I haven’t updated here much, lately, but it’s because that I was busy having adventures and writing about them for my first full-length graphic novel, which is on Route 66! More news on that soon. I’ll be updating with adventure comics here again very soon.
Also, I have a traveling companion now. Her name is Bug, and she is the best dog.
For now, I have compiled all of my Petrified Forest comics digitally, and you can download it for free on Gumroad!
I’ve been meaning to write a bit about how I eat while I travel. I love food, and surviving on a diet of ramen on the road is absolutely unacceptable to me. I stay in hostels fairly often, so a kitchen is generally available to me!
Anyway, I haven’t had time to finish my comic about road food, but here is one of my favourite recipes(I sometimes just bring the dry ingredients on the road so I can make a little treat for friends I’m staying with, or to make new friends at a hostel…). It’s really simple and portable(the food processor is not 100% necessary – just mix well), and sometimes it’s just nice to make some biscuits when you’re tired and miss home.
Bodie is an abandoned gold-mining town that once held 10,000 people, but it is also a historic state park, maintained in a state of arrested decay. It is reached by a thirteen mile road, off Highway 270 near the California and Nevada border, three of the miles little more than a dirt path.
I walked the town alone, easily able to avoid the small groupings of photographers in search of abandoned house porn(without suffering the risk of actually trespassing anywhere), if I walked off the main road. I stood in the graveyard, up a small hill, set apart from the town and entirely empty and quiet. I stood reading the gravestones of immigrants and children, all seeking the American Dream in a remote and barren town. I stood outside the graveyard, where the Chinese graveyard might have been, but no one knows where that actually is, because the labour of the Chinese workmen did not earn them a place within the boundaries of a small town’s graveyard.
I looked at tin shingled walls, tracing the embossed patterns of little round dots with my fingers, and I wondered what it would feel like to hold myself in a state of arrested decay, like this place. To leave the tools scattered around the wood shop, to embrace the creaky walls and the rusty machinery, and to always remember this particular mess and measure of feeling, and to merely acknowledge and accept it, instead of demolishing it, paving it over, or fixing it.
If there is a place that will always remind me that happiness and melancholy can nonchalantly exist in the same heart, it is this strange ghost town in the mountains, curated but not manicured, abandoned but not unoccupied
I feel weirdly self conscious about writing about my home country, because I’ve been gone for so long, even if I still visit every two-three years or so. Still, during my last visit a couple months ago, I did a batch of drawings of my most favourite foods.
When I was a kid, growing up in Malaysia, I ate nasi lemak in the most finicky way possible. I’d eat most of the rice, eat the peanuts and ikan bilis individually and save the cold cucumbers for last. I’d avoid everything spicy. I learned to love sambal and chicken curry in the Philippines, where my family and I were expats for six years, at a resort hotel restaurant that had a Malaysian chef that would make laksa for my dad, even though it wasn’t on the menu.
I still eat nasi lemak in a very finicky way, making sure each spoonful has the right balance of rice and sambal and curry. The ikan bilis and peanuts get eaten separately, still. The cucumbers are for when the spicy gets too spicy.
I’ve tried to cook the rice many times, and it hasn’t turned out right – the coconut milk affects the moisture and it sometimes ends up too dry or far too wet. I finally got it right with the recipe from the Lucky Peach cookbook(Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes), and being absolutely reliant on my rice cooker.
I really did meet some remarkable people during my stay at the Petrified Forest. I met most of the other people when I was doing my demonstration at the Rainbow Forest Museum, and I was very nice and polite to everyone. But, y’know, be nice to everyone…you never know when you might be talking to a cartoonist.
Desert Solitaire is a pretty great book, definitely one of the classics for “I’m out in the desert alone” reading, especially if you are into grumpy park ranger opinions(I am).