In the early to mid nineties, I spent many nights drinking coffee in all-night cafes in New York City. I normally showed up around midnight and often stayed until eight AM. My most frequented spot was a place called Yaffa Cafe on St. Mark's Place. I would grab a sketchbook to bring along and sometimes I would sketch in it, but mostly I wrote. Sometimes it was a short passage about how I was feeling. Those tended to be what you would now call extremely "Emo" and they were usually about unrequited love. I still cringed a little when I read those. Often I wrote down dreams that I had had and more often than not I'd write down ideas I had for films that I presumed I'd someday make yet somehow never did. One night, I walked into Yaffa. I proceeded to my favorite little table in the corner and I ordered my first of what would be several dozen cups of coffee that night. I opened my sketch book and I began to write a little tale that had popped into my head. It wasn't really a story, it was more of a little imagining, a scene at best. When the sun came up that morning and it was time for me to go, I felt that I had not yet finished my little story. So the next night, I went back and wrote some more. I didn't feel it was quite done at the end of that night either. Several weeks later, I was still writing the story in stream of consciousness style, making it up as I went along. I guess I would call it a horror/sci-fi story that also doubles as a guidebook to understanding how reality works and maybe even hints at how to control and alter it! I came to call this tome, "The Nothing".
Well, at some point after months of scribbling in my sketchbook, and after I'd filled it, bought another one and filled that one too...(and my handwriting is really TINY!) I came to a realization. It suddenly seemed silly to me that anyone would publish a novel by me. I mean, I had never really written anything professionally before. I felt that maybe I might be best served spending my time doing something slightly more productive. So the next night, I went to Yaffa cafe but instead of writing the next page of The Nothing I began a new project. I began to draw something that had been in my mind for almost ten years already by then. It was issue number one of what would become the Chi-Chian comic book mini-series.
I'm glad I made that choice. Creating the world of Chi-chian was and continues to be one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done as an artist. And since it got published, it helped me to be able to publish other works and it helped my career along. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I always wondered about that half-finished novel, The Nothing. Well, at some point a few months ago, I decided that I would pull out those books, transcribe my tiny handwriting into a computer ( I should have said "Word Processor" for effect) finish that novel and publish it once and for all.
And that's when it hit me that I had no idea where those books were anymore!
I tore my apartment apart. I even went to New Jersey and searched my mother's basement where I sometimes stash things I have no room for in New York City. They were gone and it was a mystery. Well, today they came back into my possession. At some point very soon I will begin the process of transcribing The Nothing and I may even post it here as I go along. But I do plan to finally finish it and release it for the world to read.
In the meantime, I sit here and in my hands is one of my sketchbooks from 1991. It was given to me by the woman who would become my son's mother. The inside front cover bears an inscription from her. It reads,
"To my Dearest Voltaire-
I turn the book upside down and leaf through it backwards. I had run out of pages and began to write this way, upside down on the back of pages. I turn to the very last short story in the book. It's titled "Of Faith" and it's dated "11/96". I leave you with this short piece before I begin my gargantuan task:
He wandered along the edge of the canyon. Dirt, like cinnamon and cayenne fell into the chasm, pushed by his feet. And he stared off at the vast blue sky with its puffy white clouds in all of their promise of futures and distant lands and the incredible beyond. And he wondered, "Is it me? Can I be the one?". After all, he was young and strong and tan and why not? They know that some, and every so often a bunch, can fly and catch the wind beneath their arms like wings. And why not him? In fact as a child, did not an eagle land beside him? And once, did not a feather fall from those same blue skies to land straight upon his head so that everyone knew that if some of all are bound to be, certainly it could undoubtedly be he? No? Everyone knows it. Some will fly. No one is quite sure of the exact statistics anymore. Four out of five? One out of fifty? But all have known for centuries; engraved in their mythology it has been for as long as any have known anything. And so the next day with much fuss and ceremony, strapping one eagle feather to each upper arm for flavor, he, with a great running start did find himself, arms spread and undoubtedly off of the cliff and in the air. And for a few brief moments that seemed like all of time he did in fact fly, but all in all what terror must have seized him as he began to fall downward and eventually and quietly out of site. His mother would mourn, no doubt. And next year more would follow in his path, all too exactly in his path because after all everyone knows that some of all will fly into that vast blue and puffy whiteness. Only his little sister wondered why no one could name the name of one they personally remembered doing so. Ever.