Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Christopher Cardinale goes to Rosario searching for Luis Urrea


This is a picture of the artist Christopher Cardinale at the airport in Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, which is a 25 minute ride from our house in El Paso. (See the note below.) So why am I taking Christopher to the airport?

Because we are publishers.

But that is not what planned. Lee is a novelist, I am a poet. Our disciplines have always led us into particular intellectual and imaginative journeys and more or less defined who we would be hanging with. We continue in these worlds. But back in the 1980s we had to make a living. Our 9 to 5 life was not a happy one, we were technical writers to feed our kids and ourselves, so we decided to try our hand at publishing. It’s been a different life since then. Publishing has required different journeys, equally engaging to the imagination and the intellect.

This is one of our riffs when we talk about publishing: the discipline of putting books together and selling has made our hearts and minds and imagination bigger.

I was thinking about all of this when I drove Christopher to the airport in Juárez. Christopher is a graphic novelist, and he’s going to do the illustrations for a graphic novel, Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush by Luis Alberto Urrea (Fall 2008).

We met Christopher in a roundabout way, the peculiar way that things happen in the independent publishing world. In 2005 we were at the Book Exposition of America (BEA) in NYC and picked up a copy of Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World. It sat in a pile of books in our office for a while until our son John, who is now the vice-president of everything here in our offices, started looking through it. He saw Christopher’s work included there and liked it. Then he saw it again on the cover of a Punk Planet magazine. He remembered that we’ve been talking in-house for a number of years about doing "Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush" as a graphic novel. The story is the first story in Luis’ collection, Six Kinds of Sky, that we did back in 2002. John asked artist Youme Landowne if she knew Christopher, and of course Youme said, “Oh, yes, he’s is a good friend of mine. He lives in Brooklyn.” Youme, the artist and writer who published the acclaimed Selavi with us and was working at the time on Pitch Black (to be released in June), lives in Brooklyn too. So John talked to Christopher, he listened to our proposal and he liked the story. So like abracadabra, I’m putting Christopher on a plane to Mazatlán. From there he’ll take a bus to Rosario, Sinaloa. Rosario is the place of Mr. Mendoza’s adventures. This is the town that Luis visited in the summers when he was growing up in Tijuana and San Diego. It was full of cousins and excitement and magical adventures and very pretty girls, the kind of real life adventures that can only happen in Mexico. Christopher, however, didn’t have to go to Rosario, but that’s the kind of integrity that he possesses. He wants to know el ambiente of the place that he’s illustrating. He’s down there now. He’s contacted Luis’ cousin Jorge, and he's been sketching and talking and photographing.

And as I write this I get an email from Christopher titled “Wrapping it up in Rosario”:

Dear Bobby,

They have treated me very well here in Rosario. Beautiful town, kind and generous people. I have a ton of photos and a small stack of drawings. I am going to Mazatlán tomorrow and Los Mochis on Wed. I hope to be back in El Paso by the 16th. I will let you know for sure by the 15th. I gave an interview to a regional newspaper here that is out of Mazatlán. It is called El Debate. The journalists happened upon me when i was drawing in a cemetery. They were working on a piece about tourism in Sinaloa. They ended up interviewing me about our project. The paper came out today. There is a photo, my name is spelled correctly, Cinco Puntos is mentioned as well as Luis Urrea, Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush and more. I am bringing a copy. The article is not on their website because it appeared in the edition for the southern region and they don’t post that on their site.

Hope all is well on your side of the line

Christopher


NOTE: The ride back from the airport to my house was almost two hours because the U.S. feds in the on-going paranoia have not devised a way for us on the border to live a normal life, going back and forth to our sister city.

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