Vinyl memories #6 – Plymouth Centennial Educational Park Symphony Band, live at the First Western International Band Clinic, 1980

DSC07725 This vinyl memory focuses on my senior year of high school; a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon in January, 1980, in sunny San Jose, California.

No.  The needle cuts deeper than that, revolving around a formative period of my life, which began on the threshold of entering the sixth grade at West Middle School, when I was asked which instrument I wanted to play.

Memory is a tricky thing.  When I think back, I do not recall wanting to play a musical instrument.  I don’t recall if the question posed to me was “Do you want to be in the band?” or “Which instrument are you going to play because you’re going to be in the band?”

In a previous “vinyl memory” I wrote about my dad and aunt’s musical pursuits during their youth.  Aunt Shirley’s kids – my cousins – were both older than me, and had taken up musical instruments.  Robby played the trumpet, and Al the drums.  I suppose it was natural or expected of me to follow along.

I randomly chose the trumpet.

At West Middle School, the band director was Mr. Driftmeyer. Early on I became motivated to practice not because it was a joy to sit in my room and blurt out notes from an elaborate brass bugle foist upon me, or that I had a desire to become the next Herb Alpert.  No.  Fear motivated my practice.  Fear of being embarrassed and humiliated by Mr. Driftmeyer before everyone else in the room.  I was that shy, quiet kid that stayed out of the spotlight.  I practiced out of emotional self-defense.

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In the 7th grade, I was a teacher’s aid for Mr. Driftmeyer.  Myself and two other students were charged with the task of setting up the chairs for the band that was scheduled for the following hour, and to practice.  The extra practice was noted and Mr. Driftmeyer moved me up into the 8th grade band.  There was one piece of advice he gave to me which I should have taken at the time.  He suggested that I change to the baritone, because he felt my embouchure was better suited for the larger brass horn’s mouthpiece.

Yeah, like that was going to happen.  At the end of sixth grade, my parents shelled out to buy me a Bach Stradivarius – a top-of-the-line trumpet that only two other kids in the school had.  And they had been paying for weekly private trumpet lessons for me with a University of Michigan trumpet player.  Switch to the school-provided baritone after all that initial investment?  Wasn’t going to happen.

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So, in 7th grade, instead of having lunch with the kids in my class, I, and a handful of other 7th graders, had 8th grade band.  Then we had lunch with the 8th graders.  In 8th grade, I sat among the top three or four trumpets in the band.

High school was a different beast.  The big leagues of the Plymouth musical programs.  There were four bands – Symphony, Concert, Varsity, and Cadet.  Each year, you had to tryout to determine which band you would be placed in.  Symphony was the top band, and once you placed there, you didn’t have to tryout ever again.  Concert Band was the second best, Varsity the third, and Cadet the lowest.  The Cadet Band was so low that it did not participate in the annual “Variety Is…” end-of-year band program which featured the other three and the two extracurricular bands – Jazz and Marching.

Everything seemed to be in my corner.  I had done well in middle school.  The person judging the auditions for the trumpets was Mr. Driftmeyer.  It should have been anxiety-free?  But for some reason, I choked.  I was horrible.  I was so nervous that I lost all composure and cried through the audition.

My freshman year of high school, I was in the Cadet Band.

The two other extracurricular bands in the high school – Jazz Band and Marching Band – also had to be auditioned for.  I had no interest in being in the Jazz Band.  It was a smaller, select group of skilled musicians that improvisation came to them as easy as meter and rhyme to the poet.  It was difficult enough to play the music before me and blend well with the larger group.  But to give me a spotlight and a moment to let unrehearsed music flow from me?  Not my scene, man.

Marching Band I did try out for, and was accepted.  This started with a week at Band Camp just before school began, in Northern Michigan.  That was hell.  See, I’m the kind of guy that thinks roughing it is staying a hotel without WiFi.  And I prefer my privacy.  Bunks, dorms, woods, communal showers and bathrooms?  Oh holy hell.

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Then, every week during the football season, it would be practice after school to prepare for the show we’d put on for whichever high school’s team had a football game – Plymouth Salem or Plymouth Canton.  Then it became more challenging when the band went into the Marching Band competitions.  Plymouth entered the competition realm in either my sophomore or junior year, and they would take place on the weekends at different sites around the state.

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The Cadet Band was directed by Mr. Endres.  James R. Griffith, the legendary Plymouth High School band director, worked mostly with the other bands, most importantly the Symphony Band.  Mr. Endres’ was responsible for the high school’s orchestra.  Because I showed during the year that I was a better trumpet player than what was expected of a Cadet Band musician, I was asked by Mr. Endres to join the Symphony Orchestra.  The orchestra consisted of a string ensemble – violins, violas, cellos, and bass – and a few brass and woodwinds that Mr. Endres was able to recruit.  I did so, and it was good experience.  It even opened the door for me to perform in the pit orchestra for the school’s performance of “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

Tryouts came at the end of my freshman year, and I vaulted into the Concert Band.

The Plymouth Centennial Educational Park’s Band program was heavily supplied with trumpet players.  However, there was a scarcity of baritone players.  Two of us – Mark Zamarka and I – decided to take on the challenge to learn the baritone.  He was a freshman and was in the marching band as well.  At the end of the year, we auditioned and earned our spots as the baritone section in the Concert Band.  We remained trumpet players in the marching band, and after a full year of finally following Mr. Driftmeyer’s advice, I made it into the Symphony Band my senior year with the baritone.

I don’t know what it was about the baritone.  Maybe because I could hide behind its more massive brass piping and tubing.  I did find it easier to play.  There was also a relief from the competition from all the other trumpet players in the school.  And baritone solos?  The baritone was not one of the key instruments called upon by composers to feature.

scan0005If there was anything more terrifying for me than being embarrassed by Mr. Driftmeyer in middle school, it was to be humiliated by Mr. Griffith.  Perfection was expected.  Except for Marching Band, I had yet to have him as my band director.  It was Mr. Endres in Cadet Band my freshman year; Mr. Brownlee in Concert Band my sophomore year; Mr. Battishill in Concert Band my junior year; and I’d go out my senior year in Mr. Griffith’s Symphony Band.

Mark returned to the trumpet in Concert Band, so I was partnered with a sophomore girl named Darcy Johnson.  A dose of additional teen-age anxiety.  Me, the guy who discovered that girls in Plymouth weren’t allowed to date until they were sixteen-years-old or out of high school (at least that’s what they’d tell me the few times I muscled up the courage to ask), was to be paired up for a full year with the attractive underclassman.  But wait, there’s more.  It was my sister, Marie’s, freshman year in high school, and she auditioned and brought her alto saxophone into Symphony Band, too.  Making the Symphony Band in my senior year set me up for the trifecta of complete and catastrophic humiliation and embarrassment.

Our focus was the clinic.  The Symphony Band was invited to a three-day band clinic in San Jose, California on January 17-19, 1980.  There were ten pieces of music that we prepared and labored over leading up to the trip.  On January 17, 1980, we performed the concert at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium, for parents and to give us a dress-rehearsal and sending off before flying to the west coast.  We were scheduled to be the final performance at the clinic, which featured eight bands from around the country, on Saturday the 19th.  Then, as a group, we toured San Francisco Sunday and Monday, taking the red-eye out of San Francisco, returning home Tuesday morning.

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SIDE ONE
Apocalypse by Robert Jager
Parade from Pacific Celebration Suite by Roger Nixon
Concertino for Marimba and Band by Paul Creston

SIDE TWO
Dreams of a Psychopath by Mike Francis
Come, Sweet Death by Johann Sebastian Bach

SIDE THREE
Tribute to Rudy Wiedoeft arranged by Gunther Schuller
Zebulon by John Oneschak

SIDE FOUR
We Are Coming by John Philip Sousa
Children’s March (“Over the Hills and Far Away) by Percy Grainger
Wedding Dance from the Pictorial Suite, Hasseneh

An interesting and challenging variety of pieces.  The marimba solo on Side One featured Martin Jabara, a Plymouth graduate who was performing with the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra, the San Gabriel Symphony, and doing freelance work in Los Angeles.  Within Dreams of a Psychopath (Side Two) there were three improv solos which featured Mark Thrasher on alto sax, John Upton on trombone (who worked in the tune Do You Know the Way to San Jose? into his solo), and Ted Hennig on tenor sax.  The Rudy Wiedoeft tribute (Side Three) featured Mark Thrasher as soloist, and to this day, when I listen to that piece, I still shake my head and wonder, “That’s really a high school kid?”  Mr. Thrasher was quite gifted musically.  Not surprisingly, he’s in New York City, now, performing in musicals on Broadway with all variety of reed instruments.

Shockingly, Mr. Griffith selected two pieces that included a few measures for a baritone solo.  Zebulon and Children’s March.  Darcy and I split them.  I had the few bars in Zebulon, and she took the measures in Children’s March.

The performance went well.  Being able to hear this music again, thirty-five years later, was cool and telling.  We really had a damn good band.  And I enjoyed San Francisco – my first experience of a “big city.”

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Graduation came in the spring, the baritone returned to the high school, and the trumpet enclosed within its case, never to be played again by me.  My daughter tried to get into the band in sixth grade with it, but she had less desire to play the thing than me (though the band director certainly wanted the old Bach Stradivarius in his ensemble).  We didn’t push it, and she went on to writing for the high school paper and the swim team.

One double-album record has so many layers of memories embedded into it.  Some fond, others, not so-much.  Our kids didn’t pursue music, even though my wife was the band president of her high school in Romulus, and went on and played a year in Eastern Michigan University’s marching band.  And though my sister’s music career ended in high school like me, Marie continued the tradition with her family.  All four of her kids were or still are in the Fort Mitchell, Kentucky school band programs.

Marie and her husband Rob, attended a Kenny G concert in Cincinnati a few years back.  They also had backstage passes where they got to meet the musician.  I remember Rob telling me that he asked Kenny G about getting a kid to practice.  He told him that the music was either in the kid or not.  If it is, you’ll never need to tell them to practice.  They’ll do it because they want to, because they desire to make music.  If it isn’t, forcing a kid to practice would make him or her less inclined to do what they aren’t inspired to do in the first place.

The music was not in me.  Maybe there was a brief time, when I took up the baritone and felt its protective armor before me.  But fear and embarrassment kept me from being mediocre, not the desire to make music.  It would be folly for me to prognosticate how my teenage years, and subsequently life, would have been if I had nurtured my desire for writing or photography back then, instead.  Can’t go back there anyway, and doubt very much that I’d really want to.  I can listen to this record, remember San Francisco, my first airplane flight, Alcatraz, Whack-A-Mole, fresh crab, and “the baby gang” (Sorry, folks, that’s only for those who remember), and think, “Damn, I was part of a pretty good band back then, and look where I am today.”

Not to toot my own horn, of course, but it’s all good.

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Would you like to hear a little?  Below I recorded The Wedding Dance, the final piece we played.  Enjoy.

Book review: Charles Bukowski

DSC07680Over the last several months, I have noticed on my Facebook feed, friends have been posting memes featuring quotes from a writer named Charles Bukowski.  I found myself in alignment some of them, such as:

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Well, maybe not necessarily the drinking one.  🙂

Still, it intrigued me to look into this writer.  And as fate would have it, my ritual of visiting New Horizons Book Store in Roseville on Thursdays before bowling revealed to me the three novels reissued by HarperCollins imprint, Ecco; Ham on Rye, Post Office, and Women.

According to the books’ About the Author page, Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany to an American soldier father and German mother in 1920, and brought to the United States at the age of three.  The three novels feature Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, which fictionalizes periods of his life.

I thought I was being clever, reading them in the order that they were published – Post Office (1971), Women (1978), and Ham on Rye (1982).  However, to follow through his life chronologically, the way they are photographed above would be the proper order.

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Ham on Rye covers the youth of Henry Chinaski.  It could not be said that Chinaski had the ideal childhood, growing up as the country was moving out of the Depression.  It’s raw, it’s gritty, and it’s real.  Chinaski makes no bones about his condition.

Gathered around me were the weak instead of the strong, the ugly instead of the beautiful, the losers instead of the winners. It looked like it was my destiny to travel in their company through life. That didn’t bother me so much as the fact that I seemed irresistible to these dull idiot fellows. I was like a turd that drew flies instead of like a flower that butterflies and bees desired. (Pg. 155)

Graduating from high school, he found a job working for a department store, which was short-lived, then decided to go to college to get a degree in journalism.  Kicked out of his home by his father, after having read the short stories Henry had written and hidden in his room, he moved on, renting a room in the Bunker Hill section of LA.  The first night there, he pondered his future.

Maybe I could live by my wits.  The eight-hour day was impossible, yet almost everybody submitted to it.  And the war, everybody was talking about the war in Europe.  I wasn’t interested in world history, only my own.  What crap.  Your parents controlled your growing-up period, they pissed all over you.  Then when you got ready to go out on your own, the others wanted to stick you into a uniform so you could get your ass shot off.

The wine tasted great.  I had another.

The war.  Here I was a virgin.  Could you imagine getting your ass blown off for the sake of history before you even knew what a woman was?  Or owned an automobile?  What would I be protecting?  Somebody else.  Somebody else who didn’t give a shit about me.  Dying in a war never stopped wars from happening.  (Pg. 265)

I read this book after the other two, because of its pub date.  I wonder if I had read it first if I would have been interested in continuing with the other two.  Harry Chinaski is not likeable, but sympathetic.  Only glimpses of compassion seep through the anger and resentment that fuels Chinaski’s anti-social behavior.  Still, it was a compelling read.  I purchased all three of these books in early February, and finished them by the end of March.  I tend not to get through 770 pages in that quick a timespan.

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Spoiler alert:  This is the conclusion of Post Office.

“In the morning it was morning and I was still alive.  Maybe I’ll write a novel, I thought.  And then I did.”

Post Office is about a period of his (Henry Chinaski/Charles Bukowski) life when he worked for the post office, first as a letter carrier, then as a clerk. It’s about three different relationships as well, the first with a woman he referred to as his shackjob named Betty. He eventually resigns from the post office and Betty gets a job as a typist. She becomes jealous of him being home, with the whores around the neighborhood making themselves known to him. He had become friendly with two of them, and he ended up leaving her, and the other two women, behind. Next, he meets and marries the daughter of a wealthy family, Joyce, who was thirteen years younger than him. To keep up appearances, she made him get a job, so back to the post office it was, and she got a job with the police department as a clerk. She met a nice gentleman, who she fell in love with, and thus ended the marriage. Betty once again enters his life, which becomes the end of hers as she dies. Enter Fay, a war-protester/writer, who wanted to save the world. He gets Fay pregnant. Fay had the baby, then took the child to a hippie commune in New Mexico.

This was Bukowski’s first novel, published in 1971, and the first I read of the three, because it was the first written, and because my father is a retired letter carrier.  Detailing Chinaski’s employment with the post office (“It began as a mistake” – the opening line), we are privy to the thoughts of the man as he toils as a letter carrier, gambles at the race track, and ambles through relationships, all the while consuming alcohol as if it were the air he needed to breathe.  Chinaski wanted freedom, and the post office did not provide that.

After dinner or lunch or whatever it was — with my crazy 12-hour night I was no longer sure what was what — I said, “Look, baby, I’m sorry, but don’t you realize that this job is driving me crazy? Look, let’s give it up. Let’s just lay around and make love and take walks and talk a little. Let’s go to the zoo. Let’s look at animals. Let’s drive down and look at the ocean. It’s only 45 minutes. Let’s play games in the arcades. Let’s go to the races, the Art Museum, the boxing matches. Let’s have friends. Let’s laugh. This kind of life like everybody else’s kind of life: it’s killing us. (Page 74).

His relationship with women is anything but politically correct – this during the period of the early 1950’s to his departure from the post office in 1969.

God or somebody keeps creating women and tossing them out on the streets, and this one’s ass is too big and that one’s tits are too small, and this one is mad and that one is crazy and that one is a religionist and that one reads tea leaves and this one can’t control her farts, and that one has this big nose, and that one has boney legs … But now and then, a woman walks up, full blossom, a woman just bursting out of her dress … a sex creature, a curse, the end of it all. (Page 138)

But there are signs that Chinaski feels and aches, such as when Betty returned to his life after his divorce with Joyce.

It was sad, it was sad, it was sad. When Betty came back we didn’t sing or laugh, or even argue. We sat drinking in the dark, smoking cigarettes, and when we went to sleep, I didn’t put my feet on her body or she on mine like we used to. We slept without touching.

We had both been robbed. (Page 96).

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Women, published in 1978, picks up with his relationships with women after achieving writing success. There were several; Lydia who weaved in and out of the story, coming back to him, then leaving him because he shacked up with another; and so many others that it would take some time to go through. The final section occurs when he meets three women at once;

Sara was 32, a classy wench, good style and a heart…Debra was Jewish with large brown eyes and a generous mouth, heavily smeared with blood-red lipstick…I guessed she was somewhere between 30 and 35…Cassie was tall with long blond hair, very young, expensively dressed, modish, hip, “in,” nervous, beautiful. (Page 201).

He starts with Cassie, then days later, Debra, then Sara after that (and had sex with Debra’s assistant, Tessie, in Debra’s apartment in between). Sampling each, if you will. But Cassie ended first because he called her and a man answered the phone. And Sara was committed to Drayer Baba – a spiritual guru – and a healthy living style, which included marriage before sex. So he partnered with Debra until she had enough of his philandering, then continued seeing Sara. There definitely seemed to be something to his attraction to Sara, though he challenged it by having sex with another fan or two. In the end, there is a sense that he is willing to make a commitment to Sara as a nineteen-year-old fan wants to get with him, and he declines.

But it’s not only the relationships that made this novel interesting to me, but also his life as a writer and thoughts about writing.  For example, inspiration:

There was something to be learned about writing from watching boxing matches or going to the racetrack. The message wasn’t clear but it helped me. That was the important part: the message wasn’t clear. It was wordless, like a house burning, or an earthquake or a flood, or a woman getting out of a car, showing her legs. I didn’t know what other writers needed; I didn’t care, I couldn’t read them anyway. (Pg. 101)

And discipline:
I’ve got to get back to the typewriter, I thought. Art takes discipline. Any asshole can chase a skirt. (Pg. 107)
And writers in general:
There is a problem with writers. If what a writer wrote was published and sold many, many copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold a medium number of copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold very few copies, the writer thought he was great. If what the writer wrote never was published and he didn’t have the money to publish it himself, then he thought he was truly great. The truth, however, was that there was very little greatness. It was almost nonexistent, invisible. But you could be sure that the worst writers had the most confidence, the least self-doubt. Anyway, writers were to be avoided, and I tried to avoid them, but it was almost impossible. They hope for some sort of brotherhood, some kind of togetherness. None of it had anything to do with writing, none of it helped at the typewriter. (Pg. 140)
And the low self-confidence we writers tend to feel about our work:
“‘Buy me a drink,’ I asked her.
She nodded to the barkeep. He came over.
‘Vodka-7 for the gentleman.’
‘Thanks…’
‘Babette.’
‘Thanks, Babette. My name’s Henry Chinaski, alcoholic writer.’
‘Never heard of you.’
‘Likewise.’
‘I run a shop near the beach. Trinkets and crap, mostly crap.’
‘We’re even. I write a lot of crap.’” (Pg. 181)

There is one statement that touched me.  After reading it, it hit something at my core and the reason I write fiction.  Chinaski was asked “What is fiction?” His response?  “Fiction is an improvement on life.”  (Pg. 197)

A book can be read and enjoyed.  A really good book can make one want to read more books by and about the author.  Maybe because I’m a writer who still feels like he’s finding his voice and honing his craft (which probably 99% of all writers feel), I found these novels to be interesting because of the writing.  The language is coarse, and perhaps even offensive to some.  I almost feel guilty being drawn to it and reading it.  But the narrator feels real because he is being honest about himself with us.  It makes the characters real.  As he states in this interview, reading Ham on Rye, Post Office, and Women his writing is very much bim-bim-bim, bim-bim-bim.
In finding the interview, I also found this video which reads Bukowski’s poem, So You Want To Be a Writer?.
In the Paris Review #212, Hilary Mantel was interviewed and said,
Among writers themselves, the question is not who influences you, but which people give you courage. When I began, the female writer who gave me courage, among our contemporaries, was Beryl Bainbridge.  I don’t write like Beryl, and never have, but when I began to read her, her books were so off the wall, they were so screamingly funny in a black way, and so oblique, that I thought, If she can get away with this, so can I.  (Page 62)

This is why I will be reading more Bukowski. Back in November, while in Traverse City, I found a few of his books at Landmark Books, and decided upon Notes of a Dirty Old Man. It was blurbed to be a collection of his columns from the underground paper, OPEN CITY, and I have a bookmark about sixty pages in.  I recently found Hollywood at Book Beat.

Charles Bukowski died on March 9, 1964.  On his gravestone are the two words he lived by.  Don’t Try.
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(Comic) Book Review: The Question

DSC07682 In 1987, DC Comics revamped the old Charlton Comics character, The Question.  Veteran writer Dennis O’Neil undertook the project and created one of the most interesting comic book characters I ever read.

The Question was not bestowed with super powers.  He was Victor Sage – news anchor and journalist on Hub City’s KBEL Television station who pulled no punches.  Hub City was a cesspool of crime and vice, on the streets and in the professions that are supposed to be upstanding.  In order to get the lead on stories and contribute to rounding up Hub City’s vermin, Sage donned a flesh-toned plastic mask that affixed to his face by way of a gas concocted by his friend and philosophical sparring friend, Aristotle Rodor, Ph.D., or “Tot” for short.  The mask created the image of a faceless man.

DSC07684The Question was not driven by revenge, like Batman, or by some accidental or in-born ability motivating him out of a sense of responsibility to use his power for the benefit of mankind.  The Question was driven by his desire to discover and learn about life.

At the conclusion of the first issue, The Question was severely beaten by Lady Shiva, a martial artist beyond compare, along with some of the Mayor’s thugs.  Sage’s body was dumped in the river, the group assuming his demise.  Lady Shiva, however, retrieved him from the river and returned him to Tot’s home.  Sage’s body broken, she left behind a series of maps, which led Sage to Lady Shiva’s teacher, Richard Dragon.  The paraplegic Dragon trained Sage in the way of the warrior.  Upon the completion of his training, Sage is sent home with Dragon’s final observation.

“I think Shiva is wrong.  She says you have a passion for combat…that’s why she asked me to help you.  I disagree.  I think your passion is curiosity.”

DSC07685Sage continued on in Hub City, questioning and combating crime.  Often he would “go within” in meditation to calm or center himself on what he was about to embark on.

DSC07686At the conclusion of the Letters Page (appropriately titled The Answer), O’Neil would include “recommended reading.”  As noted in the first issue’s letter page, it wasn’t like school where the reading was required.  Rather, the reading was recommended because it was source material upon which The Question was inspired.  Below is a list of some of the reading recommended in the first twenty issues of the comic.

DSC07687Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.
Movements of Magic: The Spirit of Tai Chi Chuan by Bob Klein
Golf in the Kingdom by Michael Murphy
Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
Any of the Eighty-Seventh Precinct novels by Ed McBain
The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
The Wandering Taoist and Seven Bamboo Tablets of the Cloudy Satchel by Den Ming Dao
Tai Chi: The Supreme Ultimate by Lawrence Galante
The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra
Zen and the Art of Martial Arts by Joe Hyams
Through a Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Guide to Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Everyday Life by Rick Fields
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Zen Without Zen Masters by Camden Barnes
The Art of War by Sun Tzu

DSC07688One of my favorite stories was a three-part tale titled Fables.  The story began in Detective Comics Annual #1, continued in Green Arrow Annual #1, and concluded in The Question Annual #1.  It involved a sensei who was over 150 years old and ready to move onto the next world, but sought the aid of Batman, Green Arrow, and The Question (along with Lady Shiva) to take him to his resting place.  He uses fables to win the assistance of Batman and Green Arrow, but had no fable for The Question.  Sage had to learn his in the end.

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The series was cancelled after thirty-six issues.  The Question made a few cameo appearances and had  a brief run as a quarterly comic.  I was disappointed to learn that DC killed Victor Sage and replaced him with Renee Montoya of the Gotham City Police Department.  Nothing involving the character since can compare to the brilliant storytelling of Dennis O’Neil and the gritty artwork of Denys Cowan.

The six-volume trade paperback series includes the entire run (minus the Fables story), which I return to often.

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