On the older work page of this site, I talk about occupying ghost-towns as a metaphor for the places we’ve been mentally, emotionally, vocationally, digitally.   In some cases, the journals where I first published flash fiction, prose poetry, and other work no longer exist.  The pages don’t load.  The links are broken.

In other cases, older posts on this blog have become ghost-towns.  Things I no longer wish to say are now Files Not Found. 

I write a great deal about where I’m from.  The story of the Rust Belt, and how my particular environment rusted out, has been (and continues to be) of primary concern for me.  Growing up in the shadows of what had once been glamorous, even famous, will do that to you; the actual color of rust on old blast furnaces and train engines fires certain creative paths that no amount of serotonin can counter.

Folks find their way here, to these posts, in all sorts of ways.  One of the more popular pieces has to do with Hess’s Department Store and what it symbolizes in the history of the Lehigh Valley.  Someone came here today with a simple query:  “where are the toy soldiers that used to be at Hess’s at Christmas during Christmas?”

They were big.  I want to say 15 feet high, maybe more. Until recently, they were on display every Christmas season at Zion’s Liberty Bell Church (the church that saved the Liberty Bell from being melted into British munition during the Revolution.  Also, my home church).  My understanding is that the logistics of storing and installing them are considerable.  I believe the City of Allentown owns them, but I’m not sure. 

These massive toy soldiers guard someone’s ghost-town.  Interesting to think about.

Literature, Fandom, and Fantastic Beasts; Stan Lee and Sherwood Anderson

I finished a new short story last week.  I’m mentally preparing for the next one by doing some reading and by catching up on other kinds of work.  Tomorrow, I’m going to start a story inspired in part by Sherwood Anderson’s “Godliness: A Story in Four Parts.” 

Yesterday, I posted a short, positive review of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.  Had Flannery O’Connor written “Godliness,” I suspect that David Hardy’s arc would bear more of a thematic resemblance to Credence Barebone’s.  

Since posting my Grindelwald review, more of the negative hot takes I was expecting have started coming in from people who are paid to write about these things.  So have some positive ones.  One critic is arguing that JK Rowling should not have been allowed to write the Fantastic Beasts movies, because George Lucas.

Some of the negative reviews boil down to consternation over seeming violations of Rowling’s canon.  I wonder what people who have those kinds of issues make of the countless retcons and reboots we see in the comics medium.

This post is something like six years old, and is woefully out of date.  It’s also one of the most-read posts I’ve ever done.  Why?  Because most readers understand what Bill Maher doesn’t: comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, these myth-making genres and their creators, don’t really stand outside and apart from the Andersons and O’Connors of the world.

Graphic Policy shared this quote from Lee, which is apropos:

“They take great pains to point out that comics are supposed to be escapist reading, and nothing more. But somehow, I can’t see it that way. It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. In fact, even the most escapist literature of all — old time fairy tales and heroic legends — contained moral and philosophical points of view…None of us lives in a vacuum—none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us — events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives. Sure our tales can be called escapist — but just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it!”

With respect to Potter or Star Wars or Star Trek or other properties fans attach themselves to and imbue with personal meaning, remember that  Marvel and DC reboot entire mythical universes every other year.  Fans grumble and complain.  But the iconography of Batman, Superman, and Spider-man is never tarnished.  Their continuity has become a sort of choose-your-own-adventure, and these characters, far older than Rowling’s or Lucas’s or Roddenberry’s, are all the richer for it.

Graphic Policy shares another timely quote:

“Finally, what does Excelsior mean?  Upward and onward to greater glory!” 

That’s what Stan Lee had in mind for his readers.  Not a glory of overmen and jingo, so common in modern politics, not some fanatical appeal to the real-life analogues of Gellert Grindelwald’s “greater good.”  Rather, to the making of big, important stories, life-giving tales of love and justice.  Those are the things that resonate in print, on screen, on mix-tapes.  In comic books and any other thing called literature.

Robert Okaji’s Poem Nominated for a Pushcart

Robert is a very talented poet, and someone I discovered through the WordPress ecosystem.

Here’s word from Robert about his new Pushcart nomination.  I share this for two reasons:  one, to congratulate Robert; and two, to encourage myself and other readers.


From Robert:


My poem, “Year’s End,” which is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Only This is available via free download from Origami Poems Proje…

Source: Poem Nominated for a Pushcart | O at the Edges

A Snow Poem, 1989

A few bits of context for when you find the errant homophone:  I was old enough (9) to know better, and this was something we did in the gifted program.  You can almost hear the laughter of glastnost-era Soviets. 

Whatever, because Roddy Piper was feuding with Rick Rude at the time and that consumed most of my attention. 

Thursday Night TV

(November 15) Very strong episodes from both Superstore and The Good Place.  The Good Place gets all the attention, and for good reason.  But Superstore is very, very funny.  Last night’s episode had everything that makes it so. 


I wrote this the other day right after seeing the news about Stan Lee.  I was taking a break from working on a new short story:

Sitting here, working on some creative projects, counting my words, talking about gods and heroes, and just seeing the news that Stan Lee, the creative force behind so much American mythos, has gone into eternal rest and light. I am hard pressed to think of one other figure from the 20th century who has had a bigger impact on modern story-telling and myth-making. Excelsior, Stan Lee. Excelsior.