Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Brush With Greatness, a Patrick Stewart Tale

I know that I've written about my experiences at Comicpalooza 2013 already, but there is one crucial experience that I've saved for its own post. I hope you can understand why I've saved it. My lady, Kay, and I have experienced much together while we've been dating, but this one memory will always be with us, and it's something that we'll cherish forever.

Some of you know my lady, and I'm sure you will all agree that she's a special person. She's gentle, kind, and above everything else, empathetic. In fact, in my entire life, I've never met anyone with the same capacity for empathy as she. It's something that's made me a better person, and something for which I'm extremely thankful. When I think about what she overcame to be this way, I realize that it makes her an even more amazing person.

Kay, has been a victim of some of the most heinous domestic violence I have ever heard. In fact, she cried herself to sleep almost every night for a week when she found out that her home life was that which my family has nightmares. The physical abuse started early in her family. Having issues controlling his hands, her father would often slap his daughters and wife around, or just content himself with throwing them into furniture and choking them. Occasionally, when he was in a particularly educational mood, he would "teach them lessons" that would result in broken bones. "I told you never to use my tools" would precede him using a wrench to break her fingers. It's interesting that the abuse was often times not provoked. For example, there was a time when her Father tried to help her out by breaking her left arm. Since she's left-handed, he wanted to make sure she would survive in a "right-handed person's world." I think this paints a clear picture of a woman who would find men intimidating.

If you fast forward through many long years of this abuse, you would arrive at the time she moved out when her father choked her over finishing the last cup of coffee. We had been seeing each other on and off for about a year at this point. I knew that I was entering into a world about which I know nothing... a big fear of mine. However, there are very few times in my life where the right path has seemed more apparent. She moved out and stayed with me for about a month while I helped her to find her own place. Since then, she has stated that this was one of the more difficult things she's ever done. It took her another year to tell me that, when she went home to get her stuff, she endured another beating over having told me something that was "none of my business."

Let's move past this, and I apologize. I am only trying to supply you all with context... to help you understand the magnitude of what happened to us at Comicpalooza. As some of you have heard, Sir Patrick Stewart is a strong opponent of domestic violence and, in fact, a very active member of his community. I had known this long before I had planned on going to Comicpalooza, but Kay did not. When we found out that he was going to be there, I made sure to educate her about his activism. Some of his stories hit her pretty close to home, as he had endured much domestic violence in his own home as a boy.

Because of our experiences in dealing with this, and because of this connection she shares with him, we decided to do whatever we could to meet the man. This required postponing a trip, and moving a flight back, for a day... but it was entirely worth it. As we waited in line, I asked her what she wanted to say to him (knowing full well what her answer would be).

After the better part of an hour we finally came up to the man and he immediately began signing his name on the picture we had chosen (a classic picture of Picard!). He managed to write "Patrick" before Kay says to him, "Sir, I just wanted to thank you for-" And he interrupted with a "What?" Being a very shy woman, and intimidated by men, she is very soft spoken. This did not phase her even a bit, because she was determined to say this, "I just wanted to thank you for your words to Amnesty International against domestic violence."

Sir Stewart leaned back in his chair, pausing as he looked at her. I think he began seeing her as more than just another fan.

"It's truly a terrible thing for a child to experience this kind of violence. In fact, not one hour ago, I posted on twitter about a petition in the UK about this. Do you have Twitter?"

"I do" I told him (if you'd like to go there it's @JackGlasken).

Ignoring me, Patrick continued to meet my Kay's gaze and asked, simply, "Have you experienced this?"

My lady is a sensitive woman, and some feelings remain close to the surface. That's why big tears began to well up in her eyes, and Sir Stewart, being an intelligent man, saw this. He took her hand and told her that everything would be all right, and that she would be fine.

"You will be fine, I promise. Look at me!" he said to her. His empathy only made her more emotional, seeing as how a complete stranger (and a male one) was sympathizing with her. Her great big tears began to run down her cheeks as he showed her this kindness.

Unprompted, he got up from his seat and came around the autograph table to take her into his arms and embrace her like she was his own daughter. In the middle of a convention, and with a person of his celebrity, you can imagine the crowd that was around this man. People were all looking and all wondering what was being said and why this girl was crying. It was in the moment that I realized that to Sir Stewart, she was the only person in the world.

Simply, I was awestruck.

"I promise you that everything will be all right. These things that happened to you can't hurt you anymore. There are so many things to do in the world and so much to see. There's so much life to live for!" he said, emphatically, with his fists raised. With the power of his personality, and with expert use of his special kind of humor, he was able to calm her down to the point where she was no longer weeping.

Very quietly he said to her, "There is so much in the world for us to see and do, we can't let the past hold us back. There are so many things we can do in life."

"Like skiing?" I asked, after finally regaining most of my composure. I knew full well that Sir Stewart was a fan of skiing and I thought it might be nice for her to hear this from the man himself.

"Like Skiing! You know, two years ago at the age of 69 I started skiing for the first time, and now I'm an intermediate skier! Even now I can experience new things and live my life. You will do this, too, I promise!" He turned to me, putting his hand on my shoulder, and said, "take care of her."

As he sat back down at his table, he looks down at the photograph we had chosen and, with that characteristic humor, states, "Oh look, I haven't even finished writing my own name! Would you like me to personalize this for you?"

"Yes sir, please make it out to my lady."

A week later we were making plans to be married.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Comicpalooza 2013

This was my second year of attending Houston's International Comic Convention called Comicpalooza.The convention is a good one, and let me explain why: It's not so crowded that you have to feel like writers, artists, or movie stars are rushing you away from their booths, but just big enough you still get some notable guests. Typically the scene is just hectic enough to have a high-energy feel, but not so hectic that you can't spend a few minutes chatting to the people that have their own booths. I really quite enjoy chatting with these people. In fact, I find it extremely satisfying to have a conversation with them about their personal and professional projects. Admittedly, I find myself being a little envious of their situations, as I would love to write comics.
Snake Eyes and Stormtrooper... always a good sign when you see these two first
I really enjoyed a Sci-Fi/comedy comic called 51 Delta by a man named Sean Dulaney. The comic was funny, had an art style I really liked, and was a nice, light read. It was great to be able to talk to Sean about his comic and get the info first-hand. Sean is obviously proud of his work, and in my opinion he should be. You should all get a copy here! Truly, I say to you, this is an enjoyable comic and a great way to start reading comics. It puts a funny twist on the usual sci-fi tropes you see in many comics and instead injects a humorous storyline filled with hijinks and shenanigans. I'm looking forward to getting the second part.
Human-sized creeper
I also got to meet some great novice writers. There was a guy close to my age named Ian Everett. His first novel is called The Mother of Dawn. It takes place in a fantasy world where that world has become tidally locked with it's parent star... thus forcing the entire civilization to life in the terminator. Sounds like it could be some cool stuff, looking forward to reading it. When I asked him more about it, I'm pretty sure he was keen not to give me spoilers. He did mention that it's high fantasy.
She was shy.
One of the other writers I met was a young lady named Samira Bellissimo. Upon reading the excerpts for her first novel, I find that I am quite enamored by her writing style. She currently only writes fantasy, but I'm anticipating that she'll be successful enough to branch out. She and her mother were extremely approachable and perfectly willing to chat with us. All told, they were both extremely charming, it was quite a nice time. It was nice enough that I bought a copy of her novel, and I'm hoping to read it soon. I'm happy to do what I can to help her achieve her dream, to be a writer, for it's a dream I share. I wish her the absolute best!
Harley Quinn - I cropped him out because his costume was terrible

One of the first people I saw at Comicpalooza was an artist named Eric Chu. What brought me to his booth was a beautiful print of what was originally supposed to be a book cover for a book about Battlestar Galactica. The image features fighters and capital ships locked in the beautiful dance of space combat. It was quite a lovely picture. I made a comment that I would love to be able to draw like that someday but I really don't think I could. Mr. Chu, to his credit, commented, "I don't believe in talent. It's true that some people have an innate ability, but that's not what I'm talking about. If you really want to be an artist, you need to be dedicated and patient. I believe that you can make up for talent with hard work. Art like this... I think it would take a person a year of hard, dedicated work to be as proficient as I am." Interactions like this are why I love going to conventions. Mr. Chu, thank you for the inspiring words. Most of all, I appreciate your making me feel silly for not going after something that I want just because it's difficult.
With lights and everything!
Which brings me to my thought today: reaching for a dream. It's astonishing to me that people don't really do what makes them happy. I'm guilty of this as well. While I enjoy working in the petrochemical industry, it's not what I dream about. Young people with the opportunity to actually achieve their goals are something that I have a strong fondness for. In the case of Samira, her mother is kind enough to let her work on her writing nearly full-time. An envious situation, to be sure! It was because of this excellent relationship, coupled with the fact that her situation hits me close to him, that I decided to support her endeavor.  The same is true with the young writer, Ian Everett. In our conversation, he admitted that he's currently waiting tables to pay for his bills, but it's obvious his passion is writing. I'm quite eager to read his book despite the obvious misgivings about a novice/first-time writer. Y'know what? I don't care about that. I have the money to help support this guy, so I'm going to help him achieve a dream that I hope someday others will help me achieve. Why do we not do what we really dream about? In my case, I decided to go the route of steady, assured income as opposed to doing what I love and risking making nothing. I think in my case, the chief motivator there is fear. I fear failing, and I think that's reasonable.
Probably my favorite picture from the convention.

For my next post, I'm going to tell you a very special story about my lady and our time at Comicpalooza. Please keep your eyes open as I'll be posting again before too long!