My Breaking Point

This past weekend I did a one hour podcast interview with Kurt Sasso over at TGT Media. The subject was my comic work, specifically The SuperFogeys, but Kurt and I veered off into some deep thematic territory. We discussed aging, retirement, righteousness and endurance. And those two months when I watched movies and did little else.

Kurt asked me about whether or not I’d ever reached a breaking point when I was compelled to make a radical change in my life and behavior. While it’s true my final day of wearing Underoos was painful and a long time coming, it was my two month movie marathon that did the better job of bringing me into a semblance of maturity.

I was 21 and had just gotten off a religious mission. I hadn’t seen one movie or TV show in all that time. I was starving and I had a lot of catching up to do. I also entered into a relationship with a girl and then almost immediately got dumped, hard.

I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t in school, I lived with my mom and the opposite sex had rejected me. I was low and movies were my comfort food.

My brain fried in no time. Remember Joel Shumacher’s abysmal, puntastic, Ahnold-enhanced Batman and Robin? I thought it was good.

After two months, I just snapped. I was sick of myself. I was horrified by the amount of time I’d wasted away in front of the TV and how much money I’d spent on video rentals. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t be that guy.

So, I wasn’t.

I got up, got a job, enrolled in school, gave the other gender a second chance and started my new life as an adult. Two years later, I was married. Three years after that, I was a college graduate. Nine years after graduation, I have three kids, a nice home and I’m the Art Director for a non-profit group.

The biggest reason things have worked out as well as they have (which isn’t to say there haven’t been some dark times–there certainly have been) is because I’ve put my trust in God along the way.

The second biggest reason is because after two months of not working or doing anything of any particular import, I decided I wouldn’t ever be that guy again.  That guy on the couch, helpless and aimless. I decided to work hard and never stop.

And I never have.

Have you ever had a moment of epiphany? When the way forward was clear and all you had to do was decide? What did you do?

Why Being a Grown Man and Excited About Men in Tights is Okay

My wife has no use whatsoever for superheroes. Despite that, she’s agreed to attend the Marvel Movie Marathon with me and a couple of our friends on May 3rd. Six movies. Fourteen hours. The last movie we’ll be seeing? The Avengers, at midnight. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Nick Fury, all in one movie. With my wife. I wish I could go back in time and tell 8-year-old me that this was actually happening.

Or 16-year-old me.

Or 20-year-old me.

Or 28-year-old me.

Or me from last fall.

Once I got into the comic book buying habit, I never really grew out of it. Sure, there have been hard financial times when I’ve had to set the habit aside for a bit, or times, like now, when the price of a single comic book is not justified by the amount and quality of content inside (I prefer to purchase collected editions or “graphic novels”), but I’m always reading comics. And, yeah, I’m usually reading about superheroes.

I am not an overgrown child trapped in a child’s body. The stereotype of the 30-year-old arrested adolescent living in his mother’s basement, picking Cheetos out of the beard he thinks makes him look older and playing video games while debating disembodied mouth breathers over a headset during online Halo games about whether or not Batman’s 1950’s adventures with their sci-fi trappings can be squared with the persona of the “Dark Knight” is, unfortunately, based on some all-too-real individuals. But they’re not as numerous as most people think.

Most geeks or superhero fans have a steady job, a spouse and kids. Or they at least aspire to some combination of the three. Many are college-educated and can hold real conversations. You may be tempted to stare at their chests and wonder at the magnificent shield of Captain America screenprinted upon it, but–hey now–their eyes are up here.

A grown man with a love for men in primary-colored tights is ridiculous on its face, but only if you reductively describe the passion as such. What it’s really all about, at least for me, is the simple power of great imagination in the service of telling a story of good triumphing over evil.

My worldview is reinforced and stuff gets smashed. That is never not going to be entertaining.

So, in a couple of weeks, I’ll put my love to the test and plant my butt in a seat for 14 hours and see just how much awesome I can take. I’ll also put my other love to the test. I hope she likes Thor as much as I do.*

Like superheroes? Hate ’em? Love to hear your reasons why or why not.

 

*I seem to be the only person on Earth who understands that Thor is the best of the Marvel movies. So far, anyway.

Holocaust Remembrance Day (and Other Funny Cartoons)

I wonder constantly how my children process this world they’ve been born into. I feel very in touch with my own childhood perspective, but my kids are not me. Our oldest, Elora (9), has my penchant for sarcasm and big words, but she’s much more self-assured and creative than I was. She sees everything as an art project.

Here’s her latest (click to enlarge):

To me, a calendar tells me what day it is. To Elora, it’s an opportunity to highlight the things that are most important to her and illustrate her life. April Fool’s Day gets a “ha ha!” Earth Day gets a drawing of the Earth with what looks like little kids around it. And Holocaust Remembrance Day gets…

Wait, what is that? Let’s take a closer look:

Confused, this morning I asked Elora what she had drawn. We’ve talked about Hitler and the Nazis before after watching some Twilight Zone episodes, but I couldn’t remember ever talking to her about the Holocaust. Judging by the thought bubble in the drawing, it looked to me like she’d worked out that April 19th is a day for pondering. What’s more, the sad, downcast face of the girl in the picture seemed to indicate that Elora had some idea that this wasn’t the day for thinking happy thoughts.

But what’s in the thought bubble? To me, it looked like a hole and a person about to jump into it. Elora set me straight.

“It’s a little kid playing kickball.”

“What?” I asked. “Why?”

“Because that’s what we did that day at school when I drew it.”

Basically, she had no clue what the Holocaust was and filled in the blank with the first thing that popped across her mind, effectively making Holocaust Remembrance Day into that day when we reflect sadly upon the tragedy of  lost kickball games.

I explained to her what the Holocaust actually is and, knowing Hitler to be a pretty messed up dude, she accepted it without surprise and got dressed for school.

What strange thought avenues did your childhood filter lead you to? I remember seeing the blinking red light of a jet plane in the night sky on Christmas Eve and being convinced it was Rudolph. Took me years to work through that one. Got one of your own?

 

Why It is Not Good for Man to Be Alone (Or At Least Me)

Why does she ever leave me alone?

Why did I get married? Because I’m a loss as a human being by myself.

Two of our girls went out of town with their grandparents last weekend and Erin took the baby down to the LA area to pick them up on Monday. I wanted to go with them, but I had work. This left me alone in the house for almost two full days.

This is never a good idea.

Whenever I’m left to my own devices, I have one thought and one thought only. Well, two thoughts: I must get seafood as quickly as possible (Erin is allergic) and I can turn up the surround sound as loud as I want.

The surround sound is actually not as much fun as it used to be. I’ve grown so accustomed to turning it down for sleeping babies that now it sounds obnoxious when I turn it up to THE TRANSFORMER IS IN MY LIVING ROOM! levels.

But seafood… ohhhh seafood. It’s my favorite food and it is never served in our home. Unfortunately, there are precious few seafood places near where I live and my favorite is about 40 miles away. (For you locals, it’s Crab Cakes in Oakhurst. That’s right, Oakhurst.) I couldn’t justify driving that far with today’s gas prices and my lead foot.

I chose West Coast Fish ‘N’ Chips instead. Fast food seafood, but it’s a short mile from my house and pretty good if you like deep fried and going way, way off diet.

I pulled up, noticed all the lights were off. I got out of the car, walked up to the door and sure enough: CLOSED. It was 6pm. They close at 2:30 on Mondays. As a character in a movie currently on heavy rotation in my house would say, What the Wocka!?

I got back in the car and drove to “Old Town” where most of the locally-based eateries are. This is when a wife would have really come in handy.

I drove up and down the streets trying to figure out what, besides seafood, sounded good to me. I couldn’t make up my mind. My wife always yells at me for taking forever in the 7-11 trying to figure out which candy bar to buy. She is absolutely right to do this as I feel that picking the right candy bar is one of the very most important decisions a human being can make, so I take my time. Now, I was looking for an entire meal. Only the President trying to decide whether to bomb Iraq could possibly understand the depth of conflict within me as I drove and considered and weighed each dining possibility in my mind.

At one point, I ducked into a Vietnamese restaurant to check out their menu. I’ve never had Vietnamese food. Turns out, all they serve is soup. Noodles in soup. Rice in soup. Beef in soup.

I DIDN’T WANT SOUP.

A full hour went by. A. Full. Hour. I still hadn’t made up my mind. Erin would have long since made me pull off the road and forced me to eat at Wendy’s. And I probably would have been fine with it.

Not knowing what else to do, I finally settled on Chinese food at a small Japanese restaurant (yeah, I don’t get that either) I’d never tried before. I ordered way too much food, and none of it seafood. But at least it was good.

And it only cost me $8 and an hour and a half of my life.

Are you married? What bad habits do you fall into when you’re all alone?

I Have Been Nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award?

Well, well, well. Look who got nominated for an award! Sort of. Near as I can tell, this is more of an honorary nomination for a prize that does not exist and has no winners. Yes, I’m as confused as you. Still, I’m pleased and humbled as punch that Sarah Baughman nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award. Do right by yourself and check out her blog on life, writing and parenting in unusual circumstances (overseas!).

Accepting the Versatile Blogger Award requires the following:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass this award along.
4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Following Rule #2, her are seven (monumentally important) facts about myself.

1. I eat popcorn just about every night. Since scientists recently discovered that popcorn is the most healthy food on the ENTIRE PLANET, this makes me healthier than 95% of the people on Earth.

2. I used to be fluent in Spanish. What little I can still speak sounds pretty good though. I’ve been told (by a live, actual Mexican!) that I don’t have an American accent when I speak it.

3. I once told a girl her dress looked like a picnic table. This was a mistake.

4. I have mild scoliosis. As an old man, I suspect I’ll have severe arched back.

5. I have crashed a car and been dumped by a girl all in one night, in that order.

6. I have successfully turned my wife on to a few sci-fi shows like LOST and Battlestar Galactica, but I have yet to enjoy one movie with Sarah Jessica Parker in it (excepting Flight of the Navigator, of course).

7. I grew up with three brothers and no sisters. I now have three daughters. Some call that karma. I call it a nice change of pace.

I will now pass the Versatile Blogger Award on to seven people whose entertaining, well-written blogs convey versatility and talent! They are, in no particular order:

Kristen Lamb of Kristen Lamb’s Blog is my go-to person for all information about current literary practices and how to integrate social media into the author’s online experience. The best part is that her approach is filled with humor and analogies and all those writerly things I love so much.

Angie Mizzell has a heckuva story to share and she’s not just doing it in her in-progress memoir. A former television journalist, she’s now a happy mom exploring the challenges of a life repurposed. Warm and insightful, she will enrich your life. I guarantee it.

Wes Molebash at Wes Draws! is, like me, a cartoonist who has made his way into blogging. The difference is, Wes still keeps his focus on drawing along with his other interests. I always love seeing what Wes is up to and I love the updates on the graphic novel he’s working on.

Shelli Johnson is a self-published success story and an ace blogger who covers the tricky world of being a writer with insight and solid observation. Read her now, thank me later.

Check ’em all out. Enjoy!