Monday, April 15, 2019

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 212





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 #212: We Meet Some Friends!
   I had been buying and selling things on eBay for a few years at this point. I really enjoyed the entire process of finding an interesting item, listing it on eBay, and finding a buyer who was excited to own the item. EBay is a lot of work and it’s sometimes difficult to end up with successful transactions but I do it all anyway. I had listed a fairly rare set of The Man From Uncle paperback books that came with the original cardboard slipcase that had illustrations on the sides of the characters from the TV show. When the auction was over, I noticed that it sold to a collector in Wellington, Florida. Wellington was about 30 minutes away from our new home in Jupiter, Florida. Before I could pack up the books, the buyer asked if he could pick up the books in-person to save the shipping expense. We agreed to meet halfway in the parking lot of City Furniture in West Palm Beach. Mal and I figured we could look for the much-needed furniture while we were there.
   When we got to the parking lot, we met Ric and Liz. Ric was a serious collector of James Bond and The Man From Uncle memorabilia. Liz was a talented seamstress. We chatted about our mutual interests (I’m a big-time collector of The Man From Uncle stuff!) and enjoyed meeting them both. We exchanged contact information with each other and suggested that we plan to get together for dinner soon. Within a week or so, we arranged to meet up at a restaurant to get to know each other a bit more. Over the next several years, we usually got together with Rick and Liz at least once a week. It was nice to have friends in the area.
   I must admit, it’s not like we didn’t have lots of things going on to keep us busy. We had set up our “guest house” to include two queen-sized beds in the bedroom, a pull-out sofa bed in the living room, a dining room, full kitchen, and a full laundry room. We moved into our Florida home in early August and by September 19th we were already welcoming our first houseguests. Friends from New Hampshire, (The Bassett family), who’s daughter Jocelyn went to college here, came to south Florida for Parent’s Weekend at Palm Beach Atlantic University. They stayed for four days. Three weeks later, my parents drove across the state from Bradenton, Florida and they stayed with us for a week. The day after they went home, Mal’s sister Ginny and her husband Denis came for a visit for several days. Two weeks later, we had a family we barely knew come to our home for a week-long vacation. We had no more guests until after Christmas that year because we flew back to New Hampshire to celebrate the holiday with family and friends. Shortly after we returned home to Florida, Mal’s sister Carol and her husband Mike, and their three children, came for a week-long visit. On February 13th, Barb and Jim Foote, our friends from New Hampshire, came to spend a week with us. The day after they left, my sister Sharon and her friend Ellen (and her son Kory) came for a few days. When they left, our friends Paula and Phil came for a weekend visit. One of our daughter’s college roommates (Jamie) called and asked if her mother, Sue, could stay with us for a week while she visited her. While Sue was here, Jamie and several of her friends stayed in the guest house too. A week later, two good friends from our time in New Hampshire, Mike and Liz Verhoeks, came for a week.
   The guest house was convenient for our guests and for us. It allowed our guests to enjoy their own space and we were told that the time spent there was quite relaxing. We enjoyed showing many of our guests around the area, especially West Palm Beach’s interesting shopping/restaurant district called City Place, Jupiter Beach, and many of our friends also wanted to visit Disney World. Mal and I bought annual passes for Walt Disney World because, for Florida residents, it was only $235.00 per person and that included the parking fees. We lived about two hours away from Orlando and it was an easy trip. We went to Disney World fifteen or twenty times the first year we lived in Florida!
   In the middle of the month of April, Rick and April Stephens, two more friends from New Hampshire came for a visit. We picked them up at the airport in West Palm Beach and went directly to a local restaurant called “Schooners” that specialized in local seafood and had a definite south Florida feel to it. We enjoyed a nice week of relaxing times at the beach, lounging around our pool, and playing boardgames. At the end of the week, they borrowed one of our cars and explored the west coast of Florida. They were considering buying a second home over near Naples, Florida because they had heard so many nice things about the western side of Florida from friends. After spending several days on the west coast they decided to look at homes in the Jupiter, Florida area. Of course, we would have loved it if they would end up living near us!
   Two days after Rick and April went back home to New Hampshire, my parents came for another visit. We took them out on a fun casino boat out of West Palm Beach and we attended a play that Cassandra was in at her college.
   Cassandra was enjoying a busy first year of college. She studied hard, enjoyed some club sports, was a competitive cheerleader, participated in the theatre productions, and she still found the time to date. In the middle of her freshman year of college, she began dating Matt, also a freshman from western Florida. Our lives were about to change again!

   Pictures: Our little guest house!


Monday, January 21, 2019

My Life With Comic Books: A History of a Comic Shop Part # 211




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 #211:  Is This The New Normal?



   We were now living in a new place where we basically didn’t know anyone. We tried to meet people at common areas like grocery stores, shopping malls, churches, etc. The people we met would ask, “What brought you to Florida?” We’d reply, “We followed our daughter down here while she attends college.” Usually, they’d follow-up with something along the lines of, “Oh, do you have any other children?” I’d quickly glance at Mal to determine if I should say that “We HAD two children but one died in a car accident?” The problem with this is that it usually evokes a sadness and pity from the person you just told and that makes things awkward very quickly. If we say, “No, we only have one child” it lessens the importance of Adam as an integral part of our family. If I sensed that we weren’t trying to establish an ongoing relationship with this person, I’d frequently opt for not mentioning our son. I always felt terrible doing this but I didn’t want to upset these people.

   Here are other things that were now part of our new “normal”…

   Not sleeping very well because a hundred “what ifs” and “why didn’t I’s” go through your head.

   Reliving that day continuously.

   Having the TV on the minute we wake up to have noise because sometimes the silence could be overwhelming.

   The difficulty of deciding how to honor Adam’s memory, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death and just try to survive these days. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are sad too.

   Seeing so many of Adam’s friends growing, maturing and entering exciting new phases of their lives like marriage and kids and wondering what Adam would be like now. Then, realizing that it doesn’t matter.

   The new normal is disliking bodies being referred to as cadavers when you know they were once someone’s loved one.

   The new normal is having people afraid to mention Adam. It’s also making sure that others remember him.

   Normal is how almost every happy event in our lives now has a sadness because Adam isn’t here.

   Normal is now wanting to plead with parents to stop screaming at their kids.  

   Normal is having difficulty listening to people compare anything in their life to our loss unless they have lost a child. Even if your child is thousands of miles away from you, it doesn’t compare.

   The new normal is now being able to relate to other grieving parents, crying and talking together over our lost kids and our new lives without them.

   I know that everyone in this life has awful stuff they’re trying to live with and I do try to be sympathetic because for them, whatever situation they’re going through may be the worst thing they’ve ever experienced.

   These are some of the things we were dealing with back in 2002 and many of them still apply today (fifteen years later!).

   Eventually, we met some very special people who became great friends...(more on that soon.)



Next chapter: Florida weather.