Free Comic Book Day is like visiting my hometown

Binghamton and comic books, parts of “my ever present past.”

I always go to Free Comic Book Day, sometimes with my daughter, sometimes alone. This year, it will be on Saturday, May 5 at a comic book store near you (I hope). I go because I like seeing a busy comic book store, and I’m always treated like visiting royalty at a local proprietor’s shop. For those of you who don’t know, I worked a FantaCo, Albany’s first direct market comic book shop; the store was open from 1978-1998, and I worked there from 1980-1988. And I like getting something for free, although I ALWAYS buy something as well.

But it’s also a little sad. While there are good books out there, so much of it is…not. Even a comic nerd such as Alan David Doane recently noted: “My trouble with comics right now is that so very few appeal to me.”

This reminded me of my treks to my hometown of Binghamton, NY, some 150 miles away from Albany. When I was growing up, I rather loved it. It was a decent place to grow up. The population was about 75,000, with a vibrant downtown. Now it has about 47,000 people, with a downtown that seems to be hanging by a thread. I WANT it to do well, a lot, but it’s just not, for the most part.

When I went to college, they tore down a bunch of houses near my grandmother’s home to build “new” Route 17, which will eventually become Interstate 86. The road has made it easier to get THROUGH the city, but has hardly been a boon for having people stay IN the city. I go there for a family reunion, on my mother-in-law’s side, and I’ll see little signs of life, but it’s mostly moribund.

Binghamton and comic books, parts of, to quote Paul McCartney, “my ever-present past.”

This week, and next

As people who work in my office know, I tend to play a lot of music of artists around their respective birthdays. For the seven day-period from May 8 through 14, there is the greatest number of artists for which I have a lot of their albums.

I should note, first of all: Today is Cinco de Mayo—or the fifth of May, which “commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the French-Mexican War. It is not Mexico’s independence day, as is commonly believed.” [Emphasis mine.] “In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.”

This means, unfortunately, yet another opportunity for some people to consume alcohol stupidly, even in areas without a large Mexican-American population. Guess I’ll put out a good thought to the cosmos for some sort of personal restraint. Sorry to sound so cranky about this, but past behavior on these seemingly designated drinking days (see also: St. Patrick’s Day) warrants it.

Yesterday, I went to the dentist, then donated blood (time #142) in downtown Albany. Even on a cold, rainy day, I miss downtown.

Saturday is a VERY busy day. Our household has a couple of chores to tend to. Yet I want to go to both the Tulip Festival AND Free Comic Book Day. This is the tenth year for FCBD and I always end up buying SOMETHING, which, of course, is the point. I need to get something that will fit in my backpack, because, weather permitting, I’ll probably ride the bike. I suppose that leaves out getting one of those long white comic boxes, even though I could actually use one.

Sunday, of course, is Mother’s Day, which, as usual, I spend with my mother-in-law and her family. More on that holiday on Sunday itself.

As people who work in my office know, I tend to play a lot of music of artists around their respective birthdays. For the seven day-period from May 8 through 14, there is the greatest number of artists for which I have a lot of their albums:
May 9 – Billy Joel (quite a few)
May 10 – Donovan (a couple)
May 10 – Bono (a lot of U2)
May 11 – Eric Burdon (a couple Animals’ albums)
May 11 – Butch Trucks (at least one solo)
May 12 – Steve Winwood (quite a few, mostly with Traffic)
May 13 – Stevie Wonder (a LOT)
May 14 – Bobby Darin (one)
May 14 – David Byrne (quite a few, both solo and with Talking Heads)

Oh, and Burdon’s turning 70. I always had affection for We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, It’s My Life, and Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. I used to quote the latter: “Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

Know who would have been 70 on May 13? Ritchie Valens, of La Bamba fame. Of course, he died in that plane crash on 3 February 1959 with the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly, thus remaining forever young in our minds.

I won’t be playing much music at work next week because I’ll be out of the office 2.5 days at a workshop learning more about, among other things, American Factfinder 2 on the Census page, necessary because I’m giving a podcast about it in mid-June. Yikes.


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