Episode 188 – Hayley Campbell

Virtual Memories Show #188: Hayley Campbell

“I love finding people who are obsessed with things. People who devote their lives to things are my obsession.”

Writer and Twitter provocateur Hayley Campbell joins the show for a conversation about her inability to describe her job (don’t call her a “content provider”). We talk about growing up in comics royalty (her dad is the great cartoonist Eddie Campbell), Alan Moore’s magic tricks, nearly losing a comic-shop job because of her lack of a college degree, the celebrity retweet she’s proudest of, and having an accidental career path, no fixed home, and a traumatic brain injury that gooses with her memory (and whether those three things are somehow connected). Also, we get into how she recently embarrassed Jonathan Safran Foer, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy her first book, The Art of Neil Gaiman (Ilex/Harper). And for God’s sake, go follow her on Twitter!

“I think I’m more of a loser in real life than I am on the internet.”


We also get into her obsession with obsessives, becoming the oldest person at her BuzzFeed office in her early 30s, the insanely creepy Moebius comic she read as a kid, the glories of Australian dentistry, digging through old girlie magazines to research her book on Neil Gaiman, and why she loves writing about boxing. We also compare notes on doing interviews with people whose work you love. Now go listen to the show!

“Dad won’t join Twitter because he’s afraid I’ll have more followers than him, and he’ll be ‘Hayley Campbell’s dad.'”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Hayley Campbell writes for a bunch of places but then who doesn’t. She’s written a book about Neil Gaiman (The Art of Neil Gaiman, Ilex/HarperCollins) and if her face looks familiar it’s probably because she sold you comics once. Find her stuff on BuzzFeed, New Statesman, VICE, McSweeney’s, the Guardian, The Debrief, The Comics Journal, The Rumpus, Channel 4 News, Front, Planet Notion and Boing Boing.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at a pal’s apartment in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photos of Ms. Campbell by me.

Episode 186 – Michael Maslin


Virtual Memories Show #186: Michael Maslin

“Arno is as close to the founder of The New Yorker cartoon as you can get.”

91yv3wzg8zl Michael Maslin joins the show to talk about his new book, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist (Regan Arts). We talk about his own career at The New Yorker, marrying a fellow cartoonist, becoming a cartoon detective, the allure of Arno and the days when cartoonists were cited in gossip mags, why it took him 15 years to write this biography, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy his book on Peter Arno!

“There have been all kinds of changes, but it’s still The New Yorker.”

We also get into Michael’s cartooning influences & anxieties, the website he built to chronicle the doings of New Yorker cartoonists, the time Robert Gottlieb had to shield William Shawn from paparazzi outside the Algonquin Club, the recent Sam Gross gag that made him bust a gut, the incredible apartment building he lived in in on West 11th St. (and why so many New Yorker cartoonists wind up leaving New York). BONUS: I have a two-minute catch-up with one of my favorite cartoonists, Roger Langridge, at last weekend’s Small Press Expo! (pictured below) Now go listen to the show!

“It took 15 years because I’d never done it before. I think I wrote a paper in high school that was a page and a half, so I had to learn how to do all this.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Born in New Jersey, Michael Maslin was raised in Bloomfield, a bedroom community a half hour due west of Manhattan. In high school, he drew a short-lived comic strip “Our Table” which followed the imaginary exploits of fellow students. Readership was limited to those sitting around him in the lunchroom. About this time, he first submitted work to The New Yorker, and soon received his first rejection.


In August of 1977 the magazine purchased one of his ideas. It was given to and executed by veteran cartoonist Whitney Darrow Jr. (the drawing, of a fortune teller saying to a customer, “Nothing will ever happen to you” appeared in the issue of December 26, 1977). He began contributing regularly to The New Yorker in 1978 – his first drawing appeared in the April 17th issue. In 1988 he married fellow New Yorker cartoonist, Liza Donnelly. They have two children. Simon & Schuster published four collections of his work, including The More the Merrier, and The Crowd Goes Wild. With Ms. Donnelly he co-authored Cartoon Marriage: Adventures in Love and Matrimony by The New Yorker’s Cartooning Couple, Husbands and Wives and Call Me When You Reach Nirvana. They also co-edited several cartoon anthologies. Maslin’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and cartoon anthologies.


In August of 2007 he began Ink Spill, a website dedicated to news of New Yorker Cartoonists, past and present. Ink Spill is comprised of six sections: News & Events, The New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z (a listing of bare bone bios of all cartoonists who have contributed to the magazine), Links, Posted Notes (essays on New Yorker cartoonists), From the Attic (artifacts related to New Yorker cartoons/cartoonists) and The New Yorker Cartoonists Library. Maslin’s biography of Peter Arno, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist was published by Regan Arts in April of 2016

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Maslin’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. The segment with Mr. Langridge was recorded on a Zoom H2n digital recorder. Photos of Mr. Maslin and Mr. Langridge by me. Live-drawing of me and Mr. Maslin by Liza Donnelly.

Episode 179 – Andrea Tsurumi


Virtual Memories Show #179:
Andrea Tsurumi

“I’m not a foodie, but I love other people’s obsessions about food. I love watching Kings of Pastry and seeing two men carefully bisecting a pastry and sharing it. They’ve got the most serious looks own their faces.”

Rising comics star — don’t blame me, that’s what Publishers Weekly just called her — Andrea Tsurumi joins the show to talk about her new collection, Why Would You Do That? (Hic & Hoc Publications). We get into her off-kilter sense of humor and why I love it, why she chose that title, the most sadistic children’s book ever written and why she adapted it, the comics industry’s saving grace (it’s too small to fail), staged photos during the Civil War, the challenge of teaching comics, her attempt at a work/art/life balance, the comics, cartoons and picture books that influenced/warped her, why she left New York, the truth about cakes vs. pies, and more! Give it a listen! And buy Why Would You Do That?!

“The problem with freelance illustration and comics is just that there’s not enough money, especially if you’re living in New York City. If you don’t have enough money, you don’t have enough time. And if you don’t have enough money or time, you have to make hard choices, and you’ll never have enough wiggle room to have a healthy balance.”


This episode was recorded at the School of Visual Arts, where Andrea studied and where she does some teaching nowadays (that’s her standing next to a print by Jim Rugg). Past guest Nathan Fox, chair of the MFA Visual Narrative Department at SVA, offered us a space to record. SVA’s low-residency MFA Visual Narrative Program includes two years online and three summers in NYC. The program focuses on the growing need for original content creators in advertising, video games, picture books, graphic novels, film, comic arts, illustration and animation, and it prepares artists and authors to become innovators in the ever-evolving art of visual storytelling. Now go listen to the show!

“You know when you’re growing up and you have these moments of dramatic realization of the obvious? That’s what the growing up is.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

TsurumiStudio_670Andrea Tsurumi is an illustrator and cartoonist who likes history, absurdity, dogs and monsters (in no particular order). Her first book, Why Would You Do That? is out now from Hic & Hoc. A lifelong book nerd, she received an English BA from Harvard and an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts. She now lives in Philadelphia and likes her ice cream angry.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the School of Visual Arts on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Tsurumi by me, portrait of her drawing by … someone else.


As I’m sure I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, I’m not happy about the decline of bookstores in the digital age. I’ve spent countless hours wandering through bookshops of all sizes, listening for The Call, entranced by the simple notion of all those possibilities. Any one of those books could have been some sort of key into who I am, or who I was to become.

Now I have a library that can keep me occupied for the rest of my days. It’s likely I’ll never work my way through, but I’m happy to be surrounded by all these volumes and all they have to tell me. (Here’s a decent — but a bit obvious and silly — essay about how you can never keep up. I mean, you should probably read it, but don’t feel obliged.)

For the most part, I feel like I’ve left bookstores behind. If I spy a nice indie one, I’ll stop in and take a look around. On a jaunt through NYC a few weeks ago, I made a few pickups at The Strand and St. Mark’s Books (mainly, I just re-upped my supply of Hicksville and Cultural Amnesia, to give as gifts, but I did find a book that caught my eye, called I Bought Andy Warhol).

The chain bookstores? Well, let me share with you a pair of stories from the past week.

Last Friday, I stopped in at a not-yet-closing-down Borders during lunch. It’s around the corner from my office, and I didn’t want to head back to work right away. I looked through the magazine section first. I picked up Esquire’s Black Book for spring/summer ’11, because that’s who I am, okay? Quit being so judgmental and just praise my newfound fashion sense!

I drifted through the store for a bit. I took a look at the Graphic Novel (oh, how I hate that term) section, where I saw Dan Clowes’ new book, Mister Wonderful. I decided to be nice to Borders and pick it up. I mean, they are hemorrhaging money, but maybe I could help them out a little. But then I decided to check the Amazon price for the book with my phone. I thought, “It’s a $20 book: if it’s $14 or higher on Amazon, I’ll just buy it here.”

Amazon turned out to be selling it for $10.50, almost 50% off. So I bought it through my Amazon app there and then, figuring I could wait a few days for it.

I still had that Esquire special ish, so I walked up front with that. There was a line 12 people long, with two cashiers working. I put the Black Book back on the shelf and left

Is it weird that I don’t mind waiting a few days for Mister Wonderful to be delivered to my door, but I do mind standing on line for 10 minutes with old people and housewives during my lunch hour to buy a magazine?

On Tuesday, I stopped at Paramus Park mall to grab some Chik-Fil-A (grilled chicken sandwich sans bun, since I’m triyng to keep kosher for Pesach). There’s a Books-A-Million in the food court area and, even though I once vowed to boycott that chain (they wouldn’t carry a book I was publishing), I thought I’d look around and see if they had any remainders that caught my eye.

I was happy to discover Tony Judt’s book Reappraisals, for a mere $3 in hardcover. Of course, I checked my Amazon app, but found they were selling that edition for $10, and the Kindle version for $14.99 (!). I thought, “Well, I’ll pick this up and maybe read a chapter over my lunch.”

I walked up to the three cash registers, where I waited two full minutes for a cashier to sell me the book. None showed up, and no employee was in sight of the register area. I put the book down on the register and left.

Yes, I took a picture before leaving:


So I got my grilled chicken and waffle fries (not made with corn oil, or so they said), sat down at a table, tapped the Kindle App on my iPhone, and started reading a bio/sketch/essay from Cultural Amnesia, picking up just where I left off with my e-book the night before.

I feel sad for smaller, independent bookstores that can’t survive the transition to digital. I don’t know what their value proposition will be, to entice readers to spend more than they “have” to on books. But the big chains? They can suck my nuts. They’re so dysfunctional, they can’t even sell me something when I want to buy it.

P.S.: St. Mark’s Books is where my wife & I first laid eyes on each other. I’ll always buy a little something there; that’s my idea of a value proposition.

Weakly – May 7: Blame It on the Ame

[This is the fifth in a series of long-ass rambling posts about my travels in Chicago and Toronto from May 3-9. Part 1 is over here and part 2 is over there. Now, where did I put part 3? Oh, it’s right here! Part 4? I gotcha covered.]

I could’ve sworn the flight was 11:30. Of course, I’m also the guy who forgot where he was flying a few days earlier, so I’m not to be trusted when it comes to air travel.

I got home around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, woke up at 7 a.m. on Friday, and got to re-packing. Before heading out to BIO, I put together a short list of stuff to do before this jaunt:

  • get passports [don’t let the terrorists win!]
  • turn off water [because the pipes could burst, okay?]
  • leave dog-supplies by door [my pal Jason was to come by to pick up Rufus & Otis later in the day]
  • unplug computers/hard drives [I once came home to find that a power surge has left an external hard drive spinning for days: not good]
  • bring super-awesome present for Tom [scratched, as Tom had to cancel his trip]

No suits for this mini-trip to Toronto, although I did bring along a navy suit-jacket, anticipating cooler weather. Amy & I managed to pack two-plus days’ of clothes & toiletries into my carry-on. No laptop this trip; we’d rough it like the Amish by only using our iPhones on the hotel wi-fi.

I grabbed a selection of Roger Langridge’s comics so I could come up with some questions or observations for our panel conversation on Saturday, and we headed out around 9:45. We ran a little late, but I’d factored in enough time for the 11:30 a.m. departure.

As it turned out, I factored in just enough time for an 11 a.m. departure, which is when the flight was actually scheduled to go.

One of the few problems with flying a little airline like Porter is that, well, there are no signs at its Newark terminal as to what its gate is. Oh, and it doesn’t show up on the departures/arrivals screens. So we sorta muddled our way around the B terminal, had a too-long time in security because the TSA staff appeared never to have seen a computer print-out of a boarding pass, and got to the gate around 10:50. Two minutes later, they began boarding the plane, and we were off for the Great White North 15-20 minutes later.

We flew Porter a year earlier, and it was just a joy. Sorta like an old-school flying experience, right down to the attractive stewardesses. This time, we were a little disappointed by the lack of meal and beer (too early), but I still reveled in the comfort of the half-empty flight. It was a nice contrast to a pair of 100% filled Continental flights during the week.

Another neat aspect of Porter is that, because the airline only flies one particular prop plane, its Newark flights get to take off via a less-used runway. We were third in line to take off, which is unheard-of on a Friday morning. I was once on a flight that was 57th for takeoff (but it felt more like 84th).

Anyway, Porter flies a Bombardier Q-400. The Q stands for “quiet,” which is an accurate descriptor unless you’re sitting in row 9, where Amy & I had our seats. In that case, you’re just in front of where the wings connect to the fuselage, and the noise is a little bad. So it was on with the Bose headphones and, for a change of pace, Lily Allen’s It’s Not Me, It’s You. An adorable track from that record shuffled up onto my iTunes a week or so earlier, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Cute, bouncy, a little preachy, fun. I’m not cut out to be a record reviewer.

The bigger question was: Am I cut out to be a comics interviewer? The main reason we chose this weekend for the Toronto trip was to visit TCAF, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. We went last year and had a great time. While it was disappointing that Comics Reporter and all-around best pal Tom Spurgeon wouldn’t be able to attend, I was still looking forward to meeting/seeing some of the invited comics luminaries, including Dan Clowes, Jim Woodring and James Sturm (whom I’d met in 1998, but hey).

Most importantly, I’d get to meet Roger Langridge, a cartoonist whose work I’d adored since I first saw an issue of Zoot! c. 1992. I’d corresponded with him online on and off over the years, but this would be our first face-to-face meeting. Originally, I was supposed to “co-moderate” a panel with Tom & Roger. Tom would handle the questions about Roger’s present-day comics, and I would ask questions about his earlier work. When Tom had to cancel, he wished me luck and zapped me some of the questions he’d worked up. He e-mailed the show organizers that this would certainly be a better-looking panel than the original setup.

So, on the hour-long flight, I listened to cutesy britpop, pored over pages of comics from Art D’Ecco, Zoot! Suite, The Muppet Show, Fred The Clown, and Fin Fang Four, and scribbled down some questions. Opening my Art D’Ecco collection, I discovered that it contained a sketch and inscription from Roger. I thought, “Did we actually meet? Am I getting Memento-like with comics?” This worried me, since comics are just about the only temporal anchor I have sometimes. I concluded that the book must’ve been a present from Tom, and that he must’ve gotten Roger to inscribe the book. I just couldn’t recall having seen the sketch before. Still: that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The flight was a little bumpy, but not worryingly so. I always feel safer when Amy’s beside me.

We landed at the Porter terminal on City Island (another great advantage to the airline is that it lands right next to downtown Toronto; landing at YYZ means you have a $60+ cab ride ahead of you), went through customs, and waited for the short ferry to the mainland. I noticed a guy ahead of us at the ferry line and whispered to Amy, “I think that’s Dan Clowes.”

“How do you know?” she asked.

“The slightly stooped posture, bald pate, sad eyes and aura of self-loathing,” I didn’t tell her.

I thought of stepping over and introducing myself as a fan of his work, but decided not to. I knew he hadn’t done much press in years — he has a new book out this season, his first in a while — and didn’t want to bother the guy who once drew this panel:

© 1990, Dan Clowes

The ferry soon arrived and disembarked its passengers. One of them walked over to Clowes and shook his hand; he was clearly from the conference. I kept an eye on them as we boarded the ferry. I decided to intrude on their conversation for a moment.

“Hi, my name’s Gil Roth and I was just wondering: are you connected with TCAF? Because I’m a late addition to moderate a panel and don’t know if I need to call or check in with the organizers.”

The second guy introduced himself as Tom Devlin. Clowes less-awkwardly-than-I-expected said, “Hi, I’m Dan.”

“I thought that was you in the ferry line,” I said. “I’ve enjoyed your work for 20 years.”

He sorta smiled, then asked which panel I was moderating. “The Roger Langridge one. I’m filling in for Tom Spurgeon.”

Both guys’ eyes widened. Tom D. asked, “What happened to Tom?” Clowes asked, “Is he okay?”

On his Comics Reporter website, Tom had cited “personal reasons” for having to miss TCAF. I told the guys about his mother’s illness (as related about 10,000 words ago in my May 6 writeup). I was touched by the suddenness of their concern. I don’t really have a handle on how people in the comics industry regard Tom, but both of these guys seemed genuinely worried about him. I was glad I could allay their fears.

Devlin got out a list of phone numbers, and gave me a couple of people to call or check in with at the festival. Clowes looked at the list and said, “Is that a cell phone number fo Chester Brown? Does he have a cell?”

Tom looked at it for a second and replied, “No, that’s gotta be a landline.”

I said, “It’d be even funnier if you had a cell number for Seth.” We all laughed, and Dan speculated that Seth probably has one of those hand-cranked phones with a wooden case. Then Tom added, “I used to tell people that Seth drives a PT Cruiser, but it got to the point where I couldn’t keep a straight face anymore.” Even Amy started laughing over that image. Ah, cartoonist humor . . .

The ferry arrived and I wished Tom & Dan a good show. I hit the ATM at the gate, but it was out of order. Luckily, our cabbie was just fine taking U.S. dollars, since they were nearly on a 1:1 exchange with the canuckbuck.

We got into our room at the Metropolitan, unpacked, and e-mailed our dinner-date to let him know we’d arrived.

See, TCAF was our main reason for coming to Toronto, but it wasn’t our only reason. For one thing, I’ve got family in the city, but almost as importantly, one of our favorite restaurants had recently reopened and we needed to make sure its legendary black cod was still All That. So my pal Sam & his wife Tracie made reservations for the four of us.

While Amy showered, I walked over to Eaton Centre to pick up a brush and a comb for her; I’d managed not to forget to bring anything, but only because most of my stuff was still packed from Chicago.

I figured she’d take a while in the shower, so I meandered around the mall, looking at menswear and trying to assess whether my suit-jacket and a thin sweater would be enough protection against the cold and rain, which turned out to be more severe than predicted. At one point, I discovered a fancy men’s place called Harry Rosen. I’d seen a writeup for its five-storey flagship store in the Porter in-flight magazine a few hours earlier, but this was a mall version. So, no Tom Ford on display, but there was still good stuff to be seen.

An ancient salesman decided to help me out, and pushed suit after suit on me. He declared that my 42 Long size was a lie, and that I’d be far better treated by a 40, perhaps even of Regular length. After a few fittings, I told him that I had to get back to my wife so we could head out for dinner. He gave me his card, told me that he’d be at the store on Saturday, and that if I didn’t see him there, I should “just tell one of the salespeople you’re looking for the youngest person in the store,” he said.

Back in the room, Amy sat worried with limp hair. (I just wanted to write that.)

I brought her comb and brush, then got back to reading Roger’s comics while we waited for our friends to pick us up. It was cold, raining, and the cabfare would’ve somehow turned astronomical.

Dinner was at Ame, a restaurant in the club/theater district. It used to be known as Rain, and I’d had several phenomenal meals there. When we visited Toronto last May, we were crestfallen to find that it was shut down, with plans to reopen later in the year.

The restaurant is owned by Guy Rubino, a chef with a show called Made To Order on Canada’s Food Network. My pal Sam explained that Rain was just too pricey an establishment for its neighborhood, and that the new incarnation — “ame” is Japanese for “rain” — would be more affordable. The place was certainly more hopping on this visit. I couldn’t recall seeing so many people in the restaurant in either of my previous times there (Dec. 2006 and Aug. 2007, if you’re keeping record of my dining experiences and travels).

We parked in a lot a few doors down from the building. After we were seated, I meandered over to the bar to check out The Gin Situation. Sam had already heard about my mind-blowing G&T from two nights before, and was worried that I’d make good on my threat never to drink another. Like that was gonna happen.

Among the standard high-end fare, I noticed a new-to-me gin named Victoria. The bartender confirmed that it was a recent addition and may not have made its way to the states yet. I returned to my table and considered my options.

Before ordering, or even checking out the menu, we spent a while catching up with Sam & Tracie, a chunk of which consisted of my telling Sam some of the BIO stories from earlier in the week. He couldn’t attend this year, but was happy to hear that it was dysfunctional an event as usual for our niche of the industry.

Our waitress was a petite Spanish-ish-looking girl with braces. She was so adorable that Amy pointed out that fact (and also thinks she was less Spanish than maybe black). Taking our drink orders, she spoke pretty authoritatively about the gin selection, and was intrigued by my snooty-ass Q-Tonic (the bar only served the standard stuff, which I was willing to overlook after my nirvana experience in Chicago). I opted for a Victoria and tonic (which meh) while Amy got the Gin Kim chi, a concoction containing gin, pickled ginger, pickled daikon, cilantro, kojuchang, lemon juice simple syrup. It was an awfully inventive and tasty cocktail. I would follow my G&T with an Aviation, but it was nowhere near as lovely as the one I had in Chicago two nights earlier.

After we got over lamenting the lack of a chef’s tasting menu — which the four of us ordered on our last trip here and turned out to include “Squab Three Ways,” one of which was “Squab-Claw of Death” — we rampaged through the menu (with some suggestions from our waitress), pledging to eat family style no matter the size of the dishes.

The pork belly, my late addition to the order, turned out to be a home run, but the grand slam belonged, as ever, to the miso black cod. After one bite, I had to resist my boss’ practice of immediately calling the waitress over and asking for two more orders of it. I mean, we did order a second one, but at least we waited a little while. And, of course, we used our iPhones to take pictures of the dishes and e-mail them to my boss. He really needs to find some advertisers in the Toronto area so he can make a business trip up there.

Though the venue was more crowded than in its Rain days, Ame was never loud, and so the four of us were able to chat away. Sure, Sam & I spent too much time talking business, and I may’ve spent so much time discussing the intricacies of gin that Sam’s wife thought I was an alcoholic, but that’s better than being deaf from crowd noise at the end of an evening, right?

Overall, the meal was a joy. The desserts were . . . interesting, but I scored with a fig-sorbet dish. Sam went with an off-menu special, “Strawberry 18 Bazillion Ways,” one of which was strawberry Pop Rocks. (My brother would have been in heaven. If only Pop-Tarts were involved.) Though we’d ordered a ton of dishes, none of us were in bloated tick mode. We guessed that they got prices down to club-district level by shrinking things a bit. And getting rid of the Squab Three Ways. (And don’t get me started on the loss of Lamb Three Ways, an insanely good dish on my first trip to Rain.)

The only downside to the evening was the discovery that Sam’s car was buried behind three rows of cars: the perils of an early dinner reservation. It was raining pretty heavily and there was no sign of the lot attendant. Tracie talked about taking the train back out to their neighborhood and returning in the morning to get the car. I pondered all available options and concluded that there was nothing Amy or I could do, besides catch a cab back to the Metropolitan. I felt like a heel for so rapidly deciding on that course of action, but before I could propose it, Sam found the lot attendant, and they began the Tetris-like game of extricating his car.

Back at the hotel room, I had a welcome e-mail from Chris Butcher, the TCAF organizer, and a “knock ’em dead tomorrow!” e-mail from my pal Tom. I had a warm belly, a little buzz, my darling wife, and some Muppets comics. I’d also hit Tim Horton’s on two separate occasions earlier in the day. It would be a good mini-vacation.

Next: Cheers Judas

May 3: Bloodshot Eye of the Tiger

May 4: Skokie, the Germans, and the Lost Ugandan

May 5: “Jumpin’ with my boy Sid in the city”

May 6: The Miracle and the Wrigley Killing Field