Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ready for Action

The past month has been quite memorable for fans of Steve Ditko’s work. First the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, and now Action Heroes Archives Volume Two, reprinting Ditko’s later Captain Atom stories for Charlton, as well as his memorable reboot of Blue Beetle and his seminal Question tales that serve as a precursor for Ditko’s post-superhero direction.

The Captain Atom stories featured in here are predominantly the tales that feature the revamped, repowered, recostumed Captain Atom; these stories lack the visual impact of the earlier Ditko tales collected in Action Hero Archives Volume One, but they have a bit more of the feel of Ditko’s late-period Spider-Man stories. Unfortunately, Rocco Mastroserio’s inks flatten Ditko’s pencils a great deal, taking away from the artist’s strengths.

The Blue Beetle stories show more of Ditko’s flair; not only are the stories closer in feel to Ditko’s Spider-Man work, but the distinctive two-toned blue costume rank right up there with Spidey’s togs as one of the five best costume designs in comic book history.

The most fascinating book here is Mysterious Suspense #1, featuring the first full-length Question tale. The opening pages, featuring an argument about art and aesthetics, indicate the direction of Ditko’s future works and the dichotomy that may have contributed to Ditko’s eventual departure from mainstream comics. And again, in the simplicity of a faceless man clad in a trenchcoat and fedora, Ditko created a quintessential hero for the real world.

The bonus items include rarely-seen stories from Charlton fanzines, including several by Ditko and one striking Question tale by Alex Toth. These stories are reproduced in black and white, since they were never offered in color; I wouldn’t have minded seeing DC add color to these tales in keeping with the look of the remainder of the book, but I can understand why, in their desire to keep the Archives true to the source material, they chose to go the black and white route instead.

Dick Giordano’s introduction, in which he offers an insider’s view of Charlton’s operation and explains why he preferred “action heroes” to superheroes, is a must-read. Charlton deserves an entire book, but this introduction at least offers some insight into the Little Comics Company That Tried Hard But Couldn’t.

Grade - A (for the package)/B+ (for the material itself)

All Roads Lead to Rome...

I'm off to Rome tomorrow to visit with Dad and help him with any bills that have come in since my last visit. Right now, I'm on an every ten day or so schedule; usually I go up there on a Monday, then visit again on a Thursday or Friday ten or eleven days later, then skip a week and go up the Monday after that, another ten or eleven days later. That's frequent enough to stay on top of the bills and to make sure that Dad has spending money, that he has food in the grocery store, etc. I'd like to have a chance to see him more frequently, but with traffic between here and Rome getting worse with each passing year, what used to be a 45 minute drive now takes 75 minutes minimum, sometimes longer.

I've become more acutely aware of Dad's dissatisfaction and loneliness. In the past few months, he's done something he rarely does: he actually has vocalized both feelings. Dad isn't one for talking about his feelings; he came from a generation in which men weren't supposed to do that. But he has said on several occasions how much he wishes he just had someone to go to dinner with, someone to talk to every day. (I call him at least twice a day, but I know that's not the same as having some to talk to in person.)

The catch-22 of this situation, though, is that Dad is so set in his ways that he rarely goes to new places or sees new people. As a result, the chances of him meeting someone he can share meals with or just chat with is more and more remote.

I've talked to him about visiting us, but Dad isn't willing to drive out of town, so he's pretty much Rome-locked. And I've even suggested that he move here with us, but he gets very irritated by the suggestion, stressing that his current house is the only place he'll ever live.

It's a frustrating, no-win situation; I know Dad doesn't care for the way things are, but I don't think he'll ever do anything to make thigns change. And I have no power to alter that in any way, as much as I'd like to.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Good Film? Surely You Chest...

I endured -- in much the same way one might endure a root canal sans novocaine -- Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest this evening. Yes, I know the rest of the world is talking about the third film, but I certainly didn't care enough for these to see them in a theatre or to buy a DVD; Susan decided to give it a try when it showed up on cable.

What a mistake.

This film manages to make the first film look good by comparison. Everyone is pretty much phoning in his/her performance (Keira Knightley at least shows some sort of acting skill in the final moments, actually communicating an emotional ambivalence that seemed surprisingly out of place in a film otherwise populated by characters who lacked sufficient depth to be classified as two-dimensional).

I don't like Johnny Depp, so there's no reason to comment on his performance; I'm a biased audience. Everyone else in the film, I like okay, so I had no grudges.

The first two and a half months of this film were slow and dreary... What's that? You say it was only two and a half hours long? That's can't be! Surely this pointless cinematic morass ran for at least a season, if not more!...

Obviously I'm in the minority here; lots of people were willing to spend real money for this. But then again, lots of people buy those meals-in-a-bowl thingies at Krystal and KFC, so what do they know?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Counting Up, Counting Down

For as long as I can remember, I've measured the distance between today and an anticipated upcoming event by comparison. That is, I calculate the distance between today and the event, then I subtract that measure of time from today and recall what other significant event was happening at that time. It gives me a landmark, a chrono-measuring point, so that I can say to myself "it's no longer from now until **** than it was from **** until now."

For instance, it just recently occurred to me that we're midway between the two Thanksgivings -- we're just as far from Thanksgiving 2007 as we are from Thanksgiving 2006. Christmas 2007 is equidistant from Halloween 2006. This makes time more quantitative for me; I can compare two specific chunks of time, one of which is derived from my own experiences.

The Halloween 2006/Christmas 2007 comparison is particularly strong for me, because I feel like I can recall every event of Halloween 2006 as if they had just occurred. I remember hurrying to finish the salmon, baked potato, and salad we had for dinner so that I would be ready to give out books to trick or treaters; I remember the number of trick or treaters we had; I recall phoning Brett and Kim when the 2006 totals surpassed our prior record year of 2005. I recall holding back one of the watermelon Tootsie Roll Pops for myself because I had never tasted one--and then, when I did give it a try, wishing that I had just given it away instead.

I still have vivid recollections of moving into our house in Rome in 1992; that was more than fifteen years ago, which means that I'm almost as far away from my 69th birthday as I am from that particular touchstone date. My 69th birthday seems like an amazingly distant event... but it's much less removed than it initially sounds.

And when I think about how vividly I can recall such childhood events as buying Flash Annual #1 (I had to walk all the way to the Han-Dee Shop on Shorter Avenue, more than two miles from my house, because no comics-carrying store closer to me had received it, but a friend had found his copy there and I couldn't possibly wait until some closer store actually received their comic shipment!), and I realize that I am as equidistant from my 98th birthday as I am from that memorable day, it's pretty amazing...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Big Three Oh

Didja know that Dr. No's is thirty years old?

That's right--the store has been in business since 1977! The original owner, Artie Decker, opened in the shopping center now occupied by Old Time Pottery and Queen of Hearts Antiques back in 1977; later that year he relocated to Blackwell Square Shopping Center, which was brand new back then. Up until 2004, we were only in the left-hand half of our current space (as you're facing the store from the parking lot); we doubled in size in May of 2004, officially opening the space just in time for Free Comic Book Day that year.

When the shopping center opened, it was also home to the only theater in metro Atlanta that had a full Dolby Surround Sound system in each auditorium. As a result, people came from all over metro Atlanta to experience Star Wars in surround sound in this shopping center. (And speaking of Star Wars, don't talk about Memorial Day being the film's 30th anniversary if you're talking about Atlanta; the film didn't open here in metro Atlanta until mid-June... and I know, because I attended an advance press screening on the evening of June 15th, and have a post-marked press kit to prove it!)

Dr. No's has changed over the years; when it opened, it was primarily a used book and used record store, with a small selection of comics. When Artie found out that I knew a lot about comic books, he hired me to handle his comic book section--placing orders, pricing back issues, etc. I didn't become an owner of the store until 1982, when Artie decided that he hated dealing with the public and wanted to get out of the retail biz.

Over the years, the store has metamorphosed into its current state as metro Atlanta's premiere comics and gaming shop. We were one of the first stores in the area to try to stock a full line of trade paperbacks and hardcovers... and this dates back to a time when every comic book trade/HC in print could fit onto one bookshelf unit!

Thirty years and stronger than ever... not a bad record!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Medium Not Well Done

Watched the season finale for Medium, and came away sorely unimpressed. If you don't want anything given away, quit reading while I kvetch...

The whole series is based on a real-world person, Allison DuBois, who helps the police solve crimes by giving them evidence gained from visions she experiences in her dreams. In the season finale, a reporter reveals to the world that Allison DuBois (the television show Allison DuBois) helps the police solve crimes by giving them evidence gained from visions she experiences in her dreams. The world is shocked--shocked, I tell you!--and she becomes a pariah. One character refers to her as "toxic."

Problem is, this is a series based on a real person who purportedly does this in the real world. And she's respected, successful, an author of several popular books, and a woman who--get this--has a television series inspired by her life. Scarcely a toxic pariah, huh?

Makes the whole season finale seems overly melodramatic and pointless, doesn't it?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Upfront about Upfronts

This is the week that the networks announced their fall seasons, and I've followed the reports for four days. For me, the big disappointments were the cancellations of The Class (an ensemble cast comedy that really grew on me; I came to care about these characters and their quirks just as did with Friends), Jericho (a drama that finally began moving forward in its final weeks, but the three-month hiatus caused it to hemmorhage viewers so badly that CBS didn't have any confidence in it), Gilmore Girls (in spite of my disillusionment with Graham's underperformance this season, I liked some of the other characters so much I'd still have liked for it to return), and Veronica Mars (an energetic and personable teenage drama/mystery series).

Wish I could say that there was anything on the schedule that really excited me. The Sarah Connors Chronicles (a teevee series that continues the Terminator story) intrigues me but I still have trepidations that it will stumble in the same way that so many SF series have. There's some "Satan's bounty hunter" thing that sounds like a pale remake of the superb Brimstone; then there's a vampire detective series that has me yawning already because it's been done so many times before, probably better. The only good news, I guess, is the return of Patrick Warburton's Rules of Engagement and Allyson Hannigan's How I Met Your Mother, both of which were iffy but made the cut.

The good news? I'll have more free time next season!...

No More Gilmore

Watched the season finale of Gilmore Girls yesterday, and I was quite disappointed. I know that the episode was filmed before the cast and production team knew if the series would return for an abbreviated eighth season, but my disappointment had very little to do with the plot or production. My disappointment was with the cast, and in particular with Lauren Graham; if there was ever a case of an actress walking through the script, this was it.

Graham, in her role as Lorelei Gilmore, alternated between two expresssions: irritated and bored. When the script called for poignance, longing, sensitivity, compassion, wistfulness, nostalgia, or love, she simply ignored it and chose from the two emotions of the day. I was so unhappy with her performance that I pulled the DVD of the first season and watched a couple of episodes just to remind myself that Graham could deliver a full range of emotions when she began this role; by the time this final episode came around, though, she was making it clear through her performance that she just wanted out. There was no chemistry between her, Scott Patterson, or Alexis Bleidel; even though the latter two did an incredible job in their roles as Luke and Rory, they were unable to compensate for the dreariness and disinterest that Graham put into this episode--and in fact, into most of this season.

It's a real letdown when the star of a series this beloved by much of its fanbase is so unwilling to return that dedication. I hope that Graham finds something that inspires her to act once again; obviously, the final season of Gilmore Girls wasn't it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Saints and Poets, Maybe...

Ten things I wish I had one more opportunity to share with Mom...

(1) A Monopoly game. I have so many fond memories of all-night family Monopoly sessions; they went on so long, I think, because none of us was a cut-throat player, so we never overloaded houses and hotels to such a point that other players were forced out of the game. We learned that from Mom, who never had the heart for wipe any of us out, evne when she could. Okay, maybe we didn't really get into the spirit of Monopoly per se, but the delightful evenings around the tattered board were all the better because everyone got to play until we finally agreed to call it quits and go to bed...

(2) A bowl of Irish stew. Mom made the most wonderful Irish stew in the world, and she knew it was a favorite of mine. After Susan and I got married, Mom shared her recipe with us, and it's one that we cherish even today. I still remember December 5th, 2002, when I spent the day in Rome using a digital camera and a close-up lens to recapture hundreds of family photos in digital format so that I could put together a slide show... and so that I could reminisce one more time with Mom and Dad, sharing stories about the photos. Oh, the stories... Mom and Dad told us so many fascinating stories behind those photos over the years, and I remember almost all of them—and I can even hear Mom's voice recounting some of those tales as I gaze at the photos one more time. That day, Mom supervised while Dad made Irish stew for the three of us; emphysema had already taken its toll, and she could no longer stand at the stove long enough to prepare a full meal. But she was so pleased when Dad followed her instructions perfectly, serving us all steaming bowls of Irish stew that tasted just like hers...

(3) David Letterman. Mom actually discovered the quirky pleasures of Dave before I did; she began watching his daytime show on NBC and dubbed off some of his funnier bits for me, knowing that I would appreciate the offbeat humor. When Dave moved to nighttime, she would record every episode, watching the monologues and opening bits, at least, no matter who the guests were. She never had any patience for Jay Leno; she was a Dave fan through and through.

(4) A wintry night ride to look at Christmas lights. Mom and Dad loved to take me and Kim out with them for an after-dinner ride, in a time when gas was so cheap and prevalent that no one thought anything of it; it was a wonderful way for the family to spend some time together. Nothing could surpass the evening rides to look at Christmas lights; Mom didn't like the ostentatious, garish light displays, preferring the humble, tastefully done decorations. When we were kids, we couldn't understand that... but later on, I came to share her preferences.

(5) Easter Eggs. No, not the painted or decorated boiled eggs--I'm talking about those brightly-colored candy-shelled egg-shaped delights with soft marshmallow fluff inside. Mom loved them as much as I did, even though the rest of the family couldn't really understand what we saw in them. During Easter season of 2001 and 2002, Mom couldn't find the eggs in Rome; for some reason, that particular confection fell out of favor at the local stores. To make sure that she didn't miss out, I would pick up ample supplies of them here in Marietta and take them to her. I was always amazed by her self-control; she would ration them out so that her supply lasted all the way into the pre-Christmas season.

(6) Dean Martin music. Mom loved to listen to Dean Martin; I can hear her melodious voice humming and sometimes singing along to the records that we owned. She joked occasionally about being named after him--although we knew she wasn't, since she was born long before Dean Martin was a celebrity. Even so, I really think the fact that her name was Dean led her to feel a sort of affinity with him that made him a favorite of hers. We all got to meet him once, when Dean Martin, Andy Williams, and other celebrities came to Rome for a celebrity golf tournament. I got to caddy, which is where I met Dean Martin; Mom and Dad met him at a dinner that evening... a dinner I didn't get to attend, since it was for grown-ups only. I envied her, not because I really was dying to share a meal with Dean Martin, but because I thought it must be something really wonderful to meet a celebrity whose work you enjoyed so much. I remembered her joy years later, when I spent almost an hour talking to Jack Kirby; I knew then what it must have been like for Mom to spend an evening in casual conversation with her favorite singer.

(7) A Scrabble game. Mom was one of the best Scrabble players I've ever sat across a table from; she had an unerring ability to find obscure words that added up to incredible numbers of points when linked to two or three other words on the board. I won from time to time, but none of us could beat Mom very often.

(8) You Don't Say. Mom and Dad loved watching the afternoon game show when I was a kid; Dad got home from the Rome News Tribune early enough that we could all watch the show together when I came home from school. Mom would always make a point of blocking out the answer so that she would have to guess from the clues; she was good at it, but not great. Her off-target answers were always great fun for Dad and me, though.

(9) Turkey and dressing. Mom made the best dressing in the world. She gave us all her recipe, but none of us have ever managed to get it quite right--probably because, as Mom always told us, a recipe offers a general direction, not a set of perfect instructions. She could tell when she needed to change things a little bit, adding a dash more sage or decreasing the amount of milk and turkey broth or working in a few more chopped onions and a half-piece more of celery, finely sliced. I could have passed up everything else at the table on Thanksgiving and Christmas, just so long as I had that dressing.

(10) One more kitchen table conversation. Our kitchen table was the hub of the house, a central gathering point. Friends would come over for coffee; games were played there; meals were eaten there. But most of all, it's where we would all sit and talk and laugh. Mom's laugh--melodious, dancing across the room--was an unforgettable joy, and I'd give almost anything to hear it once more with my ears rather than just hearing it with my heart.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Good Intentions, Bad Execution

Tonight, at 9:54. Comcast disrupted all channels to run a "Levi's Call" notice of an abducted child. For those not familiar with Georgia's strange need to rename everything, this is the same as an Amber Alert in most other states: a notice of an abducted child. Perhaps the idea behind this is useful (and I'm giving the benefit of the doubt here, because I sincerely doubt it), but the execution is horrible.

Whenever Comcast interrupts their broadcast schedule for an Emergency Broadcast System test or a Levi's Call, it shuts down everything--not only are all cable broadcasts forced offline, but recordings on DVR's are shut down and playback on DVR's ceases as well.

Now let's think this through. It's 9:54 pm; I'm at home watching the season finales of various network shows. So what's Comcast thinking--the Levi's Call will act like the Bat-Signal, leading me to don my crimefighting costume and hit the highways looking for a suspicious vehicle with a man and a child in it? Doubtful... While the information might be very useful on radio (which people often listen to in the car) or on interstate message boards, it's pretty useless on television, particularly at 9:54 in the evening. I looked around my library where we were watching television: no missing child, no kidnapper, no suspicious vehicle.

Okay, the Levi's Call is over and done with. So what do they do next? Well, on all non-HD channels, they superimpose a huge black box with the words CHILD ABDUCTION in blocky white letters (yes, they use the absolute kludgiest typeface possible). That's it. No additional information, no description, no crawl at the bottom of the screen... just those two words, superimposed for at least two hours! "Oh, but this is important for viewers to know," the unthinking "all-for-the-children" advocates maintain. I'd love to hear them explain how.

Think it through. I turn on my television and see the words CHILD ABDUCTION. I have no idea who the child is, what he looks like, what his name is, where he was abducted, when he was abducted, who the abductor is, what vehicle they're driving in, where they were last seen... nothing. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (a group with every reason to exaggerate their reported numbers, but that's another issue), a child is abducted every forty seconds. So, during the two hours that message was up there, a hundred and eighty children were abducted. Based on those numbers, the message might as well be up there all the time--since we're not giving any information about specific children in a specific area, why not keep people on alert? And for that matter, could we have a channel that carries the superimposed message LIGHTNING STRIKE, since that occurs somewhere in the country every eleven seconds?

I called Comcast. Apparently, while there is someone somewhere who knows how to turn on the message, he goes home after having done so, his work done. They assured me that there was no one there who knew how to turn off the message. (So I guess it must have a natural life span of only two hours, since it just sort of went away on its own after that time...)

In the meantime, the process of sending the message so fouled up Comcast's system that they lost NBC-HD in the Marietta area for the better part of an hour, meaning that the HD season finale of ER went unseen by lots of viewers. Great work, guys! (These are, I should point out, the same Einsteins who run their EBS tests during prime time, even though they could run them at any time of the day or night...)

Hope they find the child safe and sound... but I'll bet you that a 9:54 pm television message about the kidnapping will in no way contribute to the recovery.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

All Road Lead to...

I'm on my way to Rome again tomorrow to help Dad; I've pretty much settled on a once-a-week schedule for now, although that might have to be escalated to twice a week at some point. Dad seems much happier now that I'm helping him to balance his checkbook, pay his bills, etc.; he seemed to find the mathematical side of things frustrating. I'm accustomed to doing this sort of thing for the store, so I'm glad to do this for Dad as well.

I think that Dad has really missed regular company. When Mom was alive and well, there were visitors coming to the house several days a week; now, though, Dad is alone far more than I think he wants to be, and I suspect he is starved for interaction and social contact. His best friend, Roy, had a stroke a year or so ago and is now living with his oldest son miles away from Rome; ever since Roy moved, Dad has been pretty much a loner.

I doubt that we'll do anything major while I'm there; our usual days consiste of a couple of trips to area stores, sorting through things at Dad's house, doing a little cleaning, and grabbing a bit of lunch. I don't generally eat lunch, but it's Dad's big meal of the day, so I go with him and pick at something light while he's eating.

I wish that Dad lived closer, so that I could see him more frequently. Getting him to come to Marietta is pretty much impossible; I know he won't say so, but I can tell that Dad doesn't feel comfortable making longer drives in unfamiliar areas. It's just as well, I guess; I'm not that comfortable with the idea of Dad driving down here, either.

In the No

I don't think I mentioned here that we've shifted the format of the Dr. No's website to a blog-based system. Buck found a way to maintain our store header and sidebar links while embedding the blog itself in the website; if you'd rather see just the raw blog, you can go here, but there's nothing more to be seen than you'll see at the site.

If parts of it seem familiar, there's a reason why: I've cross-posted a couple of things there and here. I'll continue to do that if I think there are some pieces that'll have a more general appeal. However, we're going to use the blog approach for the store indefinitely; readers are already commenting about how much more engaging and appealing it is than the older approach.

The real problem with the older approach is that we simply weren't very good at it. The old site had the visual appeal of a ransom note, and information wasn't always updated because it was so difficult to do so. This new approach should make it very easy for us to add new postings to the store site as we get the urge.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ad-ded Value

What makes Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus (and last year's Fantastic Four Omnibus) even more appealing than the superlative Marvel Masterworks versions of the same material? The inclusion of letters columns, that's what!

I grew up in the 1960s, and I remember reading not only these comics but the letters columns as well. The letters sometimes reflected my own opinions, sometimes not; they sometimes brought up points I hadn't considered; and they sometimes served as an opportunity for Stan (or whomever was ghosting the responses for him) to present information that I found useful. But most of all, those letters columns, filled with give-and-take between readers and the man behind the stories, created the sense of community that was such a vital part of the early days of the Marvel Universe.

I love being able to read the stories--but being able to read the letters columns as well serves to make the experience more real. It's a fascinating opportunity to see how Marvel fandom developed in the early 1960s... and it's fun to look for familiar names in those letters columns--there are letters here from people who went on to become prominent in comics fandom, in comics retailing, and in comics creations.

Now, if Marvel would only restore the house ads that were also a vital part of the books; it's great to put the whole thing in historical perspective, seeing what else was shipping that month.

In fact, I've often thought that Marvel should do a series of trade paperback called--oh, I don't know, let's start with Marvel 1961-62. In that volume, Marvel would collect, in order by month, all the various Marvel superhero titles, letting us experience vicariously what it was like to shop for Marvel titles each month. By the end of 1962 or early 1963, the volumes would have to become Marvel 1963 Volume One, collecting the first few months of the year; then Volume Two, collecting the next few months, and so on. This could continue until at least 1968-69, when Marvel's expansion was so great that we'd have to have a separate volume for each month.

And of course, these books should include the letters columns and the house ads, just to keep everything in perspective. Should they include the 1960's Western titles as well? Certainly they should, beginning with Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's reinvention of Rawhide Kid as a Western-themed action hero book. I remember feeling like a true Marvel maniac when I began picking up the Westerns as well--it's like I was on to something that the average Marvel fan didn't know about...

Check out the house ad at the top of this entry--it came from Amazing Spider-Man #2. Already Marvel is establishing a "line unity," using the brilliantly-developed corner symbols to make their books stand out. But most of all, the ad reminds us that all of these heroes exist in the same world--and at least subtly hints at their upcoming interaction. These ads are a part of the early Marvelverse, too--and I'd love to see them restored to their rightful place in comics history!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

FCBD = Fun for Me!

Free Comic Book Day is always a big event at Dr. No's, but it has never been bigger than it was today! We had over a thousand people come through the store, many of them newcomers to comics. There was an excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the day; again and again, we saw happy faces on children and adults as people discovered or rediscovered this amazingly entertaining medium.

Our guests--Mark Bagley, Brian Reed, the Dabel Brothers, and Joe Pruett--were accessible, and everyone seemed to enjoy the opportunity to get signatures and talk to people who actually make comics happen.

And of course, the comics were the stars. The first book to vanish was The Unseen Peanuts, due to some high-profile media coverage; we ran out of the book within an hour, in spite of the fact that we ordered a large stack of them. Other books that zoomed out of the store: Owly & Korgi, Comics 101, Sonic the Hedgehog, Lone Ranger/BattleStar Galactica, and Spider-Man (you'd think there was a movie or something!...).

And speaking of media coverage--a lot of people found us thanks to a wonderful feature article on pages 1 & 2 of the Buyer's Edge section of today's Atlanta Constitution; thanks, Jon Waterhouse, for dropping by the store and putting together such a great overview on Dr. No's and our comic shop goals!

More than a thousand people... wow! It was so crowded at one point that the owner of a dry cleaners in our shopping center complained to a customer that we had too many people--we were hogging all the parking places! I'm going to point out that these are a lot of people who have never been into our shopping center until now; maybe next year, she'll put together some bags with coupons for her cleaners that we can give to customers along with free comics?...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hearty News

Yesterday, Doctor Mike came in to pick up his comics, so I asked him about my recent cardiac problems. He couldn't have possibly been more concerned or more helpful. "Come in to the office tomorrow... I'm working tomorrow, so come in," he said.

"I have a dental appointment to fix my crown at 9 in the morning and..."

"I don't care when you come in," he said. "You come in. I'll see you. We'll do an echo cardiogram, run some tests, try to figure out what's going on. Don't make an appointment. Just come in."

(Have I mentioned how doubly lucky I am to have the best cardiologist in the world and the best dentist in the world both coming by my store every week?)

So today, I saw Doctor Sturn, who took care of the crown thing in no time (and didn't make me have to taste that purple goop for very long at all), then I headed to Doctor Mike's office.

It was packed. SRO.

I went to the window, feeling a little sheepish.

"May we help you?"

"Umm... yes, please. I don't really have an appointment, but..."

"You're Mister Biggers," she said immediately. "I'll let the doctor know you're here."

I felt guilty, really, seeing all those people who were waiting... but I was also very appreciative.

A little while later, I was called in. Tests were run. Lots of tests. Echo cardiogram sensors were stuck to me, results were printed out, then it was done again. And again. "We want to be sure that we get it right," the physician's assistant said.

And then Doctor Mike came in. And while he couldn't tell me what had gone wrong, he could assure me that it wasn't life-threatening. No major problems, no new blockages, no severe damage. There were some anomalies, but they could be dealt with.

And when Doctor Mike says it, I believe him.

I now have a prescription for nitroglycerin. I didn't know that they still used nitroglycerin, but Doctor Mike says it's actually very effective for chest pain. (I told Charles that I felt like I should be in an old noir film, sitting in a room rich with dark judges' panelling, waiting to clutch at my chest and call quickly for the nitro tablets...)

And Doctor Mike told me that, if I have a problem again, I should call his service and tell them to call him. Not an assistant, not the physician on duty... him. "Tell them you're my friend and I told you to have them call me," he said. Makes me feel a lot more comfortable, just knowing that.

And while I don't know what is wrong, I have a better idea what isn't. And that's sometimes the best we can ask for, isn't it?...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Run of the 'Mill

I should have mentioned this in the earlier post, but I forgot--Janice's comment about an echocardiogram reminded me that I left out some pretty important info.

I just went through a nuclear stress test (that's the one where the inject you with a radioactive substance to see if you gain amazing powers--and then they look at your heart after making you run on the treadmill for a while to see what's glowing and what isn't) in late January, and all was fine with that. I see Doctor Mike every six months, and I undergo regular echocardiograms and stress tests in between the scheduled nuclear stress tests, so I'm well documented, at least! I also have very high HDL cholesterol and very low LDL cholesterol, thanks to exercise, diet, and medication, so I don't think that I could have had a renewed buildup of arterial plaque...

The fact that everything looked good just three months ago continues to baffle me. If my results look so good, why does my chest hurt? These are the questions that keep one awake at night...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

You Gotta Have Heart

A subject I'd just as soon not feel obligated to mention, but I figure it's best to get it out there as it happens, just in case...

I'm having some sort of cardiac problems, and I don't know what.

Saturday night, I awoke with fairly strong chest pains; however, it was hard for me to tell if they were heart related or sternal. Ever since I had my surgery in 2000, my sternum has been the source of intermittent pain. Saturday night, I had gone to sleep on my left side, with my should tucked forward in such a way that there was pressure on the sternum. I thought that might be the cause of the pain. On the famous "one to ten" scale (ten being the worst), I'd rank it as a four. If you put your hand on your chest as if you were doing the pledge of allegiance, the pain was most strong where the heel of the thumb rests on the sternum and where the tip of the middle finger touches the pectoralis muscle (the latter might be related to the mixture of numbness and sensitivity in my left chest area due to the redirection of the mammary artery to furnish blood to my heart).

The pain lasted for about ten minutes, but it was not accompanied by any increase in blood pressure or heart rate. When I had my heart attack, both my blood presssure and heart rate skyrocketed, so I took this as a good sign. I spoke with someone at Doctor Mike's office the next day, and the on-call person told me that it was probably an isolated event.

Problem was, it wasn't. Last night, at about 4 in the morning, I was awakened by more pain in my chest, just to the left of the sternum--again, about a four on the one-to-ten scale. Again, no elevation of blood pressure or heart rate, no radiating pain into my neck and jaw (I remember that intense pain from the heart attack--the pain in my jaw was as severe, or moreso, than the pain in my chest. It lasted for about ten minutes, then went away. Can't blame this one on positional causes, since I was lying flat on my back at the time.

I'm not having any pain when I exercise (which I still do faithfully twice a day), no shortness of breath, no weakness or fatigue... but the recurrence of the pain has left me more than a little concerned. It's nagging at much sufficiently that I have trouble concentrating on what I should be doing, like getting books processed at the store or preparing for Free Comic Book Day or helping my Dad.

And I find myself feeling a little be betrayed, because I think I've been doing the right things--watching my diet, exercising regularly, taking my meds faithfully, doing stress tests every six months, and so on--and I'm still having some sort of problem. There's a "this shouldn't be happening to me" response that I have to work to overcome.

Today, I did a few pre-emptive things. I made sure that Susan knew where our bank accounts were, I made sure that any credit card payments were made online so that there were no outstanding bills, I filed away the financial records that hadn't been filed in the past few weeks so that anyone else could make sense out of them. I have no idea what to expect, but I have to at least allow for the worst and try to plan accordingly. Morbid, perhaps... but I can't rule out any possibility.

I spoke to someone at Doctor Mike's office, but she said there wasn't anything she could do if I wasn't having chest pains right now. She said that if I do have a recurrence of the pain, I should go to the emergency room so that they can run tests; so now I have to wait, hoping that nothing else happens while at the same time hoping that, if it does, it's moderate enough that I can get to the emergency room for tests that might tell me what's going on.

And I suspect that this is as worrisome for Susan as it is for me--probably moreso, since I think it's only natural for us to worry more about others than we do about ourselves.