From Distant Climes They Came

Above: Laurent Queyssi; Lawrence Jehel; me (with Lulu); Hélène Prévot; and Yan Sohyer luxuriate in the Bershires’ mountain air.
I met Laurent Queyssi in 2003, when he arranged for me to travel to Bordeaux for a comics convention he was helping to organize.
At right: Me signing copies of Stuck Rubber Baby‘s French edition during the Bordeaux con. Sitting attentively at my right (and your left) in this photo is French cartoonist/translator Patrick Marcel (my longtime friend and an early contributor to Gay Comix), who graciously helped me understand what was being said during any conversations involving topics more demanding than whether or not my aunt’s pen was currently on the table.

That was my first time to set foot on French soil.

And my first time to meet French comics fans.

And my first opportunity to mingle with my French comics- creating counterparts (all of whose drawing skills put mine embarrassingly to shame).

And also, uh, my first time to stumblingly place an order for French Egg McMuffins at a McDonald’s not far from my hotel, using what’s left of my high school French while hoping none of my culinarily cultivated convention hosts would spot me doing so.

It’s always easy for me to remember which year I made this trip, since George W. Bush was busy starting a war while my plane was over the Atlantic. Once I had settled into my hotel in Bordeaux, CNN International provided me with stimulating views of tanks barreling through sandstorms as preparations were being made to visit shock and awe on the citizens of Baghdad.

A welcome postscript to my introduction to les choses français occurred a couple of weeks ago, when Laurent paid a visit to the Cruse-Sedarbaum homestead here in North Adams. Laurent arrived with his girlfriend Lawrence in tow, as well as their friends Yan and Hélène, a charming couple who have only recently relocated from Bordeaux to Quebec.

The four of them stayed overnight with Eddie and me before proceeding to New York City. Laurent had never visited America before, and hence this would be his first exposure to the Big Apple. We recommended the street vendors’ soft pretzels, of course, and I made sure he knew to visit my favorite Manhattan comic store, Jim Hanley’s Universe. We also provided the traditional suggestion that everyone keep their wallets in their front pockets while making their way through dense crowds.

"The city is really magic," Laurent wrote to tell me once the gang had returned to Yan and Helene’s Ottawa digs. "We were amazed at every street corner."

Snapshots taken during Laurent’s North American vacation are now on view in his blog. Seeing New York through Laurent’s eyes reminds me why I’m grateful to have experienced life in that city for as many years as I did.

Which is not to suggest that Eddie and I aren’t thoroughly pleased to be living in rural Massachusetts now.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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One Response to From Distant Climes They Came

  1. John Tebbel says:

    I, too, ate McDonald’s in France, a Big Mac (French style; they grow no iceberg lettuce there) from the one on the Champs Elysees. My wife, Martha, stood outside. At the time I was getting much better croissants at home in Manhattan than they were putting on the table at the cheap hotels I favored, an Egg McMuffin would have been a standout. I thought the bed and breakfast quote in the Michelin meant I’d be billed regardless, so I ate some mighty dry toast, that trip.