“Bad choices make good stories.”
It’s a clever shirt. More clever, because it’s true.
Own your choices and you own your stories.
Logan: “Take your friends and run… they’ll keep coming, and coming… you don’t have to fight anymore.”
Logan (again): “Go… don’t be what they made you.”
Logan (smiles) “So… this is what it feels like.”
Yeah, in case you hadn’t seen it, I just spoiled the ending for you. Logan dies. It happens in the best of comic book families, to the best of characters. It happens to the best of creators, too.
Today, Marvel Comics immortal, Stan Lee found out “what it feels like”, at the age of 95. Every corner of the Internet blew up all at once with the news. My corner, especially. Most of the posts from my friends mention something about their childhood.
Mine does not.
That’s because Stan Lee’s Marvel Universe meant nothing to me as a child. You see, I geeked late in life, comparatively. Stan Lee’s Universe only came to mean something to me as a tired, jaded old man who came to see his need of larger-than-life heroes to show him a path never before taken.
In particular, James Logan. The Wolverine. A tired, jaded old man on final approach for eternity. A lot like his creator, Stan Lee. Last year, the cinematic character of Wolverine passed from this life in a brutally beautiful blaze of character glory.
Today, Stan Lee followed along, as quietly as Logan at the end of his own story. Stan Lee always reminded me of Logan, in life, and now in death. And now I admit, publicly, why James Logan… The Wolverine… is my favorite Marvel character.
And why I remain in no hurry to know what two larger-than-life characters know, but less afraid of that knowledge for their existing, in the real world, and the world imagined.
Thank you Stan, for James Logan. Thank you for being the inspiration of my latter years more than my first.
This face, a book.
Judged by its cover.
A pair of eyes,
if you’re interested enough to read. But no book tells the whole story. You need to be the story to know it. Maybe one day you’ll tell someone, a stranger, a friend… doesn’t matter… “I read that book, once”. But you didn’t know the story.
This face, a book.
Judged by it’s cover.
The man with the tank bigger than mine paid with a hundred for “Twenty-five on number two”. The guy behind the bulletproof glass held the hundred up to the light to see if it was real. When the change came back, the man held a twenty up to the light to see if IT was real… then smiled.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day. For as long as I’ve known them, we’ve had these conversations, like if you were talking with someone over the same perpetually hot, never empty coffee for weeks at a time.
The kind of conversation with no beginning or end.
And at some point, each of us talked about emptiness. About the feeling of having nothing left inside ourselves to give to others, because we have nothing left inside ourselves for us.
The friend told me about the times I was there for them but, for whatever reason, had forgotten.
Then the friend told me this…
“Bill, you are not empty.”
I wanted to argue, but I’m smarter than that. Barely. So I wrote this note to myself, instead.
And now, I share it with you.
“You are not empty.”
The wait is over.
My new book, Between Love and Orgasms, is available on amazon.com. Along with my new book, the second book in the True Story Trilogy, the first book, A Death on Skunk Street is also available. And if you’re an Amazon Prime member, any purchase of $25 or more (the price of both these books together) your shipping is FREE!
A simple book of love poems, this one goes inside the human heart, touching the broken places, the scars, but also the joys, opening the reader up to “…everyday secrets, the things we ought to know, and the way life is lived in the space Between Love and Orgasms.”
Click the link at the top, and order your copy today.
I’m not a reader.
Now let me explain.
I’m a damn good reader. No disorders that I know of, comprehension through the roof, the ability to cold read, out loud, in public, strong as it gets. I’ve been reading since I was a little over a year old, or so they said when I was growing up.
No, I’m just not a reader.
I grew up reading every day. Prose, mostly, and that, contained in the sports section of the LA Times. I never read comics, except for the papers on Sunday, and I was never encouraged to pick up a book during my childhood, except by command of teachers, and then, not until high school. Along the way, I read some things, mostly by accident. Some Peter Benchley… sharks fascinated me… and some pulp journalism style stuff you could find on the book rack at the grocery store while my mom stood in line to pay. Besides that, the only two things I read like they meant something were Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the World Book Encyclopedia, and the 1973 Baseball Encyclopedia.
But none of that is reading.
In the years that I should have been indulging my creative consciousness on everything from Swift to Burroughs and Dickens to Baum, I was memorizing batting averages, the etymology of 19th century English words, and the names the crew gave the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws. I wasn’t reading, I was collecting… nonsense, mostly. I read quickly. I read to absorb, to obtain, and to satisfy curiosity, not for the love of the words themselves.
At least that’s the way reading was explained to me. That it was a love affair with words, and with the stories that the words would unfold for me, if I would only let it be so. As you might imagine, school was a nightmare for me. I got by, barely. Not by reading, but by listening. I listened to every word the teachers said, and made copious notes. Page after page of classroom notes, writing down every meaningless detail of these frustrated storytellers, never once looking inside the textbooks they ordered us to read. Because of this, obviously, math was a killer. English was hard because all the questions on tests were neatly tucked away inside the books I didn’t read. History worked for me, because teachers of history fancy themselves “historians”, and would rather act out the full contents of the books themselves, than leave the interpretation of history to the transcribers of history. I took notes, and answered the questions from them.
That didn’t work out so well, in high school, or in college, after.
I gave reading one more shot in my 20s.
The girl I was seeing was a reader of book club selections, and I would read books over her shoulder, at night. For a while, I became a reader like she was a reader. Picking novels that sounded interesting based on my already-cultivated curiosities. Bad sports stories, the occasional adventure, and spooky stuff. Spooky stuff that would have caused childhood me to keep both hands and both feet inside the covers at night. Blatty’s Exorcist. King’s Stand. A bunch of other crap I barely remember.
In this time, I realized that I read the way a cow eats, deliberately, and not in any hurry. Not the way a predator hurriedly consumes its prey, but slowly, chewing on words and phrases, taking them all in, and then barfing them back up in the form of re-reading without actually finishing the book first. It took me forever to read a book this way, but when I was done, I maybe knew the stories better than the authors.
Then the girl became wife. The wife stopped reading. I stopped reading.
Because I’m not a reader.
At this point in this story, I’ll save you the exposition of the next 30-something years. I’ll just tell you that, while I am not a reader, I am reading again. I have to. Something I discovered about the silence that only reading brings. The silence that, I didn’t know until now, brings healing to a soul that fed on only noise, and a mind that, for most of a lifetime, knew only confusion and pain. Words and stories that should bring healing, and a minimum of confusion and pain. From Murakami to Bradbury, Goldman to Gibran. I will read these, soon.
I’m not a reader, yet.
But I’m going to be.
© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday
December 22, 1975… A little before sunset. I rode my bike, a green, Schwinn Ram’s Horn Fastback, to the Rexall to buy a roll of Scotch Tape to wrap Christmas presents with. I took the back alley on the south side of Artesia to the light at Casimir Avenue, and saw that it was green for me to cross. I sped through the intersection on a yellow, and as my light went red, I heard a sound… like metal, pounding into metal.
That was the sound of the ’63 Studebaker hitting my bike as I crossed in front of it.
I no longer knew where I was. All I saw in the next moment was dark, then light, then dark again. My mind picked up the story again with me wobbling to my feet about 20 yards away from the intersection where my bike now lay, twisted and useless. Someone, I don’t remember who, led me to the curb to sit as I heard the police siren in the distance. What felt like seconds must’ve been minutes. Adults were everywhere. A woman, the driver of the car that turned my bike into scrap, came over to where I was sitting. Confused as I was, I could still tell she was scared shitless. I mean, she did almost kill a kid, on a bike in a crosswalk, trying to beat a line of cars into traffic before her light turned green. She could have tried to make a break for it, but westbound Artesia at 5 o’clock was bumper-to-bumper, even in 1975.
The cop who showed up a minute later drove me, and my green wreck, the few blocks from there, home, and waited with me… in the days before cell phones… for my dad to come home from work. As I sat in our living room, it came to me what it was I saw right after the BOOM of the car and my bike.
Dark, light, dark.
Asphalt, sky, asphalt.
A front somersault from the pedals of my bike, end over end, landing on my head more than 50 feet away.
Landing, and walking away, without a scratch on me.
Every time I watch the M. Night Shyamalan film, “Unbreakable”, and see the train wreck scene at the beginning of the movie… the one where Bruce Willis Is the only survivor, and walks away without a scratch on him, I remember that day. Today, forty-two years to the day from when it happened to me, the movie was on TV. And I watched.
Then I wrote this.
And after, in my journal, I wrote,
“…anyway, forty-two years ago today, I almost died. And forty-two years later, it’s time for me to live.
Let’s close out the remains of ’17, and take ’18 like it’s a Giftwrapped Best Present EVER. Tear the wrapping paper clean off, rip open the box, and GO! Shouting all the way,
‘It’s exactly what I WANTED!!!’.”
2017 was a whole lot of dark, light, dark. Asphalt, sky, asphalt. And that makes 2018 a present.
And it’s exactly what I wanted.
© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday