Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 193



A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.
 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 47

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 193
 

   We survived our first Christmas without Adam but the dreaded anniversary of his accident was fast approaching. It seemed like every month there was some day or event that brought so much pain to us; Adam’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, and even Halloween, brought back memories that made us miss Adam even more. 

   Mal suggested that instead of thinking of January 9th as the date of Adam’s death, we could consider it the beginning of the next chapter in his life in the presence of his Creator. We invited the friends we had in New Hampshire who knew Adam the most and they all confirmed that they’d come to “celebrate” this day as Adam’s first heavenly birthday. 

   Mal made food for the gathering (for some reason, almost every gathering in New Hampshire included food) and we had angel-food cake for dessert. She set up candles in paper bags and lined them up along the walkway. With all of the snow in the yard, it looked really nice. 

   When our friends arrived, we chit-chatted for awhile and then we sat around the family room to watch a video collection I had put together of bits and scenes from Adam’s life. It included video footage of Adam from early childhood to a few days before his accident. We read a few of Adam’s poems and read some verses in the Bible that referred to the after-life that we expect. It was an emotional evening for us but it helped us through a very tough “anniversary.” 

   We’ve had a gathering of friends on January 9th with us almost every year since then (I’m writing this about twelve years later) but instead of inviting close friends and relatives who actually knew Adam, we’ve tried to invite new friends who had never personally known him. This gives us the opportunity to give our new friends a glimpse of what Adam was all about. It’s not an easy night for us, but it helps.
 

Next Chapter: Cassandra’s senior class trip.

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 192




A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.
 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46

Mal Howley: age 47

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 192
  

As the first Christmas without Adam neared, we knew it was going to be hard for us all. My siblings and my parents were all getting together for a “family Christmas” party and we didn’t want to spoil it because we weren’t in the mood to celebrate. I made a videotape message for them to play at the party explaining our emotions and I know that they all understood what we were going through. 

   Cassandra still loved Christmas so we needed to do something new for her. Mal and I decided that we’d try to change our traditional Christmas celebration.  We felt that it would be too sad to celebrate in our home and we knew that we’d still want to exchange gifts, so we booked a hotel room in nearby Concord, New Hampshire. We were torn…we didn’t want to be alone, but we didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s holiday. On Christmas Eve, we went shopping at a local mall. We just walked around aimlessly just in case Cassy saw something that she’d like to have. We planned to get up on Christmas morning, open our gifts and then Cassy, Mal and I would go out to a movie together. Not much of a Christmas. 

   We got up on Christmas morning and opened our few gifts. We sat around not saying very much to each other. It had been nearly a year since Adam’s accident but this was the first “big” holiday without him. It was going to be weird. 

   We heard a knock on our hotel room door. We were shocked and pleasantly surprised to see several of our close friends! They had come to visit us so we wouldn’t be alone. They sacrificed time with their families to help us through this difficult day. We decided not to go to a movie, opting instead to go out to lunch together. Cassandra insisted that she wanted to be alone and we reluctantly agreed to let her stay in the hotel room. 

   As I began writing this part of my “story” (about twelve years later) I wanted to mention our friends by name but when I contacted them all to confirm that they were the friends that spent that Christmas day with us, none of them even remembered being there. My memory is foggy about that day. I’ve decided that it probably doesn’t really matter exactly who was there with us. Whoever it was exhibited a kind of unselfish, caring love that helped us immensely. Their sacrifice was a true example of friendship that still affects me over a decade later.
 

Next chapter:  We dread the first anniversary of Adam’s accident.

 

Friday, August 2, 2013

My Life With Comic Books Part # 191


A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it. 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46

Mal Howley: age 47

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 191 

   I agreed to participate in the “One Voice” Christmas program because my daughter thought it would be fun to do this together. She can sing and I can’t, but I thought I could conceal my limited ability to sing by blending in with the crowd. Now I’ve been told that the program will be a musical and performance production…costumes, dancing and singing. Cassandra can dance and I can’t dance at all. This was not shaping up to be fun at all for me. 

   The director gave us each music books and CDs of the music including the harmonies that we’d each be singing. This made it very easy to practice our musical parts at home or while we were driving in the car. Although I couldn’t really read the music, it didn’t take me too long to figure it out. During the actual practice sessions, I found that sitting between two of the most talented singers (Scott Goddard and Jake Downing) made it much easier for me to stay in tune. These two guys also made the process a more enjoyable because they liked to goof around a bit. In fact, almost all of the people in this singing group were fun to be around. While everyone was serious about making this the best production they could make it, we all seemed to enjoy the process of putting it all together. It was a big commitment of time and energy. This musical gave me the opportunity to get to know several people who turned out to be fun and interesting. 

   Most of the parts I was going to be in were large group scenes consisting of people walking around singing Christmas songs wearing winter or holiday clothing. I pleaded with the director and the costume coordinator to let me just wear my normal clothes…blue jeans, a t-shirt, a leather jacket and my sneakers. In the spirit of cooperation, I agreed to wear a scarf. 

   During a rehearsal one night, the director was assigning people to play different parts in the show. My daughter, Cassandra was asked to play Mary in the Nativity scene. I was assigned to play Joseph. I was glad to play that part because it gave me the chance to interact with Cassandra on-stage and there were no actual “lines” for me to remember. Cassy would sing the solo part and I’d just join in when the rest of the singers started their parts.  I’d also wear a costume. 

   We practiced for several weeks and then, in early December, we performed this Christmas program for an audience of over eight-hundred people on each of the two nights. I had a great time during the whole process but the “spotlight” is not for me. I’ll leave this to the actors. 

   Here’s a somewhat grainy video recording of the song that Cassandra and I were in together.
 

 
 
Next chapter: Our first Christmas without Adam.

 

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Life With Comic Books Part # 190


A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it. 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46

Mal Howley: age 47

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 190 

   While the United States was still in shock after the terrorist attack in September, we were all trying to go about our “normal” lives. Little kids played, students went to school and adults went to work. 

   Cassandra was now in her senior year of high school and she was involved in almost every activity that the school offered. She competed in basketball, volleyball, softball, and cheerleading. She was on the worship team and sang in the school’s choral group. She also acted in the school musical each year. She came to me one day and suggested that it might be fun if the two of us performed together in the upcoming Christmas musical program put on by the multi-church choir known as “One Voice.” I thought she was crazy for trying to take on another project but when my seventeen year-old daughter offers to do something with me, her old father, I guess I should try it. 

   We had attended the One Voice Christmas programs for the past few years and we enjoyed them. The shows consisted of twenty or thirty men and women from several different churches. They would stand on stage risers and would start off singing secular songs of the Christmas season and eventually sing more songs emphasizing the spiritual side of Christmas. The shows were always very professionally done.  

   I knew I wasn’t a good singer but I thought I could fake my way through it and blend in with the other, more talented singers. When we arrived at the first meeting I was relieved to see several people I already knew including Scott Goddard and Jake Downing, both of whom were very talented singers and musicians. I sat with them.  

   As the director began describing the upcoming Christmas program, I didn’t like what I was hearing. The program was now going to be a full-fledged dramatic musical including costumes and DANCING! This is not what I agreed to do! I wanted to quit but my daughter encouraged me to try it. I knew this was going to make me miserable but I told her I’d stick around as long as I could stand it.
 

Next chapter: I get by with a little help from my friends.

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 189


A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.

 

 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46

Mal Howley: age 47

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17

 

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 189

 

   On September 11, 2001, my wife was just returning from a walk with some friends when she told me to put on the television because she heard that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I could barely believe what I was watching.

 

   When the second airplane hit the World Trade Center it became apparent that this was a planned attack. The news media began reporting bits and pieces of information as the information became available. Much of the information was speculation and inaccurate.

 

   As soon as we learned that one of the airplanes had come from Boston we became worried about the safety of Adam’s close friends Meridith and Phil who were still living in Boston. There were reports of airplanes circling the area and no one really knew if these planes were still under the control of the pilots. I called Meridith and urged her to get out of the city and she made arrangements to get back to her family home in Groton, Massachusetts.  I tried to call Phil but he didn’t answer.

 

   When I saw the news about the plane crashing into the Pentagon, I worried about my Dad’s safety because he was working in Rockville, Maryland, very close to the Pentagon at that time. He was doing some engineering consultant work for Direct TV and there were televisions in almost every office so the news of the plane crashing into the Pentagon travelled through the building very quickly. From an office window he could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon. The phone lines were all tied up so it took about an hour before he could assure us all that he was safe.

 

 

 

   My cousin Steve, who owns a Boston-area comic book-collectible store similar to mine, called me dozens of times during the day to update me on what was happening in the Boston area. It was clear that this was a terrorist attack and we were all uncertain if this was all that the terrorists had planned.

 

  It didn’t take long before Al-Queda claimed responsibility for this attack. I remembered that Al-Queda has attempted to destroy the World Trade Center buildings back in the early 1990s but that’s all I really knew about them. Watching “The Today Show” each morning over the next few weeks revealed more information about the 19 Saudi Arabian murderous savages who had hijacked the three airplanes, killing nearly 3000 innocent people. These radical Muslim extremists had been disciples of Osama Bin Laden and been taught to hate the United States citizens. It all seemed so strange to me. Why would these maniacs want to kill innocent people?

 

  Over the next month or so, I kept waiting to see what action our government would take to punish this terrorist group. President Bush promised to hold them responsible but nothing seemed to be happening. Both political major parties seemed united in their desire for justice and there was a lot of political posturing and flag-waving. It wouldn’t be long before the Democrats would begin to “bash” the President.

 

Next chapter: My daughter and I perform together.

 

 

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 188


A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.

 

 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46

Mal Howley: age 47

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17

 

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 188

 

   As the summer of 2001 ended, many of our friends helped us get our cottage more livable by ripping off old wallpaper, tearing up rugs and lots of general cleaning. The elderly man who owned it before us had done some “repair” work himself but it was done very poorly. He had an actual lamp fastened to the wall inside the shower and odd burned-out electrical outlets in odd places around the house. I’m not “handy” with tools at all so I’d need to hire carpenters, electricians, and plumbers to fix this place up. Even though we only lived about twenty minutes away from our cottage, we wanted it to be a pleasant place to stay. The location was certainly beautiful with a nice view of the sandy beach from our living room window.

 

   Shortly after Cassandra’s final year of high school began, Mal and I organized an important informational meeting for Cassy’s classmates so we could give them all of the final details about the Caribbean cruise we had been planning for the past three years. We invited the student’s parents to come if they had any questions or concerns. We detailed the entire class trip, explaining the various transportation modes, the types of food and entertainment the cruise ship would offer, the approximate amount of extra spending money the student should consider bringing, and the various activities that would not be allowed (drinking and gambling). We had recruited sufficient chaperones (we had many volunteers!) but we stressed how important it would be to observe our behavior guidelines. When our presentation was done, we asked if there were any questions. The students had a few and several expressed their excitement about this trip. Before we concluded, we asked the parents if they had any questions. One Mom and Dad said they weren’t sure a trip like this would be enjoyed by their daughter but they were going to leave it up to her to decide. Another Mom and Dad said that they thought this trip was far too extravagant. They explained that they never even went on family vacations because it was too expensive. I tried to reason with them, explaining that the trip was actually quite inexpensive and that we had fund-raising efforts that would lower the burden for the students. They still objected. The last set of parents thought that the money shouldn’t be spent on a class trip. They said that we should give the money to the teachers at the school or donate it to the needy. I tried to convince them that while I agree that those would be good things to do, that’s not what this is about. I asked them,“Why did you wait until now to discuss this after the class has been planning this for a full three years?” They replied, “We never thought this would actually happen. Other classes had big plans before and they never came together.”

 

   “Arrrggghhh! Are you kidding me?!” That’s what I wanted to say…but I didn’t.

 

 

Next chapter: September 11th

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Life With Comic Books Part # 187

A brief introduction: My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it. The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 47
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 187

At the end of Cassandra’s Junior year of high school we presented the first “Adam Dean Howley Memorial Performing Arts Scholarship” at Laconia Christian School. Since the fund that we had started hadn’t earned enough interest in the account to make a significant monetary scholarship, Mal and I decided to donate the money ourselves. The school had distributed applications to any students who had interest in performing arts including singing, acting, dancing, or music. The interested students were required to write a short essay explaining why they enjoyed performing. After the applications were reviewed it was determined that the scholarships would be awarded to Andrew Hare, Natalie Robinson and Ian Jameson. All three of these students had been very active in the school’s drama program. The school allowed me to present the awards at the Awards Ceremony held in the gymnasium on an evening in June. I remembered the emotional presentation given by another parent a few years earlier who had started a school scholarship in memory of the son they had lost. Now I think I understood what they were going through. I had a tough time getting through my brief presentation.

During the summer of 2001 we decided to go to Disney World again. We allowed Cassy to invite some of her friends to come with us so she invited Katie Sanborn, Micah Tulley (and his football) and Danielle LeLeivre. We had rented a beautiful five-bedroom, fully furnished home with a pool, very close to Disney World, for only $850 for the whole week. I asked our friend, Mike Verhoeks, if we could borrow his new van so we could all fit comfortably for our long trip and he allowed us to take it. The 1500 mile trip down to Florida went smoothly (as did the trip home) and the sunny weather was great, although it was hot. We all got along nicely and Mal and I enjoyed watching Cassy and her friends having fun at Disney World. Mal and I knew Cassandra was planning to go to college in Florida when she graduated from high school and we started thinking that we might possibly move to Florida too.

Once we were back home in New Hampshire, we contacted Cassandra’s classmates to remind them that we had planned a fundraising car wash to raise money for those who couldn’t afford the upcoming senior class trip cruise. I had worked out most of the details for the trip already and the cost per student was quite inexpensive but it was still important for the class to work together to pay for this trip. While most of her classmates came and worked all day washing cars, we were kind of disappointed that some of the students who needed the most financial help didn’t bother to come.

Next chapter: Cassandra begins her last year of high school.

Pictures: Cassandra and her friends in Disney World.