Keeper of the FantaCo flame

Annamae Hebert was a real mom, in the best meaning of the word, even to me.

The interesting and unexpected result of this blog is that I’ve become a keeper of the flame for things related to FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked from 1980 to 1988, and its early staff. A fellow named Jim Abbott emailed this picture of a sign by Raoul Vezina (d. 1983), the great artiste of Smilin’ Ed.

Jim writes: “I doubt you’ve seen this. It was on the front of 279 Fair Street in Kingston [NY], owned by my friend, the late Bruce Talbott, of New Paltz [NY – my college town]. I don’t know if his widow still has it in her garage or not. Take care.” Thanks, Jim.

In that vein, I should note:

My friend Penny, who is married to former FantaCo employee Broome – he who came in late to work on his first day at FantaCo so he could go on a first date with her – recently went to the hospital for appendicitis and a hernia. There are some complications; still I dare say Penny is faring better than Broome in this process.

FantaCo’s owner, Tom Skulan, lost his dad, Thomas, on April 20. I did not know him well, but Tom and his brother Joe spoke eloquently about his intelligence, eclectic nature, and love of music. Joe posted a version of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony – 2nd movement, which is one of my all-time favorites.

John Hebert, who drew and scripted the FantaCo comic book Sold Out that Tom Skulan and I co-wrote, suffered the passing of his mother Annamae. She was widowed at a young age and was left to raise her son John alone.

Her obit said, “The major highlight in Annamae’s life was when she became a grandmother for the first time at the age of 80.” That was probably true. I’d see her at comic book shows, or at Free Comic Book Day at Earthworld Comics in Albany with John, perhaps with his wife Jodi and one or more of her grandkids.

She was a real mom, in the best meaning of the word, even to me, and very proud of her son. I enjoyed the time I spent with her, as she was quite delightful.

And speaking of passings:
Prince, who died at the age of fifty-frickin’-seven, was a massive part of the soundtrack of my FantaCo days, and well beyond. I own on vinyl this extended, almost otherworldly, version of Let’s Go Crazy, which, naturally, I can’t find online, and I’m OK with that. Here are some articles from the Los Angeles Times, plus my source for an appropriate sign on a Tulsa, OK church. I will probably revisit this topic once I get over the shock and sadness.

I never watched Everybody Loves Raymond very much. But I was a huge fan of actress Doris Roberts, in dozens of TV appearances, plus her regular gig on Remington Steele. But she was tremendous in her single appearance on the first season (1982) of St. Elsewhere, as a homeless woman taking care of another mentally ill homeless man played by James Coco; they both won Emmys for the roles. I have the episode on DVD and need to watch it again.

Haunted computers

SOMETHING is emanating from our house that risked disconnecting not just our service, but the service of a dozen and a half other customers in our neighborhood.

My friend Broome posted the xkcd cartoon above on his Facebook page. He explained that his astonishingly patient wife is “the only one who believes me when I say I experience certain things, people and places differently, like this great restaurant that always serves me uneatable food,…or haunted computers…or…”

I totally relate. At work, I have my computer switched out more often than anyone. I used to believe that I had some sort of electromagnetism that wore down the functionality of electronic devices.

I got an Android tablet from work a few years ago, but in a few months, it stopped working. I bought another one, and it lasted just as long before refusing to charge. My current Amazon Fire is operable so far, knock my forehead.

And it’s not just me, it’s my house.

As I’ve noted, I’ll walk down the street talking on my cellphone fine – assuming it doesn’t read “Low Battery,” which it often does, even when I hadn’t turned it on. Walking into the house, the signal nearly dies. This is a problem when I’m calling Time Warner Cable to report the Internet and phone is out.

Two weeks after I contacted the company, a TWC repair guy came to our house to fix the service that was no longer in need of repair. The bottom line: remember a couple of weeks ago when I joked that I wondered “whether the outage had anything to do with the TWC truck that was in front of our house just before the service went down”? Well, it DID!

Apparently, SOMETHING is emanating from our house that risked disconnecting not just our service, but the service of a dozen and a half other customers in our neighborhood. It could have been the cable connected to an old TV (not the case) or other factors.

Rather than having all of our neighbors losing service, and them contacting TWC, TWC sent a “repair” person up the utility pole to disconnect OUR service! And didn’t even tell us! The guy at my door arrived to fix the problem, assuming I hadn’t noticed the service had been out for a fortnight.

My house and I break cable services, and Android tablets, and all sorts of electronic devices. I’m not computerphobic; it’s just my electrons mucking up everything.

xkcd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

“Lose your bearings. Regain a view of the horizon anew.”

Both the Dady Brothers and the Slambovians told Pete Seeger stories.

2015GrandSlamboviansFirstNightIt’s New Year’s Eve. The Wife is driving us to Oneonta; the Daughter is already there, staying with the grandparents. I’m wading through a stack of unread newspapers for the week, plus the December 18 edition of Metroland, the Albany area’s alt news and entertainment weekly.

Columnist David Greenberger wrote this positive review about a group called Lucius. Except it REALLY wasn’t about the group, or the concert, at all. It was “a passionate suggestion that the next time someone you trust recommends anything you’ve not experienced before, you say ‘Yes.’

“This isn’t just about music, but film, literature, food, a walk in the woods, anything at all. Step into such unknown realms that are offered to you with this a sort of towering kindness and willingness.”

The Wife and I had agreed to meet the relatives at the atrium. My parents-in-law are great fans of The Dady Brothers, described as an Irish folk duo, though they are far more eclectic than that. I had seen them perform at previous First Night Oneonta celebrations.

But before we found our family, we ran into our friend Penny, who lives near Albany; in fact, she works on the same floor of the office building I work in, though I’d known her for decades. We attended her daughter’s wedding in August 2014.

She and her husband Broome were there to see The Grand Slambovians, billed here as playing “Surreal Roots Rock”. She recommended highly that we stay to hear them, as she was sure I’d like them. I HAD vaguely heard of The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, and they are the same folks, more or less. Broome had seen them in Philadelphia, PA the day before, and he and Penny were going to see the group in Northampton, MA a couple of days later.

I might have stayed anyway – the adjacent space was crowded and cacophonous – but the endorsement sealed the deal. And I DID like them. Early on, they performed Very Happy Now, which “combined with two of the song’s influences, Donovan’s ‘Epistle to Dippy’ and the Ramones’ ‘I Wanna To Be Sedated.'” As Broome and Penny knew, this tickled me.

Even more so, I appreciated the merger of the Christmas carol ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ with Van Morrison & Them’s ‘Gloria’. Broome bought me a Slambovian DVD, because he decided, as is he wont, that I needed it.

Interesting that both the Dady Brothers and the Slambovians told Pete Seeger stories. One of the Dadys wrote a song about Pete, which they sent to him. Later, they had a chance to play with him. At this show, they performed that song they wrote, plus the Pete classic This Rainbow Race.

The Slambovians gave Pete a ride from Cold Spring to his home in Beacon, at which point Pete invited them in and talked for four hours. They felt Pete knew they were faux folkies, while everyone knew Pete was the real deal. Pete, they realized, was really lonely, his wife of 70 years Toshi having died in July 2013; Pete himself died in January of 2014. The Slambovians played Suzanne, the Leonard Cohen song, in honor of Toshi and Pete.

The moral, perhaps for the year: I’ll Try Something New. Which, oddly, reminds me of a song by DIANA ROSS and THE SUPREMES with THE TEMPTATIONS.

Anna and Brian’s wedding

Anna married Brian on August 1 of this year on a farm in Glen, NY.

I’d known Anna practically since she was born. The narrative that her father Broome told at the reception after her wedding to Brian suggested that perhaps she wouldn’t have been born at all, but for me.

The way he tells it, it was his first day working at FantaCo, the comic book et al store I was managing in late 1983. either he wanted to come in late or needed an extended lunch. Since he was a law student, I thought maybe he needed some extra study time. Or maybe he needed to work some more hours at the law firm he was also working at, but neither of these was the case.

Instead, he wanted to go see Bread and Puppet Theater with this young woman named Penny he had met. Broome SAYS that I extorted the promise that he would name his firstborn after me. Interestingly, after Broome spoke at the reception, some friend of his told me that the first time HE had heard the story, Broome said he OFFERED to name his first child after me for the time off, which is precisely how I remember it.

In any case, Broome and Penny DID get married; I was present at a ceremony that was a surprise to most of the guests who thought it was just a summer party. They had two children, Anna and Luke. And Anna’s middle name is Green.

I finally figured out why he persists with this version, which by now probably he even believes: it’s a better story! Or as Luke’s girlfriend said to me about another topic, “That’s just Broome!” A wise young woman. Broome and Penny are in the foreground in a photo by Anna’s godfather, Lynn Stone.


Anna married Brian on August 1 of this year on a farm in Glen, NY somewhere southwest of Amsterdam, Montgomery County. I really liked the vows, which I presume was based on these handfasting vows:

Brian, Will you cause her pain?
I May
Is that your intent?

Anna, Will you cause him pain?
I may
Is that your intent?

*To Both*
Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?

Fortunately, it did not rain, which was in some forecasts, for we could have had a sea of mud. It was, in fact, rather warm, but dry. Good thing there was a large tent covering, to protect us from the sun after the brief ceremony.

I had not previously met Brian. They were living in New York City, but now they are residing upstate. During the early part of the reception, Brian sang John Legend’s All of Me to Anna. He has a VERY nice voice.

At some point, the bride tossed the bouquet, and the youngest single lady, one I’m related to, caught it. Fortunately, they didn’t do the part where the guy catching the garter puts it on the leg of the bouquet catcher, because that would have been weird.

There was mucho good food and a constructed floor. The Daughter and I shared a dance or two before The Wife, The Daughter, our friend Bill and I returned home.

Best wishes to my namesake and her new husband!


As though the Beatles needed ME to defend them

He claims Revolver is “pretty godawful.” Most critics would strenuously disagree, and since it’s my FAVORITE Beatles album, I do so as well.

I’m on Facebook Sunday night, and I get a notification that I’m mentioned in a post. This one from my friend Broome says: “I just wrote a Note about the Beatles and why they and their music are so important. I hope Roger Green or ANYONE ELSE will write something so I can take the drivel I have written and burn it.” I disagree with his characterization of his observations.

I purloined the whole conversation and placed it HERE because I don’t know that people who aren’t on FB can otherwise read it. (My biggest complaint about my historically favorite bloggers is that they put so much stuff on FB that I believe is inaccessible to some.)

Broome makes the odd notion that this issue needs to be litigated at all, instead of being noted as a settled fact. The Beatles were and are important because millions of fans and loads of critics believe them to be so. Beethoven was and is important because people long ago decided it, and his music appears everywhere from the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever to, well, the Beatles.

Broome’s young friend Raymond, born in 1973, reviews several albums. The first is Beatles for Sale. I must say I agree with much of what he says about it. It’s the last major pillaging of the cover tunes they used to perform in their live shows in Germany, and most of them are not that great compared to the originals, and the Beatles DID do some great covers. As Broome noted later, the Beatles were generating a tremendous amount of product in a short period. Raymond does complain about the nasal harmonization, which has never bothered me. He also suggests that Every Little Thing is weaker than what he describes as the “bombastic” Yes cover, undoubtedly because that’s what he heard first; that’s usually the case that your first love is the greatest. Obviously, without the Beatles’ version, there wouldn’t BE a Yes version.

Indeed, the fact that the Beatles’ originals have been so widely covered alone makes a case for the group’s significance. “Yesterday” alone generated over 2,500 covers in its first decade.

Raymond admits liking A Hard Day’s Night, as well he might. Thirteen originals in a really short time frame, with great tunes like “If I Fell”, “And I Love Her”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “I’ll Be Back”, and the title tune.

But then he started to lose me. He claims Revolver is “pretty godawful.” Most critics would strenuously disagree, and since it’s my FAVORITE Beatles album, I do so as well. The eclectic collection runs from the rocking “Taxman” to the story song “Eleanor Rigby”. It has a kiddie tune in “Yellow Submarine”, the haunting “For No One”, the plastic soul of “Got To Get You Into My Life” and the mesmerizing “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

He similarly writes off MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. This is a different situation altogether. The songs on Side One were realized as a double EP in the UK; the five songs on Side Two were all singles or B-sides. While he is correct that “All You Need Is Love” lacks real content, it was rather beside the point; I never found the “mocking trumpets… a bit creepy” though, but the first part of the joke. “‘I Am the Walrus’ is a triumph of studio work; without the production crew this would be an embarrassing proto-rap chant.” Don’t know what that means, exactly, but of course, it DOES have great production values. Still, I’ll concede his lack of affection for George Harrison’s “Blue Jay Way” corresponds with mine.

In responding to Raymond, Broome suggests that perhaps it’s a generational thing. Not that this the end-all of proof, by any means, but Glee, for cryin’ out loud, spent TWO shows on Beatles music the first two shows of the 2013-2014 season. I know people born in 1966 and 1987 nearly as versed as I in Beatles lore. Do you know what the #1 album for the first decade of the 21st century? The Beatles #1s, all their hits that went to #1 in the US and/or the UK; that wasn’t just boomers buying the music for themselves again. And Raymond, in a later comment, admitted Saturday listening to the Beatles’ work. “All the local kids loved it and sang along.”

I don’t disagree with Broome that the historical context of the Beatles mattered. In fact, I was musing again recently whether Beatlemania would have taken hold so strongly in the US at the beginning of 1964 had JFK not been assassinated a few months earlier; others have made the argument before. It’s also, I’ve come to believe, why adults so scorned the Beatles early on – too frivolous in those times when they were still mourning.

Broome noted that he has a “friend who is a humongous Springsteen fan. When Springsteen did the Seeger Project albums and showed his respect to Pete Seeger, Brian ran out and bought some Pete Seeger. He came in the next day and gave me the CDs and said ‘This stuff is crap…’ Now Brian loved the Springsteen albums, but didn’t like the music that inspired them.”

That’s too true. I saw No Doubt live in the mid-1990s, and the Specials, whose ska sound No Doubt emulated, opened for them. These 14-year-old kids literally turned their backs on them. I’m sure that blues artists were rejected in favor of Clapton or Led Zeppelin or the Blues Brothers.

The Beatles started as great imitators and blenders of their varied influences, from Motown to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Everly Brothers, and Buddy Holly, among others. Their true greatness derived from the rapid evolution from “Love Me Do” to the sitar on “Norwegian Wood” and backward tape loops on “Rain”, and the like. And because they were the Beatles, you see elements of that in other artists, both their contemporaries such as The Byrds and Beach Boys and the Buckinghams – the beginning of the Supremes’ “Reflection” was certainly Beatles influenced – and almost every pop band since, from REM to ELO to XTC to Oasis, and many more, have some Beatlesque qualities. Scandinavian Skies by Billy Joel is a Beatles song; I say Cheap Trick’s Everything Will Work Out If You Let It is too, especially the bridge.

Here’s a long response to say, Broome, that the Beatles don’t need me, or anyone else, defending them at this point.

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