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West Coast Trip

October 12, 2012

My parents’ three mistakes goofin’ around downtown

Before I get into this post about my trip, I want to say that if you ordered a book in the last two weeks, thank you! and they are going out tomorrow. If you emailed me about a missing order or a mistake, please be patient as I try to track them down and respond to emails. If you need to contact me about an order, please email [email protected] Pretty please do not facebook message me. If you emailed me recently and I do not respond by Monday, feel free to email me again as I’m sure a few emails got lost in the shuffle. Okay, enough of this, here’s a post totally unrelated to comics or books or shows or any of that racket:

Disclaimer: I’m going to start posting more often about travels and urban exploring adventures I did over the summer since it was the first time I’d taken a break from comics in many years. I normally refrain from posting about trips on account of who fucking cares, but if I’m not making comics about something, I want to document it in another way for future reference. So consider this an extremely abridged and trivial version of a comic.

I usually visit my family during the fall in order to avoid the existential dreads that arise from going home for the holidays, and this year I went in October to accompany my older brother on a road trip down the coast and into Arizona. I prefer red eye flights to cut down on airport kerfuffles and crowds, but when leaving NYC I try to take morning flights just so I can see this:

I grew up in Northern California in the foothills of a valley on the last street on the edge of town in a 120 year old farmhouse that my parents bought for about 20k before living out in the boonies was considered a desirable thing. (now the houses around us go for upwards to a million or more) Here’s the street as it is today…

and the house as it was in the 80’s.It hasn’t changed at all in the last 30 years. I took a lot of interior photos to compare to drawings in The Infinite Wait, but I’m going to save that for another post.

You can’t really see it, but this banner downtown is a warning about the glassywinged sharpshooter, which is a big problem in town. Also a specific moth that’s reeking havoc and, as the second photo billboard shows, bug smuggling. It’s a small town.

On Thursday, my little brother and I drove to San Francisco for my book release party at Needles & Pens, but first we stopped off in the Presidio to do some tomfoolery. Jonathan was much better at it than I on account of his youth, so I’m only posting photos of him.


Then we headed on down to the Sutro Bath ruins, one of my favorite parts of the city.

I crept really close to an egret and snapped this photo and blew my own mind:

This is what the Sutro Baths looked like in 1896:


and here’s what it looks like today. (Note the same rock out in the ocean on the first photo)


Below the cave you’re allowed to go in is a little passage to the other side of the mountain. You have to trespass at low tide to get in and it’s full of barnacles and sea anemones, so if you do it, tread lightly. Also be warned that you’ll get a filth on your hands that you can’t wash off no matter how hard you scrub, so don’t touch the walls unless that’s something you want to marvel at for days like I did.


The book party at Needles & Pens was packed, thanks so much to everyone who came out for it! Sorry we ran out of books so fast. You can order one from me or Secret Acres if you want, or go back to Needles & Pens later when they have more. Here’s the audience and me reading with Marinaomi and Tessa Brunton.


On the way home, we picked up the older Wertz brother from the Oakland airport. I wrote it that way because later on the trip we saw this sign and it was weird:

speaking of brothers, here’s some obnoxious photos of the three of us goofin’ around, either to my mom’s delight or horror, not sure which.



My older brother and I took a walk down the street to find our old creek fort behind the berry bushes, which was now grown in, save a few remnants of the rope swing and some boards from the two story tree fort.

Back in the day, we’d bent/tied the branches to build a tunnel to a little fort inside the berry bushes, creating a leafy, thorny passage way accessible only by small children, where the Playboys and cigarettes were stashed.

Here’s the tar tunnel under the street we played in…

and the old bridge in our backyard that has long since fallen into the creek.

My brother took this photo and captioned it: “I caught it and tried to sell it to an exotic pet shop but they said there wasn’t much demand for these because of all the snacks you have to constantly feed them.”

It turned out that our stroll down memory lane resulted in me getting stung by a hornet and Josh stepping in poo. But to my brother’s credit, when the hornet was inside his shirt, he chose to alert me by song instead of screams, which really, if you have bad news, song is the way to go to alert people of it.

The next day we met up with our old man at the diner we used to go to every Sunday before church as kids. These days, he’s really into “eating diatomaceous earth, food grade, not swimming pool grade,” which is a pretty interesting and horrifying way to get rid of bugs. It’s worth looking into if that’s your concern. Seems like they should use that to get rid of the glassywinged sharpshooter.

The diner hasn’t changed much, except for the removal of the booths and a paint job. This the counter where I would go sit and pester Ned, the short order cook who would sneak me hot chocolate and donuts.

We tried to get dad to take photos of us on my iphone, which led to a series of “laughing at dad being old” photos, a joke he’s totally in on.


My dad lives here in Arizona but he was in town fixing up an old boat out in the marina.


Despite being around two of the most foodie capitals in the world, we kept eating at the taco truck by the junkyard because it was fucking delicious. My brother and I share the same sentiment about food while traveling, which is that neither of us care and it takes up too much adventure time to sit down to a long meal. We street trucked our way through Paris last year too.

Then we sat around making some serious faces because Josh just got instagram.


Here’s some shit for ya: this is the church I went to for 15 years, where my dad was a reverend when I was little. So, yeah, religion was a thing we were all into for quite some time. Weird, I know.

This is window of my childhood bedroom and the sealed up door I was obsessed with on account of knowing it was magic.

Aaaaaaand here’s us playing scrabble on various nights. My ma was surprisingly horrible at it and Josh was upset that two of his tiles were grapes and he couldn’t play the word “fonky” despite saying it repeatedly. There was 100% more yelling and laughing than should ever occur during such a mild mannered game.



After puttering around the Bay Area for a week, my older brother and I started our road trip from San Francisco to LA to Arizona. When we were kids, our parents drove us down the coast a number of times but it never gets old.  I mean, just look at these colors! JUST LOOK AT THEM!!! it’s so beautiful that it makes me feel insane.

We pulled over to pee in Campbell, the town where Lars Frederiksen of Rancid grew up. We didn’t pick that town on purpose but it reminded me of when, on purpose, we went to 560 State Street from that Jay-Z song and it was a real estate office or something. Woof. Don’t tell anyone that we did that.

Then we made a snack stop at a vegetable farm stand where I did this with a brussel sprout stock and no one was happy about it.

We briefly stopped by Mt. Herman, the Christian family camp we went to every year as kids. We arrived during the 11am prayer circles and it totally gave me the deja vu douchechills. My brother said all his memories of camp involved crushes on girls and all mine were about hiking in the creek, singing songs about Jesus and forming friendships that were going to last FOREVER. Or until the end of camp.

Back along highway 1, we snapped this photo and then got the creeps real bad about how related we look.

Next we hit up Big Sur and saw McWay Falls, the most poorly titled waterfall ever but goddamn if it wasn’t the prettiest.

I spotted this lil’ guy by the sea. He had a lot of feelings.

Josh said if he ever saw a guy making this face, he’d push him into the ocean.

We stopped at the Madonna Inn because we always used to stop there so the boys could pee into the waterfall in the bathroom. The Madonna Inn is by far the most splendidly tacky hotel I’ve ever had the misfortune of laying my eyeballs upon.

I never got to see the bathroom waterfall as a kid because of rules about not going in the men’s bathroom or whatever but now I’m a grown up so I can do whatever the hell I want!

Look at this idiot doin’ stuff on the beach

In San Luis Obispo we only had time to make one stop, so we made the grossest stop possible: Bubblegum Alley.

Barf a million, you guys.

As kids we never stayed in hotels because we had an amazing old motor home, but there was one exception, which was Apple Farm. I used to eat these candy sticks all the time but now they just tasted like a stomachache and dental work. Being a grown up is the worst.

Being that we were in a car this time, we stayed at a hotel where I terrified Josh by doing the puppet dance, a jig that Laura Park accuses me of plotting to do on her grave someday.

oh look, here’s some goddamn fucking sea lions

The next day we stopped at Venice Beach where the first thing we saw was a teenager hit a pigeon with a bat and then break its neck with his bare hands.  I just kinda stood there like wtf and then moved on like nothing happened because, eh, a week earlier in SF, I watched two dudes poop on the street in public so what are you gonna do.

If I ever see a guy making this face, I’m going to punch it off

We spent too long at the skate park because watching skaters is actually pretty fascinating. The Venice skate park is famous for being the place where kids get scouted, go pro for awhile until they get old or blow out their knee and then they come back to Venice Beach to be a bum.

On the way out of Venice Beach, I saw this horrible, living nightmare and I haven’t been the same ever since.

We spent a few days in LA, which I thought I would hate, having disliked it as a kid, but turns out I really like it. The whole city looks like it hasn’t been touched since the 70’s, save a few Starbucks here and there. It’s really decrepit and bleak, two things I’m pretty fond of for short periods of time.

Here’s the Marilyn Monroe without her wig at the Chinese Theater, the only photo I allowed myself to take of costumed performers because I find them incredibly disconcerting.

We went to the movies and saw End of Watch, which was really good despite its highly improbable and loose plot lines. I’d highly recommend it, especially if you want some good, desolate LA neighborhoods/architecture porn.

At night we found a hole in the fence leading up into the Hollywood Hills so naturally we snuck through it and hiked on up a steep hill, where this view awaited us at the top.

There was a lot of rustling in the bushes behind us, which was making me way more nervous than when I do this kind of trespassing. Then we found this and almost lost our minds.

I’m pretty sure the fright of the night before is what led to this impressive bed head. I kept yelling from the bathroom for my brother to come look at my hair but he wouldn’t so I went into the room and he still wouldn’t look at it because he didn’t care at all, but a few weeks later he texted this: “remember when you had funny hair and I refused to look at it? I keep thinking about that and laughing.” What a dick.

On the way out of LA, we drove through Skid Row, which had recently been somewhat cleaned up but is still a solid few blocks of tent city. This is the shelter area from the documentary. The photo I took was really dark so I lightened it in instagram, prompting my brother to shame me by saying “I can’t believe your instagraming Skid Row. That’s actually a thing you’ re doing. That is what is happening right now.”

The rest of the drive was pretty grim as the highway between LA and Arizona is mostly desert and rest stops.

My brother wouldn’t stop “car dancing” and I was going to text a photo of him to a friend and then I made this joke while pretending to be my friend looking at the text message: “Oh, your brother can’t stop car dancing? Well I can’t stop not giving a shit.” And then I laughed at my own joke and repeated it here on the internet, much to my disgrace.

Our trip ended in Prescott, where my brother lives. Here’s Josh and Charlie outside the ice cream place, which a strategically and unfortunately placed hand. This place sells Thrifty’s ice cream, which I thought was extinct sometime in the 80’s when the Thrifty’s drug stores disappeared but turns out the ice cream is still around and jesus no one cares about this but me but I just care SO MUCH.

And to wrap it up, here’s a photo that looks like a shitty Bret Easton Ellis book jacket:

And here’s where I want to live when I grow up:

so that’s it! Then I flew back to New York and spent three days staring at the wall and trying to remember how I lived before.