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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 08/29/2005
Vol. 2, #174

All day this Sunday, I've been glued to the TV, watching the dire prognostications for the oncoming hurricane, Katrina. Where will it do its worst? How many will die? How much property will be destroyed? Will they ever be able to rebuild New Orleans the way it was? Will the stadium sheltering those who couldn't get away stand up to Katrina's deadly power?

Not so long ago, we were all watching with the same breathless intensity and sympathy, the terrible tsunami that took over 250,000 lives', or was the figure more in the millions? I don't remember. I only know that along with so many of our neighbors, we sent our own small contribution to Doctors Without Borders.

Then, along with that we had Darfur, and catastrophe after catastrophe, man made or natural. So today, I've been thinking about catastrophe and how much this is a part of life that we can't really get into our pop fiction, especially comics. Certainly not while it's happening. Comics sludges along, step by step, in a reluctant effort to keep up with history. The superheroes are still going to flab socking it out in World War II. It's as though the entire field were trapped in a time capsule. They don't even touch Viet Nam yet, we lost. As for Iraq, not even a niche anywhere to squeeze in a superhero. My God, maybe the bad guys are us, according to a growing number. So, on the whole, don't even mention anything contemporary and maybe offend someone and damage circulation. Better still, have it all happen on separate Earths. Then no one can get offended. And yet without real or imagined catastrophe, superhero comics wouldn't have anything to say. What does a superhero do in a non-threatening world, after all.

And amid all of these thoughts, as I watch CNN, it brings back our own catastrophe of a few years ago, the infamous ice storm that hit Ontario and Maine and other surrounding states. We were caught in the midst of it, without power in subzero weather for three weeks, and we two aging superheroes, Kay and I (me, with a grinding cough) decided to stick it out. We summoned a small old wood stove in the basement into service, hacked up lots of wood and managed to get the internal temperature warm enough so at least the pipes didn't burst, and by wearing wool underwear and winter outerclothing indoors, including furred hoods and storm boots, we were able to stay and putter along for three long weeks, cooking our food on a borrowed portable gas stove, with the Canadian forces looking in on us once in a while to make sure we didn't need to be evacuated, and those neighbors of ours, one of them finally produced a generator for us and hooked us up so we could get some light and real heat from the furnace, while another climbed to our roof, remember, I was already in my eighties when it happened, and chopped off the ice that would have resulted in a roof collapse if it hadn't been done in time. And despite my severe bronchial cough, it didn't turn into pneumonia and somehow the whole road as we call the mile long stretch of gravel our house faces along with a few hardy neighbors and several dairy farms, drew much closer together and really felt like a community within a community.

But somehow, catastrophes seem to happen. To everyone. It's part of being on the earth and struggling through its constant upheavals, and they are constant, in case anybody hasn't noticed, and turning the whole experience into philosophy. At least, that's how it was for us. So right now, we're sitting here watching the onset of Katrina and sending our warmest most hopeful thoughts down to our neighbors-- Louisiana and Mississipi and wishing them the best, while hoping the monster rains and the storm surge churned up by Katrina don't really make their way to the eastern great lakes area and flood us out of our sturdy little house.

But by next week, we'll know, won't we? So, next week, we'll talk about it again. Maybe we'll all be lucky again. Maybe not. In which case, there are always things to gain from it anyway. In just what way, I'll discuss next week.

--Alvin

<< 08/22/2005 | 08/29/2005 | 09/05/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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