The other day I went to San Jose City College with a camera. In Neko Machi the characters are attending Neko Machi City College, and when I type the names so close together it’s not hard to see that NMCC is basically SJCC with more nekomimi around. It was incredible how much the campus had changed since I last attended (though I had my B.A., M.A., and a couple years of regular work between now and back then), and I think literally about 2/3 of the buildings had been replaced. As a result there are lots of shiny new buildings with less janky facilities, and coming back after so many years it seems like things have been rearranged totally at random. What used to be the student union is now the cosmetology building, and the new Student Center is this huge, silvery building on the opposite side of campus. A lot of the buildings that have survived have been repurposed too, though the old GE buildings are still the GE buildings. I may have to make time to go back on a weekday though, since most everything is locked up on weekends.
I got plenty of pictures, and I’m hoping that whenever piggy is able to start drawing Neko Machi again they’ll help her get a better feel for the NMCC campus. What I did not expect from my trip was inspiration, but it has me wanting to work more on the Neko Machi prose stories I’d been failing to write. People sometimes say that in a given movie the city is like another character, which is just the kind of thing that teeters between deeply insightful and rather silly. Writing slice of life stuff is not easy at all, and the one piece of Neko Machi prose I finished satisfactorily is the prose version of the next chapter. It’s set in downtown San Jose/Neko Machi, to the point where I could draw a map of where the characters go during the story, and I took plenty of pictures there too. There are a couple of pivotal elements to the plot of said story that I wouldn’t have thought of without referring to things that exist in real life. Walking around SJCC made me want to tell stories there. Where I saw a staircase or a hallway I found myself wanting Kitty and Sylvia to have conversations there. When I saw vending machines I wanted Kitty and Tom to bump into each other there.
Right now I’m working on the short story I started on some time ago about Kitty visiting her older sister Violet in Albuquerque. My sister Rachel lived there for a few years, and I found it to be a really amazing city with its own very distinct personality. New Mexico has its own distinct cuisine, derived from Mexican food but a bit different, especially for its use of red and green chiles that are hard to grow elsewhere and don’t keep well. The sky is an endless blue, and there are a million little things that are wholly unlike San Jose. The travelogue part of the story has been easy to write, but it’s taken me a good deal longer to figure out what the actual story is. It takes place in between the old and new incarnations of Neko Machi, after Kitty graduated from high school and before she started at NMCC, so the story is becoming sort of a meditation on growing up.
In college I minored in creative writing, and in doing so I took two semesters of poetry writing. I wouldn’t call myself a great poet by any means, but given enough time I can at least write in meter and rhyme. I don’t often feel moved to write poems, but every now and then it’s like I see a poem happen in front of me and I have to try to write it down. There are moments of heightened awareness, moments when you see what’s right there in front of you instead of staring into the brain’s endless shadow play of past and future and maybe. I think a writer–or any kind of creative person–needs to see those moments in order to better capture the human experience, and I think that’s where Neko Machi really needs to outgrow 4-koma gag strips.
At this point I really have no idea when Piggy will be able to spare enough time to properly work on Neko Machi. It’s not for lack of desire to do so, but she’s been swamped with some pretty amazing projects (like Triage) that are keeping her busy and giving her something closer to the pay she deserves. In the meantime I’m going to try to write and post a series of prose stories, the “Neko Machi Days” thing I’d always meant to do (though I need to be less distracted/consumed by my other writing project), which’ll help me keep up with writing about catgirls, and give you guys some new content to enjoy.