Thursday, April 9, 2015

Masterpieces Of My Mother

In high school, my first break-up left me so viscerally dismembered, that I had to seek out the school counselor for hour-long counseling sessions twice a week. She would later on create a sensitive student group. I was part of it. Experiencing loss has transformed me in the most ridiculous ways I never thought possible. Over time, you create a mental safety net of truths that comprise laws of physics and parts of you. Example, I know that anxiety for me has increased with my level of success. When I come into a role or job that requires a larger world of me, the anxiety I may be feeling is a sign that I may be fearing the success I’ve just achieved, or could achieve. You find simple signals and alerts your body will send off, and quickly respond with “Oh, that’s just me getting in the way of me. Insert retro-action, here”.

Before that first break-up left me in an emotional puddle of pheromones and serotonin, I experienced a material loss unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Unlike the time I lost my toy alligator out of the car window, at the age of four, while my mother drove my sister and I away from New Orleans in the initial step of the divorce; Unlike the time I had torn so many holes in my blankey that my mother had to throw it out; And unlike the time my mother decided it was time for all the He-Man figures to be thrown in the trash… it was something different, and I don’t know why.

I had just fallen into a newfound fanaticism with Marvel Comics. My friend, Tony, had nabbed Spider-Man 2099 and Ravage 2099 for me in exchange for a few dollars for the first issues. The covers were thicker than the usual flimsy paper covers. It was a thick kind of cardboard with gleaming letters outlined with silver tones. “Spider-Man 2099- Peter Parker in the future! This is fng crazy! But 2099 is like over 100 years away tho!!! How could they conceive such a time???”, I thought to myself. It was the coolest thing I’d ever come across in the 5th grade.

A year later, 6th grade, my best friends and had the decision to either step into the 6th, 7th and 8th grade department of Windom Open School, or remain big fish in the 4th, 5th and 6th grade hall of the school. We collectively embarked on a journey to the senior side of the school and make due with the big kids (6th, 7th & 8th graders). The new rave was less comic books, but comic cards. I had spotted a few cards last year, but this year the big things was a series of cards titled “Marvel Masterpieces Series 1”.

The little pieces of paper were gorgeous- absolutely brilliant to my eye then as much as they are now. Joe Jusko painted each card in a daunting series of over 100 characters, including a special set of foil cards that gleamed similarly to the Ravage & Spider-Man 2099 comic covers.
Over months of collecting, I was 2 cards short of retrieving the entire set of Marvel Masterpieces Series 1. Archived in numerical order, I kept each card in a 3-ring binder full of Ultra Pro Platinum Storage Pages of plastic slips carrying 18 cards per page.

I was obsessed.

At first, it was the colors and beautiful art, but later it became more an intrigue with how Jusko captured each character- The Blob catching a cannonball with his stomach, but less that and more the expression on his face as if he enjoyed absorbing large mortar from weapons of mass destruction- Bullseye stretching a menacing grin while shooting a gun, casually pointed in the distance. A shadow in the background showing blood spraying from its head- Cyclops unleashing an optic blast from his eyes, where you question the pain streaking his face is due to the amount of power released from his head or his resentment for who or what his targeting in the still- Jusko captured moments that made you question the spectrum of good and evil. Who was born into this, and who had a choice. The answer, after observing every piece of the series, was simple- there are no heroes or villains, just human beings and organisms navigating what they can mean to the world.

I carried all the stories and pictures with me everywhere I went in the 6th grade… until one day… they were stolen.

My entire 3-ring binder was stolen from my desk and disappeared into obscurity. I’d never find it again.

The amount of anxiety, sadness and what small 6th grade depression I fell into, was the deepest I had felt throughout my decade on earth. My mind tried to recall the details of each picture- Blade, Blaze, Nova, Quasar… - I began to forget the colors and miss them. I cried for nights on end.

My mother… observing all of this, didn’t have the money at the time to try and recollect an entire set of a child’s comic cards. Collecting a set is difficult as it is, who knows what the hell you’ll get in a pack of cards, doubles, triples, etc. Finding the one card to fulfill a series is expensive and tough to find enough packs after the series had stopped selling. Shinder’s ramped up its prices of the series after they stopped being supplied with Masterpieces Series 1. So, my mother took me to Shinders to buy the next best thing.

We surveyed the box sets of comic cards that lay on the folding table at the entrance. Mounds of Baseball, football, basketball, Dark Horse Comic Book characters and everything that wasn’t Marvel Masterpieces piled high on the table. “Pick one” she said.

I damn near cried at the sight of my choices. I almost opted for nothing. Looking at it now, what a first-world-troubled child I was. I mean, seriously- fucking comic cards!?!?... But, to be easy on the kid I was then, it was less the possession of the cards, but being able to read the stories on the back of them. The feeling that I could conjure such knowledge at the opening of a page- I loved it.

Alas, in the mountain of box sets, I pointed out a dark box… a box that read “Ghost Rider”. It was a box of Ghost Rider cards that fully surrounded the origin of Johnny Blaze, his commitment to sell his soul to Satan and then return as the Ghost Rider engulfed in hellfire. The story, like the phoenix, was relative to the redemption I was seeking from the absence of my Masterpiece Series 1.

My mother bought me the box, and replaced what I thought was irreplaceable.

5 years later, she’d purchase my first weeks of acting school at the Brazil Acting School with Mary Allette-Davis and Bob Davis, who rooted the foundation for my passion for performance art.

12 years later, I would move in with her for the next 3 years as a grown man, where I was able to take care of her through several major surgeries, and take my time to churn out the most writing, touring, and music I’d ever produce in my lifetime. Those years would later serve as 90+ songs, 5 mixtapes and multiple scripts I wouldn’t have been able to write under the worry of making rent. Looking back, a tad more  stable, her in better health and eyeing box sets of comic cards on, I just don’t know how I could’ve made it without her. I’ve experienced some of, what I felt relatively at each time, were my greatest losses in life with my mother beside me. I love her and thank her for being there. Happy birthday, mom.