From the Home Office in San Diego, CA
I had a most-excellent 2022. Despite some money setbacks (a large rent increase and a large investment decrease to my retirement funds … thanks, Wall Street!), the year was as close a return to normal for me as I could possibly expect. When I started thinking about retirement a few years ago, I was a bit concerned about how the lack of social contact in my everyday work life would hit me, but the enforced lockdown of the pandemic solved that (largely imaginary) problem. I got used to being alone, and save for a few close friends (one in particular whom I see multiple times each month for a nice Happy Hour at our favorite restaurant), I’ve stayed alone. I have a couple of long-distance friends whom I talk to on the phone a couple times each month and a few that I see sporadically for a walk and a talk or a lunch. And that pretty much does it for me. So, thank you, pandemic, for that teaching moment. And—knock wood—I have still managed to elude Covid. Wear that mask!
This year I started walking—for the most part—twice a day; a late morning long walk and a short, “around-the-block” afternoon walk around 4:00 PM or so. The latter has given me a big increase in my monthly miles. In 2021, I walked over 1,550 miles; this year I’m closing in on 1,700 miles. When I told my doctor at my last physical earlier in the year how much I walked, he asked what my 2022 goal was, and I just replied “More.” I upped my monthly goal to 120 miles (from 100) and I’ve met it every month in 2022, so I guess in 2023, it’s time to up it again.
My reading addiction kicked into high gear in 2022. By my count, I read over 85 books—a lot of them graphic novels and comic collections—while my goal of 60 books on GoodReads was upended with 73 actual books read (not all the books I read are listed on GoodReads, thus the discrepancy). It was a great year for comics history books, mainly from TwoMorrows Publishing: I particularly enjoyed Jon B. Cooke’s The Charlton Companion, which contained more info on that all-in-one (publishing, printing, distributing) company that was the life-blood of Derby, CT. My favorite new graphic novel was Alex Ross’s incredible Fantastic Four: Full Circle. Fiction-wise I particularly enjoyed Michael Connelly’s latest Ballard & Bosch novel, Desert Star, and two books by William Shaw, The Trawlerman and Dead Rich, the latter which I chased all over the UK to no avail, but finally found on eBay here in the U.S. I read some great movie and TV books, too, including an exhaustive new biography on Buster Keaton by James Curtis, Ron Shelton’s great book on the making of Bull Durham, The Church of Baseball, a 50th anniversary history of the making of The Godfather, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli, and an amazing oral history of The Big Bang Theory. And I really enjoyed rekindling my love of 1960s Marvel Comics with their “budget” editions of Mighty Marvel Masterworks. Many books in that series moved into volumes 2 and 3 in 2022, and some of those stories I have not read in almost 60 years.To see everything I read in 2022, click here to visit my “Books” category page.
I was able to take trips again in 2022 (I also traveled a little in 2021). While not up to my 2019 level of six separate cities, I did go to three different places this year, two small trips and one large. I fear that a lot of the cities I’ve loved visiting are now lost to me. I won’t go back to San Francisco, probably ever; NYC, Portland and Seattle aren’t quite the same, either. I don’t like visiting these cities when I don’t particularly feel safe in them, and quite frankly, flying anywhere is just a miserable experience anymore. I did flirt with the idea of moving to the Seattle area when I realized I was looking down the barrel of a big rent increase here in San Diego … but I almost immediately turned away from that idea when I visited the first week of May, which was cold, rainy, and pretty damn inhospitable. The rent difference was tempting (and yes, Seattle rents are markedly less expensive than San Diego), but I knew I’d be giving up way too much of what I have here, including a network of friends and great health care coverage. Seattle is lovely, especially Bainbridge Island where I was looking, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I am always seduced into going back by Pike Place Market, Elliott Bay Books, and the seafood bisque at Pike Place Chowder, so maybe a 2023 trip is in the cards.
Yours truly and Laurel in front of some sorta famous bridge in London, taken by a kind stranger.
I did go back to London in 2022 and, by extension, England and Wales for a lonnnnnng three-week trip, which included a lovely 10-day sojourn with my dear friend Laurel. We visited both London and the bucolic booktown of Hay-on-Wye and had an amazing time together. I couldn’t have asked for a better travel companion, and she is probably one of the very few friends I have that would want to visit a town of 20 or so bookstores, then go to London and visit STILL MORE bookstores. The London leg of my journey had its problems, particularly with trains, but all-in-all, it was an amazing trip, one of the best I’ve ever taken.
For more on my UK trip, click on these links:
I also got back into going to comic conventions, with visits to my alma maters WonderCon (in April) and San Diego Comic-Con (in July). My retirement was still a new concept for some people, so I ate pretty much for free at numerous lunches and dinners with old friends and colleagues. I also rekindled my love of diving into boxes of old comics and coming up with some cheap gems that I scored for my spinner rack. And speaking of my spinner rack, click here for my new WEEKLY feature on those self-same comic books, “Tales from My Spinner Rack.”
Click here for my thoughts on WonderCon 2022, and here for Comic-Con 2022.
I’ve had plenty of time to think about my 20+ year career at Comic-Con and I spent a large part of 2022 writing about it here on this blog. The best way to see all the “My Life in Comics” posts is to click here and visit the category page that lists them all. I’m up to Part 16 (about APE, the Alternative Press Expo). Next up (soon, I promise!) Is all about my personal experiences with WonderCon, the little sister to the big Kahuna, San Diego Comic-Con. And then there’ll be a couple of wrap-up chapters. I hope to finish this all up in the early months of 2023, after which … well, I’m contemplating making the whole thing into an actual, honest-to-God book (albeit print-on-demand). Not that anyone will want to buy it … but I certainly want a book of it, which will also include some much-needed rewriting.
A new experience for me in 2022 was appearing on podcasts as an “expert” of sorts on the whole Comic-Con thing. I did two of them and you can still watch or listen to them, if you have a couple of hours to spare and would like to listen to my whiny voice and my adventures from my 20+ year career at San Diego Comic-Con. The first link is actually to a YouTube video (so you get to see me in my natural habitat) by the fine folks at the Unofficial SDCC Blog, a small group of dedicated people who reveal far more info about the upcoming conventions than I was ever able to do when I did the OFFICIAL SDCC website. The second is to an audio-only podcast called “The Musical Innertube,” and no, don’t worry, I don’t sing. Both were fun to do, and I hope to do more.
2022 was my first full year of retirement and from the vantage point of coming up on my second anniversary of that achievement, I can whole-heartedly tell you it was the best decision I’ve made since moving to San Diego almost a quarter of a century (!) ago. I’m not sure what 2023 will hold for me. I know I want to attend both WonderCon and Comic-Con again and yet another—much shorter—trip to the UK is on my mind, one back in the chilly month of November, to possibly visit the Thought Bubble convention in Harrogate once again, probably for the last time. Also, I love London at Christmas, and they start decorating early. But the UK has so many problems right now, that I’m going to have to wait to start planning this—if I’m going to do it—until spring at the earliest, something that is already making me chomp at the bit … a bit.
If you’ve made it this far, dear reader, I thank you, and I leave you with this one bit of advice: There is life after retirement. No matter how invested you are in your career, how much you love (or hate) your job, it’s amazing what waking up to an inbox empty of email can do for your mind. I’m having a great time so far … I’m sure you will too. And I hope you’ll follow me all year round and be here for my Year-end Report in 2023!
Happy New Year, Gary.