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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This year's birthday weekend was marked by some unusual weather phenomena, such as the clouds over Brooklyn displaying an odd hue and looking like the gods took the sky and turned it upside down.

Friday night, 5th Avenue and 20th Street in Brooklyn: the upside down clouds.

I don't know what that was all about, but I'd say it was a good omen.

Yer Bunche in the can at Quarter, mere hours before hitting the big four-four.
On Friday night I made my way south of the Vault, down Fifth Avenue to Quarter, one of the classier local watering holes about a stone's throw from where the venerable barbecue joint used to be, for a celebration of my buddy Soren finally returning home after nine months of physical and speech therapy following a stroke. But before the festivities really got well and truly under way, my diminutive and distracting pal Jill (who one of these days I intend to draw as her anthropomorphic equivalent, namely a cartoon otter) snagged some yummy (and cheap) eats at the old school Mexican joint across the street. This eatery is customarily shunned by the local white people in favor of more upscale places, and more's the pity because they don't know what they're missing.

When Jill and I entered the restaurant, there were perhaps five other people seated within, all Mexican, with a cook at work in the no-frills kitchen while a short and corpulent woman stood behind the counter ready to take our orders. Once we made our choices, Jill and I waited for our meal to be prepared and we looked around at the place's sparse decor as a waaaay wasted guy sat at a table across from us, clutching a half-finished Corona in his right hand as he slowly began to sink to the table unconscious. I whispered to Jill, "Hey, There's your new boyfriend!" and just after I said that the woman behind the counter walked over to the drunk guy, picked him up from under the arms, and tired to sober him up by walking him around. That little scene reminded me of similar sights from my barbecue joint days, and I felt a teeny twinge of squalid nostalgia for Greenwood Heights. Soon enough or meal was ready and Jill and I made our way across the street to Quarter, but not before each snagging one of the real Coca Cola's in the green glass bottle that you can use as an ergonomically-handy bludgeon when you've finished its contents. These were the Mexican Cokes that still use cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup, and can only be found in the area in Mexican restaurants that are run and frequented by actual Mexicans, or, as is the case around the block from where I live, Hispanic delis/meat markets. If you can get your hands on one of these marvelous elixirs and are only familiar with the far less satisfying American garden variety Cokes, you're in for a revelation.

Out-of focus and Coked-up Jill.

As we entered the darkened confines of Quarter, there were Soren and his inamorata, Velma, holding court over a number of well-wishers.

A study of Soren and Velma (or how to save a poorly-lit shot by fucking with the exposure and getting it to look "artsy").

This was the first time I had seen Soren in some time, and I was stoked to see how much progress he'd made by way of recovery. Sure there was some speech aphasia, but he was light years improved from where he was not so long ago, and while he still has a good deal of striving yet to endure, I have to say I greatly admire both his indomitable strength and sheer willpower to have made it to his current state. But then again I expected no less from one of the fiercest minds I know and a guy who would haul his ass out of the ashes of such a debilitating situation solely to spite the stroke that attempted to kick his ass and so spectacularly failed. And lest anyone incorrectly think I was neglecting Velma's role in his recovery, let me say that I hope if I ever have to go through what Soren did that there will be a warrior made of stuff as simultaneously compassionate, loving, and of steely resolve to rival that of Velma.

Appropos of nothing, but seen hanging over the bar.

At the start of the evening, Soren did the smart thing and staged a pre-emptive strike against the yuppie/trust fund kid vermin who infest most of the halfway decent bars in the area by loading the jukebox with seventy-five songs of his exacting choosing, and since our musical tastes are within not dissimilar realms I thanked him for that. There was much chatting and merriment all around, and I saw some mutual friends whom I had also not been in touch with for quite a while.

Velma registers interest as Pazuzu speaks through his earthly vassal, Jill.

But, fun though all of that was, I was delighted to discover that the bartender, a guy named David who went to college with Jill, can actually make a Vesper. The James Bond fans out there know a Vesper is the famous cocktail Bond invented in the very first 007 novel, CASINO ROYALE (1953), in honor of his ill-fated lover Vesper Lynde, and I have always wanted to taste one. Mixed drinks have never been my thing — I'm a beer and/or shots man — but since this opportunity was at hand why not take advantage of it? I asked David to work his cocktail-mixing magic, and in no time there was a long-sought-after James Bond cocktail awaiting me.

The cocktail glass awaits its foray into Ian Fleming territory.

David stirs carefully.

The lemon peel garnish is added.

The fully blended libation is poured.

And, voila! An actual Vesper.

All that was left was the tasting, and I was overwhelmed with anticipation after some thirty years of curiosity.

With Vesper in hand.

Yer Bunche sips it...

Hmm...Not bad!

The evening ended somewhat early —Midnight, after a full week of work for all — so I went home to watch THE JUNGLE PRINCESS, the 1936 flick that launched Dorothy Lamour's career, and rest up for the next night's birthday party lunacy.

Considering how mild my drinking was on Friday night, I spent a surprising amount of time in bed and asleep on Saturday, finally rousing myself just before 6PM so I could eat and make myself all purty for the party I was sharing with Zena Metal at O'Connor's pub.

O'Connor's: swiftly becoming my default birthday party location.

As I headed south on Fifth Avenue, it was evident that it had rained during the forty-five minutes between the time it took return to to my apartment and eat half of the small pizza I'd stepped out to order, and in the wake of that brief shower the way to O'Connor's was actually pointed out by a spectacular and enormous rainbow that illuminated Flatbush Avenue.

A magical portent of the drunkenness to ensue.
Arriving at O'Connor's shortly after the designated start time of 7PM, I caught up on my reading until the first of the guests arrived, namely Russ Braun. Russ and I have known each other for just under twenty years now, back when the two of us were both breaking into the comics-biz.

Russ Braun, the first of the evening's attendees.

Russ is a talented penciler whose work has graced the pages of the Jamie Delano-scripted run of ANIMAL MAN, and more recently Garth Ennis' THE NIGHT WITCHES as well as a regular gig on JACK OF FABLES, and I'm glad to see his years of hard work and perseverance are finally paying off.

As the evening progressed, the other birthday kid, Zena, showed up and things kicked off in earnest.

Yer Bunche and Zena Metal, the birthday kids.

Guests from all over the place began to trickle in, and in no time I'd begun distributing stupid hats that make for ludicrous photo-ops.

With Tim Regan, a treasured friend from our growing-up days in Connecticut, now a Tai Chi-instructing sumbitch. He also brought along the toothsome "She Who Cannot Be Named," a female highly-rhythmic individual whose stories of growing up in Weston, a quite similar burb located right next to my hometown of Westport, echo my own war stories, but I unfortunately didn't get any shots of her. That's an error I'll definitely correct when next I see her.

Here's me with the largely like-minded Xtina, former Marvel Bullpen colleague and frequent concert companion. If she lived in my neighborhood instead of maintaining a residence in Queens, I would never get anything done.

Longtime friend Sara and her soon-to-be-hubby, Pat. I met Sara nearly twenty-four (!!!) years ago, back when she was a high schooler who was dating one of my college buddies, and we've been tight ever since. I couldn't be happier to see her getting set to marry Pat, also a survivor of the poison that is Connecticut, and a guy who is in no way a douchebag.

Otter-girl Jill, cuteing up the place.

(L-R) Jimmy Palmiotti, Jill Friedman, Amanda Conner, Russ Braun, Steve Dillon. Vile comic book vermin, the lot of them.

My dear friend Suzi raises a toast with Ken Applebaum.

The lovely Jimmy Palmiotti.

A study in contrasts: some of Xena's crew (not including Pondscum as a representative)...

...and an assortment of my troop of comics-biz monkeys.

The checkerboard hotness of Suzi and Lauren.

Me and Jimmy Palmiotti, modeling our ensembles for the following day's Pride parade.

Good ol' A.C., proving once more that damned near everyone I know is a shameless ham.

As if Zena weren't metal enough, Pondscum and John Czop represented on behalf of King Diamond.

In from the U.K. on the convention circuit and doing charity gigs for the Hero Initiative, Steve (PREACHER) Dillon kindly graced the party with his presence and always welcome sense of humor and revelry.

Since my sixteenth birthday I've genuinely felt that the yearly celebrations of my continued existence kinda suck without my old friend Amanda — better known on this site as A.C. and the illustrator of such wastes of trees as POWER GIRL and THE PRO — and I'm glad she was in town for this one. Here we see myself and A.C. thirsting for a drink from the skull of a fallen enemy while Xtina admires Amanda's knockoff Rocketeer helmet.

Jimmy feigns blindness and discovers some steamy braille.

Among the last of the diehards: John Czop, Pondscum, Ace MacDonald, and Yer Bunche.

Considering how everything else under the sun has been remade or is in the process of a reboot/re-imagining, why not Jimmy Palmiotti as Bugs Bunny? Think about it. It's a no-brainer!

A.C. and the Otter.

A.C. and Jimmy depart as Sven (to the right, lurking in the shadows) arrives.

Sven and the lovely Monica.

It's 3:12AM and the birthday kids made it through to the end.

So when all was said and done, I'd say everybody had a great time, especially me and Zee. Hell, I can hardly wait until next year and the big four-five! (NOTE: I'm the one who's over forty, while Zena remains a tender, sweet young thing. Just so you're clear on that.)


Declan Shalvey said...

Looks like a great night man. How knows; maybe i'll be around for it next year.


Anonymous said...

That's the biggest martini I ever saw. Let's go have another sometime soon?



Unknown said...

Times like this I wish I was a city girl...