Last October, after a year of training and testing, I finally earned my Aerospace Experience Auditor (AEA) certification. To commemorate this event, the Scheduler for DNV GL Business Assurance snarled, “Are you ready to get busy?!” Truer words have never been spoken. All of our clients needed to transition from AS9100C to AS9100D by September 14, 2018, or risk losing their certifications. At the same time, record numbers of Aerospace auditors exited the business, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t pass the qualifying exams. As a full-time employee, I was enlisted to fill every hole – flying to a different city every week. My girls Nora and Neely appear to miss me when I’m gone, but they’re in good hands with my housemate Kurt Mossler.
|Neely with caregiver Kurt|
I won’t bore you with my entire travelogue, but here are some of the highlights of life on the road these past twelve months:
In early March I conducted an audit in Virginia Beach that coincided with a “bomb cyclone” that pounded the Eastern seaboard. I was scheduled to fly home on Friday, March 2, but all the flights out of Norfolk were cancelled and the first flight I could get was on Monday. Since I needed to start another audit in Valencia, CA on Monday morning, that was simply not going to work. So I found a flight out of Richmond, VA on Sunday and took a 100-mile Uber ride, holed up in a hotel with a free shuttle to Richmond airport, and caught up on audit reports while waiting to depart. The flight out of Richmond was way oversold and departed late, but I managed to get the last seat in the last row and make it to San Diego by 9:30pm. Then I still had to Uber home, repack my bag, and drive 2 hours to Valencia. I didn’t get to bed until 2:30am, but managed to show up on time to start the audit on Monday morning.
In June, following an audit in Indianapolis, I drove my rental car to Rockford, IL, not knowing that Route 90 to Rockford has its own, privately controlled tollway system. If you don’t have their I-Pass, which I didn’t, you need to pull over every few miles and pay a toll; and some exits are unmanned, requiring exact change in coins to pass through. At the conclusion of the audit, as I was driving from Rockford to Midway Airport, I ran low on gas, had to pull off, and didn’t have $1.10 in coins. There’s a way to pay after-the-fact on line, but it is very complicated and you need to know the exit by name and the time you exited in order to use it. I knew the time and the town based on the gas station receipt, but there are several exits in that town, so I ended up having to phone the I-Pass help line and waste an hour figuring out how to pay $1.10 so I wouldn’t get a ticket.
Then I flew to Ottawa, Canada. Everyone else on my flight breezed through Customs, but I was last in line because I couldn’t get the kiosk to scan my passport. So the agent decided to interrogate me with questions about why I was there, what is this standard I’m auditing to, is it a U.S. standard or an International standard, was I there to solicit U.S. business, etc. – at least 15 questions! And that was nothing compared to the return trip. At Ottawa airport, you pass through U.S. Customs on your way down a flight of stairs to a small terminal where U.S.-bound flights depart, and they have decreed this area “U.S. Soil.” I was supposed to board a United flight to Dulles with a connection to San Diego. The Dulles-bound flight was 4 hours late (every other flight was on time) so I was going to miss my connection. I asked the gate agent what I should do. She said she was not a United agent, and I needed to speak to a United agent to get rerouted, which meant I had to go back upstairs and out through Customs to the United counter. I did what she said and was halted by a border guard who barked that this was not an exit, I needed to turn around and go back downstairs to see a gate agent. I informed him that it was the gate agent who sent me upstairs, but he didn’t care. I headed back downstairs wondering if I would ever get out of Ottawa. But then a United agent appeared out of nowhere brandishing 3 new tickets for my new route: Ottawa to Boston on an Air Canada flight, Boston to Houston on United, Houston to San Diego on United. Oh, and the Air Canada flight was boarding right now. I got home 6 hours later than planned, but at least it was the same day.
|RIP Andrea Jartman|
|Jayson Comics #6|
On one of these many flights, I was catching up on the Pennsylvania Gazette – my alumni magazine – and was shocked to learn that Andrea Jartman, who was the inspiration for the character Arena Stage in my Jayson comic strip, died in February. I was scheduled to debut Arena’s solo comic at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in July, but suddenly it turned into a tribute issue. I wrote a blog post to pay tribute to her: If you’re interested in reading the comic book, it is available for both digital download and print-on-demand at IndyPlanet.
|Hawking my wares at Comic Con Palm Springs|
Just before SDCC, things got quiet – too quiet. Kurt left on July 4 for his annual two-week family reunion in New England, and I coincidentally had a series of local audits that I could drive to, so I didn’t need to worry about a sitter for the girls. But my driver’s license was about to expire. The California DMV has a new process that allows you to apply on line or by mail, and receive your license by return mail, thereby avoiding the long lines at the DMV office. I applied on June 16; my check did not clear until June 29; and as of a week before my birthday, I still didn’t have my new license. I can’t fly, rent a car, reserve a hotel room, or even enter some of my clients’ buildings without a valid driver’s license – in other words, I can’t do my job. I had July 10 off, and I spent the whole afternoon on the phone – mostly on hold – trying to find out when I would get my license. I talked to two different agents, who both confirmed that there were no issues with my application, but that my license wouldn’t mail for another week, so I should just go to my local DMV office to get a temporary license – defeating the whole purpose of the new process! My next free day was July 18, the day after my birthday, and I was supposed to retrieve Kurt from Riverside train station that morning, which was also the first day of Comic-Con. Fortunately, both agents I spoke with were mistaken, and I received my license in the mail on July 12. Good thing too, because on the last day of Comic-Con, I flew to Boston for a weeklong audit that involved planes, trains, and automobiles.
|Kurt promoting my comics|
Other comic book conventions I attended this year were: Geek Out Day (Feb. 17) at UC Riverside; WonderCon (March 23-25), where I appeared on the “Making Queer Comics” panel; Free Comic Book Day (May 5) at Pine Ave. Comics in Long Beach, CA; and Comic Con Palm Springs (Aug. 24-25).
I finally took a real vacation during the first week of October, for my annual trip to New York. My company was kind enough to schedule me on a one-day audit in Troy, NY on Monday, October 1 so that my flights would be paid for. I performed the audit and then braved severe thunderstorms and a tornado watch to drive to Lehighton, PA to celebrate my mother’s 92nd birthday, before heading into Manhattan for the start of New York Comic Con (NYCC) on Thursday, October 4. On the first day of NYCC, I accomplished two major goals: I pitched Archie Comics a new Kevin Keller mini-series, “Kevin in the Army,” which they got excited about and asked me to submit in writing; and I lined up a signing slot at the GeeksOUT booth for Sunday afternoon. Early Friday morning I wrote the pitch for “Kevin in the Army,” which picks up where the Dan Parent-penned “Kevin in the City” left off, and builds a bridge to older Kevin’s storyline in “Life with Archie” that made news a few years back because he married his medic husband in the pages of issue 16. I checked with Dan Parent to make sure he was on board with the proposal. Now we wait to find out whether Archie will greenlight it for 2019.
|Back on Broadway with Giulia Hamacher|
Friday afternoon I took the train out to Central Islip, Long Island, to visit old friend Lenny Giarraputo; but made sure to board an early train back on Saturday morning to return to NYCC in time for the Archie Comics panel at 11am. In the evening I met old friend and former co-worker Giulia Hamacher for our annual dinner and a Broadway show; this year’s choice was “Mean Girls – The Musical” which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Sunday morning I headed over to the convention hall to prepare for my signing. I had packed 16 books – 2 of each of my titles – and a stack of Arena Stage comic books. 3 hours later I had nearly sold out of everything; I only brought 3 books home.
|My first published work|
While in the midst of my whirlwind Northeastern tour, Joanne Kulp Daugirda reached out to let me know that she had located her long-lost copy of the comic book we published to raise money for the Lehighton High School German Club’s trip to Germany in 1976. As many of you know, all my original art went missing in 2003, including the art for this book and the book itself. Joanne kindly delivered it to my mother so that I could pick it up while visiting her. After she did so, my mother revealed that she kept her own copy all these years, along with an article from the high school newspaper about our trip. So I now have two copies of that long-lost comic book, and a newspaper clipping that I forgot ever existed.
Thanksgiving was once again celebrated with Christine Loudon, my former Boeing co-worker who always serves a meal to her “stray gays.” I have been attending for the past four years, and Kurt has joined me for the past two. We bring wine.
Christmas should prove to be a quiet affair, which is precisely the gift I need after the year I’ve had. New Year’s Eve will be spent at Spaghettini Seal Beach with Kurt and the insanely talented saxophonist Vincent Ingala. Then on New Year’s Day, I fly to Houston for DNV GL’s annual training convention. And it begins again.