Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Final Word - 2020


Dear Friends,

This year started innocently enough with my company's annual training convention in Houston. After the convention I stuck around for a few extra days of "management development," in search of a promotion that has yet to materialize. I was still supporting Mayor Pete -- who went on to achieve TikTok fame as Slayer Pete after a series of epic takedowns on Fox News -- and the only Corona being imported was a second-rate Mexican beer. I was auditing in Seattle at the end of February when Patient Zero died there. I was auditing on the California-Mexico border in mid-March when the border closed and California issued its first Stay At Home order. Like many, my company didn't take the virus seriously at first; but that changed as reality set in, and they adjusted the operating rules to allow us to conduct audits 100% remotely -- which I've been doing since the end of March, through a combination of Zoom meetings, FaceTime interviews, and offsite document reviews. I venture out at 6am on Sunday mornings to do my weekly grocery shopping at Ralphs with the over-60 crowd; wear a mask and maintain social distance the way any sane person of any political persuasion should; and otherwise leave the house only to empty my mailbox, which began filling up more slowly this autumn in one of many White House gambits to prevent citizens from voting, or at least to make sure their votes didn't count -- which, when all the legally cast votes were tallied, failed as a campaign strategy. Through it all, I have managed to stay positive and remain negative. 

To buoy our spirits, 77-year-old Barry Manilow released "When the Good Times Come Again," a 30-year-old album track that rose to #12 on the Billboard AC Chart, scoring him a sixth decade on the pop charts and invitations to appear everywhere from Rosie O'Donnell to A Capitol Fourth -- all remotely, of course.

Neely & Nora

As my self-quarantine began, so did Nora's. My eldest cat, now 15, had been suffering from hyperthyroidism, which I was trying to counteract with medication, to no avail. The next recommended level of treatment was radioiodine exposure, which requires three weeks in isolation, which she endured in San Diego in April. Happily, the treatment was successful and Nora's veterinarian is pleased with her lab results.

DNV GL, the company I work for, is a Certification Body, which is accredited by an Accreditation Body, called ANAB. Put another way, auditors get audited. A lot. This year it was my turn, after three years as a fulltime aerospace auditor, to be subjected to an ANAB Witness Audit. Unlike past audits, however, this one was going to be conducted remotely due to COVID, adding an extra layer of difficulty. Luckily, this audit did not include production, which is the most difficult to conduct remotely, and I had visited this client last year, ironically as a Witness for one of DNV GL's new auditors who was the Acting Lead. My weeklong Witness Audit was very stressful, in part because the client's quality management system was in worse shape than I had anticipated, so I kept finding things that I had to write up, despite the remarkable patience they were demonstrating. I have never worked so hard in my life! My reward, in the end, was that my Witness wrote zero findings, a fact that will not be lost during my next performance evaluation. 

My Witness Audit landed on my birthday, so between that and COVID and other nonsense, I did not get to celebrate my 61st birthday until two weeks later, when my housemate Kurt treated me to lunch at the Ponte Winery Restaurant in Temecula, which has remained open due to its outdoor seating arrangements. 

Arena Stage

Autumn was consumed with the election and COVID, about which too much ink has already been spilled. Before we knew it, Thanksgiving was upon us, and with it my first week off since the pandemic began. This break allowed me to finally make headway on my next graphic novel, "Arena Takes Manhattan," a spinoff of my main Jayson strip starring his roommate Arena Stage, which is now completely written, half drawn, and full storyboarded. Needless to say, there have been no in-person comic book conventions this year. But with a vaccine on the horizon, hope springs eternal that conventions will return in 2021, when I plan to debut this long-gestating tribute to career girl comics and to the woman who inspired Arena: the late, great, Andrea Jartman.

Andrea Jartman circa 1983

Please stay safe while you enjoy the Holiday Season. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sex and the City 3: Bringing Down the House

Thanks to COVID-19, I have now re-watched the entire 6-season run of HBO’s “Sex and the City,” plus the two movies that continue the story. The series still holds up, for the most part, although the second movie gets a little wobbly.

For years now, there’s been talk of a third movie, and everyone seems to be on board – everyone, that is, except Kim Cattrall, a.k.a. Samantha Jones. She has stated emphatically and at great length, to anyone who will listen, that she has no interest in reprising her role, largely due to her strained relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker, a.k.a. Carrie Bradshaw. When pressed, Cattrall will only offer that she wishes SJP had been “nicer.” Really? Anyone who has worked with SJP will tell you that she is one of the nicest and hardest working people in show business. Anyone who has worked with Cattrall – not so much.

Which brings us to the third movie, which needs to get off the ground before COVID-19 kills us all. Luckily, I have the solution. Fade in:

“Sex and the City 3” opens with an over-the-credits montage in which each of the returning characters receives an invitation from Samantha Jones Public Relations, promoting an open-air event to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Cut to the dawn of the event, with minions scurrying around putting the final touches on the reception, whose centerpiece is a pasteboard house. As our lead characters enter the scene, a gale-force wind begins to blow, sending hats and skirts, brochures and cocktails flying. The house teeters and crashes onto its side. The wind abates. Guests start flocking to the upended house and buzzing about what they see. Reveal a pair of stylish red shoes, with a pair of feet still in them. As the lead characters make their way to the scene, an off-screen voice shrieks, “WHO KILLED MY SISTER?!!” Reveal Serena Jones, Samantha’s never-before-mentioned sister, as the final credit rolls: AND INTRODUCING JEAN SMART AS SERENA JONES.

You’re welcome, Sex fans.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Final Word - 2019

Vincent Ingala
Twelve short months ago in Seal Beach, CA, I rang in the New Year at Spaghettini with my housemate Kurt Mossler and our host for the evening, saxophonist Vincent Ingala. Just before the show started, I won a Spaghettini hat. Just after the show ended, I ran into Vincent in the men’s room. A few months later, I ran into him again at Denver airport. Welcome to my magical life.

After rubbing elbows with Vincent Ingala – literally, because my hands were wet – I drove home to Murrieta and started packing up my house, my housemate, and my cats, to prepare for a contractor to come in and rip out the aging wall-to-wall carpets, replacing them with engineered wood. While we whiled away the hours at the local Extended Stay America, it rained buckets, driving the crew into the garage to cut the wood. Still, they managed to finish early and right on budget. And the transformation is breathtaking.

Barry Manilow
I celebrated by checking out Barry Manilow’s new residency at the Westgate in Las Vegas. Considering he is 76, I pretty much expected a swirl of dancers and pyrotechnics while he stood still, or worse, sat in a wheelchair. But it was a high-energy show that was heavy on hits and light on pyrotechnics. “Manilow” has been extended through 2020, so check it out if your travel plans include Las Vegas.

In June, I marched for the first time in the San Diego Pride Parade, in support of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential bid. 2020 may well turn out to be the most consequential election of our lives, and I’m not about to sit it out. To learn more, visit

I’ve spent most of the past year toiling away at my day job, conducting aerospace audits for DNV GL in various North American cities. This year I have been doing far more driving than flying, but given the state of traffic, I think I’d rather be on a plane. In October I finally got to conduct an audit in Germany, just outside of Frankfurt, which was an enjoyable challenge. I hung around for the weekend to practice my German and see what a well-run city with world-class public transportation looks like. I’ve also traveled to Montreal and Mexico, but mostly I’m confined to Southern California and Seattle. 

Jayson Comics #7
One of my Seattle-based clients offered me a job as a Quality Engineer; but after eight months of foot-dragging and heralding each new hurdle as the “final step” in the process, they finally made an offer that wasn’t very good, didn’t present a clear path to management, and would have required me to move. So I turned it down and resolved instead to honor my current commitments through mid-year, then rededicate myself to my languishing creative endeavors. I’ve got two new graphic novels in the hopper, and many more projects I’m itching to start.

Despite my workload, I did manage to publish a new issue of Jayson Comics this year, which I debuted at San Diego Comic-Con in July. In Jayson Comics #7, a new lead story sets the stage for the return of Ed Rosenblatt, ex-lover of both Jayson and Arena, followed by a retrospective of pivotal Jayson stories that feature the series’ most notorious heartbreaker. Blessed with brains, beauty, and charisma, Ed adapts easily to whatever situation he finds himself in – prompting the eternal question, “Who is Ed Rosenblatt?” Jayson Comics are available for digital download and print-on-demand at IndyPlanet:

I also made appearances at Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon; Anaheim’s WonderCon; Santa Monica’s Hi De Ho Comics for PrideCon; New York’s Queers & Comics Conference, where I moderated an SRO panel on Serialized Comics; and New York Comic Con, where I also attended a performance of Aaron Sorkin’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” with old friend Giulia Hamacher, and finally got an answer from Archie Comics regarding last year’s pitch for the miniseries “Kevin in the Army” – they turned it down. But I will keep on pitching them until the right project lands.

The Murrieta Fire
Back home in Murrieta, we’ve been having our share of natural disasters. In January, flash flooding led to mandatory evacuations just to our north. In July, two earthquakes hit close to home. In September, the Murrieta wildfire prompted another mandatory evacuation; the air was thick with smoke for days. Yet somehow we carry on. 

Now, after too many nights spent in hotels and too many weekends spent writing audit reports, I plan to hole up for the holidays and rest up for the year ahead. Mark my words, 2020’s gonna be a doozy.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Ed Rosenblatt Returns to Jayson

In Jayson Comics #7, a brand-new lead story sets the stage for the return of Ed Rosenblatt, ex-lover of both Jayson and Arena, followed by a retrospective of pivotal Jayson stories that featured the series’ most notorious heartbreaker.


Unlike the main characters in the early Jayson strips, Ed Rosenblatt was not based on a real person. For a while he was the Jenny Piccolo* of the strip, often mentioned but never seen. Andrea Jartman, the inspiration for Arena Stage, did have a sometime boyfriend named Ed, who we agreed was slovenly and obnoxious, and bore no resemblance to the character who finally emerged as Robyn’s discovery and Arena’s high school sweetheart in the pages of Meatmen Vol. 6.

Ed was established as a porn star trying to pay his way through medical school. With the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, he justified his choice as a way to promote safer sex. Then again, over the years Ed has justified many dubious choices: tossing Jayson aside for the allure of Hollywood; knocking up Arena’s sister for the sake of appearances; and returning to medical school when all else failed. With a Jewish father and a Venezuelan mother, the duality of Ed’s nature  Ed Rosenblatt vs. Eduardo Rivera, gay vs. straight, Jew vs. Gentile  was established early on. Blessed with brains, beauty, and charisma, Ed adapts easily to whatever situation he finds himself in – prompting the eternal question, WHO IS ED ROSENBLATT?

Jayson Comics are available for digital download and print-on-demand at IndyPlanet.

*Google it.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Final Word - 2018

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.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Jayson’s Pal Arena Takes Manhattan

In the comics, Jayson’s roommate Arena Stage was always a scene-stealer. She stood beside Jayson from the very first strip I drew in 1982, doling out advice and cheering Jayson on when no one else believed in him. In real life, my friend Andrea Jartman played the same role, and inspired this unforgettable character. 

As the 1980s drew to a close, I concluded that Arena was ready for her close-up. She had the distinct advantage of being heterosexual, a prerequisite for success in the mainstream newspapers of the day.

I had written myself into a corner with a story called “Jayson Gets Engaged,” which meant that Jayson would soon have to marry Arena — or at least he would have to try. I knew he wouldn’t go through with it, but in the run-up to “Jayson Gets Married” I found the opportunity to introduce the rest of Arena’s family and create a backdoor pilot.

After Jayson rejected Arena at the altar, she stormed off to Manhattan and into the embrace of her family’s advertising agency. Thus was born “Arena Stage,” a daily newspaper strip that I shopped to syndicates in 1988. Although I received some very encouraging rejections, I never found a champion, and Arena returned to Jayson a few stories later in “Jayson’s New Lease on Life.”

Jayson Comics #6 publishes, for the first time ever, the five weeks of daily and Sunday strips I created to establish the world of “Arena Stage” for mainstream consumption.

Just after this issue went to press, I learned that Andrea Jartman passed away in February. I didn’t intend for this issue to be a tribute, but now it is. My plan is to conclude the story arc from the daily strip, and tell several more tales from Arena’s time in Manhattan, in the forthcoming graphic novel “Arena Takes Manhattan,” which will truly be the tribute Andrea deserves, with reminiscences and photographs aplenty.

Meanwhile, I have the bittersweet honor of debuting Jayson Comics #6 at San Diego Comic-Con this July. If you can’t make it there or to the other conventions I attend this year, Jayson Comics #6 is also available for print-on-demand and digital download at IndyPlanet, along with the other 5 issues of Jayson Comics.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Final Word – 2017

Taking a well-deserved break in Temecula

In January, “Riverdale,” the long-gestating TV adaptation of Archie Comics, whose pilot episode screened last July at San Diego Comic-Con, premiered on the CW to lackluster numbers. The show looked doomed until it found its audience through a streaming deal with Netflix, and quadrupled its teen demo numbers for the season 2 premiere this October. I can’t exactly say I’m a fan of the show, as I blogged earlier this year. It’s certainly its own thing and separate from the comics, but I guess I’m happy it’s successful and keeping the lights on at Archie Comics.

In other entertainment news, Barry Manilow finally came out, on April 17, in the pages of People, timed to the release of his new CD. Of course, his marriage to Garry Kief was the biggest open secret in town, but it’s nice that at age 74, Barry’s finally owning it.

As you may recall, last October I retired from The Boeing Company and transitioned to an aerospace auditor-in-training job at DNV GL, a management system certification company based in Katy, TX. I’ve spent most of this year acquiring the credentials I need to become a successful aerospace auditor. I’m fortunate that DNV GL has allowed me to earn while I learn, paying me a salary and benefits while also paying for my training and testing. However, this was their maiden voyage and the sailing has been anything but smooth. DNV GL had never before run an auditor-in-training program, and probably never will again, at least not on this scale, because they severely underestimated the amount of time and money it would take to get us up to speed. They budgeted for six months, and it took most of us a year to become fully credentialed. Compounding the problem is that the whole industry is transitioning to new versions of ISO 9001 and AS9100, the primary standards we audit to, and the accreditation bodies are still catching up.

Here is a brief rundown of the gauntlet I ran this year. On January 13, six weeks after I took the ISO 9001:2015 Lead Auditor course offered by DNV GL, I finally learned that I passed the exam, qualifying me to take the AS9100D Lead Auditor course, which I took the last week of January in Santa Ana, CA. Two weeks later I learned that I passed that exam, qualifying me to take the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) Aerospace Auditor Transition Training (AATT) course and exams. Here’s where it starts to get ridiculous. Over the past year the industry has been transitioning from Rev C to Rev D of AS9100. IAQG requires 40 hours of classroom training, and everyone’s expectation was that they would start offering Rev D training in January. They did not. Instead, they required us to take Rev C training in a classroom, followed by three exams to Rev C (Knowledge, Application, and a 30-minute oral exam), which, if we passed, would qualify us to take the Rev D transition training and exam online. This meant unlearning Rev D and relearning Rev C in order to pass the exams, then immediately unlearning Rev C and relearning Rev D in order to pass the transition exam. With me so far? Making matters worse, with Rev C about to become obsolete, it became nearly impossible to find an AATT Rev C class. I enrolled in a class scheduled for the last week of February in San Diego, which was cancelled due to lack of interest. I then enrolled in a class scheduled for mid-March in Dallas, for which I was waitlisted and never got in. My next choices were the end of April in Miami or the first week of May in San Diego. I opted for the latter since I could drive to it. I got in, the class took place, I passed the three exams, and immediately started unlearning Rev C in order to take and pass the Rev D online transition exam, which – did I mention? – has a 40% pass rate on the first attempt. I devoted every free moment – nights, weekends, and lunch breaks – to drilling Rev D back into my head, and on May 23, I took and passed the final exam on the first attempt.

Was I certified now? Not hardly. In addition to all these exams, I needed 20 qualifying audit days in order to apply for my ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) Aerospace Experience Auditor (AEA) certification. Here’s where it goes south. Until you’re a certified aerospace auditor, you’re not allowed to participate in any third-party (certification) aerospace audits, not even as an observer. So I had to get my 20 qualifying audit days by participating as an evaluated observer on ISO audits. At DNV GL, the AS and ISO camps are run by different managers. The ISO camp had no interest in helping the AS candidates earn their stripes. So I got scheduled on numerous ISO audits where the client pushed back, the Lead Auditor backed the client, and I was removed from the audit. As a result I amassed qualifying audit days very slowly. To move things along, my manager arranged for me to participate in a series of second-party (supplier) aerospace audits, which she assured me would count towards my qualifying audit days. Although I was skeptical, I performed over a dozen of them, only to see ANAB reject them all because they were really first-party (internal) audits to which I was a second party. Finally, in mid-July, I performed my first ISO Acting Lead, received glowing notices, and got promoted to ISO Lead Auditor, enabling DNV GL to start making money off me as both an ISO auditor and as an ISO trainer. Suddenly I had plenty of work, and by the end of September I reached my 20 qualifying audit days. On October 12, in the middle of an ISO audit in Grass Valley, CA, I received my hard-won AEA certification. DNV GL immediately pulled me off my scheduled ISO audits and reassigned me to AS9100 audits. Since then, I haven’t had a moment to breathe.

Having trouble breathing at work

If this past year sounds like one constant test, it was. I have always had test anxiety, and by March my anxiety attacks grew so frequent and so crippling that I could barely function. When I slept at all, I dreamed about being tested. I routinely woke up in a panic at 4 a.m. with tightness in my chest and dread in my bones. It didn’t help matters that my mentor was determined to make me the “the best,” when I was still struggling to become adequate. I finally turned to my doctor, who prescribed Ativan. It makes me drowsy, so I use it sparingly and counteract it with caffeine, but it has enabled me to function through all of this.

With Danny Lu & Giulia Hamacher on Broadway

Needless to say, I’ve had very little time for extracurricular activities this year. I did make appearances at some local comic-book conventions – San Diego, Anaheim, Long Beach, Palm Springs – and made one trip to the Northeast, where I visited briefly with family and friends in Pennsylvania on my way to New York, where I saw Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!” with my friends Danny Lu and Giulia Hamacher, and made an appearance at New York Comic Con. 

I did not release a new book this year, but I contributed to “Love is Love,” a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting; please buy it.

Love is Love on display at WonderCon

I also attended a few local shows with some of my favorite performers: saxophonist Vincent Ingala at Thornton Winery in Temecula; singer-songwriter Levi Kreis at Sunset Temple in San Diego; and Julie Brown headlining “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun: The Musical” at the Cavern Club in Silver Lake. Meeting the star afterwards was one of the highlights of my year.

The Homecoming Queen's Got ... Me & Kurt

This year I’m proud of what I’ve endured, and what I’ve accomplished, and I’m sincerely grateful to those friends who’ve endured my long silences and lent their support along the way – especially my housemate Kurt Mossler, who listens to my rants when I’m at home, and safeguards the house and the cats when I’m away. I couldn’t do this without him.