Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Life With Comic Books Part 196





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 17

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 196

                   “The Senior Class Cruise: The Final Chapter.”

  The students in my daughter’s high school senior class were really exceptional young adults. They were polite, considerate, and they cared about each other. For the most part, they obeyed the rules that the school had set. However, one young man struggled with an addiction to cigarettes.

  If any student was observed smoking, they’d be suspended from the school. If my memory serves me correctly, they might be suspended even if they smoked cigarettes at home. The rule was in place so that the students would carefully consider the consequences before they began smoking. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop Cassandra’s classmate from smoking. We spoke with Jake (not his real name) and warned him that if he was caught breaking the rules about smoking while he was on the senior class trip, he could be suspended from school and that could affect his ability to attend the upcoming graduation with his class.

   Jake expressed his serious concern that he couldn’t possibly avoid smoking for the five days of the trip. We told him we understood but we’d still need to enforce the rule. One of the chaperones who had smoked cigarettes for decades before he quit, spent some deep one-on-one time with Jake to help him get through this difficult situation. Jake protested at first but he realized that he needed help. The chaperone taught Jake about the concept of “consequential thinking.” Decisions shouldn’t be made without thinking of the consequences of our actions. For some, this may seem obvious, but for others (especially young people) this isn’t quite as natural.

   Over the course of the trip, there were some tearful moments and some loving encouragement for Jake. As far as we know, he was able to resist the temptation to smoke for the duration of the class trip.

   Several weeks later, the senior class participated in “Senior Day” at the school. This is a short program for the seniors to impart some of their wisdom to the younger students. The soon-to-be-graduating seniors sat at long tables at the front of the gymnasium and answered questions from the audience of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. When asked, “What was your favorite school event?”, several students declared that the cruise was at the top of their list. They learned about working towards a long-term goal (raising and saving the money needed to pay for the trip) and they learned to enjoy new experiences.

   They were asked all sorts of other questions and all of the seniors seemed to have some good thoughts to share. But for me, the coolest wisdom given to the audience was when Jake shared the importance of consequential thinking.


Friday, March 27, 2015

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 195



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 17

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 195
  
   After our entire group of Cassandra’s senior classmates and the chaperones boarded the cruise ship, we all met upstairs on the Lido deck to eat at the lunch buffet. We organized a meeting in my stateroom for everyone to get together to go over the “rules” of conduct.

   When we originally booked the cabins for our daughter’s senior class trip cruise, we knew that we needed to keep the expenses low so that all of the students could afford to go on the trip. We booked the most inexpensive cabins available; inside cabins on a lower deck of the ship. Mal and I paid for our own accommodations and we booked a very large suite so that we’d have space to have meetings of the whole class in our room. Once everyone was clear on what was expected of the students as far as behavior goes, we all headed out in small groups to explore the huge ship.
 
   While we knew the students quite well and we knew they were mostly decent, responsible young-adults, we didn’t want the close proximity of alcohol and casino gambling to be too tempting for any of them. One of the rules for the trip was that students must stay together in groups of at least three students. That way, they’d be accountable for each other’s behavior. When our group was on-shore there would always be an adult chaperone with the students, but while on-board the ship, the students could be together without supervision. This worked out nicely. We did, however, need to speak with two of the boys regarding their interest in flirting with some of the non-classmates on the ship.

   As a group, with input from the students and the chaperones, we agreed that all of the students needed to be in their staterooms by 1:00AM. Activities on cruiseships usually end around 3:00AM but we wanted everyone to be rested and eager to start each day. We had quite a lot planned for them.

   On the first night, we all met up in the assigned dining room for dinner where we had several large tables reserved for our group. We decided that we would mix things up by switching the seating each night so that the students would get to spend time with other classmates over the course of the cruise. There are hundreds of choices of food items on cruises and we encouraged the group to experiment by trying foods they’ve never had the chance to try before. Lobster, escargot, filet mignon, duck, vichyssoise, gazpacho, New Zealand spring lamb, sushi, and more. There were also lots of great-tasting deserts including cherries jubilee, baked Alaska, crème brulee, and the most popular desert of all…warm chocolate melting cake! (Did I mention the warm chocolate melting cake?)

   Dinner on a cruise ship can be a long process. If you eat in the main dining room your dinner will consist of several courses. There are appetizers and salads. There are a variety of soups. Then comes the entrée, followed by desserts. (Did I tell you about the warm chocolate melting cake?) It’s not unusual for the entire dinner to take an hour and a half. Of course, there are several other quick service locations around the ship to get other foods if you don’t want to spend a long time in the dining room. But, the purpose of this senior class trip was for the students to get to spend time together as a group, so we opted for dinner in the dining room each night.

   After dinner our exploration of the huge ship continued and at 9:00 PM until one of the chaperones announced that he was going to bed. He was accustomed to getting up very early each morning but he usually went to sleep early at night.

   Um…no. Sorry, I know we’re all tired from a very long day of travel but we all need to do our job as chaperones to ensure the safety of the students. As exhausted as he was, he persevered and was a great help for the rest of the trip.

   Anyway, since this isn’t meant to just be a detailed description of the entire cruise, suffice it to say, we had lots of fun together. Over the next few days we rented motor scooters, toured Key West, snorkeled in Cozumel, Mexico, did some shopping, saw some shows, and relaxed at a warm beach. Through it all, the students were respectful, grateful, and well-behaved. Well…almost all of them.

Next chapter: Consequential thinking.


  





Friday, November 7, 2014

My Life With Comic Books Part # 194



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 17

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 194

   In March of 2002, Brenda, the drama teacher at my daughter’s school, chose to put on a musical play titled, “The Truth About Cinderella.” I had never heard of this play but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t very involved in this production. I wasn’t needed to help with the preparation in any way so my only involvement was to oversee the ticket sales. I was no longer on the school board but I was very busy organizing my daughter’s senior class trip. The class had chosen to go on a cruise and for the past three and a half years they were saving their money so that they could afford to go on this trip. We had been raising money by running the concession stand at nearly every home sporting event and we had a very successful “Family Fun Night” at the school that had a meatball sandwich dinner, a live auction of donated items, and live musical entertainment provided by members of the senior class. The event raised several thousand dollars and the money was evenly split up among the senior students to make the cruise more affordable.

   With twenty-three students going on this trip, I knew we’d need lots of adult chaperones to be sure everyone obeyed the “rules” (although this group of students was abnormally well-behaved!) and to keep everyone safe. We put out the word that we were looking for responsible adults to come on this cruise and, even though they had to pay for their cruise and all of their own travel arrangements, we had more than enough adults step forward to come along! We ended up with eleven chaperones; enough for at least one adult per cabin.

   As the departure date for the class trip neared, I needed to make arrangements for all of the different modes of travel including: cars, bus, planes, and the cruise ship. We also investigated the kinds of activities and tours we wanted the students to have a chance to experience.

   The morning of our trip, we left the Laconia, New Hampshire area very early in the morning. We arrived at the US Airways terminal at the Manchester airport nearly two hours before the scheduled time of our flight’s departure. When we got to the check-in desk we were surprised that it was not open for business yet. By the time the US Air employee arrived, we only had about an hour to get everyone checked in. The rude and snippy employee seemed to be deliberately moving very slowly and the check-in process was taking far too long. When I went to the head of the line and asked him what was taking so long, he informed me (rudely) that there was a good chance he wouldn’t have time to get everyone checked in! After I (probably rudely) suggested that since we were all here very early, and US Airways should have known how many people were booked on this flight, perhaps the company should have had adequate help here.  Not surprisingly, this seemed to make him move even slower. By the time the last student was checked in, many of us had to actually run to our gate to board the plane before it took off! We felt bad for the dozens of passengers that were still left in the line with the slow, rude employee.

   Interestingly, several of the students had never flown on an airplane before. Some had not ever travelled outside of New England. It was an uneventful flight and the time passed quickly because most of the students were excited about the trip and they were enjoying the opportunity to spend this time together. Once we landed, we were struck by the warmth of the Florida sun. It was a nice change from the normal chill of New Hampshire. We all boarded the Carnival Cruiseline bus and headed for the Port of Miami where the Carnival Fascination ship was docked. Most of the people in our group had not been on a cruise before so they were surprised at how huge the ship really was. The Fascination was built in 1994 so it was still in almost brand-new condition. The ship was 855 feet long and 10 stories tall and it would have 2600 passengers and nearly 1000 crew members.

   It took a while for the large group of us to get checked-in at the Carnival Cruiselines and when we were done, we all headed to the Lido Deck buffet.

Next chapter: Bon Voyage!



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.