Boston Survives

Well, this has been quite the weekend.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that as soon as I heard about the tragic bombing I reassured the Boston Comic Con that I was NOT going to cancel. I just had to show my support for that great city and its people.

I took off from LAX early Friday morning on a JetBlue flight. I monitored what was going on in Boston via CNN. As I was about an hour away from landing a banner scrolled across the bottom of the screen that read: “Boston Logan Airport: No Taxi Service; No Train Service; No Bus Service.”

Damn! It looked like I was going to have to spend the weekend at the airport. Already there were hundreds of potential college students trapped at the airport, as that weekend happened to be College and University Visitation Weekend.

As my plane was touching down, however, the taxi ban was lifted. After I retrieved my luggage I caught a cab into the center of town. It was 5:00 PM — the heart of rush hour. It was incredibly eerie; there was not a car nor any people on the streets.

It turned out that my hotel was across the street from the bomb site. There were barricades everywhere, staffed by hundreds of police. The press had set up across the street from the entrance to my hotel:

As I entered the lobby of my hotel I ran into Good Duck Man Don Rosa. He informed me that the Comic Con had just been cancelled (understandably, the Convention Center couldn’t give the show organizers a straight answer as to whether or not the Convention Center would be open Saturday morning. The second perp had not been found yet and there was a massive manhunt going on with huge chunks of Boston still locked down). I called to verify and, sure enough — no show.

I hadn’t eaten and was starving. I was informed by the hotel that their restaurant was open, along with just two others in the area, so if I wanted to eat, I had better put my name down on the seating list because the place was soon going to be packed. It was.

At dinner I sat with a fellow screenwriter from Los Angeles (Coincidence? I have begun to doubt that coincidences exist, as they happen to me on such a regular basis).

After dinner I met up with Frank Cho and some other artists. We spent the evening at the bar. I was over-served far too many Kentucky Bourbon beers (that’s beer that’s been stored in former Bourbon barrels — very potent). Thanks for all the free drinks, guys!

With the convention cancelled, I had the next day (Saturday) to myself. Boston is an astounding art city. The first place I always visit in Boston is the Boston Public Library. I go there to see (and drool over) the Symbolist murals by John Singer Sargent and especially the Holy Grail murals by Edwin Austin Abbey. And, Hey! — the library was right across the street from my hotel:

To my great disappointment, though, there were barricades preventing anyone from entering the Library. So close — yet so very far.

I decided to explore the area and have lunch. I found a great place to eat, the Parish Café.

Wandering the streets I was witness to a city cloaked in sorrow — yet with a tenacious spirit that refused to be defeated.

There were tributes to the city — and to the fallen — everywhere. People took every opportunity to express themselves.

I found a huge gathering of people. I stepped into their midst to find they were all visiting and adding to an impromptu memorial.

If you look carefully, you can see there are three crosses with photos and names of the three innocent people who were killed in the bombing. Sitting as a part of the tableau was a local homeless guy with his little pet beagle:

People kept adding to the memorial. They set down personal items and expressions of grief. Some contributed objects that represented and symbolized the city itself. I wept a lot.

On a quiet side street I spotted the sign shown above. I was puzzled at first (no…that’s not “Z” for “Zombie”) until I noticed more (and similar) signs, each with a letter of the alphabet.

These signs indicated areas where you could meet and find your family members (by going to the first letter of your last name) during the chaos of the tragedy.

I found these letter signs unbearably sad.

I spent most of the day at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (where I saw an incredible Anders Zorn exhibition and a whole lotta Sargent paintings) and at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, one of America’s greatest art museums. I must have seen over four dozen Sargent paintings, including several of his most famous ones. WOW! It was almost too much. Almost, I said…

On Saturday evening I got together with more artists and some artist agents. I was sketching in the restaurant’s waiting area. It turned out that the maitre d’, Javier, was a big monster movie fan. I was drawing monsters, so he kept bringing me free appetizers. He knew ’em all! This time I paced myself with the alcohol, as I planned to attend an impromptu mini-con at Larry’s Comics over in Lowell on Sunday.

The mini-con was fun. I met some smart, staunch fans and made some new ones. I left from Larry’s Comics for the airport and made it to my gate with but five minutes to spare. Boston traffic was back to normal!

I sat next to a forensics expert on my flight home, so I had lots to talk about and learn, as I have always found forensics to be an exciting topic of discussion, CSI fan that I am.

I’m happy to be back but feel sadly lucky that I got to share in and witness firsthand this tragic historical moment.

It looks like the Boston Comic-Con might take place later this year. Watch my Appearances section on this website for an update.

I’ll be there.

8 Responses to “Boston Survives”

  1. jeremy slawsky says:

    I admire how you were able to make the best of the situation Bill.

  2. I too admire that you made the effort to get out there. Thanks for relating your trip.

    As an aside, those meeting zones and signs were probably in place well in advance of the marathon itself, and weren’t put there specifically to handle the aftermath of the bombing. Given that they were intended to provide places where happy reunions occurred…yes, very sad.

  3. Bill says:

    @ Jim: I was wondering as to whether the letter signs had already been in place or if they were part of an emergency plan. Either way, I’m sure they came in handy.

  4. Alan Bradford says:

    Hi Bill,
    I’ve been a fan of your art for decades; a copy of your Dinousaur book is one of the favorites in my 6000+ volume home library. I hope to be among the people to greet you at Boston Con when you return. I hopethat Mike Mignola and Don Rosa, other folks whose art and writing I also admire will be able to return as well. Thanks for a very moving account.

  5. Jim says:

    I burn with ENVY at your trip to see all of those John Singer Sargents! At the Art Institute of Chicago there is a room that has two large, full size/figure paintings of two society gents by Whistler. While they are competent works they seem tired and dreary. Now, displayed right next to these is a same size portrait of Mrs. George Swinton that is all light and air with playful brushstrokes of color that make the Whistlers look like brick walls. Guess I’m goin’ to have to make a trip to Boston.

  6. Bill says:

    @ Jim: I saw some pretty remarkable Whistlers in Boston, too, as well as some terrific Thomas Wilmer Dewing paintings (who I always associate with Whistler because there are so many Whistlers and Dewings at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D. C.). One Dewing in particular made me realize how much that guy pushed his figures’ proportions.

    But, man, those Sargents and Zorns! WOW! Humbling and inspirational, to say the least!

  7. Aaron says:

    Sounds like you made the very best of a very bad situation. The emotions of hope and fear ran high in our house when we watched all the coverage on TV.

    I am curious as to wether Javier suggested some of his favorite monsters for the Stout treatment.

    I hope you are able to attend a Boston convention that is back on track and with a whole different atmosphere later on.

  8. Jim says:

    Bill- Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate James McNeill’s work. But the two works in Chicago seemed uninspired and flat while the John Singer played such a contrast that it really favorably highlights the Sargent. Enjoy Canada.

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