Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Expatriate Sharing Time

In October 2009, I met the love of my life.

Luckily, I managed to trick the poor bastard into loving me in return. After having met Richard in London, he moved to New York to do internships and ended up staying with me -- indefinitely.

Our relationship felt like some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, but, in reality, everything about our meeting and coming to live together was so chancy and coincidental. Nevertheless, at the time, the decisions I made about shacking up with Richard were made with unthinking abandon. I felt like I was following the script to some saccharin-sweet romantic comedy. All the hallmarks of a typical romantic comedy were already present: I lived in New York City, illustrated cute children's books for a living and surrounded myself with a posse of quirky, sassy friends who were chock full of problems that could be examined wittily over brunch. The last ingredient needed to turn my life into a full-blown romantic comedy was a Welsh love interest who looks like the illegitimate offspring of John Hannah and Jude Law.

Truth be told, I've always had a small hope that my life would end up resembling a whirlwind globe-hopping fantasy adventure.

However, whirlwind globe-hopping fantasy adventures involve an inordinate amount of waking up early, living outdoors and running from danger. So, I was glad to live the life of a romantic comedy in which my sleeping-in, long hot showers and walking at a comfortable pace would be incidental, if not encouraged. 

Granted, I was actually quite happy with the plotless mish-mash of folly that was my pre-Richard existence, but even my well-watered and well-fed cynical side couldn't see any holes in the gamble of his moving in with me. Richard made me feel that my slut years had been a valid exercise in comparison shopping; he is living proof that loads of research inevitably leads to an informed and satisfying purchase. From the start we were like two peas in a gritty Brooklyn pod that we also shared with a couple of girls and a Shiba Inu.


If it seems like I'm bragging about having found a man, it's because I am -- just a little bit. Nevertheless, I don't really consider "man-finding" an achievement, despite my earlier comment about my "slut years". I may have found love, but I haven't found truly consistent and reliable income from drawing, I haven't discovered the chemical compound for eternal youth, and my attempts at world domination have fallen flat since my weather-machine broke. 

All jokes aside, my bragging is actually relief that the love of my life is Richard. I firmly believe that love is blind, and I dreaded that I would turn the corner one day and be struck dumb with love for a troll. I know that by virtue of being in love, I would have been happy and stayed with said troll for eternity. But c'mon, let's be serious, falling in love with a charming and intelligent British boy is clearly preferable (in just about every conceivable dimensionto a shared lifetime with a troll.

So, for six blissful months Richard and I frolicked around the city making people vomit from our sickeningly cute coupley-ness.

Our whole time in New York was a blur of light-hearted romance with flashes of life-changing intensity. To put it simply, it was bliss and we have the facebook albums to prove it.

Eventually, informal internships end, tourist visas expire, and with no ability to legitimately work in the United States, brilliant expat Brits have to go home. Had Richard and I been a straight couple, we would've just gotten married to keep the good times rolling. However, that wasn't an option and Richard had to pack his bags and leave.

Now, Britain does recognize civil unions between gay men, and I would have had the option to join in a union with Richard and live in Britain. However, it would be a huge hassle of paperwork and Richard knew about plenty of international couples who were still living apart while sorting out all the crap that came with obtaining a British visa. No matter which way we looked, the prospects were grim and full of bureaucratic obstacle courses.

However, I had an ace up my sleeve.

As luck would have it, I was born in Switzerland to an American father and a Swiss mother. I have both American and Swiss citizenship. Switzerland is a member of the European Economic Community, which is just fancy-speak for, "I have THE GOLDEN TICKET!" Since Richard couldn't live in New York --the city we both love-- we decided to do the next best thing and live together in London. 

All I had to do was renew my Swiss passport and tie up a couple of loose ends. All Richard had to do was move home to his parents' house in Wales, search for a well-paying job in London, find an apartment that was both affordable and lovely, go on job interviews, scout out and then negotiate with estate agents over apartments, land a job with the help of a friend and a seriously stellar CV that took him years to build, coordinate our signing of the lease on an apartment while I was still in New York, and book me a flight to London since he could get me a deal with his airline membership.

So, it came to pass that, for love, I was about to journey across an ocean. I had visited London once before (for twenty-nine hours) and now I was going to live there permanently. This was some pretty momentous stuff. However, it didn't feel momentous. I, mercifully and regrettably, was in a this-isn't-real-until-it-is-actually-happening-to-me state of mind -- mercifully, because I didn't have any anxiety attacks, and regrettably, because I didn't quite appreciate that the last time I did certain things in New York would be THE LAST TIME I DID CERTAIN THINGS IN NEW YORK.

I organized (with the help of some dear friends) a big going-away party on the night before I flew out of JFK. It may have been a bit ballsy to have my farewell party directly before moving to another continent, but I wanted my party to be definitive. My friend Rex had moved to Spain a couple months earlier and, fittingly, had a big going-way party. Unfortunately, due to some visa issues, he had to remain in New York for two weeks after the emotional goodbyes. He lived in a state of limbo and tried to stay hidden in order to avoid awkward re-goodbyes. I, learning from Rex, decided to have my going-away party ACTUALLY be a going-away party. You wouldn't hug me farewell and then see me in line at Starbucks the next day, no, I'd already be on a plane to the UK!

Despite the fact that a third of my belongings had yet to be packed (my zen state of mind was really kicking itself into to overdrive for that oneI was able to unwind and enjoy my party. Although the party was a success, I was crying and on the verge of crying at several points during the night.

I guess that my dream of a globe-hopping adventure was coming true in some respects. And so, like our forefathers (er... fore-people?) I set out to tame and colonize a far-flung, frightening wilderness -- and by "tame and colonize" I mean "reacquaint myself with my loving boyfriend while looking for illustration work from the comfort of a couch (oh, who am I kidding? BED!) and by "far-flung, frightening wilderness" I mean "adorable one-bedroom apartment with lots of light in West London."

I've been in London for about four months, consumed a lot of tea and been on many adventures (to follow). I've recently signed with an illustration agent who is making me do a bunch of greeting card art before finding me another book project. As I think of new, bold, and, frankly, incredibly derivative ways to illustrate the Nativity, I have also set aside time to keep a blog -- with drawings! Although this is primarily for my distant and much-missed friends, it can be seen by anyone and I want to do it properly. I researched various blogs and decided on a format and a style of drawing that works best for me.

This post --as the establishing post and a treatise on 'how I ended up in London and am now keeping a blog'-- is by far the wordiest thing that will ever appear on this blog. From now on, my tales from England will be primarily in short cartoon form, and I applaud you for reading this verbose essay. As a reward, here is a drawing of some nonsense involving a platypus.


  1. This is hilarious. I'm glad my failed life experiences saved you from two weeks of awkward "Hey! I thought you moved across the world!" conversations.

    Hope to see you both in December!

  2. This is fantastic. You two seem incredible together!

  3. Love it, really well done! You are as good a writer as an illustrator.

  4. Aw, thank you, everyone... I really appreciate it. Especially you Colleen, you're a complete stranger. Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Seriously, this is amazing. Am so excited to see what's to come =) Also, miss you! (was just reminiscing with a friend about Porkys, haha).

  6. Excellent. Love it. (Btw, I like to pretend that I'm the guy in the baseball cap standing next to the blonde at the going-away party.)

  7. This is well and truly brilliant. For years (actually, a whole decade, now) I've been amused by the doodles and mini-comics you've sent Sarah's way, and I'm glad to see the zany comic hijinks continue. I hope you are serious about wanting to do this properly and have it be viewed by anyone... I'll promote the shit out of it.

  8. Wow, Mark, that would be wonderful. As I said to Sarah, I hope to turn the Internet into that notebook she had from high school which ended up completely covered in my drawings. Also, I see you've already done something because my views just spiked off the chart!

  9. Really cute comic. I stumbled across your blog via reddit. Hope you have more on the way!!

  10. simply wonderful! im so happy to hear you two are doing well over there.

  11. Argh! you are going global! I'm in Australia and I love this!

    You allowed me to ignore a bunch of uni work. you made a grumpy gay guy very happy. Keep it up

  12. Wow, I'm thrilled that something I do can make even one stranger's day better -- that's all kinds of fantastic! Thanks for the comments!

  13. I agree with anonymous this have just made my day...
    I spent half the day doing uni work and the other one making amateur style money boxes -__-lll
    thank you! hehe ^^

  14. +1 to the compliments. Your little puns are fantastic.
    I'm on the other hand away from London at the minute and miss it terribly. Hope the city treats you well
    xx ana

  15. This just made my lunch break much more enjoyable! Thanks! I saw your illustration on Mark Jaquith's blog and came here looking for more. I've dreamt of strangling the US Immigration Policy Bird on several occasions (migrated to NYC from Belgium a few years ago). Best of luck in London!

  16. @nowheregirl8902: Thanks for letting me know that I contributed to your good day! Also, "uni" is one of the many words that I've had to learn upon moving to the UK...

    @Ana Bee: Thanks for the compliment and thanks for hoping that London treats me well, I barely have time to wish nice things to the people who I know, let alone strangers -- you are a good person!

    @fred at thedrawingfarm: The US Immigration Policy Bird is a bitch, get him! Oh, and thank you for posting my blog to your twitter feed, that's awesome!