ComicCon & Jesus Dressup 2010

It was the spring of 2010, and I was in my usual location, Union Square NYC. But right now I wasn’t ready to sit down on the steps. First I had to stop in at Forbidden Planet, which was just a block south on Broadway. It was a place I frequented not only because it’s a cool comic book store right in the neighborhood, but also it’s where I sold my Jesus magnets. On this particular day in the front part of the store was a kiosk set up to promote New York ComicCon!  I was briefly stopped by the man at the booth,
“Hello! Have you got your tickets for ComicCon yet?” 

ComicCon was something I’d never really considered at this point, and at the moment I was here for other purposes. As usual, I strolled around the store to find the magnets and how many sold. But they weren’t in their usual spot, or anywhere for that matter. So I go to the front counter and see my guy Matt who manages there. 
“I think you’re sold out of my magnets? I don’t see them anywhere.”

Matt checks the computer and tells me there’s still some here, somewhere. So together we start the search. The guy from ComicCon overhears our struggle, and gets interested in whatever this is that someone would go through the trouble to hide. A few minutes pass and Matt shouts “Found ‘em!” picking a pile of them off the ground where they’d been tucked behind a display. 
“It happened again!”
He was referring to the other time an offended customer hid my offensive product within the store. To inhibit sales I suppose.
The guy from ComicCon was asking to see what the hell this product was. His name was Mark, and when he saw the Jesus Dressups he laughed, “We’ve got to have these at ComicCon!”

I explained how that was pretty much out of the question. Booths were well out of my price range.
“I’m just one guy, and this is pretty much my only product.” Not enough to cover $2,400+ for the smallest, cheapest booth. And this year was actually going to be a far bigger event than just ComicCon. They were combining the Anime Festival and the BookExpo, all 3 in one huge event at the Javits Center. It was just out of the question.
“I cannot sell $3,000 worth of these in 4 days.” I told him.

As he held it in his hand he said, “I really want you to consider it. I can get you half off on that booth, $1200. These are just too funny.” And he gave me his card. I went back to Union with that card in my pocket, and decided then and there, “I’m going to make this happen.”

It was taking place the first week of October, so I had months. Enough time to get a brand new set printed up special. A Limited Edition Star Wars Jesus Dressup! I was going all out. My friends could dress up as Jehovah’s Witnesses & Catholic schoolgirls to take part! I would print banners and flyers. It was all very exciting.

ComicCon / October 2010
One of the silly brainstorms I had was to have a couple friends dressup as Jehovah’s Witnesses; white shirt, black tie, shoes & slacks, and of course, name tags. Searching the internet I found a place that could print buttons exactly like the ones JWs wore. It was in Utah, and I had the button design all worked out. I called and placed an order for all 6 in our group, and it read:

“Just Google Jesus!”

Oh, I thought I was so clever. Unfortunately, just days before the event the button place returned my money and sent an email telling me they were refusing the job due to conflict of interest.
Of course! This was a place run by Jehovah’s Witnesses who manufactured buttons for other Jehovah’s Witnesses, of which I was clearly not. I can only imagine the discussion that took place when they Googled Jesus. Luckily I was able to find another place last minute, right in midtown Manhattan to have them ready the next day. Leave it to New York City.

Owen, Amanda, Kenya, Bob, Mary & Christine

We were ready! The shipment of Star Wars JDUs arrived on time, looking fantastic! My cousin Owen flew in, plus my roommate Christine and her friend Amanda donated themselves. And two friends from Union, Mary & Kenya, all agreed to take part. We’d gotten a couple magnetic boards so people could play with Jesus inside our booth. Printed up posters, and flyers to be handed out. Then I rented a UHaul truck for all the stuff to set up.

Wednesday October 5th was setup day. I had rented the smallest UHaul to transport everything from Bushwick Brooklyn to the Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan. I knew this was going to be the next challenge. These boxes of rubber magnets are heavy. At the time I had six versions; The Original, BDSM, Xmas, Superstar, Halloween and of course the new Star Wars. One box of these holds 40 sets and each box is about 20 pounds. My expectations were high, so I brought 4 or 5 boxes of each. A quick rounded approximation was about 600 pounds of boxes to be transported from my 3rd floor apartment through the city to booth 2868 at the convention center, by foot. It was a lot.

The instructions we’d received from the event told us everything we needed to know about delivering our goods to the booth. They even encouraged us to use the people working there to help. When we arrived there were signs directing us to the back of the building, and sure enough, there were guys there telling us where to back the truck up and unload. Inside the building on the loading dock my friends and I were told to unload everything onto a pallet ourselves, then they used a forklift to carry it into the building to our spot. We were all extremely happy that it was all going by forklift.

The Jesus Dressup booth ComicCon 2010

The event was the most crowded convention I’d ever seen. Tens of thousands showed up to fill up that building to/and over its capacity. It was so crowded that often people wanting to stop at booths could not because the crowd was too thick and would whisk them away. There were nearly a hundred thousand people at the convention that year!

It also turned out that I may have dressed my friends a little too realistically. Christine, Owen and Kenya who I’d sent into the crowd dressed as Jehovah’s Witnesses carrying clipboards and promotional supplies had trouble getting anyone to pay them attention. 
“Everyone we approach tries to avoid eye contact and get away from us!”
No one at ComicCon wanted to be evangelized too! Go figure.
So yeah, that idea of mine kinda backfired.

At conventions like these, Saturday is the busiest. It’s assumed that Thursday and Friday most people are doing more browsing than buying. Saturday most people have the day off, and because it’s nearing the end of the event, everyone shows up and spends. Sunday is a shorter day, and most booths pack up early to beat the mass exodus. There’s always a palpable feel in the air that this circus is about to leave town. So Saturday morning we show up ready to rock, and there’s an envelope on our table addressed to me.
It was a bill for $4,400 from the Javits Center for services rendered in transporting 600 lbs of product via forklift to our station. I was crushed.

We’d befriended the couple who were running the booth to our left, who sympathized, “We had precisely the same thing happen to us at another convention. We learned our lesson.”
It included a letter stating that before the end of the day Sunday we’d be required to make payment, or provide the means in which to do so. What would have been a great Saturday was totally affected by that wretched invoice. 

ComicCon & my Jesus Dressup Booth


ComicCon & Jesus Dressup P2

If that bill wasn’t bad enough, sales weren’t as hot as I’d hoped. Both Thursday and Friday we were having trouble getting people to stop at the our table and participate. There were just too many distractions. Fact is too we weren’t performing well enough to attract anyone’s attention. Our group was mostly introverts, and to get people’s attention in chaos like this wasn’t easy.
As Saturday progressed, I got more and more agitated by what had happened. A couple guys from the docks stopped by to make sure I’d received that invoice. They knew exactly what they were doing. They’d even made us do all the lifting from the truck to the pallet, then off the pallet again while they all watched. Then it took one guy to drive that forklift 50 feet. Frustrated and desperate, I started to hatch a scheme to get out of paying that hustle.

But first, I realized I knew exactly how to attract attention to our booth. No different than how I did it on the street handing out flyers. Except that I’m supposed to be yelling at this crowd. 

There’s video of this, if you’ve not seen it before.

Having a shake-down that morning drew it out of me. I came in like a rocket. Standing out front of our table I just stopped giving a fuck.
And by god, it worked! There’s a fun video of this going down as it happened. 

It was that Saturday afternoon, my friends saw my example and we all became an effective selling machine. When I asked Christine what she remembered from that weekend, she said that the moment she saw me turn up my volume and ranting like a carnival barker, that’s what inspired the rest of them.

At the end of the day Saturday, Christine, Owen and I came back to the apartment, and I told them my plan for Sunday.
The way the place was set up, all trucks had to load at the docks in the back of the building, through those union guys, where all final checking out happened. The only other exit was the front doors. The ones everyone else at the event goes through. 

We had stacks of these 20 pound boxes of magnets still at our booth. I’d completely overestimated how many we’d need. So we were going to spend Sunday trying to sell as many as possible, at great discounts to lighten the load, while I transported everything, somehow, to the front sidewalk. Then Owen was going to stand guard of that pile until we came with a truck to load it all in. Then we scram.

The booth next to ours offered us use of their dolly for the task, and that day it took four hours to walk all our remaining boxes and stuff across that gargantuan building. Our booth was in the farthest corner back from the main entrance. I could fit 4 boxes max on this smallish dolly, then I had to travel the full length of the convention center, from back right corner, to front left corner for the exit. To make matters worse the escalators stopped running about halfway through. They’d busted on account of too many people! Back and forth with 80 pounds of magnets through this unforgiving crowd. I forget how many trips it took but by the time I was pushing the last load, the dolly was a bent mess, and so was I.

As the afternoon grew late I noticed the line of vans and trucks being held way back on the street by uniformed traffic attendants. They were blocking all vehicles from approaching the curb where Owen sat with those boxes.
“They haven’t let anyone pull up here all day.” He informed me. And that line of waiting cars was easily in the dozens. I had no idea how we were going to do this, and praying was obviously out of the question.

When all of our stuff was finally moved out of the building to the front, of which we were the only people with a pile of stuff in the front, Christine and I headed to the truck parked a few blocks away. At the truck we looked at each other completely void of ideas on how we were going to do this. 
“Are we just going to drive up to the front of the line and see if we can talk our way in?” 

Looking at us both, I realized these passes around our necks might actually be the problem.
“What if we take these off? I bet only people with these are made to wait in that line.”
So we removed our ComicCon passes and drove past the lineup of drivers, all with their cynical stares as we rode by. We went right to the security guy waving his hands in the air telling us to stop.
“You can’t come in here. You have to get to the back of the line!”
“We’re not part of this” I explained. “We’re just here to pick up those boxes over there. Is this some sort of convention going on?”
The guard looked at me confused, gestured at the stack of boxes Owen leaned against and said.  “Those are yours?”
“Yeah, I’m here to get those. That’s all.”
“You with fud?” he asked me.
“Yes, I’m with fud.” I confidently responded.
“They’re with fud. Let them through!” And he waved me on to my boxes.

I’ll never forget Owen’s dazzled expression of amazement as we pulled up.
“How in the hell did you do that? Everyone’s been trying to get through for hours! What did you say to him?”
“I told him we were with fud.”

Christine and I exhausted after ComicCon

As fast as we could, we threw everything in the back of the truck, and drove back to Bushwick. We had pizzas delivered and an evening of stories and celebration. We figured that “fud” was probably referring to food delivery – the only vehicles they let through.
But we’ll never know for sure.

Just for the record, the couple in the booth next to us, I emailed asking the cost to replace their dolly, and mailed them a check the next day. They were happy it worked out as well as it did.

Weeks later I received that $4,400 bill in the mail. By the way, they’re a completely different company than ComicCon who I purchased the booth from up front. This invoice was only for those forklift services. I spoke to Mark about how everything went down, and he was sure sorry that had happened. He said there were others who complained about getting the same sort of invoices. There was nothing he could do however.

Something Shaggy told me once about a thing you can do in NYC, is walk into any attorney’s building and get a free consultation. So one day on my way down 14th Street I stopped in one of these places at random and told a lawyer there about what had happened. His advice was to write a detailed letter with the whole story, and the reason why I don’t think I owe them that money and mail it back with the bill. He explained to me how important it is to respond to every bill they send me because there’s print at the bottom of each stating that not responding is an admission of guilt.
“Just keep mailing back that story you told me, and be sure to update the date on each letter you send. That’ll probably work for a bill that small.” He told me.

That’s what I did. I wrote a letter telling what happened and how they would never see any money from me because I felt ripped off. I knew they did it on purpose, and I’d never pay them. I’d rather go bankrupt. They mailed that bill to me twice, and each time I responded with the same story. Then I never heard from them ever again. 

In the end I pretty much broke even. We sold about $2,000 worth of stuff, and about $2,000 in total was spent. I learned a lot, and I tell myself over and over again it was worth it.
Looking back now 14 years later, it definitely was.

A New Yorker, like Shaggy

When I moved to NYC I was fully aware I had personality traits that needed work. I was an introvert. I was not graceful or quick when dealing with the public, or strangers, or even acquaintances for that matter. My default was awkwardness. And amongst New Yorkers this weakness of mine magnified. 

Shaggy, May 2006

This is something Shaggy has had no issues with since the day he was born. Before ever meeting Shaggy I would see him at Union shouting at his friends, and strangers, and whoever else, as Shaggy does. When he and I finally met, it was this aspect of him that really held my interest. He, like many born New Yorkers, have developed a different kind of personality dealing with the chaos of that city. A bold readiness for whatever may come around the next corner, and an instinctual way to handle said potential chaos with words, or whatever means necessary, then shrug it off.

A good example that stands out, one time early in our friendship we were hanging outside an entrance to the Starbucks on Astor. We were chatting while he smoked, and this grumpy elderly lady was walking towards us.
“Excuse me. You shouldn’t be standing right here. You’re blocking the door!” She scolded us both.

Without hesitation, Shaggy side-mouthed his cig, reached obediently to hold said door open. Pressing his back to the wall making room, he gestured with his other hand like her personal doorman so she could pass through safely. She wobbled past mumbling how much of a bother we both were telling us we should stand somewhere else. He apologized and gently shut the door behind her.
As soon as the door shut he continued on with whatever story he was telling without acknowledging what had just happened. To me it was an incredible moment. Here I was assuming he’d retaliate with rudeness, or something other than being completely accommodating and apologetic. And the way he did it was totally cool and amusing. 
“I did not expect you to handle that that way!” I told him. 

“Of course! We were in the way, and she’s right! Respect your elders.” and went on to explain how she was obviously a New Yorker. “That’s the way we talk to each other.”
How would I have handled that situation? I’m not sure. But I wouldn’t have been that cool. I wanted what he did to come that naturally.

Another time early on, Shaggy and I were hanging by The Cube on Astor and across the street these four ladies with their shopping bags were gabbing loudly. At first glance they appeared to be a couple daughters with their moms, and their voices were loud, laughing, conversing so they could be heard for blocks. They were oblivious to the spectical they were making of themselves. Shaggy says to me, watch this! And walks to them, skateboard in hand, striding along behind them like he’s showing these ladies around town.

It wasn’t even half a block when they noticed and all of their chatter came to an immediate stop. They glanced at each other saying with their eyes, “Who’s this weird little man walking with us?”
Their confusion and now, total silence was hilarious.

When they got to the corner they began hailing for a cab, to which Shaggy stood out even farther in front of them and hailed one down. They looked so bewildered assuming they now had to hail another one for themselves. I was amazed as I watched this all unfold. When the cab pulled up, Shaggy opened the back door and held it for the ladies inviting them to enter. He had the biggest grin on his face while all four of them squeezed into the back together, attempting to speed this along. As soon as they’d all filed in and shut the door, he opened the front passenger door and sat right next to the driver, closed it and looked straight ahead without saying a word. The ladies were beyond dumfounded! They’re smiles switching right back to the same shock and confusion from before. It was so fucking funny. I watched it all from the sidewalk, dazzled. These were not the actions of an introvert.
He sat there only a few seconds before finally getting out and saying through the windows, “Only kidding, ladies! Enjoy your day in New York!” and waved them goodbye. He came back to me laughing, “What’d you think of that Bobo?”

Anyone who knows Shaggy, these stories won’t shock you. But for me, it was so strange, so refreshing, and so enviable. To be that confident and bold. It’s punk rock. This is what being a New Yorker meant to me. 

Flash forward a decade or so. I’m walking by myself down St Marks crossing the street. At the middle of the road, a car is waiting for me so he can make a left turn, his front fender just a few feet from my legs. Then in a moment of road-rage he lurched forward and quickly braked just inches from my shins making me jump. Stepping forward, as he pulled behind me, I kicked my heel into the side of his car with my boot, and a couple steps more I look back realizing I’d dented his door. I thought to myself “He’s definitely going to stop and get out.”
I looked over my shoulder again, and sure enough he was pulling over and getting out shouting “HEY MOTHER FUCKER! COME HERE! YOU FUCKING HIT MY CAR!”

Now mind you, I’m carrying my laptop in a carrying case, when I turn around and start yelling “YOU WANNA HIT ME WITH YOUR CAR?! YOU WANT TO RUN ME OVER?! FUCK YOU!!”
I’m shaking my case in the air, pens and pencils flying out of its pockets onto the sidewalk. In my head I’m thinking “Am I actually ready to fight this guy?” But my blood is boiling and I’m stomping back towards him out of control. Whatever it looked like coming at him, it was enough for him to get right back into his car and drive away. 

I was shaking all over, and my art supplies were scattered all over the ground. Then I noticed there were people sitting at tables on the sidewalk who saw everything! And as I was picking up my stuff a couple of them came over to help asking if I was alright. It was the first time I’d ever exploded like this. I was shaking, barely able to control myself. As these people were handing me my pencils I was shaking my head. “Thank you. I don’t know what came over me. I’m okay. Thank you.”

Shaggy & Normal Bob Sept 2006, Union Square Park NYC

I went straight to Starbucks to calm down, and phoned Shaggy at work to tell him what happened. He laughed and said “The pressure of the city finally broke you! Congratulations! You’re a New Yorker now!”

I’m happy to say that from the years of hanging out with him, this quality did in fact rub off on me. Not to the extent of Shaggy’s, but I definitely changed.

I realize this thing may read like Shaggy’s died or something. He has not. In fact I just talked to him, and as always “We’re homies for life!” 

Shaggy, NJ 2024 w/neighbor’s garbage

How am I?

Jack Kerouac

Not gonna lie. It’s been hard adjusting happily to this reality here in West Michigan. I miss people. I miss friends, and strangers, and populated cities, and the stuff that happens in populated cities. Where I’m at it ain’t that way. The nearest city is Muskegon. It’s only been in the last couple years they had their first pride parade. Circling the event were pickups with American & Confederate flags flapping from their flatbeds while honking their horns. People here still speak fearfully of Antifa coming to vandalize our neighborhoods. The coffee shop I was going to regularly, Drip Drop Drink, which hung & sold my art, went out of business a few months ago. Lots of places around here have trouble staying open. My main getaway is the coffee shop. It’s where I most comfortably work, read, and relax. I have a new one now I go to every morning for a few hours to be around people and have human contact. My girlfriend Laurie has been helping me keep sane best she can through all this too.

Since my dad died last year, I’ve been more stuck than ever. My mom isn’t comfortable being left alone for more than a day. So leaving, even for short day or two getaways are all but impossible. Visiting a place (like Chicago or NYC) for a week or more just can’t happen, at least for now. So I’ve been doing the best I can with what I have to work with. My main focus in terms of business and creative has been supplying Jesus magnets to stores, and finding more that’ll sell them. I do have art projects I’ve been working on, and’ve been focusing a lot on perfecting my pen and ink skills.

I’ve been reading more than drawing lately. Rereading Richard Stark’s PARKER crime novels. I love this series. I’ve read almost 20 of the books in the last couple months. Gets my mind off of feeling lonely, overthinking, politics, religion and pointless self-pity voices that require severe ignoring. I really have nothing to complain about considering what’s going on in the world. I remind myself of that all the time.

I will say that having returned to bible-belt surroundings has reignited my anti-religious sentiments. Luckily I still have boxes of flyers to leave around town. And I have one store in Muskegon that ADORES and sells my Jesus Dressup magnets. Puzzles Oddities & Ends. So that’s cool.

Once again, trying to keep posting so y’all know I haven’t dipped out completely.
Can you believe I’ll be 55 in June?

Artist, Atheist, Anthropologist