Sidestepping Across The Multiverse: Part Three.

Tommy Preston, the once superpowered champion of justice known as Golden Lad, refused to leave the few remaining spoonfuls of his beloved noontime chili, opting instead to dissuade a surprisingly persistent pest vocally when it became painfully obvious force hadn’t worked. Yet. “Gotta hand it to ya, kid, you’ve got stones the size of Mount Rushmore… but if you don’t stumble back out of here right now, they’ll be scraping chunks of you off the walls.”

(A mystical Aztec artifact, the “Heart of Gold”, kept the ‘Lad’ locked in chronologically at about thirty when he was really approaching a century of fighting the so-called good fight. So, he was polite but short-tempered. Imagine your grandfather as a Kryptonian.)

“Yeah, that’s not happening, you outdated, jaded son of a bitch.” The delivery was indomitable and intense. This pest was ready to make the prophet Petty proud.

In other words, he wasn’t about to back down.

The bowl and the beaker of milk that always accompanied it were both pulverized by the force exerted against them by the now-truly pissed off paladin. “That’s it. You’re about to become the latest example of why it’s NOT a good idea to interrupt my lunch break, you wannabe side-“

Golden Lad spun around, expecting to see the young would-be hero struggling to maintain his footing after being tossed out of the diner via one of the front windows.

The source of his tantrum, however, was far from spent.

It had been a long time since he’d faced an adversary who could take a hit, especially one delivered with fifty percent of his extraordinary horsepower, and so, the Lad was understandably bewildered by the sight of William Nemesis, his sunglasses discarded and his ad hoc costume torn and filthy but relatively intact nevertheless, in a fighting pose.

“What seems to be the problem, boyo?” Nemesis inquired. “Shocked to be facing an adversary who can take a hit? Even one struck with, if I had to guess… half your battery power?”

(Told ya.)

Nemesis hit the superheroic nail right on the noggin. In the years since an epic conflict between this reality’s actual superpowers there were very few beings of the Lad’s abilities left roaming the streets of NYC. Or anywhere else for that matter.

In fact, as far as Golden Lad knew he was the only one left. And so, the antagonists he faced were of a decidedly less extraordinary nature. Though they now bred and spread across this once gleaming metropolis like psychotic cockroaches, mobsters, terrorists and petty criminals folded like cheap deck chairs against his might.

Until today.

Tommy Preston wasn’t sure how he felt about this realization. Seeing his confusion, Nemesis helped him decide.

“You know, one of the reasons I wanted to meet you was to ask a question that’s been bugging me ever since I started studying your, what do my fellow nerds call it? Oh yeah, your ‘secret origin’.”

Preston tensed, every knuckle cracking as his gloved hands became fully loaded fists.

“Doesn’t the rattle of all those skeletons in your closet ever get to you?  How did you ever swoop around the city, a shining beacon of gleaming American values, knowing that your unlimited power was derived from an artifact empowered by the blood of a thousand martyred Aztecs? Talk about cultural appropriation!”

The Lad began to shake, his taut muscles vibrating as one of his most covert, grisly truths was dragged into the light. “How the hell does he know all this?” The question painfully burned in his broken mind.

But Nemesis wasn’t done.

“And whatever happened to Peggy Shane

(No! Don’t you dare!)

the feisty, teen damsel who somehow got ahold of part of the Heart of Gold? The one who became Golden Girl, your partner-in-crime… and much more I’m guessing?”

Breaking point… reached.

Golden Lad lunged forward, hurling a table directly at his young foe’s head. Seconds later that same table hovered motionless in the air.

“It’s called telekinesis, Tommy,” was all Nemesis had to say before launching the item back at the Lad who promptly smashed it into a million

(give or take)

splinters before charging at the object of his growing rage, roaring like a wounded animal.

Nemesis was so engaged preventing the fragments from slicing his already damaged ensemble and form that he was helpless to bring the Lad to a standstill. Two generations of caped – and non-caped – crusader collided. Both opponents grunted and gasped, their super charged bodies reacting from the blowout. Nemesis crumpled to the Empire Diner’s grimy floor, overpowered by Tommy Preston’s hemorrhaging mania.

For his part, Golden Lad was raining blows on a number of demons of his past. His neglectful parents, who never once questioned their young son’s never-ending absences as he engaged in a double life. His grandfather, who, as it turned out, arranged for his grandson to “stumble” upon a mystical relic imbued with the souls of an entire tribe of slaughtered natives. The Heart of Gold itself, that altered his appearance to friend and foe alike when in his Golden Lad persona, thus destroying any chance of establishing meaningful, lasting relationships as Tommy Preston.

And of course, there was the reminiscence of the vilest figure of them all. Bingo, the Wonder Boy, once a regular, All-American kid named Jerry Jones Jr, who, after finding a genie known as Yama Lama of Ka-Bang, became the “strongest and fastest boy in the whole world!” whenever he uttered the magic words, “KA-BANG!”

(To be fair, it was a different age, though that origin is ludicrous in any era. One can only assume old-time comic book creators drank a lot of cheap booze.)

Once the most trusted ally in the Lad and Girl’s stable of colleagues, his will irrevocably broke as their literal war with the forces of evil dragged on. As a brainwashed acolyte of darkness, his soul completely void of light, he visited an untold number of torments upon Golden Girl before the Lad severed his head from his shoulders as Peggy Shane’s lifeless bag of bones lay a mere five feet away.

Needless to say, neither Tommy Preston nor Golden Lad were ever the same after that day.

Years later, in his bloodshot eyes, it was Wonder Boy that Golden Lad was attempting to beat to an unrecognizable pulp, not Nemesis.

But it was Nemesis who struck back.

One formidable telekinetic blast later, the Lad was pinned against a wall thoroughly covered with crumbly, framed, signed photos of an entire generation of ultra-powered saviors. Though to be fair, the pictures were now a testament to that same era’s complete and utter failure to resist the united might of foes they once vanquished with ease.

He focused every ounce of his magical potency into breaking free of the metaphysical hold Nemesis exerted against him, but Tommy Preston had been rendered immobile – though his tongue was still fully functional.

“I’M GOING TO ANNIHILATE YOU JUST LIKE I DID THE REST OF THEM, YOU MONSTER!”

“Jeez Louise, Tommy… I thought… you golden age guys… were all about being polite!” a run-down, flabbergasted Nemesis declared as he peeled himself off the Empire’s debris covered floor. He examined his shredded costume and muttered under his labored breath. “Man, what I wouldn’t give to have a costume like the Lad’s… one that’s protected from damage by an enchanted antique. Why do some superheroes get all the luck?”

Then William Nemesis recalled all that Golden Lad had been through on this world and a wave of shame overcame him as a crushing wave of reality assaulted his consciousness.

“I’m going to release you, Tommy… but only if you agree to point all that white-hot rage I’ve finally drawn out in the direction it belongs.”

His mind racing, the Lad only had one obvious question for his captor. “YOU’RE THE ONE PINNING ME AGAINST A WALL, YOU DEVIL… WHO THE HELL ELSE SHOULD I BE BRAWLING WITH? I TOLD YOU… I DESTROYED THE LAST OF THEM! THE DARK’S ARMY IS ALL GONE!”

Other shoe… dropped.

The merest reference of the embodiment of mankind’s darkness was all it took to shatter this reality’s veneer. Two distinct ear-piercing, harmonic pitches drowned out Tommy Preston’s ranting, drawing the two battling hero’s curiosity to the Empire’s counter.

“You just… couldn’t listen… could you, sweeeetie?” The inflection was more of a hiss than a voice, barely female, but not fully human either. The tone that emerged from the establishment’s kitchen next was unmistakably male but equally inhuman.

“I’ve told you… their kind never learns,” the allegation came in the form of an inhuman growl. “And that’s why they always fall.”

“What… the… hell?” was all Golden Lad had to offer.

“You’re a wordsmith, buddy,” was Nemesis’ response.

You know the drill by now…

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Sidestepping Across The Multiverse: Part Two.

“We’re not going to have a problem are we, pal?” the boisterous voice was husky, weary and subzero, with only the slightest trace of a youthful, hopeful tone detectable. “Because I assume you know who you’re dealing with?”

The young man at the diner’s counter waited a moment to answer, as the greasy spoon’s limited space was still filled with the clatter of the lunch crowd’s swift exit. This particular hash house’s lunch crowd had seen enough combat between superpowered fighters for their collective lifetime, so they headed for the hills. The Empire Diner’s lunch dishes, silverware and even the chairs were still rolling around the dirty linoleum floor when the query filled the virtually empty space once more.

“I’m not going to ask again, beanpole.”

“Actually…” the remaining patron replied as he swung around on the tarnished silver lunch counter stool, “I’ve done my homework, so I know exactly who you are. You’re Tommy Preston. a.k.a. Golden Lad. In 1945 you were a mere blonde-haired, blue-eyed white boy of eleven who was forced into a child labor situation in your grandfather’s antique shop when you found an ancient, sentient Aztec artifact. The so-called ‘Heart of Gold’ scanned your pure, adolescent heart

(creepy, much?)

and deemed it worthy and devoted to justice. So, the Heart not only gave your powers of super strength, flight and ‘high voltage vision…'” the diner punctuated that specific ability with highly animated air quotes before continuing as Tommy Preston took a seat a few stools away where a piping hot bowl of chili was already wafting for him.

Preston began to devour his lunch when he noticed his unwanted dining companion had taken a pause, and so he shot a brief glare to his immediate right.

And so the golden age origin story continued.

“It even created that nifty costume which appeared every time you enthusiastically uttered the words ‘Heart of Gold!’ Incidentally, I notice you’re still sporting that magical ensemble even though you’re not so golden anymore.”

At this point, I have to interject to pose a question to you, my ten readers: Can you roll your memory bank back to see yourself at eleven-years-old?

(You can? Thank you for participating.)

Now imagine eleven-year-old you, a soaked-behind-the-organic-listening-devices rugrat with the powers of a pint-sized god. You’d be so powerful parental decrees wouldn’t matter a lick, if you wanted to go flying around the city on a school day, that’s exactly what you’d do. All the power in the world without any restrictions.

It boggles the mind to the Nth degree, doesn’t it?

Fortunately for his parents and the world for that matter, little Tommy Preston grew up in an age of innocence. Sure, a global conflict had just ended, but the world was still full of hope and the same purity that made this tween worthy of said powers. And so, he used his newfound abilities to fight for truth, justice, blah, blah, blah. Golden Lad was an anomaly though, a standalone hero who, under other circumstances would have been relegated to junior partner.

For him it really was a golden age.

Golden Lad in simpler times.

But eventually his world went down the crapper as everything around him was burned to the ground. Any other champion would have hung up his tights for good.

But not this superguy.

Indeed, the middle-aged crusader born of another era was still soaring around the Big Apple in an emerald full-length shirt (and matching shorts!), an indigo belt, brown boots and gloves, a sunny colored cape and of course, an amber heart on his chiseled chest. He was a grown-ass paladin with perpetual five o’clock shadow Doctor House would be envious of, but in a uniform you’d swear belonged to his sidekick.

Perfectly styled hair had been shaved down to a military cut. Blue eyes that were now once brimming with hope were now ice cold.

“Huh,” was all the golden-no-longer Golden Lad had to say after listening to this retelling of his life story.

“That’s it? was the stranger in the unconventional superhero getup’s reaction to being summarily dismissed. “I know haven’t got to the best part, but I can’t believe you’re not impressed! I’m a walking Wikipedia! Wait… do you have that here?”

The veteran costumed warrior crushed a few crackers into his half-empty bowl. He gazed into the mixture of beans, dead animal flesh, spices and spaghetti sauce as though it had the answers to his life’s multitude of questions. Then he fired off an indignant frown at his would-be biographer. “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about, but you can relax. You get an ‘A’ for the book report, buddy. Here I thought you might be an actual threat… when you’re really just another pathetic fanboy.”

“FANBOY?!” That particular term lit a fuse in the Multiversal traveler. He leaped off his stool, ran the lengthy digits of his left hand through the dirty blonde mass of tousled hair atop his dome and took a position behind the object of his exasperation.

Tommy Preston refused to turn away from the sole remaining joy in his tortured existence. “I know this world’s a never-ending nightmare, boyo, but there’s no need to get so stressed. I’m just not in the market for a sidekick… especially one who can’t walk the walk. But I am curious, what’s your handle, junior?”

“You can call me Nemesis, Not-So-Shiny-Anymore Lad, but I’m hardly a fanboy! Far from it in fact. The truth is, I’ve come a long way to…”

Nemesis’ words died in his throat as a pair of sinewy hands clutched his green leather jacket and hurled him across the breadth of the dining room – until he collided with one of the joint’s oversized, curved windows, that is.

The window broke. Nemesis didn’t. Though he did wind up on the unimaginably grimy New York City sidewalk outside. “Guess I shouldn’t have chosen a trade name that means literally means ‘adversary’…” he uttered just under his breath.

Then came the sobering realization that he was surrounded by dozens of horror-struck rubberneckers. Their collective panic should have sent them fleeing in terror, but they were compelled to gawk at him with scrutinizing fascination.

Nemesis put them out of their misery.

“I’m not what you think.” His tone was booming and cocksure but laced with genuineness. “I’m not a part of Them, the bastards who tried to drain this world of everything good and decent. But the enemy you’ve all been living in fear of, the ones that’s kept you all from living your lives for so long now, is in there… and you have no idea how far I’m willing to go stop it once and for all.”

And with that proclamation Nemesis shook the tempered glass off his haggard frame and marched back into the Empire Diner to face his own fears for what he was certain would be the final time.

Needless to say…

Posted in Hotel Life | Tagged , | 20 Comments

Into The Dark: Sidestepping Across The Multiverse, Part One.

A man walks down the street. It’s a street in a strange world; maybe it’s the Third World, maybe it’s his first time around.

Actually, scratch that, it’s neither. I mean, yes, it’s a strange world, but it’s not the third world he’s been to nor is it his first time around. To clarify, it’s the thirteenth world, no, make that the thirteenth earth this particular voyager has visited and it’s the twenty-third dimension he’s traversed from his own.

And now I’m done with this. As a lifelong fan I can only rip off Paul Simon for a short while before my brain begins to bleed. Now on with our tale.

The days on this specific earth are strange; indeed, it’s cultural, economic and sociological development became stuck somewhere between the Forties and the early Seventies after a war between gods, demi-gods, superheroes and of course, super villains, so you’d only recognize it if you were of a certain age. But I suppose that really isn’t all that important. No, what matters is a certain diner located at the corner of Tenth Avenue and 22nd Street in the neighborhood of Chelsea in the grand metropolis humans across the Multiverse call New York.

It is in this storied establishment that two individuals are about to cross paths and set in motion events that will lead to… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

“Almost finished, dear?” the waitress with the time-worn luggage under her heavily painted eyes quietly inquired of the youthful customer at the end of the dull grey counter crisscrossed with cracks. This greasy spoon, like the city, and for that matter, the world it was a part of, had seen better days. The row of fractured globes dangling from the ceiling only served to illuminate the obvious: This hash house was long past its prime.

Though it did have one redeeming quality.

“Not quite… in fact, I’ve barely started this delicious burger…” he sharpened his gaze while placing a half-consumed Empire Stack upon its plate before scanning the faded nametag that had been as battered by the ravages of time as her face, “Flo? Seriously?” he inquired back in a not-so-hushed tone.

“Yes. What’s wrong with Flo?” was her response, her hackles fully raised.

“Nothing. I guess you’re a bit behind the TV times on this particular mudball, aren’t you?”

“Not sure that that means, honey, but you’re proving my point.”

“What point is that?”

“You’re freaking my customers out… and people are squirrely enough around this burg as it is.”

The customer pivoted and took a good look around at the collection of peepers that were fixated on him.

Dozens of empty, soulless, organic ocular devices scanned him from top to bottom. The scrappiness that comes from living in a place where you have to fight every day for that last seat on the subway, that spot in line, that last slice of deep dish pizza, was gone. All that remained was… fear. 

This eating house’s clientele was well and truly freaked out by the traveler in the green leather jacket, Aviator sunglasses, a black-as-night t-shirt emblazoned with a red lightning bolt and black jeans and boots. If the traveler was affected by the spineless crowd of patrons, he refused to show it. He pivoted back to the server with the moniker straight out of a sitcom no one on this world had ever seen.

“If it makes you feel any better, I’m not a super villain, Flo,” was the only comfort he could provide, though his next sentence undid all that. “But I’m not leaving, and no one here is capable of making me do so. You see, I’m waiting for someone, and I’ve come a long way to see him. A ridiculously long way.”

“So, you’re not a killer? Like one of ’em? Because they took my sister’s boy… they slaughtered that poor child like his life meant nothing at all.”

“Oh, I’ve killed before. Dozens of times, in fact!” he morbidly retorted with gleeful abandon. “But never anyone that didn’t deserve it.”

Flo looked back at her manager cowering in the kitchen. She was about to offer her unbelievably odd and unsettling customer a slice of pie on the house if he’d reconsider when the jingle jangle of the bell above the joint’s front door rang out as it opened, and it suddenly became clear why this strangely attired young man was there in the first place.

“Should I clear the joint out?” she asked the adolescent who had returned to scarfing down his Empire Special Blend Burger.

“That all depends on him, Flo. Is he as welcoming to tourists as everyone else around here?” was his snappy comeback.

The reason our hero with the dashing sense of style had crossed dimensions answered for himself – but his response was drowned out by the commotion of the weak-kneed cluster of diners fleeing for their lives, convinced they were about to be caught in the middle of their worst collective nightmare: A superpowered donnybrook that would consume everything its path.

They were right, of course.

And now, those words we all love and dread…

download

Hook’s Note: A lot has happened these last few weeks that I should probably share with all of you, but honestly, I’m just not in a proper headspace to do that right now.

So please accept this piece of fiction, set in my Infinite Crossover Crisis universe. It’s taken a monumental mental effort for me to crack my writer’s block and create/share this with all of you, so please… be kind but honest.

Posted in Hotel Life | 44 Comments

It’s Been A Minute, Hasn’t It?

Sorry about the title, I’ve just always wanted to use that phrase, whether it be in real life, or on the screen, so I decided to go for it. Incidentally, I’ve always wanted to use a lot of commas in one sentence too.

So I’ve succeeded on both counts… so it’s been a banner day for me, let me tell you.

No, seriously, it has been a bit since I’ve published anything in this space and I felt it was time. The problem is this…

I don’t have anything worthwhile to share. (Not that that’s ever stopped me before.) It’s just that life has been hectic as hell lately and creatively I’m as blocked as I am physically most days. So let’s do some bullet points and then you nice people can get the hell out of here.

  • Returning to full service at the hotel has made everyone happy; my staff (feels strange to say I have staff), Management, and not that I even really care, but even the guests are happy. Sure, some of them are still stiffing us, but most of them are happy things are beginning to return to normal. It’s been one of the biggest, longest fights of my life, but we’re back and that’s all that matters.
  • Being a manager is great, but it’s a ton of work. You have to try to accommodate your staff’s (there it is again!) scheduling requests, the hotel’s occupancy forecasts, Management’s desire to “run lean” to save money in these uncertain times, and of course, the x-factor, which is always present and will always mess you up.
  • The book is deader than disco on Amazon and so I’ve given up completely on writing fiction and a large portion of my dreams. Though I still hope to someday meet Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt.

Speaking of the lovely miss Hunt…

Actual Conversation At The Bell Desk

CARL: (One of my new guys.) Just read your blog, Robert, you’ve really got a thing for that broad, don’t you?

ME: You mean Helen Hunt?

CARL: No, I mean Mother Theresa! Of course, Helen Hunt! It’s gotta be one of the biggest unrealized ambitions of your life to not have slept with that broad!

ME: Hey, did you really read the post? Helen Hunt in the 1980’s represented my ideal woman. Long before Mad About You, she was the girl next door. The drop-dead gorgeous, caring, relatable girl that you want at your bedside when you’re sick and in your bed when you’re not. The…

CARL: Well, sure! Everyone wants that broad!

ME: And that’s who I married! I wasn’t even aware of this until years later, but everyone at my wife’s work compared her to Miss Hunt. So I’ve been sleeping with Helen Hunt for years! I’ve been married for twenty-seven years… so I’ve slept with Helen Hunt at least twenty-seven times! So I’m a happy guy!

And I really am. My writing career is DOA, but my wife is the greatest gift life has ever bestowed upon me – next to my daughter, of course. I just pray my lovely bride never decides to act on the knowledge that she married one hundred classes below her station.

And that’s all I have. (Told you I was blocked.)

See you in the lobby, kids…

I had no idea what sort of pic to use for this post, except that I didn’t want to follow up some heartfelt sentiments about my young bride with pics of another woman. So here’s a poster for a film that holds a very special place in each of my family member’s hearts for different reasons…

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Posted in Hotel Life | 31 Comments

This Is What I’m Saying, Paul Reiser.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever done this, but if you look up a certain creation of yours on Wikipedia, Paul, this is what you’ll find:

Mad About You is an American television sitcom starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as a married couple in New York City. It initially aired on NBC from September 23, 1992, to May 24, 1999, winning numerous awards including four Golden Globe Awards and twelve Primetime Emmy Awards. On March 6, 2019, a limited series revival was picked up by Spectrum Originals for 12 episodes.

When my lovely bride and I were first married in 1995 we didn’t have a lot of money (not much has changed, truth be told), and so, like most newlywed couples, we found ways to pass the time…

No, I’m not referring to just that, all of you perverts reading this. We cuddled up on our couch in Niagara Falls, Canada, and watched television. Can you guess which program quickly became our favorite?

Paul and Jamie Buchman were newlyweds who didn’t have all the answers to the riddle that is marriage and while this scared the hell out of them at times, they never forgot that love conquers all – even a three-part season finale involving two infidelity near-misses. Needless to say, we were hooked from the pilot.

And yes, I used “hooked”. Get over it.

We cringed every time Murray failed to get that mouse. We empathized as Paul and Jamie tried to find time to engage in sexual congress. Like the rest of the world, we became emotionally invested as that weasel Doug Burkess planted one on Jamie, testing the strength of the Buchman’s marriage like never before.

To be clear, I’ve always felt Helen Hunt, the young lass from Culver City, had something I found irresistible, and this was long before you tapped her to be your Jamie, Paul. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it – and my wife would cut it off if I ever did – but Helen has always had that Girl Next Door accessibility. She’s the natural beauty that doesn’t know it, the one you feel comfortable with, even though she can drive you crazy with a simple toss of her hair.

This pic proves my point perfectly, no?

In fact, I was initially attracted to my own Jamie, coincidentally named Jackie, because she reminded me of Helen the first time I saw her.

(I waited awhile before divulging that information, naturally.)

Incidentally, Teri Hatcher is a brilliant actor, its true, Paul, but you captured lightning in a bottle with with Helen Hunt.

Getting back yo my own experience in couplehood, like Paul and Jamie, we had our ups and downs. There were battles over everything from daily minutiae to major struggles; I’m not the easiest guy to live with at times, truth be told.

But no matter what was happening, we always found time to cuddle up on that couch and watch the Buchmans struggle with the dissolution of Fran and mark’s marriage, trying to schedule romantic rendezvous (not sure what the plural is for that word), and a plethora of other challenges. Seven seasons passed, for us, and Paul and Jamie.

Then, as you no doubt remember, the show ended and took its place in television history and your bank account. (Thank God for residual checks, right?)

Unlike the Buchmans, our life together went on. We struggled with infertility and had our own series of adventures attempting to use science to conceive a child. One particularly memorable incident unfolded the first time I had to provide a “donation” for testing. The hospital’s donation room was a dimly-lit bathroom with no magazines or videos, just a photography magazine that contained no pictures whatsoever. To make matters worse, hand soap was the only lubricant available.

We really should have realized something was off when a couple came out of the room together before it was my turn…

In the end though, our little miracle, an amazing girl, was the result of science, love and luck. As you can no doubt attest, Paul, being a dad is like juggling jars filled with nitroglycerin while walking a tight rope suspended above a tank overflowing with ravenous piranha.

Oh, and the rope is on fire.

In other words, I screw up more than I succeed, but I’m always in there swinging, so that’s something, right?

Getting back to our lives, we moved in with my in-laws to save money for the IVF treatments, we had our own series of solo adventures in the working world and we faced one life-changing moment after another as a couple.

All the while, with the exception of the odd rare rerun and viewings of our DVDs of the first three seasons, we never really returned to the Buchmans’ world. But they were always present in my consciousness.

I lost one of my best friends to suicide in June of 2017. He found himself too much in this world and surrendered to the power of the Falls. (They’re as deadly as they are breathtaking, Mr. Reiser.)

There were many moments in the first few days following this tragedy that my mindscape was occupied by memories of my love and I visiting the Buchmans.

We were told my mother would pass from bone cancer over the course of a June weekend in 2018. Instead it took months, during which time she survived solely on bottles of iced tea and the will to live. (Life really is more absurd than fiction, Paul.)

Then, in January 2020, my wife contracted a mysterious respiratory ailment that lasted a month, the longest of our lives. We later became convinced she had developed what the world came to know as Covid. In that time, however, something happened that changed us as a family.

The Mad About You revival finally started airing in Canada. We had been anticipating this milestone for some time but it didn’t look we were ever going to get to experience it. And so, we began to watch the revival as a family as my wife struggled to breathe.

It was more fun than it sounds, Paul.

My twenty-something daughter is a fan of Helen’s film work like Twister and Soul Surfer. (She really needs a name for her diehard fans. “Huntnatics” or “Helenraisers”, maybe?) But Murray is the real draw for our kid.

For my wife and I though, revisiting Paul and Jamie’s world all these years later was like looking in a mirror. Once again, we’re going through the same struggles in the same humorous, madly-offbeat way. There was no Season Nine, but it didn’t matter; the world was reminded of the Buchmans’ amazing chemistry and now reruns of the original run air every day in the Great White North.

And we watch faithfully.

My wife and I have changed over the years (who doesn’t, right?) but becoming mad about Mad About You again has engulfed my Jamie and I in a wave of nostalgia that has proven to be an invaluable comfort as the world implodes around us.

My wife is the light in my darkness, Paul, of which there is a great deal. I look at her sometimes with the same gleam in my eyes I had over twenty-seven yeas ago.

Then she notices, tells me its weird and orders me to stop.

So, I want to thank you, Paul, for creating a world that has changed my world and that of so many others. Mad About You will always represent a simpler time in my life, one free of so much heartache and tragedy. Not only that, but Mad About You is my wife and I on the couch, madly in love, even today, even if we fail to remember that at times.

You can be proud of your legacy, Mr. Reiser, as can Helen, John, Leila, Anne, Richard, and so many others. Even now, you’re all bringing so much laughter and light into a world that sorely needs it.

Thank you all.

Posted in Hotel Life | Tagged | 17 Comments

Dear Ronnie…

Hey, brother,

I know it’s been awhile since we talked, but I’m sure you understand. I’ve been feeling frustrated/overwhelmed/lost lately and so I’ve decided to do what I would have done in the past: I’m venting to the best listener I know.

Putting the events of the last two years into words isn’t easy, to say the least. (I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact this nightmare has dragged on into a third year.)

As you can imagine, things at the hotel have been… I guess “unfamiliar” is the best way to describe our new status quo. I’ve been working in the Bizarro World version of Niagara for wat feels like forever now and it’s been soul-crushing, quite frankly, my dear friend. And so, the bellmen have been coping with the pandemic the only way they know how: by utilizing madness to dispense service to travelers.

When they’re allowed to, that is. The hotel no longer offers full-service valet or bellmen service so we’ve truly been left at the mercy of our guests.

And as you know, Ronnie, our guests have no mercy.

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I honestly don’t know anymore…

There are exceptions, of course.

Like the guest in 1412 who, when faced with the realization that there were no luggage carts left for guest use at check-out time, had to select one of two options:

  1. He could stand around and wait like an idiot for another guest to return a cart. (Something that rarely happens.)
  2. He could (gasp!) engage the exceptionally-entertaining assistance of an actual luggage transportation professional like myself for a modest fee.

Being an American from an unabashedly Red state, he chose a third option after walking away in anger: he stole a maid’s cart, loaded all his bags on it in the most haphazard manner imaginable and rolled it through the crowded lobby on a Saturday morning like it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

He even approached me and tipped me “for the help”, even though no help was actually given.

Sitting at the Bell Desk watching this insanity unfold, my first instinct was to turn to you and say, “Do you believe this shit, brother?”

But your place as my wingman has been occupied by others in the last few years. There are only four of us left from the crew you served with for a decade, Ronnie, and none of us are the same bellmen we used to be. Some people won’t accept change. They just refuse to sign for it.

So they cope however they can. Outright denial. Bitter rants. Turning to vices best left unmentioned. I’m genuinely shocked that some of us haven’t taken a vacation of our own… from reality. In my case, there’s been some personal growth – within reason, of course.

A wish that you held for many years has finally come into existence: yours truly has been elevated to Bell Captain.

I am now Captain Hook at last. Leader of a department that has been marginalized, crippled, and almost stamped into oblivion.

Almost.

In the midst of the most horrific crusade ever devised to sever a person’s grasp on reality the bellmen have endured humiliation, infighting, financial ruin, etc., and we’re still here.

We are the cockroaches of the Niagara Falls hospitality industry, Rockin’.

Granted, we’ve been sprayed, stomped on and subjected to all manner of attempted eradication – but we’re still here. Though for how much longer is anyone’s guess.

I’m going to wrap it up here, my brother. There is so much I want to tell you, so much I want to say, but the words refuse to leave my addled brain and make their way to the screen via my elongated fingers.

Don’t worry about me, my friend. These days hope is like summer in Siberia; you’ll never find it, and you’ll certainly never feel it, so you have to go ahead and make it. It feels like the bellmen are on a journey whose conclusion is uncertain, and the only thing we have to collectively cling to is hope.

Myself, I hope I can make it across this barren landscape and emerge in the promised land. I hope to see you again someday my friend (though not for years!) and hug you for a week. (I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit that.)

In the meantime, I hope my dreams are conduits to the Great Beyond and you’re sitting on a beach in a heavenly version of Aruba. Like Ellis “Red” Redding, I hope.

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Rock on, brother.

Posted in Hotel Life | 38 Comments

Into The Grey…

You may not want to accept it, but the truth is right in front of you… it’s been there all along.

This world, overrun with billions of souls, has become nothing but a game farm – and it’s always hunting season.

You’d see it if you’d only look past your own selfish desires. You’d hear their ragged, horrific breathing if you’d only shut out all the noise they’ve been flooding you with. You’d feel the pain you’re in if you stopped injecting artificial pleasure into your senses and form.

You live only to serve the dark, disgusting needs of ancient beings so far removed from you they only see humanity as food. And not the tasty kind. No, humanity is the haggis of The Dark’s menu, to be consumed only when nothing else is left in the pantry.

My friends… my family have been fighting for you… but the day is fast approaching when you’ll have to fight for yourselves.

So get ready… get ready to push past your fear, to swallow your selfishness and to live for, to fight for something bigger than yourselves.

Get ready to claw at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

– Nemesis

Into The Grey, the next excruciatingly cool installment of the Infinite Crossover Crisis… coming, well your guess is as good as mine, truthfully.

Incidentally, reading the above quote with some thrilling, Matrix-style soundtrack in the background heightens the experience. But it’s your choice. After all, it’s your world.

Or is it?

Posted in Hotel Life | 17 Comments

Welcome To My Non-Post.

As many of you are no doubt aware by now, I am a huge nerd and so you may or may not have picked up on the significance of this post’s title.

The Defenders are Marvel Comics’ official “non-team”, a lose affiliation of heroes who gather to vanquish foes no single hero could stand against. Everyone from Doctor Strange to Daredevil to the Hulk and even Howard the Duck has been a Defender.

They’re not exactly The Avengers or even The Great Lakes Avengers, but they’re cool in their own way and they’ve even inspired my heroes, the Infinite Syndicate. (Into The Dark, Book One of the Infinite Crossover Crisis is on sale now, kids! Though truthfully, no one gives a toss anymore.)

At any rate, this isn’t really a post just as The Defenders aren’t really a traditional super team. I just realized this morning that I haven’t written a post in months. Then I realized why.

I just don’t care at the moment.

About much, truthfully.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a great life. I have a a cool haunted house to live in, a wonderful family, money in the bank (though not as much as I did two years ago) and my (very) rugged good looks. I’ve been blessed.

But work is still a pale, disgusting shadow of what it once was. I’m finally the Bell Captain, but it’s a monkey’s paw situation to say the least. This horrific virus has devastated my industry and brought out the worst in everyone I deal with, even internally in some cases.

My book jut isn’t selling. I can’t get an agent or a publisher to spit on me if I was on fire. And I’ve given up on writing the next installment for now. The enthusiasm just isn’t there.

I have some good friends who are killing it in their respective fields and it just serves to make me feel even worse about myself. Venting like this feels good, but it reinforces my belief that I’m just not ready to be creative again and won’t be for a good long while.

And of course. the world is still imploding.

On that happy, uplifting note, I wish you all a good day.

Posted in Hotel Life | 27 Comments

The Hooks Shatters The Glass Ceiling In The Hall Of Justice.

This is a fun story, playfully told by the author. With the right artist, think this would make for an excellent series of graphic novels. A very different way of viewing the world of Superheroes. – Amazon review of Into The Dark.

I love this review because it zeroes in on exactly what I want to achieve with the Infinite Crossover Crisis: a new take on a genre that’s been covered by a legion of writers, each one far more talented than yours truly. The first modern comic book, Famous Funnies, was released in the United States in 1933 and since then everything there is to say about the superhero genre has been said, apparently.

Except it hasn’t.

There’s always room for a different interpretation of any subject, at least in my humble opinion. In my case, I want to showcase people with extraordinary abilities who use them to do more than just punch Lex Luthor or the Joker in the face. You see, as far as I’m concerned, Superman has never realized his full potential.

In other words, what good is a Superman if he doesn’t actually do anything truly super?

He could divert the course of rivers and end drought in places like Ethiopia.

But he doesn’t.

He could fly into nations under the thumb of ruthless dictators and bend those thumbs back without even breaking a seat.

But he never does.

He could change the entire world in a week – or less.

But he… well, you get it by now.

Granted, I realize that changing the world and interfering with a nation’s political structure isn’t as simple as it sounds. The Man of Steel is, for all intents and purposes, a US citizen, and as such, would be responsible for any repercussions/blowback resulting from his world-changing actions. So, while a few writers have had Superman tackle real-world issues like the ones I’ve just mentioned, most prefer to keep him in the same old “punch Luthor in the face” lane. DC Comics is currently using Superman and Lois’ son Jon to tackle this topic, with the Super Son questioning his father’s lack of world-changing agendas.

But my point remains the same; Superman just refuses to ruffle any world leader’s collective feathers, and so he sticks to natural disasters and super villains.

That’s not what my superheroes are all about.

My characters are living in a world under the collective thumb of ancient beings who embody mankind’s most vile impulses. The Dark are just as evil as the name implies. Imagine the Joker on crack made from pure evil.

(In retrospect, maybe I should have called them something ironic, like “The Happy, Fluffy Bunny Squad?) After God disappears and they win a war with their siblings, The Light and The Grey, The Dark seize control of every significant aspect of humanity’s existence. Now the thirteen members of The Dark have one agenda…

Create as much chaos as possible; it’s the perfect chaser for all those delicious superpowered energies they extract from their victims. Superheroes in costumes were virtually wiped out in the aforementioned war, but human beings with extraordinary abilities still exist – though they often find themselves abducted by The Dark’s minions and taken to a facility where their power is harvested and fed to the world’s puppet masters.

As you can imagine, punching supervillains isn’t enough to win this fight. (Though it is a big part of what my heroes, the Infinite Syndicate, have to do to see their agenda through.) My heroes will have to change the world in order to free it from The Dark’s control.

But how does one change the world, exactly?

If you have superpowers, you… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Trust me though, I have a plan. They may not wear spandex or go by fancy code-names, but the Infinite Syndicate is made up of members who can:

  • Stop time dead in its tracks.
  • Bring inanimate objects to a form of life.
  • Turn night into day.
  • Grant wishes by ingesting a single drop of genie blood. (It’s gross, but it gets the job done.)
  • Harness electrical energy.
  • Create energy shields.
  • Interface with any electronic form of communication.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Of course, superpowers can’t cure disease or purge people of their capacity for evil. I briefly considered writing a chapter where a character cures his mother of her bone cancer and flesh-eating disease, but suffering, no matter how horrific it is to witness, is a part of life. And besides, I indulge my wish fulfillment bucket list in many other ways, trust me. And free will is God’s greatest gift to humanity; we need our inner light and darkness in order to truly be human.

So, as you can see, my creations have their work cut out for them – but their mission isn’t impossible.

Or is it?

You’ll just have to read Into The Dark, Into The Grey, and Into The Light to see what sort of impact superheroes can have on the world when they shatter social convention and push the limits of their abilities.

See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, my friends…

“Bat-Hook” logo by Jorge O’Neill of Twitter.

Posted in Hotel Life | 2 Comments

The Places Of Into The Dark.

There are a million different elements (give or take) that can impact a book’s success.

Where a story takes place can be as important as what’s actually happening, in my opinion, at least. My Infinite Crossover Crisis series is going to stretch from the bowels of New Jersey to the glittering, morally-bankrupt streets of Vegas, to a patch of Limbo that resembles the setting of one of the most beloved rock songs of all time, to Heaven, Hell, and… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

The action in the first book in the series – and maybe the only one if I can’t overcome my current personal crises and writer’s block – Into The Dark, jumps around the globe like a frog on a hotplate. However, I think this fictional globetrotting, coupled with an overabundance of characters, just adds to the story’s appeal. And since I am the creator and Supreme Being of this universe, my opinion counts for everything. Plus, I’m trying to introduce my readers to a world under the thumb of ancient, literal dark gods who feed on chaos and whose reach stretches to the Multiverse itself – and a big story requires a big scope, right?

For the uninitiated, the Infinite Crossover Crisis takes place in a world where the three forces God put in place to maintain the Balance between order and chaos, The Light, The Grey and The Dark, went to war when the All-Mighty disappeared. The Dark emerged victorious and that’s why the world has slipped so far into madness; you see, The Dark literally feed on chaos now that God isn’t around to feed them a portion of her power.

Opposing The Dark’s machinations are a rag-tag group of superheroes earthbound angels and spirits, and even a vampire. All good now?

So, here are a few of the locales you can expect to visit if you dive… Into The Dark.

See what I did there?

Anyway…

THE DUSK INSTITUTE: THE INCOMPARABLE STATE OF NEW JERSEY.

The ultimate purveyor of bad medicine, this joint isn’t exactly the Mayo Clinic. Hell, it isn’t even Betty Ford. The Dusk is where you end up if you’re in possession of superpowers but vulnerable. The Big Bads of the Infinite Crossover Crisis, The Dark, have staffed this hospital from Hell with medical practitioners who haven’t exactly vowed to do no harm.

In fact, staff members like Doctor Death and The Controller go to extreme lengths to push their patients prisoners to the absolute limits of their powers and sanity, all in the name of harvesting a portion of their power/suffering to feed The Dark.

As for the building itself, The Dusk, much like Dana Barrett’s NYC apartment building in Ghostbusters, is meant to to function as an antenna to attract and concentrate extraordinary energy which is used to power the sort of equipment one would use to slowly drain gifted humans of their powers and will to live. In spite of its cutting-edge equipment and practices, The Dusk looks like a hospital straight out of the Fifties. From chrome and vinyl chairs paired with chrome-legged tables with Formica tops to linoleum floors in bright, trendy colors and patterns, this clinic of the damned is all about a bygone era of design, kids. Indeed, characteristics of 1950s design, namely, a Scandinavian influence paired with space and atomic age-inspired shapes, are all over The Dusk.

It’s a shame such a cool place is a den of evil.

THE RUSSELL HOUSE HOTEL: ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO, CANADA.

What you are about to read is fact.

The Russell had a long, colourful, and sometimes contentious life before suffering three serious fires and finally, demolition in 1996. in. It began as the Stinson House, a hotel and tavern established at the corner of of James and St. Paul streets in downtown St. Catharines in 1843 by Samuel Stinson. Unfortunately, Stinson didn’t have long to grow the business – in 1846 he died, poisoned by his wife and a gentleman friend.

This is why it pays to cook your own meals when in an unhappy marriage, fellas.

The hotel was then taken over by Stinson’s son, who I hope, for his sake, remained a bachelor . A later owner renamed it the Russell House. The Russell suffered a slow decline for much of the 20th century. By the 1970s and 1980s it was largely patronized by bikers and punks, and by the 1990s had become the last resort for the down and out. During the 1990s the building suffered the three aforementioned serious blazes. After a February 1994 fire the building sat vacant and slowly fell into disrepair. Eventually the city obtained a court order that the building had to be taken down no later than Nov. 30, 1996 . . . and it was.

But that wasn’t the end of the Russell’s story – far from it. And now we delve into the fictional pool that is my imagination, my fellow dreamers.

After the final conflict between The Light, The Grey, and The Dark and the rupturing of the Balance, a group of displaced demons, their hellish home now inaccessible, decided to get crafty and make good use of the vacant corner the Russell once sat on. Pooling their swiftly-dwindling netherworld resources, they created their own version of the infamous building, one that transitions between a pocket dimension and this particular prime reality.

Now the ultimate dive bar, the Russell is now home to a band of demonic supervillains as well as the spirits of the hotel’s former residents, one of whom has a very personal connection to this saga’s MC, Paul Nemesis.

This concludes my online TED Talk on The Places Of Into The Dark.

See you in the lobby and in the virtual book aisles, friends…

Posted in Hotel Life | 12 Comments