So, this kinda made my day…

mercer mayerWhen I was younger, two of my favorite books were Mercer Mayer’s Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zooand One Monster After Another.

Recently I dug them out of a box in the basement. They’re now my youngest’s favorite books.

She’s reading them over and over again, much as I did at her age… over forty years ago.

 

 

 

time and tide

My youngest started school today.

She was excited. She was ready.

It was a good morning, lots of memories.

A bit fraught, a little bittersweet.

We did okay.

We watched her walk to the door.

So confident.

She’s my hero.

But there were tears in the car and, later, more at home — ours, of course.

She was ready. We weren’t.

A flood of feelings while we watched the teacher walk our daughter up to the door.

Later, I thought about the times I’ve watched my children turn their backs and walk towards the future, watched them walk away from me.

It’s hard.

With the older ones — one is twenty and the other is almost sixteen, now — I remember them little.

I remember the feel of their small hands in mine.

I remember their voices.

It’s hard.

I’ve stood there in the night, countless times, and watched over them — watched the gentle rise and fall of their chest, watched the tide move in and out as they slept.

I stand there now, tonight, watching while my youngest rests after her very exciting first day.

And, well, it’s hard.

As hard as anything.

Maybe even harder than with her older brother and sister.

Because I know what’s coming. I know what she’s walking towards.

What she’s walking away from.

And, honestly, it’s a little bit like mourning.

There’s a death in there, somewhere . . . somewhere in me.

I remember the life that’s passed. I hold onto the hope of the life that’s to come.

They turn their backs, they take their steps.

I let them go.

I pray they’ll come back.

— — —

That’s what I want to be for them, as their father — a safe harbor to return to when they need it, a touchstone they can carry along the way.

I don’t feel any compulsion to guide their steps, to point them in the direction I think they should go. I don’t feel a need to shape them, to mold them in my image.

Their own images are so much more interesting and wonderful.

It’s more rewarding for me and, really, more useful for them to just watch and marvel over who they are and what they become.

I know lots of parents who talk about how proud they are of their children. Most of the time, what I hear is how proud the parent is of themselves.

“Look at what I made.”

So I don’t say that I am proud of my children — I am proud of them, of course, but not because I think I had anything to do with how wonderful they are.

No . . . what I am, is grateful.

I’m grateful that they were given to me, grateful to have so much that I really don’t deserve.

I’m grateful to have such wonderful people in my life, grateful to watch them grow and become even more wonderful.

I’m grateful that I didn’t do too bad a job with what the gods gave me.

I’m grateful that I have had each of them there to walk with me for a while through the highs and lows of my own life.

And I’m especially grateful that they’ve let me tag along as they’ve made their way through the world.

I pray that it will always be so.

— — —

The same day that my youngest started school, my oldest invited me to come by and see his new apartment.

This is his first place, a place of his own.

He’s working very hard. It’s a struggle, sketching out your own little piece of the world.

I remember his first room, the little apartment we lived in when he was born. I remember putting his crib together.

And now…

I was impressed to see how he’d made a place of his own — something I was far too immature and weak to have done at his age.

He’s always been stronger than me. He’s always been my hero.

I’m glad he’s doing it. I think it’s outstanding.

And, yeah, I still mourn . . . probably more than a little.

But I’m grateful that he invited me.

— — —

And that same day…

The same day my youngest started school…

The same day my oldest invited me over for a visit…

That same day, my middle child — and the middle is sometimes such an awkward place to be, but she’s exactly the younger sister that her brother needs and the big sister that her little sister loves . . . and I love her for it — she reminded me yet again of how glad I am that she’s my daughter.

She’s funny. She’s kind and sensitive.

She’s boldly talented, writing songs and recording them and setting them free into the world. She has far more bravery and creativity than I had at her age — maybe even more than I do now.

She’s my hero.

And I’m grateful for her, grateful that I have a teenage daughter who actually talks to me.

I’m grateful that she shares her ideas and songs with me, grateful that she trusts me and shares her life with me.

I can’t wait to see where her path takes her.

— — —

I can’t wait to see where all three of those paths lead.

I pray they don’t go too far.

— — —

I am rich with children.

And I am grateful.

 

 

“It sneaks up on you without a warning…”

A bat showed up in the house this morning. He was hiding in the bookshelves.

I assume it was a harbinger of prosperity and long life for my birthday, and not because, y’know, we don’t have a belfry.

He was a little brown bat, very cute. I got him out, safe and sound.

I expect he’s posting to Twitter right now about it.

(Bats use Twitter. Obviously.)

“We feel lost and we feel found…”

Some songs just stick with me, sometimes. I don’t know why that is.

It seems like songs — well, some songs — are more like places. They occupy a physical place in my mind. They’re snapshots of the geography of my dreams. And I find myself returning to them again and again — a place where I’m safe, protected.

The word haven means “a place of shelter and safety; refuge; asylum.” It comes from the words for port and harbor — it means a place you can go, to escape the stormy seas.

At any rate, here’s “Sleep” from Amanaska

Happy Tunesday everyone…

Big Pop

1921934_10152260027078637_1007993859_nToday’s my grandfather’s birthday. He would have been 106 years old. I don’t have a lot of memories of him. We moved away when I was very young and I only saw him a handful of times after that. But the memories I do have are special.

I wrote this a few years back. For what it’s worth, you can see the bowl of grapes in the photo…

“Big Pop”

A plastic bowl of grapes.
The dusty, almost-black globes
polished by our fingertips.
The tart snap of the skin between my teeth.
He teaches me to spit out the seeds,
the stones bitter on the tip of my tongue.

Wrestling old Smoky to the ground,
he bites the dog’s ears, both of them growling.

I watch, I laugh,
wondering if he will get fleas.

The rigid line of his dentures,
sticking them out at us when no one was looking.
Laughing, terrified by the sudden appearance
of that slick pink plastic, the crown of his teeth.

The walking sticks, later the canes
by the door.
The carved one, the snake’s head
poised to strike.

Wrestling him to the shag carpet
in my aunt’s apartment.
Two year old champion, I pin him down
and I strike.

My mother flares with anger: “Don’t you hit my daddy.”

Photographs posed,
the stiff movement of home movies.

Memories, stories told around the family, heirlooms.

Mythology now.

So little I can claim for my own.

His voice, surprisingly high.
Rusty, wavering and punctuated
by strange, inarticulate sounds
like a crow in flight.

Surprising myself with tears,
when I introduced my wife to him.

She in black, long hair pulled back.
He already under his stone, so long.

 

This is important.

Micronauts by Bill MantloIf you read comics back in the late 70′s and through the 80′s, then you might very well have read a comic or two by Bill Mantlo.

For me, the standout is his work on the Micronauts title. In lesser hands, that book would have never been much more than a crass and cynical marriage between Comics and Marketing/Merchandising.

In Bill’s hands, however, an entire world took shape.

Thirty-five years later, I still have that world inside me. Thanks to Bill.

My old Micronauts toys are posed on shelves in my office. And those comics Bill wrote are there along with them.

Bill did the same for ROM: Spaceknight — a flop of a toy but a longstanding fan favorite that made a significant contribution to the Marvel Comics Universe.

And I’m told that I am missing out by not having read Bill’s run on The Incredible Hulk.

Bill was important. He is important.

I’ve been nerding out nonstop since I saw the recent trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy. I know nothing about the characters, I’ve never read the comics. But I’m mildly obsessed with Rocket Raccoon and I can’t wait to see the movie.

FanTAStic.

Come to find out, Bill Mantlo also created Rocket Raccoon.

In 1992, Bill was struck by a hit-and-run driver. He was comatose for a period of time and suffered irreparable brain damage. Since then he has lived in a healthcare facility in reduced circumstances, struggling with his disabilities and depression. He is no longer able to write.

Bill created heroes for the rest of us. We need to return the favor.

You can make a donation that will provide direct and immediate assistance to his care. Bill’s brother and legal guardian Mike Mantlo has a Paypal account set up to take donations for Bill’s care.

I’ve made my donation. I plan on giving more, as I am able. I’m asking you to do the same.

Rocket Raccoon - Guardians of the GalaxyEven if you’ve never heard of him, even if you’ve never read a comic in your life or have no interest in a doublestuff kickass laser-blaster toting spce raccoon, please consider helping out with the cost of Bill’s ongoing care.

What happened to Bill could happen to anyone. It could happen to any one of us. It could happen to me.

If you like my work, then please consider helping one of the people who had an influence on it.

Thanks for listening…

—————————–

As he gradually lost his ability to write, Bill managed to capture some of his final words. You can read them here. They are heartbreaking.

If you want to know more about Bill, his legacy, and the accident that took it all from him (and took him from us), read this article by Bill Coffin. It too, is heartbreaking.

Bill Mantlo

Random Thoughts!

Black WidowI have to admit that I’m a bit excited to see the new Captain America movie. I enjoyed the first one and also really enjoyed The Avengers. I like Chris Evans as an actor (his performance in the underrated Push stands out in my memory). Also, it’ll be nice to see Scarlett Johansson get a bigger role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I’m loving the rumors about the retro-70′s conspiracy feel to the story. Also she looks fantastic with retro-70′s straight hair. And twin pistols. And a catsuit.

Ahem.

Paul Williams is a very cool guy. I’d forgotten how much of his music was bubbling under my childhood memories — particularly The Muppet Movie and Bugsy Malone soundtracks. And his duet with Chris Hardwick on a recent episode of The Nerdist was utterly charming and surprisingly moving.

Sometime soon I’ll take the time to enumerate exactly why I feel the “Hannibal Lecter” novels by Thomas Harris novels go from brilliant (Red Dragon) to awful (Hannibal) — likewise, the movie adaptations which are — apart from a few standout performances from Brian Cox and Scott Glenn — utterly dismal.

 

But until then . . . suffice it to say that, so far, the first season of Hannibal has done much to rescue the characters that I think were so poorly served in the latter books and (all of the) movies (yes, even Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs).

I can’t recommend it, because it really strays over into the distasteful and outright disgusting a bit more than you’d expect on television, even these days. But apart from the oddly jarring, eye-rolling bad line or two of dialogue, the show is much better written, shot, and acted than most television I’ve seen lately — particularly in the horror/suspense category.

jb3hfkThat being said, American Horror story is utter bullshit. I tried Season One last year but gave up after three episodes because it was bullshit. I tried Season two as well because the idea of a show that changes story lines each season was intriguing and reminded me of my favorite old anthology shows like The Twilight Zone. But Season Two also turned out to be bullshit and I gave up after three episodes. I don’t expect to even bother with Season Three once it hits Netflix. Because I have no doubt that it too will be bullshit.

I don’t badmouth things very often. So take that for what it’s worth. And I’d apologize for the vulgarity but, well, when confronted with such bullshititude words fail me.

76perkins_headI have yet to bring myself to try Bates Motel. I’ve just been hurt too many times before. And the fact that they brought it into the modern era irritates me. I don’t think anything will erase Tony Perkins from my mind.

(“Well, a boy’s best friend is his mother.”)

It was only out of a sense obligation that I decided to finish off Dexter once the last few seasons hit Netflix. Having never read any of the books, I’m on the fence as to how I feel about the character. I don’t particularly care for the literary inversion in which a truly despicable evil character is made into the hero (again, one of my major criticisms with how the character of Hannibal Lecter evolved over the course of the books and films). Despite their best efforts to make Dexter sympathetic or, at least, honorable, I can’t bring myself to root for him.

But Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, and Desmond Harrington have become the reasons I watch the show now. Their solid work as actors and the gradually-revealed depth of their characters is why I want to see how it ends.

382005_10151149047722353_1271073771_n

I suspect a similar reason might be behind why all of my “beta-testers” didn’t seem to have a lot to say about The Red Boy (yes, it’s still in “coming soon” status) apart from that it was too sad or hopeless (neither of which I agree with, but I can’t fault them for their reaction).

One person hated it so much that they refused to finish it. Again, I see that as a valid response to a book but I have to keep reminding myself that, on the other side of the scale, another reader seemed to really love it. So that’s okay.

It wasn’t an easy story to write and I suspect that the generally negative reaction is probably why I’ve had so much trouble getting the final manuscript ready for publication.

Also, I’m recording the audiobook as well, which is proving to be a challenge. I’m out of practice at reading my own work and my time has been taken up with lots of extra work and a general sense of the blues that has, truth be told, dipped more than once into outright depression.

Last year was hard, this year has been hard so far. Sometimes all I feel like I’m doing is treading water, hoping to feel some firmer ground under my feet.

antsAnd finally, one last random thought…

Since second-hand smoke has become a target for eradication in our society, can we please move on to banishing the Tyranny of the Scented Candle? I’d also like to request a ban all perfumes, colognes, and scented hair and skin products from the workplace. Some days, it’s literally nauseating to sit through a meeting.