This installment of Arnold Schnabel’s memoir picks up exactly where the previous installment ended. Dateline: June 1963, Cape May, NJ.
Also staying here is my cousin Bert and his wife and three children, all of them squeezed into one small apartment of my aunts’ shambling large house. How odd that they leave their nice three-bedroom home in Lawncrest to cram into these two cramped and stuffy un-airconditioned rooms with a tiny kitchenette and call it their vacation. But I suppose my aunts give them a good deal on the rent, as they do for me and Mom. The one boy, Kevin, sits and reads comic books for much of the day. Nearly every morning he goes to Wally's cigar store and pool room on Washington Street and trades in his already-used comics (the titles on the covers snipped off) for a fewer number of new used comics. There is some complicated financial formula involved, but the upshot is that for about a quarter a batch he seems always to have at least a half-dozen new used comics to read and obsessively re-read every few days.
He’s an unprepossessing lad, pale, un-athletic, taciturn. I have attempted to engage him in conversation, just to be a good avuncular sort, and I have failed miserably. However, I have taken a liking if not to the lad then to his comic books, and now each day I sit with him on the porch and read them. I wait patiently till he finishes the first one -- he won’t let me look at any until he’s “finished” with it. But when he does finish one he passes it magisterially over to me. After we have read all that day's comics we read them all again, but this time more slowly and luxuriously, savoring each word and image.
And so I have been introduced to this new heroic and fantastic world. I find this very soothing. My own world these past months had grown far too fantastic in itself. It’s a serene pleasure to read the adventures of this Dr. Strange, whose universe makes even mine look fairly mundane. Or another fellow named Strange, Adam Strange, who periodically gets transported by something called a Zeta-Beam to some entire other planet where he is a rather dashing gallant in a skintight suit with a jet pack on his back and a ray gun on his belt. And, of course, he has an attractive girlfriend.
I would like to be this Adam Strange fellow. If only I could find this Zeta-Beam to transport me to some other world. Oh, but that’s right, I have been transported to other worlds. The only thing is I didn’t like much what I found on those worlds, and I had neither jet pack nor ray gun, nor, needless to add, an attractive girlfriend awaiting me there.
(Beam up over to here for Part Three. Turn to the right hand side of this page for links to other episodes of Railroad Train to Heaven, as well as to many of his fine poems. All material presented courtesy of the Arnold Schnabel Society. Nihil Obstat, Bishop J. Jonah Graham, SJ).
Gene Vincent, unchained --