Poplife: Issue #4

Thu, February 28th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

How Rick Moody Met His Wife

Give it up for Dean Martin and the Golddiggers!
Give it up for Dean Martin and the Golddiggers!
Sitting in the Cincinnati airport writing this. Weird little sports bar with T-1 hookups in the wall and ESPN on the TV. I give not a crap for the Super Bowl-the X GAMES are on. We were up for doing the show package this year for the X and didn't get it, but ESPN flew me out to Philadelphia to hang out and see the Summer Games. Well, not the games themselves but how they were made and put on the air, all that stuff.

Did you ever watch SPORTS NIGHT? It was a lot like SPORTS NIGHT, only their show lasted from 6 in the morning until 1 or 2 in the morning, and there was a lot less quipping, fewer leggy women running the show, and a lot more swear words and yelling. I smuggled my camcorder into the control booth and, standing in the back behind the Star Trek consoles, filmed the team working together to edit a show live as it was airing on ABC. Unreal adrenaline.

That may have been because I consumed little other than Red Bull and Protein bars for the whole of my time there. Big mistake, that. Did finally get to see Rahzel (he of THE ROOTS) live, which was phenomenal. Played great for his hometown crowd, did the two-beats and singing at once deal, the whole schitck. Great show. The whole show was sponsored by MAXIM magazine, so there were all these weird club chicks in latex nurse uniforms going at it with strange, surly cretins in the corner... an odd abisextrous couple doing the contortionist show... and the seemingly-requisite bad X making its rounds. Kids kept dropping left and right; me, PJ, and some other guys would grab 'em as they fell and drag 'em off the floor so they didn't get crushed and could have their seizures in peace.

Anyway. Between the pressure of masterminding a huge sporting event broadcasting on three networks near-simultaneously, you also had the added bonus of the Athletes themselves. Now, at first, I thought they were nothing more than stoner skate punks who've snowed the world into thinking what they do is worth getting well paid for. And, while I never doubted the skill involved (my own skate-fu was direly weak, back in the day), I was nonplussed towards the whole ACTION SPORTS genre.

Until I saw an insane 17 year old kid named Travis Pastrana fly sixty feet over my head on a sputtery little motorbike the way other folks would walk down the street.

So. A phenomenally gifted company called V12 is doing the on-air graphics this year, but if you've got the chance you should check the games out. Tom Brady is a big fat girl until I see him street-luging down the Pennsylvania mountainside at 50mph or jacking a snow-mobile twenty feet over a snowdrift on a five-lap qualifier hill cross run.

Did I mention I was in an airport? That makes, since December 21st, something like 20 planes. If you're keeping score. Which you should be, because I am the center of all life everywhere. I am like the sun, only surly.

Tim's parent's called to warn him and I laughed. When the drizzle started and it hit my face with a cold little sting, I laughed. When the sky lit up like Baghdad for six hours Tuesday night as transformer after transformer exploded, I stopped laughing.

I was then content to merely chuckle while making plans to evacuate my home swiftly.

An Ice Storm smashed into Kansas City, Missouri, and left more than a quarter of a million people without power.

It left enough debris on the streets to make a six-foot wall from KC to the moon.

Okay, I made that last detail up, but it sounds good, doesn't? When Hurricane Hugo went through Charlotte, NC, that's what they said about the cleanup afterwards. So, Big Bad Ice Storm. Tons of debris. Yeah. Let's talk about that for a second.

It came up like rain and landed as slush. And it continued to build as the temperature hovered around freezing. It couldn't decide if it wanted to melt or freeze, so it remained thick and viscous, like gravel floating in ice water.

And then the temperature dropped hard when the sun set, the winds picked up, and all hell broke loose.

It started across the street from MK12. Tim and I thought it was lightning, only really, really strange. The sky lit up turquoise, and there was a sound more like an explosion than thunder. A few seconds later, the sky went orange and pink. Bits of snow and slush caught the light and reflected it all around. It looked like glitter and ash.

I ran across the street, convinced a bolt of lightning had hit the transient hotel. This is dumb, but knowing KC 911 times, I think I was thinking that I could do something to help. Stupid, I know, but it's what I thought. I ran across the street ready to run into a burning building.

Turns out that the explosion and fire was the first of twenty-some transformer explosions I would see over the next thirty-six hours. The turquoise was power; it was pure electricity blasting out into the streets from a felled power-cable. Thick like a python, the current was so intense that the cable itself snarled and coiled around the ground, a 120-mega volt bullwhip. I stood in ankle-deep slush with a cadre of Mexican cooks; smoking cigarettes and laughing nervously every time the light got so bright it looked like mid-afternoon. The glare hurt my eyes when I stared at it directly and cast weird coronas over everything.

This pretty much signaled the end of our workday; Tim and I split and got back to Ft. Awesome, my apartment building.

And that's where I found, waiting for me in the mailbox, a Notice of Eviction, predated the week prior but not mailed until the day before. The building had been sold a while back, but the real-estate company that manages the property assured us all that, oh no, no one's going anywhere, don't worry. So we stopped worrying. Ft. Awesome is dead. Long live Ft. Eviction.

I add this not for sympathy, as I'd been looking for a new place anyway and Xtop had already moved out, but because it adds a bit of irony to what came after it. I opened the blinds over my large bay window and watched Midtown explode.

Midtown KC, my Genus-'Hood, got hit very, very hard by the storm. It's the oldest part of town, the first two buildings in what would become "Kansas City" still stand not three blocks from Ft. Eviction. Show me a picture of the place from the twenties and thirties, and I can pull my parlor-trick ghetto street-shamanism on it and tell you what you're looking at, what happened to it, where it is now, and how to get there from my living room. I kinda got into that stuff when I came out here. I went out looking for 12th street and Vine, as there are some Lovely Little Ladies there and I'm was looking to get me mine, right? The actual intersection doesn't exist anymore except as a commemorative street sign in a crack-park waydowntown.

Anyway, my part of town is quite old. And it got battered all night long.

A power line fell outside of MK12 World HQ, which is across Broadway from Union Station, which was Hemingway's old beat when he was a reporter here. We're in what used to be a motel right off of the train lines; the alley used to be Baltimore, which used to be one of the main east-west lei-lines in town, running parallel with the Broadway streetcar line. In theory, if you found yourself outside of the Motor Inn Motel (the name of the building MK12 is now located in) and it was 1930, you could walk out of our door, turn left, and walk three or four miles to Ft. Eviction, which is pre-1900 in construction and was just off of the Broadway Viaduct, which was dissembled in 1996.

Writing it out and thinking about it, I suppose I knew that Ft. Eviction has been marked for its fate for a while now, and while unpleasant and certainly inconvenient to be evicted it's really no surprise. The woman that owned it is a strange old woman of David Lynch-level creepiness (I saw her one day, skulking in the back parking lot behind the wheel of her ten-times-too-big golden Lexus wearing some sort of black pantsuit with gold epaulettes and-I swear to god I'm not making this up-a black cowboy hat with gold piping. She could barely see over the steering wheel, and she rolled up her mirrored window as I drove by...I think her teeth were black...).

[These are trees who died, died.]
These are trees who died, died.
Anyway. She's done no work on the building as long as I've lived there. Every tree on the property is long dead.

And when these trees became covered in an inch and a half cocoon of ice, they all started falling.

When a massive tree-limb falls, it sounds like this:

There's a crack, a snap. Low and loud, so much so that when its moment has passed everything is very very quiet.

Then a rumbling disrupts the quiet. That's the sound of a tree limb coming down, of ice breaking, of branches shattering as they cascade downwards.

When it hits ground, it sounds like a choir of wrecked sleigh bells, like if Tom Waits was Santa Claus.

This is the tree what hit my window.
This is the tree what hit my window.
I counted about ten branches fall in and around Ft. Eviction.

So Tim and I begin to try and assess the situation. Who has power and who don't; who can get to where to stay for the night. But as the transformers start rupturing, the power starts browning in and out. We only were dark for about a minute, and that was at the height of it when a string of five transformers went up and down Southwest Traffic way like dominoes in hell. Boomboomboomboomboom, the sky lit up bright blue and green. Then would come the orange of the fires. My phone is cordless and without juice it's useless; Sprint, which is headquartered in Kansas City, switched all local PCS bands to 911-only calls. We're working on getting everyone relocated when we decide it's useless until the storm lets up.

Tim decides to head out. He has an aquarium full of fish to feed and a sugar glider that barks like a little bitch if he doesn't get fed on time.

Outside is a Rube Goldberg trap of fallen limbs and snared power lines. I opened all of my windows to see the situation better. There was a limb that fell and got caught on the power line that fed our building. While not heavy enough to kill the line, there was a bigger, meaner limb above it hanging tenuously to a dead tree trunk. I was guessing, but I thought that if it fell, it would hit the smaller limb and make a kind-of catapult that would yank the main feed right out of Ft. Eviction. I stared at the line until I was sure it wasn't sparking or smoking, went out back and yanked it off of the line.

Yes, I know that's the dumbest move in the history of dumb moves at the dumb bastard academy.

But I wasn't electrocuted.

This is the tree what fell in half.
This is the tree what fell in half.
I was back inside maybe five minutes when that bigger limb fell. It swooped down and to the right, slamming against the window I was staring out of, and not the left, which would've yanked out the juice.

We didn't lose power.

The parking lot had been evacuated except for Jumpsuit Bill's motorcycle, and Rhonda, my '62 Fairlane with the seized transmission. Not a stick had touched either, oddly enough, but between them were four, five, six fallen limbs. Weird.

Across the street, half of a tree fell part. Just fell, like a sword sliced it.

There's a massive tree outside of my bay window. It goes up and splits into a Y. I've watched it buck and sway in tornado winds and have had it marked for falling into the building and killing someone ever since I moved in two and a half years ago.

I packed everything that was important or useful to me in my bag and set it by my front door, half-convinced the tree was going to come crashing in, start a fire, and burn that dump of a building down like one-two-three. I slept on the couch, ready for the tree to try and kill me.

This is the tree what will kill me one day.
This is the tree what will kill me one day.
Half of my friends were without power by the time it was done; everyone got relocated pretty quickly except for Jed, who chose to rough it. He heated his home with boiling pots of water, if I understood correctly. Ft. Eviction ended up being okay. The town looks like a disaster area; it's been declared as much and federal aid will start showing up, along with work crews some time next week. Entire streets are impassable by felled trees. I went out the next day to take pictures; ice and limbs kept falling all around me.

I started on the second part of ANODYNE.

It was hard to focus this week.

Do All You Can to help Rebuild Kansas City. Buy my MANTOOTH! comics. I will then spend the money on Kansas City businesses, some of which sell cigarettes, which will then revitalize the economy.

DOUBLE TAKE #6 (Kick Splode Robot) -- SEP012027


DOUBLE TAKE #7 (Kick Splode Lesbian) -- OCT012494


DOUBLE TAKE #8 (Kick Splode Zombie) -- NOV012389

Who'd have thought that by reading the comic that 4ColorReview said "isn't nearly as funny as it thinks it is" and awarded us with a coveted three stars out of five that you, personally, could save economic lives? I surely didn't. Neither did those guys. But you can. You. Only you. And your money. Buy six.

And the Honor Roll extends this week to Randy and Don over at The Fourth Rail for lovin' them some 'Tooth. Big wet smooches, guys. And Janey Pancake, for not hating me for putting her and her family in Kick Splode Zombie. AND to Tenacious KD, Mr. Kieron Dwyer himself, for saying nice things about our upcoming graphic novel Last of the Independents.

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