Mimi Pond has been a cartoonist and illustrator for more than 25 years - she also wrote the first episode of "The Simpsons" and an episode of "Pee-wee's Playhouse" - but it took her 15 years to complete her first full-length graphic novel, a fictionalized memoir. She calls it her magnum opus, and with good reason.
"Over Easy" is a tender but hardly mushy reminiscence of a California College of Arts and Crafts student who is denied financial aid and gets her real education outside the gates of academia - as a dishwasher and waitress at Mama's Royal Cafe in Oakland (which Pond calls the Imperial Cafe in the book). Populated with a cast of late-'70s characters - from drug-loving hippies and punks to no-nonsense waitresses who call customers "Hon" - the book is also a valentine to a seedy, no-frills city.
Pond is a gifted illustrator, capturing the subtleties of facial expressions and rendering an Oakland neighborhood whose blue sky "saturates the stucco pinks, greens, and yellows of all those tidy little Oakland houses that go on for miles and miles, a candybox city, full of pastel creams."
She's also a very funny writer with a pleasingly sardonic voice, as when her alter ego recounts her experiences with a customer/boyfriend who seems like the perfect catch - until her "inamorata passionata" proves his "sucky taste" by playing her some Gerry Rafferty.
And don't get her started on hippies. "If I have learned anything during the first eight years of this decade," she writes, "it is that brown rice tastes bad, hippie cant involves an us-and-them philosophy that leaves out the people I find most interesting, and the cloying stench of patchouli only barely conceals the decaying stench of this hackneyed dogma."
Despite it all, Pond seems to have survived the '70s. She no longer lives in Oakland - she moved to Los Angeles, where she raised her two children - but she'll be back in town to celebrate the publication of her book. The event will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday - at Mama's Royal Cafe, naturally. It's at 4012 Broadway in Oakland.