Friday, 1 May 2015

Jeff Seiler: My Birthday Call With Dave

(via email, 1 May 2015)
I paid US$99, some time ago, for a birthday call and birthday card from Dave for my, um, birthday, which, um, falls every year on April 30th, or so I'm told. (Could be wrong; long story). So, at around 14.30 CDT, Dave calls. I'm indisposed, but he leaves a message saying he'll call back, and hopes I'm having bucket loads of fun, out somewhere. I wasn't, but I ran to the store real quick and then came back home, called him, and told him that I would be home for a few hours until I went out to dinner and to watch the Twins (ultimately) garnish a rare win. So, he called back around 1640 CDT, and I answered.

"Hello, Jeff!"

"Hang on," I answered, "let me put my earphones in..."

"No, problem."

"So," I responded, "what's up?"

"Well," said Dave, "it's your birthday call, what do you want to talk about?"

At this point, I should mention that I have been answering about a phone call a week from Dave, resulting in about an hour-long conversation each call, for about a month now, ever since he asked me to do what he (presumably) described in Friday's weekly update video. SO, knowing I was going to receive a birthday call from him, and knowing that I was on the spot for coming up with a question about Cerebus that had never been asked before, and... knowing that in 11 years plus of written and, now, phone correspondence, we have pretty much NEVER discussed Cerebus, I was a bit non-plussed... anxious... at a loss.

SO... I told him about how my cat had pooped in the hallway last night, and how my first text message of the day on my birthday was a message from my building manager informing me of that. Got a bit of a laugh. So, then, I told him how I was planning to go to St. Louis at the end of May to meet up with Gerhard at the Wizard World Con, so that I could pay him for and receive my commissioned drawing OF my cat (which will be awesome), so that I can take it back home and use it to clean up the mess the next time my cat poops in the hallway.

Um, not really. I didn't say that to Dave, but, really, it's not far off the mark.

And then, I asked Dave a lot of questions about his health. Getting a lot better. Had the staples around "what's left of my belly button" taken out a few hours before he called me. Actually, now that I think of it, just a couple of hours before he first called me. (Amazing.) We talked about that, in all its grossness, at some length. He's doing very well, post-staple-removal and he talked about how he had been bemused by how the staples would grind against each other whenever he would sit down and how, as soon as they were removed and he got home, how great it was to sit and stand and, presumably, twist around, and not feel the staples grinding. And, he said the doctor told him that he had healed up very nicely.

Then, on to other things. We made some small talk about various things, about which we usually talk or write, plus his description of how he has had to change his approach to his work, given the ongoing wrist problem.

I asked him how the physical rehabilitation was going and he described at length what it is that he has to do in the way of exercises, either at the Physical Rehabilitation Therapist's Office (a ten-minute walk from his home, each way, three times a week, thank you very much), or at home. I mean, we talked at length about that. Having re-injured my left shoulder and having been treating it gingerly for over a month, I could relate. He WAS quite detailed. I ate it up.

He knows that I am, with my interest and my journalist's eye and memory, quite a good memory bank for him, should he ever want to tap it. And, being DVS, I think he does enjoy (?), making deposits of information in that bank from time to time. No problem; glad to serve.

And then, let's see... I should mention that, when I told Dave that Ger was going to do a commissioned piece of art of my cat, Dave said, "Wow, that should be a pretty big piece of art board!" See, every time I get on the phone with anyone, including Dave, eventually, the cat wants to get all up in my business. He (the cat, not Dave), is FAT. Weighs at least 20, maybe 25 pounds. So, when Dave said that, I laughed and said, yeah, since the picture is of my cat all stretched out, yeah, that's probably going to be one LONG piece of art.

So, we were having a very enjoyable conversation, and then I just relaxed when I realized that the 30-minute phone call that I paid 99 bucks for back in, what, January, had suddenly turned into a free-for-all. Who can top the other with a better story or a better joke, or just why not keep an enjoyable conversation going?

So, along then was when he got going on Canadian health-care, and I got going on one thing or another, and then we got going on politics, (as we pretty much ALWAYS do, being so much in agreement on that), and suddenly I realized it was more like an hour now, and then I thought:

"Okay, this IS *my* birthday call, and, ostensibly, I get to steer the call. Try that, any day of the year, with Mr. David Victor Sim... But, I tried. So, I said, you know, I do still have a few things I want to tell you or ask you before we go. (And here is where I'm going to go just a bit out of order, for narrative's sake.) At some point, I said, "you know, I sort of pride myself on the fact that, out all of the 10 or 11 years of correspondence and phone calls that you and I have exchanged, we almost NEVER have talked about 'Cerebus'."

He said, "Yeah."

I came back with, "But, this IS *my* birthday call, and the idea is that people are supposed to ask you whatever they want to know about 'Cerebus'."

"Yeah," he replied.

"So," I have been *racking* my brain to come up with a question that I haven't asked before, or that I haven't seen asked before, and I just couldn't find anything that I haven't seen before.

He chuckled.

And then, I said, "Until, I thought, what was the one thing or things that you wish you had NOT put into Cerebus? What, looking back now, was one path, one storyline, that you wish you had done differently and/or not done at all?"

He paused, and thought, as he always does with a serious question, then, very slowly, cautiously, responded (I paraphrase, but closely, because this was a phone conversation):

"I don't think that there was any one thing, any one storyline, that I hadn't planned out as I went along. I always had a plan ahead of me, and I pretty much stuck to it. I may have had to make adjustments as I went along, for length, or for content getting too long, but I always knew where I was headed, where I wanted to go and where I wanted it to end up.

"So, if you're asking me if I had any regrets about the story, about 'Cerebus' and how I told it, then, no. Looking back, I think that the regret, if any, is that I spent so much time drinking and smoking dope and fooling around with women, floozies, and not working. If anything, at the end, I think I will look back and say, 'God, God, please give me back those days,' so that I could have made more of them with my work, the things that mattered, ultimately. I could have done *so much more* in those days, if only I had known not to do those other things. But, I was in my twenties. *No one* in their 20s understands those things. It's *all* about partying and having *fun*!"

And, then, Dave said one of the most amazing things to me that I have ever heard him, or read him say, whether in an interview or in mass print, or, privately, in a letter to me:

"You know, not long ago, I looked up the word 'fun' in the dictionary [and he cited a dictionary, the name of which I can't recall], and the etymology of the word, 'fun', said that it came from a German root [Me, Jeff, again, it's attributed in my American Heritage Dictionary as being from Middle English, but nevertheless] that means 'to fool'. Whether or not it's to fool oneself or others, I thought, well, whatever happened to not everyone thinking that they are entitled to 'have fun?'"

And, then, Dave and I went on into another discussion, being the geezers that we are, about how, having the means and, sometimes, the time to go have fun, we are, variously, either too tired or just think, "do I really want to go all the way across town to go do that, that may or may not be fun, but maybe just wind up on a park bench discussing the Canadian Health Care system with someone who thinks I may or may not be a little bit crazy, (so to speak)?"

I told him that I wanted to use my newfound money to travel, but whenever I think about actually going and doing it, I just say, "but, I'm tired, and so is the cat." Good laugh there.

SO, eventually, I got around to telling him how I got an early birthday present a couple of days before, I had bought a box of baseball cards (an early vice I have since returned to), and, in that box of 8 packs of 6 cards per pack, I found a-variation-of-a-variation-of-a-variation, a miniature (2" X 1") card, that was stated on the pack as being a one-per-every-3,850-packs card. A true rookie card of the Cubs' Javier Baez. After examining the front of the card for a bit, I flipped it over and saw a gold foil stamp on it: 1/1.

I had the only card of that kind in existence. I did the numbers, and depending on how you look at it, the odds of my getting that *particular* card were either 1 in over 8,000,000, or, lesser so, 1 in 1,350,000. Either way, an astonishing "pull". And, then, Dave, being Dave, began asking me questions about baseball cards and the "inserts", as I later explained to him. Long story (about which, I, unfortunately, know way too much) short, I explained to him how variable-ratio and variable-interval reinforcement work (see, Pavlov and, later, Skinner), and he began to perk up.

And, then, we had an enlightening, eye-opening, to-be-discussed-publicly-later discussion that took up the better part of an hour, out of those two birthday-call-hours. It was FUN!!!

I highly recommend a birthday-call, birthday-card package in the next Kickstarter package.

BTW? That $99 donation to Kickstarter, for that 30-minute birthday-call, birthday-card package, was worth every second of the $1.212121212121(etc) dollars/ second I spent to help forward TSDOAR. Just, please, don't expect 2 hours on your birthday. I kinda have a knack for engaging him.

As he said, near the end of the conversation, after I said, "I think we've had a very interesting relationship over the years..." He said, to paraphrase closely, "Yeah, I think it was about 60-40, maybe 70-30, good-to bad."

And then he went on, at length, to try to explain, but admitted that he couldn't quite explain it, except to admit that I *am* a magnifier, that he recognized (and recognizes) that I am *genuinely* sincere in my efforts to assist him, as opposed to fake-sincere, and that, whenever he thought about saying, "Are you *kidding*?!? Asking Jeff Seiler to help out?!? What am I thinking?!?", he always held back and said, "No, wait, let's see how this plays out..."

And, he admitted, it pretty much always played out okay. If not good.

And, then, I said, "Well, using your chart, I think I look at us as being 90-10, or 85-15, cause you've *definitely* pissed me off a time or two..." He laughed and admitted that that could be true...

So, GREAT birthday call. One for the books. Thanks for the memories, as the song goes, though not in the way the song goes... Now? Onward and upwards with whatever the daffy bastid wants me (us) to do next...

Stay tuned.

Jeff Seiler has embraced 'social media' and posted his first tweet on Twitter:


Jeff Seiler seilerjeff said...

I thought I had also tweeted: "If *you* have a Dave Sim and Me story, contact me at and maybe I'll interview you for the upcoming "Dave Sim And Me" blog."

So, if you do have such a story, I'm extending that invitation here, as well.

The blog won't be up and running for a while, as I work on seeing if I can make anything of the 140-character format for sowing little nuggets from Dave (out of our correspondence) on Twitter. I don't know if it will work, but I'm gonna give it my best shot.

But, don't hold back. If you have an interesting Dave Sim and me story, email me at the above-listed address and we'll see about putting it in the bank for the upcoming blog.

Cory Foster said...

That sounds like a lot of fun. I'd love to talk to Dave, but (I was just talking about this with somebody over dinner), I'm always very reluctant to meet anyone I admire. I can never think of anything to talk about or ask them, and I always come away from it feeling like a bit of a fool. I'm just grateful I've had him respond to some of my email questions.

I'd want to let him know how much his work has meant to me as a comic fan and a graphic designer, but I can't imagine that fanboy approach being very interesting for him, or anybody with fans.

Jeff Seiler seilerjeff said...

You'd be surprised, Cory. Dave, to me, has always seemed genuinely interested in other people's work. I was reluctant to engage with Dave at first, for much the same reasons, but now, after 10+ years of discourse, it's just like talking to any other friend or acquaintance. You just have to get comfortable, and then it's like riding a bike.

Jack said...

Jeff, please continue to inform us in excruciating detail about every single mundane interaction you've ever had with Dave Sim.

I remember when Dave, in his "everyone is possessed by demons" phase, speculated that Jeff had "turned." My thought was, "Turned what, non-annoying?"

Jeff Seiler seilerjeff said...

If it were excruciating, "Jack", then why would you know so much about it?

The troll is back!!!

Tell you what...

If 100, no, what am I thinking?, if 20 respondents post up at this site that they DON'T want me to post any other information from Dave here, then I will...


Ya know?. Dave doesn't seem to mind it and, occasionally, he actually asks me to put stuff up.

So, Jack, I'm gonna keep on putting up mundane stuff, as long as Dave asks me so to do.

BTW, if you were to ask him, I'm pretty sure Dave would tell you that he no longer thinks I have been or were "turned".

But, hey?

Go ahead and ask him.

Jack said...

Okay, Jeff, I apologize for being that level of nasty. I generally don't say things on the internet that I wouldn't say to someone's face, and this was a exception. Sorry.

Now to render my apology half-assed at best, I'll try to put my remarks in more civil terms. To me, you constantly come across as bragging, "DAVE SIM IS MY CLOSE PERSONAL FRIEND!" All of your posts on the Cerebus Yahoo Group struck me that way (I actually made some snide comments about them there), and all of your posts on this site strike me that way. Also, I recently went to your Twitter feed, and I saw that you devoted several Tweets to quoting Dave's praise for your letters to him. I just find that kind of thing intensely irritating, although, admittedly, I may very well be alone in that regard.

Another thing about your posts from the Yahoo Group bugged me, and maybe you can address it here. If I recall correctly, you said that you were involved in education (as a substitute teacher?) and were somehow encouraging use of Judenhaus in the classroom. I remember thinking, "Wouldn't kids get more out of The Diary of Anne Frank or even Maus then Judenhaus, which is really just a list of anti-Semitic quotes along with photorealistic depictions of Holocaust scenes? What the hell are kids going to learn from that? Is this guy interested in teaching kids or just in helping out his good friend Dave?" I'd be interested in hearing what you think about my reaction.

Anyway, if I don't like what you have to say, why the hell am I reading it, right? I have no answer for that or justification for why I was a jerk to you. So I'm sorry about that, and I'll leave you alone now