Chris Cornell, 1964-2017

   My mom was a suburban baby-boomer hippie who felt like she had become a television addict when she started staying home with me, her first child, so, she threw it out. Like many kids of divorce, I spent every weekend with my grandparents who were of the mind that television would destroy intelligence, so watching was restricted. Reading books, magazines, and comics, and listening to comedy and music became the refuge of this odd little introvert.

    Once I wrangled a little spending money, those things combined and overlapped. I love reading, and I love music, so I loved reading about music. I subscribe to the theory that an older sibling can help develop a more advanced taste in pop culture, but I didn’t have one, so the magazines I read became the voice to which my curiosity would listen. I started with the normal things a ten-year old in 1984 would absorb, Prince and M.J, Bruce and Madonna, but a subscription to Rolling Stone and a desire to find voices I could relate to as a semi-misanthropic tween started to encourage me to dig deeper.

    The magazines Spin and Rip had a tone that resonated, and both played a role in helping drive my curiosity toward thrash metal, punk, and hip-hop. I am now very aware, by the way, that those two magazines were published by two titans of American pornography, Rip even being the very first non-pornographic magazine published by Larry Flynt. I will leave it to the Freudian analysts figure out exactly what that means. Don’t get me wrong, I would read any piece of trash that would recycle press releases about bands (I’m looking at you Circus and Hit Parader), but my skepticism lead me to drop those when I found the more self-aware alternatives.

    So it was, that at age fifteen, the power of major label music press and a Warehouse gift certificate lead me to scoop up a copy of Loud Love. The sound was earnest, and a bit self-important when I look at it now, but imagine how earnest and self-important play at fifteen. And, saving grace to a kid who loved stand-up comedy, it had some childish humor on board, including a Spinal Tap-style song about fucking. It remains my least favorite musically of those first five Soundgarden records, but at the time I listened to the shit out of it. I went back to UltraMega OK and Screaming Life, and by the time Badmotorfinger was released, I was a committed fan.

    A couple years later, when music obsession and disposable income combined to encourage me to comb the record stores with an undiscerning mind, buying up imported CD singles and promo compilations, Soundgarden became the flag that signified my commitment to collecting records. A Sub Pop Records singles release forced me to find a record player, and the encouragement of an ill-chosen paragon turned me into a completionist. At one point I owned something like sixty different records, tapes, and CDs of music, later sold to a cokehead friend who had even more disposable income than I.

    Chris Cornell’s structurally poetic but vague lyrics resonated with hidden depth to me. To date, the meaning is usually still hidden well enough that I’m not sure if it’s obfuscated or absent, but they resonated. I always hated the leather-and-hairspray costumes of 80s metal, and hated more the costume-costumes of Alice Cooper and KISS, but a costume of Doc Marten’s and flannel shirts seemed everyman enough to accept.

    Soundgarden helped me find Mudhoney, The Descendents. and Sonic Youth, and those lead me to find all my favorites in each little niche and subgenre of the rock and roll that ties it all together. Chris Cornell was the face of a band that ties into finding Sleater-Kinney and Sage Francis and Secret Chiefs 3 and Steve Earle and Slug and Sleep and Slobberbone and Sigur Ros, and many other bands I love outside the “S” section of my collection.

    I did grow apart from Soundgarden at some point after selling the collection, and only dabbled in Audioslave and the solo records, but reading about Chris Cornell’s passing hit me hard in nostalgia circuits. I will always appreciate Cornell and Soundgarden in helping to open the gateway to so much music that still thrills me to this day. Many bands that were my favorites then don’t hold up when I listen today, but I can still listen with great pleasure to dozens of songs he helped create in the 80s and 90s.

    Rest in peace.

Jay Kennedy, 1956-2007

I went to San Diego Comic Con every year for 20 years, and I sold comic books for most of those. In a business like comic book retailing, at an event like San Diego, you meet people that you tend to run into year after year, and if you share a common interest, you tend to continue the same conversation year after year. There are many such people that I see in San Diego, but there are few that I enjoyed speaking with as much as Jay Kennedy.

I first spoke to him about seven or eight years ago, and while I ran into him at a few other comic shows, he and I spoke at every San Diego in recent memory. Our conversation started because of a common interest, independent and underground comic books. When I realized that I had read and referred to his book regularly, I started a conversation. Each year we picked up where we left off until it the conversation continued down other avenues, both personal and professional.

The people that you see, many of them come and go, and you rarely know why the leave or where they go. Many of them you never learn about, and many of them you don't even remember. Jay happened to be famous enough that I heard about his death the day after it happened (on The Beat), and he had made enough of an impression on me that I was struck with sadness. People don't bother writing reminiscences like this if they don't have anything nice to say, and here I have nothing but nice things to say.

Jay was one of the very nicest people that I met thanks to San Diego, and talking with him about comics (books or strips) was always a conversation I looked forward to, and each summer won't be the same without the chance to see him.

(Originally written in 2007, light re-write in 2016)

Alvin Buenaventura, 1975-2016

I barely knew Alvin, and he barely knew me. We first met more than 20 years ago, when we were both teenagers. I was a comics retailer who sold at all the shows, big and small, in Southern California, and I was one of the few who carried a wide variety of independent comics and undergrounds. He would occasionally shop with me. I recognized a kindred spirit, and we would talk briefly about what we enjoyed.

I was a relatively withdrawn kid, who loved comics more than anything, and never felt more comfortable talking to strangers than at a comics show. Even still, I probably never even shook his hand or properly introduced myself until nearly decade later. When I saw him again I saw that he was publishing books by and with some artists that I admired most in the world. I asked him if he recognized me from those Los Angeles comics shows. When he said yes, I felt like the world was a little smaller and more accessible. Here, now, another decade later, it still makes me feel less alone in the world, even learning that he’s gone.

I recognize that this remembrance is self-serving. However, as I sit here in sadness processing this loss to the comics world, I am grateful that I know Alvin and people like him. The small world of comics has always been a welcoming community for me. I hope that it gave Alvin some sense of peace in his, by all accounts, tumultuous life.

In my own life I learned only a few years ago that love is an action, not a feeling. Alvin demonstrated as clear a love for comics and artists through his work as anyone I’ve ever met.