Comix And Country Clubs

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this morning’s (10/15/12) Google picture honoring cartoonist Winsor McKay. It was also very appropriate in relation to this post. Mary Ann and I just returned from the bay area and the Alternative Press Expo (APE) at the Concourse in San Francisco. Every now and then I am compelled to mingle with other ink slingers and renew my old acquaintances and friendships as well as seeing what the new kids are doing.

Upon our arrival we ran into Mad magazine’s Sergio Aragones, sitting at a table signing autographs and sketches for his legion of fans of every generation. Sergio is responsible for those little margin drawings that have graced every page of every issue since I was in knickers. He is known as the fastest pen in the biz, and he hasn’t lost a second in his forty-plus years of scribbling, although like many of us, he suffers from back problems from decades of sitting at a drawing board. I can relate.

Then we ran into Trina Robbins, one of the founding mothers of the undergrounds. Trina was immortalized by Joni Mitchell long ago in her song, Ladies of the Canyon, with the opening lyric “Trina wears her wampum beads, she fills her drawing book with line.” These days, Trina has traded her drawing book for the computer keyboard and has authored many volumes of historical books on women in comics and other female-related themes. She even shows up in Grass Valley on occasion, the last time promoting her book The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs at Tomes. She is a dear friend and was very helpful to me when I was starting out in the biz thirty-odd years ago.

I finally ran down my old roomie, J.R. Williams, at his table hawking caricatures of the famous and not-so-famous and compilations of obscure rock’n’roll music.J.R. and I shared a house in Seattle with fellow cartoonist Pat Moriarity back in the wild and wooley days of the alternative comix renaisance that coincided with the Grunge music scene back in the early nineties. While we were recalling the fun times, we were joined by cartoonist Dan Clowes. You may not be familiar with Dan’s comix, but you may have seen the two movies that were adapted from them; Ghost World and Art School Confidential. He also made a guest appearance on an episode of The Simpsons. We had a great time talking about how much easier it was to be published back in those days.

It’s not so easy now in the 21st Century. Most of the publishers I talked to were still suffering from the recession and the slow grinding demise of print media. You wouldn’t know it to look around the room though. The building was crammed full of the new generation of cartoonists who self-publish their creations. Just don’t quit your day job.

We also met up with my ex, Kika (formerly Kate) Kane at the con. After a full day of schlepping books and artwork around the room, my legs were giving out so we skipped the after-con party and checked into our hotel, where we had to haul our baggage up two flights of stairs.

In the morning, we decided to skip the festivities and get out of SF before the neighborhood was deluged with Giants fans. (The concourse is only a few blocks away from AT&T Park.) Kika had invited us to visit her in Marin, so we made our way across the fog-shrouded Golden Gate to sunny yuppieland.

I have a lot of memories of Marin, having spent much time there in the seventies and eighties. George Lucas was just establishing Skywalker Ranch after making millions off of Star Wars. These days, George has had more problems with the strict zoning imposed on development out that way. Earlier this year he was denied permission to build a new facility in rural Marin, when uptight residents complained about traffic and the threat of degradation of the rural quality of life. (Sound familiar, Nevada County?) After being whipped by the locals, George said, okay, we’ll build affordable housing instead, which really messed with their minds. Liberal Marinites are always portraying themselves as the champions of the underclass, unless it’s in their backyard.

After driving down Sir Frank Drake into Fairfax, Kika met us at the gate to the compound where she lives. We were amazed when we drove into the place, which was once known as the Marin Town and Country Club. Today it is a conglomeration of ramshackle cabins and decaying bars and restaurants, and it serves as Fairfax’s version of affordable housing. (Affordable is a relative term. None of the folks who live there are poor by most standards, unless you consider the astronomical rents in Marin.)

Kika treated us to an excellent lunch downtown, and then we did a tour of the club grounds. It must have been something in its heyday. (And a word to the curious: Don’t wander in there if you happen to be in the neighborhood. The residents are very protective of their privacy.)

Photo by Kika on Mary Ann’s I-Pad.

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22 Responses to Comix And Country Clubs

  1. Tom Odachi says:

    Welcome back!
    It sounds like you had a great time out there! That video on the Country Club was fascinating. I noticed it was from 2005 and everything in the video appeared to be forsaken. Seven years later, people are living there?
    Forgive my ignorance, but when you say “affordable housing” and caution visitors about wandering in, I sort of get the impression that it’s like an inner city’s “upscale projects”.

    • rlcrabb says:

      Hey Tom – Yes, people are still living there. I forget the numbers, but I believe there are 50+ cabins. No one will buy the property because it is virtually impossible to develop, due to the attitude of the community. The people who live there don’t want it to become a tourist attraction, for security and privacy considerations. I’m sure you’d feel the same if you were having coffee in your underwear on the porch and people were driving by taking pictures.

      • Tom Odachi says:

        Very interesting… I get what you are saying about not wanting it to become a tourist attraction. It seems like such a paradox…

        Did you come away from APE with any ideas or changes to your work?

  2. Never confuse ‘affordable housing’ with ‘low cost housing’. The former is a political and politicized definition, the latter is simply determined by the marketplace.

    • rlcrabb says:

      Difference duly noted, George.

    • Steve Frisch says:

      If the marketplace provided for low cost housing there would be no need for affordable housing. Isn’t just like a conservatarian to deny the basic reality of market distortions;)

      • Have no idea how defining two notions denies “the basic reality of market distortions.” And the market’s ample provision of low cost housing has been inhibited only by government, not by escaping the notice of the greedy capitalist.

        • Ryan Mount says:

          Housing prices were high due to the government flooding the market with liquidity and guaranteeing loans. We socialized the risk with predictable results. Plain and simple.

          It’s our stupid monetary policy that’s enabling people (banks and citizens, etc.) to behave badly. If the real risks were properly exposed to the lenders, for example, we would have had a much different meltdown.

          George is right on the housing: it’s our government’s fault. Our government poured the liquor, and the banks/lenders and its citizens, with their new jet skis and remolded kitchens, drank deeply.

        • Ryan Mount says:


          Can you please ask a question that can be answered?

  3. Kika Kane says:

    Fun watching the video of “The Club” ~ now my secret has been revealed! There are about 30 inhabited cabins tucked back in here, & the price on the place has gone up a few millions. Thanks for featuring it in your blog ~ it was lovely having you & MaryAnn visit!

  4. Todd Juvinall says:

    I was chatting with a builder from Roseville the other day amd he said he had to come up with 50K before he dug a footing on a new home he was building. Affordable housing until the Obama recession was affordable to the well off. Low income housing is government housing, paid for by the taxpayers. We see the affordability to the middle class now because the government is out of the equation (sale) and the investor or lenders (or mortgage holders) had to take a 50% cut in the free market.

    The piling on of regulation on the creation of a single subdivision in our state is now so costly very few attempt it. Then when you add the additional regulations to construct the homes, energy crap, fire sprinklers etc., then we see the reason their has been no affordable housing is because of government. The free market will generally meet the needs of all sectors.

    • Judith Lowry says:

      Along with all those pesky regulations, new homes must have granite counters, stainless Viking appliances, programable climate control and enough square footage to house a small country.
      The “American Dream” of a home and a car and a “rainy day”savings account has become as bloated as our some of our bellies and therefore as out of reach as our toes.

    • Tom Betterman says:

      The free market and no regulations would result in Shanty Towns to rival the best in Rio and Cairo. Who wants to pay exorbitant rents for coded homes when in California at least 6 months of the year are quite pleasant in a quazi camping stage. I could probably pack several thou00000sand campers on 60 acres, and if you were my neighbor, you wouldn’t be able to do jack squat about it.

  5. Breen says:

    Kika posted your url on facebook – good to have a chance to ‘see’ you again. I’ll look forward to rummaging through your archives.

    Hope all’s well!

  6. Tom Betterman says:

    I used to be envious of the swimming pool at MTC as we drove by, expensive for us “affrodable” folks back then. Lucas definitely used The Force when the neighbors would have been unhappy with any expansion regardless if he put it underground. BTW, if I am not mistaken, the suburbanite neighbors came AFTER Lucas set up Skywalker, and have enjoy INCREASED values as a result of their proximity to the ranch, which is gorgeous from both the ground and the air. The whole area used to be cows, all the way down.

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