Where Fantasy Reigns . . .

Maybe for you it’s a particular song, perhaps some hard-rock favorite from yesteryear or a classical masterpiece that never fails to bring you to tears.

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Maybe it’s poetry, an old, dog-eared book of favorites, verses that inspire you to see the beauty of the world when you need a lift.

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Maybe it’s cooking a traditional family recipe on a cold winter night, the aroma of the food taking you back, back, to simpler days and more innocent times.

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It can be anything, really, as long as it contains your own personal magic, that special blend of nostalgia and joy that has the power to transport you to a different place, a temporary refuge, an escape from the everyday routines and stresses that are so often present.

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For me, the magic has always been found in comic books.  But not just any comic books–no.  Old comics, dusty and weathered with age, read and handled by children from a bygone era, with advertisements for sea monkeys and baseball gloves and old transistor radios.  And, perhaps most of all, with the musty smell of decades-old paper and ink.  I have always thought of this as the “magic smell,” one that stirs the senses and fires up the imagination, a scent that, if I allow myself to get lost in it, truly, makes me believe that all things are possible, and that the greatest stories in the world are still out there to be told.

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In The Eye-Dancers, Mitchell Brant shares this love of collectible comics.  And in chapter one, the narrative describes what the old comic book smell means to him . . .

“He loved the smell of old comic books.  It was musty, but in a special way, like the smell of his grandfather’s attic littered with knickknacks and family mementoes.  A treasure-house smell.”

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*************

When I was growing up, in Rochester, New York, one of my favorite activities was browsing through some of the city’s comic book shops.  One shop in particular had a slogan I will never forget.

Boldly emblazoned on the front door were the words: “Where Fantasy Reigns But You Never Get Wet.”  It worked for me!  I still remember the first time I read those words.  I chuckled, shook my head, but also anticipated the wonder that waited within.  When I opened the door, a silver bell chimed, announcing my entrance.

The shop owner, Dan, lived in an old apartment behind the store.  His living space and his shop were separated by a door with chipped paint and a knob rusted with age.  At that time, in the late 1980s, Dan was probably in his midforties, a self-proclaimed hippie with a beard, a mane of thick blond hair that fell halfway behind his back, and a handful of silver chains around his neck, which jangled every time he moved.  He reminded me of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, and, from that day forward, I thought of him as The Lion Man.

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And whenever I left his store, sometimes with a bag of newly purchased comics, sometimes with just a memory, I would always look forward to the next visit.  The Lion Man was like a stage performer, his comic book shop a house of magic full of gems from a different age, stories just waiting to be devoured.  Sometimes I would think of The Lion Man standing guard in front of some imaginary rainbow-colored bridge, which led to a vibrant world inhabited by green elves and talking forest animals, a world where dreams and wishes, the most daring wishes you ever hoped for, merged together into perfect actualities.

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Certainly his comic shop seemed like just such a world.  I’d glance through the inventory, pausing at the high-end issues I knew I’d never be able to afford, pointing at other issues I wanted Dan to open up and show me before deciding whether or not to make the purchase.

One quirk of his shop was that he never priced his inventory.  “I’ll look up the issue in the Price Guide, and we’ll decide on the cost that way,” he said when I asked him where the price tags were.  It was a unique method–I’ve never run across it in any other comics shop, before or since.  Certainly, this wasn’t the place to shop if you were in a rush.  But that didn’t bother me.  I was never in a hurry to leave.

The Lion Man would flip through the issue I wanted to buy, noting its condition, and then he’d look it up in his trusty Overstreet Price Guide, still the industry standard when determining a comic’s value.  Sometimes I would debate the condition with him–a collectible comic’s condition tremendously impacts its sale price.  But eventually we’d hash out our differences and come to a price we both felt good about.  And when we did, The Lion Man would wink at me, place the just-purchased issue back in its protective Mylar sleeve, and we’d go on to the next one.

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*************

Several years later, the day came when there would be no next sale at Dan’s store.  When the Internet came along, with its myriad options of online buying and selling, Dan decided to close his shop. “I’m not gonna sell comics on a computer,” he said.  “Too impersonal.”  My knee-jerk reaction was to argue with him.  He could adjust!  He could put his inventory online, and do just fine.  But then I thought about it.

The Lion Man preferred to talk with his customers, bicker over the issue’s condition, haggle back and forth over the price.  While he may have been able to simulate some of that online, it wouldn’t be the same.  A customer wouldn’t be there with him, face-to-face, smelling that old comic book smell in his shop of magic and memories.  They wouldn’t hear the jingle of his silver chains as he shifted his position while flipping through the Price Guide.  They wouldn’t see him wink when a deal was reached.  No.  For Dan, for The Lion Man, it was the start of a new and alien age, and the end of a familiar one.

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Sometimes, even today, I wonder how The Lion Man is doing.  It’s been years since his shop closed.  I haven’t spoken with him or had any contact with him this century.  But when I am feeling nostalgic, when a particular week is too hectic or a day too long, I sometimes think of that old comics shop, and I smile.

You may not have a Lion Man in your past, but I am betting that you do have something similar.

Something that, if you remember it, imagine it, go back to it, has the magic to take you away, on a gust of wind, flying high over the land and spreading your wings.

To a place where “fantasy reigns but you never get wet.”

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Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Once again, I am reminded how fortunate I was when I decided to create a WordPress site for The Eye-Dancers.  When I started this site, my knowledge of blogging and website-making was about as close to zero as one can get in this information/technology age.  I’ve been learning as I go, and have really enjoyed the process.

More than anything, I’ve enjoyed the wonderful interactions with fellow writers and bloggers.  This has been fun, and, hopefully, things are just getting started.

Thanks so much to Sheri Bessi and her great site, The Other Side of Ugly, for nominating me for this award.  It is very much appreciated!  If you haven’t visited Sheri’s site, please do.  It is full of inspirational and thought-provoking posts that stay with you long after you read them.

The rules for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are:

To thank and link the blogger that has nominated you.

Then post the award logo to your blog.

Write a post on the nomination and nominate 15 other very inspiring bloggers.

Notify them and then tell 7 things about yourself.

very inspiring blogger award

Here the 7 things about myself:

1.  I have long been a big fan of old, collectible comic books.  I started collecting them at a young age, and still enjoy opening an old comic, looking over the decades-old mail-order advertisements, and reading the often-corny, but always-entertaining stories.  I have individual comic book issues dating back to the 1940s, and that old thrill still hits me when I pull a comic out of its Mylar sleeve and dig in.  Favorite titles include:  The Fantastic Four, Action Comics, Superman, The Amazing Spider-Man, Strange Adventures (a charming sci-fi title from the ’50s and ’60s), and Mystery in Space (likewise, a sci-fi title from the ’50s and ’60s).

2.  Back in the eighth grade, my English teacher instilled in me two lasting things:  One was an appreciation for grammar. (Her pet-peeve was when people say, “Just between you and I,” or, “That’s for you and I  . . .”  “Never, ever, use a subject as the object of a preposition,” she would say, fire in her eyes.  “Take out the ‘you.’  Would you then say, ‘That’s for I?'”  I think–conservative estimate here–she must have gone over this two-dozen times that year.)  She also introduced me to the world of Anne of Green Gables.  For a long time, I was the only male I knew who admitted to liking the book!  But I’m sure there are many others who do.  It’s a timeless classic.  Because of my enjoyment of the Anne books in particular and L.M. Montgomery’s writing in general, I’ve had the privilege of visiting Prince Edward Island, Canada.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is, in short, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

3.  Even though I grew up in upstate western New York, just outside of Rochester, and now live in northern New England, I am not a Buffalo Bills nor a New England Patriots fan.  I’m a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  I started liking them at the age of eight, and haven’t stopped since . . .

4.  I have been a vegetarian since 1994.

5.  When I was growing up, one of my very best friends in the world was a cocker spaniel named Poopsie.  He was my forever friend–and always will be.  But don’t blame me for the name!  He was actually Poopsie IV.  It was a family tradition that had started before I was even born–all dogs in the family were to be named “Poopsie.”  My nickname for him was “Bubba,” which, come to think of it, may not have been much better . . .

6.  When I was a kid, I was remarkably shy.  One day, in first grade, my teacher, surely recognizing this, decided it would be good for me to go into one of the sixth-grade classrooms, stand in front of the “big kids,” and read to them.  Dutifully, I trudged to their room, knocked, and entered, with my back to the class.  I sidestepped over to the sixth-grade teacher’s desk, my back still to the class, as I looked at the black board in front of me.  Then I began to read whatever it was my teacher had assigned me to read aloud–I don’t remember what it was.  I do remember reading the entire text, and then, finished, sidestepping my way out of the room.  I never once looked at the class.

7.  I tend to be very nostalgic and sentimental.  It sometimes comes out in my writing–and I always need to guard against it.  Sentiment is fine.  Feeling, heart . . .  But overly sentimental usually is a problem when it comes to storytelling.  It’s a fine line between the two, as it is with so many aspects of good vs. bad writing.

And now, to pass the baton!  Here are 15 wonderful websites, listed here in no particular order.  Each offers something different, and all offer something great.  I strongly recommend that you click on each of these links and visit these wonderful websites . . .

http://jenniferpaetsch.com/

http://kelihasablog.wordpress.com/

http://evilnymphstuff.wordpress.com/

http://howevernever.wordpress.com/

http://yourejustadumbass.wordpress.com/

http://reshumalhotra.com/

http://seyisandradavid.org/

http://tammysalyer.wordpress.com/

http://bringmorebooks.wordpress.com/

http://zendictive.wordpress.com/

http://wideawakebutdreaming.wordpress.com/

http://shannonathompson.com/

http://deannaswriting.wordpress.com/

http://talesofbooksandbands.com/

http://patspublishing.wordpress.com/

Thanks so much, as always, for reading!

— Mike

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