Monday, August 06, 2007

The road

That's my mom a few steps ahead of us on the road into town one evening.

In 1977, my family started spending summer vacations in this town. The year is fixed in my mind because I remember hearing on the radio that Elvis Presley had died while we were there. We took a house about a mile away from town, and we'd walk along this road -- past the route to the beach with the cast iron lighthouse, past the restaurant in the geodesic dome, past the dock where tourists boarded the ferry to the more desirable tourist destination -- to reach the post office, the grocery store, a few places to eat, and the drug store. Besides aspirin and suntan lotion, the drug store sold paperbacks and magazines and comics.

A couple of my happiest discoveries were Robert Heinlein's Time Enough For Love and Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven. The last year we were there, I found the Schrödinger's Cat trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson in that same drug store. I scoured the magazine rack for new issues of Starlog and its spinoff publication Future Life. But of course I lived for the comics spinner rack. I don't know why the memory of buying Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233 there should be particularly vivid -- the comic itself didn't seem especially good or memorable to me even at the time -- but it's inextricably linked to that time and place. I can remember a dozen other comics I bought in the same place just as clearly.

As we walked back I'd usually be a few steps behind the rest of my family, lost in thought while plotting comics. My imaginary comics tended to be multi-issue epics, closely patterned after what Chris Claremont was doing in The Uncanny X-Men and Iron Fist. One of my ideas involved a time-travelling mutant sent back to our era by a benevolent future leader to protect the leader during his present day boyhood. How could I have guessed that both The Terminator and The Invisibles would swipe from me? Besides my own characters, I mapped out an elaborate story featuring the Legion of Substitute Heroes, because it seemed like no one had done anything interesting with them. I devoted much thought to a thorough revamp of Karate Kid -- the comics character, not the film series -- a great character cursed with a lame solo series. I was always more inspired by bad comics and the desire to improve on them than by good ones. I never put any of it down on paper; just endlessly rehearsed and reworked it all in my head. To this day I still do most of my writing on long walks, and this road is where I developed the habit.

Our last family trip has to have been in 1981. (This date is the subject of much heated debate between my sister and myself -- she's convinced it was earlier -- but I'm right.) This year my mother and my sister devised a plan for us all to return there and rent a house the way we used to. The town was almost exactly the same as I remembered it, but of course there were some differences: my dad is gone (he died shortly before I started blogging, in fact) and we were joined by my sister's husband and their two sons. The drug store is gone, replaced by a coffee house which offers live jazz in the evenings and free wi-fi connectivity. The nearest comics shop is an hour's drive away, though the book store in the neighboring town had a shelf of graphic novels and several shelves of manga had I been so inclined.

My sister's older boy spent a great deal of time inside reading the last volume of Harry Potter, but as I've mentioned he and his younger brother aren't interested in comics so they didn't go around plotting imaginary series in their heads. While we were up there, my first story for Flashback Universe came out (as you may have heard) with more to come. I've scripted a yet-to-be-announced six-issue miniseries for an indie publisher, and I've got a new project coming up soon. I could walk down this road again and honestly tell my younger self I didn't forget...

...hey, are they having a party down at the Coast Guard station? With all those colored lights it sure looks like it..., it looks like that every night. Sure seems festive, though.


  1. That's a fantastic story. I'm glad you came back.

  2. Yup. Reminded me of similar family holidays, spent with my cousin making up similar never-to-be-seen classics.

    Nice photos, too.


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