth went back to my place to help me bring some stuff outside into my house so it wouldn’t get blown away. I also had to pack. I know, I always wait until the last minute to do anything. Then we headed towards my parents. The plan had been to go to Picayune and stay in a hotel there with my parents, but since the night before they had changed their plans. A cat 5 hurricane changes a lot of plans.

We got to Picayune without any trouble. The Highway going out that way was using both lanes to head traffic out of the city. It looked strange seeing traffic on both sides of the highway going the same way.

We were on the road by twelve. Instead of the interstates, we were going to take the small state highways and head to Tennessee where my Mother’s family is. We took hwy 11 to hwy 13 to hwy 35 and then briefly got on I 55 till we got back off and on hwy 7 to Memphis. Actually outside Memphis. We ended up at my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Troys. They took us in without the bat of an eye. I haven’t been back up this way since I graduated high school, so it’s been a few years They were even willing to take in Buffy and Sheba, my parent’s dog.

It took us eight hours to get there, which wasn’t that bad. We never ran into traffic and the way was easy and smooth. We made one stop at Wendy’s to eat and let the dogs out for a walk. Buffy sat in the passenger seat and just watched the scenery pass by without a bark. Every now and then she would try and curl up and sleep, but it never last for long, she would jump up into a sitting position and stare outside the car.

I think we were all in bed by ten that night. It was a long day.

I almost didn’t leave that day. I was going to ride it out. But luckily when I saw how strong the storm was getting I decided retreat was the best option.

Today is the day we decided to leave our safety of Tennessee and head back home to see what our homes look like. From what little we can gather from the news and the internet Picayune where my parents live is not as bad off as a lot of what we’ve seen on tv. The Westbank where my brother lives, from the phone call my sister managed to get through, did not get hit too bad. Now when I say not too bad, this is all relative to what New Orleans and Biloxi went through. From everything we’ve heard about Slidell, where I live, the hurricane hit hard and bad. The storm surge was supposed to be fifteen to twenty feet high.

We left at six in the morning. Shirley wanted to cook us breakfast, but we decided to head out as soon as possible. We were going to try and retrace our path to Tennessee, by traveling the back highways. Again we found little traffic on the roads. As we got further south the terrain began to change. At first, we saw a few branches on the side of the road, as we rode on we found trees broken and lying on their side.

After hitting the center of the state gas became almost nonexsitent. Every time we stopped at a gas station they were either out of gas or they had no electricity and could not operate their pumps. Not far out from Picayune the scenery became even worse. Trees were snapped along the side of the road. Not just one or two, but as we drove down the highway the trees that paralleled the road were snapped like twigs. We passed one gas station and the top that covers the gas pumps was blown over. Fronts of buildings were blown over. Trees that were huge, that looked decades old, were uprooted and lying on the ground. Sometimes they were lying across someone’s home.

On the side of the road, a tree was blown over and was being held up by the electrical wires strung between the poles. The entire thing leaned over towards the street. This was not good, eventually, it was going to come down if it didn’t get fixed soon.

We turned down a road near my parent’s house, one that I’ve traveled a thousand times. Trees on both sides of the roads were snapped in half. The road was almost unpassable. Many times there was just enough room to travel on the road. Then we came onto a pile, at least twenty feet high, of trees uprooted across the road. We were not going up that way. We turned around and went down to another road which we were able to travel over.

I held my breath as we turned up the driveway to my parent’s house. They have a long dirt driveway, about forty feet long before their home. In the middle of the driveway was a tree. We parked the cars and walked the rest of the way. They had two car ports off to the side that was now in the middle of the yard. One of them had literally been lifted up, blown over a fence without touching the fenced and was lying bent in two in the middle of their yard. The roof of their shed was peeled back, part of it had been ripped off and was hanging over their patio cover. The side window on my father’s shop was broken and the door to the shop was blown off. But all his tool were still inside and looked in good shape.

The good news was that their home was fine. Some shingles had been blown off the roof, but besides that, it looked good.

My brother and I went down and cut the tree apart so we could drive all the way up to the house. My father needs a chainsaw. We had to cut the tree apart with an ax and a saw. It took us a little while but we managed.

A few more things and then I decided to head home. My brother was going to stay the night. He was going to have to go the long way around New Orleans to get to the West Bank, so he wanted to make sure he had a full day to try and get home.

My gas tank was getting closer to E, but I didn’t have that long a trip. As bad as it had been so far, Slidell was worse.

I’ve never been in a war zone, but I’ve read how when a bomb goes off it just shatters the land, the shock wave can snap the trees in half. That’s what the land looked like

as I tried to get home. When I turned down the street to get back towards my home all I saw was downed trees. It was a lot of weaving back and forth but I thought I was going to make it, till I got almost to the end and a tree was blocking the street. The good news was there was a backhoe there, looking like he was getting ready to move the tree aside. I decided to drive down to the store and see if anyone had made it there while the moved the tree aside.

Two campers were parked in front of the store when I got there. The door was unlocked. A stranger was at the doorway. He was from loss prevention. He said Loretta, our district manager was in the back of the store. I went back and talked with her for awhile. She had talked to just about all the other managers and everyone was safe. When I mentioned that I was almost out of gas she came to the rescue, she had a gas can in her car with gas in it. At least enough to get me around for another day, I was on E now.

I won’t mention the fact that I locked my keys in my car when I went in, it was that type of day.

I left to try and get back home. This time the tree was gone. I had to dive under a leaning tree that looked like it was leaning too much, but I made it. As I drove back towards my trailer I was getting nervous. I passed one trailer where the entire side was pulled loose. I turned on my street.

I had a wooden fence around my trailer. Not one part of the fence was still standing. It was flattened. Part of the pine tree in my front yard was on my porch. My gas grill was upside down. I stood in shock. The trailer looked good though. Across the street, from me, there was a tree across the front of the trailer. In another yard, a huge tree was on its side. I took some pictures, I’ll post as soon I can get them developed.

I opened the door to my refrigerator and took a step back. Whoah, it smelled. I filled two big garbage bags with the entire contents of the refrigerator, there was no use to try to save anything in it. I brought in all my food and water I got from Memphis and set up as best as I can. I’ve got my little portable tv, some food, something to drink. No water, no electricity. I opened all the windows, some of them barely opened, I don’t think I’ve even opened some of them, I use the air conditioner instead of open windows. But it is still hard in here, sleeping is going to be fun. But at least it’ll be in my own bed.

I’m going to watch a little more news and then probably head to bed. I’m off to work tomorrow at six, we’re going to try and get open where at least people can get some things they may

These next posts are from my first days back. The problems I faced with minuscule compared to what a lot of people were facing and we’re going to face in the future.

The problem with writing these posts is that I tend to do it at the end of the day when I’m tired and not wanting to do anything. My mind has shut down and just want to rest along with the rest of my body.

Today started at five in the a.m. I was supposed to be at work at seven, mainly just a chance to see who was here and figure out what we’re going to do type thing. Sams was supposed to have gas at six this morning. I got up, brushed my teeth and managed to clean myself with a washcloth and bowl of water. Right now two of the most precious commodities we have are water and gas.

I got to Sams at around 5:30 or so. There already was a line. I’d say there were at least sixty cars ahead of me. I parked, turned the car off and waited. I got out and started talking to the people around me. I was parked next to a Sams employee that was directing traffic. He was from out of state, I forget where now. He was part of Sams disaster team, they go in after something like this and help to get the store running. They already had a generator running and the store was opening at seven. That was also the time he told her they were supposed to start selling gas.

By seven the line had to be a couple hundred cars long behind me. He figured they had enough gas to last about four hours. Once they started it went fast. They had a lot of pumps and they had an employee working each pump. Full-service gas, what a concept! He pumped it and took my money. They had it organized very well. They didn’t fool around with the cents, they just took the dollar amount, saved them time with having to deal with a lot of change. The only bad thing, and I didn’t think of it but I should have, was that you had to pay with cash for the gas. I hardly ever carry cash around, I’m so used to being able to use my debit card for anything. Luckily I had some cash from my trip to Houston, my per diem and gas money and etc. By then it was almost eight o’clock.

I zipped over to work. Steve was the only manager there. Darryl (the store director) was not there yet. Loretta (the district manager) was there. Right after I got there Darryl showed up. He actually showed up while I was in the back of the store shopping. I figured there were some things I needed before we opened and they all disappeared.

They were sending in a team of about twenty associates from the Texas stores in campers to actually run the store, they figured the associates had enough to do right now. The associates could work if they wanted to, but this way it enabled us to open and serve the customers. The plan is to only let in around twenty customers at a time, stay with them as they shopped. We had a generator running so we actually had lights and some air conditioning.

One nice thing Loretta told us that the company intended to keep paying the managers no matter what. Now I know that could change later, but I thought that was pretty nice of the company, especially when they’re sending in other people to do our work so we can attend to personal matters.

We decided that we wouldn’t open until Monday. The Texas people wouldn’t be there until then, so we figured there was no way we were going to be able to do much. Steve had to bring his wife to Arkansas, she’s pregnant and he wants her around doctors and a more stable environment. Darryl wanted to get back to his in-laws and help with the cleaning. He figures his house is gone, he lives in Chalmette which is just about all under water. I was getting some stuff from the store for my parents too, so I wanted to drive out there and give it to them and see if I could help them out some. Plus I had a lot of stuff to do at home.

I filled two buggies with stuff. I got two camp stoves, ideal for cooking inside. Darryl showed me this device that connects to a marine battery we sell and then you can plug a light or fan into it. So I got two marine batteries and these devices. I got a cooler, I don’t own a cooler. I ended up getting a bunch of stuff I figured I could use.

I would have got my brother some stuff too, but he was supposed to be going to the Westbank early this morning and I wasn’t sure when I’d see him again with the ways things were around here.

While I was there some police officers and national guardsmen came in for some stuff. We’ve been letting them come in, get whatever they need and just write it down and we’ll worry about the money later. That was what Darryl let me do too.

I went home, dropped the stuff off and headed back to Sams. They would take a check if you were a Sams member, which luckily I was. I wanted to get some ice more than anything and figured I could stock up on some foodstuff. Of course, there was a line. I have an idea that before this is all over with I’m going to stand in a lot of lines. They were only letting about two dozen people in at a time. The line moved fairly quickly and wasn’t that long. It took me about thirty minutes to get in.

I got a lot of canned goods and some other things that I hope will last in this heat. And my ice. I was going to get a fan, I don’t have one at home, but I forgot.

Back home to drop this stuff off, empty the ice in the cooler, which only took about half my ice, so I figured I’d bring the other half to my parents. Then back in the car and over to my parents.

I was surprised when I got there to see my brother there. He had already tried to get into the Westbank and couldn’t. They’ve declared martial law there and are not letting anyone in. They said starting Monday they’ll let people in. I was glad to see him but knew he was upset about not getting in. He just wants to know what condition his house is in. He is pretty sure that there was no flood damage but a tree could have fallen through, or looters or who knows. On the radio, I heard that looters burned Oakwood Shopping Mall down, which is the big mall on the Westbank. It’s one of the busiest malls in New Orleans. The not knowing is driving him crazy.

Then I felt bad cause I didn’t get him anything. I’ll go back tomorrow and try to get him some things, at least the camp stove. The good thing is that he’s there for the next two days to help my parents around the house.

I visited for a little while then jumped back in my car to head home. I had a tree on my porch I wanted to try and get off. I got home, ate some spam, but I was able to cook it on my camping stove! Such small joys make us feel more human.

One of the things I got at work was a saw and ax. The entire top of this pine tree was on my porch. I’m lucky it didn’t fall a little further and go through my roof. It took me about two hours to cut it up and throw off the side, but my porch is now clear. I’m going to put my outdoor furniture back out there, so it’ll clear up my living room. I still am going to have to cut the tree up into smaller pieces to get out of here. I just cut off limbs and chunks so I could move it.

The rest of the night I plan to spend watching tv (I have a little portable tv I’m sure I’ve already mentioned), maybe eat something else and turn on my fan and then probably to bed. Tommorrow I’m sure will be another fun day.

The next day:

Another late morning, I got up at eight this morning. Mornings are the best time of the day. Last night my battery much not have charged completely, the fan went off before I fell asleep. But it was not that hot so I didn’t’ worry too much about it. But at seven or eight in the morning there is a slight chill in the air and it feels so good. Makes you just want to lay there and not move.

Went to Sams today for more ice. It looks like the cooler will hold the ice for about two days and then I’ll have to be getting more ice. I have to get twenty pounds of ice from Sams, they sell everything in bulk. That is more ice than I need so I noticed some more of my neighbors across the street are coming home so I went and gave them a bag of ice. I want more people to come home. There is safety in numbers.

On the way to Sams, I stopped at the store. Darryl was there, talking on the phone to Loretta. I talked to his wife while he was on the phone. The store was boarded back up, all the people from home office had left. After Darryl got off the phone he told me that they decided not to open until Wednesday or Thursday, that most people needed food and things like that more than what we sold. He said Loretta was pretty ragged, she’s been traveling to the stores and seeing all this damage and it has to be getting to her. The store in Gulfport was wiped out. The one in Hariharan has been looted and has standing water.

Afterwards, I went to check on my parents. Today is the last day my brother will be there. He is heading home tomorrow, they are lifting the ban at six a.m. to get into Jerffersion Parish. Yesterday my Dad collapsed, he dehydrated himself. I’m glad my brother was there. He put him in the van and turned the air conditioner on and they gave him a lot of water and soaked him down. He still isn’t feeling all that great today, but maybe it is for the best. It shows him that both he and my mother have to take it slow in this heat. They can’t try and do too much too quickly. Better it to have happened now when my brother was there than later. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to get up there with gas so hard to get hold of.

The WalMart in Picayune was open some, my brother, mother, and sister went. I wanted to get some stuff that I couldn’t find at Sams. I ended up spending close to a hundred dollars. I got some more food, but I also got a rake to try and help clean my yard up and a push broom. I want to sweep the street in front of my home, just to try and make it look better. Right now every little thing that makes things look a little more normal is a help.

They also got a generator. It lasts for about eleven hours. I’m thinking of going to Sams and getting one of the smaller generators. I’m just worried about getting the gas for it. It takes about five to six gallons for twelve hours. I have two five gallon tanks if I can get them filled. I don’t mind spending the money on a generator if I can keep it running, I hate to spend the money on it and then not even be able to get the gas to use it.

I’ve been out in the yard cleaning still. I finally got all the tree from my yard to the front. There is still a lot of pine needles and pine cones in the yard, but that’s what I got the rake for. My brick patio was covered with debris from the tree. I cleaned it and it looks better than it has in awhile, to be honest. I even weeded in between some of the bricks which I haven’t done in too long. I figured that as I clean I just as well get things looking as good as I can.

Ok, that’s it for now, later tonight if this laptop doesn’t die on me. I wasn’t able to charge it last night since the battery didn’t charge completely. Between charging the laptop and having a fan run, the fan wins out.

And the next day:

Today I decided to sleep in. So, of course, I woke up at five a.m. To my surprise, the fan was still running. The power inverter was still working. Actually, the battery was still working, I figured it was going to die sometime during the night. And then it died. Still, it lasted longer than I expected. And now it was cool outside, this time of the morning, so it didn’t feel so bad.

I went back to sleep and woke up around eight. I got up and did my little washing by the sink. I wet a washcloth, soap my body and then run the washcloth over my body again and then dry off. That’s my bath.

I decided to take all my can foods and put them out where I could see them. Why? I don’t know, I just felt better doing it like this. That way I wouldn’t be surprised when I was running low on food, I wouldn’t miss something in the cabinets. I took a small bookcase I had in the hallway and put it on the back side of the bar and filled this up with all the foodstuff I bought from Sams yesterday. Then I went through my cabinets and took what I thought I could use and put them in the bookcase. I found some stuff that I just had to throw away.

Next, I decided to clean out my refrigerator. It was empty so I figured this was a good time to give it a good scrubbing. Afterwards, I put some water and drinks in it to store.

I forgot about my upright freezer. It was full of food. So I had to take a garbage bag and go clean it up too. I emptied everything in the garbage bag. I took everything to the trash dumpster. While there I was talking to a few other people that were from the trailer park. One guy said that someone tried to break into his trailer last night, only to run away when someone shined a flashlight on them.

My neighbors on my left came home. They had gone to Tennessee to ride out the storm. They actually weren’t here to stay, they were just coming to pick up some things and check on their trailer. They had brought a truckload of water back with them and gave me a case of water.

My neighbor across the street, Chris, had stayed in his trailer during the hurricane. He said the wind literally lifted the trailer up and shook it. Luckily it didn’t lift it too hight. During the night someone had stolen his battery out of his truck. He was fed up and wanted to leave. But he had no battery. He had no phone, the phones, the cell phones still weren’t working. He wanted to call his brother to come get him. He thought a phone in Pearl River at this local store was working so I agreed to take him down there to see. We tried three different places before we found a phone that worked. But it only worked with a calling card, money just fell through it.

I brought him back home. He wasn’t that happy, but there wasn’t much more we could do.

I was pulling the tree that I pushed off my porch into the side of my yard to the front of the yard. This was hard work, the limbs all twisted together. My body is covered in scratches and cuts from the pine cones and needles. I got maybe a little over half of the tree moved to the front. What I’m going to do with it here I’m not sure, but I feel better getting it in the front by the side of the road.

Chris found a battery and hooked it up. I had about a gallon of gas in a gas tank that I used for my lawn mower and gave it to him. He had about half a tank.

I was exhausted. I sat in my chair on the porch and just did not want to move. I drank two bottles of water. Actually one bottle, the other bottle I filled from the melted ice in the cooler. I never imagined water could taste so good…I’m sure I’ll be repeating that in the time to come.

It’s dark outside now and I keep hearing cars go up and down the main street, up and down. Now I just heard what is either a car backfiring or a gunshot. To me, it sounded like a gunshot, but I can’t know for sure.

The breach in the levee may be filled tomorrow. Hopefully, it will be. That will make a big difference in New Orleans. I just saw an interview with the Mayor of New Orleans and he looked completely exhausted, mentally and physically. I’m going to watch a little more tv and than probably go to bed.

And the final post from then I’m going to reprint:

It’s been nine days since this started. And probably a multiple of those nine days before we get anywhere close to normalcy.

Today I slept really late, it was after eight before I got out of bed. I woke up with a headache and really did not want to do anything. I got up, washed and brushed my teeth and then tried to figure out what I wanted to do today. Since I had more bananas than I knew what to do with I figured I’d drive over my parents and give them the ones Sams gave me. When I got there no one was home. The front door was open, the dogs were inside. They are terrible about going out and just leaving the door open. They think because they live in a small town that there is no crime. And what’s worse with the hurricane there are looters everywhere.

I went in, walking through their house to see if someone was in the back or maybe out back. As I walked through I heard a motor humming. Then I realized that it was cool inside. I flicked a light switch. The light came on. They had power! Wow, what a difference that makes.

I looked in their refrigerator and found some turkey. I made myself a sandwich. They even had mayonnaise! I felt like I was in heaven. I would kill for a hamburger right now. Even the stores that are selling food at the moment are not selling any frozen stuff or meat. All that was ruined in the hurricane, so they’re cleaning the racks and getting ready to get some in I hope.

I waited around for about an hour and when no one showed up I left. I came home and went to raking the yard. I raked most of the front yard, all the pine needles, pine cones, tree bark and whatever else is in the yard. At least it’s starting to look somewhat normal.

There’s a nice breeze blowing through right now. It’s keeping the place fairly cool. But it has the feel of rain and that’s something we don’t need.

As I was raking I kept looking at my fence. I was thinking the front part I could fix by myself. It was not completely blown down, just leaning forward. If I could push it back, prop it up I could fill concrete around it and it should stand. It sounded like a plan so I went to Home Depot to get the concrete and wood. While there I saw Walmart was open so I decided to go there too. I needed a hoe and shovel and Home Depot’s garden section wasn’t open.

While in Walmart my phone rang. It hasn’t been working since I talked to Heather last night. I was able to get through to Paul Stewart and leave a message that I was alive, but that was it. It was my brother. He had made it back to the Westbank ok. His house had gotten water in it. The bedrooms and part of the den were flooded. A couple inches of water he told me. He had pulled up some of the carpets. He said he was coming back to my parents tonight, the smell of the standing water was too much for him to stay in. He’d go back in the morning. I told him I’d go help him tomorrow if he was going to come back tomorrow night.

I got home and unloaded all the stuff I bought. I went over to push the fence up. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. The fence did not want to move. I had to wedge one of the boards against it and push the board down, pushing the fence out and back towards what I hoped was more of what a fence was supposed to look like. I went to the lake and filled my bucket up with water and came back. I filled the holes with cement and then water and mixed and kept it up till I had a lot of cement around the fence posts. Hopefully, it will work. If it works there are a few other sections of the fence that blew down like that. I can get them up and cement in place and then the remaining pieces I can attach, like a giant puzzle.

I think I’m going to go spend the night with my parents tonight. I can take a hot shower, sleep in air conditioning and otherwise act like a normal person again. That way I’ll be there when my brother wants to leave too. I’m sure he is going to want to leave early. He said it took him about four hours to get into the Westbank today. Tommorrow will probably be worse, more people will be trying to get back in than.

I’m not going to go into the fact that a few days after this I ended up in the hospital. My appendices had turned gangrene and I almost died. Yea, I’m all about the timing, but that’s a different post and besides the fact that the hospital had one doctor, no roof but was still waiting on as many people as they could, that’s a story for another time.

While there is no hurricane during this story arch for Ayla the history of her time and her city are deeply reflected by the histories of hurricanes. Here’s a post I wrote two years after the storm:

At least they picked up the sign. Driving through New Orleans East, coming in from Slidell, on the right side of the highway, in what had been one of those groupings of stores in one area, there was a sign for Save-A-Lot supermarkets. It had been pushed forward by the winds and snapped in half, so it was laying on its side. Every time I drove that highway I saw that sign. Yes, there were a lot worse things to see, right there on that highway in fact, but for me, that sign became my white whale of Katrina. For over a year it sat there, next to a store that was no longer in use, next to a whole bunch of other stores that were no longer fit to be used. Finally, someone took the sign down and hauled it away.

The Sams store that was near the Save-A-Lot’s has been cleared to the ground. So has the Walmart. The Lake Forest Mall, right across I-1o from all this has also been completed razed to the ground. I remember when I first moved to Louisiana we (we being my parents and brother and sister) drove all the way from the Westbank to Lake Forest out in New Orleans East for the Farrels ice cream parlor. There also was an ice skating rink in the middle of the mall.

There’s a sign on the site where the Mall used to be saying that there is a Lowes coming soon. I’m not sure how they’re going to find people to staff the store. They still don’t have a grocery store open in New Orleans East. There are some people moving back, but they need stores near them that can provide the necessities. These stores need people that can provide work for them. It’s a cruel circle.

My parents would still be living in Mississippi if hadn’t been for Katrina. Or I mean my Mom would now. They only moved after the storm, when they came back to find their car patios in their front yard. I think the storm really scared my Mom, she was in a rush to move. Which has been a blessing and a curse? I miss not having her near here, more so now, since my Dad died. And when he was sick it was hard. But it is also good because that is where all her family saves for me and my brother is. There is a lot more family up there to give her support than either my brother or I could by ourselves.

I do have to admit that Katrina might have saved my life. After coming back from the storm I ended up in the hospital. My appendix had turned gangrene, the doctors told me another day and I would have been dead. I’m not much of a hospital person. I rarely go to doctors. The only reason I think I went then was that everyone was talking about “Katrina flu,” people were getting it from the air and the water. The day before I had been on the Westbank with my brother, helping him pull up the carpet. I thought I might have picked something up in the water from the flood. So I went. I was in a lot of pain, so even without that excuse I’d like to think I would have gone to the doctor, but I don’t know.

People in Lakeview, which was one of the hardest hit areas in the city, are actually making a comeback. They’ve managed to do a lot of it on their own. With their own money, borrowing money, and getting the work done. Which is great and to take nothing from them, but they are also an affluent section of the city, so they had money to start with. Areas like the 9th Ward, which doesn’t have the money to do it on their own are still hurting.

You can still drive down streets and see the big Xs on the side of houses. The X was made when the rescue teams searched the house. They put the date, their unit number and the number of dead found in the house. Driving by a house with an X and a 1 or 2 written in black on the side is still chilling.

The little grocery store next to the fairgrounds where all our early birds for the Jazz Fest would go for breakfast is gone. This last Jazz Fest Larry and I huddled underneath its porch as the rain poured around us, but the doors were closed. The owners are said to have left town and have no plans on coming back.

One of our more honest (or so we thought) politicians, one of the few voices of reason after the storm, that called for us to come together as one, to not let race divide us, was proven to be less than sterling when he admitted to taking a bribe, years before the storm. He did something that few politicians, especially ones from this state, did and apologize to the people and admit that he made a mistake and that he let a lot of people down.

Meanwhile “Dollar Bill” Jefferson continues to stockpile his freezer with cash and get re-elected. The Mayor is fairly quiet the past months, after making a fool of himself almost every time he opened his mouth. When we as a city needed a leader, someone to take charge and command action, get things done, he was hiding in one of the high-rise hotels from the winds of the storm, not even wanting to come out of his room to talk to people.

I know people still living in FEMA trailers. But now FEMA wants their trailers back. They are telling people that they have to leave their trailers. But where can they go? Money to help people rebuild their lives is barely trickling in. The Road Home program has paid money to a very small percentage of the people needing the money.

It’s easy to forget about us down here. It’s been two years. Most people probably think that we’re ok, that most people have rebuilt and moved on with their lives. But we’re still long ways from that goal. It’s easy for the rest of the country to forget about us since our government has pretty much forgotten about us. Bush doesn’t want to be reminded of his ineptness in handling Katrina. He’ll come down here for the anniversary and talk about how things are going so good and that things are on track and that he hasn’t forgotten about us, but then he’ll climb in Air Force One and fly over our lands again and look out the window and think about something else and forget who we are.

We had politicians after the storm saying that we shouldn’t re-open New Orleans. Just write it off as a bad investment. I have friends ask me why I would want to live here, was I crazy? Even today, ten years plus after the storm, we are still cleaning up from Katrina. My brother has been working on repairing his house since then. I was going to post to some of the articles from these politicians about Katrina, but simply don’t have enough left in me to go back and re-read some of those hateful, spiteful words about a city I love.

The ineptness of post-Katrina is pretty much history now and I’m not going to belabor that point any further.

All this goes into the fact that I believe if New Orleans has another Katrina, or one even stronger, than the city may not come back. Or at least not the city as it is. I can see the government trying to make the best of a bad spot and doing something with the city.

This is just background to try to explain why in the future of Ayla the United States government decides to sell the city of New Orleans after two Katrina plus strength hurricanes within five years of each other.