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FIVE YEARS IN BLACK AND WHITE AND DENIM

alex-rosenAlex Rosen has kept an illustrated log of each day for five years. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For a 22-year-old, there’s something a little unusual about ending each day by opening a notebook and writing “Dear Diary.” Logging one’s daily activities in comic strips is even odder, admits Alex Rosen — though he does just that, in spite of an aversion to the form.

“I never read comics,” said Rosen, of Little Silver. “No matter what, comics are never cool.”

Still, Rosen puts his day-to-day life down in black-and-white ink in small square frames because, he says, “I’d like to make them be cool.”

That’s a simple explanation, but for Rosen, who’s documented his daily life the last five years in comics, the circadian exercise lends itself to personal reflection, shame, growth and an excuse to wear the same outfit every day.

Rosen, an American Studies major at Ramapo College, took inspiration five years ago from a Texas artist, Ben Snakepit, who draws comics documenting his life. Rosen liked the idea, but not the inanity of the strips.

“It was ‘I got drunk, high, then worked,'” Rosen said.

The solution: “I like writing and I like drawing. So I gave it a shot and got hooked.”

For five years, the comic strip, called “I’m Too Old to Be Wearing Tight Pants,” has provided a constant window into moments of Rosen’s life, whether major or mundane, prideful or punishable.

“I think I might have missed one day — ever,” he said. “But nothing really happened that day.”

There is, of course, a certain monotony that can’t be avoided. But what’s cool about his comics, he says, “is that they are everyday life.

“They’re very honest. They’re real life,” he said. “There’s definitely monotony, but monotony is the spice of life. But one of those days I might just make it one frame and say, ‘I didn’t do shit today.'”

That’s not often the case. If you were to sit down and read his comics, you’ll read about Rosen going to a party, a concert, making out with a girl or getting drunk and making French fries.

Rosen, a tall and slender senior who wears tight jeans and a black t-shirt every day so he can easily draw himself, is jocularly self-deprecating and self-aware, and Rosen admits that may be a byproduct of the comic.

“I’m not the brightest bulb in the box,” he said. “I just make mistakes.”

They’re not huge mistakes, he admits. They range from “screwing somebody over” to dating a girl and asking her best friend out — “small stuff that are not good ideas.”

The comic is a way for him to learn from his mistakes, because it disciplines himself to go home and write about it.

“If you do something wrong, it’s got to be in there,” he said. “I try to look at what I’ve done and make sure I never do it again.”

On the other hand, the comic, for entertainment value, brings out Rosen’s devilish side. People don’t want to read about some guy’s boring life, after all.

“If you have two options at the end of the night, you’re more likely to go with the one that’s more risky or messed up,” he said.

The comic has taken Rosen’s life and turned it into a constant story, one that he’s always conscious of and trying to make as interesting as possible, so that one day he’ll have years’ worth of material compiled and ready for publication. He uses the internet and some local comic book stores to showcase his material, and when he was studying in Norway last year, gained major media exposure when a newspaper, Faedrelandsvennen, featured his comics.

The Norwegians ate it up, he said, and his friends from there constantly ask him for more material. He’d like to see the same in America, when, or if, he publishes the first four years of material, which he’s working on.

“That’s everyone’s dream, to do what you do want to do and just be,” he said. “I hope people will read it, like it, or, you know, want to be in my comic and buy me a beer.”

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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