Friday, January 02, 2009

Students of abnormal psychology take note

Sayre, PA was an almost impossibly perfect manifestation of the ideal American small town. It was unbearably picturesque: the town in which Norman Rockwell paintings seem to take place. Fictional towns like Smallville or Riverdale would have seemed bustling and cosmopolitan by comparison. But the town was also narrow minded, parochial, conservative, economically depressed and oppressive, with little hope of escape for those born there. The television series The Prisoner never seemed like science fiction; I always felt as if I'd lived it.

Among the half dozen highly entertaining blogs maintained by indefatigable blog master Rob Kelly at any given moment, perhaps my favorite is Hey Kids, Comics! Its mission statement is "to share the beloved memories of discovering comics for the first, second, tenth, or hundredth time" and over the past couple of years, some two dozen contributors have stepped forward to share heartfelt, sentimental, touching, and sometimes painfully honest essays and ephemera about their childhood memories and earliest associations with comic books. The focus is not so much on the comics themselves but rather on the authors' lives and formative experiences.

In the latest installment, Rob has posted an essay by me about a major change in my life at the start of a new year and how it connects with my childhood fixation on comics, written in one sitting shortly after midnight this New Year's Eve. This is probably the most openly I've ever written about my childhood; normally I like to keep my cards a lot closer to my chest and not reveal a lot about my past. But Rob had graciously invited me to contribute...and though I didn't think I could offer anything up to the level of what usually appears on that blog, when this anecdote bobbed to the surface it seemed like the best thing I could offer in the way of thanks to the other contributors for their excellent posts.

As I told Rob, I have a sinking feeling this essay will convince everyone I'm secretly autistic. Well, maybe so: I am pretty devoted to watching The People's Court every day. Be that as it may, I promise anyone who reads this will know me a lot better...even if it does make you look at me a bit more suspiciously from now on.


  1. Not at all. Lovely piece, RAB.

  2. I feel like I already knew all of that about you!

    Or, maybe that was me, that I knew it all about...

    The description of Sayre is fantastic, by the way. Norman Rockwell and the Prisoner...that's how I imagine those towns.

  3. Many thanks to both of you.

    That description of Sayre doesn't strike me as anything remarkable because that's exactly what the place is, and I can't think of how else the place could be described. It was a perfect slice of Americana preserved from an earlier generation even when I was there: what happens to a once-prosperous railroad town when the railroad stops running. I expect you see the same thing in a mining town after the mine closes, or a river port when freight travels by air and road instead. But there was another side to the place that was more sinister, which is where the McGoohan aspect came in. I might also have said Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks; both of those are very realistic and literal reportage in some ways if you know this sort of town.

    On a side note, there was one other thing that interested me almost as much as comics. I was always very keen on trying new and exciting food, and just as I would associate places with comics I'd also associate them with interesting food. So the town of Ithaca wasn't just the town with the smoke shop that sold comics, it was also the place where I first had British style fish and chips and decided they were the most perfect foodstuff known to humanity. And so on. Of course, there was no way to work my culinary memories into that essay. That'll have to wait until someone starts a blog called Hey Kids, Cuisine!

  4. Its a great piece, RAB. Thanks for submitting it.

    oh, and: indefatigable blog master Rob Kelly...i like it!


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