Feeling Pale in South Beach

September 28th, 2006 | Uncategorized

What a very odd time I’m having. Austin, Atlanta, now Miami. I’ve never been in Florida before. It’s, like, HOT. Who knew? My glasses steamed up when I went out last night for a walk. In my corduroys and jacket, an instantly regrettable ensemble.

But get this. Yesterday before I left Atlanta, I had lunch with Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor for the New Yorker. He happened to be in town and was being driven by the same literary escort service as me. I don’t know exactly how it happened, I guess the escort must have mentioned she was driving around another cartoonist. And Bob (I call him Bob!) had recently heard about me from some other New Yorker cartoonist (I’m not sure which one, some guy who apparently also wrote for Six Feet Under) so he suggested that we meet. And so we did. We had lunch, see?
me and bob

He invited me to start submitting stuff to the magazine, so I can join the august ranks of cartoonists, including Roz Chast, who get their work rejected on a regular basis.

I haven’t even been able to process that yet.

new yorker

Right after lunch with BOB I was whisked off to ATL. Where I made this short film entitled, Why Am I Always the Only Lesbian at the Airport. In the long and badly managed line to go through security, I noticed this curious instructional display of things you’re not supposed to pack.


Did you know you weren’t supposed to bring chainsaws on the plane? What about circular saws? Or hedge clippers? Or shoulder-fired rocket launchers for that matter. Why stop with chainsaws?

And now here I am this morning in South Beach.


The ocean’s like bathwater. The beach was kind of sad. There were homeless people sleeping and changing their clothes, some daring to sit on the fancy furniture put out by the ritzy hotels. Speaking of which, I’m actually staying at the Ritz-Carlton. Very lovely, but disconcerting. All these guys opening the doors for me as I walk in or out. Now I’m gonna go get some work done.

49 Responses to “Feeling Pale in South Beach”

  1. Suzanonymous says:

    Of course you can submit cartoons to The New Yorker! A cartoonist who doesn’t know this (shaking head in disbelief)! And my understanding is they pay very well.

  2. Deb says:

    Wow, The New Yorker! I have a friend who has taken the covers off of years of New Yorkers and framed them. It’s quite a nice display on her hallway wall. So you had lunch with BOB! Cool……….then to Florida where you spent time with the homeless on the beach. What a contrast! And thank the goddess they put out that display of things NOT to take on the plane! I almost packed my rocket launcher when I went to Denver. You KNOW how hard it is to get those things on sale so I would have hated to have had it taken.

  3. Andrew Ogus says:

    Considering how much better your art is than SOME of the New Yorker’s artists (who shall remain nameless, but I don’t mean Roz Chast) they’d be insane not to use you!

  4. meg says:

    ah, fame and fortune… how wonderful out of all whooping!

    and, also, how strange and surreal it must all be.

  5. liza from pine street art works says:

    Alison, I knew, knew, knew all along that you were New Yorker caliber. Did we not have this discussion? I couldn’t be more thrilled for you. And for the New Yorker, because, face it, you will bring something wonderful and important to them that they could not have without you.

    And people…you know that Alison’s work is going to be more and more valuable, so I suggest you jump right to it and buy some now while the getting’s good.


  6. infrequent flyer says:

    okay, so I’m not going to say anything about the idiocy of the New Yorker in not approaching you sooner–what I want to comment on is the forbidden in-flight items.

    The first time I flew after 9/11, when the lines were still extreme (no nail clippers! everyone had to stop and mail their nail clippers home to themselves!), the people in front of me were a trio of S. American carpenters, with very little English, and carry-ons full of hammers and chisels and screwdrivers. I mean, sticking out of the top of the bags, no secrecy, just tools of their livelihood. Watching the screeners mustering enough Spanish to sort it all out would have been comic if I weren’t also watching the new paranoia take hold. And accepting it. A month earlier I would have seen the hammers as a tiny, innocent encounter with another way of life, end of story, but post-9/11 I didn’t want to fly with a set of sharp, heavy, metal tools in the overhead bin.

  7. julie says:

    You’re going to love Ashvegas! The weather is beautiful, the people are friendly (and pale too!) and the town has one of the highest per capita rates of queer folk.

    We’re excited to see you!

  8. Susan Stinson says:

    Lunch with the cartoon editor of the New Yorker? (In Florida?!?) Yay! About time.

  9. Susan Stinson says:

    No, wait, in Atlanta. Just as weird.

  10. KJL says:

    Oh please submit things to the New Yorker, please!

    The NYer cartoonist who was also one of the Six Feet Under producers is Bruce Eric Kaplan. He does these fabulous, caustic cartoons and signs them BEK.

  11. JenK says:


  12. Chloe says:

    Kudos to those who recognized your incredible cartooning talents !!! Obviously, New Yorker Magazine would be fabulous exposure for your work and I believe it would attract a wider range of readers.

    You’re riding a great wave now (no pun intended to the waves on Miami Beach), ENJOY IT !!!

    So glad to hear that you and your work are being acknowledged and recognized for their sheer genious. The significant literary contributions that you are making will have a tremendous impact on future generations.

  13. Linsey says:

    I enjoyed your brief video, as I too fly often for business and wonder the same thing. Last time I was in Atlanta I did spot 1 other lesbian, so maybe we’re all just flying the wrong airlines?

    Congrats on your lunch guest!

  14. Jess says:

    Yes, why is that true about the airport!? I’ve lived in the midwest for a while now, so I was starting to wonder if I was just getting confused about the way that country women and dykes sometimes look similar here because of the non-frilly mode of dress, but that never explained the phenomenon at the other end of the flight.

  15. Alison B. says:

    Once I ran into Alix Olson at the food court in O’Hare. I forgot to mention that. That was pretty cool, but a notable exception.

  16. --MC says:

    The prospect of your work in the pages of the NYer is a good one indeed. Anybody who knows your work knows how much you wanted to become a NYer artist, and like Seth, you’re making your dream a reality. (Sigh!)

  17. Heidi says:

    Seems like I always see other lesbians at the airport. On my last trip, we saw another lesbian couple at the baggage claim in Spokane, WA. At a lot of airports I’ve seen at least one lesbian working the security lines. But yes, sometimes there is that confusion between the dyke look and the no-nonsense middle-aged mom look.

  18. Duffi says:

    I totally understand how excited you were to have lunch with Bob Mankoff. (Like, totally.) Your expression says it all. And I join everybody else in saying, very loudly: OF COURSE YOU ARE NEW YORKER MATERIAL!!! Allison, you rock!!! (like, totally). Sorry, very Valley girl today.

  19. Deb says:

    Gawd……….I am a dyke AND have the “no-nonsense middle-aged mom look”. I must scare ’em away!

  20. Jo says:

    The video reminds me of one of the early comics about “spotting the lesbian in the crowd” It kind of says since 1 out of 10 people are gay you are bound to see them in the street. Love playing that game whenever I walk down a street or when I am on a train. Is it you, you or you?

  21. Eva says:

    Ah, The New Yorker! Absolutely Fabulous!

    Ok, for those of you who may not realize it…submitting unsolicited work (whether they are cartoons, writing, etc) is an extremely steep hill to climb to get published there. HOWEVER, now that you’ve been introduced and HAD LUNCH with Bob-you-got-to-call-him-by-his-first-name-Mankoff, yeah, you’re right, you’ll now be in the company of artists who’ve been INVITED to have their work rejected, as you say, like Roz Chast.

    Bruce Eric Kaplan, I agree, is a terrifically caustic funny cartoonist, who is also an excellent writer. When (not if) you get your work published in the New Yorker I recommend sending him a dozen long stem red roses with lots of thorns. I bet he’ll love it.

    Oh yeah, one other thing. How about a review of FUN HOME in the New Yorker, or perhaps a profile written my Susan Orlean, or insert your own favorite New Yorker profile writer here _______________________ . !

  22. Deb says:

    I just have to comment on the short film, Why Am I the Only Lesbian in the Airport? The female flight announcer’s voice in the background? That voice sounds just like the same voice at every airport I have been in during the last month, Eugene, Portland, Denver, Midway, Columbus, JFK and Atlanta. Why do you suppose that is? I always look for other lesbians wherever I go and I have a hard time finding them sometimes………but I can sure tell when I am being looked over! I love it!

  23. in Brooklyn says:

    I also always feel like I am the only queer in the airport. Airports feel like such straight, middle America places to me. I gues statistically we are unlikely to actually be the only queers in the airport.

    This summer I was talking to a very gay boy who said he ALWAYS spots other fags in the airport – he even met his summer boyfriend when they were seated NEXT to each other on the plane.

    Its been a few years since I felt it was prudent to wear my Lesbian Avengers t-shirt on the airplane. That was one way I used to deal with the not-quite-homophobia, but at some point their logo was no longer helping me get through airport security.

  24. pd says:

    “literary escort service”?

  25. StrtGrl says:

    Just have to say – you look gorgeous in your picture on the beach. You are so hot.

  26. Condoleeza Rice says:

    I see other lesbians at the airport, but they tend to work there.

  27. Nora says:

    Oh no, between you and Roz Chast and Sy Hersh (I call him Sy) I’m really going to have to break down and subscribe. BTW, can anyone tell me why some of the best journalism about the war has been in the New Yorker and “This American Life” (as opposed to, say, newspapers)?

  28. Ally says:

    I can’t get any of the clips you posted on You Tube to play. 🙁

  29. cybercita says:


    i’m a long time new yorker reader, and i think your work would fit in perfectly. i’m so delighted for you.

  30. Brigham says:

    The NY has been doing some really excellent longer narrative comics (like those by R. Crumb and Ailene Kominsky) that seem right up your alley. They even do some of these in color. I can’t wait to see you there. (I’m not a big fan of that make your own caption contest that’s at the end of each issue, however).

  31. Alex K says:

    Each issue of THE NEW YORKER that falls through the mail slot fails, to date, to contain a review of FUN HOME. What’s up with that?

    Submission by invitation! (Oh, yes, I know how that sounds. Stop judging me.) Congratulations!

    You’re flying high. It’s fun to watch. I hope it lasts, and I hope it makes you money.

  32. Alex K says:

    And – a quick addendum – you are NOT the only lesbian at the airport. Not not not.

    DJ generally manages to pull at the airport, or at least to collect a telephone number…

  33. Hey, Brigham, I don’t like that caption contest either, and I told my good friend Bob so. Of course as a cartoonist I feel threatened by it, by the notion that anyone can do what I do. But also because it seems to undermine the integration, nay the fusion, of word and image that to me is the heart of the cartooning process. Bob defended it–partly because it’s such a popular feature. But he also feels that the drawing is already a kind of fully-fledged cartoon. And always, he said, people submit the same punchline the cartoonist already had in mind.

  34. lea says:

    really!? the cartoonists actually had punchlines in mind for those contest cartoons? i was under the impression they were debris… (i haven’t seen a single one since they started the whole contest on the back page that was really funny…. maybe it’s me, though, who knows?).

  35. Eva says:


    I think it’s because you didn’t get to see the cartoon with the caption as the cartoonist envisioned it first. Part of the fun, as a viewer, of reading a cartoon is it’s freshness.

    If you have to way the options between different captions it takes a lot of the spontaneity out of it, and it ends up feeling stale by the time a caption is finally chosen. Which is why it may strike you as “debris”.

    Here’s the thing. It used to be, say until about 35 years ago, that one person did the drawing and another person did the caption in the creation of a cartoon, for the most part. Not even necessarily self-chosen teams, but pairs that the newspapers would put together. Sometimes the cartoonist and the caption writer didn’t even met eachother.

    A lot of that has changed, thank goodness, but the residual ickiness from the “blind” caption writing remains…and I totally understand Brigham, Alison and your reactions.

    Nowadays I think people expect the drawing and the writing to come from the same source, and if it doesn’t, well, it feels kind of like cheating, doesn’t it?

    Just for a moment, though, think about the people who submit the captions for the contest. Some of them may have never considered themselves creative, or called themselves artists, or writers, before entering the contest. On the one hand, this may be part of the ickiness. I mean, putting lifelong hardworking cartoonists alongside someone who may have just gotten lucky on the first try rankles. On the other hand, today’s New Yorker reader/contest participant may be tomorrow’s (ok, lots of tomorrow’s) artist. You just never know.

  36. Eva says:

    Okay, full disclosure. Please accept my apologies for sounding like the New Yorker know-it-all. When I was 10 years old my mother was submitting poetry and short stories to the New Yorker. None of her work was ever accepted, but she got a big kick out of trying (going straight to the top was soooo Mom).

    Basically I’ve been reading the magazine for the past 30 years. Way, way before I could understand the cartoons. I have had my own subscription for 10+ years, and when it fails to appear in my mailbox in a timely fashion I have withdrawal symptoms (the postal clerks will confirm this).

    Alison, I am so psyched you’ve been invited to submit your work. Art Speigelman, R. Crumb & Ailene Kominsky and Alison Bechdel, all in full spectrum color, here we come!

  37. cybercita says:

    gee, i must be hanging out with the wrong crowd — the back page of the new yorker is the first thing i read.

  38. Jain says:

    I probably haven’t seen a New Yorker cartoon in 30 years, but when I was in high school my folks had a big pile of old issues in the basement, from which they permitted me to paper the extensive 45 degree attic walls of my bedroom. I could stand in a new place getting dressed every day and read cartoons I hadn’t read in months. My sister said it took her weeks to pull the staples out of the walls after I moved out.

  39. Ellen O. says:

    Last month, I was helping my parents pack up my childhood home and found a coffeetable book my uncle gave me for my 15th birthday (30 years ago!)–THE ART IN CARTOONING: Seventy-five Years of American Magazine Cartoons. It’s amazing how fresh they feel. Although there’s some sexism (nearly all the cartoonists are men), many about race, war and politics are quite daring and droll. And on the inside front cover, several of the cartoonists– Bill Woodman, Jack Ziegler, S. Gross, even Gahan Wilson, drew Happy Birthday cartoons for me!

    Also, I learned that the T.V. show “The Addams Family” was based on the work of cartoonist Charles Addams. I hadn’t known that.

  40. --MC says:

    Of course, there’s another grail you could try for. Ever sent anything to .. MAD magazine?
    Is the only cartoonist to be published in both the New Yorker and MAD still Paul Peter Porges? Or have there been others?

  41. Tim T. says:

    I’ve always thought The New Yorker was terrific, and it would be even better if YOU were in it! Also,I think most of the comics on the last page are just about as funny wtih NO captions at all.

  42. ES says:

    Love your Eustace Tilley.

  43. ES says:

    p.s. especially with the luxe watch ad on the back. Wonder if Bob could countenance that much commentary on the mag.

  44. Sir Real says:

    OK, I’m sure that you-all realize that not all lesbians look like `lesbians’. Part of the femme-invisibility problem… and I hope folks don’t mentally reinforce it by making assumptions based on appearance, eh? Short hair, wallet in back pocket, labrys tatoos or not, you’re not the only lesbian at the airport.

    Plus, not all lesbian-appearing people are in fact so, as the comments above point out! Either in the `no-frills midwestern het gal’ way, and the `look-like a dyke but ID as another tranniefag anarchist [or etc.]’ type way. Ok, lecture over from this effeminate uncle with a butch walk and a girlish giggle. 😉

    I’m agreeing fervrently with the AB’s hot-on-the-beach assessment, BTW! *eyelash flutter!*

  45. ED says:

    “The New Yorker” needs more women cartoonists – sad that the only names I can come up with in their 75 year history are Helen Hokinson and Roz Chast. I’d love to see your work there. I loved the one-shots you’ve done for Ms. and other publications. And gosh, dare we say it, maybe one day a cover?

  46. RudigerVT says:

    Alison, on the subject of rejection from high places, a story.

    I contacted a Very Big Name in my field (psychology research), because I was using one of his books as a text in a seminar I was leading, and students had questions. And I started that contact with some gush (you know how I get). But I meant it. And he very sincerely thanked me, pointing out that his professional life was more about rejection than acceptance. Of course I only read the (brilliant) papers that were published, assuming that I saw every submission. Apparently, I did not. I’m grateful to his perseverence as his thinking’s had a huge impact on my own.

    Thus, when your work is rejected by NYer — it will be — just know that we’re there with you, as we will be (of course) when it’s accepted. And it will be. Won’t THAT be cool?

    PS: Victoria Roberts, Marissa Acocella. But true: few. And, FWIW, I actually find that they don’t, as a group, wear as well as one might imagine. I’ve got a couple of the coffee-table tomes, including the recent, all-inclusive version that’s also on CD. It’s a terrific document of history, but I find myself strangely unmoved by most of it (even though I usually guffaw at 1 or 2 per issue).

  47. DesiFemme says:

    Femme invibility? Try femme of color invisibility. My friend (also a queer woman of color) and I once got not only completely un-clocked by our oh-so-hip (white) dyke waiter/ress at a restaraunt in the Mission (SF), but completely dissed at well – they just never came by our table (unlike the case wrt all their other customers, who were white). My ftm (of color) bf of the time pointed out that the waitperson probably had not gaydarred us — a bizarre concept to me.

    I’ve since noticed — he was right. White dykes don’t always get us. Even when we’re sitting right next to ’em on a flight from the midwest to SF right after the holidays ;> .

    To be fair, though, we don’t always see each other, either — once I almost missed my flight, showed up at the gate at the very last minute, (this at ATL, btw), and the gatewoman threatened (offerred?) to spank me. SPANK (!) With a completely straight face. (Very classy). Since I desperately needed to get on the flight, (and also, was being seen off by a very sweet boi) I didn’t take the risk of trying to confirm whether she was meant what I thought she meant (or if she meant it). But I wouldn’t have guessed even the possibility in a million years. (In my defense, she was in work drag).

    On a separate note – about the south beach shot: Word. AB’s lookin’ fiiine.

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