Friday, November 16, 2018

My Life With Comic Books Part # 210


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 48

Mal Howley: age 49

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18



MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #210



   Now that we were living in Florida, we were trying to enjoy the vibrant lifestyle of South Florida. We visited the ocean beaches that were close by and went to some weekend festivals held around the eastern part of Florida. We didn’t know very many people here and any “new” people that we did meet were usually sales clerks at furniture stores while we attempted to furnish our new home. We missed our close friends from New Hampshire and Massachusetts and it was difficult to get to know “new” people since we didn’t work at normal jobs and we were no longer involved in our kid’s school. While neither of us is shy, it’s hard to connect with strangers without having something in common. We hadn’t found a church to get involved with yet although we went to several church services in the area. It was basically just Mal and I, together all the time.

   Our home was very conveniently located and I could walk to a nearby shopping plaza that had a video rental store (remember those?), a grocery store, a bank, a few restaurants, a horse supply store (our neighborhood was an equestrian neighborhood) and a mobile Post Office truck. One evening, Mal mentioned that she was in the mood for an ice cream sundae from the nearby McDonald’s so I walked over there to buy one for her. When I got there I noticed there was a large display of classic cars participating in a Cruise-In Car show. Before I ordered Mal’s ice cream, I walked around looking at these interesting cars from the 1950s and 1960s. I had a fun time talking with the car owners and I kind of lost track of the time. I didn’t have a cellphone back then, ( I didn’t think we needed TWO cellphones since Mal and I were almost always together ) so Mal had no way to contact me while I was at the car show. Once I realized I had been gone for far too long, I bought the ice cream and walked quickly home. I found Mal crying and shaking. She assumed something awful had happened to me. My absence brought back terrible memories and thoughts about Adam’s accident for her. It was inconsiderate of me to spend so much time there when she was expecting me to be back home with her ice cream within a few minutes.



Next chapter: The new “normal”



  

Monday, July 9, 2018

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 209




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 48

Mal Howley: age 49

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18






   We were all packed up and ready to begin our trip to move into our newly purchased home in Florida. My sister Sharon and her youngest son Jake drove our Toyota Camry packed with stuff and Cassandra, Mal and I rode in Cassy’s Toyota Highlander packed with more stuff. We left our other car parked at our Alton Bay, New Hampshire home. We’d somehow get it down to Florida some other time. We didn’t all own cell-phones at that time and those who did have them were on restrictive monthly plans with limited minutes available. So, I bought a set of Motorola Walkie-Talkies so we could communicate between the two cars. We stopped for the night after we had driven about ten hours.

   The next day we had a total of fourteen hours to go before we reached our new home. I remember how excited I was as we left Georgia and entered Florida. It was the beginning of a new chapter of our lives. A new place and new people.

   The long ride went smoothly but it was getting dark by the time we arrived in Jupiter, Florida. We had no furniture or beds so we went to a local Wal-Mart and bought some sheets and towels and all just slept on air-mattresses on the floor. Our furniture and household items were scheduled to be delivered by the moving company sometime the next day.

   The next morning, we got a call from the moving company. The driver would be arriving at our property early that day. I explained to him that there was no way he’d be able to drive into our property in a forty-foot long tractor trailer truck so he’d need to park on the road and carry everything about fifty feet to our home. He told me that he only had his fifteen-year-old nephew with him to help carry our stuff. I expressed my “displeasure” with his unprofessional planning and urged him to somehow find additional help. My contract with the moving company did not require ME to help unload the truck. A couple of hours later he arrived with some “day laborers” that he found from a nearby prison program. These two guys worked very hard on a very hot and humid summer day in South Florida and I was pretty upset when I found out that the moving company driver was only paying them each twenty dollars for their hard work! (When the work was done I gave them each fifty dollars and apologized to them for the terrible treatment by the moving company driver.)

   Around noon, our elderly neighbor, Anne, came by to meet us and she generously brought us pizzas, soda, paper towels, toilet paper and more! What a thoughtful lady!

   We spent several days unpacking our stuff but we really didn’t have much furniture….just a couch, some chairs, a huge desk, and a few other small pieces. My sister was a big help because she kept urging us to keep working. We did take some short breaks to go to the ocean beach that was only six miles from our new home. Swimming in the ocean in South Florida was very different than swimming in the ocean in New England. Instead of freezing-cold ocean water, the temperature of the water at this beach was in the mid-80s! On one of these visits to the Jupiter Beach, my daughter Cassandra and her cousin Jake asked a lifeguard if there were sharks in the water. He laughed and said, “Of course there’s sharks! This is where they live!” It didn’t stop us from enjoying the beautiful ocean though!

   After Sharon and Jake flew back home to New Hampshire, Cassandra started her first year of college at Palm Beach Atlantic University. She immediately immersed herself into the many activities available at the school along with her college courses and theatre productions. She joined the competitive college cheerleading squad and spent hours each week practicing. On the other hand, other than shopping for furniture, Mal and I had very little to keep us busy. We really only knew Anne (the nice lady across the street) but she rarely came out of her home.

   We spent some time each week shopping for furniture and other stuff we wanted for this home. We had three bedrooms, a family room, and a dining room in our “main” house to furnish and the guest house needed furniture for the bedroom, dining room and family room. We also needed pool furniture and a table and chairs for the outside area of the covered patio. But, as those of you who really know me will understand, I was more concerned with buying televisions for the house and getting our cable hooked up. Adelphia Cable (the now out-of-business cable company) couldn’t get our cable turned on for a couple of weeks and we had to have a TV available for them to establish the connection. We went to Circuit City (the now out-of-business electronics store) and inquired about the new JVC “flat screen” television. This TV was one of the first televisions to change from the rounded tubes to a flat screen. It was still a cathode-ray television and it was huge. I asked the sales clerk how much the TV weighed and he estimated that it weighed about 100 pounds. I bought the TV and the clerk said he’d bring it out to the front of the store while I went to get my Toyota Camry. When I pulled up to the front of the store it was clear that the box was far too big to fit in the car so we unpacked the TV and with the clerks help we struggled to fit it into the back seat. Mal had to get in the back seat and push down on the seat so the TV would just barely fit. The TV weighed about 200 pounds. We carefully drove home with the TV in the back but when we arrived home we found that we couldn’t safely get the huge, heavy television out of the car. It was too heavy and awkwardly sized for me to carry alone and Mal couldn’t help carry it. Eventually, we moved a plastic storage bin next to the car and worked at sliding the TV out of the back seat onto the top of the bin. The problem was, we didn’t know anyone in the area that could help us move this heavy television. It sat in the garage, balanced on the top of the bin, for a couple of weeks until the cable-guy arrived. It’s a strange thing to know no one around you!

Picture: Sharks near the shore at the Jupiter, Florida beach!


                

  


Monday, December 4, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 208



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 48
Mal Howley: age 49
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #208

   The summer of 2002 went by far too fast as we were getting ready for our daughter to head off to college in West Palm Beach, Florida and we were preparing for our big move from New Hampshire to Jupiter, Florida. Our purchase of the home went quite smoothly as it was professionally handled by our real estate agent, Grace Noble.
   I arranged to have all of the utilities turned on as soon as the house in Florida was purchased by us because air conditioning needed to be kept on at all times, especially during the hot and humid Florida summer, so that no mold would develop inside the house. Along with hiring a local company to take care of the pool, we continued to contract with the previous owner’s landscaper to maintain the lawn and yard until we got down there later in the summer.
   Ken, the manager of my comic book and collectible stores, had everything under control so I had no fears about moving so far away. He could handle any problems that might arise and if he needed my input on anything, we’d try to resolve things by phone. Still, it was a big decision to move over 1400 miles away!
   All of our furniture and boxes of stuff were packed into a rented storage area waiting to be moved to Florida. I wanted to hire a professional company to move all of this stuff to our Florida home since it was such a long distance away from New Hampshire. I had seen advertisements for a moving company called “Ray’s Moving and Storage” and since they claimed that they specialized in moves from New Hampshire to Florida, I thought I’d get an estimate from them for the move. The company sent a representative to my storage area to work up the price for the move. While they measured the furniture and boxes, I mentioned that about a hundred of the boxes contained books and record albums. Lots of heavy items. A few days later they gave me the price quote and although it seemed like a lot of money, I agreed to hire them to move my stuff.
   We had a very special group of close friends in New Hampshire and moving away from them was going to be difficult and life-changing. These were people we truly loved and who loved us in return! Nearly every week, we spent three or four days a week with them. We played cards, we ate lots of food, we vacationed with them, we ate lots of food, we raised our kids together, and did I mention that we ate a lot of food? We planned to come back up to stay at our cottage in Alton Bay, New Hampshire each summer so we’d have at least two or three months each year with our group of friends. Even so, although we were excited to begin our new life in south Florida, we knew we’d miss them all. It was an emotional “goodbye.”
   Mal and I owned two cars; a Toyota Camry and a small Eclipse Spyder. Our daughter, Cassandra, owned a large Toyota Highlander. We needed to get all three cars down to our new home in Florida but we didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of either Mal or Cassandra driving a car alone. My sister Sharon, always up for something different, along with her youngest son Jake, offered to drive one of the cars to Florida. We decided to leave our Eclipse Spyder parked at our cottage in Alton Bay, NH and we’d try to figure out how to get it down to Florida sometime in the future. We packed the other two cars up with valuable collectibles and items that had important sentimental value and got ready to make the trip to Jupiter, Florida.
   Before we left, we got a phone call from the owner of Ray’s Moving Company. He explained that once his truck was fully loaded with our stuff, he found that weight was significantly higher than he had estimated and we’d now be charged an additional $1900.00. I questioned his professionalism and honesty because in my opinion, he should have done a better job in calculating the actual weight of all my boxes. He had full access to everything I owned in the storage area and it shouldn’t be my fault that he underestimated the weight. I told him I thought he deliberately underestimated the weight in order to give me a lower price for the move so I wouldn’t consider any of the other moving companies. He refused to honor the price quote he gave me and insinuated that if I wanted my stuff, I’d need to pay him the full amount he now demanded. I felt I had no choice but to pay him. He controlled the situation because he had possession of nearly everything I owned.
   With all of the details seemingly taken care of, we began the twenty-six hour drive to Florida.
   Epilog: A year later, while I was working as a volunteer at our Alton Bay neighborhood snack bar, the owner of Ray’s Moving Company came to buy a cheeseburger. After I cooked it for him I told him that I had originally estimated the price of the cheeseburger at $2.50 but for him, the price is $8.00. He didn’t understand my point but I got a chuckle out of it.

Next Chapter: The Florida Adventure Begins.

  
  
  


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 207









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 48
Mal Howley: age 48
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #207

   As our planned house-hunting time in south Florida was nearing its end, even though we had visited dozens of interesting homes, we hadn’t found a house that we were ready to buy. Mal and I carefully reviewed the listing information sheets of many of the homes one night and then, with no decision made, we went to sleep. The next morning, Mal told me that she had prayed for some insight and when she woke up she felt that she wanted to go back to see the property with the guest-house.

   Grace Noble, our real estate agent, dutifully took us back there. As we remembered, the house wasn’t very dynamic looking but it could meet our needs. It had a nice lot of nearly two and a half acres including lots of tropical south Florida vegetation that created a nice wall of privacy between the house and the neighboring homes. The completely screened-in swimming pool was a nice full-sized pool (not the usual small suburban Florida pools we had seen in our house hunting). The house was one of only five homes on a private unpaved road and it was conveniently located within walking distance to a shopping plaza that contained a grocery store, restaurants, a bank, a video rental store, a cell-phone store, and a full-service mobile Post Office van. At first, we were a bit concerned that this shopping plaza might be too close by but there were enough trees to completely block the plaza from view. The guest house was the biggest “negative” thing about the property for us. We certainly didn’t need this extra space and the property “asking price” reflected the inclusion of this guest-house.

   The owners had listed the home for sale at $529,000.00. The property had only been on the market for eleven days and the real estate market in south Florida was pretty strong at that time. We decided to make an offer of $464,300.00 for the property and we were actually shocked when the owners accepted our offer. The only contingency would be a satisfactory home inspection. Normally, I don’t hire home inspectors because I’m pretty good at spotting potential problems but since Florida is quite different from any other area I’ve lived in before, especially because of the potential for termite infestations, I hired a professional. The report came back indicating that things looked pretty good. We were feeling confident that this was the right property for us to buy.

   We had a couple of days left before had to drive back to New Hampshire and we had a lot of little details that needed to be completed to ensure that the home purchase would smoothly move forward. One issue was obtaining home-owner’s insurance. I assumed this would just take a quick phone call to a local insurance agent and I was surprised when I was informed that no insurance company would be interested in selling me insurance on the property because it was considered to be in a “hurricane-zone.”  The property was only six miles from the ocean, and even though there hadn’t been a hurricane in Jupiter, Florida in over forty years, the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in south Florida was still too much for insurance companies to overlook the possibility of another hurricane hitting Florida. We called our real estate agent and told her that we obviously couldn’t buy the property if we couldn’t get insurance on it. She called the sellers and they called their insurance company and convinced them to offer us an insurance policy on the home. Instead of the $500 per year that we were accustomed to pay for an annual insurance premium, this policy was over $6000 per year with an $8000 wind-related deductible! We wanted the property enough so we purchased the insurance and set everything in motion to buy the place. Grace would get everything taken care of and we could complete the transaction through the mail since we needed to get back to New Hampshire now.

   Next chapter: The summer seems short as we prepare to leave our amazing friends.

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 206



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 48

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #206

 

   Once Cassandra’s high school graduation and graduation party were done, Mal and I packed our suitcases and planned to drive to Florida to try to find a place to live that was about a half-hour away from Cassy’s chosen college, Palm Beach Atlantic University. I had hoped that a big move away from everything that reminded us of Adam might help ease the sadness of losing him.

  

   I had done some Internet searching for suitable homes and I was surprised at how reasonable parts of south Florida seemed to be. We didn’t want to spend a lot on a Florida home because we still owned our home in Alton Bay and we wanted to be able to keep it so we could spend summers in New Hampshire with our friends and relatives.

  

   After contacting our excellent Realtor, Judy McShane, she connected us with Grace Noble, a real estate agent located in Jupiter, Florida. We explained to Grace that we had no idea what kind of house we were looking for nor how much we wanted to spend. Driving us around Jupiter looking at houses ranging from $150,000 to over $600,000 must have annoyed her; however, she never seemed bothered by it. She noted our likes and dislikes and took those ideas into consideration in suggesting other homes. We looked at about ten homes each day, making notes on the listing forms so we’d remember certain details about each house. When we got back to our hotel each night, we would review them. Many could be eliminated right away so Mal would draw a big “X” through the page. Although we saw some houses we really liked, we were surprised at how small most of the house lots were. Being accustomed to having a decent-sized lot (usually 2-3 acres) so it seemed odd to have a huge home with a neighboring home literally twenty feet away.

  

   We visited a housing development called “Abacoa” in Jupiter that was modeled after the Walt Disney “Celebration” development near Orlando, Florida. The homes were really beautiful. All of the yards were meticulously maintained and had beautiful flowering bushes and plantings. One nice feature was that the garage for each home was not visible from the streets. The garages were all accessed from a small private road that ran behind each home. Homes in Abacoa usually sold the day they went on the market. When the developer “released” new lots, a hundred people would show up and the “lucky” twenty buyers would snatch the lots up on the first day they became available. The developer would tell you exactly what style home you could build on that lot and there weren’t many options because the neighborhood was really pre-planned. Our biggest concern was that this particular neighborhood charged nearly $300 per month for Homeowners Association fees!

  

   We looked at an equestrian neighborhood called “Jupiter Farms.” Apparently, when this neighborhood was initially started, there was a demand for larger lots so that horse owners could keep their animals on their own property. The house lots were a minimum of one and a quarter acres and they were heavily treed and had lots of tropical vegetation. The home we looked at was interesting. It was a “Florida-style” home that had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining room, family room, and a small kitchen. The home was on a small private road and it had nearly three acres of land. There was a nice-sized, fully enclosed swimming pool. (These fully screened coverings keep bugs and debris out of your pool area and they’re quite common in Florida) This property also had a completely separate guest-house that had a huge bedroom, a full bathroom, a living room, a laundry room, and a full kitchen. Mal and I liked the area but we had no interest in having a guest-house so Mal drew a large “X” on the listing paper. We still had several more days to look at other properties and Grace was still willing to show us more.

 

Next chapter: We’re running out of time.

 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 205


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 48

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #205

 

   So, we’re at my daughter’s high school graduation (and I’m about to be the invited speaker) and she’s just finished introducing me as “…and my father, Doctor Paul Howley.” There are hundreds of guests in the audience who’ve never met me before and know nothing about me so I’ve got let them know I’m NOT a doctor.  Here’s the message: 

 

 

  
Interesting footnote: 

   The next year, Cassy and I attended the local public high school graduation and the speaker explained to the students that although high school graduation is an important event in their lives, it will seem less and less important as time goes by. The students will move on to college, full-time employment, military service, or they could begin to raise a family. In fact, he continued, although you might remember some of the speech you heard, you probably won’t even remember who spoke at your graduation. As we were walking out of the auditorium, Cassy said, “He’s right! I don’t even remember who spoke at MY graduation last year.” 

  REALLY Cassy?!!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

My Life With Comic Books Part 204


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 48

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #204

 

   In June of 2002 we had a lot going on. We sold our home in Gilford, New Hampshire, rebuilt our cottage in Alton Bay, and we decided to move to Florida while Cassy attended Palm Beach Atlantic University. But at this moment, the most important thing was Cassy’s high school graduation from Laconia Christian School.

   Although we could only invite a few people to the actual graduation ceremony, we invited many relatives and friends to Cassy’s graduation party. Uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, classmates, and friends were coming... some from very far away! We were especially honored that our good friends, Gary and Peggy Walker, were coming all the way from Nashville, Tennessee to the party!

   We hadn’t seen Gary and Peggy for a few years but they’d always been special friends. We’ve known them since we worked for them in the mid-1970s and we kept in touch as often as possible.

   Mal and my sister Sharon had all of the details for the party finished and my brother-in-law Greg took care of setting up the chairs and other stuff outside for the party. It all seemed to go together very smoothly.

   The actual graduation ceremony was quite nice. The principal of the school, David Borchers, cared very much about the students and he made the graduation very relevant and personal. This particular senior class meant a lot to me too, and not just because my daughter was in it. These past four years saw significant changes in these young people as they matured and I was fortunate to be around to see it.

   During the ceremony the school choir sang some songs and Cassy was featured. Seamus O’Brien, Dwayne Currier, and Cassy each gave a “message” to their classmates while I sat in the audience nervously awaiting my turn to speak.

   Here’s a video clip of Cassy and the choir singing one of the songs:


 



   Shortly after this song, Cassy gave me a nice introduction. But she threw me for a loop as she introduced me as Dr. Paul Howley! Most of the people in the audience didn't know me at all so I would need to let them know I was not a doctor.
Next chapter: My message to the graduates.