I’m Outta Here. You Come Too.
I don’t know where I’ll end up. Care to join me?
WHEN I WAS A SENIOR IN COLLEGE I randomly landed a walk-on part in Chekov’s The Three Sisters. My only responsibility was to stand on stage holding a samovar and looking repressed, so I had plenty of time to listen to the real actor’s dialogue.
The entire play seemed to turn on the three sisters’ vain hopes of leaving their rustic town and reaching Moscow, where real life would begin. Finally.
IRINA: To leave for Moscow. To sell the house, finish with everything here and — to Moscow…
OLGA: Yes! To Moscow, soon.
My “Moscow, “ for the last two years, has been to finish writing and illustrating a graphic memoir. I sometimes think of it as The Road to Elsewhere, and sometimes as…
As followers of this newsletter know, it’s an illustrated account of that key moment in my life when I turned my back on everything and everybody to embrace a new path in life.
Hell no. Have you been there? It’s a hellhole.
I chose Paris. The bakeries are way better.
But now I’m at a “To Moscow!” moment with my memoir, in the Chekovian sense. My book has attracted the attention of a Big-Ass Book Agent (hi, B.A.B.A!), which is either Great-Leap-Forward or a Huge-Disappointment-to-Come. I celebrated the possibility of the Great Leap for half a day, and then turned to the B.A.B.A’s advice: Take another look at my artwork, to make sure it’s up to snuff.
He had a point, which is why he’s a B.A.B.A.
I have been writing a lot — too much — over a long career as a journalist and ghostwriter (Playboy, Men’s Health, Backpacker; three NYT bestsellers under other people’s names, oof). The artwork, OTOH, is relatively new for me, but I love doing it. I find that my drawings fall into dialogue with my words like a pesky little brother: They point and laugh at me when I’m taking myself too seriously.
A useful spirit!
So, in deference to the B.A.B.A, I’m adding images that I hope will be an effective court-jesterly presence to make fun of 22-year old me, in Paris and elsewhere.
Hey! Watch out, younger self!
And, that feeling when you’re empty-headed and floating through new terrain.
And here’s a glance down at my tray-table on Air France all those years ago, on a one-way ticket from New York to What the Hell?
This how I felt on my inaugural stroll up the Boulevard Raspail in Paris, taking my first wayward steps on the road to the rest of my life.
The pin didn’t actually prick me, so my empty head remained inflated. All there was left was for me to fill it, and my days, somehow.
The sun didn’t like my prospects, obviously.
Looking through my sketchbooks, I also found this image, which speaks to that same falling-sideways-through-life feeling.
All wet, but maybe in a good way.
As I work up my sample chapters/drawings for the Big-Ass Book Agent, I’ll actually be boarding a flight for Paris, where it all began for me. So I’ll either have a really great place to celebrate landing representation, or a really great place to lick my literary wounds and maybe even slather them with chocolate. Or drown them in red wine.
I know: both!
However it turns out, I’m heading off with pencils and watercolors at the ready. You can paint yourself into a corner, but out of one as well.
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