Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.


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» Monday, August 20, 2012
Rediscoveries and Losses
Back in the 1980s, when I still lived in Rhode Island, I would take the bus up to Boston about once a month to visit friends. I still cherish these wonderful visits in which I stayed overnight, talked of fannish subjects to my heart's content with Mary B, and Mary, and Deb, and Abby and Gail, watched artwork being born and fanzines being created, and went shopping in bookstores, bookstores, and more bookstores. Providence had lost all its decent bookstores by then (my beloved paperback bookstore mutated into something with carpets and books turned face-out) and Boston was this wonderland of literary finds: Brattle Books, the National Park Service bookstore, and, out a subway ride away in Cambridge, Wordsworth, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookstore, and the Harvard Coop.

Sometimes I stayed with Mary B, but on later visits I bunked in with Abby and Gail in their slightly larger apartment in Orient Heights (and never dared tell my mother I was riding the subway back to the bus station all alone in the dark; the "T" always had attendants--I stayed in the light and never felt threatened). Abby was a big fan of Wendy and Richard Pini's comic "Elfquest," and, seeing her interest, on one visit I read what she had already collected, and fell in love.

Be it known that I am not a fan of high fantasy. I still haven't managed the Lord of the Rings trilogy and really don't care to. But "Elfquest" was different. It begins as the story of the Wolfriders, a small woods-dwelling band of the descendants of elves from another world who were stranded on a planet known only as "the World of Two Moons." When humans set their "holt" afire in an effort to purge the land of elves, the Wolfriders take refuge with the treacherous trolls, also stranded generations ago.  The trolls trick them into a tunnel with no end, or so they think--instead the Wolfriders find another band of elves, the Sun People, peaceful farming folk, including the fiery healer and the tribe's hunter. And so the quest begins.
So the next time I was in Cambridge, I plunged into the dark, delightful depths of what was then the narrow corner location of the famous comics shop Million Year Picnic. MYP reminded me a lot of the paperback book store: comics up to the ceiling and posters everywhere else, with action figures in cases and behind the counter. Used to comic book stands and spinners in drug stores, MYP was a revelation...I saw comics I never knew existed. I bought all the back issues of "Elfquest" and then continued buying the new ones. I also bought the sequel, "Siege at Blue Mountain," and the third series, "Kings of the Broken Wheel," and the full-color reproduction books of the original quest, as well as the novelization of the original story. I didn't so much get tired of the story as tired of searching for the comics themselves, even though several series followed on: "Hidden Years," "Shards," etc. (I also, I admit, back then didn't care for the artwork not done by Wendy Pini. The other artists were good artists, and Wendy couldn't draw everything, but the characters just didn't look right when others drew them.)

Some months back I noticed there was an Elfquest website with all the comics digitized and posted online. It was very awkward reading them in Windows, so a few days ago I relocated the site to see if the issues were readable on the tablet. I had to go through three browsers, the native one, Dolphin, and Chrome before I discovered they were readable in Firefox for Android, so I am now happily spending some time reading what I missed, rediscovering Cutter, young chief of the Wolfriders, his best friend, diplomatic Skywise, the gentle but firm Leeta, jealous Rayek, the aristocratic Savah, and the other members of the tribes.

This happy discovery was muted today by the news of William Windom's passing. He was a favorite of my mom's in the early 1960s, appearing in the television version of the movie The Farmer's Daughter. This was a series I only heard, since it was on after my bedtime. :-) I did get to watch him in his excellent role as the emotionally tortured starship captain Matt Decker on Star Trek. But later, when Windom did his short-lived but inventive series, My World and Welcome to It, based on the writings of James Thurber, I was there waiting. John Monroe  remains one of my favorite television characters of all time, with his surface cynicism and hidden sentiment, his scrawled cartoons that his editor never understood but his fans loved, quailed by family and small children but king of his own fantasies. The series instilled my lifelong love of both Windom and Thurber, and I was later to start watching The Waltons because of Windom's humorous, bravura role as Charlie Sneed, "the Robin Hood bandit" providing turkeys to poor families in the Christmas film The Homecoming. It was only much later that I discovered Windom in his first film role, that of the bigoted prosecutor in To Kill a Mockingbird.

I was later lucky enough to see Windom in a reading of Thurber essays at the Ravinia in Atlanta sometime between 1988 and 1990; it took place in December and was my birthday gift to myself. I remember he read Thurber's "Memorial," which was an essay written after the death of Thurber's favorite standard poodle. The final paragraph, however, is all-embracing enough to be of comfort:

"The poodle kept her sight, her hearing, and her figure up to her quiet and dignified end. She knew that the Hand was upon her and she accepted it with a grave and unapprehensive resignation. This, her dark, intelligent eyes seemed to be trying to tell me, is simply the closing of full circle; this is the flower that grows out of Beginning; this--not to make it too hard for you, friend--is as natural as eating the raspberries and raising the puppies and riding in the rain."

(You can read the entire essay here.)

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