A Cartoonist’s Diary

Joyce Farmer: Day One

The Los Angeles Times Book Festival was April 30th-May 1st this year. Carol Tyler, Karl Stevens, and I were on a panel called “Seeing is Believing: The Graphic Memoir”, moderated by Deborah Vankin, the Los Angeles Times writer who loves graphic work. In fact, Deborah has just written and published her own graphic work with artist Rick Mays and others, called Poseurs (Image). It’s nice to have a moderator familiar with the challenges of sequential art. Carol’s book, You’ll Never Know, Vol. I & II (Fantagraphics), and my book, Special Exits (Fantagraphics), both deal with our elderly parents. Karl’s book, The Lodger (KSA), seems autobiographical. All the books are worth reading.

The LATBF treated us well, providing parking, shuttles, good food, and cheery escorts to lead us to our speaking venue. There was an area set aside for the speakers, a place to relax and talk with colleagues. Carol, Karl, and I shared a lunch table with Daniel Clowes, Dash Shaw, and Jim Woodring, who were doing a panel later that afternoon.

Karl Stevens works as a museum guard at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He fills in for other guards so he gets to see each part of the museum in rotation.

Carol had flown to Los Angeles from Cincinnati on Friday. One of her goals while in California was to put her footsies in the Pacific Ocean before leaving town. The nearest beach was Santa Monica, about 12 hot, traffic-filled miles from the book festival. We took the freeway. It was not bumper to bumper because the crowds were already leaving the beaches. The other side of the freeway was in gridlock, normal for Saturday afternoon. Carol was rhapsodizing about her former career as a stand-up comedian at one of the clubs in Hollywood—could we please go to Sunset Boulevard? I was sorry to say no, my idea of hell is driving around Hollywood on a hot Saturday afternoon.

The 10 Freeway ends in Santa Monica, dumping onto Pacific Coast Highway going north. I thought my husband and I could have a cool drink at some restaurant while Carol tested the waters. This was delusional. There were parking lots but no amenities. We found a small parking lot, my husband waited in the car while Carol and I walked the wide expanse of hot sand to the water. Carol borrowed my long white shirt in lieu of sunblock. With a wide-brimmed hat, she was all set.

Once we got to the edge of the water, the air was cooler. Using the long white shirt as cover, Carol took off her hot jeans and went into the sea up to her knees. The water was cold. A few minutes later she was ready to leave, happy that she could tell her friends in the Midwest that she went in the ocean. As a native Californian living two miles from the water, I was reminded how privileged I am.

To compensate for my refusal to drive Sunset Blvd., We went east on Wilshire Boulevard from La Cienega to Carol’s downtown hotel. Highlights: the former Orbach’s at Wilshire and Fairfax, now part of the Los Angeles County Museum complex; the La Brea Tar Pits; the Folk Art Museum where Carol leaped at the opportunity to photograph a colorful political mural for her daughter. She met a person there, a bodybuilder, who seemed to have connections in the entertainment community, i.e. Hollywood. I hope he doesn’t disappoint. Then on through the Miracle Mile; the beautiful Wiltern Theater, now a venue for rock concerts (there was a long line at the ticket window); the big beautiful old synagogue on our left; the former Ambassador Hotel, now a school; Bullocks Wilshire, now a law school; MacArthur Park; and the many art deco apartments and hotels which are still grand in their way. Wilshire Boulevard really is a treasure, I hope Carol had as much fun seeing it as we did.

Joyce Farmer is best known for co-creating the Tits 'n Clits comics anthology in the 1970s. Her graphic memoir Special Exits was a Fall 2010 release from Fantagraphics Books. She lives in Laguna Beach, CA.