Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Man of Letters

It's no secret that I have been a comic book fan almost my entire life. Problem is, comic book fans are pretty widely scattered. While I knew people in West Rome who read comics (Gary Steele, Bobby Wear, Phil Patterson, John Ball, to name a few), few of my fellow comic book readers were as addicted to the medium as was I.  Soon, though, I realized that many of those letters in the comic book letters columns had names and addresses attached, and I began writing to a few of those letter-writers whose opinions intrigued me. Even better, they wrote back.

By the time I was 13 years old, I had at least a dozen regular "pen pals" across the country with whom I exchanged letters regarding comics that we both enjoyed. These correspondents helped introduce me to the world of fanzines--amateur fan magazines published in small quantities for sale or trade to fellow fans. Many of those fanzines would send a free copy to anyone who wrote a letter that was published in the fanzine, so I began writing even more letters.

By 1968, it seemed like I was getting more mail at my parents' house than they were; rarely a day went by that I didn't have at least one or two letters in the mail. I even remember my amazement and excitement when, in 1969, I actually received a Sunday mail delivery from a correspondent who was so eager to get me a sample of his artwork that he paid huge sums to have some artwork and a letter delivered via whatever was 1969's precursor to Express Mail.

I would get very frustrated when I didn't get any mail at all, because the letters I wrote and received had become very important to me. One day, I became so aggravated that a letter I was awaiting had not arrived that I punched the door to my room--and imagine my chagrin when I discovered (the hard way) that the doors in our house were hollow! Lo and behold, I had punched a hole in the door! I tried to put a sticker over the hole to cover it up, by my sister Kimberly saw the hole before I covered it, and  she poked a hole in the sticker to ensure that my parents saw the hole in the doorway. (My nephew and his wife now live in the house where I grew up; when they replaced the interior doors, they cut out that door panel with its hole and sticker fragments and gave it to me as a relic of my childhood).

Through the remainder of the 1960s and into the 1970s, I was a voluminous letter writer (or should I say "letter typist," since I always preferred to type letters rather than handwrite them). After Susan and I were married, we both continued to correspond with science fiction and comics fans, and remained involved in fanzines. As a result, we were pretty much on a first-name basis with the staff at the post office--not a surprise, considering how much of our disposable income was spent on postage!

Many of the fellow fans with whom I corresponded in my younger years have gone on to become professionals in the comics and/or SF field nowadays; it's surprising to realize that many of those correspondence friendships have outlasted a lot of my in-person friendships!

I write very few letters nowadays, though, preferring to use email. I still have a tendency of rambling on in my emails as if I were writing a regular letter, though; I never got the hang of short, pithy emails, I guess.  Old habits die hard, though: I still rush to see what came in the mail each day (and thanks to my role as editor and publisher of a newsweekly in the comics field, I still get a lot of mail), and I spend too much time sorting through the 150-250 emails I get each day. Like regular mail, about half of those emails are junk or ads, but the others serve as a link between me and many of my correspondents!

I don't think that too many people today understand how important letters were in the pre-internet days; they served as my link to a much larger world made up of people who shared my interest, and helped me to feel a lot less isolated than would have otherwise been the case.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Things Are Different There...

Yesterday, I found myself in the area of Phipps Plaza in Buckhead. How long has it been since I last went to Phipps Plaza? Well, the last time I was there was when Susan and I joined Lanny, Brett, Charles, and some other friends at the showing of the Tim Burton Batman film...

Where most malls hosting auto shows have a new Cadillac or Lexus or Chrysler or the like in the mall area, Phipps' display of autos for possible gift-giving included a Bentley, a Lotus, an Aston-Martin, and a Maserati. That pretty much underscored the idea that this isn't a typical mall.

Then, at one end of the mall, I saw a familiar store: Belks. So I wandered in--and the first thing I saw was a shoe display. And that, too, underscored the fact that everything--even Belks--is different at Phipps Plaza.

No, that's not a  cage-match fighting shoe--it's a fashion heel from Belk's shoe display. And yes, those are solid metal conical spikes all over the outer edge and the heel of the shoe. And yes, they hurt if you tap 'em against your hand--I checked.

I found myself wondering if the fashion-conscious woman who buys those shoes has the same tendency I have to occasionally scuff one's ankle with the side of one's shoe when walking.  When I do it with my Rockport shoes, it's a minor annoyance. For the unfortunate wearer of these shoes, though, it could be a debilitating mistake...

I was looking for one item at Belks--a quilt that was featured in their most recent ad. I asked someone about it. "We don't carry home goods here," the sales staffer said with more than a little disdain. "We're not that kind of store."

And apparently I'm just not the right clientele for Phipps Plaza...