Luck From Above

It’d been at least six months since my last haircut. For me, this means a Gene Wilder-esque mess of tangled madness floating around my head, barely attached, with the number of gray and white hairs increasing each second, constantly closer to overtaking the brown ones I’m really going to miss. It was time for a cut.

My new-ish apartment is in-between two barber shops in the same chain, about two miles away from each. Normally I’d drive, but my roommate insisted it was a fine walk. While I’d been conditioning myself to spend days at a time indoors, hunched over a computer, internetting my life away, movement is something my body probably needs way more of than I’m willing to give it on a regular basis. Taking this into account, I slathered sun block on all exposed parts of my body and headed out into the world, going the healthy route, despite my fear of sunlight and sweating.

A walk through my neighborhood is a celebration of smells and sounds one normally would not celebrate. So far, my experience is that it’s not a particularly bad neighborhood, but the frequent sirens singing and low flying helicopters dancing, paint a different story. It’s got, uh, character.

That character was even more apparent on the hot summer day walk to get the crazy madness atop my head shorn. Aside from fear of sweating in all the places I really dislike sweating (meaning all the places), it was fine. I’d decided I’d made the correct decision to walk instead of drive when I was upon a street lamp at the corner.

And I felt the air rush past my face, something hitting my messy nest of hair right before sounds of thunder plops exploding about me.

I cursed everything that is curseable and debated running my hands through my mop top. But I didn’t… because I was fairly certain there was bird shit in it. I tried to enjoy the great outdoors, and that quest for joy had been shat upon by nature.

My leisurely stroll became a speed walk. The only fortunate thing was that my destination was a barbershop/salon kinda place. They charged extra for shampooing… I wondered if there was a bird poo charge on top of that.

Now the sweat was really pouring off of me… my unkempt hair all a-crazy, likely now housing the white poop of our fine-feathered fiends from above. Clean, flip-flop and fanny pack wearing tourist gave me the same look I gave that very serene-looking guy I saw walking and peeing down the sidewalk near my neighborhood one time. I was one of those characters who give my neighborhood character.

When I reached the barbershop, there was a wait. Covered in sweat and my version of self-actualization, I went to the men’s room to inspect my hair. While it was a mess, I found no bird poop. Perhaps… I’d just felt the air of it whizzing by? Well, that was a relief.

I was called to a chair, and the hair cutter was a very relaxed, nice lady who loved dancing, talking about how she loved dancing, and who also seemed to have no problem with bird shit. She said it was lucky, but also confirmed there was none on my hair.

As I was sitting, the apron over me, I rested my hand on my leg… and found where the bird shit had hit me. For the first time in my lifetime of getting my hair cut, I asked for a moment to go to the bathroom to wash bird poop off my jeans. She, again, was fine with it, saying she thought it was cool stitching on my jeans when she saw me sitting down. Nope. Poop. From a bird. Bird poop.

When I returned, large wet spot on my pants leg where the dropping had been, hands washed and re-washed at least three times, she kept on chit chatting like it was no big deal. It even turned out she was from the same county of Ohio as I was, which is a wacky coincidence to cap off my wacky non-adventure.

As I left, she reassured me that being pooped upon by a bird is good luck. For me personally, the jury is still out on that one.

OUTLAW TERRITORY 3 signing tomorrow at Comics Toons ‘N Toys!

Outlaw3Tomorrow, June 26th, this here old codger will be joining some other OUTLAW TERRITORY anthology contributors at Comics Toons ‘N Toys in Tustin, CA for a signing to celebrate the release of OUTLAW TERRITORY volume 3! The signing goes from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Stop by if you’re able…


WARNING: The following contains MAN OF STEEL spoilers, as well as way too much personal information about me…

I’ve seen MAN OF STEEL twice in two days and have been trying to write a review of it since the first viewing. No one asked me to review it, but I love the character and have very, very strong feelings about the way this movie represents him. Over 2,000 words into my first review, I realized it’d just gone off the rails. I started again and ended up at almost 4,000 words. It was a rambling summary with my own interjections and opinions here and there. I’m not a movie reviewer, really, though I used to do it all the time. I started wondering if I’d lost it or something, but it might be that I just can’t review this movie. I’m too close to Superman. Granted, a lot of people love the character as much or more than me and were able to write reviews (wise and talented people such as Mark Waid and Adam P. Knave). I know what they did and should be capable of doing that… yet I have finally accepted that can’t. Whatever I start typing just ends up being a summary with some pointless observations thrown in. My nearly 6,000 words of attempted review fall flat and are, for the most part, oddly impersonal.

This is bizarre, because my love of the character of Superman is very personal. My first memories are of Christopher Reeve as the character and of myself running around in Superman Underoos with an “S” spit curl my mom had to help me get right. I’ve always loved Superman for as long as I can remember, and he’s just as important to me now as he’s ever been. I feel like I need him. I need someone, even a fictional character, who I believe not only knows what the right thing to do is, but has the power to do it. As a kid, he felt like my personal hero.


I was raised Christian, but, for some reason, this comic book character in blue tights and a red cape made me feel a security I never got from Sunday school. There’s always talk of Superman being interpreted as a Christ-like figure, despite being created partly as a Moses allegory by couple of Jewish kids named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The character, over the years, has been reinterpreted as almost a reaction to questions of why God doesn’t just step in and help us out. It’s oversimplified, and the character is primarily for entertainment, but he really meant a lot to me growing up. I feel like we’re born with our own senses of morality, of right and wrong, and that we shouldn’t need to be told to help people instead of hurt them… but it helps to have some good examples.

And Superman using all his amazing powers to help regular people like me meant so much to a young child who always felt kind of frightened and a little overwhelmed by life and everything I was taught about what comes after — both the good and the bad. I knew he wasn’t real, but knowing that a character like that could exist meant so much, and it still does.

I realize that fictional characters; especially ones that have been around as long as Superman and are owned by corporations instead of the creators are open to interpretation. Changes in the mythology don’t bother me, and, in fact, MAN OF STEEL makes some good ones. The world and history of Krypton is expanded in ways that make for very fun cinema. The central relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent is fundamentally changed in a very smart way. Most of it, frankly, delights me. There is a lot of good in this movie I can’t seem to legitimately review.


There are great performances, starting with a perfectly cast Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent (pointedly not named Superman in the credits or, of course, in the movie’s title). Everyone is committed to his or her roles, in front of and behind the camera. The design and feel of the movie is appropriately epic and, while not as light on its feet and fun as many of the best Superman stories, still earnest and full of the humanity and caring.

It is, for the majority of its running time, a very well done and well thought-out version of this character I love. For the first two-thirds it’s the best I could’ve hoped for from a blockbuster movie in this day and age. Superman is finally a modern feeling character, and the movie is filled with interesting actors and big ideas. My heart didn’t swell as I’d expected it to, and I didn’t get as misty eyed or teary as I’d feared I would watching a movie with my friends, but it felt good and right.

Then it takes a turn from which it cannot recover. Lots of people are talking about it, and for good reason. The amount of wanton destruction in violence in this movie, even though it’s digital and bloodless, is out of control. It goes from being exciting and gripping in the Smallville battle to just over-the-top in the worst ways in the destruction of Metropolis, first from Kryptonian ships, and then from a brutal one-on-one fight between Superman and General Zod. And all the while, this version of Superman is more concerned with using his fists than he is with saving the lives of all the superpowerless humans caught in the excruciating disaster porn insanity.

Everyone wanted more action in this than the last time the character was on the big screen in SUPERMAN RETURNS. The demand for Superman to use his power in a more visceral way via big punches in fights was heard by the filmmakers, and they overcompensated. What happens in this movie is just insane and ultimately numbing. Near the end, everyone I talked to agreed that the fight just went on for too long. There was too much destruction. CG allows filmmakers to do almost anything they can imagine with a budget like MAN OF STEEL has, but sometimes more isn’t better, it’s just more.


The ultimate solution to this battle is a moment I still feel traumatized by, as silly as that might seem to people who don’t cling to this type of fiction the way I always have and probably always will. My hero since childhood, a character that, to me, stands for everything I aspire and usually fail to be, snaps the villain’s neck.

Yes, the filmmakers put him in what they thought was an impossible position. He had to do it to save people directly in front of him (never mind all the forgotten about and ignored thousands who had to have died in the type of fight that just took place in a huge city). They showed him struggle and plead with Zod. In the end they tried to show that, though he had no choice, he felt horrible about it, crying into Lois’s arms.

It’s a horrifically out of character moment. The fact that most folks I talked to after watching the movie weren’t that bothered by it shows that the Superman I love just isn’t the character he now is to the audience at large. That was a goofy, boring throwback to many of them. This version is what’s more palatable now. This character who is a good man, but not as good as the Superman I pretended to be when I was a little boy. That Superman would’ve found a way to do what’s right, to save the day, without resorting to murder. And that’s what it is, no matter how poignant the end of the scene, no matter how justified the filmmakers try to make it. They made the ultimate superhero, the ultimate symbol of hope and justice, a killer.

And that’s not what I want from my hero. All the good the movie does, and there is so much good in it, is ultimately negated to me by the ridiculous violent climax and disturbing resolution. The final scene, introducing glasses-wearing Clark Kent most of us remember, with the smart twist that intrepid reporter Lois Lane isn’t fooled by glasses but still plays along is stylishly directed, entertainingly written, and wonderfully acted. But it doesn’t wash away the bitter taste left over by the scenes of brutality that are just out-of-place in a Superman movie — at least the type I want to see.

It breaks my heart that this movie is, to my mind, inappropriate for someone the same age as I was when I fell in love with Superman via movies. I’m not suggesting that Superman stories have to be for little kids; they absolutely don’t. They can be sophisticated and thought-provoking and harrowing and exciting — and still be all-ages. All-ages doesn’t mean for kids. It means for everyone, regardless of age. That’s what Superman should be, and that’s where this movie ultimately fails.

The fact that murder, no matter how justified in the moment as scripted, makes a hero more modern and relatable is troubling. The “S” stands for hope, but, in the end, this new movie version of Superman does not.

Where Lurks The Pigeon Man

At first I thought that I thought the neighborhood I recently moved to with my roommate and cat (both smaller than me and furry) was bizarre (pronounced in a Harrison Ford-esque “beeeeeeezaaaaahh”) because of my small town upbringing and every other single subsequent living experience I’ve had in my previous fifty-two years of so-called life, but in the four months since I said, “Well, the rent is pretty cheap,” until now, I’ve seen things and heard things that no man I know would say are totally normal.

Around my neighborhood is a man I call “The Whistler.” He makes magic music through his tightly pursed lips, sharing melodies and soaring tunes that have to get out of his heart through his mouth and be shared with at least everyone within a three-block radius who is outside or has a window open. While he whistles more than is condusive to my sanity, he whistles well, and doing what you do well, no matter how annoying, is something I respect.

But, okay, yeah, “The Whistler” has natural talent, but whoever is constantly honking a clown horn while walking up and down the street worries me a little. “The Honker” has just gotta sell that ice cream he pushes in his mini-freezer cart, but I hear that honking horn sound at all hours day and night, and I just know there is potential for horrible things to happen. I don’t think he’s a clown, due to his lack of makeup, but the incessant honking is a little unsettling, and for some reason, I find it threatening.

Then there is the lady who shrieks what, to me, sounds like “TAMALES LOS GATOS!” from morning to evening. (Cat tamales? I hope and pray I mishear that every single time she yells it for hours on end every single day.) She’s got an unsettling way about her, but she’s doing a job, and I will probably have one of those tamales once I can track the shrill, yelling voice to a person and confirm I’m simply mishearing the “gatos” part of her battle cry. She gives some quirk to the neighborhood, but despite possibly not only making tamales out of cats but also just openly advertising it for everyone within earshot (at least two miles) to hear, I don’t fear for my cat’s life in a world where she exists.

The gentleman the roommate has dubbed “The Belcher” is no threat to anything other than my ears and my waking nightmares and my clearly outmoded sense of decorum in polite society. His rumbling burps, at times consistent and clear, keeping perfect time like a gassy metronome, are gross and should probably be examined by a physician, but I don’t think he’s going to hurt me or my cat. Unless his belching is coming from cat tamales, but again, I’m pretty sure I’m simply mishearing the shrieking lady. I just have to be. Anyway, every time The Belcher belches, a piece of me dies. There are a lot of pieces, though, so it should be fine.

Humans aside for a moment, there are also the tomcats who prowl around the apartment, just waiting for someone to leave a door open and fall asleep unawares. Our main security guard is a cat our building manager named Rocky. He’s been through things I hope my cat has never seen and will make sure she never sees for as long as I have her (parting with her either due to one of our deaths, probably mine, or just when I’m sick of her jerkitude and give her to a nice person who doesn’t know any better). There are fights at night, horrible cat sounds, and he usually hisses at me on the stairs when I walk down them from my second story apartment castle in the polluted sky. He’s a tough customer.

While I personally don’t fear the cats due to my human size, no matter how curious my kitty cat might be of the outside world, no matter how much she just stares out the window, no matter how close she gets to the open door when I enter my apartment of broken dreams… she will never be an indoor/outdoor cat. Her experience in the out of doors, from the moment she was abandoned to me to the day I die long before her of old age and/or/probably burritos, will only be what she sees of the outside via a window or her dreaded kitty carrier.

Yes, my cat was found on the streets by the shelter, so, yes, I know she’s a scrapper. She’s a survivor. Still, I don’t want her to encounter Rocky or one of his ilk. If it were to happen, I think she could walk away from the encounter, but it’d probably change her in negative ways. The tomcats are terrifying for me as the owner of a sweet little cat who is just a dick to me sixty to seventy percent of the time. They are the main reason I don’t want her going outside, followed distantly by the Tamales los gatos lady who…c’mon, I’m mishearing that, right?

This brings me, as fate decided long ago it must, to the namesake of this writing: “The Pigeon Man.”

Occasionally sounds would be heard from the windows of my apartment, and I couldn’t tell if they were from next-door or some secret basement of my building that I rented before ever seeing the neighborhood at night at first. It sometimes seemed like an animal, perhaps a wild turkey (entirely plausible in this area somehow), but other times there was a distinctly human quality to the noises. Either a trapped, scared animal, or a disturbed human.

Then yesterday, while watching TV instead of writing, I saw what looked like a pigeon dancing on the windowsill of the building next door, not more than three inches away, it often seems, from my living room window. But, no, the pigeon was not dancing of its own volition. There were human hands holding its wings out, moving it around like a puppet. Is that a thing pigeon aficionados do? Does Bert do this while Ernie turns a blind eye?

I suddenly realized that the part-turkey, part-human noises I’d been hearing were that of a man talking to pigeons. Maybe the pigeons enjoy it, but I immediately pictured a Wild Bill situation with pigeons instead of ladies. It got dark and bleak in my worried head as I saw this man’s hands sticking out his window, making the pigeon dance as he tried to communicate via strange mouth sounds.

Basically, if either my roommate or kitty or myself die of blunt force trauma to the head, my gut will say that said dead person or cat somehow upset the pigeon man. A man who can make a pigeon dance while talking to it in a human version of its native tongue is capable of things. So many things.

And lo The Whistler whistled.

And The Honker honked.

And the Tamales Lady yelled.

And The Belcher, he did belch.

And Rocky hissed, ready for a fight to the death or worse.

And The Pigeon Man… The Pigeon Man communicated to pigeons while teaching them new dance moves.

These are the people of my neighborhood. These are my people. And I am theirs now. What they call me, if they call me anything, I will likely never know… unless The Belcher has a blog or something.