Thursday, December 4, 2008

A letter to Forry:

Dear Mr. Ackerman,

I will not preface this with condolences about your condition, as I'm sure others have done that far more eloquently than I could. Find the one that touched you, perhaps, second most, and pretend that I signed in in good honor as well, because I'm sure I feel the same way. But I do feel that I should express what you meant to me growing up. And it meant much, much more than I ever thought it might have.

I first encountered Famous Monsters at my cousins' place. They frequently stayed with my aunt/their grandmother, partly because of the messy divorce their parents had to go through and also because they liked visiting with my brothers and I. We all had the same interests; comics, science fiction, monsters, horror movies, and the like. We'd often have sleepovers if the UHF station WXIX in Cincinnati (Channel 19... get it?) was showing 50s monster movies on Friday nights. Granted, 19's reception was sketchy because we lived two hours away and didn't have that great an antenna, but once in a while, especially during thunderstorms for some reason, it would slowly lose it's snowy picture and we'd be able to watch 20 minutes of a great old movie before the snow returned.

(I should mention that I know now that this shouldn't have happened, now that I work in the telecommunications business; UHF signals aren't supposed to be affected by the weather are they? And yet, it seemed the best Friday nights to sleep over were during thunderstorms.)

I think the first FM issue my cousin Jeff showed me was the red one with the Zombi story on the cover. Late bloomer, yes, but I was intrigued. He let me borrow it, and he never saw it again. To be honest, I didn't care about zombies at the time, but there were monsters; there was Star Wars; there was the catalog in the back, where I'd pretend I'd order from one day to get all these cool monster-based things.

I was so intrigued by this magazine that I ignored Jeff feeding his python a lab rat while playing Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare on his LP. I took it home and read it until it literally fell apart one day. Jeff let me know that he'd bought that issue recently, at the Convenient store near the airport.

(Note: "Convenient" was the actual name of the chain at the time, but it was a convenience store. The airport shouldn't be noted as impressive except for the fact that we had one; it was a small affair only for small planes. Our city only had 5000 residents. I should consider myself lucky they even stocked FM at that store.)

I began begging my father to take me there on days when FM was being released. I took the release dates in the back of the book as religious days at first, but learned quickly that nobody else in my town was interested in the magazine, so if I had to wait a week or so to pick up my magazine, I could. Dad indulged my behavior, for a while.

One day Mom's leg blew up, and everything changed after that.

Long story short: blod clot. They did surgery, put her on painkillers she was allergic to. Took her off those medications, and put her on ones that she was more allergic to. She had a nervous breakdown, and for a few years we were left without a mother. Oh, and since Dad didn't have any health insurance, we also lost our store, and went from lower-middle class to below poverty level.

It was not fun times.

One of the things that kept me going through it was FM. Oh sure, now I had to gather pop bottles, cans, take them to be recycled, mow lawns around the neighborhood, but I was always able to afford my FM magazine. Of course, Dad refused to drive me to the Convenient store anymore, which was the only place that sold FM at the time. Which was fifteen miles away. However, I was glad to walk there and back myself. FM was my escape; I couldn't afford to go see One Dark Night at the drive-in, or Sleepaway Camp, or any of those movies. I lived through FM's reporting. I would never see Heartbeeps; I would never see Dragonslayer; I would never see Empire Strikes Back, at least, not until I got older. FM was the only thing that kept me up to date on these things in that pre-internet era.

I remember my disappointment when FM stopped coming out. I had no way to find out what happened until many years later. But by then I was entering puberty in full blast, and other things were grabbing my attention. But still, all these years, I missed FM, and your writing.

I was nearly knocked over with shock when I saw FM reappear in Walgreen's many years later. But I'll not talk about that; it wasn't the same, and the story behind it doesn't need to be recounted. I bought one issue; that was all I needed.

All I want to do is tell you how much your magazine meant to me growing up. I remember seeing that special Toho Monsters issue in the back issue orders for such an unattainable price. For years I dreamed of owning it, as I was a kaiju freak. Last year I found it on an auction on eBay, and snagged it for just twenty bucks. It's been read and is framed now, in my living room, in a place of honor.

Thank you so much for keeping the wonder of monsters and aliens and science fiction and horror alive through my youth, and allowing me to springboard it into my life as I grew into an adult. I wish I'd been able to come visit your house and your collection before now. I wish you as well as can be, and thank you for keeping the kid alive in me all these years.

No comments: