art by Frank Quitely
art by Stefano Caselli
And, of course …
(Dig that bendy swoosh! Remind you of anyone?)
Are you awesome? As awesome as this Doc Savage cover by comic book, sci-fi and fantasy artist Ken Barr? Or as awesome as Scott Slemmons, who sent this book to me just because he is, by definition, awesome?
Doc Savage Cover illustration: Ken Barr 1981 edition (First Playboy Paperbacks)
As I write this, Sandy and I are a few hours away from catching a bus from Austin to San Antonio, and from there a train West. From there … well, we don’t really know.
For years we’ve had half-formed plans of taking a train trip up the Pacific coast, but life — and the responsibilities that come with it — being what they are, they never went very far beyond the daydreaming stage. But in the last two years we steadily lost the three kitties we gladly gave priority to over anything else, and that combined with the freedom of working freelance got us thinking more seriously about taking the trip.
There was a lot of planning that went on before and during the last few months — including taking care of our baby Pancho, packing most of our stuff into storage, moving into an apartment that would let us go month-to-month — and it’s essentially come to this:
We’re taking a 45-day train trip around the country, and then we’re coming back to Austin. But maybe not.
We love Austin, so much that when we originally moved here our plan was to stay for two years; that was 12 years ago. But we’ve always been restless, and having lived in the Southwest and then Central Texas for most of our lives, Sandy and I are always curious about this thing we’ve heard of called “seasons.” So we’re combining two dreams into one, and then we’ll see what happens. As we make our way around, we’ll be keeping an open mind to see if any of the cities or areas we visit call out to us. If one does, we’ll seriously consider moving there; if not, we won’t. Essentially, we’ve planned on not having any solid plans.
Yeah, we know — crazy.
We’re going to take the train from Texas to L.A., and then up the coast to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. From there we’ll cross to Minneapolis, and then down into towns in Wisconsin and Ohio to visit friends. Then it’ll be on to Chicago, D.C. and New York City before heading on to Toronto and Montreal. After that we’ll wind things up in Boston, which is currently fighting it out with Austin and where we plan to spend about a month to see how it fits. All of this is subject to change as we go, but that’s the plan today.
The idea of leaving Austin is pretty hard, and harder as it gets closer to the time we need to catch that train. We have a lot of people we love in this city, and this is genuinely home to both of us. But we also know those same people would encourage us to at least try, and honestly, who knows when we’ll get another chance? We’re nervous, but excited. But nervous. But excited!
We’ll let you all know how things are going (we’re going to blog about it, as soon as I can get one set up), and we’ll still be in contact in all the usual ways. Mostly we hope that, in some way, we can take you all with us. No matter where that ends up being.
(Personally, I’m looking forward to hitting lots of comic book shops and eating lots of good food.)
When we first got Pancho 19 years ago, we thought he was the ugliest cat we had ever seen.
He was only a few weeks old when Charlie brought him to our apartment, the last kitten left from two different litters. We decided he had to be the runt, all gangly legs and a head that seemed to account for a full third of his tiny body. Wild blue eyes flared from under a skull that bulged between his pointed ears, a cranium that would imply genius if he wasn’t so obviously insane. Charlie thrust the squirming kitten at Sandy, said, “Take this cat!” and promptly walked away to nurse the various scratches he had gotten on the car ride to our place.
It was love at first sight.
Pancho eventually grew into his head, and like an ugly duckling became a beautiful cat. I mean, really gorgeous. Over the years various vets, pet-sitters and house-guests have all stopped to coo and fuss over him, and being the most loving, gentle and friendliest cat ever, he’d just bask in it. Occasionally he’d bite a nose because he was also crazy, but you didn’t mind because by then it was too late — you were already in love with him.
When we lost him to bone cancer June 12, we were heartbroken. We still are; I don’t know if there will ever be a time we aren’t. That probably sounds strange to some people — all the effort to give Pancho the medicines and supplements and subcutaneous fluids he needed even stranger. But we loved Pancho and when he was diagnosed four months ago we kept doing what we had always done; we took the best care of our baby boy as we could. At his age surgery or treatment wasn’t really an option, and all we could do was keep him as comfortable and healthy as possible while watching that awful disease progress. Eventually our days revolved completely around Pancho’s care. Sandy cut her on-site contract work to nearly nothing; I stopped working completely. We were lucky to be able to do that. We’ll be forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him.
On the day we finally decided to let Pancho go, he was still eating and drinking, still using his box, still getting onto my chest to purr himself to sleep. But the cancer was robbing him, of so many things, and we had decided a long time ago that we would never let one of our babies suffer. It was one of the hardest decisions we’d ever had to make, but we loved him too much to let it go any further.
It seems weird to say “loved,” as if it’s a condition that’s in the past now. We still love Pancho. We always will. He was a best friend, a companion, an amazingly endless source of unconditional love. We spoiled him, but only half as much as he spoiled us. Our home, our days, and our lives are emptier without him in them. We miss him. Our little Panchito. Pancholino. Pancho Doughnuts. Papas. Sweet boy. Handsome boy.
Our very good boy.
Love of our life.
After a longer-than-planned hiatus, I thought I’d return to Small Sundays (and Great Caesar’s Post!), with one of my favorite and most-prized possessions: Mego Spider-Man.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know the Mego Corporation had a near-complete corner on the action-figure market in the 70s — the only other real competition were Kenner’s Star Wars figures — and produced licensed figures based on everything from comic book characters to Star Trek to popular TV shows. The dolls (sorry, guys — they’re dolls) were 8 inches high and featured real cloth costumes, which is what really impressed me. And while I might’ve lost a lot of childhood toys to negligence and fate over the years, Spidey has never been treated with less than loving care.
Except, there’s something about this Mego Spider-Man. Something just a little bit … off. Can you figure it out? Let’s hear it, you Ben Urichs — what is Spider-Man’s secret?
Note: Holy smoke — Flash ran so fast his face melted! Is it Barry? Wally? Bart?!? Actually, it’s the last of a trio of figures including Wonder Woman and Aquaman that I found as promotional items in bags of potato chips in Mexico. Which, of course, means Mexico is winning the Promotional Items Arms Race.