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Comics Camp: Tuesday And Beyond

And then it was done; breakfast on Tuesday was followed by an all-hands talk about what Camp had meant, what lessons we were going to take with us from this intentional community of weirdos who normally are very isolated for much of their careers¹. What we’d learned and how we’d changed. Here’s the one line I wrote afterwards:

Gods damn, this place is better than a year’s worth of therapy.

(This was not far from where I’d written, for about the fourth time, I am fucking lucky.)

We’re not all going away until the year’s elapsed, naturally; the nature of modern communications and social media means that the impromptu tribe is never more than an hour or two out of communications with itself. The kitchen was scrubbed² and food packed out, luggage gathered and cabins swept³, and the bus loaded with those Campers that were on the 1:30pm flight to Seattle (enough that maybe they shouldn’t all be on the same flight; in the event of a disaster, your average cartoonist is both stringy and not terribly nutritious).

Those remaining — locals, people with later flights — made sure that the remaining stuff (mostly food and ukuleles) got loaded out and away from prying wildlife. Remember I told you that ravens would fly into cars to start poking around? During the packing up process, I closed the gate of a pickup truck’s bed cover; it was opened again so that somebody could add a box o’ stuff and in the five seconds that nobody was directly looking at the truckbed, a raven flew in, grabbed an entire loaf of bread in her talons, flew about 10 meters away, and started snacking4.

I was given a lift back to town by Tara (a self-proclaimed benevolent mercenary5; she’d worn a lab coat all weekend after the Saturday morning science march at the state legislature building), who showed me around the upper reaches of Juneau, through valleys and hiking trails, and into the historical site of Douglas Island.

Douglas is where the gold mining took place, and as fate would have it, it was just about 100 years to the day of the cave in that closed the Treadwell mine for good; the ruins feature bits of old buildings, old machinery rusted to Hades and back, the occasional intact shell that looks like a place to dump bodies. There’s a beach there, too — built not on sand, but 80 acres of pulverized rock and mine tailings that the gold was pulled from; lots of people walk their dogs there now.

Dinner with the other stragglers, a stupid-early taxi to the airport for a 5:30am liftoff, and then back to a world that is not Camp, not Juneau, not Alaska. I was left with the same feeling that I had the first time I visited New Orleans, where I felt an undercurrent that seemed to say You’re not home, this isn’t America anymore. This is New Orleans and we’re older than America, we’re something different, we won’t ever be the same as places you’re used to. Deal with us on our terms.

Comics Camp is different from every place we came from (even for those locals that just went up the road for a bit to join us), a place built on the people that gathered there for a long enough time to get to know each other, a short enough time to not know everything about each other, a temporary place to recharge us before we returned to our homes, ready to make more.

And now you’ve got maybe an idea of what it was like, except for all the parts that I’m still figuring out, and all the parts you had to be there for, and all the parts that aren’t anybody else’s business. Oh, and in case you might think it’s just an exercise designed to let Pat & Aaron just hang out with friends for a weekend, here’s what the state of Alaska thinks about their promotion of the arts year round.

It’s a hard, largely anonymous task they’ve taken on for themselves, which is helping artists up and down the state — and across North America — to find their people and create more art. Please consider the last seven posts less a massive self-indulgence and more a 10,000 word Thank You to some people I can’t ever thank enough.


All of us: those that went to Camp, those that were there last year, those that wanted to go and couldn’t, those that figured it wasn’t for them (spoiler: it’s for everybody), those that wouldn’t go near a group outing in a hundred years, every single damn one of us, there’s just one thing left to do.

Time to make stuff.

And come to Camp! We’ve got s’mores.

Confidential to P & M In Juneau: Hey! You’re getting married! There is no limit to the amount of joy that I’m wishing you both.

¹ And for once, I’m going to consider myself a full part of the cohort; my job may appear to be social on the surface, but it’s actually fairly isolated. Much of my teaching schedule is done remotely, via computer and phone. When I have an in-person class, it’s with students that I’ll never see again. I’ve not had a boss in the same state as me for most of 20 years now.

² I mentioned to my wife, who just got her ServSafe certification, that we were cleaning the (not particularly dirty) freezer and fridge interiors with bleach and she was impressed.

³ Again, my everlasting respect to my fellow Nagoonberry Cabinmates; I don’t think the lights were ever switched on or a full-voiced conversation took place until we were packing up in broad daylight. People came into the cabin with flashlights held in their teeth and an easily-ignored flurry of zipper and velcro noises accompanied the bed-settling routine.

Even the very occasional snores formed a sort of complementary soundscape, like a lightswitch rave without the siren noise. Libby, Angela, Aubrey, Katie, Rebecca, and Kazu, you have my everlasting sleepytimes gratitude, and next time I see you the first round of drinks is on me.

4 We decided that such brazenness deserved a sacrifice and I tossed two more slices to the piratical corvid; her beak was full, but she hopped over and snagged up the additional food in her beak before awkwardly flapping off to find a hiding space. Well done, you thieving genius. Remember me when I return.

5 Tara, get a website I can point people towards because you are a neat person with lots of knowledge to share and I want to point them towards you so they will get smarter and better.

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