Thursday, March 14, 2019


(This post is a both a present to myself and an early one for K., who shares with me certain beliefs Happy Birthdays!)

I wasn't certain what I wanted to do with my days off, though I knew I still wanted to take them even though we cancelled the overnight trip to Boston we booked months ago. Kim bought me exceptional seats for a bucket-list concert for my birthday, but the concert was postponed due to an illness in the band, and so I was left with a four-day weekend with no concrete plan. Earlier in the week I'd felt feverish and sick, so at the very least I could lounge around the house hydrating, writing, and maybe watch a movie or two. I'd been in bed by nine the last three nights after short spans of reading followed by some brief hunts on eBay. What better way to turn fifty?

Restlessness crept in, however, and I prefer my head to swelling with ideas instead of sinus pressure when I write, so I took a drive. First to the post office to initiate the process of renewing my passport--although I no longer have hair and a beard, I look younger in my new photo than in the one I took ten years and fifty pounds ago. Then to the bank and the dry cleaner; driving the short distance up a gray stretch of 395 I notice a very large owl sitting in one of the barren oak trees on a snow-covered slope rising up from the river a quarter mile from my exit. Afterwards I'll think it looked almost exactly like  Owl from the Disney Winnie-the-Pooh films, except with more spots, with the browns of his feathers more muted, and not smiling. Later still I'll realize it looked nothing at all like Owl from Winnie-the-Pooh but will remain convinced I actually saw it. After my errands, I drive south for an exit, get off the highway, and then return north in a big circle hoping to catch a second glimpse but no such luck. I head home, debating on going to the Book Barn to visit their Downtown location to check out the graphic novels, but decide against it because I was just there a week or so ago.

Whooo is that behind me?
(Photo by Linda Waters I never saw this owl)

I've been on a graphic novel kick lately, which probably has something to do with...turning fifty. The whole not-wanting-to-lose-touch-with-your-youth thing, the idea of wanting to stay in touch with that kid even though every last vestige of him has slid from the mirror even before I've picked up my razor. I don't imply that graphic novels or comic books are purely the providence of childhood or anything equally ignorant--if you are hoping for a rant against the newest Avengers trailer or Captain Marvel just move along--but from a personal perspective my love of comics came at a very early age, and I bought them all the way through high school and college, then quit for a few years when money was tight, and then used the birth of my kids as a great excuse to start buying them again, which we did until they lost interest in them. I never quit entirely, though, and there are times--the stressful times, the lost times, the times I feel like crap and want to stay in bed, where I want to read them even more. I finished reading the first volume of Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus when the sickness first started--talk about a gateway drug!

So I arrive home, play with the dogs, make some lunch, do the dishes, get the mail, play with the dogs some more. I decide I'll go downstairs and watch a movie, but before I do I check social media.

The very first thing in my feed is a tweet from the Book Barn (yes, I follow used book stores on Twitter. Other people follow Kardashians or Tucker Carlson. Sue me.) that says "We have a really nice lot of comics and graphic novels on the way Downtown"

What the hell, I think, and get in the car, and drive south. The weird thing is, I looked for three things on eBay the night before: the 2nd volume of Kirby's 4th World Omnibus, the 2nd volume of the Kamandi Omnibus, and the second Animal Man collection. None of those are exactly household names; comic book readers my age would be familiar with all of them, but I have no idea what the comic book readers who started in the nineties would know of them. So I was kind of surprised when I got to the Book Barn Downtown just as there were shelving the "nice lot" of graphic novels and the first thing I see on the table is the complete run of Animal Man graphic novels, beginning with the hardcover edition of the Animal Man Omnibus. I'd expected a bunch of X-Men and Batman stuff (and was not disappointed; see above) and probably some of the more well-known Marvel titles (again, see above) but not the primo HC  editions and off-beat titles (Xenozoic? Three volumes of the Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan Tomb of Dracula?,  so it was well-worth the trip.

So, synchronicity. Why was it I'd picked last night, after probably a decade of not thinking about Animal Man, to research Animal Man? And why is it that I put in "Make an Offer" bids on both the 4th World and Kamandi omnibuses last night (one shot down, one I'm still awaiting a reply on) but not on the much more affordable Animal Man volume two? Clearly, the universe wants me to read Animal Man (and The Uncanny Avengers, and that Fantastic Four stuff is that White Tiger oh yeah I heard the Human Torch flamed out), but why? Why did all of those tiny, butterfly wing-flap events occur in just that precise order to conspire to bring me to the Book Barn, part with some money, and depart with the above haul of books--books that had literally just been brought in, almost as though the universe had summoned them for me today, the ides of the ides of March, pie day, the fiftieth anniversary of my birth?

And why, upon returning home, do I see that a gift bag has been left on the front steps, a kind present from my mother-in-law, and that the gift bag contains four items...a card (with an owl on it), a bottle of wine, a gift certificate to a restaurant and a second gift certificate....
                                                        … the Book Barn?

Not so strange, you might say, if you are of a skeptical nature, as I usually am. It was a "nice lot" of graphic novels, after all, and the work of Grant Morrison is bound to show up somewhere in such a lot. His run on Animal Man was legendary (Brian Bolland covers!) and helped boost Vertigo's growing reputation and increasingly solid line; just because you've never seen it at the Book Barn doesn't mean there aren't thousands of copies sitting on the shelves of once passionate collectors in need of a serious downsizing. And the one thing you request from your mother-in-law for a gift is a Book Barn gift certificate. Although you protest otherwise, you are always checking social media, and so it was only a matter of time before you'd see some X tweet that eventually yielded a Y result. There's no magic here, there's no mystery. It's just some random stuff that happened on a Thursday you decided to keep as a vacation day even though the concert of a lifetime was cancelled. Turning fifty is just another day no matter how hard you try and inject some magic realism into the rather mundane proceedings. Sure, renewing the passport is a nice touch (the literal passport to adventure!), but dropping off the dry cleaning? For this you burned a precious vacation day?

Yes, for this. For this, and for the other pages I wrote earlier today, and those I will write tonight. And also for this large box of beautiful pictures and thrilling stories. I will end my "vacation day" with one of those books, propped up in bed, a glass of diet root beer on the nightstand beside me, and somehow I will feel not only a direct link with the eight year old boy who engaged in a similar way with different stories (albeit without the thick reading glasses I'll be peering through) and with the even older man who I will some day be who, if the universe continues to conspire, will still engage. in that way with even more stories. And in engaging, continue to create his own.

And in creating, will feel a direct link not only to those past, present, and future selves, but in all selves, in all things.

I can't wait.

Only $2.99 for kindle! Find it and my other stuff HERE

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

If you hadn't brought it to my attention, I might not have noticed until later that we've both written about synchronicity this week; I'm convinced it was no coincidence.