Dearest friends, I would blame not a soul for thinking that I had, perhaps, given up the ghost, and departed from this tender terra firma. 2015 will go down in my personal history as "The Year of Trials." Never in this life have such tremendouc challenges hurtled themselves at me, like so many full-backs in a basefball game.
I scarcely know where to begin. Once you have read these words, you will, perhaps, understand, and forgive, if any resentment exists in your soul towards me.
I must give the saddest news first: two deaths in my life.
My father, Austin Moray, passed on August 25th of this year, after a long bout with pnuemonia and its various complications. He was robust and active well into July, but once pnuemonia and a lung infection set in, due to his fondness for sleeping outside on warm nights (on a screened back porch), his slide downhill was painfully rapid.
Dorrie and I spent most of August at his bedside, first at the Emberton Memorial Medical Center, and finally in his humble home. A fighter to the end, Dad said "ain't no way, Jose, that I'm gonna die on one of these #$*@#$^ uncomfortable hospital beds!"
We all couldn't help but laugh at his "fighting spirit." Even his room-neighbor, a man in a full body cast (the result of a disastrous skiing trip) chuckled at this honestly expressed desire.
When he was able, Dad and I enjoyed a series of long, "heart and heart" talks. We had formed this habit early on in our relationship. As a child, this meant listening patiently as he discussed the complexities of his scientific work, and of the annoying traits of his co-workers. (One was a man who snored while awake!)
My father and I were always friends, so we did not so much "make ppeace" as "tie up loose ends." In an eerie similarity to the passing of my dear colleague, "Sparks" Spinkle, my father, on his pentultimate day of life, motioned forme to lean in closely. He said:
Mace, you weren't always the sharpest pencil in the pencil box, but you're true blue. You've always stuck to your guns, and made no bones about it. I admire that about you. Keep up with your coin collecting. You're sure to become a wealthy man someday...
(NOTE: For the past decade, my father has been convinced that I am a numismatist. I have considered the hobby, but truth be told: the reading time for an average coin, even with peak concentraion, is perhaps one minute. A single page of a comic magazine can yeild that pleasure 10 times over. Give me the comic magazine over the common coin anyday!)
My father's memorial service was held on September 11th, at his insistence ("About time something good happened on that day, doggone it!") Over 800 attendees flooded the chapel of St. Anthony's Episcopal, with an overflow literally spilling out into the parking lot. Scores of his work colleagues, old and young, plus friends and family (and, it appeared, a sprinkling of rank strangers) celebrated Austin Moray's long, lusty life and its myriad accomplishments.
I was touched beyond words by the numerous accolades and warm remembrances that filled that hallowed hall on that day. Afterwards, all present enjoyed a catered lunch buffet that Dorrie and I had nothing to do with. I still do not know who paid for, and had set up, this lavish, tempting spread. It just goes to show that a man's kindness, on this earth, is repaid tenfold.
Little was I to know that another passage would soon send me into deeper spirals of shock. Friends, prepare yourself for this one.
On October 3rd, while attempting to parallel park to do routine shopping, my wife Dorrie was killed by a speeding truck. The driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel, and his out-of-control vehcile collided with our Prius at a high speed. I was assured my dear wife's passing was instant, and painless. But the pain inside of me shall not, I fear, dissemble anytime in the knowable future.
I could not bring myself to save the clippings from our local paper. I was spared the agony of composing a death notice for the paper. In a typical thoughtful move, Dorrie had composed such notices for herself and myself, just in case. I recall feeling a recoil from the morbidity of it all, but she talked sense to me. "No one wants to write one of these after someone has died. Now it's done, and all they have to do is fill in the blanks."
I have saved her eulogy for me, yet unread. I fear that, were I to read those words, I, too, would pass away.
I have said, here, that my marriage to Dorrie was one borne of convenience. But, as you no doubt have inferred, there was betweenus a genuine bond of affection. We were closest, I feel, in the heyday of "Dorrie's Diner," during which time we worked side by side, through wonderful days and depressing ones; through customer complaints and unpredecented requests for "seconds" or "thirds" from delighted clientele.
I spoke at her memorial service, which was held on the 10th, and though not as well-attended as my father's, still notably supplied with friends and family. Many "Dorrie's Diner" regulars showed up, each wearing a colored armband to show their sympathy. There wre numerous requests for the publication of a cook-book of Dorrie's show-stopping recipes. I have, as a result, indefintely abandoned my work on The Golden Age of the Era Panelologic to focus on this memorial compendium of her gifts to flavorhood and the dining arts.
It has been hard to work on this--or, truly, anything of note--in the aftermath of these dark, dark days. I am in the process of selling the house. My plan is to rent a small apartment close to "The New Pantheon," which has earned its monthly fees a thousandfold over as a private sancturm for my grief and contemplation.
I have not hidden myself away--far from it. I still make my normal rounds--to the grocery, the drugstore, and the local comic book "emporium"--with a few tried-and-true restaurants also in tow. I smile and wave when I meet friends and acquaintances, and often stop for brief, cheerful chats. TRuly, those moments keep me going. That, and my undying devotion to the panelological arts.
The solace of a fine four-color saga is stronger than ever I realized. In these dark times, the meaning and wonder of these vintage tales has come to mean more to me than I ever imagined. Perhaps it is a stage of the grief process, as my therapist, Dr. Burlene has called it.
The payout from the insurance policies of my father and my wife assure me a functional life for the rest of my days. I need not work in the "nine-to-five" world again, unless I desire so for its social aspect. My days are spent in deep study.
Half of each day is devoted to typesetting my dear departed wife's acclaimed recipes. She preserved them for the ages in an unusual manner. She always felt that the blank pages at the end of a paperback or hardcover book were "a darned shame." Thus, she inscribed her recipes, in a bold, precise hand, on these surplus pages.
I have spent much time sifting through all the books in our house, to locate all, if not most, of her surviving recipes. Dorrie often bragged that "the best ones are kept up here" (pointing to her head as she spoke). Truly, some of her more popular creations have yet to surface in her squirreled-away notations. There are still books I have not examined--and, I pray, recipes yet untold.
After a break, in which I "do the town," if you will (a refreshing lunch, a brief stroll) I return to the New Pantheon and peruse items from my vast collection. 'Twas the story I am about to present that inspired me to "break the silence" and make this long-delayed post.
I have displayed the exploits of "Shock" Gibson here before. As one of the "key" features of its golden age (1937-1942), it bears revisiting. This story, from the 11th issue of Speed Comics, is a striking example of "what it's all about":
This stunning comics novella is, arguably, a sequel to the very first "Gibson" story, which is found by clicking on that "link" above. (It took three people an hour each to teach me this seemingly simple process at the Duff Library. Proof that you CAN teach this "old horse" some "new tricks!"
The graphical vigor of this tale suitably underlines its almost documentary-like depiction of the crises of its times. This is another of Maurice Scott's efforts, and I believe that time has proven him a far superior comics craftsman than his past reputation might impugn. True, he is no Lou Fine, or Reed Crandall. But need all cartoonists hew to such exacting standards? Is not more excitement, more realism, not transmitted via the "dashed off, no-good" drawings of a man like Maurice Scott?
I wish not to repeat myself, and those who might find Scott's story of interest are asked to peruse that earlier "Shock" posting. I boldly posit that, had Scott's father NOT been in the printing business... had Scott walked into the offices of Alfred Harvey, portfolio in hand, a complete stranger, he would have been hailed and welcomed with a hearty handshake into the world of panelology. Scott's fearless renditions of city-scapes, zeppelins, lighthouses, zombies, dictators, alligators and guillotines are without equal in the artform.
That moment with the guillotine offers one more nugget of "insider" information. Scott's father was a frustrated historian, with a particular interest in the French Revolution. He had written some 10 plays concerning this event, including a light-hearted comedy, Let 'em Eat Cake, which was almost produced on Broadway. Had Ira and George Gershwin not presented a musical comedy of the same name--on the same day--perhaps the name of Judson Scott would be as celebrated as those musical siblings!
Undeterred, Judson built an expansion on his Long Island house, and devoted one large room to a small-scale reproduction of the entire French Revolution. At young Maurice's pleadings, Judson incorporated a Lionel electric train set into the landscape, merrily mixing historical eras. Maurice's evident fascination with this highly personal project is reflected in his painstakingly accurate execution (pun not intended) of that bladed machine of death. The reader feels the hairs stand up on the back of their neck as that gleaming blade seems to be coming for them!
Even after he was hastily drummed out of the comics world, Scott continued to maintain his father's masterful re-creation of a bygone world. As electric train technology improved, Maurice upgraded --and added additional tracks to-- the Gallic landscape. His one-of-a-kind layout was eventually photographed for Look magazine.
Maurice was able to realize another dream of Judson, when he had his father's play staged (retitled We Shall Have Cake!) at the Potomac Players Summer Theatre, for a three-week run in the summer of 1948. A reviewer from a New York paper attended. While he chose not to write a review of the production, he was overheard, by Scott, to comment, "you know, this isn't half-bad."
The same might--and must--be said for the work of Maurice Scott. If I find the energy to complete my own magnus opus, I shall include a long chapter on Scott and his work. Critics be damned!
I have not felt so exuberant as this in a long, long time. It would seem that this "blog" is good for my spiritual health. I hope Dr. Burlene takes notice.
Thank you in advance for your condolences and good wishes. Worry not--this old "stubborn mule" has many a path to ponder before he cashes in his "meal ticket!" May 2016 bring us all some kind of peace and comfort. Heaven knows, it is needed.
Merry holiday to you!