There comes a point, in every mans life, when his mind chooses the time to reflect....reminisce, about the choices, and the mistskes he's made. That cresting point where you teeter upon the heaving wave, looking out upon the unexplored waters that comprise the remainder of your life, and wonder..."how the hell did I get up here!?!"
(Don't panic. This isn't the malaise you may expect)
This is what I have been doing for a little while now. I wouldn't call it a mid life crisis, as I have no desire to color out the gray, buy a sports car and try and woo some twenty something for her favors! No, I'm talking more an evaluation of the twists and turns my personal choices have lain about before me, and in what I have, versus what I left behind. As much as I love and enjoy the creative aspect of what I do and the scores of people whom I have touched, through that, over the years, but would it interest you to know, that by the age of eight, I KNEW what I wanted to do...and what I am doing now...never even entered my mind!
No, at that tender age, my entire being wanted to emerge itself in comic books!
Every facet of the medium, the industry, the creative output was the very life's blood of every waking moment, that came to fruition at the age of twelve. On a sojourn to the Newington flea market in New Hampshire I stumbled upon a both selling old comic books!
At that point I came to realize, while I may not posess the talent to write or draw them, I could still dive deeply within their world. I tentatively approached the vendor and began a slew of wide eyed euphoric questions. The young man, sensing my eager abandon, compassionately humored my eager fanatasism.
Over the course of the next few months I took every opportunity to travel the distance to visit him, and his patients never wavered. Eventually he employed me, on credit, to perform perfunctory tasks to assist him, which I eagerly embraced.
Eventually, he opened a storefront, in Portsmouth NH, naming it "Comic Relief", and offered me a position, one which I willingly left school to accept. He was the keystone in my approach to customer interaction and willingness to go to the greatest extant to please the customer, and filled me with the joys of the business. I had the privilege of being there, and running the sales table at a convention in Portsmouth that featured the first release of a then, little known, and easily dismissed New Hampshire created comic book.
Maybe you heard of it? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Oh yes...I was the FIRST person to try and hock the book to the first crowd to view it!
The next few years of my life were spent in that shop, but eventually, I moved on. Staying in the business for almost twenty years. But, with a growing family, and moving south, well...things changed. And so did I. No, I don't regret where we ended up. Sure, the tasks and occasional frustrations of running ANY small business, can be taxing, but the joy of being capable of bringing back a bike to it's original glory, and all the mechanics and creativity of doing so, is in itself, quite satisfactory. Not to mention, the high kudos we have received from doing so but, as I mentioned, recently I have been revisiting my past, and rediscovering people from it. Most recently, tonight exactly, I sought "him" out. One of the biggest influences in my life...and found him! Turned out to be quite easy, as he now owns and operates one of the most widely talked talked about, and five star acclaimed comic shops in New Hampshire! Jetpack Comics, in Rochester, sports a HUGE amount of critically favored reviews and voted two years the best business in the town! No small wonder for a man such as Ralph DiBernardo! He always had a way with people and appreciated everyone's love and affinity for the medium.
I miss those days,crawling over boxes of back issues, pizza and Jolt cola fueled all nighters to make "new book day" the best one ever!
And I miss Ralph. His sense of humor,Yankee sarcasm and having to wake him up each morning for work with an open cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee!
It's been close to thirty years since I last heard from him. He had left his shop, moving on to other things, or so I had suspected, but when I stumbled upon a photo of him standing amongst a slew of comics and toys, I dug deeper and was thrilled to discover, that even though I have no idea what he had been doing in the ensuing years since we last spoke, he invariably had drifted back, at some point to his original love. In 2005 he opened his shop in Rochester, and by all accounts and a slew favorable articles, has been doing quite well. Not only that, through his efforts of hosting certain events within the downtown area, brought a lot of life back into the string of small shops in the downtown area.
It really did my heart good to know that he never gave up.