I posted this on Facebook last week and it struck a chord with a few folks. I’m re-posting it here for posterity.
This morning, when I returned from the gym, I found my oldest daughter with dried tears on her face. I asked both girls how they were doing and my youngest gave me a thumbs up while the oldest gave me a thumbs down. I knew what was bothering her – it’s bothering me (and many of you) too.
I told them to get ready for school early. We stopped at Denny’s, grabbed a booth, and ordered and Oreo milkshake. Then this:
“So we lost?”
“Only today. There are a lot of tomorrows left.”
“Do people not like women for Presidents?”
“It’s more complicated than that, but maybe some.”
She took a few sips of her shake, and then, “What if I want to be President? Would you vote for me?”
“Well, that depends…”
“If you’re President, will we still have time to get milkshakes together?”
She smiled. “Yes, Daddy.”
“Then yeah. You’ve got my vote.”
I am anxious to see what’s next… I’m scared for so many friends who have a lot to lose.
I am also hopeful. It’s impossible not to be hopeful with my kids around.
Chins up, folks. There are a lot of tomorrows left.
Here’s the original post:
*Update: The book is now available on Amazon. Go get it!
I owe Scott Irwin. I mean, technically we’re square, but I feel like I got the sweeter end of our arrangement.
I met Scott many moons ago. We worked on a book called RUE (buy it on Comixology!) together when I was with Quad Shot. After that booked wrapped up we worked together again on IN SANITY, AZ (buy it on Amazon!), another Quad Shot collaboration.
Fast forward a bit and both Scott and I found ourselves with stories to tell and no money to tell them. I had a script for a short one-off called SAMSARA, while Scott was musing the plot points of something he had tentatively titled TRUCK FIGHTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.
I needed an artist for my little book, and he needed a writer for his much bigger book.
We made a deal.
I agreed to write his 100+ page space trucker tale, and to host it on my website as a weekly webcomic, while Scott agreed to draw SAMSARA. It was a trade, words for art. At the end of the deal, we each got two books with our names on ‘em.
SAMSARA (you know what to do) is, to date, the best-selling independent comic I have worked on (that’s not saying too much in the independent comic game and I credit its success to Scott’s gritty, noir-ish stylings). It is one of the only $5 book I continue to bring to cons because it moves off of the table every show.
This Irwin fella has chops.
Scott’s original pitch for TRUCK FIGHTERS OF THE UNIVERSE was much more…adult than it’s current form. You can see trace elements of those concepts littered throughout, but it’s far more muted than it was at conception. I believe, at first, the “visitors” had enormous penises that they would chase people with, but, sadly, the penis-embracing-alien-chasers didn’t make the cut.
I know. In hindsight, we should’ve left them in. My bad.
Scott’s only request when I took on writing duties was to “make it weird.” I’ve tried to do that. The phallic visitors got an absurd, Fringe-worthy origin story. We included Carl, a talking panda. Without much explanation, alien creatures started popping up in the script, and though we hint at their absurd origins, we left most of it pretty vague on purpose (can you spot all the references?).
TRUCK FIGHTERS OF THE UNIVERSE became HAMMER DOWN. We enlisted the help of the incomparable Ben Glibert for colors and letters, cached away half of the book’s finished art, and launched the webcomic almost two years ago.
We’ve managed to post a new page every single week without missing a single one. I can’t tell you how proud I am of Scott and Ben. Even with a surplus of pages to start with, this is a feat. Life happens and there were some pretty stressful moments wherein we though we’d miss a week– But no. Scott and Ben rallied through everything to ensure we hit every single one of our 104 weekly deadlines.
The end is in sight. We’re almost done with HAMMER DOWN as a webcomic. I know Scott has plans to take the IP further, and he’s been kind enough to include me thus far, but for the foreseeable future, HAMMER DOWN is over soon.
This was always the plan. I wrote it to be 104 pages and we’ve stayed true to that.
And did I mention that it is free? Scott hasn’t charged a dime for two years of weekly content. Nothing. We’ve had a [not often used] donation link on the first page since we started, but that’s it. Scott’s been creating because it’s a story he wants to tell. Full stop.
Now Scott is collecting the webcomic as a trade paperback. This will, hopefully, be where Scott starts to see some fruit from his labor. I get nothing more — remember, I’ve already been paid through SAMSARA. Scott and I are square. I’m writing this blog because I want y’all to go help Scott out and buy this book when it’s out in a month or so.
Have you been enjoying the webcomic? Awesome! Go buy the book.
Never heard of HAMMER DOWN before? Awesome. Go buy the book.
Looking for a gift for your kids? Awesome. Go buy a different book. This one is for adults — unless you’re a terrible parent. If you’re a terrible parent you should totally buy this book for your kids. They’ll hate you for it. It’s perfect.
I’m pretty proud of the work I was fortunate enough to do on HAMMER DOWN. It was a fun book, something I don’t often write. Scott gave me a chance to go outside myself a bit and I’m forever grateful.
I’m hoping to grab a few myself and I’ll take them to cons when possible. I’m sure they’re going to sell even better than SAMSARA.
*Hey! I’ve got two pretty neat updates for y’all.*
First of all, Daniel Touchet, the designer Scott is working with (and my frequent collaborator) has finished designing the cover for the Hammer Down TPB. Behold:
Second, Scott has launched a Patreon. He’s got a whole lot of things happening at the moment, not the least of which is a video game he’s developing called Ace Falcon. Dude has a wiener dog where his wiener should be. I don’t know what’s going on but I like it.
Go check it out and support Scott if you can (read “support” as giving or sharing — both help).
Last Saturday, while my wife and kids were at a baby shower, my friends Marcel and Mike came over to keep me company and watch a movie (High Rise, which, by the way, is amazing). I was depressed and needed to not be alone. At one point in the evening, I told them both, “It doesn’t really matter if Huck comes home. I mean, I want him to, more than anything, but I’ve got too many other good things happening in my life to be depressed. My youngest turns five in a week, my eldest will be seven a month later, and between the two I will have a newborn son. Bad things happen but I need to keep my chin up. I’ve got too much good in my life to stay this way – to stay so sad.”
Thankfully I had help: Huckleberry is home.
At this point, I assume most of you are familiar with my story. Huckleberry was gone and I asked for help finding him. If you don’t know that I’m talking about, and want to know more, you can read my other blogs where I describe how we lost Huckleberry after a woman driving on her cellphone almost ran us over while we were riding our bikes, and my plead to all to help by hanging our flyers all over the city.
Caught up? Carry on.
Around 2pm yesterday, a saint named Shawn found Huckleberry not a quarter-mile from our apartment in the parking lot of a massage parlor at Chapman and Flower — exactly where we last saw him. I have personally been to that exact parking lot three times since Huck’s disappearance with no luck, but yesterday at 2pm, that’s where he was.
Shawn picked Huckleberry up. Before taking him home, he decided to drive around a bit and see if anyone was missing a dog. Saint Shawn found one of our flyers (the ones with the chip company’s number) and called immediately. While the chip company processed the information and contacted us, Shawn went several steps further: he took Huckleberry home to his family, bathed him, bought him a collar and leash, and continued searching for Huck’s owners online. He found our Craigslist posts and contacted me directly via email.
This is not the first time we thought we had found Huckleberry. Joy was not our go-to emotion. The girls and I were at a birthday party waiting for Kyleen to get off work and pick us up so we could go to San Diego for the night. I spoke to Kyleen before she met with Shawn and she was a wreck, full of tears, scared this wasn’t going to be our boy again. I called Shawn and asked if he could send me a picture before meeting up with my wife and this was his response: “This is your dog. I promise. Don’t worry. I found him. I’m bringing Huckleberry home.”
I then tried to offer Shawn and his family a reward. Shawn wouldn’t have it. “My reward is reuniting this dog with his family.” And that’s what he did.
Shawn met with my wife and, lo and behold, it was Huck. Kyleen and Huckleberry reunited with Lady (our other dog) before the three of them came to get the girls and I. This picture was taken moments later:
You’ve probably heard it said that dogs become part of the family they’re in. That’s true. You’ve also probably heard it said that dogs become as important as children to parents. In my experience as a father of humans and animals, that’s less true. The reality lies somewhere between those two statements.
Here’s another truth: people suck. Over the last two weeks I’ve received two types of email responses from my craigslist posts: (1) tips for finding my lost dog, and (2) trolling assholery. One of the latter told me that my dog would probably be gone forever because the homeless ate him. Another let me know that most animals that are lost end up chopped up by Satanists and dropped in dumpsters. Still another lovely individual promised me that if he or she saw Huckleberry they would be sure to hit him with their car.
To say that my faith in humanity has been tested over the last few weeks is an understatement. Saint Shawn, however, has made every ugly comment endured worth the pain a thousand times over. Shawn brought my boy home, treated him with undeserved kindness, and refused compensation. There are not enough Shawns in the world. I cannot express how grateful I am to this man and the love he shared with my dog and my family. He made us whole again. I am forever grateful.
So, how’s Huckleberry doing?
Well, it appears as though he spent two weeks on his own. He’s down about eight pounds. His bones — all of them — are very visible. His skin sort of hangs at this point. His poops are oddly cohesive (we expected worse). He’s going to the vet Monday morning for an evaluation, but Kyleen (a vet tech) seems to think he’ll be okay.
Huckleberry has certainly been through…something. He’s nervous and unsure. He plays and loves and licks, but there’s an understandable weariness to him. When he slept with me last night, he would jump awake, scared, and lick my face before going back to sleep. I felt him rise multiple times and every time he would inch closer and put his paw on me as though he was making sure I was really there and then let himself go back to sleep.
This is all fine. We can get through this. He’s home. We’ll make him better. We’ll do whatever it takes. All of this is small in the face of the utter loss we were experiencing yesterday morning.
That joy is in no small part thanks to you. The outpouring of love and support we have received from friends and strangers alike over the last two weeks has overwhelmed my family and I. Some of you shared our social posts. Many of you reached out personally to offer condolences and any aid we may need. A large portion of you fine folks got in your cars, on your bikes, or in you walking shoes, and canvassed neighborhoods, hung signs, talked to locals, and called shelters/animals care facilities across all of Orange County. To all of you: I offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks…
Even that feels too small.
The support we’ve received has brought both Kyleen and I to tears more than once. “Thank you” doesn’t really cover it. Your graciousness has had a profound impact in my life. Whether or not we had found Huck, you have changed me for the better.
So, despite how small it feels, thank you. Thank you so very much.
We’ll never really know what happened to Huckleberry over the last two weeks. It doesn’t matter to me. All that matters now is getting him healthy again.
The next thing on my list of to-dos is fixing my bike. My back should be back to normal in a couple weeks. Now that Huck is home, we’ve got riding to do.
UPDATE: Huckleberry is Home!
This is probably the last thing I’ll be writing about my missing pal, Huckleberry.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free to catch up by reading what I already wrote about losing my dog. Not a fan of words? The tl;dr version is: there was an incident with a lady on her cellphone driving a car, my daughter and I on our bikes, and our now-missing puppy, Huck.
My wife, a vet tech, and I have done everything we can think of. We’ve kept in touch with all the local animal shelters. Missing Dog flyers litter our neighborhood (as well as others). Vets, other animal care professionals, police, and the local homeless have all been spoken to. Services that get the word out through email blast, internet forums, social media, and mailers have been utilized.
We’ve done everything we can think to do, and yet: no Huckleberry.
Among the professionals we’ve spoken to, the consensus is this: Huckleberry is no longer lost. Somebody has him. Likely, according to those professionals, it is one of two groups: a family who believes they have found a new pet, or a member of the homeless population who believes they have found a new pet. Regardless of who has Huck, somebody thinks that they have a new pet.
They don’t. Huckleberry has a family. He has my wife, a mother who loves him, my daughters, his sisters who have raised him from eight weeks, my other dog, Lady, who has adopted him as her own son, and me. Huck is my pal. He and I have forged a bond unlike any I’ve had with a dog before. I love the punk. I miss him terribly.
How do we get him back? Awareness. Huckleberry is chipped, so if he shows up at a vet or shelter, and if they scan his chip, we will be notified. But if he does not find his way to one of those places, which is wholly plausible, we need someone to see him, call us, and get him back.
Awareness. We need people to know that our family member is missing ans we want him back. We need to get the word out.
My family needs your help.
I’ve asked for a lot from my friends over the past few weeks. I’ve been lying on back with three herniated discs since the woman-on-her-cellphone incident. My wife is very pregnant. Despite our efforts, we’ve relied heavily on our connections to do what’s been done thus far for Huck. I am going to ask for one more thing, and, I promise, I won’t ask for anything else.
This is a flyer I made:
If you live in or around Orange County, I’m asking pleading with you to download it, print it out, and post it in your neighborhood. Post it in the next neighborhood over. Post it everywhere you can. This is how we get the word out, but it only works if we have your help.
Don’t live in Orange County? You can still help us out by sharing this blog. You may have a network that includes people from Orange County (hell, your network may include the person who has my Huckleberry). If they see this, download, print, and post, it may bring Huck home.
Where should you post it? Everywhere. Busy street corners. Coffee shops. Homeless shelters. Veterinarian offices. Anywhere and everywhere.
I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has supported us thus far. We have felt very loved during this rough patch. Our lives are blessed.
And to you, the person who took the time to read this: thanks. Whether or not Huckleberry is returned to us, we are so grateful for everyone’s assistance.
UPDATE: Huckleberry is Home!
If you follow me on social media, you saw this yesterday:
Last seen at corner of Flower and Chapman. 1 yr old. Very friendly.
Please RT pic.twitter.com/1RKOgUAZ0R
— James Ninness (@jamesninness) May 29, 2016
Or maybe this:
Many people have reached out, wondering what happened. It’s a bit too much to explain on social media, so I figured I’d attempt to write a
brief thing about it to answer those questions.
Every Sunday my oldest daughter, our dog, Huckleberry, and I go for a two-three mile bike ride. We’ve got this Walky Dog PLUS® Bike Leash that allows the three of us to enjoy our rides together with ease (if you’re a dog owner who enjoys riding your bike, I highly recommend getting one of those things). My oldest daughter (age: 6) looks forward to these Sunday morning adventures, as do I, as a highlight of our week.
Yesterday, while on our ride at around 8:15 am, a woman in a gray SUV came racing out of the Second Base restaurant parking lot on Chapman. She was on her phone and her music was blaring. She did not see my dog, my daughter, or me, and almost hit all three of us.
Let that sink in for a moment: All three of us were almost hit by a car because a woman was going too fast and looking down at her cellphone instead of the road ahead.
I may hate that woman for a very long time.
Thankfully, I was paying attention. What happened next happened in a matter of two or three seconds.
I slammed the brakes of my bike, allowing the back tire spin around to the front. My daughter tried to stop, but panicked. I reached out and grabbed her, lifting her and her bike into the air and away from the car. Huckleberry yelped, but I couldn’t see him. I caught a glance at the woman driving the car: she smiled, mouthed “sorry,” and drove away.
My daughter was in tears, terrified. Huckleberry was gone. He had spun himself out of his collar and, as terrified as the rest of us, begun running away. My daughter and I saw this at the same time. She called out his name– No. She screamed it, watching him run down the middle of the Chapman as cars veered to avoid him (don’t take his escape as a knock against the Walky Dog setup — Huckleberry is 50+ pounds and, in the chaos, any dog could have gotten out of their collar).
My adrenaline was going now. “Get on your bike and follow Daddy.”
We rode after Huck but he was far too fast. About a block down the rode I found a cop sitting in his car. I yelled at him to help and he did. He drove quickly down the road, chasing after our dog.
We lost sight of them both at Chapman and Flower.
I called my wife and told her to go outside, on the off chance that Huckleberry was running home. When my daughter and I got back to our apartment we found my wife, but no Huckleberry.
The girls went back inside and I waited for the cop to return. He did, took my statement, and promised to call me if he heard anything (which is more than he needed to do, so I am grateful for that officer).
After putting my bike away I got in my car and drove around for an hour and a half. No Huck. While I did that, my wife called shelters, vets, and his chip company; he wiggled free of his collar, which means he has no tags on him now, but he is chipped, so if he’s taken to an animal facility, he can be returned to us.
As I write this, sitting at my computer, my wife and daughters are putting up signs with Huckleberry’s picture all over our neighborhood, our bike route, and along poles in the direction he was running. They’re also talking to a few neighbors, and a large community of homeless who lives in the Santa Ana River Trail near our home.
I am not out with them because, as a result of the incident with the woman on her cellphone, the three herniated discs in my lower back have relapsed. I have a cane, and back-brace, and an ice-pack. I’m kind of useless.
Perhaps the worst part of this entire situation is what’s going on with my oldest daughter: she’s convinced this is her fault. Or at least, she was. I think she may understand that it isn’t now (her mother and I have said this to her many, many times), but she blames herself for almost getting hit by the woman on her phone. Yes, I know it’s absurd, but that’s how her brain works.
We need your help. Since it is a holiday weekend, none of the animal care facilities we depend on will be able to assist us until tomorrow. Until then, we need to get the word out and share with the Orange County community that Huckleberry is missing, he has a family that loves him dearly, and we want him back.
So please, share this post. Share the above Facebook and Twitter posts. Help us get the word out?
Thanks for reading this “quick” explanation.