Superheroes to the rescue

It started with Greatman, who had a kind of purple costume and Spider-Man eyes on his mask. He could fly and he was super-strong, and he was the flagship hero of a line that also included the Fabulous Five, Brink the Atomic Man, Moss Boy (who later evolved into Moss Man), and some other superheroes whose names may be lost to the ages. This was before my age ended in “teen.”

In high school I came up with Captain Zap, who shot power beams or electricity or something out of his fingers. And, of course, as a grownup kid there came Make Phoenix.

We love the larger than life, the mythological hero who fixes things for us mere mortals. We love telling their stories, and we love that they have secret identities and walk among us. Any one of us might be the superhero who saves the day.

We also love the stories of normal people who get caught up in larger than life adventures, Indiana Jones finding the lost ark of the covenant or the Holy Grail, Eliot who finds an extra-terrestrial in the cornfield next to his yard, or Bruce Wayne who trains himself to be so extraordinarily powerful a human that he seems to be super-powered to the criminals he strikes fear into with his bat costume.

Lately I’ve been rediscovering these stories of my youth and remembering how much fun it was to read and write them. When they’re ready, it’ll be fun to share them. I hope you’ll agree.

Back from the abyss

The day I was first diagnosed with hypertension, I thought I might be having a heart attack. When the ER nurse took my blood pressure and it was 224/124, they said, “Yeah, you’d better come on in here and stay awhile.”

They were pretty sure it was NOT a heart attack, but just in case they gave me a nitroglycerin tablet. At some point they gave me a second pill, and I was making small talk with the nurse when I started feeling nauseous and everything went white. (That was the most interesting part, you always hear about “blacking” out but this was definitely white.)

An undetermined amount of time later, I woke to a bunch of concerned medical faces, who told me my heart had stopped for a few seconds more than anyone felt comfortable about. They called the heart-restarting team to the room and had the paddles out and everything. It was a little scary in hindsight, and I had trouble sleeping that night — largely because I was in a hospital bed and they hooked me up to a monitor that beeped every time my heart dipped below 50 beats a minute.

But I went home the next day, spent about a week away from work, and have been on blood pressure medication for a little more than 21 years without another episode like that. 

Damar Hamlin went home this week. His cardiac arrest was measured in minutes, not seconds, so I can’t pretend to know what his experience was like except maybe that first moment of losing consciousness. I am relieved and happy that he is recovering from his nightmare.

Moments like this are reminders of what’s really important. I can’t add to what has already been said and written since Hamlin collapsed on the football field and brought everyone together for a time. 

You always wonder if this will be the time we all stay on track, when we gather together once and for all and hang onto the understanding that life is precious and how silly and petty all of our disagreements tend to be. Then someone changes the subject and we’re bickering again, or remembering old grudges, or shooting at people we’ve never met in the name of some greater purpose.

I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget that the person you hate, the political party or race or foreigners you can’t stand — they’re all living human beings and each of them precious. Damar Hamlin’s crisis brought us to sanity for a few hours, and that was a good thing. We need to hang on longer to that understanding next time.

The best friend and the little pal

Hey there, Summer-Sum-Sum. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you that I changed my Facebook profile picture yesterday, but you have no idea. It’s just that when Red — that’s what I call your mom on the blog — showed me the picture of us the other day, I could see that we have finally made that connection, me and you, my little pal.

I’ve told you about my friend who lived here before you did, Willow The Best Dog There Was™, and how we were friends as close as friends can be, and how I’ll probably never have a puppy girl as special as her ever again, and how I try not to compare you with her because that’s not fair to you, and just because we can’t be as close as Will and I were, that doesn’t mean we can’t have our own thing.

I mean, I know you’re not the same dog. For instance, I could go outside with Willow and she would stick by me, and if we got separated all I had to do is call, “Willow, come,” and she’d look up and come running to me, whereas if I call “Summer, come,” you don’t look up and you definitely don’t come. On a good day you might look up and wonder what I’m yelling about.

So nope, you’re not Willow, you are definitely a different dog.

But I look at the expression on my face in this picture, and I look at the expression on your face, and what do you know, I recognize those looks. We are pals, aren’t we? We’re in this thing together, aren’t we? I’m sorry that I still miss your predecessor, who’s been gone almost two years now, but I’m finally understanding that you’re pretty special in your own way.

So that’s why I made a big deal out of taking down the old picture of Will and me and posted the new picture of you and me, Summer. When they play “Mr. Bojangles” and get to the part where the dog up and died and after 20 years he still grieves, well, that will be me about Willow. 

But darned if you haven’t found your own spot in my heart to snuggle into. And so I replaced the picture of me and my best friend from five years ago with the picture of me and you from three days ago.

Summer, my little pal, I guess they call that a sign that I’m finally entering the “acceptance” stage, though I’ll always miss her like crazy. I just wanted to thank you for helping me get here. Come over here and give me a hug? Summer, come? Oh well, I didn’t expect you to.

W.B.’s sales report 2022

I looked through my sales reports for 2022 the other day, and I found good news and bad news. Because human nature, let’s look at the bad news first: Five of my 22 books did not sell a single copy last year, including Full: Rockets, Bells & Poetry, which was my top seller in 2021, the year of its release. Yeeps!

In case you’d like to help them start 2023 on a more positive note, my big losers of 2022 are:

Full: A short book that’s really three teeny-tiny books in one — thoughts about creativity, encouraging thoughts, and thoughts about freedom and overcoming tyranny. You know, thoughts like you find here daily, because those are my three main themes. Published in 2021, so maybe it was the proverbial flash in the pan.

Gladness is Infectious: Published on the last day of 2020, this is subtitled “A Book of Celebrations,” my attempt to lift spirits in dreary times. Maybe nobody wanted a book with “Infectious” in its title after 2020.

A Scream of Consciousness: My little tome about living in the moment and staying alive and awake and aware. Published in 2011, so maybe it has faded away.

Men in War (Roger Mifflin Collection #2): This semi-autobiographical novel by Andreas Latzko, based on his experiences in The Great War, is one of the most chilling antiwar books I’ve ever read. When I decided to create editions of the great books mentioned in The Haunted Bookshop, this was the first one I wanted to share. “… so damned true that the government suppressed it.”

Letters to the Citizens of the United States by Thomas Paine, written by the great patriot during the first decade of the 19th century and featuring some themes that still divide Americans today. I have sold a handful of these books every year since 2010, so I’m hoping 2022 was an anomaly.

Are you curious how the books that DID sell fared? I’m glad you asked; here’s my personal Top 10 for 2022:

1. Echoes of Freedom Past
2. It’s Going to Be All Right
3. The Demi-Gods, by James Stephens (Mifflin #5)
4t. The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesteron (Mifflin #4)
4t. The Story of My Heart, by Richard Jefferies (Mifflin #6)
6t. Air Monster, by Edwin Green
6t. The Haunted Bookshop, by Christopher Morley (Mifflin #1)
8t. Resistance to Civil Government, by Henry David Thoreau
8t. Refuse to Be Afraid (10th Anniversary Edition)
10t. Make Phoenix: The Complete Novelettes
10t. 24 flashes
10t. How to Play A Blue Guitar
10t. A Bridge at Crossroads
10t. The Imaginary Bomb
10t. The Imaginary Revolution
10t. Trivia, by Logan Pearsall Smith (Mifflin #3)
10t. A Little Volume of Secrets 

If you clicked on more than one of the links, you’ve noticed they’re mostly from Walmart. For whatever reason, is the only e-tailer that actually gives you nearly every one of the books I’ve written or edited all in one place. That’s one nifty search engine!

The words must be there, somewhere

Peace © Khwanchai Phanthong |

I am a bit of an introvert, and the blog is my way of reaching out to communicate with the outside world. “This is what I’m thinking; how about you?” 

Words are marvelous inventions that allow us to share our minds one with another. Where are the words, though, that will lead us at last to understanding?

We can speak to each other face to face across thousands of miles and see the creases around each other’s eyes. Words give us access to the minds of people who died centuries ago. Our technology of communication is unfathomable compared with 100, 200, and 300 years ago.

And we don’t communicate well why?

The words are there. The intentions, I think, are there. Who wants to live in war and fear of violence? Who would want to impose war and violence on others?

“Ah,” one might reply, “but it is a violent world. Just look at nature.” No, I don’t believe that violent men are mimicking nature. If the universe tends to entropy and inertia, after all — Damn, this thought is not forming properly, perhaps because I just can’t understand why, if people want peace, peace proves elusive.

Maybe if you place seven — eight now? — billion souls, each with a unique outlook and needs and desires, on one large orb, then clashes are inevitable.

And yet, we just need to agree to live and let live … and maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the “and let live” part gets in the way. 

People don’t want to let people live in certain ways or with certain beliefs, and so there is no peace. Other people want to force everyone to live the way they do, and so there is no peace.

But a guy can dream.

Reconstructing ‘Calendar Girl’

January! You start the year out fine.
February! You’re my little valentine.
March! I’m going to march you down the aisle.
April! You’re the Easter bunny when you smile.
May! Maybe if I ask your dad and mom,
June! They’ll let me take you to the junior prom.
July! Umm …
August! Errr …
September! Well …
October! Yeesh …
November! I give thanks that you belong to me.
December! You’re the present ’neath my Christmas tree.

My heart’s in a whirl — I guess I’ll have to look up July through October.

I first heard “Calendar Girl” when it was playing on far-off WKBW radio in Buffalo, listening in my big brother’s room in New Jersey back when it was a new song. Later, “Little Devil” was one of the first records I ever purchased, and I was excited when I discovered the same guy who sang “Little Devil” had also done “Calendar Girl.” Wo wo wo wo.

I think something was happening on the beach in July … Oh, just look it up, Warren.

[After consulting a search engine]

July! Like a firecracker all aglow.
August! When you’re on the beach, you steal the show.
September! I light the candles at your sweet sixteen.
October! Romeo and Juliet on Halloween.

It turns out I remembered July least of all.

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