Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lost Horizon

An American teacher helps express my feelings.

For those few hearty souls who may have been following my blogs, it’s obviously been some time since I’ve posted anything. There are several reasons for this, but the most prominent among them is the imminent collapse of western society.

At such a time it seems both egotistical and pointless to enumerate the tiny failures and successes of my writing and drawing aspirations. There is a lot happening out there, mostly bad but some hopeful, that demands more consideration than my daft scribbling does right now.

I confess I’ve never been particularly political. Sure, I vote, and I try to see the big picture, but I’ve never been an activist or an advocate. I’ve just been living my own little life, naïvely believing that our politicians and businessmen ultimately had our best interests at heart.

Well, they didn’t.

The entire political process, worldwide, has been revealed as deeply corrupt and unrepentantly oppressive. Surfing the wave of globalization, the rich bought out democracy and have steadily eroded the dream of western capitalism in the name of base avarice. Now the chickens have come home to roost and we are all paying a premium price for our benign neglect.

I was definitely part of the problem.

I was a chump.

When I was a young man, I was a real optimist. I actually believed the human race was on its way to something magnificent. I thought we were going emerge from our troubled adolescence, triumph over war, poverty, racism and greed and mature gloriously into a utopian adulthood where all human beings were able to become their best selves. I even had the temerity to believe I was living at the dawn of this golden age, and that much of this would come to fruition during my own lifetime.


No shit.

I really did.

Perhaps this delusion was partly due to the social activism of the 60’s and 70’s, which I witnessed during my childhood. It was a time when so much ground was gained for African-Americans, women and homosexuals that it truly seemed like we were on the right track. What can I say? I got infected with the Hippie Virus, and never fully recovered.

Perhaps too, my interest in genre fiction helped foster my idyllic misapprehension. To my fresh, young eyes the great promise of science and technology seemed fully up to the task of dealing with the problems of pollution, sustainable energy and famine. The utopian and dystopian visions of the future I discovered in science fiction and fantasy novels seemed so powerful and so self evident that I felt the world couldn’t possibly ignore the danger.

I mean, surely we wanted a better world, didn’t we? Surely we wanted to live in a world of equality, tolerance and peace, right?

Apparently not.

Instead of being embraced as cautionary tales, the enduring works of Orwell and Huxley have been cynically employed as handbooks for oppression.

As I grew out of adolescence into adulthood, I became distracted. The pressures of making a living, exploring my own creative drives, and finding my place in the world, took up so much of my time and energy that I took my eye off the ball. Confident in my belief that those in power wanted the best for us, I embraced my own egotistical concerns, got my head up my own ass, and took my eye off the goddamn ball.

The optimism and social activism of the 60’s and 70’s gave way to the conspicuous consumption and empty materialism of the disco era, and I paid no attention. Financial colonialism and the glamorization of the stock market sprang up in the 80’s and I let it slide.

I was too distracted by VCR’s and home computers to pay much attention.

By the middle of the 90’s I was beginning to realize things were not going to turn out the way I’d expected. The humanist utopia I had so boldly anticipated was, clearly, not materializing. But, by then it was too late. The horse was already out of the barn. I was getting married, buying a house, and switching careers. I felt I just didn’t have the time and energy to get out there and work for a better world.

That’s what they counted on.

They want us poor, uneducated, stressed out and scared. That distracts us from noticing all the vile shit they’re up to.

I let them get away with it.

I am ashamed of myself.

So now, at age 50+, I find myself searching for ways to get back in the game. I should be thinking about retirement, but now that’s off the table. Instead I have to get out there, get involved, and see if there’s anything people can do to save civilization. It’s probably too late, and the whole thing is likely to come crashing down before we finally grow the fuck up and fix things. And man, that would be no less than we deserve.

But I guess I’m still fundamentally a hopeful person because I still want to try. So, I’m going to work at getting more involved out there, and try to find like-minded people and make my voice heard. It may just be sad, Quixotic tilting at windmills, but it’s all I have left. I still believe in people, and I still believe in the fundamental ability of humans to overcome their baser instincts.

If you believe this, I hope you will become more active too.

I never meant for these blogs to be political, and I don’t intend to change that now. The next entries will be back on point, discussing my writing and drawing.

Because, that’s me. That’s my thing.

But I’m not the same guy. This guy is no wide-eyed optimist. This guy is no chump. This guy is gonna call you on your evil shit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Hornet's Sting

Some time ago I created a spec Green Hornet story for a small comics publisher. The company had been creating comics and pulp prose books for the character for some time at that point. Unfortunately, just before the release of the recent film version of The Green Hornet, the company lost the property to another publisher and my story was left out in the cold. Since the piece is very character specific, there’s little chance of ever placing it elsewhere. Therefore, I’ve decided to present it here as fan fiction.

A Green Hornet Adventure
By Sam Agro
August 16, 2009

Aiko Shimizu winced as the sweaty man once again struck Kaori Fuchida hard across the face. All the other girls winced with her. Poor Kaori’s cheeks and forehead were swollen from the terrible blows she had endured. A single scarlet tear of blood wept from a small cut over Kaori’s left eye. She sobbed quietly. The sweaty man paused the beating for a moment, and took a handkerchief out of his pocket to mop down his glistening forehead. It was then that Kazumi Kitano finally spoke.
“This woman has done nothing wrong.”
Kitano spoke calmly, with no ascertainable emotion. His voice was almost soothing. Kitano stood impassively near the door of the room, hands clasped behind his back. He wore a business suit, and his graying hair and beard were neatly trimmed in the American style, but to Aiko it seemed that he was wearing the bright robes and long whiskers of an aging Japanese emperor. His bearing was regal, his attitude one of absolute command.
“She has done nothing to deserve this beating,” Kitano continued, “Save that she is the least attractive among you, and I wish her to be beaten.”
Moments ago the sweaty man and a second, smaller man had come for them. They’d removed Aiko and the five other girls from their locked cubicle, ushered them into this barren, cinderblock room and lined them up against the wall. The wall was icy and damp against Aiko’s skin, and she had shivered uncontrollably. At a single nod from Kazumi Kitano, the two men had dragged Kaori from the line. The small man held her arms and the large, sweaty man had begun the beating.
 “Imagine what I would do to you if you should somehow displease me,” Kitano concluded.
He then turned and exited the room with serene composure. The sweaty man gently took hold of Kaori’s damaged face. He smiled a hungry, animal smile, as his eyes wandered down the length of her supple young body. With snapped orders, the short man ushered Aiko and the remaining girls out of the room. As the door closed behind them, they could hear Kaori mewling pitifully in panic and disgust.           
Although her back was no longer against the damp cinderblock wall, Aiko felt she would never stop shivering.

District attorney Frank Scanlon’s dour features were more grim than usual. Britt Reid observed this from a worn leather chair as Scanlon stood, looking out the window of his office at the bustling streets of Detroit. To Britt’s left stood Kato. He too had been offered a chair, but as always, he remained standing. Outwardly, Kato appeared completely relaxed, but he was always ready to leap instantly into fierce action.
“Two of my best undercover men have disappeared,” Scanlon finally said, “I think it’s safe to assume they’re dead.” He turned away from the window then and looked soberly back at Britt.
“They were infiltrating the Kitano gang?” Britt asked.
“Yes,” Scanlon replied, “the gang is new to the city, but they seem to know a cop when they see one.”
Kato spoke then. “They are Yakuza, a very old, very evil organization. It would be nearly impossible for someone who does not know their traditions to pass as one of them.”
Scanlon nodded, and finally took a seat behind his desk, “The Kitano gang are involved in a number of criminal enterprises, but we suspect they are also importing young Asian women to sell into sexual slavery. I won’t have that in my city.”
Britt Reid stood, his tall, muscular figure a rigid wall, his handsome face a mask of quiet resolve. “The Green Hornet will pay a little visit to this Kitano. If he’s doing what you say he is, we’ll put a stop to it.”

Kazumi Kitano stepped lightly from his steaming bath. The two women attending him dried his body with large, soft towels. Involuntarily, they stared at Kitano’s vast, elaborate Irezumi tattoo. His body was almost completely covered with a terrible looking dragon. They were relieved to dress him and cover the intimidating image.
Kitano emerged from his chambers and passed between his bodyguards. They fell in step behind him as he walked. Taku, the sweaty one, was not too intelligent, but he was large, powerful and dangerous. Haru, though smaller, was infinitely more deadly, trained in the arts of fist and sword. Kitano had nicknamed them Rhinoceros and Crocodile.
Kitano entered the offices of the large warehouse he had renovated to his purposes. There were also private chambers for he and his bodyguards, large storage areas for the drugs and stolen goods he housed there, and, of course, locked cubicles for his feminine chattel. He had made the office comfortable. Indian rugs covered the cement floor, Japanese paintings adorned the walls, and two antique Katana and a short dagger sat on display in a wooden rack behind his desk.
It was nine o’clock in the evening, the beginning of Kitano’s many nocturnal hours of work. He took reports from his operatives, issued directives, and collected large stacks of money. Near midnight, a commotion rose outside his door. This happened occasionally, but Kitano was unconcerned. Few rivals ever got past his outer guards, and if they did, he knew that Rhinoceros and Crocodile would gladly lay down their lives to protect him.
            Kitano was genuinely alarmed when the two masked men entered his office but his face betrayed no hint of his surprise.
            “Welcome gentlemen, would you care for some tea?”
The taller of the two masked men answered. “Perhaps when our business is concluded Mr. Kitano.”
“I am at a loss gentlemen,” Kitano replied. “Since we have never met, I cannot imagine what business we might have together.”
Again the taller man answered. “Anyone with a criminal enterprise in Detroit must eventually deal with the Green Hornet.”
            Kitano had heard of the Green Hornet, of course, but had come to believe he was a mere legend. A boogeyman conjured to strike fear in the criminal class. Kitano’s sharp eyes flicked past the Green Hornet to his diminutive companion. He knew instantly by his intense bearing that this man was lethal. It seemed the Hornet had a Crocodile of his own.
“I understand you have women for sale. If so, consider me your new partner.” The Hornet said.
“A partner must bring something to the table Mr. Hornet. I can supply the wares, but what do you offer?”
“I offer you several very wealthy men who appreciate such merchandise, and my protection from the police and other gangs.”
“Protection? I can assure you sir, I am very well protected.”
The Hornet leaned on the desk and pushed his face down close to Kitano’s.
“Are you?”
Rhinoceros and Crocodile made ready to move, but Kitano stopped them with a raised finger.
“I had no trouble entering here, did I?” The Hornet finished.
“Indeed,” Kitano answered slyly. “It might be judicious to ally myself with such resourceful men. What are your terms?”
The Hornet leaned slowly back from the desk. “Thirty percent of all transactions involving the women,” he said, and five percent of all your other interests for protection.”
Kitano considered for a moment. His face betrayed no hint of emotion.
“It is a bargain, Mr. Green Hornet,” Kitano replied.
“If your commodities are acceptable,” the Hornet interjected. “Let me see the women.”

Aiko Shimizu paced the floor of the cubicle. The other girls were huddled together on the cots, whimpering quietly. Kaori had never returned, and they feared the worst.
Aiko felt frightened and trapped, but also furious.
Footsteps sounded in the hall and a key turned in the lock. Aiko stopped pacing and faced the door expectantly. The sweaty man opened the door and ordered them to follow. The other girls complied quickly, but Aiko’s anger welled up inside her, and she did not move. He grabbed her arm and dragged her, struggling, out of the room.
“Disobey if you wish, I will enjoy beating you. And what comes after I will enjoy even more,” The sweaty man growled, shamelessly ogling her body.
Aiko felt her humiliation and anger rise into her face in a searing flush as the sweaty man dragged her down the hallway.
Inside Kitano’s offices, Kato watched intently as the five women entered the room. The Green Hornet walked down the line, making a show of appraising the beauty of each girl. Kato followed behind him, making a similar display. However, at the fourth girl Kato paused for a moment, shocked at what he saw. He knew this woman. It was Aiko Shimizu.
When they were children, he had trained at her father’s Dojo for a time, and had often seen her running, laughing and playing on the grounds, flitting about here and there. He had nicknamed her Shouchouko, soaring butterfly girl.
He realized he had been staring at her. Suddenly, Aiko’s face contorted in anger.
“What are you looking at pig!” she shouted, “You wear the mask of a coward and a criminal, but I can see you are Asian behind your disguise!”
Kato regarded her intently. He was bursting with pride at her defiance, and he longed to tell her that he was her ally, but he knew he could not.
“How can you enslave and exploit your own people?” she cried, “You are lower than a beast!”
She spat directly into Kato’s face.
Kato rapidly wiped away the spittle. He reacted as he knew he must, drawing back his hand to strike her. Any other response would arouse suspicion. He was exceedingly relieved when the Hornet’s firm hand caught his wrist in mid-slap.
“Let’s not damage the merchandise Old Friend,” he said quietly.
Kitano spoke then, “I must apologize for this affront. She will be punished, of course.”
The Hornet could not dissuade Kitano from punishing the girl without belying his heartless criminal façade. He said the only thing he could think of that might soften the severity of the reprimand.
“Leave no marks. She is an exceptional beauty, and I know just the client for her.”

Later, inside Black Beauty, the Green Hornet gravely regarded the back of Kato’s head and shoulders. Kato confidently maneuvered the powerful automobile away from Kitano’s warehouse through the back streets of the city toward their secret garage. Only he, who knew Kato so completely, could have sensed the subtle tension in his body.
“You know that girl,” the Hornet said quietly. “Who is she?”
“Aiko Shimizu,” Kato replied. “I trained with her father. He was a very good man. She was only 11 years old when I knew her.”
“We will rescue all these unfortunate women Kato, but perhaps we can get Aiko out first,” the Hornet replied.
“Thank you for staying my hand.”
Kato said no more, and the Hornet respected his silence.

            District Attorney Scanlon was again looking out the window of his offices. Kato too was at his usual post nearby. Scanlon listened intently, his eyes looking down upon the city he loved as Brit Reid spoke from the other side of the desk.
“It’s all true Frank. Kitano is selling young women, right here in Detroit.”
            Scanlon continued to stare out the window.
            “I’ll go to Kitano as a prospective buyer,” Britt continued, “I’ll purchase Aiko outright so we can get her out of there. I’ll wear a wire so we can record the transaction and snare Kitano.”
Scanlon turned back from the window and looked at Britt. “No… I’ll go in,” he said flatly.
Britt reacted with some alarm. “That’s not a good idea Frank. Your face is too well known. Leave this to Kato and I.”
“I’ll wear a disguise. I want to help get this guy”
“What if there’s trouble?”
Frank Scanlon chuckled ruefully, “Then I’m depending on you two to swoop in like the Cavalry and save my bacon!”

Scanlon looked quite convincing in his camouflage. He sat on a bar stool in Britt Reid’s opulent home as Kato’s talented hands transformed him with stage makeup. He had slicked Scanlon’s hair straight back, applied a Van Dyke beard to his chin and added a mole to his left temple. Some carefully applied lines in the corners of Scanlon’s eyes and mouth added a decade to his age. Dressed in his most expensive suit, Scanlon looked every bit the rich, amoral society man with an unwholesome sense of entitlement.
“Well, how do I look?” Scanlon inquired, “Do I pass as an affluent rogue.”
“You’re believable all right,” offered Britt. “Exceptional work Hayashi.”
“Simple really,” added Kato in his usual modest fashion. “A few easy tricks.”
Scanlon completed the picture by putting on his special glasses. Another of Kato’s “easy tricks” this clever feat of engineering and miniaturization, the glasses held a concealed listening device. It would radio everything that was said in Kitano’s lair to a special recording apparatus in Black Beauty.
The three men retired to the Green Hornet’s secret alley garage. Scanlon left first in Britt’s Chrysler 300 convertible, to which false license plates had been applied. The garage floor was then rotated to reveal Black Beauty. Kato piloted the powerful ebony automobile into the nighttime streets of the city, tailing Scanlon.
Inside Black Beauty, Scanlon’s voice crackled over the special radio transmitter in his glasses.
“Are you receiving me?”
“Loud and clear,” replied the Hornet, “Proceed to target.”
“Okay, just remember… you’re my Cavalry.”
The two automobiles sped rapidly through the night toward their dark objective.

Though they could not beat her, they found an extremely effective way to punish Aiko Shimizu.
They dragged her into the cinderblock room in which Kaori Fuchida had been beaten. Under the cold, impenetrable eye of Kazumi Kitano, Taku and Haru tore away her dress, brutally stripping her to her underclothes. They taunted her, shoved her about between them and reminded her of what happened to disobedient young girls in this room. Taku fondled her roughly, and told her of the violent pleasures he had taken with Kaori. Finally, Aiko began to sob uncontrollably. Taku pushed her to the cold cement floor.
“This will allow you some time to reflect on the consequences of your disobedience,” Kitano said coldly. “Another such outburst and your next punishment will be your last.”
Kitano turned out the lights and sealed her inside the frigid room.
Aiko was unsure how long she sobbed and shivered in the darkness, but it seemed like hours. She visualized the many worse indignities she might face when she was sold. She could not imagine how she would face the shame if her parents were still alive, wondering how she had disappeared and where she had gone.
When Taku and Haru finally returned to take her out of the room, she could hardly contain her joy, but that faded quickly. They dragged her into a large, opulent bath, where two of the other captive girls waited. They were all bathed by some older women, then perfumed and dressed in silk Japanese dresses. She felt like a horse being curried and harnessed for sale. It was more humiliating than the punishment, and indignation and rage again grew within her heart.
She began to feel that a defiant death would be preferable to a life of slavery.

Kazumi Kitano sat placidly behind his desk. The enormous, perspiring Taku, his Rhinoceros, stood behind him to the left. Haru, his lethal Crocodile paced back and forth across the opulent hand-woven Indian rug in front of his desk.
“I do not trust this green insect man Oyabun,” he fumed, “Please allow me the honor of killing him.”
“In good time, my faithful Crocodile. For now it pleases me to ally with this man. If he can bring us wealthy patrons where is the harm?”
“I do not like it. He will try to destroy us and take over.”
“Of course, I would expect no less of him. Like me, he seeks power. Can I condemn him for wanting the same things I myself covet?”
“But Oyabun, if he—“
Kitano raised a hand to instantly silence his underling.
“Calm yourself, my Wakagashira. Though Sun Tzu lacked the advantage of being Japanese, his insights into the art of war were most enlightening. He urges us to keep our enemies close to us. So I will do with the Green Hornet until I have no more use for him.”
At that moment an underling ushered in the man they were expecting. He was wearing an expensive suit and carrying a small valise. Kitano rose from his chair to greet him warmly.
“Mr. Barrington, I presume. Welcome to my humble shop. Was not the Green Hornet to join us, sir?” Kitano asked.
“Yes, but I saw no sign of him outside. I am most anxious to view your merchandise, I hope his lateness will not delay our transaction.” Scanlon replied.
“Perhaps not,” replied Kitano, “But in the meantime, can I offer you some tea? Or perhaps a glass of a 1787 Chateau Lafite?”
“The Lafite of course!” replied Scanlon, playing his part to the hilt.
Haru poured the wine, and delivered glasses to Scanlon and Kitano.
“To what shall we toast Mr. Barrington?” inquired Kitano.
“To beauty.” Scanlon replied, raising his glass.
“Most appropriate,” replied Kitano, and they tipped back their glasses. “Taku, fetch our beautiful lotus blossoms for Mr. Barrington’s enjoyment.”
Taku lumbered out of the room.
Nearby, inside Black Beauty, Kato and the Green Hornet were hearing, and recording the entire conversation.
            “The wine is excellent Mr. Kitano,” Scanlon offered, “I have been trying to acquire a few bottles of this myself.”
            “That too might be arranged,” Kitano replied. “Ah, here are the lovely flowers now.”
            Again, only the Green Hornet, so familiar with Kato’s demeanor, could have detected the subtle tension that entered his body when Aiko was brought into the room.
            “It’s going well,” the Hornet offered, though he knew it would do little to reassure Kato.
            Inside Kitano’s office, Scanlon made a great show of taking in the beauty of the three women being offered. He used the rapidity of his breathing, a nervous reaction to the danger he was in, to fake anticipatory stimulation at the proximity of the girls.
            “Oh, exquisite, Mr. Kitano, each one a great beauty. But this one, she is very special.”
            Britt and Kato had described Aiko perfectly, and he knew he had found her. Scanlon felt that things would go smoothly now. He was merely one very large cash payment away from rescuing this poor girl. He extended the valise, which was accepted by Haru.
            “I believe this is the agreed upon amount,” he said, and turned his attention back to Aiko.
            “For my own peace of mind, Mr. Barrington, I hope you will indulge me,” Kitano interjected. “I cannot let my business become compromised. How do you plan to… provide… for this young woman?”
            “Most efficiently, I assure you, Mr. Kitano,” Scanlon replied. “I keep a very large, remote estate in South America. If one of your men will help me transport the girl to my small, private airstrip, she will be immediately flown to this estate. Once there, my experienced aides will see she is carefully installed in her new life.”
            “Excellent, Taku, accompany Mr. Barrington to—“
            “No! I will never be your slave!” shouted Aiko suddenly, and lashed out at Scanlon, striking at his face with her small fists. She fervently wished her father had taught her Karate, as he had to so many boys, so she could attack more effectively. Though her blows inflicted little damage, they did, unfortunately tear loose Scanlon’s false beard.
            “What is this?” Kitano said. “A disguise?”
            With the speed of thought, Kato and the Green Hornet leapt from the car and rushed toward the warehouse. They knew Aiko and Scanlon were in mortal danger. Inside, they walked calmly past workmen unloading stolen goods. They had visited often in the intervening days, and their presence was not contested. Upon reaching the hallway to Kitano’s office they donned their gas masks. When the five men who regularly guarded Kitano’s office confronted them, all deception was dropped. The Hornet produced his Hornet Gun from beneath his coat, and sent a long spiral of emerald knockout gas at the men, and they dropped like sacks of mud.

When the Green Hornet and Kato coolly entered Kitano’s office the situation was grave. Two girls were cowering in a corner while Taku held Aiko in a bear hug from behind. Haru held one of the Japanese swords from Kitano’s display to Scanlon’s throat. Scanlon was unconscious and had a bloody contusion on his forehead.
The Hornet began to talk fast.
            “Is there some disagreement over price?”
            “This man is in disguise,” Kitano replied, eyeing the Hornet with a suspicious gaze. “Undoubtedly another of the undercover policemen who have been plaguing me. The only question is, have you also been duped, or are you in league with the authorities?”
            “This man has been meeting with me in good faith for many weeks. I had no idea he was a plant.” The Hornet walked over to Scanlon, removed his glasses, and tore away what remained of his false beard.  “Yes, I recognize him now. This is no mere policeman, this is Frank Scanlon, the district attorney.”
            Aiko moaned in sudden realization of her terrible mistake. This man might have taken her out of her terrible bondage if she had not spoiled his strategy.
            “How unfortunate,” Kitano said, “I dislike executing public officials.”
            “You miss an opportunity for profit my friend,” the Hornet coaxed, “Why not ransom this man to the city?”
            “I am afraid that would compromise my operation. No. He must die.”
            In that instant, the Hornet knew there could be no resolution without violence.
            “And I am afraid I cannot allow that,” he said.
            Kitano made a rapid gesture with his hand and instantaneously, Taku and Haru attacked.
            Taku hurled Aiko into the corner with other girls, and charged the Hornet much as a rhinoceros might have, fast and with little finesse. A quick sidestep allowed the Hornet to easily avoid Taku’s first awkward assault. He took up a boxing stance in preparation for the next onslaught. At his height, it was rare that the Hornet faced an opponent of greater size, but Taku was easily 4 inches taller and at least 60 pounds heavier. He would need all his considerable skill to overcome this massive adversary.
            Nearby, Kato faced a very different sort of opponent. Haru dropped the unconscious figure of Frank Scanlon to the floor and approached Kato slowly. He circled cautiously, sizing him up, the Japanese sword at the ready. Kato knew the first thing he must do is disarm this man. He could not prevail against an armed man for long. Though his heart ached to ensure that Aiko was unhurt, and to spirit her away from this awful place, he knew he must focus if he were to defeat Haru and effect that rescue.
            Haru made a short, probing attack, testing Kato’s speed and skill. Kato immediately countered with what appeared to be a high sweeping kick, but was in fact a clever feint. Instead he seamlessly shifted the attack, producing a Hornet Dart, which he unerringly delivered to Haru’s hand. Haru’s sword grip loosened for only an instant, but it was long enough for Kato to grab the sword by the blunt edge and pry it from Haru’s hands. He hurled the blade away from the fight, and it embedded itself deeply into the wall with a resounding thwunk. Haru regarded Kato with a wicked, crocodilian smile and calmly removed the dart from his hand. Kato knew this skillful adversary would not underestimate him again.

            When district attorney Scanlon emerged from his insensible state, the scene was shocking. The three women cowered in a corner of the room while Taku and Haru battled with his two disguised friends. The matches seemed too close to call at that moment. Kitano stood impassively near his desk, taking in the action. He didn’t seem at all worried, and that fact worried Scanlon a great deal. Not one to sit on the sidelines, Scanlon decided to leap into the fray. He knew Kitano, even at his age, was likely a skilled fighter.
When Scanlon struggled to his feet, Kitano noticed, and made a move toward the remaining sword and dagger in his display. Scanlon knew allowing him to reach a blade was a death sentence. He took a move from his college football playbook and sacked Kitano like an opposing quarterback. Kitano fell heavily to the floor. Scanlon then grabbed the Lafite bottle and cracked him hard on the skull, rendering him into the same blackness from which Scanlon had so recently emerged. Scanlon snatched up the phone on Kitano’s desk and desperately dialed 52 Division to call in some cops.

The Green Hornet fully understood the difficulties of facing a challenger of superior size. Taku had greater reach and greater power. Any single punch might be the last the Rhinoceros needed to put the Hornet down for the count. He kept himself in the huge man’s outer punch range, and used his speed and footwork to avoid Taku’s titanic roundhouse punches. When Taku struck out, putting himself off balance, the Hornet would surge inside his defense and land devastating combinations to his body and face. Unfortunately, they seemed to have no effect whatsoever on the giant, perspiring brute.
If the Hornet’s battle with Taku was like a prison yard brawl, Kato’s clash with Haru was like a sinuous, deadly ballet. The two men would first circle slowly, then come together in a sudden, elegant, lightning fast exchange of blows, blocks and flying kicks. It was beautiful and terrible to behold. Both men showed the bruises and blood of deftly landed strikes. It took all of Kato’s concentration to avoid looking at Aiko. He longed to make certain she was unhurt, but knew that one slip in his attention would allow Haru an opening. Then again, he thought, perhaps a slip in his attention was just what was needed.

Scanlon finished barking orders to the desk Sergeant of nearby 52 Division, immediately dispatching an army of cops. As he began to replace the phone receiver in its cradle he felt a sudden, excruciating punch to his left kidney. He spun instantly to face Kazumi Kitano, now dangerously conscious.
He instantly struck at Kitano’s face with the phone receiver. This time however, Kitano was more than prepared for his attack. He deftly parried the clumsy assault and landed a flat-handed blow under Scanlon’s chin, snapping back his head. Scanlon fell heavily onto the desk, and Kitano climbed on top of him. He clamped his powerful hands around Scanlon’s throat.
Aiko reacted to this threat to Frank Scanlon, whom she now believed was her only hope of escaping her dire circumstances. She leaped up and clawed at Kitano, trying to tear his hands away from Scanlon’s neck.
“No! Leave him alone!” She shouted, in anguished desperation.
This was the moment for which Kato had been waiting. He snapped his eyes toward the screaming girl, and Haru seized on this moment of weakness. He made a sudden spinning kick toward Kato’s head. Too late he realized his mistake. Kato had feigned weakness to draw Haru in to committing himself to a move that made him vulnerable. Kato ducked under the kick and grasped Haru’s leg. He spun the leg upward, and brought Haru’s head down hard upon the floor. Haru tried to scramble back up, but he was stunned and exposed. Kato delivered a series of blows to his face and he collapsed instantly.
In the same moment the Hornet reached the climax of his encounter with Taku. Having only a few seconds left to liberate Scanlon from Kitano’s crushing hands, he made a desperate maneuver, allowing Taku to punch at his head. Because Taku was punching downward at a shorter opponent, the Hornet was able to duck his head and let the punch smash against the hard shell of his skull. This was a terrible gamble, because the man might be powerful enough to actually crack his skull. Fortunately, his hard head prevailed. The bones of Taku’s right hand shattered against his skull and the huge man howled in pain. Though stunned, the Hornet was able to throw all his power into an elbow shot to the Rhinoceros’ gut. When Taku bent forward, the Hornet grabbed his head and smashed it into his knee. The giant finally passed out.

Scanlon was still struggling against the constricting fingers of Kitano, but he was losing strength. Kitano easily shrugged off Aiko’s desperate attack, and went back to choking Scanlon with renewed gusto. Scanlon could feel himself blacking out.
Kitano’s face, showing emotion for the first time, grinned in sick enjoyment of the final moments of the kill. Then the expression suddenly changed to one of unexpected shock. A strange object emerged from Kitano’s chest, like a wet, red finger. He released Scanlon’s throat and clutched at the strange finger protruding from his chest. Then, he gurgled horribly, blood spurting from his mouth, and toppled from the desk. Behind him stood Aiko, her hands scarlet with blood. She had taken the dagger from Kitano’s display and thrust it completely through his body, transfixing his heart.
Kato regarded the horrific scene before him. Aiko stood over Kazumi Kitano, her hands covered in blood, her eyes wide in shock. Forgetting himself, Kato moved toward her. She flinched away from him, sobbing, still believing him to be one of her oppressors. Shaking with terror she reached for the remaining Katana, pulled it from its sheath, and raised it in a trembling defensive pose. In a hot rush Kato felt pride, empathy and pity for this simple girl from a small village. He wondered if she could ever recover from this horrific ordeal.
Sirens sounded in the distance, and Kato knew he would have to maintain the charade of his criminal guise.
Scanlon began the little drama.
“Even you can’t fight an entire police division Hornet,” he said, “I suggest you and your deadly little partner make tracks while you still can.”
“Nobody tricks the Green Hornet Scanlon,” the Hornet snapped back. “Someday, very soon, you’ll regret crossing me!”
With that, he and Kato swept out of the room.
Aiko held the sword aloft for a moment, and then let it clatter to the floor. She collapsed, sobbing, into Scanlon’s arms.

Britt Reid and Frank Scanlon waited in the foyer of the recovery hostel as Kato entered the sun-drenched parlor. Aiko Shimizu sat in a wicker chair near a window, watching birds hop about in the branches of a tree. She seemed almost mesmerized.
“Aiko,” he said quietly.
She looked up at him, expressionless, offering no sign of recognition.
“Shouchouko,” he said.
Aiko looked intently at him then, slowly comprehending. Her lip trembled, and a single tear rolled down her cheek.
“Hayashi?” she choked. “Hayashi, tell me it is you!”
Aiko leapt from the chair and embraced him.
“I know you have been through a terrible ordeal little butterfly, but it is over now,” Kato said softly. “ I have an old friend and a new friend waiting outside to see you. Things will get better now.”
Aiko looked into his eyes and finally managed to smile. To Kato, her face seemed brighter than the sunlight streaming into the room.        

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Sleep of the Aged


In my boyhood, TV commercials from RIF touted the importance of childhood literacy with the catchy slogan “Reading Is FUNdamental”. It was a slogan I took firmly to heart.

Addicted to television though I was, my rural home in Port Rowan Ontario offered only a few TV channels, each inefficiently piped into our black and white Zenith television by a 30-foot tall, rotating antennae. And, of course, there were only so many shows that appealed to a seven year old. Farm reports and news programs were of little interest to a budding cartoon connoisseur such as myself.

            Therefore, living in Boredom’s Waiting Room in the middle of nowhere as I did, other forms of diversion were required to distract me from playing with pointy objects, matches and wild animals. Thanks to my attentive, substitute-teacher Mom, I learned to read early, and quickly came to love the way it transported me out of the bucolic tedium of life in the country and into far off lands of adventure. I rooted out my mother’s childhood books, like several Trixie Belden mysteries, which were piled haphazardly in an upstairs closet, and read them late into the night, long after I was supposed to be asleep. Later I moved on to lending library material like The Black Stallion and the kid’s mystery series “The Three Investigators”, who often met with their Hollywood mentor Alfred Hitchcock.

I liked the mysteries and scrapes Trixie
and her pals fell into, but wasn't as keen
on the romance stuff. Girls! Ick!

Jupiter, Pete and Bob were a bit more to my liking.

Later, I devoured stacks of lurid genre paperbacks by E. R. Burroughs and R. E. Howard, which were purchased in bulk at the many rural barn sales my Grandmother frequented. My first Doc Savage paperback was one of these coverless treasures. I still have the book, The Devil’s Playground, and I was so intrigued by the small, black and white James Bama illustration of Doc and his crew on the back cover that I sought out more of the series. You can imagine how my head exploded when I finally saw one with a cover.
The back cover of the Bantam
Doc Savage series.

Cover art by the incomparable
James Bama. (Now a noted fine
artist of Western-themed art.)

            And so, for my whole life I have been sucking up books at a fast and steady tempo. Unfortunately, I find it’s becoming more difficult to keep up the pace.

I blame my advancing age.

My traditional designated reading time has always been after I go to bed and before I go to sleep. In years past this window averaged somewhere between 45 and 90 minutes, and I could cover a lot of literary ground in that time. These days not so much. More and more I’m finding that I get less than three or four pages into my reading before my eyelids begin to plummet earthward. I am one dozy reader.

This is disconcerting to say the least. My yearly rate of book consumption has gradually tapered from multiple dozens to a paltry six or seven. My ‘To Read’ stack has grown so tall, it threatens to topple and crush me under the weight. It’s becoming more and more clear that I am going to have to schedule my reading time.

With all the other demands in my day, this is no mean feat.

First there’s my illustration work, which, scarce as it is right now, still eats up a great deal of time. Then there’s my own writing, which for starters includes a novel, two TV show pitches, various short stories and two blogs. Then there’re the TV shows I follow, the movies, which I love, and the ever-expanding universe of social media I want to explore.

Oh, and from time to time, I like to spend a little quality time with my wife.

So where do I find an opportunity for that most FUNdamental of activities, good old reading?

Something will have to give.

Sadly, it will probably be some of my TV time. Not a pleasant choice, but it seems to be the only area where there’s a little leeway.

I lament that the human creature doesn’t gain greater energy and focus as we build our knowledge, experience and ability. If I could pair the raw drive of the younger me with the skill and patience I have today I’d be a real beast-man.

Now I have to decide what TV shows to cut out of my schedule. I love them all so much…

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Star Factory

The winners deadline for the Toronto Star Short Story Contest has come and gone, and since I didn't receive a call to go in for my author's photograph and monster cheque, I think it's safe to assume my story didn't win one of the coveted cash prizes.

Obviously, winning is a long shot, so I didn't really hold out that much hope that I'd be chosen from the hundreds (possibly thousands) of entries the contest receives every year.

Still, it stings a little.

What can I say, I'm a cockeyed optimist.

I think it's one of the better stories I've written, but, depending on how one interprets the story, it does have the faintest touch of a genre breeze blowing through it. The tiniest scent of the supernatural contaminating its otherwise gritty, literary feeling. Genre stories are seldom chosen by the judges and powers that be at the Star contest, so I knew going in it would be an uphill battle. I knew I'd be up against the sheer volume of submissions, the undoubtedly high quality of many of the entries, and the general preference for the literary style. Particularly those which have the feeling of being a "true story" which many of the past winning stories have had.

Oh, well.

Next year I'm gonna kick that football to the moon, Lucy Van Pelt!

Is submitting stories to contests akin
to Charlie Brown's clinical inability to
accept that he will never kick that football?

In the meantime, although some actual paying work is slowing down my rewrites, I have three stories that are only a few scant hours of polishing away from being ready to send out. Since the reply system of the publishing business as it stands is so interminably slow, I'd like to get those stories in the mail before we hit the middle of the year.

Plus, I need to find a new place to submit my fantasy story, "The Weed" which was unable to find a home on its first trip out.

Lots to do, better get on it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ghostly Sketches From The Past

Something haunting happened to me last fall at the Fan Expo event here in Toronto. I’m still thinking about it, and wondering what happened, exactly.

            The Fan Expo is an enormous event, a multi-geek-fandom affair featuring horror, anime, gaming, sci-fi and, of course, their poor country cousin, comics. Thanks to my old buddy James Armstrong, I always have a table in artist’s alley.

The Toronto Fan Expo
Home away from home for
the Geek hordes.

Over the years it isn’t uncommon to have a friend or acquaintance from the dim dark past recognize my name and stop by my table to say howdy. It happened a few years ago with a gent named Joe Arena, who was actually the first man to publish my comics, way back when I was a cocky, seventeen year old wanna-be with a very long way to go. I also had the eldest son of my old shop teacher, Ross Andrews, come up with greetings from the old fellow himself. Mr. Andrews (as I still think of him) was the first person to encourage my drawing when I was just a goofy, long-haired thirteen year old, trying to construct a box from tin sheets in his grade seven shop class.

            Usually meeting an old friend is a rather pleasant experience, catching up with people, (or the sons of people) who played some role in my past life is nice now and then. However, last year a chance meeting with a former buddy of mine went rather a different way.

            I only knew Fletch for a few years.

In my hometown of Tillsonburg there weren’t too many comics freaks. This was the seventies, and the exploding collectors market was still more than a decade into the future. The grand master of comic collecting in our town was a guy named Mason Armstrong. He was older, in his mid twenties, and he possessed an impressive collection. (His Fantastic Four collection started with issue #9!) Mason was a tall, sandy haired, soft-spoken guy, with thick glasses, who worked in his parent’s drug store. He’d stake out the comic spinner in the store and make contact with the town’s other budding comics addicts, like myself. There were only four or five of us. A few desperate, continuity starved, square pegs who made the rounds of all the drug stores and convenience stores in town, vainly seeking to satisfy our personal four color addictions from the titles available from the spotty local distribution.

It was Mason who first introduced me to Fletch. Fletch was about my age, but taller and more athletic, and much more conscious of his appearance and looking ‘cool’. He was pure 70’s, while I was clinging to the fading hippie aesthetic. (A look I still haven’t abandoned!) We were both into comics and rock music and drawing. At that time, Fletch was probably a better artist than I was. He seemed to have a keener grasp of anatomy and proportion, whereas I was a little better at storytelling and continuity. (I wish I still had some of his drawings to post.)

We did what most fifteen year-old boys in Tillsonburg did. We fought valiantly against the crushing boredom! We hung out, listened to The Stones, Alice Cooper, and Aerosmith, swilled down crap like potato chips, Oh Henry bars and Coke, and schemed to meet, and theoretically date, girls.
Teenager food.

            And we drew piles of superhero pictures.

Batman, Superman, Conan, the Incredible Hulk, and the amazing Len Wein Dave Cockrum re-launch of the X-Men were our bibles. We copied poses, and fearlessly attempted our own pin-ups and pages. We debated the relative merits of our favorite characters and companies. He was a DC man, and I was a Marvel fan, he liked Batman, and I liked Conan. I remember that the great Jim Aparo was Fletch’s favorite artist, while I preferred the comics stylings of John Buscema. (In retrospect we had both chosen great role models, though I admit the fact that Aparo penciled, inked and lettered his own work was unique at the time.) It was a productive rivalry. 
We had great fun, pushed each other to do better, and dreamed of drawing comics for a living.
Similar poses from two comics giants.
(Click for larger image)

We were thick as Zamorian thieves for a few brief months.

I never got a clear picture of what was happening, but Fletch began to have a lot of trouble getting along with his parents. We started to meet exclusively at my house as tensions rose between he and his folks. They were one of the wealthier families in town, and perhaps Fletch’s career aspirations, or lack of them, were a sticking point. I honestly don’t know. We got together less and less frequently, and then I heard nothing from Fletch at all. It was Mason who told me, some weeks later, that he was no longer living at home. I don’t know if he left, or his parents threw him out. I later heard a vague rumor that Fletch had some sort of unpleasant brush with the law, but I can’t confirm the truth of this.

I tiptoed gingerly around my parents for a few months after that.

About two years later I saw Fletch for the last time. I was about to head off to college and this was my last summer of freedom. Mason and I were about to make a final trip into nearby London Ontario, to visit some great comic shops and used bookstores there. Mason mentioned that we were also going to pay a visit to Fletch.

Naively, I brought along a stack of my drawings. I still hadn’t fully grasped the fact that Fletch was out on his own, and had more pressing concerns than doodling Batman poses. I foolishly assumed he had been drawing the whole time.
Aparo was the king of
drawing spooky mists.

We met Fletch at his apartment, which he shared with a few other guys, and was a bit of a mess. He seemed really excited to see us and we yakked about nonsense for a while. He mentioned he was working at some sort of manual labor job, construction, or public works, I can’t recall what, exactly. Finally, Fletch pointed to my portfolio and asked to see my drawings.

Due to the exceptional art classes I’d been taking at College Avenue Secondary School in Woodstock, I’d made a lot of progress. I proudly yanked out my artwork. Not just comics pages, but life drawing, portraits and caricatures, as well.

Fletch looked it all over in silence, and then looked back at me and said: “Wow, you’re like, really good now.”

He handed back the stack of drawings and I put them in the portfolio. I asked if he had any new drawings.

“No, man, I been too busy working.”

I was aware enough to realize that the mood in the room had changed, but not quite sensitive enough to understand why. Fletch put up a good front, but after a few minutes he cut things short, claiming he had to get to work.

Then, last year, over thirty years later, he showed up at my table at the Expo.

I was working on one of the many commission sketches I drew that afternoon, when I noticed a rather imposing looking dude stopped a few yards away from my table. He gave me an intense look. The guy was tall, very muscular and beefy, wearing a body hugging T-shirt, and jeans. He looked at me, and then up at the big name tag behind me a few times, and finally approached me.

“Dude, you’re from Tillsonburg!”

I laughed and admitted I was.

“It’s me, Fletch!”

Suddenly, I could see the face of my teenaged friend through the wrinkles and graying hair. I was thrilled to see him. He was very excited at first, and we did the catching up thing.

“Dude, I knew that was you,” he said, “I can’t believe you still got all that hair!”

“I would never give up my hair, man! You got some real muscles there, Bro, you must do a lot of weight training.”

“Nope, just from working,” he answered.

It was nice for a couple minutes.

Then he started looking at my drawings. He seemed to become more pensive.

“This stuff is great, man. You’re working in comics now?”

“A little. I worked in animation for a long time. Now I mostly do storyboards for movies and TV, but I do a bit of writing and drawing for the comics when I can.”

He got this very distressed look on his face.

“I’m getting a bit freaked out here,” he said. “I feel like I’m gonna cry… I gotta go.”

“Come back later,” I called after him, as he moved off into the crowd.

“Yeah, man,” he called back.

But, he didn’t.

I don’t know for sure why Fletch got so emotional.

It could be because I had industriously traveled a road he’d once considered for himself. Or, perhaps he wondered what his life might have been like if his parents were a bit more supportive of his interests. Hell, maybe he just missed drawing.

As the afternoon wore on, and it became clear he wasn’t going to come back, I began to feel very sad about it.

If he had come back, I’d have told him some important things.

First, I never realized any of my most prized goals. I wanted to draw for Marvel and DC and I never did. I wanted to animate for Disney, and I never did. I wanted to write and perform television comedy, and, so far, that hasn’t happened either. I’m glad I attempted all these things, and I try never to regret my life choices, but man, I can tell you, failing hurts like a sumbitch.

Second, I made choices in my life too. A few were good choices, but many were extraordinarily bad. Yes, I stuck to my path, and I worked hard and I had a few successes here and there. I’ve had some flush financial booms, and a few creatively rewarding experiences. But, I’ve also many periods of hardship, including right now.

Fletch, you lived your life. You made your choices, for better or worse, and you’re still here. You survived. For a human being, that’s plenty.

            I really hope you come back to the Expo again this year.

I miss you buddy.
One of my Batman sketches, in honor of
Fletch, Danny, Albert and all the other lost
comics buddies from my past.
(Click for larger image)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Historical Document#2

            My first sustained efforts at writing came during my tenure in an improv and sketch comedy troupe known by the appropriately goofy name of Dangerous Poultry.

A typical poster for one of our shows at the Riv.

It began when I met a talented young guy named Gary Pearson in June Kreller’s TheatreSports Toronto improv class way back in 1984. We liked the cut of each other’s jibs, (which isn’t at all suggestive) and we formed a two-man team to perform in the weekly TheatreSports shows at Harbourfront. The show was, and still is, a form of competitive improvised comedy, which pits one team of improvisors against another in mock challenges and faux battle to gain points from a group of “judges”, or by audience applause.

At that time, the TheatreSports show was broken up into three matches, a ten minute and a twenty minute match in the first half and a forty minute match after the intermission. The length of your match reflected the experience and skill level of your team. Beginners did simple games in the ten minute match, intermediate players performed somewhat more sophisticated stuff in the twenty minute match, and the big comedy guns came out for the forty minute closing match.

Those Crazy Chickens. From left to right:
Gary Pearson, Warren Wilson, Sam Agro
Gary and I had a tangible rapport and we worked extremely well together. After a few weeks of trying him on for size we enlisted a third member, a very talented, and very Mormon, improv classmate named Warren Wilson. We nicknamed him “Whitebread”, based on both his unrepentant love of Wonder Bread, and his washed-out complexion, which bordered on albinism. With our trio complete, we put down our heads and went to work. We did extremely well in our ten minute opening matches and moved up fast. Within only a few months we were performing in the second half of the show, and rocking the house.

People, let me tell you, we were crazy for the improv. Each week we would attend our improv class, practice one night on our own, and perform in the Toronto show. Many weeks, we also performed in another TheatreSports show based in nearby Hamilton, where their membership was too lean to fill a show with their own players.

We often parodied popular movie
and theatrical posters on our handbills.
(This one drawn by Gary.)

It was less than a year before we started writing and performing sketch comedy in addition to our improv schedule. We performed regularly at a dingy little boho club on Queen Street know as The Rivoli, and shared the bill with the likes of The Illustrated Men, Dan Redican of The Frantics, The Kids in the Hall, The Vacant Lot, and some other local sketch troupes. We featured a host of very talented special guests, like Jerry Schaefer, Jane Luk, Lisa Merchant and the sweetly subversive Mr. David R. Healy. We also had a rotating cast of regular members in addition to our original trio, including Bill Dunphy, Marium Carvell, Moira Dunphy and Norm Hiscock.

A rather terrific publicity shot, snapped by photographer Janet Muise.
Left to right: Gary Pearson, Warren Wilson, Marium Carvell, Sam Agro

The troupe was exceptionally productive for the next three or four years, and built a respectable audience of fans. In addition to our regular shows at the Rivoli, we performed in several Sunday showcases at Second City Toronto’s Old Firehall, and launched a couple of successful forays to the Edmonton Fringe Festival where we performed to sold out audiences and (mostly) positive reviews. We did some damn funny sketches and improv along the way.

But, finally, things began to fray at the edges, and eventually unravel. A case of familiarity breeding contempt I suppose, or the clashing of egos, or, perhaps, conflicting ideologies. Or maybe over time we had just developed differing goals.

By 1990 we had disbanded the group.

Running order for a show at the Edmonton Fringe.

In spite of the conflicts, anger and ire we experienced at the end, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It was a great ride.

However, the most important thing I took away from my time with Poultry was the act of disciplined writing. I probably wrote about forty sketches and blackouts during the time we were together, and while most of them certainly sucked ass, there were six or seven pretty good ones in there. We would start working on a new show right after we finished the last one, and I was writing two or three new sketches for every show. Shows which we performed, on average, about every six weeks.

This regular writing schedule, while not deeply demanding, instilled in me the fundamental ability to write on a schedule and to utilize my spare time effectively. I learned to write whenever I had a few free moments, and maximize my efficiency. It also trained me to be critical of my own work. I certainly knew the rest of the troupe was going to be critical, so I tried my best to work out the bugs prior to presenting them with the work. (With limited success, probably, but I certainly tried.)

Left to Right: Sam Agro, Bill Dunphy,
Gary Pearson, Warren W. "Whitebread" Wilson
Note Gary's suspenders, a certain indicator
that wackiness is about to ensue!

Personal computers were just coming into vogue at that time, and for the first couple years of the group’s life I didn’t have one. I did have a fairly useless electronic typewriter, which I believe could hold about 80 words in memory before you had to print it out and write the next 80 words. As you can imagine, making revisions on this beast was desperately difficult. I did most of my preparatory writing longhand, and when I got it to a decent place, I’d transfer it into my typewriter 80 words at a time.

An electronic typewriter. The text could be read, and
corrected, using the tiny, tiny window just above the keyboard.

While I now use the computer for writing in general, I still write out my initial premises, and the first blast of notes on the idea, in long hand. I always feel a tad more connected to an idea if I play around with it using pencil and paper for a while before going all electronic on its ass.

Speaking of ideas, another thing working with Dangerous Poultry taught me was to doggedly write down a premise whenever I got one. This is a key skill, because ideas are ephemeral things, and they can easily waft away into the ether between conception and recording. Even with this habit firmly in place, I still lose tons of ideas every year. By quirks of timing and fate, they dissipate before they can be captured, drifting off into the empty void where lost left socks and misplaced cuff links reside.

Thus was forged this writer’s discipline and diligence.

Thanks, Dangerous Poultry.

Grainy xerox of a promotional shot for our show: DON'T TELL OUR MOMS
Left to right, clockwise: BIll Dunphy, Warren Wilson, Gary Pearson, Sam Agro.
Photo by Shannon Thompson.