…one of my furry sweeties who’s definitely…one-of-a-kind!…
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have been singled out for protection by real superheroes, not the make-believe ones of comic book fame. In its February 25, 2011 edition, The Wall Street Journal carried an article entitled “Bam! Pow! Superhero Groups Clash In an Epic Battle of Good vs. Good.” I knew I wanted to share this story so I added it to a stack of other articles I’ve been collecting.
I was mystified by the thought that real people would risk their self-esteem, not to mention their lives, wandering the streets of Seattle and Portland, bedecked in costumes that would surely have citizens chuckling, if not laughing out loud. Phoenix Jones, a 22-year–old-day care worker, changes into his black-and-gold outfit at night, to walk Seattle attempting to “harass drug dealers and break up street fights.” This, it seems, is not as big a deal to Jones as having to deal with “his latest nemeses: members of the ‘Real Life Superhero (RLSH) movement.’ ” So what’s the beef? Evidently they don’t like Jones’ confrontational style, or rather they don’t like that he’s getting all the publicity because of it.
World-wide RLSHers include grown men posing as Zetaman, Knight Owl, Dark Guardian and Mr. Raven Blade. Trying to convince the communities in which they serve that they’re the “real deal,” not geeky comic-book charachters, they feel their efforts are compromised by Jones’ physical approach. They prefer to carry out charitable works like delivering food to the homeless, rather than bring attention to themselves personally. They want to be “a force for good in the world,” and as such do not give out their names.
Real Life Superheroes, who seem to favor masks and dark clothing–sometimes emblazoned with homemade logos (like the Superman “S”)–exist in pockets all over the world. Some like Knight Owl and Thanatos, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, typically focus on charitable activities.
Others, such as New York’s Dark Guardian, patrol areas known for drug activity–a bit like the city’s old subway-riding Guardian Angels. Dark Guardian shines lights and takes videos to try to deter crime nonviolently, and he makes emergency calls to 911.
“Mostly, they’re relatively normal people trying to help out and have a little fun along the way,” says Tea Krulos, a Milwaukee writer working on a book about them.
Phoenix Jones, on the other hand, interjects himself into situations.
A mixed martial-arts fighter, he broke his nose last month while breaking up a fight, and he says he has been shot and stabbed, too. He often travels with a posse, sometimes carries a Taser nightstick and tear gas, and repeatedly has himself been mistaken for a criminal.
On a particular Friday evening Jones, accompanied by 3 men, Buster Doe, Pitch Black and Ski Man, a superhero-in-training, and a female, Blue Sparrow, walked Seattle’s streets. Obliging night spot patrons, Jones posed for photos outside the establishments but admitted that it “distracts me from my mission.” Turning to the task at hand, he “chastised a man for yelling at a downtrodden passerby. ‘Let’s keep it cool; let’s all have a good night,’ he said to the man, who quickly backed down. ” To those hanging out in areas frequented by drug dealers Jones remarked ” ‘Stay safe tonight,’ he said. ‘Stay warm.’ ” One thing was clear when he and his posse couldn’t catch a car driven by a suspected DUI, their inability to fly was a definite disadvantage. Jones admits to feeling foolish in his superhero get-up when he does little in the way of crime-fighting.
While Seattle Police Detective Mark Jamieson congratulates the efforts of citizens getting involved, he is concerned about situations going awry. ” ‘Our concern is that if it goes badly, then we wind up getting called anyway, and we may get additional victims.’ ” Zetaman, a Portland superhero, feels similarly. After an evening of late-night patrolling in Seattle by both Jones’ group, the Rain City Superheroes, and Zetaman’s Real Life Superheroes, the leaders and their groups have gone their separate ways for good. Jones makes his position clear when he says ” ‘I don’t see the point in handing sandwiches to homeless people in areas in which the homeless are getting abused, attacked, harassed by drug dealers.’ ” And Zetaman charges back with ” ‘(A)ll of us are afraid of one day someone is going to get killed and it’ll be all over. … I don’t need this kind of macho c_ in my life and I don’t need to prove myself to anyone, least of all to Phoenix Jones and his Rain City Superhero Movement.’ ” Superhero Knight Owl makes a good point when he said “ ‘We’re not one giant family, … After all, we’re a colorful collection of individuals. We’re superheroes.’ “
heavens to mergatroid!!!…………real life?…………or reality show gone amok?!?
Had a great “date day” with my hubby. After a 20-25 minute drive to a massage appointment that turned out not to be until next weekend, we headed into Seattle.
Recent events of the last several weeks had me rescheduling appointments. Unfortunately I didn’t make the changes where they counted, on my calendar. Seniors know we have to write everything down. I forgot to do that, so we were surprised when a note on my massage therapist’s door said “Closed. Returning at 1 p.m.” Like a scrabble game, my brain started rearranging my thoughts and came up with “OMG! What date is this?” After being told, by my husband, that it was March 5th, we burst into laughter at my senior moment. “Oh well,” I said, “the ride through the countryside was beautiful. Now we’ll be able to enjoy the urban jungle of the city.” And off we went.
The primary purpose of our trip was to see about getting tickets for the musical, “Billy Elliott.” Online tickets were pricey, and the available seats didn’t look good. As always the “doubting Thomas,” I wanted to stand at the box-office window, ask the person sitting there for the prices, and look at the seating chart. I also wanted to query her as to her thoughts about the location of the seats. Which seats are better, these or those? I prefer the human touch, over the computer “clicks.” Call me old-fashioned, or old-school, or just old. It’s a generational thing, whatever you call it.
After finding out that the box-office was only open Mondays through Fridays, we cheerily wandered down the street toward Pike Place Market. My hubby will return and check out the ticket situation. If we see “Billy Elliott,” fine. If not, the movie version of several years ago suffices.
As we wandered down sidewalks overflowing with Saturday shoppers, I decided to capture images with my camera. I was fascinated with shops along the way. At Barney’s New York, I stopped to take photos of words boldly written across their over-sized windows. They spoke of backstage happenings. Of course I was captivated.
My daughter’s often spoken of things that occur behind the scenes at ballet performances. One particular incident involved a fellow, male dancer carrying her from the stage “wings” where she was crouching in pain, backstage to the physical therapist’s station, where the “charley-horse” in her calve muscle could be checked out. This prevented my daughter from dancing in the finale. With the help of female dancers gathered around, her costume was quickly removed, and her understudy was just as quickly shoved into it. And as the saying goes, it was “on with the show.”
The sun’s warmth felt glorious! My husband kept up with me as I wend my way in and out of the crowd, stopping to snap pictures of Macy’s windows with mannequins in funky
Everything looks delicious when I don’t have to dodge raindrops. I lingered everywhere, on curbsides, in the cozy courtyard of a small hotel near Pike Place Market, and then, of course, the market itself.
People were everywhere, soaking up the unique sights, smells and sounds of food booths, craft booths, flower booths, produce stalls, fish stalls. My absolute favorite is the vendor who sells fresh-roasted nuts. I never leave without a pound of her cashew nuts. Today, I also purchased a pound of toffee-covered nuts for my husband’s “sweet-sour tooth,” a mixture of peanuts and hazelnuts. These nuts are never a disappointment! And I’m a nut aficionado. I love cashew chicken, goobers, “turtles,” chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, almond rocha, almond joy, and on and on.
Making our way back from where we came, the downtown area, I turned my camera on passersby. People fascinate me, all kinds. I wanted to capture Seattlites, although I’m sure they weren’t all city-dwellers. Nonetheless, when I asked if I could photograph them, I said it was to let readers of my blog see the people of Seattle. All but one responded with smiles and nods of agreement.
I’m sure I startled those on the other side of window fronts, a chef preparing ingredients, a couple of guys eating lunch, and a Sephora makeup artist doing her thing. Caught up in playing amateur photographer, I approached a mother and daughter, a woman waiting outside a shop with her luggage, sales people in the coolest, new clothing store, “All Saints…,” and a street musician.
I was delighted to buy the street newspaper, “Real Change,” from an amiable homeless man. But another homeless person, an elderly woman, stopped me dead in my tracks. I’d never seen a woman who looked like a school teacher, or a librarian, or an office worker, leaning up against a lamp-post, plastic bags gathered around, dressed in an oversized, yellow, rubber raincoat with a long, green scarf snuggly wrapped about her head, cup in hand, begging. Wanting to “tell” her story, I asked if I could take a picture of her. Eyeglasses cast a shadow, while a small smile softened the blow of her emphatic “no,” in response. As we stood, a guy who looked to be in his late 20s, early 30s, pressed a plastic bag containing a boxed lunch into the woman’s grateful hands. He was on his way, before she fully mouthed her words of thanks. Oblivious to my presence, she hungrily removed the bag’s contents, murmuring how she really needed the food. As I pressed a $5 bill into her free hand, her eyes widened in disbelief. I can only imagine that she felt today was a good day. But as I walked away, I wondered about her tomorrows.
My husband said it best when he declared of me…”You dance to the beat of a different drummer.”
he’s right…i come up with my own “choreography”…hugmamma.
Is anybody watching the Grammy’s? The sights and sounds are overloading my senses!!! “Arcade Fire pulled out all the stops…helmeted bike riders crisscrossing the stage, ballpark lights blazing, musicians and singers banging out sounds and lyrics. Yikes! Music these days has gone industrial, either that or it’s altogether gone, left the building, taken a rocket ship to outer space. I’m sorry but I need 2 hard hats, one for either ear.
Well “whop my jaws” as my husband use to say in the good old days. Guess who won Album of the Year? Arcade Fire for “Suburbs!!!” And you know what??? I get to hear them play another of their songs to close out the award ceremonies. I’m putting on my hard hats…whatever happened to “less is more?”
i’m getting real old…fast…hugmamma.
The bewitching hour is fast approaching when vampires will arise, walking among us, like leaches hungry for blood; when ghouls will leave off robbing graves, to scare live victims to death; and hobgoblins will run amuck, causing their usual evil mischief. Old black and white horror movies like “Frankenstein,” and “The Mummy,” both with Boris Karloff, and “The Werewolf” with Lon Chaney, and “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi, convinced me that Halloween was NOT child’s play, or just an occasion to ask for treats to fill my tummy.
It took me a long time to realize that evil creatures weren’t lurking around every bend, as I played “hide-n-seek,” “chase master,” or “blind man’s bluff,” with my best friend and her male cousins in the neighborhood around the Chinese restaurant owned by their family. Playing under pitch-black skies, intermittently glimpsing the white sheets we all wore, as we ran between parked cars and around corners of buildings, gave me the “creeps,” or as we kids use to say, “the heejeebeejees.”
When my daughter was very young, 5 or 6 years old, several of us moms, tots in tow, would drive to neighborhoods, park, and wander from house to house. My daughter reminded me that the tradition always seemed to include rain. One year, the medieval princess dress she wore, dripped little, water puddles. Another year her wet, cellophane, hula skirt clung to her tights. Of course I feared she might catch cold, but she was oblivious, only concerned that she kept up with her friends, getting her share of candy.
During her elementary school years, the costumed student body paraded around the circular driveway in front of the school building. One Halloween my daughter was Jasmine, another year she was Belle, and yet another she was Morticia. I sewed all 3 costumes. I must admit, she was always one of the best costumed. Remember, I’m obsessed with an ATTENTION TO DETAIL!
Later in the evening, we would join several other families, including one whose parents were vets who would bring their horse along to lead our troupe of trick-or-treaters. We would always return to a particularly large cul- de-sac of homes, where one homeowner welcomed us inside for cider and cookies. Another homeowner even treated the horse to a carrot, which he polished off in minutes. I’m not sure the children were as grateful to receive the toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, given them by the father, a dentist.
During the same time frame, I can remember that the school ran a haunted house, where different families created vignettes in each classroom. It was awesome to see what their imaginations and resourcefulness could concoct. The event was always fabulous! The Girl Scout Troop in which my daughter was a member, took the girls on haunted hay rides through pumpkin patches. One in particular scared the “bejesus” out of us, children and grownups alike. Run by a family, the ride was complete with farm hands bearing scythes and pitchforks, who tried to stop our wagon as it passed them by, or a witch in an outhouse who would scare us as we passed. I don’t think I was as keen as others about that hayride, so we only went the one time.
When I was at the University of Hawaii in the late ’60s, I lived in the dormitory. In my freshman year, the men’s dorm created a frightfully, amazing haunted maze in their basement. It was amateurish compared to others I’ve been through in later years, on the mainland. Constructed entirely of cardboard, the maze still managed to scare us girls out of our wits.
The first thing we had to pass as we made our way through the narrow passages, was a huge, butchered pig’s head. Of course we tried to time it so that we wouldn’t get hit by the head as it swung side to side. I think I crawled past it on my hands and knees. Unfortunately, hands would grab at us through holes cut in the cardboard walls. There was a lot of screaming, some of it coming from me. One girl was so petrified, she ran as though her life depended upon it, wreaking havoc with the maze, knocking it down completely. It had to be closed down, so that the cardboard walls could be reconstructed. For me, once was enough. Talk about an adrenalin rush!
Since living on the mainland, I’ve been through 2 other “professionally” staged haunted mazes. One in California was set up in a vacated supermarket. I was in my late 20’s when I went with my sister-in-law Pat, and her daughter, Selina. Unfortunately for Pat, I used her as a battering ram to forge my way through what would otherwise have been the death of me. Constantly screaming, sometimes giggling nervously, and always on the verge of crying, I wasn’t sure what my feelings were as I braced myself against the unexpected. I only knew I couldn’t get out fast enough. Poor Pat, I’m sure I was a literal pain in her backside.
Years later, I did the same thing to my husband when a couple of his sisters and a nephew were visiting from Hawaii. We all went through a haunted house at Hershey Park, Pennsylvania. I followed my husband, the first to enter, and hid my face in his back as I shoved him forward. Our relatives followed close on our heels. Since we were finding our way in the dark, we weren’t prepared for the wall that loomed directly in front of us. Of course my husband ran smack into it, as we all ran into him. Somehow we managed to get out without any further mishaps. Since then my husband has sworn off going through haunted houses. That was probably 20 years or so ago. I’m certain he’s not changed his mind.
These days, we enjoy driving through neighborhoods where houses are decorated in full Halloween regalia. We get into the spirit ourselves, some years more than others. Last year Frankenstein’s head rested atop his grave, his huge green hands nestled on either side, a huge toothless grin on his purplish, green face. Nearby skeletons dangled from an overturned, rusted, blue wagon.
Tonight my husband and daughter resurrected a tradition from her childhood. They carved pumpkins to look like scary jack-o-lanterns, my daughter’s sporting the most intricate set of jagged teeth imaginable. Setting them out on the back deck, the pumpkins will illuminate the path as trick-or-treaters come knocking on the door. We’ll be ready… unless we eat all the candy before then.
bygone days…great memories, hugs for…hugmamma.
Remember the advice you heard growing up “Don’t hitch rides.” and “Don’t talk to strangers.” Well, I’ve done both. (Read my posts “a ride with strangers” and “attitude adjustment.”) Of course I didn’t “throw caution to the wind” until I was older, much older. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that I’d be taken advantage of; I was plump, graying, and sagging… just a little. Aren’t those weapons enough to keep the crazies at bay? Although these days I’m not so certain. Nonetheless I continue to enjoy speaking with strangers. As for riding with them, it depends on how desperate I am to see my daughter. Hopefully, I won’t need to “test those waters” again. I can’t imagine that a second experience could be more amazing than my first.
During our trip to Venice, I had one of the warmest encounters with a total stranger. Having left St. Mark’s Square after a couple of very informative, very historical tours of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, we meandered through the small, back streets surrounding the Square. We were in search of a couple of shops recommended by Rick Steves in “Venice 2008.” On the hunt for a gift for one of my daughter’s male dancer friends, I found “…two fascinating mask and costume shops. The Ca’ del Sol… and Atelier Marega…” While I didn’t purchase a mask from either, I did wander through both, “oohs” and “aahs” spewing forth. The only other time I’d seen a proliferation of masks was in American theme parks, like Disneyland and Busch Gardens. And believe me, they’re not the same.
Venetian masks are serious business. “In the 1700s, when Venice was Europe’s party town, masks were popular–sometimes even mandatory–to preserve the anonymity of nobles doing things forbidden back home. At Carnevalle (the weeks-long mardi Gras leading up to Lent), everyone wore masks. The most popular were based on characters from the Low-brow comedic theater called Commedia dell’Arte. We all know Harlequin (simple, Lone Ranger-type masks), but there were also long-nosed masks for the hypocritical plague doctor, pretty Columina masks, and so on. Masks are made with the simple technique of papier-mache. You make a mold of clay, smear it with Vaseline (to make it easy to remove the finished mask), then create the mask by draping layers of paper and glue atop the clay mold.” Perhaps I should have kept up mask-making when I left kindergarten. Maybe then I wouldn’t be here attempting to eke out a small income from writing. But it’s better I do what I do best, and leave mask-making to those for whom it is obviously a passion. I found such a person in Barbara Lizza.
Being too overwhelmed by the tremendous inventory of beautiful masks in the shops recommended by Steves, I wandered in and out of smaller ones. The offerings were fewer, but no less gorgeous. Unable to commit, I asked my husband to continue on and scope out more shops, while I tried to make up my mind in the ones at hand. A few minutes later he returned saying there were no others across the small bridge just ahead. Returning to a tiny shop where I’d been earlier, I was pleased to be the only customer. Moving about more easily than before I admired masks resembling story book animals, hanging from the low overhead beams. They were so charming in their pastel shades, a frog, a pig, an alligator, a rooster, among others. Assuring myself they were probably pricey and inappropriate for dancers in their mid-20’s, I pressed on in my search for the right mask. Sitting on a shelf about knee-high, were exquisite eye masks. They were a matte black, with glitter sprinkled thickly around the eye holes and on the leafy extensions that swept upward on either side. Unable to select from ones bearing silver, gold or red glitter, I picked up all 3 and deposited them near the laptop where purchases were made. Hunched over the computer was a pretty, young woman. Straightening herself, we made eye contact and smiled at one another.
Breaking the silence, Miss Lizza took the mask framed in red glitter and placed it to her face, so that her eyes peered at me through the holes. Ripples of laughter bounced off the stucco walls, as we made small talk. I told her that the masks were for my daughter and her friends who were dancers. That elicited a confession that she’d been a ballet dancer for several years. Rushing to a small room off to the side of the main shop, the young woman rifled through packages on a shelf. Finding what she sought, she turned back toward me carrying a plastic bag filled with used pointe shoes. She removed a pair, proudly showing them to me. I joined in her excitement as she spoke of bygone days. Eager to tell me about her days dancing, she struggled to find the correct words. I admired her fortitude for pressing onward.
It seemed Miss Lizza might have pursued a career in dance, but was dissuaded by family. So while she might have been disappointed, she forged a new career in mask-making. From what I saw of her work in the shop, I expressed great pleasure in her obvious talent. As I am wont to do, I rummaged through my handbag pulling out a picture of my daughter, cut from a tourist booklet printed in the town where she resides and dances. I showed it to Miss Lizza who gasped, exclaiming how beautiful my daughter was and how proud I must be of her. I then explained that there was a video of my daughter dancing on the internet. Miss Lizza quickly bent down typing away on her keyboard, asking me where she could find the video. We had difficulty bringing it up, but she did find my daughter’s name and Facebook page. Asking if it was okay to “friend” her, I consented.
As this young, Venetian, former, ballet dancer attempted to compose a message, I marveled at what was happening. A world away, a stranger was on the verge of making my daughter’s acquaintance, sight unseen. I was becoming emotional so that when Miss Lizza wrote “Your mother is standing here beside me and…” I began to cry and then bawl uncontrollably. I missed my daughter very much and felt her presence in this young woman perhaps 10 years her senior. As she and I hugged, I felt like I was holding my own daughter in my arms. Miss Lizza comforted me, telling me she could sense how sensitive and sympathetic I was. We laughed in spite of my tears, for we were behaving like long-lost relatives unexpectedly meeting in a shop, with people wandering in and out. After several attempts at saying goodbye, I turned towards the door to see a very tall, very broad young man staring at us looking dumbfounded. Miss Lizza announced that he was her boyfriend, explaining to him in Venetian what had happened. Passing him on the way out, I told him he was very lucky to have a beautiful, charming girlfriend.
Venice remains special for me, and I will never forget that young woman who felt like a daughter,… if only for an hour or so.