Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 158

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


In June of 2000 my store in Worcester, Massachusetts came up with an interesting idea for an in-store event. Dave Hartwell and Ken Carson were both fans of the creativity of Frank Cho, a popular independent artist-writer who created the newspaper comic strip “Liberty Meadows.” He hadn’t done any New England appearances and they knew he’d draw a decent crowd if he’d agree to do a store appearance. On August 5th our store was packed with fans eager to meet Frank Cho. Frank drew sketches, signed autographs and visited with the customers for several hours. The event was a big success.

The summer of 2000 went by quickly and it was almost time for Cassy to begin her junior year of high school. She remembered the “last minute” frustration Adam had when he procrastinated in making his decision as to which college he’d attend and she didn’t want to repeat that. Cassy, Mal and I attended an exclusively Christian “college fair” in Concord, New Hampshire in the very beginning of Cassy’s junior year of high school. We had decided that it would be best if Cassy attended a Christian university because of our negative experience with the secular college where Adam had gone for his first year. While walking around the convention room filled with college representatives eagerly trying to entice the high school students to attend their colleges, Cassy found a booth that interested her. It was Palm Beach Atlantic University, a college from South Florida, who cleverly used their easy access to the beach and the warm weather to attract teens to their campus. It was also one of the very few colleges that offered a degree program in Musical Theatre. Most offered a theatre program and a music program, but not a musical theatre program. Although Cassy gathered information from other colleges at this college fair, she had pretty much made up her mind that she’d go to Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mal and I figured that Adam would end up living in Boston or New York City, Cassy would be in Florida, and we had planned to move to North Carolina. This way, we’d be halfway between them so it would be easy to visit them periodically.

At one time, Mal and I went on a vacation with our friends, Mike and Liz Verhoeks, to explore some potential areas of North Carolina for the near future. We loved the forests and hills there because it reminded us of the beauty of New England but North Carolina has a much warmer climate. I was eager to escape the harsh winters of the northeast. While we were on this trip, Mike asked,” Why don’t you consider moving to Florida?” Mal said, “I have no interest in living in Florida.” Although we’ve always enjoyed our many trips to Florida, it just didn’t seem like a place we’d want to live. Most of our trips were during the intense heat of the summers and we mostly went to the big theme parks where we spent hours every day on hot asphalt, mingling with large crowds of people. We preferred the rural setting of North Carolina.

In October, Adam turned twenty-one years old. We invited several of our New Hampshire friends and Phil Doreau, Adam’s best friend from high school, over to our home for a birthday party. Adam wore a t-shirt that advertised our comic book store and had a picture of Insect Man, the super-hero I created, on the front. This was the same t-shirt that Adam wore when he was a young child, but now, it fit him.

Now that Adam was twenty-one, I was eager to get him to go to the Foxwoods Casino with me. I had hoped that it would be a fun time of father-son bonding. Adam asked the manager of the restaurant where he worked for two days off and I was excited about the trip. At the last minute, Adam was asked to work. He needed the money and I knew it was more important for him to be a responsible adult than go to a casino. There’d be plenty of time for fun in the future.

By the middle of November I was very eager to go with Adam to the casino. I figured that if we waited much longer we’d be too close to Thanksgiving and then we’d be into winter. I didn’t want to make the three and a half hour trip in icy conditions. I pressured Adam to schedule his two days off for the next Tuesday and Wednesday because the minimum bets would be more affordable for a beginning player like Adam. Once Adam confirmed his days off I called the casino and arranged for an overnight stay in the hotel that is on-site. The hotel room was complimentary for me if I redeemed the “Wampum Points” I had accumulated during previous visits.

We spent two days at the Foxwoods Casino and had a great time. I won a few hundred dollars while Adam lost four hundred of my dollars. I didn’t mind giving him money to play, mostly because I knew this wasn’t going to be a frequent thing for him to do. He didn’t have enough money of his own to risk gambling and he knew better.

On our three and a half hour trip home, I finally took the opportunity to talk seriously with Adam about his future. After urging him to think and plan ahead for his life, I asked him the clich├ęd question that many parents ask their kids, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Adam replied, “I see myself married to Meridith and, hopefully, working in a job that I enjoy.” That sounded good to me.

Next chapter: I set up at a local shopping mall to buy collectibles.

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