Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5: A Life-changing Tome

DC has recently released the fifth volume of their Showcase Presents Batman series, reprinting the entire run of Batman stories from the debut of the "New Look" in 1964 to the present in inexpensive phonebook-sized editions in black-and-white, and this is the collection containing stories that, for me, not only launched my seriously taking up comic collecting but also defined my love for the character and appreciation of the art of comics. My passion for creating my own comics was directly inspired by these tales, now conveniently stored in this single volume.

As a young teenager in 1970, I'd been separated from comics for about three years, having been moved from my beloved downtown apartment in Columbus, Indiana to a house in the township of Newburn about twenty miles away... far away from the wonderful stores I regularly bought my comics from during the super-hero fad of the mid-sixties. Things were not good between my Mom and my stepdad, as he had become very abusive toward all of us and her in particular. And I was facing a lot of problems at school with bullying, which at one point forced me to forego taking the regular school bus back to Newburn and walking the three-mile distance from the north side of town to the downtown area and my grandparents' house on 2nd Str.

Between the two were the recently rebuilt Cleo Rogers Library, where I could pick up any number of great books, and my three favorite places to buy comics... Nagel's Bookstore (if you couldn't find it at Nagel's, it hadn't been published), Murphy's 5-and-10, and Cummins' Bookstore, all within a half-block radius of one another. Mom was initially alarmed by my walking so great a distance by myself, but Grandma and Grandpa’s house was on the way home from her workplace, and I promised not to do it except on the days new comics came out (which actually back then was every Tuesday and Thursday) and I went directly from there to the Grands.

Well, came the day I walked into Murphy’s and saw the comic that would change my life forever… Batman #222, with the eerie Neal Adams cover of Batman and Robin huddled in the shadows of a graveyard and observing what appeared to be the Beatles walking away in single file from a freshly-covered grave in a bizarre tribute to the Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper album covers.

Having been a late-blooming Beatles fan for the last couple of years and curious to see how things had been going for the Dynamic Duo since the Batman fad faded in 1968, I picked up the issue (even though I found that comics were now at the unheard-of price of fifteen cents! Highway robbery!).

What I found in those pages was an excellent mystery rendered by writer Frank Robbins, “Dead… Till Proven Alive!”, a send-up to the “Paul is Dead” era of the Beatles’ careers, excellently rendered by artists Irv Novick and Dick Giordano. Besides the nifty story, I was gobsmacked by the facts that Dick Grayson was no longer living at Wayne Manor, and was now a full-fledged college student only occasionally teaming with Batman when he was on leave, and that Wayne Manor and the Batcave had been closed down for some time, as Bruce was now living at the main Wayne Enterprises building and operating a new Batcave below it.

But what really changed everything for me, changed everything I knew about Batman, was the back-up story, also superbly illustrated by Irv and Dick, and written by Mike Friedrich, “Case of No Consequence”.

It was unlike any Batman story I’d ever read. No Robin, no arch-villains, no Batmobile, no gadgets… just a weary man in a costume, beaten and broken by his brutal vocation, trying to make his way back home in the wee hours of the morning, and suddenly having to come to the aid of a mugging victim, a deaf photographer whose thin wallet and means of support, his camera, were stolen by a cheap petty crook. Despite the temptation to walk away and turn the case over to the local cops, Batman spends his dwindling energy to pursue the punk and render justice.

To say the least, I was absolutely absorbed by everything… the grittiness of the writing, the fact that the bat costume was no longer just another super-hero costume but like a living creature itself, the deftly rendered nourish artwork, and that the true meaning of the Batman concept had finally been restored after years of being buried by the camp era.

It was the equivalent of that fateful bat flying into Bruce Wayne’s foyer, bringing him the icon he was searching for to launch his crimefighting career. I wanted to become a writer and artist of comic books... and the best way to do that was to study.

My comic buying, particularly with any new Batman comics, would pick up steam over the next few months. Batman #224, “Carnival of the Cursed”, took Batman out of Gotham and into the heart of New Orleans, courtesy of writer Denny O’Neil and artists Irv and Dick, searching for the murderer of a famed jazz musician. Again, none of the usual trappings of a gimmick-filled Batman story of the 1960’s… just one determined man using his mind and body to hunt down a bizarre killer in the perfect setting of Mardi Gras.

And that pretty much sealed the deal.

I picked up practically every Batman book I could get my hands on. I made some pretty nice deals with a comic-collecting friend of mine to swap some old books for much of his Batman collection, which got me up to speed on everything that was going on with the Caped Crusader.

The next book I picked up off the newsstand was Detective Comics #402, “Man or Bat?”, the second appearance of Prof. Kirk Langstrom, the Man-Bat, written by Robbins and illustrated by Dick Giordano and a man who would become one of my idols, Neal Adams. Langstrom’s final metamorph, the sprouting of giant wings, gave me nightmares for weeks.

One of the eeriest stories that have made it to this volume is “The Demon of Gothos Manor” from Batman #227, marking the second appearance of Alfred’s niece Daphne, whose kidnapping by a demon-worshipping cult draws the Batman into a gothic tale of the supernatural. Recommendation: this story is at its best when you play “Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf in the background.

Also, the League of Assassins made its first appearance in Detective Comics #405, “The First of the Assassins”, a meeting that would eventually lead to Batman’s confrontation with Ra`s Al Ghul and his daughter Talia… moments that will undoubtedly be found in the next volume.

And these are just a few of the classic stories to be found in this book.

There are not enough stars on the grid to recommend this great volume. Coupled with the fact that I lost many of these to the flood of 2009, this book is more than a treasure. It’s the seed of my years as a true fan of comics.

By the way, if there are some of you who reject stark black-and-white reprints in favor of color (no matter that these are invaluable as a study of inking styles uncluttered by the generally poor color press process of the time), well, that's why God made Crayons.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Deena's just got back from surgery for her carpel tunnel syndrome. I am currently looking forward to six weeks of cleanin', cookin', dusting, dishwashing, mowing, cat poop changing, while Dee lays on the couch, doing her impression of a miniature Jabba the Hut, watching all-day marathons of Walker, Texas Ranger, and graping herself. "Hey (munch, munch), Honey, you missed a spot. (Gulp!) Oh, man, these grapes are great..."

The Double Nickels

Okay, I can honestly say I had the best birthday weekend in quite awhile, at least in the past three years. But do you honestly need to call "55" the ol' "Double Nickels"?

I took an extra day off from work to enjoy the entire weekend and Monday because, as you've probably already guessed, I desreve it. I spent a gorgeous day at Garfield Park in Indianapolis with most of my friends in the Whoosier Network. A few couldn't make it because of heavy commitments and/or illness, but those who came had a great day in near-perfect weather, and best of all we got to try out a number of new games given our resident game critics at GenCon to review. I got to play a wonderful yet simple card game called "Crappy Birthday", which could also be titled "The Mark Dooley Story", and have, over the course of the years, received at least two or more of the botchy birthday presents represented on the cards.

I also got some really nifty gifts from all my friends, including an awesome "tattoo sleeve" featuring many characters from Doctor Who, a Batman trivia game, and, to my astonishment, the highly elusive Eighth Doctor figure from the Doctor Who action figure collection to complete my own display on my TARDIS deck playset.

We broke up the beautiful day around 6:00 PM and drove home in the best kind of weather, totally oblivious to even the possibility that a couple of hours later, nature would wreck vengeance on the crowds at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Of course, we pray for those families who lost loved ones in the disaster and the quick recovery of those injured.

Of course, the next day we celebrated after church with most of my family gathered around for the making of "old jokes" that are probably older than me. My sister Tammie bought mine and Deena's dinner at the Texas Roadhouse while trying to wrangle her grandkids Lehloni and Chris (ages four and one respectively), and it all ended with me being planted on top of one of the saddled hobby horses which you can see to your upper left.

Best birthday I've had in a long time. Not crappy by any means.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dog Days of Summer? I Don't Think So...

Everyone keeps yakkin' about the Dog Days of Summer, like its supposed to be a misery. Well, I have a slightly higher opinion after the last couple of days. First off, in just a few weeks, the NFL will be playing pre-season football, with the lockout finally ended and everybody scurrying to get as much practice-time in as they can. And the amazing generosity of Peyton Manning, willing to give a sizeable chunk of a record-setting contract to ensure that key players that were part of his success will be there... that's just too cool.

And then, on August 27th, Doctor Who returns with the final six episodes of the season that will wrap up the search for Melody, the secret mission of the Silence, the return of the Weeping Angels, the Cybermen and their long-lost sidekicks the Cybermats, and what may be the final curtain for Rory Williams. And what about that clown with the balloon?

Much to ponder over as we wrap up this hot, hot summer with cool, refreshing, excitement.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back from the Un-Dead

Gravy, it's been forever since I've finally got time to punch in around here, but with InConJunction behind me and some downtime before September, it's time for updates, new news, and even some artwork!

For those who've been wondering why the Mark and Dee strip has been gone for so long, your wait is almost over. I've been redrawing many subsequent installments due to my total dissatisfaction with what I was doing, and the strip will be back in the next couple of days.

Another project I've been working on has been a series of watercolor and ink paintings of all 11 Doctor Whos, and without further ado, let's take a look at'em...

The first I completed was the 11th Doctor and Amy last Christmas as a commissioned piece, and I would have stopped right there, except I really enjoyed the work I did on it and decided to do a similar study utilizing the ten others. As you can see, the 11th Doctor and Amy, TARDIS standing at the ready, are flanked (left upper corner going clockwise) by the new Dalek Paradigm, a Weeping Angel, the Dream Lord, a Smiler, Prisoner X, Dr. River Song, the Crack in the Wall, a newly evolved Silurian, Sir Winston Churchill, and Rory Williams.

Appropriately, I decided to head back to the beginning with William Hartnell as the First Doctor, flanked (l-r) by Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, and granddauighter Susan Foreman. Surrounding them from upperleft corner and clockwise are two of the Thals from Skaro, two of the War Machines, Koquillion of "The Rescue", a Zarbi, a Menoptra, the Meddling Monk, Marco Polo, a Dalek, Cyberman 1.0, and the sinister Celestial Toymaker.
Standing proudly beside the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) are (l-r) Zoe Hariott and highlander Jaime McCrimmon. From upperleft corner and clockwise, we have a Yeti, the Cybermen marching on London, a Dalek and the Emperor Dalek, a rather shouty Dominator, two toy soldiers from "The Mind Robber", Theodore Maxtible from "Evil of the Daleks", former companion Victoria Waterfield, the adjudicating Time Lords, a Quark, a Fish Person from "The Underwater Menace", the War Lord, Salamander from "Enemy of the World", an Ice Warrior, and Colonel Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
Due to referencing issue (and because I love them so much), I decided that my next painting would be the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace. From left corner and clockwise, they are framed by the Chief Caretaker of Paradise Towers, the Master in leopard people mode, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Davros as the Emperor Dalek, the Gods of Ragnorok, the Candy Man, Morgaine Le Fey, a Leopard Person, two converted Hamoevores, former companion Melonie "Mel" Bush, a Bannerman, and a Tetrap.
I'm currently finishing paiting of the Third Doctor, have completed inks on the Fourth, and have started pencils and line work on the Fifth. More to come soon.

InConJunction was once again an off-the-hook blast, though this year we had our own little challenges, particularly with the Mariott undergoing remodeling out front, so hauling everything into the hotel was a bit more work, as we had to take the rear entrance, which was as far away from the ballroom we were going to be in as could be. But everything worked out fine, everyone had a great time, everyone's jazzed for the remainder of the sixth season of Doctor Who, which will begin on August 27th on BBC America!

Gonna take a break, and hopefully have more news about things coming my wife Deena's way.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Crazy Daze

Just when I thought I'd get a Monday of relaxation...

About 4:00 in the morning, Columbus got hit by a wild storm that left just as quickly as it had come, just in time to take Deena into work (we're only two blocks from the hospital, but I didn't want her walking into any freak storms on the way).

After picking up Mom and taking her to dialysis early this morning, I stayed awake long enough to see the terrifying reports about the tornado strikes in Missouri and Minnesota. I'm so sorry for all the pain and suffering that's struck those states and I pray that their recovery will be swift and sure.

I grabbed some Chinese after picking Mom up later this morning and getting her home, then came back to my place for an hour or so to catch up on "The Event" episodes and "Mike and Molly", then headed over to my church to help my minister Hywel figure out how to change the printers in his Epson printer and how to print CDs and DVDs on it. Of course, when I hit a couple of tough spots getting the set-up done, he started giving me a good-natured ribbing: With my brother Tim there also he spouted off, "Your brother here seems to be completely useless."

We did, however, manage to get the set-ups done and that Welsh ninny can print his buttocks off.

I love my minister. He's an old school Doctor Who fan and absolutely adores the new series.

Now, up until now the skies were as clear as bell, the temperatures were super mild, and I thought, damn, what a beautiful day this is

going to be.

No sooner did I get home than the skies grew dark, lightning struck, the rain poured... and, of course, while I
was working on a project for InConJunction on the computer, the power went out.

We were dark for about an hour and a half, without fresh batteries in anything but the mini-flashlight. The C batteries barely stayed strong enough in the radio to let us hear the current weather updates. So first thing tomorrow I'm stocking up on C, AA, and AAA batteries.

And I was in such a great mood this morning....

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Half-Hour to Breathe, The Doctor's Wife (light SPOILERS), Liberty Meadows Returns

A month later... no Mark and Dee? Yep, I'm a big disappointment. But I will be resuming our tale in the next week or so, as soon as I get a little free time. Right now, I'm working hard on getting some commissioned artwork done and preparations for July's InConJunction, as well as dealing with a bit of sleep apnea. Try doing this and holding down a day job that mostly has you showing up at seven in the morning and not going home until four in the afternoon. Plus taking your mother to kidney dialysis three times a week at 5:30 in the morning.

That's why I look forward to days like today, when I have very little commitment during the day and can work on several projects.

Last Saturday's Doctor Who, while not very much tied to the current arc storyline about the Silence, was a truly moving standalone adventure from the powerful pen of fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, and an insight into the relationship between the Doctor and the true love of his life (lives), the TARDIS.

If you haven't seen this epsiode, we're going into a few spoilers, so you might want to skip a bit downward.


Briefly, the Doctor and his friends are lured to a junkyard asteroid in a pocket universe when the Doctor suspects that some Time Lords may still be alive. Unfortunately, the meteor, called "House" (the voice of Michael Sheen) is sentient, and desires to escape the bubble universe before it collapses. Therefore, it manages to possess the TARDIS after drawing out its matrix and placing it in the body of a madwoman named Idris (fabulously played by Coronation Street's Suranne Jones). For the first time, the Doctor is able to talk face-to-face with his beloved time-travel machine and discovers that they were a match made in Heaven over 700 years ago. But their time together is brief, as they have to stop the House-possessed TARDIS with Amy and Rory trapped inside, and her human body is dying...

Dialogue moves very quickly on Doctor Who, and I always have the closed-captioning turned on so I can follow it more easily. I can tell you that I watched this episode at least five times Sunday, absolutely delighted by Gaiman's dialogue and his enthusiasm about exploring a part of the Doctor Who mythos that to now had only been hinted at. The Doctor's final moments with the TARDIS/Idris before things had to go back to normal were simply the most heartbreaking of the season so far. And I felt a great satisfaction in discovering that what I've always said about the TARDIS' wonky steering was absolutely correct: Baby doesn't take where you want, Baby takes you where you need to be.


Some other great news I got this weekend was that one of my very favortite comic books/comic strips will be back in production and back on the stands at the end of 2011. Liberty Meadows, Frank Cho's hilarious mish mash of soap opera and funny animal antics, has been out of circulation for almost three years now due to its rights being tied up with Sony and the development of a Liberty Meadows cartoon series. The entire enterprise which has certainly put premature grays in Monkeyboy Cho's hair fell through the usual comedy of errors that happens when a studio grabs a potentially valuable property and has no idea what to do with it. I rejoice to hear that all rights have now reverted back to Cho and he can continue to work on the comic book, hopefully starting up from where Brandy broke off her wedding and jumped into Frank Mellish's arms.

I'm currently working on a final draft of the InConJunction schedule for the Doctor Who/Whoosier Network room, which I'm hoping to have something very unique occur on the Saturday afternoon or Sunday schedule. More about it later. Our video programming, besides presenting the original BBC broadcasts of the seven episode half-season this year, will be dedicated to the passing of two beloved Doctor Who actors: the great Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT), and, shockingly, Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). I'm currently editing music video tributes to both of them, and we'll debut them both at InCon this year.

Well, that's enough updating for now. Gotta get back to the job at hand. I'll be back as soon as I'm able.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lazy Sunday Afternoon... 'bout time

After a huge, grumpy weekend of work and extra driving around and crap, I'm finally getting a nice, relaxed Sunday afternoon and evening where I can literally get loads of projects off the ground, and do some new entries to my blog.

First up is, of course, my excitement that we'll soon have some brand-new Doctor Who on our screens, with an unparalleled location-shoot in the United States. Many questions will be answered this year, including what the Voice of Silence is really all about and the true nature of Dr./Prof. River Song. Rumor has it that no classic monsters will be part of this season, although the scenes of the Doctor holding what clearly is a Cybermat in a scene in a upcoming episode may have put the lie to that.

The Pacers are preparing to play in just a few minutes against the Knicks at home, and it's been a long, long time since I've felt any kind of excitement about the Pacers. Coach Frank Vogel has elevated what was one of the worst teams in the NBA into a real contender in the playoffs. I've no real illusions about how far they will go in the first round, as they're up against the Bulls, No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, but I saw them beat the Atlanta Hawks for the first time in years the other night, and beat them with impunity. They've laid waste to the Celtics twice this year, so who the heck knows?

Here are the saddest words I'll hear this year on television: "Next week, on the season finale of Justified..."

Back with more later!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Look Who's Getting a Make-Over...

While you folks are all waiting for more Mark and Dee (I'm only a couple of projects away from resuming work on it) you might like this...the new creative team of Dick Tracy!

I'm very excited to be reading Dick Tracy once again, especially after reading the last week of strips leading up to the arrival of writer Mike Curtis and veteran comic artist Joe Staton. Dick Locher has wisely decided to retire from the strip, along with his artist Jim Brozman. While I can't really comment too much on the story, the artwork has been horrendous.

With the Tuesday installment, linked above, a cherished supporting character returns to the Tracy fold, and by tomorrow, two classic villains return to menace the razor-jawed detective. I just can't wait!

Monday, March 14, 2011

It can only go up from here...

Never, ever have I had a week that was as full of darkness as this past week. Deena's stepdad, Gene, passed away after a long illness, my brother Kenny had exploratory surgery for heart disease, Wisconsin public workers lost collective bargaining rights thanks to Republicans totally trashing the First Amendment and Democrats too wimpy to stand up to them in person, the Pacers have been knocked out of the playoff rankings by half a game, the Middle East is a war zone (even more than usual), and, oh, yeah, Tokyo looks like Godzilla and all his buddies from Monster Island had a hoedown.

Is there any way to put a positive spin on any of this?

Well, let's start from the top:

Deena's mom, Donna, has had a really rough time of it all. I got a first hand look at what she had to go through just to get Gene ready to go to dialysis three times a week. It was tough enough to get Gene situated from the house to the adjoining garage and into the car when he still had one good leg and his prosthetic. Just before he passed, Gene's good leg went septic and had to amputated, which placed him in a deep depression which he sadly never recovered from. And I can only imagine in my worst nightmares what managing Gene would be for Donna. I'm quite certain it would have killed her.

So, as tragic as Gene's death has been for the entire family, I think it has been a blessing for everyone involved. Gene is forever free of the pain and misery he has endured for years, and Donna's burden is now off her shoulders. She's even contemplating a trip to Florida for a couple of weeks to visit her son Kent and his wife Rosie and their kids Kent, Jr. and Kiki in Boca Raton. I think now she can finally have a long and deliberate period of fun. More than about time.

The surgery on Kenny went very well and revealed no irregularities in his heart. Which does not mean he can continue smoking and eating crappy McDonalds and Wendy's food. So I can only hope that this is Kenny's wake-up call to make healthier choices.

After a six game losing streak, the Pacers had a great away victory over the Knicks last night, and maybe this is a re-direction to get us back in playoff contention. Tyler Hansborough may be the diamond in the rough.

As for Wisconsin, the Middle East, and Tokyo... not a whole lot of ideas on that.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Current Events (where the hell is "Mark and Dee"?)

Just wanted to update you on stuff going on here at the Dooley Lair. And yeah, I know I'm amazingly late with the continuing adventures of Mickey in England in "Mark and Dee", but know that that storyline will be continuing very soon. I really have to devote some time to scanning, coloring, and lettering each strip, and with my work schedule being what it is, I only have so much time from when I get home to when Morphius calls... and of recent, I've been hitting the hay as early as 8:30 PM. So I have to pick and choose what I can accomplish in that time.

One of the things I have finished out during the weekend is one of several Doctor Who videoes I plan on producing for the July InConJunction. This one is called "For Love of the Doctor", featuring clips of the many near-romances of the Doctor, with everyone from Jo Grant to the enigmatic River Song, and set to the tune of a very popular song of last year. It will make its debut at the March Whoosier Network meeting on the 4th.

So far, the new Buick is performing magnificently, though it still hasn't been given a full baptism of fire by taking it up to Indianapolis. That may happen this Friday when Dee and I hit the Cinemark 8 to catch up on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I. It's been almost ten years since we took in a movie there and it should not only be a good night at the movies, but also a true test of Electra's endurance.

Yeah, we named the car Electra. Bite me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Never Can Say Goodbye

Unfortunately, this is the only good picture I can find of my old '90 Lumina, this partial with my Mom sitting in it. I place this here, because just minutes ago the old girl was towed off to that big scrapheap in the sky. We got nearly twenty good years out of that car, more than we ever expected to get out of it. And with all the amazing memories of the places that battered behemoth took us to, I have to say it was hard to let it go.

But when I look at our new '96 Buick, it wasn't that hard....

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Long National Nightmare is Over...

Deena and I got a new car today.

Just to give you an idea about how timely this new car came into our lives, as some of you may know, we've been nursing our 1990 Lumina like a patient at a nursing home for more than a year now. We have literally been trapped within the confines of Columbus, Indiana, with the exception of the occasional rental to get to important Whoosier Network meetings, because once the car hit over 50 the motor would start sputtering, missing, clacking, and doing all manner of nasty things. I've taken it to our regular mechanic many times, and he's practically begged us to consider a new car.... to the point that he decided it wasn't worth trying to fix.

Last week, while driving back from Mom's, the engine started missing.... horribly. And then the front wheels started wobbling like the front end was out of alignment. And for most of this week, it was everything it could do to get me from home to work everyday... and thank God work for me is just a few blocks east of us. But there was no doubt about it this time. We had to get something workable and fast.

Anyway, we came across an ad in the paper for a well maintenanced 1996 Park Ave. Buick for $1900. Yes, lots of mileage on it (189,000), but we were desperate enough that we thought it wouldn't hurt to at least check it out. So I called the lady who had the car, but only got the answering machine. So I left a message, but I didn't hear back from her right away, so I figured it was a lost cause.

But Tuesday she called and said the car was still available, but that I might want to wait a couple of days until the snowstorm let up. I told her if it was all right, I'd really like to take a look at it right away. So I got out there (she lived only about a mile down the road from my Mom's, and the coincidences don't end there) and she let me take it for a test drive.

Immediately I could see driving this thing would be like driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Practically everything is powered and run by buttons, with a surprise at every turn. I haven’t driven anything like this car since my beloved ’74 Marquis back in the 80’s, which, but for a black paint job and a set of green headlights, was my personal Black Beauty. The only real flaw it had that I could see was a small electrical problem that kept the driver’s seat from moving forward or backward, which my mechanic said he could fix in a jiffy next time I came in. It rode like a dream and handled really well in the snowy weather.

We got all the title transfers, plate switches, and paperwork all done in minutes at the BMV (yeah, go figure that), and we took it out for a cross-country acid test last night. Ran great, has terrific gas mileage, and we’re extremely happy.

But here’s the weird part… the woman who sold it to me is the sister of the ex-husband of my sister Tammie. On top of that, last night I discovered that my mechanic is the uncle of my other sister Vicki’s husband Kenny. None of this was known to me as we’ve only reconnected in the past two years after a very long estrangement from my late father and his family. So everyone involved in this transaction is somehow related to me in one way or another.

And I’m certain that, hiding in the shadows of my neighborhood, Rod Serling’s smoking his cigarette and going “So, how you likin’ the Twilight Zone, kid?”