He Actually Did It! And I’m Advocating it Here!!!

spermiesThink of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” as you watch Brian’s sperm go marching on towards their future surrogate ovum! (How was that  for inspiration? Woohoo!)

Isn’t it really freakin’ cool when you get to advertise something on your blog that is so unusual that you can scarcely believe it’s actually real? Or when you have friends who are unique enough in their life goals that they actually provide the opportunity for you to enliven your blog with such an advocacy? Well, this is one of those blogs, and my longtime bud Brian Rebmann (that’s two n’s, people!) is one of those friends!

Now granted, it’s not unusual in any way to hire a surrogate mom to provide the ovum and gestating womb for your child. But… how often does a single man  start a private funding campaign to raise the cash to afford a surrogate mom? Yes, you read that right! I’m telling you, say what you want about my friend Brian (chances are you won’t be the first!), but to use a popular expression, he has more balls (apropos pun fully intended!) than most of the rest of us guys will ever  display (the majority of us have only two, I presume! Yes, that’s all!), either in private or during a “lower selfie” sexted  to our significant other over our cell phone. He deserves credit for that. Whether or not he actually deserves donations  on top of that kahuna credit, however, will ultimately be up to everyone who sees his GoFundMe campaign to decide.

I ask everyone who can spare a bit of cash to donate, just as I have. Hey, I wouldn’t ask for any such thing on his behalf if I wasn’t willing to take the plunge (so to speak) myself! If you need further convincing, and chances are you do, then please take the miniscule amount of time required to watch this less-than-2-minute clip from a classic episode of The Brady Bunch. This is the ep where Peter Brady’s brothers convince him to dress up as one of the Sunflower Girls (think Westdale’s answer to the Girl Scouts) and go door to door selling their personal brand cookies. Recall the incredulity expressed by the man who answered the door when Peter puts his neck out to get this guy as a customer, as this feeling is quite possibly now being expressed by you as my bud Brian asks for a similar allotment of loot. Remember what happened at the end of that scene? Is it really a spoiler if I mention it due to the fact that you likely didn’t bother to click on the above hot link and watch the clip? (I mean, despite how many decades ago that show was on the air, it’s never  been out of syndication since, so you are equally likely not to have needed the refresher in the first place!)

Okay, here’s the spoiler: The incredulous dude, once it became clear to him that Peter wasn’t putting him on, bought a box of cookies from him despite his admission that he hated cookies* out of admiration for Peter’s nerve! Let’s face it, doing what Peter did during the early 1970s, when homophobia was actually popular and considered a legitimate American pastime, took about as much balls as what my friend Brian is doing now. He’s putting himself out there to achieve a dream, and asking for the largesse of the public to help with that (and hell, all Peter was trying to do was show up his sister Marsha because he and his brothers had a sexist dislike of her determination to prove what girls are capable of by joining Greg’s cub scout group). Celebrities may have turned down Brian’s request for a donation, but because he’s now put his name and face out in the public (and yes, I did try to discourage him from using a pic where he looks like he’s sitting on the porcelain throne and attempting to force out a load, but he ignored my concern, so don’t blame me for that!), I think we should give him all due consideration to his fund for this. Which is why I am proud to be the first donor 😉

[* Dude hated all  cookies? It’s not like there aren’t a gazillion different varieties out there! Ah well, I understand he had to make that statement in order for the laugh behind scene to have its full effect… I wonder if that was one of the unrealistic things in the scripts that Robert Reed raised hell with Sherwood Schwartz about behind the scenes.]

So go check out his fund (here’s the link again in case you’re too lazy to scroll back up!), consider all of the above, remind yourself if need be that what you’re reading is a totally legit fund, note that you heard about it here first (plug, plug, and another shameless plug!), and strongly consider donating! My homie Brian may very well be the official Sunflower Girl equivalent of his generation! And since homophobia is thankfully no longer in vogue, I can use such a comparative pop cultural analogy without besmirching his solid manly image in any way! W00t W00t!

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Tribute – Budd Lewis

Budd_Lewis_photo

It’s with heavy heart that I compose this blog, and it’s the most important on a personal level I have yet to write since the one offering a tribute to my grandfather.

 

Budd Lewis, a great writer and very gracious human being, passed away in his sleep the previous evening. His writing was a huge inspiration to me, and it had a great positive impact on the direction of my own work as a published author.

 

He is best known among his fans and writers of the horror/sci-fi/fantasy/adventure genres for his memorable work for Warren Comics during the 1970s and into the early ’80s, before the company went belly up after a long and fantastic run. Budd created and scribed the entire “Hunter II” series for Warren’s famed horror anthology mag Eerie. The feature character of this serial, Karas Hunter, provided a rookie hero struggling to fill the shoes of a legendary figure in his dystopian world, the great Demian Hunter, whose name and symbol he took in the midst of a bleak post-apocalyptic Earth, fighting to save a world that nearly tore itself apart. This served as a predecessor to subsequent storylines exploring the same theme in comics, including the tenure of Wally West attempting to fill the shoes of the his uncle, Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash; and Bucky Barnes endeavoring to do his mentor Steve Rogers, a.k.a., Captain America, proud by taking over the mantle of the star-spangled sentinel of liberty.  But Budd did this first, and provided readers with a much more relatable hero than Demian Hunter was.

Eerie_68_coverCover to Warren’s Eerie #68, featuring Hunter II, Budd Lewis’ masterful creation.

 Budd also wrote many fine stories featuring one of Warren’s most popular characters, the time-traveling hero Restin Dane, a.k.a., the Rook (not to be confused with the much newer pulp adventure hero making the rounds under that handle, and published by Pro Se Productions). He also wrote stories for many other Warren features and stand alone stories, the former including Hunter (the original) and Pantha.

TheRook_element34The Rook (the original!), Warren’s most popular hero next to Vampirella, one whom Budd chronicled many adventures of. Budd had much to do with the level of popularity he reached, and he was one of only three Warren characters to receive their own ongoing title.

 His work continued after the end of Warren Comics, albeit in a different medium. He is credited on the Internet Movie Database for his work on The Smurfs (1981); Spiral Zone (1987); Captain N: The Game Master (1989); and The Class of 1999 (1990).

 

This heavy heart of mine extends to Budd on a more personal level, as well. I had made his acquaintance via Facebook a year ago through my friend and fellow author, Chuck Loridans, the creator of the truly awesome website MONSTAAH, which I am proud to be the current curator of with Chuck’s permission and blessings. Chuck is a long-time friend of Budd’s son, and as a result, he had the honor of meeting and knowing the man in person. Budd’s posts were both scathingly poignant and funny, and he showed a great empathy for his fellow human being based on his complimentary statements to me for my blogs and Facebook posts regarding my progressive politics. Just a few short weeks ago, I invited him to join the MONSTAAH Facebook group, and he kindly accepted. Also just a few short weeks ago, he left me some very complimentary words for my review of Legendary’s Godzilla movie on this blog, and I will never forget that, as receiving such praise from him–a writer whose work I’ve admired and been so inspired by for such a long time–meant more to me than I can possibly put into words.

 

I’ve written much about Budd’s work for Warren on my website The Warrenverse, particularly the index I composed for his series “Hunter II.” His oeuvre of work, and all he contributed to both the comic book medium and elsewhere, will not be forgotten. He will be missed. Wherever you are now, Budd, thank you for everything you did, including (and perhaps especially) your kind words; as a fledgling published author, I couldn’t possibly have asked for anything more.

Thomas J. Nigro – Gone but Never Forgotten

Okay, granted I missed putting this Father’s Day tribute up on Father’s Day (I didn’t expect to end up sleeping all day yesterday after being awake working for 12 hours straight, including all night long on Saturday), but I figured a day late is better than  not at all. And I certainly think I owed this to my grandfather.

 

Even though this is for Father’s Day, we should have Grandparents’ Days too, considering the major influence they play in  some of our lives, admittedly some of us more than others. I’m among those whose maternal grandparents always played a very significant part of my life, for they essentially raised me due to the fact that my mother had me at the ripe young age of 16. My mother has always been a part of my life too (not my biological father, however), but my grandparents were always much more like parents to me, even when we weren’t getting along (which was certainly often enough).

 

My grandfather, Thomas J. Nigro, passed away two years ago after a long and memorable life at 89, and I gave him a suitable eulogy on my original blog right afterwards, which can be read here; as well as a birthday tribute for what would have been his 90th birthday had he lived a year longer the following year, which can be read here.

 

As I noted previously, when discussing parents or influential grandparents, individuals who have written books or articles about them have most often, it seems, either mercilessly lambasted them for their negative points, or uncritically canonized them for how wonderful they supposedly were.  Since individual human nature is most often more nuanced than that, I’ve always hoped to be both fair and honest (including about myself in both cases), and respectful and candid when discussing any topic, including deeply personal matters like this one.

 

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that my grandfather and I had a very rocky relationship for the longest time. Why? Simply and honestly put, we were both difficult people, very stubborn and unshakable in our ideologies, which just happened to be diametrically opposed in most ways. Moreover, our only major traits in common were that stubbornness, as well as the infamous Italian temper.  We needed space to be able to get along, and in a house with only two bedrooms at the time, which we also shared with my uncle, Tom Jr., we obviously didn’t have that space.  I greatly needed my own room during my middle school, high school, and early college years, but there wasn’t sufficient space at the time, so I had to share a room and bunk with the Unc. We had the capacity to expand the house and add a room, but when I asked him to do this back in the day, he said “no” for reasons of his own.

 

To make a long story slightly shorter, we had very different ideas regarding when and how respect was merited (he adamantly believed the younger automatically owe it to the older, as do most the rest of my family; I adamantly believe it’s a precious commodity that must be earned, never demanded, no matter who you are); he was socially conservative in much of his thinking, whereas I would grow increasingly progressive as I grew older; he avoided controversy whenever he could, whereas I immersed myself in it by never hiding any view or taste I ever had, no matter how maverick or iconoclastic. To top it off, our interests differed greatly (I loved the genres of sci-fi and speculative fiction in general; he earnestly believed that was all nonsense), and our talents greatly differed: He was impressively skilled at “handy” work like carpentry, plumbing, fixing anything that broke, gardening, cementing, etc.; my skills were always with the written and spoken word.

 

In short, he didn’t understand the “kid” in his midst, and didn’t believe it was his responsibility to try. Me, I grew up bitter and angry over the incessant bullying at school and lack of understanding at home, and I took it out on the world all too often, acting out in negative ways, and misguidedly believing I had a right to hate the world. As you can see, this was a bad recipe for our forging a good and close relationship. During my high school years, I once spent an entire year (no exaggeration) refusing to talk to my grandfather after he attempted to clobber me with a baseball bat (thank you to my grandmother and uncle for deterring the onslaught by providing a human barrier between the target and the would-be clobberer). My grandfather never had height on him, but he was a very physically strong man whose bad side you would deeply regret getting on. His will and immunity to fear of anything – sometimes to a fault – were equally strong (if a Green Lantern Corps. actually existed in our universe, the Guardians of the Universe would have picked him for a ring before Hal Jordan, let me tell you!). He was a force to be reckoned with, but I was the proverbial immovable object to his irresistible force, and each of us made the other miserable on more than a few occasions, to put things mildly.

 

However, it must be said to do him justice, my grandfather was not a one-dimensional “bad guy” out of a terribly written cartoon, but he had a lot of merit as a person. He was the best provider one could ever ask for, and I was never in danger of going hungry, or without sufficient clothing, or bereft of a comfortable roof over my head with him around. Even when he didn’t like some of his family members (and I was high on that list), he never hesitated to be on hand to drive us someplace we needed to go, including driving me on a frequent basis to school in the worst inclement weather imaginable. No hardship on behalf of his family was too much for him to endure. His heart of gold was often buried deeply beneath his gruff exterior, but it was there nonetheless. I was also always deeply impressed with his skills at the myriad forms of handy work I mentioned above, and in my earliest years, I wanted to be a carpenter just like him (when I didn’t want to be a fireman, that is), even though it would turn out that a different path was ordained for me by the Powers That Be (give the “Powers” any label you’re comfortable with).

 

Now, as for whether or not being a very good material provider for family, including when one is not legally obligated to do so, is all that is required to be a good parent (or parent surrogate), and their behavior and mannerisms towards individual family members shouldn’t be factored into the level of respect they receive, is a sometimes contentious point that I’ve long disagreed with my family about. Accordingly, I will leave it to each reader to decide where they stand on this matter personally, as this particular post is not the place for me to go into my reasons for believing as I do in-depth.

 

When all is said and done, however, despite all the fighting my grandfather and I did through the years, I certainly owe him much, and I miss him greatly. We mellowed out immensely toward each other during the last decade of his life, and it thankfully reached the point where I often called him and considered him my buddy, just like we were in my earliest years. I’m glad he lived to see me become a published author, and he commended me on the accomplishment, even if it was never his “thing.” I’m also very thankful that my last words to him when he was still a part of this world were positive, with me telling him, “You know what? As a grandfather, you’re all right.”

 

Seeing this once very strong man of both body and will deteriorate in physical health during the last several years of his life was very difficult for me and the rest of the family to bear witness to, and very difficult for him too, since he was always very active and a hard worker even after his retirement. His increasing inability to do all the hard work he enjoyed around the house took a heavy toll on him emotionally, and he suffered from severe depression during his last two years of life. I did my best to understand, and I always let him know I was there for him, and made it clear our years of being at each others’ throats were long over. But I couldn’t restore to him what age and what began in his late 70s as a blood-related ailment had taken from him, and I’m sure all can relate to that feeling of abject helplessness when a loved one is going through something like that while there is nothing that we – or anyone else in the world – can do to reverse it.

 

As much as he always loved and valued life, he welcomed it when his time to leave this world naturally came, as he no longer enjoyed his life once the quality of it had diminished so much.  I fully understood this as much as it saddened me to accept it.  I think about him often, with all the regrets and the “if-only-I-tried-harder-to-get-along-with-him” lamentations as you may expect.  In all honesty, there are moments I want to be angry when I think of some of the bad times, and some of the worst things he said to me when we fought, as they hurt like no one’s business, regardless of whether one would argue I deserved them or not (and doubtlessly, sometimes at least, I did); and his preference for “tough love” as a way of dealing with me has left me with some resentment issues that I’m not proud of, and detest still having as part of my emotional make-up.

 

But more often than the reverse, I think of the good times we had, and there were many of those. He was the life of the party at family get-togethers, and he was quite funny, charming, and entertaining to be around during the frequent times when the mood struck him.  His penchant for telling insightful and amusing stories from all points in his life led to many truly unforgettable times that everyone in the family will always cherish, including me.  The family loved him, and they had good reason to. In a way, I’m thankful they didn’t see his darker tendencies, even though it meant I would invariably be perceived as the stereotypical ungrateful little punk who didn’t appreciate all that he did for me whenever one of our disagreements became known outside the immediate household.

 

I fully admit that I was often very difficult for him to deal with, and I sincerely regret it. Whether or not he was provoking me, as he often did, is beside the point to me now. I wish we had gotten along better, but I’m very thankful for the long time my family had him around, and I really value the times we did get along. Thomas J. Nigro was a rare gem, the likes of which the world is not likely to see again, and I’m proud to carry on his legacy, even if it’s to be in a way he never expected (or maybe even bargained for!). As I said at his memorial service, I’m glad he was my grandfather, and I apologize to him for many, many things. I’ll always see to it that his memory lives on.