Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Things Change Part Five: "Festina Lente"

"Make haste slowly."

While thinking about a title for this blog entry, I remembered this English phrase, and when I Googled it, I got a number of hits, many relating to the Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, as well as the Latin version of the phrase, "Festina Lente". The meaning of the phrase is basically that things in life should be done "with a proper balance of urgency and diligence", to quote Wikipedia.

I've been giving a lot of thought to this concept recently, and trying to stick to it. With the major changes in my life begun by the realizations described in "Things Change" Part One, I have been re-evaluating many aspects of my life, and trying to keep the good ones, ditch the bad ones, and forge a new way forward that will be better for me and for my loved ones, especially my wife.

I have this great sense of urgency to do the right things, while also trying to make up for my past errors. It is a useful motivating force, and I am glad it is there, but I am finding that it is leading me to become a bit too impatient with seeing those necessary changes made, and their effects to be felt. What I am discovering is that there are things that can be changed within days (and I have done some of those), some within weeks (and I've done a few of those too), but some of these changes will take months and maybe even years. I need to relax and take things at the proper pace. It's difficult, and occasionally painful and frustrating, but I really do want -- and need -- to do this right. -- PL

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Profile of Emily

I was out in the old studio for a little while today, continuing the long and hopefully not-too-arduous process of clearing out all unnecessary and unwanted stuff -- in today's case, a big stack of "Cycle News" that I had saved for some reason (said reason not being at all clear to me now), and which are now a step closer to the local recycling center.

While walking into the old studio, I saw something which made me smile. It always does, when I notice it. Here's a photo I snapped of the cap on the newel post on the stairs leading up to the studio proper.

Back when this studio space was being built, I asked the carpenters to take a silhouette I'd made of my young (I think she was about two at the time) daughter Emily's profile and use it as the template when they created the newel post caps on a lathe. I think it worked well -- glanced at, the cap looks simply like a pleasing abstract design, but when closely examined you can see the profile on either side. -- PL

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Things Change…" Part Four: Out of the woods

Change continues.

Over the last couple of days, with the helpful and timely encouragement of my wife, I have gone through my clothes closet, which -- for many years now -- has been another of my "disaster area" rooms. Jumbles of shirts on hangers… piles of used and new clothes on the floor, waiting in vain for an organizing hand… hats purchased years ago with an eye toward a more "sophisticated" look, and abandoned when I realized I didn't like the way they felt on my head… lumpy heaps of TMNT t-shirt samples from various licensees… shoes worn once, perhaps twice… and so on.

I have a lot of "spring cleaning" of this sort to do in the house and in my old studio, and Jeannine wisely suggested I start here. It made sense -- it's the smallest room, and she saw that it would be quite possibly the easiest, for at least one big reason -- anything I decided to divest myself of could simply be tossed into a bag and brought to the local Goodwill Industries drop box.

So I tore into it, with somewhat ruthless -- but practical -- abandon. About half of the stuff I put into bags for Goodwill was brand new, never been worn… some of it never even out of plastic bags or off the original hangars. For example, I have over the last ten years bought many a four-pocket shirt -- guayaberas they're called, and also known as the "Mexican wedding shirt". Jeannine bought me my first one about ten years or so ago, in Portsmouth, NH. She'd seen it in a funky little clothing shop and -- knowing my fondness for pockets -- thought I might like it.

And she was right.

Little did she know that she was starting a fashion trend for me which would last up until about a month ago. Really, with the exception of a few formal occasions, I'm pretty sure that for the last decade I have worn four-pocket shirts exclusively -- light cotton ones in the summer, heavier linen or hemp ones in the winter. And they were extremely practical, as I tend to carry around a bunch of stuff with me that conveniently fit into those four pockets. They also didn't need to be tucked in, which -- given the weight I'd put on over those years -- was another plus.

But the four-pocket shirts are now fading from my life. I'm keeping a few -- they're comfortable, and I've discovered that with a few of them at least they actually look okay when tucked in. (You can't use the lower tier of two pockets, but that's okay). However, I suspect that over the next year or so those will disappear as well. They're just not me anymore.

And that's because in so many ways, I'm not me anymore. At least, not the me from before my "epiphany". Yes, I do retain much of my previous self, my long-established personality quirks, good and bad, my basic nature… but so much has changed. I am seeing life in such a fresh way. It's not entirely easy, although I see it as being very nearly entirely good -- I'm struggling with a lot of emotions that have been bottled up, throttled down, covered in dust for a long time. I've told Jeannine a few times that I feel like some kind of animal which has molted, abandoning its old, worn, dead shell for a new one, one which is raw and new and open to lots of feelings, both good and bad.

The new shell will toughen up over time, and this phase will go away. But my goal -- and I have pledged to Jeannine that I will stick to it (I mean, yesterday I literally got down on one knee, took her hands, and made this pledge) -- is that I will never let that shell get between us again.

My therapist (who I wish I had started seeing a long time ago, as he has helped me a great deal over the last two years) cautions me that these kinds of evolutions are not linear, that they can be more of a spiral path, and that I may from time to time come close to or even temporarily enter that foggy realm from which I have escaped. I believe he's right, and I will be on the lookout for those missteps. It's possible that I will make them.

But I now have great motivation to avoid them… and that, I think, will help me a lot.

So back to the clothes closet… into more than a dozen thirteen-gallon plastic drawstring bags went piles of shirts, pants, shoes, hats, and t-shirts. I even tossed in all except one of the "Signature Series" TMNT shirts that had been produced using artwork I'd done specifically for them. I did keep a few of the old glow-in-the-dark TMNT t-shirts from the early years, though I suspect they may not stay too long.

And the sense of freedom after completing this task was wonderful. I still have a long way to go -- there's a lot more stuff to go through and get rid of. But this was a great start, and I thank Jeannine once again for gently pushing me to do it. -- PL

P.S. The "Out of the Woods" title for this blog entry comes from two sources -- one, my great sense of relief that I have somehow managed to stumble "out of the woods" of depression and unhappiness; and two, for the beautiful creature in the photo I took yesterday while Jeannine and I were bicycling on our new favorite bike path. Jeannine spotted the deer, and alerted me to its presence… and the deer was nice enough to stay in one spot while I unlimbered my camera and got a couple of shots with the zoom lens.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The bitter and the sweet

This is another comment that I thought deserved more than just a response in the "Comments" section. In a comment on my "Step Toads" post, ‪Dane E5R‬ said...

"So, Peter. This has nothing to with your current post, but I've been wondering this since I've been following this blog and seeing how much it appears you seem to be enjoying yourself these days.

Do you still believe that life is, at best, bittersweet?"

The short answer is "Yes, I do."

But I feel that deserves a little clarification. My interpretation of that quote from Jack Kirby's character Darkseid in Kirby's last issue of "Mister Miracle" is not (as some people take it) that life at its absolute best moments is bittersweet, but that life taken as a whole is. In other words, life is a sometimes ragged, sometimes smooth, blend of experiences and emotions ranging from bitter to sweet. And given the nature of human existence, that's the best we can expect.

I am discovering that perhaps the most important thing is how you deal with, how you accept with grace, the bitter parts (the sweet parts are pretty easy to deal with, after all). And even though I am finding much more joy in my life recently (and hope to continue to do so), there is still sadness. But I think I am doing better -- and hope to do better still -- at finding the right balance between the two. -- PL

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Step Toads

We did some cleaning of our entryway floor mats a couple of days ago -- they can get kind of funky after a while, what with the dirt and stuff that comes off the bottoms of our shoes, plus the depredations that pets can inflict (I don't think I need to go into the gory, grimy details). So we hauled them out onto and draped them over the front steps, let the rain fall on them, sprayed them with a soapy cleanser, hosed them down two or three times, then let them dry in the fresh air and sun.

So after this procedure, they were ready to be brought back into the house, and I picked one of them up, to find these two critters sheltering underneath:

I guess they may have seen the space where the mat was draped over the steps like a little protective cave or something. I felt a bit bad about taking away their refuge, but I'm sure they'll find another. I did manage to get a pretty nice closeup of one of them before they both hopped on their way. -- PL

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pool cue

No, I'm not going to talk about eight-ball or billiards here, but that title just occurred to me, and I thought it was clever. Well, a little bit, anyway.

This past week, when my wife and I went to Portsmouth, we swam in the hotel pool one day. Unlike Jeannine, I'm not a great swimmer, but I like to splash around a bit, and I find swimming on my back relaxing.

Until, that is, I bonked my head on the edge of the pool, because I had misjudged where it was and how quickly I was approaching it. As I winced and rubbed the bump on my head, I started thinking that it would be very helpful if there were guidelines painted on the ceiling -- basically just an outline of the pool itself, lined up directly over the pool. That way, when someone was swimming on their back, they could just look up and quickly get a "cue" as to how close they were to the edge of the pool, thus potentially staving off a painful bump.

There could even be a "warning" line, perhaps in red or yellow, set inside the pool's outline some distance away, maybe five feet, so as to give a preliminary proximity warning. Here's a quick illustration of the kind of ceiling graphic I'm thinking of:

Now, not having spent a lot of time in hotel pools, I concede that this may in fact be something that is already done. But in the few hotel pools I have been in, I've not seen it. -- PL

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Back home

It wasn't a long trip, either time-wise (three days, two nights) or in terms of distance (somewhere north of three hundred miles round trip), but it sure was fun… and relaxing. I definitely want to start doing more of this kind of thing.

Jeannine and I decided that it would be nice, for our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary, to return to the New Hampshire seacoast area. That's where we got married, in the little back yard of our rented house in Dover, NH in the summer of 1983. We didn't invite a lot of people, but our friends and family members did quite a good job of making that small space seem filled to the brim with life and joy. A few days ago, while sharing memories of our wedding day, Jeannine reminded me of the lopsided carrot cake she'd made as our wedding cake -- I honestly can't remember it being lopsided, but knowing her baking skills I have no doubt it was extremely tasty. I mostly remember being fairly giddy with excitement and happiness, and filled with an unshakable certainty that of all the good decisions I'd ever managed to make in my life up to that point, this was at the top of the list.

And it still is.

Our wedding was a civil ceremony, with a Justice of the Peace from the Dover City Hall officiating. Afterwards, we had Jeannine's carrot cake for dessert following a variety of other foods, some prepared by us, others -- like the roast turkey brought up by Jeannine's dear friend Marguerite -- supplied by helpful friends and family.

A few of our friends stayed for a while after the wedding, and joined Jeannine and me in a drive out to one of our favorite beaches on the New Hampshire coast, Wallis Sands. We walked on the sand and hugged and breathed in the fresh smells of the salt air as the afternoon light waned. It was a great way to cap a wonderful day.

Twenty-seven years later, it seemed appropriate to revisit that beach and remember that day back in 1983. It was cloudy this time, and a bit cool, but still beautiful. We walked about a mile down the beach, and I persuaded Jeannine to pose on some photogenic rocks poking up from the sand.

(I hoped to put together about five shots taken at this spot into a panorama, and it kind of worked, but I forgot about the "moving wave" problem, so it did not stitch together perfectly. But that's okay -- I really like the image of my lovely wife on those rocks, with the backdrop of sand and water and sky... and the memories.)

It was a relaxed couple of days (almost, I was to remark to Jeannine when we got back home, like the honeymoon we never officially had), spent mostly walking around Portsmouth, finding interesting places to eat, cozying up in our hotel when it rained, or doing a little browsing in Portsmouth's many cool shops.

(Speaking of our hotel, here's a view from our little balcony looking out over part of the working harbor of Portsmouth. That green bridge just to the right of the center of the image is one of two vertical drawbridges, this one the innermost, which connect Portsmouth to Kittery, ME. I remember that on our first trip together to the Portsmouth area, back in 1982 when I had come with Jeannine to help her look for a place to live while she was going to graduate school, we had to stop at the outermost of these two bridges, and wait while the large middle section of the bridge was raised to let a ship pass underneath, then wait while it was lowered to allow wheeled traffic to resume across the span... and Jeannine was a little spooked by that. I think I was too, a bit, having never before encountered or driven over a bridge which was not just one reassuringly solid, unmoving surface, but -- as in this case -- something that could split in two, leading the overactive imagination to dire visions of cars accidentally plunging into the salty depths. The large green arching bridge seen off slightly to the left in the distance is another New Hampshire/Maine connector, this one the major highway between the two states, Route 95.)

While waiting for Jeannine outside one of those Portsmouth shops, I spotted this odd twig sculpture being erected on the sidewalk… I have no idea what it is or is supposed to represent, but it's kind of nifty.

One place that Jeannine wanted to go for supper our first night -- and breakfast on our third day -- was a small restaurant near the central square in Portsmouth called Popovers (named, I believe, for the delicious popover pastries in which they specialize, which I can attest are quite yummy). Here's a shot of me enjoying my breakfast fruit salad at Popovers.

Although we discussed it, we never did get over to Dover to walk around and reminisce, but maybe we'll save that for our next trip to the seacoast. -- PL

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Salad days

This will probably be the last post from me for a few days (unless I get inspired and Jeannine lets me use her laptop Mac), and I thought I'd sign off with this photo I took of a fruit salad I made for her about a week ago.

I'm not much of a cook or a baker, but one skill I have is making salads, both of the fruit and vegetable varieties. Lately I've been trying to keep a fresh example of each one in our fridge so we can enjoy them daily. I'm actually thinking of taking some salad-making tools with me on this trip, but that might be just a bit obsessive.

On a technical note, I highly recommend Kyocera ceramic knives and peelers for making salads of any sort. The blades are incredibly sharp, making slicing just about anyting a breeze, and I believe the nature of the ceramic blades does not impart any kind of taste to the food being sliced, as can sometimes happen with metal blades, especially with acidic fruits or vegetables.

I've also become enamored of the "Kyocera Adjustable Mandolin Slicer", which has a ceramic blade as well. I've always been a little leery of these things -- okay, I'll admit it, they frighten me! -- as the hand action required to use them could lead to sliced-off sections of fingers if one's attention wanders. But in the last few months I took the plunge, decided I would be extra careful, and it was most definitely worth it. This tool cuts down the slicing time for a vegetable salad by about two-thirds. In addition, it easily adjusts to four different settings for four different thicknesses of slices. And it's fun! (As long as you keep your eyes peeled, no pun intended.) -- PL

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Things Change…" Part Three: Falling away

I picked up a new MacBook Pro laptop yesterday, and have spent a few hours copying old files onto it, re-installing some key programs, and generally trying to get things back to the way they were -- or at least close to it. So far, it seems to be going pretty well. AOL is working, I can get on the Internet, and I don't think I have lost anything vital (of course, that estimation could change as things progress).

I have made one big decision, though, which I was not expecting… but which I can see now is connected to the continuing series of changes going on in my life.

I have not -- and won't -- copy my "TMNT Stuff" folder to the new computer.

"TMNT Stuff" was a folder I'd maintained across several laptops -- in fact, I think it started on my G4 desktop Mac. I put just about everything and anything TMNT-related into it -- art that I'd scanned, some of which I'd colored in Photoshop; all of the art files for the 2K3 TMNT animated series that Lloyd and his crew sent me for approval; plots and notes for the stories I created for the TMNT Volume 4 comics, as well as the Quark (and later InDesign) files for the comics themselves; various interesting emails and web clippings related to TMNT; some important contracts, various drafts of movie scripts and treatments and outlines; and so on. The last time I checked (about a minute ago) this folder was slightly over ten gigabytes.

(I am not deleting this folder full of files -- I will be keeping it on a back-up external hard drive in case i ever need to refer to it again.)

Lately, I have been feeling the sense that the Turtles are "falling away" from me -- I know that is imprecise and very subjective, but it is the closest I can get to articulating how it feels. After the sale of the TMNT property to Viacom in October of 2009, I felt some immediate relief, some significant lessening of my sense of responsibility to and for the Turtles. But I didn't experience the real -- you know, I'm not even sure how to describe it, but I had this kind of anticipation of a feeling of liberation or something. And it wasn't there.

But now it is.

In the last week or two I have actually found myself breathing more easily, and feeling like my shoulders and neck aren't as tight as they once were. I find myself thinking of the Turtles as something from my past, not something of my future… which is a little freaky, given how long they'd been part of my present, but even as a freaky feeling it isn't unpleasant. It feels… relaxing.

I'm not eradicating the Turtles from my life. That would be foolish -- they are a huge part of my personal and creative history. And someday, maybe I will play with them again. But right now, that day seems very, very far away.

Those of you who were/are fans of my TMNT Volume 4 comics may wonder what this means for the continuation/conclusion of that series. I have been doing some soul-searching about that, and at the risk of disappointing some of those fans, I have to say that I don't think the series will ever be finished as I had originally intended it to be. I just don't have any desire to leap back into it, and in fact, I am a little afraid of trying to do so, given my sense of of trepidation about getting sucked back into the world of the TMNT at a time when I finally feel like I am getting free from it.

So this is my current thinking: The art, scripting and lettering for issue #31 is done, and the inking on the art for #32 is just about finished. I may finish up the final details of these two issues, and publish them not in print form but on the Web.

Following that, I will take the plots that I have written out for what would have been the concluding six or seven issues of the comic book, beef them up a little bit, and post them online, either at the Mirage Licensing site or on this blog, so as to give readers of Volume 4 a clear look at how I intended to conclude that series.

I'll have to double-check to make sure I'm within my rights to do this, but I think it will be okay. And in all honesty, at this point I think it's probably the only way this series will get anything close to its intended conclusion. I apologize in advance to anyone who will be disappointed by this approach, but I sincerely see it as the only reasonable way to go forward, all things considered. -- PL

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A blogging break

Just want to put up this quick notice to say that I probably won't be doing much blogging in the next few days or week, for two reasons, one kind of a bummer and the other pretty wonderful.

The bummer? Well, it's partly my fault, I think, brought on by some messing around with my Macbook Pro laptop yesterday in an attempt to get it to work more like I wanted it to.... the result being that when trying to restart it today, it crashed. Badly. I can't get it to restart, or even allow me to start it up from a system software installation disk. I've tried just about all the tricks I know for bringing a computer back to life, and so far, it's no go. Looks like I'll be making a trip to the Mac store in Northampton this week to pick up a replacement.

All is not gloom and doom, however. Using what is called "target mode"' I was able to connect the nonfunctional laptop to another Mac and see it as an external drive, allowing me to back up most of my key files, which was a BIG relief. So now it will mostly be a pain in the butt getting everything set up on the new laptop the way I need it to be.


The wonderful part is that this week, Jeannine and I will be celebrating our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary. That makes me very, very happy. We have a little trip planned which should be a lot of fun, and I am really looking forward to it. I know I'll be saying this, or stuff very much like this, to her a lot this week, but I want to take a moment to say it here and now, on this blog...

Jen, thank you so much for these wonderful years. I hope there are many more. I love you! -- Pete

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Things Change…" Part Two: Changing things...

Following up on my previous long personal post…

Things have changed, and continue to change.

I seem to have experienced a sort of "personal seismic shift" as regards my relationship to the "stuff" that I talked about last time. I was walking with my good friend Len last week and discussing this very issue, when I suddenly said to him something like this: "With the exception of most of the artwork I own, both by me and by others, a few objects and artifacts which hold sentimental value, my tools and a few motorcycles, and the stuff I need on a day-to-day basis (clothes, computer, etc.), I feel like I could just take the rest, heap it in a big pile, and ship it to the nearest Goodwill or recycling center."

It's pretty strange to feel this way, after so many years of feeling the exact opposite. But it is also quite liberating. I spent some time over the last few days walking around my old studio, looking at all the stuff in the storage space underneath it. A significant portion of that lump of stuff is a set of shelves of boxes of multiple copies of old Turtle comics… and as I looked at them, I started to think, "Why am I keeping all of these?" I couldn't think of a very good answer.

So beginning soon, I think I will be selling most of this collection. I will probably keep most if not all of the limited numbers of first printings of the early issues (don't have many of those anyway), and maybe five copes of each of the rest of them. But the rest will go. I plan to discuss with Katie how to sell these through the Mirage Licensing web site. Some of them will likely be offered for prices higher than the cover price, as they are legitimate collectibles now.

I am also considering offering for sale most of my collection of TMNT toys from the first big licensing/merchandising era, but I haven't reached a conclusion on that idea yet. -- PL

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bold Bunny

No, that's not the title of a new anthropomorphic superhero character, but rather the description I gave this fine fellow, who has appeared at the edge of our driveway -- no more than thirty feet from our front door -- twice in the past two days.

And he (or is it she? I can't tell) has let me walk right up until I am just about six or seven feet away. If I stop moving, the bunny will sit there and we'll just look at each other. But then, if I make a move to, say, crouch down to get a better perspective for a photo, he'll be off into the bushes in a trice. (What is a trice, anyway? I should Google that.)

I don't know if this is the same bunny as mentioned in my previous "Rainbows and Bunnies" post, but I guess it could be. I hope he (or she) keeps showing up. -- PL

P.S. I forgot to mention that the second time "Bold Bunny" appeared, it was not only me standing that close, but Jeannine as well, and our big dog Parker... and the bunny was STILL chillaxin'!

P.P.S. Hmmm... maybe instead of "Bold Bunny", I should call him... "Usagi"!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

After the rain

We had a short rainstorm late in the day today, and when I was walking the dogs I noticed that the rays of the sun, as it was beginning to set, were producing some lovely effects in the moisture-heavy air.

I took this shot in our back yard. I like its semi-tropical feel. -- PL