My Confession

I have a confession to make. I never saw Walter Hill’s cult gang classic “The Warriors”. Not when it came out, not since. I wanted to, badly. I was seventeen, I could have, but none of my friends drove and my parents certainly weren’t taking me. Not because it was ‘R’ rated, I have no idea what is was rated, but because to them it would have looked unimaginably stupid if they’d looked into it, and they didn’t. I didn’t ask them to. I kept my desire to see “The Warriors” to myself. I only knew about it because of adds for it on the back covers of the superhero comics I read. You see my shame. In the years since I have repeatedly referenced ‘The Warriors’. At opportune moments in conversation, I have cried out ‘Warriors, come out to play!’ in an eerie, high pitched falsetto. I read somewhere that happens in the movie. I hope to Christ it does, because when I do it I generally get a laugh, and I’d like to think it wasn’t the uncomfortable laughter you get when the person you’re talking to suddenly gets afraid the person they’re talking to is crazy, possibly violent.

My Grandfather on my Dad’s side took me to the Auotmat when I was a little kid. The original ones were in Berlin, but this one was in Manhattan. It was a Horn and Hardarts. So what you did was, you went up to this wall of vending machines, and you looked through little windows at sandwiches and slices of pie and apples and whatnot, and you picked what you wanted and stuffed nickels into the slot and then the little windows, which were actually doors, would unlock and you could get your food out. It was magnificent. I had a turkey on whitebread. I guess in the strictest sense they were vending machines, but really it was just a wall and behind it was a kitchen with people, just like any other cafeteria, and workers would put the food in the little cubbies instead of you saying what you wanted and having them put it up on the glass so you could put it on your tray. Decades later, that same Grandfather would take me to the Grand Canyon, which was also very impressive. We’d been to one of the rims a few days before, the one that was not very built up. Now we were at the other rim, and there was a parking lot and a hotel and a gift shop and a lot more people. I said I liked the first rim better, that to me it seemed more in keeping with the experience of seeing such awe inspiring natural stuff. My Grandfather replied ‘If I’da known you weren’t gonna like it… I’da slit my wrists.’ I wished I could have stuffed nickels into his slot, slid open the little door over his heart and taken out whatever the hell he’d meant by that, but he was even less of a for real vending machine than the Automat.

I get that this is a hard story to read. I don’t mean emotionally hard, I wish, I mean, I bet it’s pretty hard to know why you are reading it and to convince yourself you should keep reading. Well, it’s hard for me to write, just exactly the same way.

I used the Internet to find out who directed “The Warriors”, and that it was based on Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel of the same name, a fact I did not include until now. Do I know who Sol Yurick is? I do not. Do I know what other works Sol Yurick wrote and if any of them were made into movies? I do not. I could, though. The Internet could tell me and I could include it just as if I was the kind of person who had known those things. I still might when I rewrite this. If I rewrite this. Which probably I won’t. Not because I trust my writing, but because I am a lazy writer. I also used the Internet to find out that the first Automat was in Berlin, which I could have done a lot more with, my grandfather and I being Jews and all, and him having been of an age to fight in World War Two. As a Doctor he didn’t fight, per se, but he was all over Europe and one imagines he saw all sorts of appalling shit. He gave me a German helmet with a hole in it. He claimed to have brought it back with him from Germany and also to have put the hole in it by shooting the soldier wearing it in the head, but I don’t think any of that is true. It was a big, heavy helmet and It’s hard for me to imagine him making room for it in his luggage when he returned home. Also I don’t think his role in the war put him in circumstances that would offer the opportunity to shoot someone in the head, much less remove and clean their helmet afterwards. I don’t think I even believed the story when he gave me the helmet, but I was a little kid and it was a for real Nazi helmet with a hole in it maybe made by a bullet, which I thought was some pretty cool shit. In any event, it was lost in my parents divorce along with a lot of other cool shit.

The Warriors in “The Warriors” aren’t warriors in the same sense that the people my Grandfather attempted to put back together were Warriors, and not just because they were fictional characters in a movie. A lot because of that, but if they were real and we allowed for a universe where gangs in 1979 New York were theme based cowboys, Native Americans, baseball ‘furies’, they still wouldn’t be the kind of Warriors I’m talking about. They are more like a wall pretending to be a vending machine.

But what really is the difference between a wall you put nickels in and a vending machine? Is it just distance? I mean, someone loads a vending machine, right? Someone comes in a truck and opens it and puts chips or candy or soda or whatnot in it. It’s not a fucking robot. So why was it such a problem for me when at some point it dawned on me that the beloved Automat of my childhood was just a cafeteria with a wall between you and the staff? Why is it such a problem for me that I need the Internet to get the specific details that make my stuff sound the way I want you to think I sound? The ideas are mine, right? I didn’t get those from the Internet. Why did I hate the rim of the Grand Canyon with the gift shop, which by the way, Grampa, I didn’t hate, I just didn’t like as much as the rim without the gift shop, and not liking something as much as something else isn’t the same as hating it, otherwise we’d hate everything in life except the thing we love most. And I don’t. I don’t hate everything. Although maybe if I had a clue what I loved the most, I would. I don’t know. I wanted to see “The Warriors” but I didn’t ask anyone to take me. I was seventeen for Christ’s sake. Can you imagine? “Mom, I have a favor too ask. There’s this movie about gangs? In New York? And one of them is Baseball Furies”. Seriously. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been the thing I loved the most anyway. But maybe if I’d even seen ‘The Warriors’ I’d hate not only all other movies, but everything else in the world. If you’ve seen it, you tell me. Tell me what ‘The Warriors’ made you hate and maybe I’ll have some idea of why I need the Internet to make my writing erudite enough to present to you.

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Summer Fun!

Here’s a little essay from the Golden Age when my kids were small and I had a nine to five job with benefits.I think I can say with complete certainty that every single word of it is literally true.

Most days in August I try to catch the early train to work so I can leave a little sooner. My wife throws kids in the car, meets me at the station and we go straight to the beach. I scamper off to whatever poorly lit restroom they’ve left unlocked and change out of my work clothes. Something about balancing precariously on top of my shoes while I struggle to get a leg into my bathing suit without stepping in the pasty mix of urine and sand on the poured concrete floor, like Cirque du Soleil meets affordable competition for Chippendales, just says ‘Summer’ to me. It’s nice.



By the time I get out on the beach, the blanket is already spread, the chairs set up, the toys scattered and my kids have a layer of sand coating every inch of their body. They look like garden sculpture. Lurching, shrieking, garden sculpture come to life hell bent of getting sand on the blanket, in the food and in the babies case, up my nose, in my mouth and as close to my retinas as her pudgy little digits can get it.

My wife and I take shifts. For the first hour or so The girls and I wade in the water, build a sand castle, I tell them the identical rocks and bits of shell the keep showing me are beautiful and my Bride reads a mystery. Then as the sun begins to set, painting the sea a million different shades of Orange and Teal and an almost Thalocyanine Blue, she says “Say girls, why don’t we take a walk so your Dad can get some peace?” I watch them, my women, the tall one holding the hands of the two little ones, turning into silhouettes as they get smaller, smaller.

And then it’s my turn.



I like to start small. I look around for the nice, large group. Some days I go with an extended family, hopefully intergenerational, but if I’m in shape and feeling athletic, I enjoy groups of disaffected teens. I take the sack of stale bread I got from my cafeteria at work, roll it around a little to make crumbs and saunter over. When I dump out the bag, the alpha male invariably asks me what the hell I think I’m doing. “Don’t you recognize me?” I respond, “I’m Tippy Hedron” That sentence takes about three seconds to say, which is just about how long it takes the first Sea Gulls to arrive. In the unlikely event this doesn’t cause enough ruckus for me to get away unscathed, I’ve found pointing at the youngest child and shrieking “OH MY GOD, HIS EYES! HIS EYES!!!” usually gives me space to make a run for it.



I stop at my blanket just long enough to strip down to the undies I’ve left on under my bathing suit. I favor the old tighty whities. Colored drawers are too easily mistaken for some sort of French bathing suit, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have mud wasps lay their eggs in my spine than be taken for a Frenchman. Next I put on my suit socks, pull ‘em way up my calves, slip on my loafers and race off down the water line flailing my arms, weeping loudly and randomly shouting nonsense words like “Chunkies” and “Bulvula”. If you decide to try this, here’s an important tip: Don’t run in the same direction your wife and kids took. Catch up with them and the fun is over. Didn’t I learn that the hard way.

Once I’ve exhausted myself and/or attracted enough attention, I tumble to my knees in the surf, raise my fists to the sky, and gift my gathering public with a tribute to Charlton Heston’s classic star turn from the end of “Planet of the Apes”

Unless there’s an off duty Cop in the crowd that’s pretty much it for my act. You’d be surprised just how easy it is to walk away. Most beach goers have no real desire to interact with a sandy lunatic in nothing but soaked Fruit of the Loom’s. On the rare occasion that some Mental Health Professional, well meaning Christian or other Goody Goody pain in the ass does feel compelled to approach me, I can usually make them turn around by tearfully begging them to ‘Help me get the sand out of my creases’.



When the kids get back to our spot, I greet them with a heartfelt “Who’s ready for ice cream? I know I am!”

It’s amazing how a little exercise and some time to yourself makes the tensions of the workday melt away!

Oh, one last thing. This is strictly a beach bit, and does NOT translate well to Movie Theaters, Museums, Houses of Worship, or other enclosed spaces. Also, while you’d think performing this piece at the Actual Statue of Liberty would have really made the Planet of the Apes thing shine, it turns out our National Monuments have a lot of Security Personnel and they’re really kind of high strung these days. They didn’t even laugh at “That ain’t dynamite, I’m just glad to see ya!” Go figure.

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Hi, I’m back! Did you miss me? My pets sure did! But that’s because they depend on me for food and water, and since none of you do I can’t imagine why I’m looking for emotional support from a bunch of people I don’t even know. Screw you anyway!

I’m kidding of course. That was just pro forma hostility, I’m all relaxed from having been on the one week of vacation working two jobs like a two job dog all year long affords me, and consequently I’ll be drained of the desire to hate you for at least another few days. Plus, I don’t even know what ‘pro forma’ means!
And yes I damn well do work two jobs! My job job, the one with the regular paycheck, and obsequious, soul crushing fawning to authority that society demands, and “freelancing”, for which I rarely if ever get paid. That’s what this is, content that you all receive free of charge, which is why I usually hate you, a reaction I find fully justified. You pay for HBO which you never watch except for late night, watered down, boob porn ‘documentaries’ when your family is asleep. I don’t see why you can’t throw me a few bucks now and then.

So! That being said, I bet you are just DYING to know what I did on my summer vacation, and being as I am so relaxified from it, I’ll share. It beats the hell out of coming up with an actual idea for an article.

PACKING

It’s really, really important that your wife and kids bring as much of their stuff on vacation as is physically possible to cram in your car without causing structural damage, and there’s a very good reason too. It keeps you from bringing anything you want beyond underwear, socks and if everyone is lucky, a bathing suit. But that’s okay, I can always get what I need when I get there, because I never, never vacation anyplace they don’t have liquor stores.

TRAFFIC

Boy, oh, boy, did we ever see a lot of traffic! It’s a shame I’m not a traffic enthusiast. If I enjoyed slow moving vehicles the way some people enjoy birding, I’d have been as ecstatic as an avid bird watcher! That’s an idea that might make sense if not for the facts that bird watchers are an insufferable bunch of stammering binocular fetishists and that there is no such thing as a traffic enthusiast. My family and I killed time with several classic car games like ‘Twenty Questions’, ‘I Spy’, ‘One-hundred bottles of Beer on the Wall’ and ‘If You Kids Don’t Stop Singing that God Damn Song, Daddy Will Show you Something Very Unpleasant a Beer Bottle is Good For.’ Later the kids napped and I daydreamed about how cool it would be if I’d spent a lifetime training as a contortionist so I could roll down my window and twist my body into a shape that would allow me to pee into expensive convertibles as they drifted past at five miles an hour.

THE BEACH HOUSE

Finding a beach house that has enough room for me and my family, my brother and his family, my Mom and her ‘fancyman’ (His term, blame him) AND that we can afford is challenging. By ‘challenging’ here, I mean if you don’t leave with scabies there really isn’t much to complain about. On the other hand, if I stop complaining just because there’s nothing to complain about, I will have nothing to write. Why? Because I am a ‘one trick pony’ writing wise. I say ‘writing wise’ so that you will not confuse it with the ‘one trick pony’ I believe I wrote about at some point in connection with a family vacation I took to Mexico that was not really a family vacation in that my family was not with me and I was not vacationing so much as falling off the wagon. If I have never written about that particular episode and the painful life lessons associated with it, or written about it but never mentioned the ‘one trick pony’ I ran into, I guess you could say I’m sorry I brought it up now, and hats off to the Mexican Emergency Medical services who at least in this case were far more professional than one would imagine. Did I mention the group that stayed at the house right before us left a truly impressive number of empty beer bottles in the recycling and apparently peed down the central air conditioning grate whenever the bathroom got too busy? ‘Cause I was not okay with that.

LEARNING ON VACATION ISN’T JUST FOR KIDS

Never stop learning, that’s my motto. I try to do some educational stuff every vacation, and not just for the kids. For instance, did you know dolphins let one hemisphere of the brain sleep at a time, so they don’t drown? That was a new one on me, and pretty amazing. Here’s another thing I learned: Sleeping in the alley behind the beach house is fairy uncomfortable, but kids on vacation want you to get up early and take them to the beach. Could they give a shit what size your hangover is? They could not.

THE BEACH

Sun screening your kids is a huge pain in the ass, but it’s nothing compared to having whiny, badly sunburned kids. The wife is Irish, so we use SPF 50 on the kids, which works better than either the traditional Irish folk remedy, a paste made from beer and potatoes, or telling them ignorant, racist jokes. For myself, I’m pretty casual with the sunscreen, because A.) I’m swarthy and/or dirty, and B.), skin cancer is as good a way as any to check out early on the endless series of hassles and headaches called life, and your family can collect your life insurance, leaving them somewhat less bitter than if you hang yourself.

DRINKING

It occurs to me that I joke about excessive drinking in a lot of my work. It’s possible I’ve lead you to believe that I am an irresponsible drinker, perhaps even an alcoholic. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I certainly have a drink now and then, you should remember that I’m a humorist, and so I exaggerate and make substitutions. Many times when I write about being ‘drunk’ or ‘hung over’, I’m just taking poetic license with an incident that actually involved drugs, firearms or a wide variety of questionably legal physical practices.

WATCHING THE ‘SUN SET’

You watch the sunset. I am watching college girls in bathing suits. Thanks to the miracle of mirrored sun glasses, I can watch them all I like without my wife and kids being any the wiser, unless they read this which seems unlikely considering the esteem in which they hold my ‘career’. And quite frankly I can watch whatever the hell I want as long as I don’t do anything else, at least that’s what my parole officer says. I wish he’d also said that while watching I shouldn’t make fire engine noises as he’d have spared me some embarrassment and himself some paperwork.

Thirteen Stages of Dining at the Golden Corral

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I
I have never eaten at the Golden Corral before. There are no Golden Corrals in my state. I can be forgiven for thinking as I stand outside the entrance that I am merely about to have dinner at a buffet restaurant. I do not know. I have not been told. I am more than virginal. I am naked, newborn, a Tabula Rasa. I do not understand as I place my drink order; receive my tray, that I am an initiate.

II
The setting is designed to deceive. There is a seating area, large, but in no way unusual. Several buffet stations; for carved meats, for main courses, for side dishes, for salads and deserts. The aromas are pleasant, the food looks good enough. It’s a little noisy, but if the food is even palatable the price is bargain. And there’s a great deal of variety. There are many, many choices. I take some rice and bourbon chicken, a couple of ribs, a little salmon. I ignore the salad bar, even though it stretches away from me like train tracks, converging to a point at the horizon. I have been to salad bars. I did not come for salad. My plate is full and so I move to select a table. For a moment I think they are taken, there are huge stacks of dishes on each table; But no, I see seated diners push aside soiled plates, soiled plates immediately and unobtrusively removed by the wait staff even as the patron pulls a clean, new plate and proceeds toward the nearly endless buffets. I sit.


III
The ribs, the bourbon chicken are satisfactory, but nothing to write home about. There is a basket of very pretty rolls at my table. They glisten. They have been lightly glazed with something highly reflective, perhaps honey. I try a roll, and it’s good. It’s very good. It’s very good the way the second time you ever had sex is good. Not the first, fumbling panicky time, but the time right afterward. 

And the basket of rolls is empty. Surely I only had one, maybe the rest of my party has been greedy, and I brim with sadness for the absence of rolls for only a moment before in a subtle flashing of obsequious hands, it is full again! It has been refilled! And there is no one there now to even thank! How could I have thought the ambience of the Golden Coral was non descript, when now I see it is so clearly lovely? And these ribs, this chicken! Not the best I’ve ever had by any means, but it isn’t trying to be the best. It is only trying to be the good, honest food. The kind of food you can trust.
And my God, the Salmon! I hadn’t even tried it!

IV


My ice tea has been nearly empty on three occasions, but every time I want a drink it’s full again. But my plate is empty so soon! Why did I eat so quickly? I was so much hungrier than I’d realized, starving really, and I’m still hungry, as if I hadn’t eaten yet at all! Well, why not? It’s not as if I eat here every day, and they are grilling these huge steaks and you can have as much as you want! The smell of them reaches out toward me physically, like a cartoon where the smell of food becomes an arm, a hand, a beckoning finger! I haven’t tried the shrimp, or the mashed potatoes, or most of what they have on offer. How could I? I’d have needed a plate the size of Cleveland!



V

This steak is so god damned good it makes the ribs I started with seem like something I tore off a rotting possum carcass I found by the roadside. It’s tender and juicy and when I swallow it seems to go as much up into my brain as it does down into my stomach, and it’s warm and good in both places and it says ‘This is what meat is, this is what man has eaten since the dawn of time, consume me, devour me, only when you eat you are you alive!’


VI

I am easily the most slender person here. Outside the Golden Corral I was slightly overweight, a little paunchy, but it’s all a matter of comparison, isn’t it? In here I am wasting away, I am frail, I am perhaps even dying. To be sure, many of my fellow patrons outweigh me by a mere sixty or seventy pounds, but there are also quite a few “big and tall” folks here as well. Some of them are, to be unkind, a little bit disgusting. Thank God I am so very, very thin and can justify this third plate.



VII

Witnessing the birth of my first child is still the single most sublime moment of my life, but this applewood smoked chicken breast wrapped in bacon is a very close second.


VIII


They don’t seem to be hurrying anyone out of here. You could easily come in for lunch at around noon, eat your fill, slow down a bit, linger over a few pastries and coffee, sneak into the bathroom for a little nap on the john. Before you know it you could start an early dinner. Screw lunch, you could come for breakfast.

IX

I was a fool to skip the salad bar! How could I have compared it to other salad bars, how could the me that existed before this meal have been so blind? Everything, everything you could ever imagine stacking on top of lettuce is here and several things I have NEVER imagined stacking on lettuce, even in my most fevered, forbidden dreams, dreams that I could not recall on waking for fear they would DRIVE ME MAD! And somehow the Golden Corral has infused each item with a near magical ability to align itself with others on a salad plate! Like some edible game of Tetris my salad leaps upward off the plate, not a cone, not a pyramid, but an immense, utterly stable COLUMN OF SALAD! Surely I am overcome, I am only imagining a distant hazy waitperson atop a golden ladder reaching into the clouds, ladling huge, gooey splashes of Italian dressing on my salad column… I come to at my table, chewing, chewing, chewing…



X


I am undersea. Everywhere gargantuan Human Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Manatee, Hippopotami, Whales of every species vacuum creamed corn and butterbeans through their baleen, at any moment I’ll be crushed to death between the rolling flanks of ravenous dinners! But no, it is all too choreographed, a miraculous synchronized swim from table to buffet and back again, beautiful, graceful, they are delicate hot air balloon people, hot air balloons all belly and mouth! Do these blissful giants even see a man as tiny as I, a bare milkweed seed of a man between the manicotti and the salt Virginia ham? 


XI

Surely this is Rome; surely there are braised Lark’s Tongues and roasted hearts of Albino Lions on that steam table. Any moment the staff will gently lead me aside into some quiet alcove vomitorium where I may discreetly disgorge so I can return to feeding unencumbered. I have no doubt there are portable defibrillators hidden everywhere, that with the same casual assurance they refill your Dr. Pepper, the staff of the Golden Corral can apply the paddles, call down the lightings and return you from the dead to stand and eat again.

XII

I am one with the bread pudding.



XIII

I see now that we are eating the world. Here within the Golden Corral, we chosen few open our cavernous maws, tumble in steam shovels of coal and iron ore, vast helpings of forests from all over the globe, steaming waves of arable land, we chase it with vast, overflowing flagons of crude oil and slave’s blood, while through the windows we can see the people outside the Golden Coral, the poor, the powerless, the sick, the starving! Now and then we shove vast tentacles out the door and scoop them up and eat them too, like handfuls of dry Chinese noodles, or croutons, and it’s good, they stick to our ribs, and eating the world hollow is just what God wants us to do, for who could run the Golden Corral but God? Who could keep the steam tables furnished in the presence of our foes, our cups overflowing, all under the full assault of our massive, desperate, yearning bellies? Who could afford to feed us such bounty for about ten dollars a person, how can there be a penny of profit in it, who could make a demonstrably ridiculous business plan like this not only work but prosper?


God. God. Only God. 

And God is good. Really good. God is delicious.

A Recent Anxiety Dream

I had a dream last night and in it I had to tell you something but I 
couldn’t because I had to go on a mission.

I was me, but I was also Aqualad, and the Teen Titans were going on a
 mission and I had to go too. But the thing was, I hadn’t been around 
all that much lately. I’d kind of been bagging on the missions a lot
 because of family and stuff, but this time they really needed me and it
 seemed important so I was going and whatever it was I had to tell you 
had to wait.

But the costume in my locker at HQ is old. It shrunk or I grew or
something, I don’t know, maybe I put on weight. It was difficult to
get the bathing trunks part of the costume past my thighs.

Kid Flash keeps going: “What the hell is wrong with you? We have to go, do you understand, GO. What don’t you understand about GO?”

And I’m all: “You guys go ahead, I’ll catch up.”

I’m alone in the locker room, and this costume just does not fit. And I don’t have another one with me. It’s too tight and it kind of grabs my area and displays it, there is no way I can go fight crime in this outfit.

So I’m sitting there on this bench and I’m totally uncomfortable because the trunks are very binding. They’re creeping up my ass at this point and I realize:

A.) I don’t remember what you and I needed to talk about anymore,

B.) My street clothes are no longer here.

I think Robin the Boy Wonder clipped them because he’s all stuck up and a complete bastard.

I think about taking a swim. They have a seawater pool for me at
the HQ. For me. Because I’m Aqualad, and I have to go in the water regularly or I… like… dry out or something.

I start feeling guilty that they maintain this pool which has to be expensive and I’m around so infrequently the costume I keep here barely goes over my huge thighs. I’m filled with revulsion for my body, particularly my thighs which are very pale and covered with coarse black hair. I think about how Kid Flash is always calling me a woman, which is totally sexist, and he doesn’t even care that Wonder Girl is right there and sometimes she sticks up for me and that just makes it more awful.

All I know is I’ve forgotten the important thing I had to talk to you
about and I can’t go on this mission because my costume doesn’t fit and I have huge, hairy, white thighs and each hair has a little dimpled hump of flesh at it’s base and each dimple seems just slightly inflamed. There are literally thousands of pitch black hairs on my paper white thighs, literally thousands of tiny dimpled slightly inflamed humps of flesh. I look at them and look at them until I feel like I am in a piper club flying over a vast, terrifyingly ugly landscape.

And then I woke up and it was still dark. I wanted to wake you up and tell you about the dream, which wasn’t funny while I was dreaming it but seemed kind of funny now.

But then I remember when I told you the Lucy Lawless dream and you wanted to know if I had any shame — which is what they asked Senator McCarthy right before his whole deal went south — so I just kind of lay there in the dark.

The sheets were damp. I thought I could smell the sea through the
bedside window. I wondered if I could fall back to sleep before the alarm goes off. I wondered if was worth it.

My Holiday Memories

CHRISTMAS, 1967

We are Jews, but not in the religious sense. More in the sense that if a new Nazi party were ever to arise in America, chances are it wouldn’t matter much to them that we rarely if ever mentioned God in my home. We celebrate Christmas, because that’s when we are out of school and Christmas is in many ways, a secular, American holiday. Santa did not die on any cross, my father explains. I have no earthly idea what he is talking about, but it makes me uneasy. We do not have a Christmas tree, or decorations. You have to draw the line somewhere and that line is drawn by my parents firmly where things seem to become a hassle. Christmas morning my Mother descends the stairs in a bathrobe that can no longer recall the color it once was, the first cigarette of the day already dangling from the corner of her mouth. She is carrying a wicker laundry basket of presents for my brother and me. My father is at the Hospital seeing patients, something he volunteers for every year so the Christian Doctors can be home with their kids. My brother suggests we wait for my Father to come home before we open any presents, an idea I hate, as he will probably not be home until late afternoon, but agree with anyway. “Suit yourself,” says my mom, which I don’t think she would have said if any of the gifts was a puppy I’d asked for.

HANUKAH, 1968

I am onstage, alone in a spotlight, holding a menorah. I have been called to explain Hanukah to the school during the assembly directly before we are released for the Christmas Vacation. Hanukah is something I myself had scant knowledge of three days ago, and in the intervening time I have learned little. It has something to do with oil burning for a far longer time than is physically possible, which we symbolize by burning a series of candles over the course of several days all of which we let burn out, which makes no sense. In addition, apparently during this holiday, Jews teach their children to gamble, which suggests some of the unpleasant things the other children say may be true. I need to go to the bathroom very, very, very badly, which is unfortunate, as it’s quite clear I will be on the stage in this spotlight for the rest of eternity, probably because I am bad.

THANKSGIVING 1972

My mother and I stand in the kitchen. Our dog, Frodo, the most embarrassing name the early seventies ever gave a dog, is on the kitchen table straddling about three quarters of a disturbingly mauled roast Turkey. The look of guilt in her eyes is the most real thing I have ever observed in my ten years on the planet. My mother shoes the dog off the table and calmly begins to carve what remains of the bird. “If you tell anyone,” she says around her cigarette “I’ll certainly kill you.”

CHANUKAH 1973

It occurs to me for the very first time that standing up in front of the school and explaining Chanukah at the Christmas Break assembly is probably not any sort of legal requirement. I ask my Mother if I have to, and she says “no”. I tell my teacher I’m not going to do it anymore and she says “Okay”. On the off chance that some sort of crossed wires prevented the Principal from knowing that I would no longer be explaining Chanukah, I make a special trip and tell him. He says “fine”. I sit in the audience, waiting to see who my replacement will be. In fact, no one explains Chanukah to the children this year.

NEW YEARS EVE 1973/74

I have determined that this year I will stay up to see the New Year in. I am asleep by 8:45, a full half hour before my usual bedtime.

THANKSGIVING 1974

About half way through the meal, I take a quick bathroom break. Before returning to the table, a put a ping-pong ball into my mouth. No one notices my silence or that I have stopped eating during the fifteen minutes I patiently wait to distance myself from my bathroom break. Then, during a brief lull in conversation, I push the ping-pong ball out of my mouth. The utter silence is broken only by the sound the ping-pong ball makes each time it hits the table, until it finally lands in the gravy boat. A few of my relatives thought it was funny. The really drunk ones.

CHANUKAH 1975

Frankie Silverman explains Chanukah during the assembly directly before we are released for Christmas Break. I cannot believe how much I hate him.

CHRISTMAS 1975

I wanted a denim Jacket and Adidas. My father informed me that desiring status symbols was bad enough, but getting them would make me an ‘enemy of the people’. He may well have been kidding, but I got a copy of ‘Lord of the Rings’.

THANKSGIVING 1976

We begin an annual tradition of having Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt and Uncles house. They are perhaps the only truly fabulously wealthy people I will ever meet. They live in a house designed by a well-known modern architect from whom they must obtain written permission before they purchase anything that could change the appearance of the house. This includes furniture, towels, artwork and the brace of architect approved English Sheepdogs on which they lavish the unconditional love they withhold from their children on principal. While there are many pictures of these children, all have been taken by well-known photographers. My Aunt and Uncle, a ‘tightly wound’ couple with ‘issues’ are well known for boozy, vicious stories about their friends, a supernatural ability to lower room temperature with their eyes and candied yams.

CHRISTMAS 1978

I have set myself a willpower goal. When I open my last present, no matter what or how much I have received, I WILL NOT allow a voice in my head to say “What, that’s all?” As I open my last present, a voice in my head says “What, that’s all?”

NEW YEARS 1978/79

We are at a charming hotel in Vermont. During the course of the New Year’s Eve party my parents attended, an elderly friend of theirs fell out the back of a local farmer’s Pick Up Truck. The details are sketchy, but it involved some fairly large amounts of liquor, a punctured and collapsed lung and a trip to the emergency room. Consequently, my parents returned to the hotel around five A.M. My brother and I rose at six, and proceeded to spend the next sixteen hours sitting in the lobby waiting for them to wake up. My new years resolution was that next year I would spend New Year’s Eve with other teens, some of whom would be girls.

NEW YEARS 1979/80

There are no girls at this party.

THANKSGIVING 1981

This is the first Thanksgiving since my Aunt’s therapist advised she never under any circumstances speak with or think of my Father ever, ever, ever again, an event he greeted with a profound lack of interest. I will miss the ugly stories and candied yams.

NEW YEARS 1982/83

No amount of Liquor can alter the fact that there are no girls at this party.

NEW YEARS 1983/84

Now a college student, there at finally girls at party I attend. I’m kidding, I’m home on break and I spend New Year’s alone. Some alignment of the planets seems to have made me completely immune to booze, no matter how much I consume. This only deepens the mystery when at 3:00 in the morning I am discovered by my father singing the choral section of “Carmina Burana” into our toilet. We agree that the acoustics are uncommonly good.

THANKSGIVING 1986

The holidays are a difficult time to lose weight.

THANKSGIVING 1988

The Holidays are a difficult time to cut down on the binge drinking.

THANKSGIVING 1989

Someone should tell you that once you ‘take up’ Crack it’s a really, really hard habit to break, especially around the holidays.

THANKSGIVING 1991

Some bizarre family algorithm involving the addition of step families, newlyweds and dates has landed me at the Kids Table, someplace I have not been since I was six. Finally, a Thanksgiving where I am truly thankful.

CHRISTMAS 1992

I officially give up on silencing the voice in my head that says “What, that’s all?” when I open my last gift, secretly certain that letting go of the desire to make it stop, will, in fact, make it stop. As I open my last gift, a voice in my head says “What, that’s all?”

NEW YEARS 1992/93

OH MY GOD, YOU’D THINK GETTING MARRIED WOULD HAVE MEANT THAT THERE’D BE AT LEAST ONE GIRL AT MY NEW YEARS PARTY!

CHRISTMAS 1995

My daughter’s first Christmas. We do the tree, the lights, the crèche, The wife and I spend literally all night assembling various baby toys and somehow manage to avoid a screeching, divorce inducing, sleep deprived fight, surely a Christmas miracle. I wake up early to apply a dozen nicotine patches so that there is no chance I will be smoking on Christmas day. Somehow during all this it has not occurred to me even once that a six month old has no idea whatsoever that all the odd shit you’ve been up to is in any way different from any of the odd shit you’re always up to. Everything you do is odd shit to her.

CHRISTMAS 1996

I am discovered naked and unconscious in the sewers of Paris, clutching a one armed “Tickle me Elmo”. No one can explain it, least of all me.

CHANUKCHAH 1997

The wife decides that since our daughter is half Jewish we should celebrate Chanukah. I try to explain to her that under Jewish law, since she isn’t Jewish, neither is our daughter. No dice. She asks me to explain Chanukah. I tell her it has something to do with the difference between the rates at which oil and candles burn and that there is gambling.

CHRISTMAS 1998

A few months after an intriguing article in ‘Wired’ magazine describes the soon to be released ‘Furby’ as a key moment in the development of artificial intelligence, I am found naked and unconscious in the sewers of Paris with a Furby in an embarrassing place. No one is more confused than I.

NEW YEARS 1998/99

While there are many women at this party, I am unable to find my wife. I later discover I have been at the wrong party.

NEW YEARS 1999/2000

The original plan was to party like it was 1999, but an article in ‘Wired’ convinced me that all computer activity would cease at midnight and that this might involve airplanes falling out of the sky. I spend New Years in my basement surrounded by canned water. I make a New Year’s resolution to stop paying reading ‘Wired’.

THANKSGIVING 2000

I seem to have another daughter, and this one really likes to cry. I think I have made a toast about all the things I am thankful for, but I can’t hear anything except my new daughter howling, even inside my own head, which I think is a physical impossibility owing to the nature of vibration. I briefly wonder if spitting a ping-pong ball into the gravy boat might lighten the mood.

CHRISTMAS 2002

Both my daughters are now old enough to really appreciate all we have done to make their holidays a wonderful experience. I am surrounded by love, filled with the warm glow of family. In addition, several new medications have become available that seem to make things the way they are supposed to be. As I unwrap my last present, a voice in my head says “What, that’s all?” but it seems to be saying it from behind a vast mountain of cotton balls.

CHRISTMAS 2003

Not only do the fucking new medications not work any more, I seem to be getting little electric shocks from EVERYTHING I TOUCH! In addition, the voice in my head no longer waits for me to unwrap my last present and seems to have some very specific instructions about how wearing a monocle would make Lucy Lawless really like me.

CHALNUHKAHL 2004

“Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

A Christian wrote this song.

Of that I’m certain. I’ll tell you what I’M going to ‘make out of clay’. A Golem. That’s what. And then I’ll bring him to life and see what kind of Holiday Season we get.

CHUAHNUCHKAH 2006

For reasons I cannot begin to understand, I am compelled to insist my youngest daughter explain Chanukah at her school assembly. She asks for help and I tell her this ‘festival of lights’ symbolizes the ‘Hebrew Peoples’ belief that you don’t have to pay your electric bill, the Lord will keep the lights on, but only if you chase all the ‘pigs’ the ‘Macabees’ left behind out of your ‘temple’, and that if she does a good enough job at assembly, they will let her skip school for the Jewish holiday of ‘suspension’.

CHRISTMAS 2007

The kids are now old enough that I no longer spend all night Christmas Eve assembling toys, making me an unbearable crank on Christmas morning. Instead I stay up all night depackaging toys that have been wired, taped and glued into their multiply layered plastic and cardboard containers by Chinese slaves whose only joy is imaging the torn and bloodied hands of American fathers weeping with rage at 3:00 AM Christmas morning.

NEW YEARS 2008/2009

I am a married man with two daughters. There should be at very least one female at this damn party. I cannot recall how I even ended up in this bar. Oh! Wait! Women! Very tall, ultra glamorous… never mind.

THANKSGIVING 2010

During a long winded Thanksgiving toast, I somehow end up publicly vowing that by the time I turn Fifty I will be a famous writer, not gaining weight sitting at the same desk I’ve sat at for fifteen years in a dead end job with no hope of advancement where they do not appreciate me. Embarrassed by the chilling silence as I raise my glass, I take a quick bathroom break. Before returning to the table, I put a ping-pong ball into my mouth. No one notices my silence or that I have stopped eating during the fifteen minutes I patiently wait to distance myself from my bathroom break. Then, during a brief lull in conversation, I unexpectedly hiccup and suck the ball deep into the back of my throat. I wake up in an emergency room to the familiar sound of doctors laughing.

THANKSGIVING 2012

Despite the fact I am fifty, unemployed and days away from my benefits running out, I am thankful because I have my health. The next day I discover that the infuriated itching I experienced all through dinner was not as I initially expected a symptom of sublimated horror and despair, but the onset of Shingles.

CHRISTMAS 2013

I open my final gift, and at last, at last, there is no voice in my head. Because my gift is perfect. It is nothing I have ever imagined and everything I have ever needed. An antique, the crumbling original packaging is labeled ‘The Hillbilly Pipe’. It is a beautiful, hand crafted, wooden pipe, the bowl made in the shape of a toilet. I am transfixed with joy, and cannot help imagining myself running down our snow banked street in my underwear, my new present clenched in my teeth, shrieking almost unintelligibly “Look, neighbors! Look! Behold my Hillbilly pipe!” I can feel the cold, the near burn of the ice beneath my bare feet, I can see my breath steaming in the air! Seemingly without transition, I wake up in an emergency room to the familiar sound of doctors laughing and the information that I ‘may’ have had ‘some sort’ of ‘small stroke’.

THANKSGIVING 2014

There are no girls at this Kibbutz, but for places to inexplicably wind up naked and unconscious, it sure as hell beats the sewers of Paris. I should be able to get home in time for Christmas. I have already selected an appropriately tattered bathrobe and purchased a wicker laundry basket.

My Mind is Blown By Four Brown Paper Grocery Bags of Comic Books

I started buying comics in 1969 at a little place called “Enright’s General Store” in North Andover Massachusetts. They were 15 cents each. I bought Marvel and DC, strictly the superhero books. My best friend Mike bought the war books, the westerns and anything with a car, but not me. I wouldn’t even buy ‘Challenger’s of the Unknown” on account of their uniforms weren’t superhero-y enough.

Earlier that year I’d been introduced to the medium by Reg Aubrey, quite possibly the greatest babysitter in the history of babysitting. He was a teenager. He was the only son of the only African-American family in my lily white hometown. He had a room full of scientific junk including that thing you see in every sci-fi movie of the period with the round green screen and the glowing green dot that moves across it in a jagged line and goes ‘beep’. And Reg read comics. We were pretty much the only Jews in town, which was different enough, but not black different. The only electronic junk I had was our discarded black and white TV that took five minutes to get a picture after you turned it on, and received three stations which you needed a pair of pliers to switch between. Comics was the only thing he did I was capable of doing.

He gave me four brown paper grocery bags full of comics going back to about ’62, the year of my birth, and they BLEW MY MIND so completely it is still blown and I have continued to read superhero comics my whole life.

When I tell you what was in those bags, some of you are going to cry like the irritating little fanboys you almost certainly are since you’ve read this far. You’ll think of how much the comics I had would be worth today had I slipped them into mylar bags with acid free backing boards without ever having read them (which damages the spine, dontchaknow) and stored them in a temperature controlled locker. That is not what comics are for. They are to be read, over and over, until the staples are coming out and the corners are stained with the sweat of your little boy fingers. They are for getting chocolate on and leaving in your tree house and piling up in the bottom of your closet until your mom throws them out when you’re overnight at your best friends house. They were never meant to be fetishized like the finger bones of Catholic saints. That shit is for stamp collectors, who are called philatelists, which sounds dirty, as well it should. If I still had them, I could go read them, and the mythic status they hold for me now would whistle out making a vaguely farty sound like the air hisses out of the balloons at my kid’s birthday parties because I suck at tying knots in balloons.

THE GALACTUS TRILOGY

Fantastic Four 49-51 came out in 1966. It may be the first instance of a comic book story lasting more than a single issue. It was certainly the first such instance I’m aware of.

SPLASH PANEL: some anonymous, overweight, lonely, son of a bitch with coke bottle glasses reflecting the monitor he’s slouched in front of like a big bag of Fritos. A really big bag. The kind of bag you can only get at one of those food warehouses where you have to buy a membership. A thought bubble next to his head reads: “Oh ho! Obviously Mister Burbank is not aware that the ongoing storyline was first pioneered in 1948 by Si Grumpus during his short lived but noteworthy run on The Crimson Chigger for Tip Top Publications.” That may well be true, but shut up,fictional nerd stickler. I’m married. Try that on for size. Also, thought bubbles are no longer used in comics. Why? Because, unlike the idea that the bite of a radioactive spider gives you anything besides cancer, thought bubbles are unrealistic.

Marvel comics were already using a sort of Soap Opera approach in that each issue led into the next, and hell, I don’t know, maybe the Galactus Trilogy isn’t the first multi part story. It was for me, and the sensation of finishing that first issue and thinking “OH MY GOD, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?” was something I’d felt at the end of chapters in books, but never with a comic. But that was not what BLEW MY MIND!

It was a very cosmic Trilogy. It introduce Uatu, The Watcher, giant, silent, baby-looking bald dude who lived on the moon and who was just about as enigmatic as hell. It introduced The Silver Surfer, who was all silver and surfed around on a flying, silver surfboard, creating dramatic tension by juxtaposing incredible, soul-searching, angst and goofy-ass, silvery,flying surf board riding. And most of all, it introduced Galactus, Devourer of Worlds,

a purple suited, helmet wearing, giant even gianter than Uatu the Watcher! Galactus was beyond good and evil! Galactus took no more notice of the Fantastic four than you or I would pesky gnats! And Galactus was going to EAT OUR WORLD! By devouring it’s energy, not, you know, carving up chunks and eating them. That would be as stupid as a silver guy in a silver speedo flying around on a silver flying surfboard. But none of that was what BLEW MY MIND!

There’s this scene about two thirds of the way in. The FF have not been able to do squat to even get Galactus to pay attention to them, let alone stop making his earth eating machine. Reed Richards, Mister fantastic, has been up for two days straight trying to invent some shit because apart from being able to stretch like a rubber band (which it took us kids no time to realize was a sex thing, and why he was called Mr. Fantastic), he was also this big science braniac. So he’s up all night inventing. And there’s this splash panel, and there’s Reed and HE LOOKS LIKE CRAP! He looks like your dad the morning after a bender before he’s had a shower! REED RICHARDS WAS ALL SCUZZED OUT AND HE NEEDED A SHAVE!! Did Superman ever need a shave? He did not. Did Batman ever say “Excuse me old chum, but I need a Batshower.”? No. But when Reed Richards was up all night he looked like it! If he needed to shave, what else did he need to do? Did he brush his teeth, After a big bout of stretching did he STINK of FANTASTIC SWEAT, did he GO TO THE FANTASTIC BATHROOM?! SWEET JESUS, REED RICHARDS WAS REAL and that BLEW MY MIND!!

Which of course was just what Marvel had been trying to do. They were trying to make their Heroes real people with lives that you could, to some small degree, relate to. Spiderman got his ass handed to him by the Lizard because he had the FLU and that BLEW MY MIND! Captain America couldn’t make friends because he was too emotionally scarred by the death of his Teen partner, Bucky and that BLEW MY MIND! Cyclops could never admit he had the burnin’ teen hotties for Marvel Girl because he COULDN’T CONTROL the force beams that SHOT OUT OF HIS EYES and he was ashamed and afraid he might hurt her and it BLEW MY MIND! But none of it freaked out my seven year old head more than Mister Fantastic looking like a friggin’ bum. I stared at that picture for hours, I tried to explain it to my parents “Dad, look at this, Mr. Fantastic needs to SHAVE! Do you have any idea what that MEANS?!’ You kids today with your piercings, your’apps’, your bathtub methamphetamine labs, you have no damn clue what I’m talking about. For you Wolverine and Nick Fury always need Grooming tips. Gambit sometimes goes weeks without washing his filthy Cajun hair. But Reed Richards was the first superhero on whom superheroing took a toll. Did Stan Lee write “Reed stretches forward holding bizarre tech. He looks like a pile of roasted crap.” Did jack Kirby think “Well, when I stay up all night long drawing comics, the wife says my face looks like a used up welcome matt. Maybe Reed oughta look that way.” Who knows?

You know what they did in comics before this to give you something to latch on to? They gave the heroes kid sidekicks. First the dark, brooding Batman got some snot nosed circus tumbler, and then Cap got Bucky who somehow kept up with him through most of World War Two before getting blown to bits, and then almost everybody had a kid tagging along. The idea was, the reader could pretend they were the teen sidekick. Ask your Grampaw if it worked. First of all, nobody wants to be Robin. Second, nobody believes Robin can keep up. Robin is a liability in tights and everybody knows it. Third, You only played Robin if your brother was playing Batman and he was threatening to make you play Batgirl. Fourth, there is something deeply unsavory about the relationship of the Hero and the sidekick. Reed Richards unshaven mug was a quantum leap forward. It made comics seem real without making you worry about protecting your Bat Cave.

MEANWHILE, IN ANOTHER BAG, DENNY O’NEIL REINVENTS PERSONALITY FOR DC

DC briefly had personality for about a year in the so-called ‘Golden Age’. Bob Kane invented it for them in the form of a Gun totin’, film noir Batman with funky ass purple gloves. Then DC de-invented it by commanding Kane to create Robin, the Boy Wonder. Now don’t get me wrong, I like tumbling, eleven year old, crime fighters in green spangly bathing suits and bare legs just as much as the next guy. Hell, if they’d gone with pederasty as an actual personality element for the Batman, that would have had lots of personality. No such luck, all the undertones were unintentional, the only point of Robin was to lighten Batman up and no costumed DC hero showed any signs of having an individual personality again until…

Justice League of America #66. At a League meeting Green Arrow… disagreed! With SUPERMAN! And it BLEW MY MIND! I know, I know, you don’t get it, because for you Green arrow is just ‘Arrow’; that buff, tormented dude on the WB who is basically just Batman with arrows, which is ironic.

See, here’s how Green Arrow started out in 1941. He was this really rich guy and he wanted to fight crime. So, since he was good at archery, he got himself an Arrow car, an Arrow Plane, an Arrow cave, and an eleven year old side kick. Hmmm, that sounds so familiar, where have I heard all that before? Wait, I know, it’s Bruce Wayne minus his parents getting killed in front of him, which makes Green Arrow sort of Batman only with NO MOTIVATION AT ALL!

I think we can all agree, Green Arrow was very, very sad. And here’s the amazing thing, he stayed that way for twenty years and people were okay with it. Why? Shamefully low readership standards. But then Marvel, the new kid on the block, upped the stakes with Reed Richards and his huge, stretchy, unshaved Kisser.

Prior to Justice League #66, the magazine was a personality free zone. If you were blind and someone was reading the comic to you (shut up, I’m moving towards a point here) the only way to tell who was who would be what the Heroes said when they were surprised. Wonder Woman said “Great Hera” cause she was Greek and Hera was a Greek Godess. Aquaman said (I’m not making this up) “Sufferin’ starfish!” on account of he lived underwater and hated to see starfish suffer. Martian Manhunter said “By the Red sands of Mars!” because he was from mars. Superman said “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” Why? Nobody has a single solitary clue. But if you took an exacto knife, sliced out a ‘sufferin starfish!’ and glued it over a ‘great Caesar’s Ghost!’ it would not make an iota of difference. Any word bubble could be coming out of any hero’s mouth because there was no more difference in personality between Batman and the Flash than there was between one Stepford Wife and another.

And so when writer Denny O’neil has Green Arrow stand up and vocally DISAGREE with Superman, it BLEW MY MIND! Less than a year later, artist Neal Adams gave GA a Goatee and some cool new duds to go along with his developing personality. And then O’neil finished erasing the clone like Batman/Green Arrow similarities by getting rid of GA’s Fortune, cave, car plane, and sidekick (more on him later).

Green arrow continued to keep it real by teaming up with Green Lantern, ‘cause, you know, he was Green too, and Kermit the Frog had yet to be invented. Little was made of the fact that Green Arrow broke up the Green lantern and Flash, his prior Super buddy, who had a whole Green/Red Christmassy thing going on. It’s possible Flash actually dumped Green Lantern first, for the Elongated Man, because he could… you know… elongate.

O’neil and   Adams brought the relevance for thirteen issues. Check what an elderly black man asks Green Lantern in issue #76, 1970: “I been readin’ about you…How you work for the blue skins.. And how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins…And you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there’s skins you never bothered with–! The black skins! I want to know… How come?! Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!” Now okay, there’s a little embarrassing dialect going on there, but it was 1970! Green Lantern/Green Arrow dealt with racism, poverty, whacked out Manson Style religious cults and my personal favorite, a slum lord Villain who was a dead ringer for Spiro Agnew! (If you don’t know who Spiro Agnew was, that’s an education in itself. The bare facts are, he was Vice President under Richard Nixon, and he resigned even before Nixon did, because he was such a huge a-hole. Nowadays Presidents and vice Presidents don’t have to resign when it’s discovered they are huge a-holes. They get re-elected instead. On a side note, I use the ‘a-hole’ not because I am squeamish, but because it’s a funnier word than ‘asshole’. See?)

(P.S., having to tell you who Spiro Agnew was makes me want to cry, but you’re a comic book fan so the chances of you knowing shit from Shinola are just about squat.)

(P.P.S. ‘Shinola’ was a shoe polish. See, folks used to wear leather shoes, and they’d get scuffed up and… ah, screw it. Goddamn whippersnappers.)

O’neil and Adams put the Cherry on the personality cake in their final two issues by taking Green Arrows forgotten Robin Substitute Speedy, and making him a Smack addict.

The title of the story arc, and I wish to god I was making this up, was ‘Snowbirds Don’t Fly.” The idea of a teen sidekick riding the white horse went over so well that DC abandoned the idea of Superheroes having personalities for another decade.

But it wasn’t Speedy’s heroin addiction that blew My Mind. It wasn’t GA’s hipster beard or the time he convinced Green Lantern to take off his power ring so they could punch the living crap out of each other. It wasn’t even the way Neal Adams drew GA’s girlfriend Black Canary in leather and fishnets. Okay, that did blow my mind, but in a whole different way that belongs in another article that discusses things like Zatanna and whatever material they made the Catwoman and Batgirl costumes out of on the Batman TV show, and is frankly none of your damn business. It was Green Arrow standing up to Superman that BLEW MY MIND almost as much as Mr. Fantastic’s five o’clock shadow. It was those four grocery bags full of comics that if my mother hadn’t thrown away and if I’d kept in pristine, near mint, completely anal condition, I could now sell to pay my daughters tuition. Except I’d never sell them and my daughters would tell their boyfriends and therapists about how their crazy ass dad was sitting on a friggin’ gold mine they’d never get their hands on ‘till he died! Yes, died! Alone and broken in a YMCA with nothing but a stack of well protected comic books to love him! Comic books that had once and forever BLOWN HIS MIND!

Now get the hell away from me. I have something in my eye.

Halloween Memories

1968; BATGIRL

I tell my Mother I want to be Captain America for Halloween. She returns with a Batgirl Costume, the only superhero costume our grocery store had left. I explain to her that Captain America and Batgirl are two different characters and that I am a boy. She tells me again it’s all they had left and suggests I don’t wear the mask, people will think I’m Batman. I tell her Batman has a mask, and does not have the word “Batgirl” written on his chest. She colors over the word “Batgirl” and the masks’ bright orange hair with a black marker. No one will see the hair part of the mask in the dark. Humiliated but desperate, it does not occur to me until too late that porches have lights.

1970; SNOOPY

I dress as Snoopy being a World War One Flying Ace. In a lackluster nod toward appearing dog like, I black my nose with shoe polish. It doesn’t matter, as the costume is built around the authentic cloth flying helmet and goggles I purchased at the huge Army Navy store in Provincetown, a tourist community on Cape Cod best known for promiscuous homosexual activity. I have to explain to every adult who’s doorbell I ring that I’m Snoopy being a World War One Flying Ace. I say the words “Sopwith Camel” way too many times for a nine-year-old.

1971; HALLOWEEN PARTY; GIRL

I host a Halloween party a few days before Halloween. For reasons I can no longer recall, I dress as a girl. My look is convincing enough that several of my guests don’t immediately recognize me. David Perkins comes dressed as a hockey player. I razz him about his lack of effort, since he plays hockey and all he did was put on his equipment. “Shut up, girl.” He responds. I am suddenly struck by what a bad costume choice I have made and the fact that neither my older brother nor my parents advised me to choose something else.

1973; HALLOWEEN PARTY; GUY WITH BEARD

My discovery of crepe hair and spirit gum so impresses me I decide a totally realistic looking beard is a good enough Halloween costume. My party includes a bowling trip and a costume contest. I’m certain my costume is the best, but my mother decides that as the host, I’m not eligible to win. She gives the prize, a forty-five single of “The Entertainer” featured in the movie “The Sting” to Jeffrey Leighton, who dressed as a pirate. “Hey” says Jeffrey, waving his store bought, plastic hook hand, “remember your party a couple of years ago where you dressed as a girl?”

1975; COMMUNISTS

A college friend of my Mothers, a devout communist, is living with us during a particularly rough period of her divorce and the return of her soon to be ex-husband to Albania. Her two children, Raoul and Uri are staying with us. I recall returning from Trick-or-treating with them in the dark, bitterly cold New England night, shrieking that they had totally ruined Halloween. I have no recollection of what my costume was, what they wore or what they had done to ruin Halloween. I do recall hating them intensely.

1976; THE BIRD

I have decided this will be my last year trick or treating. I’m getting too old. I want to go out with a bang and put enormous effort into my costume, a Superhero of my own invention called “The Bird.” My mother makes me a bright red half mask; (The kind that leaves the hair visible) designed to my specifications and pictures of Kid Flash I provide her with. I wear a red turtleneck with a black leather vest a hippie cousin gave me for my birthday. I design an insignia, a red circle with a black eagle’s profile, and place it on the right side of my chest. I then proceed to ruin the so far successful look I’ve created by wearing a pair of my mothers evening gloves and her black leather boots, which have heels. None of this is helped by the fact that my hair, which I consider not only my best but only good feature, is thick, wavy, and reaches my shoulders. I have to explain to every adult who’s doorbell I ring that I’m “The Bird”, a Superhero of my own invention. I run into a group of trick or treaters dressed as Hockey players. After a short exchange of ideas, during which one of the older hockey players asks me if I’m supposed to be one of the Hookers frequently seen on “Baretta”, they beat me up.

1978 HALLOWEEN PARTY; DARTH VADER

While I can no longer Trick or Treat and have given up hosting parties, I can still attend other people’s parties. I make my own Darth Vader costume using black jeans, a black turtle neck, black army boots, a black wool army surplus blanket and black leather gloves, not my mother’s this time. I spray paint my skate boarding helmet black. I wear ski goggles and a hospital mask, which I spray paint black. I use black eye shadow makeup to fill in any visible patches of skin. The make up is my mothers and I will later catch hell for using it all up. A few minutes into the party I begin to hallucinate due to concentrated spray paint fumes and soon after black out. Though I recall nothing, I am informed that I verbally assaulted someone dressed as a hockey player, demanding he ‘put his money where his mouth was’ if he was going to question my sexuality, (something I am reliably informed he did not do) and that while the hockey player tried to reason with me, he was eventually forced to smash me in the head with his stick. An Emergency room doctor comments that I was lucky to be wearing a helmet. The mask leaves a black paint line around my mouth that remains visible for days despite scrubbing that leaves the area around my mouth red and raw. This facial color combination results in the nickname “Flintstone” which I will not shake until college.

1994; POPCORN BALLS

My wife and I attempt to make old-fashioned popcorn balls. The recipe calls for melting and super heating sugar to ‘The hardball stage’ It does not mention that owing to the physical properties of sugar, reaching the ‘hardball stage’ takes about five hours. After pouring popped popcorn into the superheated melted sugar during the ‘hardball stage’; you are instructed to form the resulting mixture into balls before it cools. The recipe makes no suggestions as to how one might handle and shape a sticky, glue like mixture hotter than a branding iron. I repeat the words ‘Hardball stage’ over and over during this process, first with childish glee, then to alleviate five hours of soul crushing boredom and finally to take our minds off the pain of numerous burns.

2003; THE MOUTHS OF BABES

Standing on our front porch, my three year old daughter Cordellia shrieks at a group of trick or treaters (one of who is dressed as a Hockey player) “HEY YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDS! COME AND GET SOME OF OUR FRIGGIN’ CANDY!” My heart swells with pride. Halloween is at last redeemed.

Where Fwog?

“Where Fwog?”

Don’t answer. It’s possible she’ll go away if you don’t answer.

“Where Fwog?”

Don’t, don’t look up, don’t look away from your book at all. Don’t give her any indication you have anything to do with her, you don’t even know her, all right? This is not something you want to be a part of. Trust me.

“Dada. Where Fwog?”

A tiny hand is tugging at my pant leg. Looking down (I told you not to do that!) her giant, anime baby eyes lock with mine.

“Drabby. Where Fwog?”

The nickname. Because she knows. It’s in her Baby manual. The Nickname will always work.

She’s twenty-two months old and she made up a nickname for me, and lately she’s decided that her Mother can’t put her to bed. It’s me. It has to be me every night. It’s my job. And that’s all right. It’s kind of sweet, actually. But see, I don’t get to work alone. I have a partner. Baby Tad.

She got Baby Tad for Christmas. He’s a Baby Frog the size of a terrier and he sings. See, I was naughty all year and instead of coal in my stocking, Santa brought my daughter Baby Tad. And I’m a bad father for even thinking that, because she loves that frog, that frog is what the French call a “sine qua non”.

“Drabby. Drabby!… Where Fwog?”

Here’s how it works. My daughter and baby Tad and I retire to my darkened bedroom and lie down together, Baby Tad sings a six-minute cycle of lullabies, then she says “More song, Fwog.” And we repeat this process until she falls asleep. It’s kind of a slow hour to an hour and a half in six-minute lullaby singin’ Frog segments.

“Drabby! Drabby! Where Fwog, Drabby?!”

A note of panic has crept into her voice. There’s no point in delaying this and after all, how hard could it be? Baby Frog is right where we left him last night, at the foot of her bed.

But you and I both know he’s not there, don’t we? We didn’t even really have to look to know he wasn’t there. Looking was a mere formality. But let’s not panic, after all, Baby Tad isn’t frog sized, he’s bigger than my Daughter for God’s sake. The house has a finite number of rooms . How hard could it possibly be to find something the size of a fireplug that looks like a Day-Glo green malformed Dwarf in a yellow jumper? Well, let me put it to you this way. The Lindbergh baby? Still missing.

“Where FWOG, Drabby?!”

And the hell of it, see, she knows, she KNOWS where Fwog is, because you know who doesn’t know? You know who has not one stinkin’ clue where fwog is? Drabby. Because, and I’m only being honest here, I don’t play with Baby Tad all that much. She’s shoved him into some little Baby hideyhole, some toddler size cranny that exists next to, but not in, this dimension. The little singin’ creep is keeping company with a wide selection of sippy cups full of month old milk solids, socks, bibs, soiled diapers and over seventeen thousand pacifiers. I am down on my side sucking lungfulls of dust waiting for my eyes to adjust so I can see under the couch and while there are enough baby toys under there for an orphanage, Tad is not among them. I knew that because Baby Tad could not fit under there unless you coated his horrible Frog body with Vaseline and asked a Russian Weight Lifter to take a moment out of his steam bath and SHOVE THE LITTLE FREAK UNDER THERE. But see, now, I’ve already looked under everything baby Tad would fit under. Twice. What was it Sherlock Holmes said? “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable is WHERE YOU’LL FIND THAT F-ING SINGIN’ FROG!”

“Where Fwog, Drabby, where, where, where, Fwog, oh where baby Fwog?!”

And I whirled on her and I screamed “I don’t know where Fwog is, I am LOOKING for Fwog but the truth is Drabby doesn’t give a little tin POOP where Fwog is! Drabby hates Fwog, oh, yes, he does, hates him right now with a dangerous passion and if Drabby happens to find the hammer before he finds Fwog? Well! Fwog is going to be in a mighty tight corner! Do you HEAR me little missy?! A MIGHTY TIGHT CORNER, I SAY!!”

And then I did an interpretive dance involving violent, spastic hammer blows and Baby Tad’s piteous attempts to shield himself. I played myself and Baby Tad and did all the sound effects, too. The choreography was improvised but it came out pretty good.

Of course, I didn’t really do any of those things. I looked for Baby Tad until I found him. He was at the foot of my bed. My Pajamas were on top of him. See, the wife says I should put away my Pajamas when I get dressed in the morning, but she’s insane. I solved the problem my way and it won’t happen again. Threw ‘em out. The hell with ‘em anyway. Sleep in my underwear from now on. It’s more comfortable, and they are too small to cover up a Fwog.

My Daughter was quite giddy with relief, and honestly, seeing how happy she was I’d found Baby Tad, I wasn’t angry anymore. I felt foolish and ashamed for having been so mad in the first place. She’s a baby and she wanted her Drabby and her Fwog and she won’t be a baby forever or even that much longer if the truth be told. I lay down with her and I felt happy to be her Father. Until about the third time through Tad’s six-minute lullaby set when his batteries started to run down.

Because if we have any fresh batteries? I’m pretty sure they’re with the Lindbergh Baby.