G A N Z E E R . T O D A Y


16 Celsius in Mexico City today, but I swear it feels more like 6. Even if the weather apps claim otherwise. It's the humidity, which just as it tends to make things warmer come summer, makes the world much colder in winter. It's the kinda cold that gets into your bones. Mexico City in December is evidently not for me.

But I did make a breakthrough in THE SOLAR GRID today, a singular plot point (albeit a rather drastic one) in the very last chapter that allows for the ending I've always wanted to come together more smoothly. So, all is well.

#travel #work #comix #CDMX #theSolarGrid

Starting to get that What-Am-I-Doing-Here(?) feeling, despite having met a few people here in Mexico City which you'd think would make one feel like less of a displaced outsider. I reckon part of it must be the nature of the AirBnB I'm at which turned out to be a little too hostel-like, and as such does not invite spending a while lotta time at. I spend the vast bulk of my day bouncing between cafes and now all I want is a home-cooked meal and the comfort of my own studio. It's only been a little over a week and I still have yet another 5 days to go. Feels like I've been here for close to a month. Time passes very differently when each day isn't so different from the one that came before or the one that comes after. Cannot cut my trip short though, as I still have yet another dentist appointment on the agenda, in addition to a handful of Spanish classes, and also quite a bit of thumbnailing/scripting on the very last THE SOLAR GRID installment.

But being back in my own bed would be nice, as would the embrace of my little boy.

#journal #work #travel #cdmx

Since I've been getting asked quite often about my Mexico City recommendations (3 times in the past week alone), I figured I might as well post them up here for anyone who might be interested.

Accommodation: I like to stay in Condesa, which is a little on the pricey side for Mexico but it's the greenest and most serene while simultaneously being within walking distance of all my favorite spots. I rarely spend a lot of time at the actual AirBnB, and mostly spend my days roaming around. As such, I tend to go for a tiny accommodation that offers little more than a bed and hot shower, and can therefore score something that is somewhat reasonably priced. Being in Condesa, I'm close enough to Avenida Amsterdam where I can start my day with an early morning jog before making my way into Parque de Mexico to peruse the free public exercise equipment.

Breakfast: Breakfast is a big deal here as it is to me, so there is no shortage of scrumptious breakfast spots but here's a list of my favorites: * Ebano Cafe * La Cadencia Lonchera * Delirio * Santo Habanero * Cafe B

Cafe: Cafe culture is strong in CDMX and you'll literally be tripping over the many options, but my favorites are: * Quentin * Amin * Clarice Cafe y Literatura * Ozuluama (more of a wine bar, ideal for the late afternoons, but they also serve excellent coffee and small bites) * Blend Station (cafe in a bike shop, it's a vibe) * Casa Cafe

Other Food: Again, the options are really very endless. Between every two restaurants is another restaurant or food stand, but here are a few of my favorites: * Marlindo (Excellent seafood. Tostadas are a must.) * Kebab Bistro (Chic fusion, very yummy) * Street (Try their duck confit in squid ink rice) * Pizza Nosferatu (Good artisanal pizza with a side of craft beer and/or mezcal) * Expendio de Maiz Sin Nombre (Some of the best food I've ever had in my life, but it comes with a twist: No menu. You just ask for whatever they've got. They will bring you phenomenal dish, after which you will be asked if you're still hungry. If the answer is yes, they will bring you a different dish, as equally innovative as the first. The process carries on until you declare: “Listo!” or, all done.)

Now, in another part of town, Coyoacan, is this amazing eco chic “food hall”. Kind of like a courtyard with many restaurants and bars and live music. Very nice: * Mercado del Carmen Coyoacan

And while in Coyoacan, you'll want to check out: * Mercado de Coyoacan: Marketplace filled with arts & crafts and clothes and books and food and gifts and many more.

Museums: So many to see, all amazing. The highlights for me though: * Museo Casa Estudio Diego Riviera y Frida Kahlo (the studio homes of Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo, probably only interesting to artists and architecture buffs) * Museo Nacional de Antropologia * Palacio de Bellas Artes

Other: * Dental Clinic Emmanuel: Best dental experience in the known universe. * Derma MX: Delightful dermatologist, very attentive. * Dayaks Tattoo & Luxury Piercing: Not bad, not mind-blowing, but certainly good and hygienic. * Global Comics Noveno Arte: The name says it all.

More Info: * You'll be tempted to Uber or Didi (the cheaper alternative) around most of the time because how affordable it is compared to the states, but try the Metro from time to time, it's quite easy to navigate and covers large swaths of the city. * Biking is also an excellent way to get around. Great bike-lane infrastructure. Many city-bike stations available. * The Paseo de la Reforma is closed off to cars on Sundays before 12:00pm and is utilized by joggers and cyclists. You'll be remis to pass up on joining in. * Most places accept credit cards, so if you have one that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, it'll save you the hassle of carrying around a bunch of loose money. But always having a few hundred pesos on you is not a bad idea just in case you run into the occasional very small vendor that doesn't do cards.

#journal #travel #CDMX

Third day in Mexico City again and already my habits have changed: Jogging and exercise first thing in the morning, followed by a hefty breakfast (eggs and meat + fruit bowl or juice + coffee), and then work straight into the late afternoon. These days I'm mostly working out the last stretch in THE SOLAR GRID (about a chapter and a half), which mostly entails lots of thinking, plotting, scriptwriting, and thumbnailing. It's the grand finale of an 8-year-long journey, and for everything to land just right I need to handle it with utmost care.

Between all the deets involved in divorce stuff back in Houston, in addition to all the necessary home studio tweaks calling out to me in the new place I moved into last March, it's been very difficult to concentrate or get anything done efficiently. My trip to CDMX, kind of a fluke, has come as a godsend.

It was back in April when I had accidentally booked a wrong flight (I blame the tooth agony) which apparently could not be cancelled but could be altered, as long as it was within the year 2023. I chose December for no particular reason, but it works out great because I was due for a routine dental visit anyway, and the tattoo I got here back in April needed some touching up. Mexico City, as it just so happens is where I come for self-maintenance. Not just physical maintenance, but maintenance of the soul as well. I'm able to think here, to contemplate with a clear head. And everything about the place satisfies me: the sounds, the smells, the aesthetics, and the way things operate. It all sits very well with me.

It's also a good place for me creatively. Last time I was here I wrote the first draft of a short science fiction story for a forthcoming anthology, and this time I'm working out the finale for my long in-progress graphic novel.

My Spanish is still shit though. It's something I've decided to focus on resolving going forward. Despite Mexico no longer being a possibility of a place to relocate, not with the legalities surrounding the joint custody arrangement I have with my child's mother now. But Mexico City is only a 3-hour flight from Houston, so it can ostensibly become a place I revisit 2-3 times a year. Just for maintenance.

#journal #travel #cdmx

May there be a special place in hell for people who watch sitcoms really loud in their hotel rooms well until 5:00am

#journal #travel

In Mexico City you will experience a full year worth of seasons in a single day. Mornings start off cold under a thick blanket of gray, which rips open just before noon, allowing the hot hot sun to peer through. You will sweat and squint your eyes, even behind mirrored-sunglasses, and this will last for a good few hours until the clouds return and decide to come down on you with thick fists of hail. The sky in Mexico City will seem so awfully close to your head, which will make absolute sense once you discover that the city is even higher than Denver, America’s touted “Mile-High City”. Why isn’t this fact so popularly known, you will wonder. Until you realize that Mexicans care little for too much branding.

The above is from a short reflective thing I wrote about my time in Mexico City. It can be read in its entirety: here.

#journal #travel

Faces were seen that hadn't been seen in close to a decade, most often by coincidence. The dread of repeat conversations completely unnecessary; “what've you been up to” hardly even uttered. Rather than rehash actions and activities, a meandering of thoughts, ideas, and contemplations takes over, like it used to always be a long time ago. Intellect and folk-philosophy propelled by an undercurrent of effortless humor fuel boundless chit-chatter. Minutes easily unfold into hours with little regard for things like “schedule”, a word never once spoken despite it constituting the building block of existence elsewhere, including—you must admit—your own. This singular difference somehow replaces the material world from being the default with something else. Not quite “spiritual”, because that sounds loaded and disingenuous, but a way of being that emphasizes the person and not so much the vessel. A way of being. Being.

This despite the onslaught of very material sensations: crowds, sounds, smells, paper money, and air so thick with dust and car exhaust you can almost grip it in your hands. Conflict, frustration, and alienation combined with familiarity and belonging. But wasn't it always that way, even before your so-called banishment?

Perhaps you've always been of two worlds before materially being between two worlds. Perhaps you were never meant to exist in one or the other, and perhaps that was the very source of your frustration and—by consequence—rebellious streak.

Or maybe you're just old and decadent now. Especially now given the day, month, and year. What are the odds you would experience this now? To cement your existence between two worlds at the exact midpoint of the acknowledged human lifespan. The same age that old bearded idol of yours went shaman and began worshiping an idol of their own making. How you regularly joked you would do the same, but maybe the joke's on you. Either way, it feels good—and one might say necessary—to reconnect. But also, in a way, disconnect.

#journal #travel

Atlanta. The South, where it should never go down to 0°C/33°F but is in fact 0°C/33°F. I will have to abandon the trusty electric Spin bikes I've been relying on for most of transportation thus far, on my last day in this glorious city, where the trees are tall, hills are numerous, and clubs are a-thumpin' (not that I would know, being the Covid-conscious fellow that I am).

Last day in the city before I embark on my return to Houston tomorrow evening where quite a bit of work awaits me. THE SOLAR GRID has been almost continuously on hiatus for the past six months due to a cascade of paying work, which is not at all something I'm proud of. I have one more obligation in the way (approximately 2 weeks worth) before the coast is clear for full on TSG immersion.

#journal #work #travel

First moment of peace since arriving in the UK some 2 weeks ago if you can believe it. For reasons I'd rather not really get into, the place we were meant to stay at upon arrival could no longer be stayed at, and we had to scramble to find a new place to crash. Not an ideal scenario in general but especially not ideal if you're also expected to quarantine for 10 days.

We found ourselves holed up in a tiny hotel room in High Wycombe, while trying to coordinate all kinds of NHS and test things over the phone. I gotta say, I'm thoroughly impressed by the NHS. They're so meticulous they had an NHS agent show up at our hotel and interrogate the front desk about our quarantine practices!

Also, I now realize that whatever “lockdown” we might've experienced in the U.S. at any point was so not lockdown at all!

Anyway, did our day 5 Test-To-Release thing (which is so worth it), tested negative, and moved to an excellent AirBnB in Acton (West London). Which, whenever I mention to anyone, the response is always “Why Acton?!”.

I don't get it, it's a great neighborhood, and it's on the Piccadilly line!!

In all seriousness, it's just a strategic enough location to be within reach of central London and easy to get to for family members living in High Wycombe. It is a little funny because as it turns out there's a big Arabic-speaking community in Acton, complete with a mosque and all the scrumptious food.

Truth be told though, wherever I go in London I always hear at least one person speaking in some form of Arabic. Not to mention other languages in general. I really like how multicultural the city is, a true cosmopolitan hub. And although it sometimes feels like I've made the trek across the ocean just to get tested a bajillion times (still one more test to do before boarding plane back to America), I'm really enjoying walking down its streets, and sheltering from the recurring rain in pubs and bookshops. This despite the jam-packed schedule that leaves little room for a care-free snooze.

#Journal #Travel

Writing this from DC where I begin touring with Ramy Essam and his band along the American East Coast. Which sounds a lot more extensive than the four cities it entails (DC, Philly, Pittsburgh, and New York). Here's the poster I designed for it:

Beyond Resistance 2020

I only arrived just last night in time for the first of Ramy's performances, and I've already been asked more than once what my involvement with the tour will be, and well... I'm not quite sure, nor is Ramy quite frankly. But prior to the tour, we had been talking about a lot of visual stuff. Tour posters and merch aside, we've been discussing album art for some of his upcoming releases as well as potential approaches for the making of music videos, and even a bit of fashion. This was all over the phone; What's App calls keeping us connected across continents, me in the States and Ramy in Sweden. He figured his being stateside for tour was probably a good opportunity for us to hang on a day-to-day basis and have the opportunity to discuss and brainstorm things in detail, and I had to agree. On top of that, I'd actually never seen Ramy perform before, not even during the tumultuous times of Tahrir Square some nine years ago—where Ramy first started performing. We were both aware of one another's activities but our paths only ever crossed several years later in New York City, after having both been forced into exile.

I'm not sure enough people—“Western observers” especially—realize the tremendous role played by Ramy, not just back then and not just in Egypt, but even today and from a significant distance no less. Here's one of his songs effectively utilized as a “weapon” on the rebellious front lines of Beirut just last night.

All this to say, it's kind of a no-brainer that Ramy and I would collab. Aside from my tagging along giving us the opportunity to talk lots of shop, I'm also utilizing it to draw inspiration for some of the visual stuff. I'm not sure how that will transpire exactly, but for now I'm enjoying getting a first hand look not just at the performances themselves, but all the lead-up stuff backstage as well as the wind-down that follows.

I'm also enjoying taking the occasional photograph.

The calm before the storm.

Rocking out the foyer of the Kennedy Center

It should be noted that last night's concert took place at the Kennedy Center, which is practically the United States most official performance venue in existence. To have Ramy and his band rock out at the Kennedy Center's foyer (non-ticketed, unavoidable to anyone walking to and from any other performance taking place in the building), shaking the walls and columns with Arabic rebel music is pretty fucking badass. Love that they opened with “Age of the Pimp.”

They killed it.

TIMEP's Mai El-Sadany peering right through Ramy.

Seated with Ramy in that last picture is TIMEP's very awesome Mai El-Sadany, who is clearly peering right through the man.

More soon.

#journal #travel #BeyondResistance #WashingtonDC #RamyEssam