I just recently had a birthday. I have this rule that I’ve been trying to stick pretty close to for a few years now. I will not give nor do I wish to receive gifts. This is for multiple reasons. I’m broke. Totally poor ass broke. Receiving presents when I have no intent of giving presents just creates a level of anxiety I could really do without. I also don’t really see the point in receiving prizes for living another year. It’s like, “Hey, you’re still taking up space and contributing to pollution and over population. Here’s some free shit.” I have this feeling that I should really earn what I get.
I have the same feelings towards holidays as well, mostly because I’m a godless heathen. Since I don’t really believe in any of the religious stuff I feel like I’m just being a poser by participating in the events. On top of that, nowhere in any religious text does it say presents we’re required material for celebration to succeed. Couple that with being poor, it just makes it easier to not take part than to have the anxiety that comes with being someone who’s just a taker and not a giver (yes, I thought dirty things too while typing that sentence).
When I originally wrote this blog posting 2 years ago it was in response to the fact that I had amassed over the years an astounding amount of nerd stuff. I have thousands of comics, movies, books, toys, posters, video games, etc. If this in any way measured my nerd cred, my power level would be high above super saiyan. I originally was going to write about my top 5 favorite objects, but as I got to thinking I realized, like so many people do in the early adulthood, that it’s all just crap that we surround ourselves with to temporarily stave off the realization that life is kind of disappointing.
So in rebellion to that train of thought I decided that I would instead focus on my top 5 favorite nouns. Basically, the 5 things that I love more than anything in this world. While something on that list could still be an object, I was no longer limiting myself to the idea that I had to look over my Scrooge McDuck sized vault of nerdy awesomeness and pick my 5 things that really don’t matter in the game of life. I don’t really care about receiving gifts. I have plenty of awesome things in my life that I care so much more for. While I appreciate the thought from folks, I really don’t need anymore things and I prefer to now focus on what really matters. With that being said, below is my top 5 favorite nouns.
5. The Beach
So it’s a little cliche but I’m a bitch for the beach (not with shoes on though. That sucks). I’ve lived on it from the ages of 4-21 and I honestly miss it. I’ve had some of the most revolutionary moments of my young life on the coast of Seaside/Gearhart. First kisses, ideas for many stories, some of the only good photography I’ve ever done (see above), good times, bad times, rough times, high times (the natural kind). I fell in love with rainy days because of those sandy shores. I reenacted Normandy with friends. I boogie boarded and got caught in a rip tide. I got stung by a jelly fish. I lived a lot of life.
Over the years I’ve been thinking about going back to it. Like very seriously. And almost every time I stop thinking about it something will show up and make me think about it again. Life was simpler out there. It was quieter, you could always find a private spot, and there was always something to explore. Portland has a lot of cool stuff too, but I’m 90 miles away from the most familiar place to me. My favorite part about entering Seaside is the smell of the ocean on the air when you drive into town. It’s telling me I’m home.
I used to walk up and down the prom some nights in high school and college fantasising about being a vigilante. The beach is pretty much the biggest influence on a story I’m writing that will hopefully take me where I want to go with my life. Is it weird that I think it talks to me from time to time?
4. My Autographed Copy of the Powers Script book by Brian Michael Bendis.
It’s more than just a book to me. This is basically the tangible evidence of the most inspiring moment of my life. Take a trip with me down memory lane and I’ll let you in on what I’m talking about. The summer was 2003. I had just finished up my freshman year of college and I had just figured out the first major story I ever felt like I really had to tell. I was so excited but so insecure in my abilities that I just let it sit there as my frustration grew. My birthday was nearing. I’m notorious for having some pretty shitty birthdays and my friend wanted to put a stop to that and give me a huge party. So we started off the day by heading to Portland to hit up our favorite comic book store, Things From Another World (shameless plug). The day was a day just like any other until in walks my favorite (and arguably greatest) comic writer, Brian Michael Bendis. I was so nervous. I mean just mere feet away from me was the person who was writing the coolest stuff I’ve ever read standing in my comic store chatting it up the clerks. I pulled my friend aside and told him who that was and he encouraged me to go talk to him. Being that I was in shock to the point where I resembled a nutless chimp, there was really no way that was going to happen. So my friend went up to him and dragged me along and introduced us. I was so dumb founded but after I took my lips off his ass we actually started to have a real conversation that lasted well over an hour about comics, movies, and the writing industry. It was awesome. We parted ways and I went on to have one of the best days of my life. But that’s not the most inspiring moment.
About six months later I attended a Portland comic convention. Bendis made a surprise appearance and shared a table with the co-creator of Powers, Michael Avon Oeming. I actually brought a couple of Powers books with me for Oeming to sign, but now Bendis was there too. So I got up to the table and he said, “Mikey, good to see you!” I nearly shit my pants. My hero remembered me. He asked me how my writing was going and if I checked out some of the things he recommended to me (I had). I handed him my books that he signed. I told him our conversation last summer meant a lot to me. As I was saying this he was signing a copy of his $25 script book that he handed to me. I told him I didn’t have enough money for it. His response was (and I swear I’ll never forget this), “pay for it by sitting behind one of these tables one day. Keep writing.” So yeah, my head basically exploded. I met my hero and he not only talked with me, remembered me, but encouraged me to take the plunge into the crazy world of comics.
Since I got this book it’s always been at my desk or in my backpack. Whenever I have a problem with pacing in my comics, I take a peek at that book. Whenever I’m lost and I just want to study something cool, I take a peek at that book. It’s now beat up, spine cracked, corners curled, but most of all, well used. If I lost this book I have no idea what I’d do. This is something I would want to pass on to my kid one day regardless of what they want to do with their life. I would impart it with the above mentioned story and what the book means to me. Hopefully it will encourage them to follow their dreams like it did me.
Since receiving this book I’ve had the chance to take a class from Bendis, and still to this day whenever I see him he always asks about my writing.
3. Matt’s Garage
Remember when you were a kid and you wanted a tree fort or some sort of club house? Well imagine having one when you’re 21. Above the garage of Matt’s mom’s house was basically a space that at one time was intended to become an apartment but somewhere along the way that idea was lost and it basically became a skeleton of an apartment. This was the happiest place on earth. I first wandered into this land of mystery after being invited by Matt to watch a practice of the band, Stop To Think. Hanging out in a room with no insulation at the beginning of winter was definitely cold, but the magic in that place was immune to the harsh weather. It didn’t matter that it was barely stable, deemed unlivable, or that you had to pee out the window, it was more than good enough for us.
When we started playing role playing games up there it really started feeling like home. The scary fireplace and oil heater provided us with a sustainable temperature (unless there was a bird flying around in the chimney). The couches that looked like they were stolen from a smack house were complemented by the coffee table that seemed to always be sticky with an unknown substance. The best part about this place was that it was all ours. Matt’s mom couldn’t lift up the trap door to get up there so it was basically our escape from everything. One of my fondest memories of that place was when Luke brought over some Mountain Dew he got from was botched and couldn’t be sold because it had 3 times the caffeine. Well after 5 people went through 3 cases of that shit you can be pretty sure that we’d be a little weird. I thought I saw a deer run by me when I was peeing out the second story window. That shit was not cool. Good times.
Over the years Matt built a studio up there, but eventually we had all moved to Portland leaving that dilapidated Eden to collect dust and fade to nothing more than a memory. Now that I’m writing this I have a huge desire to have a reunion party up there and play one last game of Wheel of Time or have a band rock out as a bunch of people cuddle together for warmth on the dirty couches. The best nights of my life were in that shit hole.
2. My Friends
I know, it’s cheesy as hell but it’s true. I don’t know where I’d be without all the canuckle heads in my life. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I have so many different kinds of friends. It’s almost like the list of my friends is as diverse as this beautiful country. I’m fortunate enough to have friends from every demographic imaginable with numerous backgrounds, experiences, view points, and lessons to bestow. When I say friends I’m not talking about all the contacts I have on Facebook or Myspace. I’m talking about whoever is reading the ramblings of this chubby guy rocking out in his basement to Bayside while he opens his heart. That’s right. YOU!!! You guys make every moment of my life worth living.
A lot has happened as far as friendships go over the last few years. I’ve made a lot of them and I think I’ve drifted from a lot too. I’ve also drifted closer to people I’ve drifted from. Friendship is weird like that but I know if any of you called with a problem or showed up at my doorstep needing a place to crash I’d totally be there for you (I think I’m done lending TV shows and movies though. Sorry).
My list of friends keeps on growing and growing, and for the most part I stay in pretty good touch with everyone I know. It’s important to me that the people that I care about know it. That they are in fact the gifts I want to see on my birthday and I couldn’t care less if they showed up empty handed or took every piece of food in my fridge. Just being in my life is all I really want.
1. My Brother, Darian
It’s true. I love my brother. He’s easily the single greatest person I know and I’ve never really told him. I’m writing this to tell him he’s not just my brother and my comic partner, but my best friend and he has been for years. This guy went from kicking my ass as a kid to holding my hand through every big moment of my life. I never told him but he’s actually been the light at the end of some dark tunnels. When I had no idea what the hell was going on in my life he’s been there to tell me to suck it up and be a man. He’s been there to talk to about anything from comic books to love.
This guy got me my first job. He was there for my first shot at Sam’s. He was there when I got my call from Dark Horse saying they wanted to interview me. He always gave me a couch to sleep on when I was afraid to go home. He got me my first comics (or did I steal them from him?) He taught me to take a joke but not be the butt of one. He’s encouraged me more than anyone in my life when it comes to chasing my dream. More than anything he taught be how to persevere through the shit storms of life. We talk all the time and it’s never enough. Minutes turn to hours. It’s like we’re in our own little world and the laws of time and space don’t exist. We can fight like brothers but connect like the most mythic of friendships.
Darian, I want you to know that I’ve never looked up to anyone more than I look up to you. You’ve been my real life hero and I swear I’ll never do wrong by you. I’m so proud of everything you’ve done in your life and of the things you’ve yet to do. It’s my goal to see a comic book on the shelves from the Neilson brothers and I won’t be satisfied until that’s a reality. Thank you so much for being you and never letting me down. You’re the mac to my cheese, the Sam to my Frodo, the Han to my Luke, the Simon to my Garfunkle, the Gilgamesh to my Enkidu, the Batman to my Robin, the Thor to my Donald Blake, and the Bill to my Ted. You’re the most important person in my life (I know I’m #2 for you, but it’s a close second to your wife so I can settle). You and I are going to do great things together. I love you.
So you’ve now read my most valued things in all the world. I really hope you guys have put some thought into yours because this is one of those top 5’s that really helps define you as a person.
Speaking of which I’m formally declaring my wishes to the universe about what I want out of life. I want to be a successful comic book writer and teacher. I want to find real love and I want to share all my joys with my nearest and dearest. I’m going to will this into a reality and one day I’m going to be so successful that I’ll have the money to build my replica of the Shire where there will be hobbit holes for all my friends to stay in when they visit. This is my future and it’s what’s going to happen no matter what anyone else says. I see it, I believe it, it will happen.
I love you all and thanks for reading,
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