Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Like a Car with a New Set of Radials...

 When I started working way back when, retirement seemed like a far away dream.  I got my first paycheck in the summer of 1969, when I started working as a parking lot attendant at the Abraham & Straus department store in Hempstead. That was my part-time job through college and even for a few years after I started working at DC Comics.
  From the summer of 1973 through the fall of 1998, I worked at DC, starting as an editorial assistant and ending as Executive Director of Production.
  Then I worked in the accounting department at Preload, a company that builds massive concrete water tanks and reservoirs around the country and followed that with a brief stint with Accordant, the company that provides installation and service for the Timberline (now Sage 300) accounting software program.
  Since January 2007, I've been the Comptroller at Combined Resources Interiors, a company that does drywall and carpentry work on commercial projects such as hospitals, schools and office buildings.
  After all that, as of the end of the work day today, I'm retired.

  Well, not fully retired.
  I'll still be teaching the Writing & Imagination class at CTY.
  I'll still be the "guy in charge" of the thrice-weekly adult ed volleyball program.
  I'll be volunteering my services as a Notary Public at the Farmingdale Library on a weekly basis.
  And I've got some other projects to pursue, now that I'll have the time for them.

  For right now, though, I'm looking forward to not having to get up and go to work every day.

This giant poster was hanging on the wall outside my office when I got to work this morning.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Old Photos of the Week #11

  Three more photos from the Game Night portion of the DC Olympics at the company retreat in Great Gorge, NJ in January, 1985...

Clockwise around the table from the left: Paul Levitz, Barry Marx, Shelley Eiber, can't tell, and Janice Race ponder the questions in Trivial Pursuit.

Mark Alexander enjoys a chuckle during a game of Scrabble with Helen _____, Carol Fein, and a fourth staff member.

Jenette Kahn, Audrey _____, and Tom Condon face off against Judy Fireman and Neal Pozner in their game of Boggle.

A number of people have asked if we did anything other than compete in these Olympic events during the three-day retreat. Yes, in fact, there were some meetings held to discuss company policies and plans for the future. However, no one took any pictures of these meetings -- I'm sure that more than a couple of us were nodding off  -- so you will not get to see any evidence of them.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Day with Alex

  Alex had a bit of conjunctivitis in his eye and had to stay home from daycare yesterday, so I was called upon to babysit.
  It was a very early start to the day for me, so that I could avoid the rush hour traffic, but he was already up and had had his breakfast when I arrived. When I rang the doorbell, I could hear him inside exclaiming, "Poppa! Poppa!" I was advised that this is accompanied by a jumping-up-and-down happy dance, but I missed this part.
  Chuck and Rebecca left shortly thereafter for work and my little buddy and I were left to our adventures for the day, which included:
  * Play-Dough. My sculpting skills were tested as he asked for a variety of items, including an impact hammer, a dump truck, and an elephant. Making a pancake and a pat of butter is much easier.
  * Legos: We made airplanes, which then flew downstairs with us.
  * Trains & Trucks: They drove around the living room and a few of them also drove downstairs.
  * "The Marker Book": This book uses dry-erase markers and has to be monitored closely so there are not markings on places other than the book. My drawing skills were also tested here.
  * Chalking the Walk: With rain in the forecast for the afternoon, we took advantage of the morning sunshine to go for a walk around the neighborhood.  Alex enjoys bringing sidewalk chalk so that he can draw. Mostly he draws snakes. Poppa was called upon to draw the entire family. We also made two trips back into the house when he decided we needed a different color of chalk.
  * Building blocks: Alex has a set of large cardboard blocks that are used for a variety of things.  He decided he wanted to make an "escalator" so I made a pyramid or one-then-two-then-three-then-two-then-one blocks that he could step on. Particularly cute was when he brought his stuffed pal Monkey with him, admonishing, "Hold my hand, Monkey."
  He then also wanted an elevator, so I made a single block platform with a vertical wall panel which was the buttons to push. Alex, Monkey and Whatsamatter Bear went up and down in the elevator a lot.
  * Cooking: Alex prepared a variety of meals in his play kitchen. Among his dining guests were Monkey, Whatsamatter Bear, Elmo, Abby, and, of course, Poppa. Alex particularly likes to make sandwiches and soups with the variety of plastic food items he has. The soup made of a tomato, a waffle, lettuce and a french fry is just one of his eclectic culinary mixes.
  * Reading: A book about dinosaurs and one about Mickey Mouse were among the day's choices.
  * Playing his guitar: His newest hit song is "Elmo, Abby and Trucks," joining his longtime favorites "The ABC Song" and "Happy Birthday."
  I'm sure there was more, but I've lost it in the blur of the day.
 Alex also took a very nice two-hour nap after lunch.
 So did Poppa.
Poppa, Alex, and Monkey

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Old Photos of the Week #10

Another portion of the DC Olympics at the company retreat in Great Gorge, NJ was Game Night. Members of each team competed against one another in Trivial Pursuit, Boggle, Scrabble, and what appears to be a poker game, though there are no cards apparent on the table. While the members of each team chose who would participate in which games, I was the one who put together the schedule of games.  Trivial Pursuit and Boggle, both of which accommodated six players, made it easy for me to put a member of each of our six company teams together. Scrabble, with its four-player maximum, required a bit more planning.

Len Wein, Bob Greenberger, Charlie McDaid and Todd Klein (center with his back to the camera) are among the players in this game of Trivial Pursuit.
Dick Giordano (standing) watches as Milt Snapinn competes with three of the female staffers in a game of Scrabble.
(Clockwise around the table from left): Judy Fireman (in red), Jenette Kahn, Audrey ___, Tom Condon, Brenda Pope, and Neal Pozner play Boggle. Peggy May, in the foreground, is at a different table.
(Clockwise around the table from left): Albert DeGuzman, Bob LeRose, Chantal d'Aulnis, Tom Pattison, John Holiwski and Joe Orlando playing what could be a poker game.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Old Photos of the Week #9

  We're back to the photos from the DC Comics retreat in 1985. In addition to the water sports events that were part of the company Olympics, there was also a series of "dry land" athletic contests. Representatives of each of the six teams competed in a football toss, a relay race, bowling, and a few other tests of physical skills.

  Members of the white, yellow, and tan teams listen as the rules of the events are explained. Standing (l-r) are Tom Condon, Helen Vesik, Robyn McBryde, Tom Pattison, Len Wein, Barry Marx, Milt Snapinn, Midge Bregman and Alyce Schuler. Seated are Alan Gold, someone whose name I still don't remember, Bonnie Miller, Terri Cunningham, Barbara Randall, and Brenda Pope.

   White team members Tom Condon, Alan Gold, Jeanette Winley and Tom Pattison prepare for the football toss.  As I recall, we were amazed at how many staff members couldn't throw a football.

  Jeanette Winley competes in the obstacle course relay race. This involved carrying a ball in each hand and deftly zigzagging through the field of "giant" cones.

  Jenette Kahn and Joe Orlando flashing signs. Was Jenette signaling victory? Did Joe know a secret to success for his team? Who can say...

Monday, March 9, 2015

BobRo Archives: Happy 100th Birthday, Dad

  My father would have been 100 years old today. From the archives, the eulogy I delivered at his funeral in 2000...

In 1981, just after my son Chuck was born, my wife Laurie recorded an oral history with my father and I just wanted to read this excerpt.

“I entered the Navy on May 8, 1943 and served until April 1, 1946. Since I was stationed in Chicago for the duration of the war, I tell everyone I successfully protected Lake Michigan from invasion, but I was really a fireman, a Specialist F- 3rd Class. This wasn’t what I wanted to do at all… I really wanted to write, so I applied to Stars & Stripes. My application was approved (maybe because I said I was editor-in-chief of the high school newspaper, which wasn’t true), but when I went for the interview, they discovered I was a fireman, so they said, 'No writing for you!' Instead I was sent to be an instructor in the firefighters school.”

So this was my father… a man who would downplay his achievements rather than boast about them… a man who would shrug off the bad things that happened and look forward to the next good thing… and a man who always had a story to tell that would make the people around him smile.

This was a man who spent 35 years in the New York City Fire Department, working at one time or another in every borough in the city, and retiring with the rank of captain. In the early 1960s, after the roof of a burning building fell on him, I read in the newspaper about “the late Louis N. Rozakis” and said, “Doesn’t this mean you’re dead?” He just looked at me and said, “Well, who are you going to believe—that newspaper or me?”

This was a man who, after he had a prostate operation, told everyone he’d had his uterus removed. And, after his bypass operation at age 80, told us he’d had the pipes cleaned and was good for another 80 years.

This was a man we called “Old Nas” because he took a line of Greek that roughly translates into “the red goats and the white mice should eat you” and turned it into “the Nasay Fahnay Chorus” that he got lots of his relatives to sing at weddings and other family functions.

This was a man who would always back us in what we wanted to do, even if he sometimes wouldn’t admit it. Right after I graduated college with a degree in Accounting, I went to work for DC Comics and spent the first couple of months in a test program selling comic books in neighborhoods around Long Island. I was driving this van covered with pictures of super-heroes and would park it in front of the house and my father would say, “This is what I sent you to college for?” I found out much later how proud he was to show everybody he knew when I had my stories published. And, of course, after I left the comic book business and took a job as an accountant this year, he looked me in the eye and said, “It’s about time you used your degree!”

But more importantly, this was a man who never lectured us on what to do or how to act. Instead, he taught by example and these are just a few of the lessons we learned:

1)      If you have a responsibility, make sure you fulfill it. As a kid, I had trouble understanding why my father was always working strange hours. I mean, other dads worked from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. Mine worked two nights and two days and sometimes weekends and invariably on Christmas or Thanksgiving. And he was not just working in the fire department… he was working as an insurance broker and a tax accountant and a moving man … but all so that there was food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads.
2)      Treat everybody equally. When Clarence Williams, one of the first black men to join the NY Fire Department, came to work, my father readily shared his locker with him. Of course, Clarence was warned not to touch the pictures of my dad’s “nieces” that were hanging in the locker. By the way, I have a number of female cousins, but I’ve never been able to locate any of ones who posed for those scantly-clad pictures.
3)      Just “be there” for people. Without making a show of it, my father would help out relatives and friends who needed it, whether financially, physically or otherwise. He wasn’t looking for glory; he just believed that it was the right thing to do.
4)      Common sense is more important than all the rules ever written. My father liked to think of himself as a rebel, but he was much more the man who knew what the rules were and when it made sense to follow them…and when it was more practical to ignore them to get something done.
5)      Nothing is gained by holding a grudge. No matter who did him wrong –- and there were those who did over the years -- my father never wasted time holding a grudge. He’d just kind of shrug it off and move on.
6)      Smile… and make the people around you smile too. In the past few days, I’ve talked with so many people whose lives my father touched and what they told me all boiled down to the same thing: He always made them smile.

 And perhaps that’s the most important lesson of all. My father used to say, “I don’t tell lies…I tell stories.” And I would reply with a quote from songwriter Mason Williams: “This is not a true tale, but who needs truth if it’s dull?” My father loved to tell stories to people – and maybe the details would change a little if you heard the story more than once – but he always made you smile.

In fact, I suspect that right about now, there’s a big back-up in the line of people waiting to get into heaven. I figure my father’s probably standing at the gate telling St. Peter about his adventures on the “Blind Date” radio show or when, annoyed that my brothers were fighting because one touched the other’s piece of cake, he squashed every piece of the cake or about the time in the Sizzler when his shorts fell down.

And down here, we’ll be missing the opportunity to hear those tales just one more time, left only to retell them in our own words. But, if you believe as I do that no one truly dies until there’s no one left who remembers him, well, my father’s probably achieved immortality.
Louis N. ("Call me 'Nick'") Rozakis
March 9, 1915 - July 27, 2000

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Big Apple Con

  I was a guest at Big Apple Con yesterday in New York City and, while I was not nearly as popular as the Green Power Ranger or wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, I did have a steady flow of fans stopping by to say hello and get an autograph or two.
  I always find it interesting to see which of the stories I've written are brought for signing. One person brought a copy of Detective Comics #467 and another brought an assortment of the issues of Batman Family that I wrote. Another person had a couple of books that I was pretty sure I had no stories in, but he pointed out that I had handled the letter columns and there were Daily Planet pages in them, so I signed them for him.
  One fan had an issue of DC Comics Presents that he had pretty much read to death. It lacked the cover and the first and last pages, though the back-up story I'd written ("Whatever Happened to Sargon the Sorcerer?") was still intact. He told me it was one of his favorite comics as a kid and I could certainly believe it.
  I also signed the plastic bag that contained a copy of the Platinum Edition of Superman #75. There were only 10,000 numbered copies produced and I've probably signed a dozen of them by now, even though I did not write the story. But I was the Production Director at the time and responsible for the manufacturing of these collector's items. Of course, as my son Chuck pointed out, no one will ever open those bags to see what's inside, reminding me that I once said in a meeting that "We can put old issues of G.I. Combat in the bags and no one will ever know!"
  A couple of people took pictures, but I don't know if they will turn up anywhere on social media. In their place, here are a couple of appearances at conventions long ago...when I had a mustache, glasses, and hair on my head.
A late 1980s convention with my pal and 'Mazing Man / Hero Hotline collaborator Stephen DeStefano
A 1990s San Diego con, from which I was doing a live online chatroom report from the DC booth

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Eastern State Penitentiary

  Since our longtime friends Bob and Deb Greenberger moved from Connecticut to Maryland, getting together with them has become more involved than an afternoon visit. As a solution, we came up with the idea of meeting at a mid-point, which is what we did this weekend, selecting a motel outside Philadelphia as a good place to do so.
  And, as it would involve an overnight stay, we decided to add some activities to our meeting. We decided to take the tour of Eastern State Penitentiary, a prison that originally opened in 1829 and closed in 1971.
  Much of the facility is in an advanced state of decay, but it is a fascinating view into the past, both the original plan and design -- which was based on the total isolation of each prisoner so that they could repent for their sins, along with mastering trades that would enable them to reenter society -- and the economic and societal demands that resulted in overcrowding, over-building, and the complete abandonment of the original premise.

  A few of the takeaway facts:
  * The "wagon wheel" design had the guard station in the center and a single guard could check all of the original corridors while standing in one spot. As the need for more space required additional construction, including a second level on some of the "spokes," this became more difficult.
  * Each cell had its own private "exercise yard," into which the prisoner was released for an hour or less a day.
  * Prisoners served their terms, usually a year or two, in complete isolation, with the exception of a visit from the chaplain or a guard who was giving the prisoner some instruction in developing a skill, usually for about thirty minutes a week.
  * Though the penitentiary was originally built in the middle of a cherry orchard two miles outside the city, by the time it was closed, it was surrounded by residential housing and businesses, including an elementary school right across the street.
  * It was the first public building in the United States to have central heating, running water, and indoor plumbing. These were all part of the initial design and construction.
  * Al Capone served eight months of a one-year sentence there in 1929. He had been arrested in Philadelphia for carrying an unlicensed gun. His recreated cell looks more like a hotel than prison.
  * Willie Sutton (known for responding to a reporter's question about why he robbed banks, "because that's where the money was") was one of twelve prisoners who tunneled to freedom in 1945; Sutton was recaptured a block away.

  It was a very entertaining and enlightening tour and an excellent addition to the opportunity to see Bob and Deb.

Old Photos of the Week #8

  In addition to meetings at the DC Comics retreat, DC president Jenette Kahn wanted a variety of social events for the staff to take part in. In my role as unofficial morale officer, I suggested a company-wide Olympics. Jenette thought it was a great idea and then left it to me to figure out how to accomplish it.
  With the aid of my morale co-conspirator, Robyn McBryde, we randomly split the company into six teams, though we did take care to make sure each team included members from all the different departments. We decided that there should be both physical and cerebral challenges and that the individual teams would decide which members would compete in which events.
  Since the Great Gorge facility included an indoor swimming pool, a water event was in order, so, with the help of the staff there, we arranged for some races. One involved get across the pool and back in an inner tube.
Tom Pattison kicks his way to victory
Muffy Greenough and Bruce Bristow
After the races, Lionel Martinez, Peggy May, Bruce Bristow, Muffy Greenough and Jenette Kahn listen to the official results.
  Tom Pattison of the accounting department won this particular race, beating out Bruce Bristow, who was favored to win.