Thursday, October 30, 2014

Goodbye Mrs. Reyes

Last week I learned from my mom that mrs Reyes passed away. She was 95 and one of the toughest people I've ever met. We were not blood related... She was, in fact, my moms first mother in law ( both my parents were married before marrying and eventually having me). In my lifetime I maybe got to meet her in person only a handful of times. And yet, She always, without fail, for as long as I can remember, called me her grandson and asked for me whenever she talked to my mom. 

When I was in the 6th grade she sent me a black leather wallet with $5 in it. It was the first wallet I ever owned and, in all honesty, the same wallet I use today. She was, and is, a part of my family.

I only had one real true, blood related, grandma. Her name was Mary Louise Reyna ( Mamo) and I can't help but smile when I think about her.  She was nice and sweet, she used to take me to school. She could play the piano by ear and bought me my first comic book.

My moms mom was everything I could've ever asked for in a grandmother.

She was the complete opposite of Miss Valdespino .

Miss Valdespino, my dad's mom, was never much of a grandma. My first real memory of her was my dad begging her to hug me. I was maybe 5 at the time. The last time I saw her was at a Safeway, I walked up and put my arms out for a hug, she walked by as if she didn't know me.., though I know she knew who I was. I was maybe 20 ( this day is also notable as the only time I heard my Auntie Barbara swear as, upon miss Valdespino not acknowledge me, said, " what a bitch!!" as she walked by).

I've heard time and again that You Can't Choose your family. And over the years, I've learned this isn't true.

  I only ever had one grandmother ... And she was the best... But if I had to choose a second... It would've been mrs Reyes.

Family, as I've come to know and define it, is NOT who you are blood related to... Family is who is in your heart. They are the people you first think to contact when something great happens in your life, they are the people you call when you need help, they are the people who know they can count on you just as you know you can rely on them . Sometimes years or decades can go by, but that doesn't lessen the bonds of family you hold on to. The ones you create.  You simply pick up where you left off.

As I type this, I'm in the house of my Aunty Marty in LA. And though we are not blood related she has been my Aunt since before I was born. 
It's nice to see and visit with my family here in LA. Even if I'm here  to say goodbye to one of them tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2014

25 years: Earthquake of '89

25 years ago today a young Tommy was rushing through his home work, both my parents were home and we were getting ready to watch The Giants vs. The A's in the World Series!!! And that's when the ground started to shake. "Mom", I said as she was standing in the doorway. "it's okay, just a little earthquake" and then when it DIDN'T STOP shaking, I ran to the doorway. As I did this, the glass cabinet I was sitting infront of collapsed on the chair I was sitting in seconds before. One more moments hesitation and I'd have been hurt badly. I had a small cut on my leg from shattered glass but otherwise we were okay. We were lucky. There wasn't any power for awhile and once it came back we saw our city in ruins. The seemingly endless, depressing aftershocks... The stories of people trapped in the collapsed bay bridge .., they pulled a guy named Buck Helm out of the bridge...Alive... It gave the city hope... Sadly, he did live long after that... Images of houses in the Marina being help up by wooden planks for people to get out of their  homes as the houses were literally sinking into the ground...
Even as The storyteller I am today, I don't think I could've made stuff like this up. This was real life. And watching the news as an 8 ( about to be 9) year old, it was scary. I didn't go to school for a week. And then when the World Series resumed, Oakland kicked SF ass. UGGGH.
I was lucky though, at the time many people in my family were living on the same block and nobody was really hurt. We were able to be together. Many families weren't.
If you were too young to remember the quake of '89, it's hard to fully capture how crazy the whole thing was... You can read about it or watch videos... Watch the "earthquake" episode of "Full House"...  But I was there, actually in it...and the memories of that day have stayed with me, vivid, as the day they happend. I suspect they always will.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tommy wrote a comic book....

This is a photo of me, Tom Valdespino,  inking the last page on "My Hero vs. His Mind", my very first comic!! ( photo credit: Ashley G)

I love comic books. Always have and, I suspect, always will. 

For most, when you hear " comic book " you think superheroes in costumes fighting bad guys. BOOM!! POW!! However, this is not the case as, just like with novels, there is literally something out there for everyone. 

Stories of love, loss and family. Stories that will make you laugh, stories that will break your heart. Stories, told in sequential art, that I dare say, at times. top their prose counterparts. 

My love of comics goes back as far as I can remember...

Starting when I was four years old with "Transformers #3", the first comic I ever remember owning, comic books helped teach me how to read. 

And if you know nothing else about me, know this: Reading is as important to me as breathing. I need to do both each day to survive.

When I was a teenager, I stopped buying comics. I wish I had a better excuse than because it "wasn't cool". Still, every now and again I'd pick up a Wizard magazine " just to see what was happening".

As I got older, cared less ( than eventually didn't care at all) of what others thought I reignited my love of comics. I realized there was more than capes and cowls, jokers and madmen, there were personal stories and autobiographical comics of everyday people. They weren't like me neccisarily but they were good stories to read.

Around this time, in my late teens and early twenties, I started writing more and more. I hesitated to show this to anyone.

When I was 22 I wrote a 250 page novel. It took me 4 months.  I showed it to a few people ( people I knew, friends and family) who seemed to like it. It's called "kaleidoscope" and is about a guy in his 20s raising his young nephew. It remains unpublished. Though, in writing about it now I may one day revisit it.

In the fall of 2012 I decided to go back to college. In addition to all the classes I HAD to take, I took an English class "just for fun". That class was called "The Graphic Novel as Literature" and for our final project we had to write and draw our very own comic.

For my final I decided to write about my Uncle Bobby... And his lifelong battle with schizophrenia. 

And though I'm no artist (I can hardly draw a straight line) the story, both true and heartbreaking, was universal. Nobody wants to see someone they love suffer.

I entered this final project in a comic contest that year at DVC. And, to my surprise, it won an award. I was given art supplies at an award ceremony and everything !!

But the best part of that award ceremony was several of the judges (teachers in English and Art at DVC) telling me I should continue to work on the story. "You've really got something here, Tom."

There were many starts and stops, times work and school got in the way, an entire summer where I didn't know what to draw next... Two years have gone by... But last week, ironically on National Comic Book Day, I finally finished.

"My Hero vs. His Mind" is about my Uncle Bobby and his battles with schizophrenia. Though he's struggled with the voices in his head my whole life it's only in the last few years that they've gotten too loud to ignore.

Not many people, outside of my family, know about this. And it wasn't/isn't easy to write or talk about. It's not easy to write this now.
But his story is an incredible one, everyday he fights to not listen to the voices... And this story was one I felt needed to be shared.

And because you're my peeps... You can read the first few pages here...

I've loved comics my entire life... But never did I think in them I'd find a new medium in which to tell stories of my own.

Where I'm at now:

With principle drawing and writing done I'm researching where to submit it for publication... Or, more likely, where to dip my toes into the seemingly scary world of self publishing .

One way or another,  " My Hero vs. His Mind" will come out one day. I will see to it.

When it does cone out , I will let you know... Bring money !! Haha.

In the meantime, working on this has broken open the creative floodgates... There may be more stories coming hopefully sooner than later... And I'm incredibly happy that I have a new way in which to tell them.

Thank you for reading , thank you for believing in me...