Monday, October 25, 2010

Dia de Los Muertos in Whittier, and memories of Greenleaf

Yesterday, Sunday the 24, I spent the day at the Uptown Whittier Dia de Los Muertos festival. They've been running this for a few years now, and this is the first time I've signed here in a couple of years. They closed off two blocks of the main street, Greenleaf Ave., and had artist booths, food vendors and music to help celebrate the occasion.

I was stationed in front of GEEKS Comics, right on the sidewalk, courtesy of my good friend Sal Felix. 

A couple of the kids from my current comic book workshops came by to visit, including Matthew, a talented artist and fashionable dresser:

One thing that became clear to me, not just this day but at Saturday's Dia de Los Muertos event in nearby Rose Hills, was the amount of saturation the film EL MUERTO has made in the general public by now. First released on DVD in 2007, the film, always an independent underdog, has had an extremely long life on cable. I had various people stop by my tables both days and mention that they had seen the film on television, some had even caught one of the local screenings we had played at a few years ago.

Obviously your standard Hollywood film gets a wide release and usually is known by a certain percentage of the public. But our independent film EL MUERTO seems to have built up a slow but gradual audience in it's time. While I always assumed this would be the case, to have these encounters with people still catches me by surprise.

I had one guy stop by and recognize me immediately. Apparently, he had interviewed me back in 2003 for his college newspaper (or it may have been High School). He mentioned that at the time I had talked about getting a movie option, and now years later he sees me selling the DVD of the film. I'll often meet up with people who had met me years before at an event, and then years later we catch up once again. Things like that don't make me feel necessarily older, but they do remind me that what I do, my life as an artist, is such an integral part of my existence, like getting up in the morning and brushing my teeth. 

The view of Greenleaf from my table:

Ah yes, good ol' Greenleaf. When I look at this photograph, I look at those trees and realize they must be the exact same trees that were there back in the 70s, when my parents would take me and my siblings to Ambrose Pizza, the 'best pizza in the world' I would proclaim with all the authority of a 10 year old. When I was in my early teens, I would ride my bike to Greenleaf and spend a day visiting the numerous books stores, both for new books and used books (mostly comics, actually). Bookland, just a few doors up from where GEEKS is now, has been closed for probably 10 years or so. But I used to go there and buy my new comics when I wanted to see what was available beyond the spinner racks at the supermarkets and 7-11 stores I'd normally buy my books at.

It was at Bookland that I used to sometimes buy the trade paperback
collections that Stan Lee (Marvel Comics creator) would write, such as ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS and BRING ON THE BAD GUYS. Those books, which offered the behind-the-scenes stories of the early Marvel classics, were so instrumental in my realizing that I also wanted to create my own comics. I'll have to post about those particular books at a later date.....

Besides Bookland, there were about 3 used bookstores on Greenleaf and the surrounding streets. The Little Old Bookshop, Ames Used Books and one other store. All of them had small sections set aside for used comic books, dating back about 5 or 10 years. Just digging through those little piles of comics was such a treat, never knowing what you would find by flipping through the issues. That was my Ebay back then, without the Paypal fees! Sometimes I'd find some books from the 60s (the ancient stuff!), and slowly build up my collection and knowledge, of the characters and equally important to me, the creators.

In the 1984, one afternoon after High School, I discovered that an actual comic book store had Whittier, on Greenleaf. The Fortune Bookie, owned by John Franco (who later on became a good friend of mine). To have finally been able to walk into an honest to gosh comic book store as a High Schooler was just a milestone! Plus John also carried movie memorabilia, which worked out well for me (and him too!) as I was becoming a huge James Bond film fan and picked up a cool A VIEW TO A KILL teaser poster at the shop.

There was a time in the late 80s that Hollywood came to visit Greenleaf. They actually filmed several scenes of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE there, and me and my friend Rick O'Neil would hang around the evenings and watch the proceedings. Skeletor's spaceship was hovering over the streets of Whittier those evenings, and it was a total trip to have been there when it happened!

(The trailer for MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Check out Greenleaf in it's moment of glory! And for those reading this blog post via Facebook, here's the Youtube link)

Flash forward years later, to about 2004 or so, and I find myself working for John Franco at the latest incarnation of his store, The Hobby Connection. I was between jobs, and for about 8 months or so I worked as a salesclerk in the comic shop. I actually enjoyed the experience, as it gave me an insight into the comic book world I hadn't yet experienced, the comics retailer angle. By now I was already publishing my own comics books, and having been a fan, and buyer of comics, working as a retailer was another rung on the ladder to being a total comic book junkie!

In 2008, I even had the chance to screen EL MUERTO at the Whittier Independent Film Festival, for which we actually won Best Feature! After the screening, we held a Q&A at GEEKS Comics with myself, director Brian Cox and Co-producer Susan Rodgers.

In the last two years or so, either on my own or with other artists, I've had numerous events here at GEEKS. Art shows, live art, seminars, classes. These and all the various experiences I've had along Greenleaf or the surrounding streets adds up to a lifetime of memories. Greenleaf, and the city of Whittier, is named after poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who never set foot in our street or town. But I'm glad to have a well-traveled journey along these streets, and expect to have lots more stories to tell about Greenleaf.

Didn't plan to turn this Dia de Los Muertos event review into an 'Ode to Greenleaf', but there you go. The muse called and I answered.

1 comment:

Greenblatt the Great! said...

You're a hometown hero, Javy!