Friday, February 4, 2011

OUT IN THE COLD


Blackbird, after a long walk through the woods.

“I’ve got a job for your superhero friends.” It was Jan, over the phone.

Jan is the editor of a community newspaper,the Riverwest Currents. The paper's main goals are to report on news of the Riverwest neighborhood and to make a positive impact on the community.

Jan called to share a report with me- a Riverwest resident was snowshoeing on the frozen Milwaukee River, near the woods bordering the neighborhood. While walking, she encountered a man sitting outside of a tent he had constructed out of tarps.

The man called out to her and asked her if she had heard any weather forecasts. Would this terrible wind be dying down? The woman replied that the forecast didn't look good. When she got home she called Jan and wondered if anything could be done to help.

I hung up the phone and reflected on this. I looked out the window of my second floor flat. Below me, the streets were a disaster- people were struggling for hours to dig out their cars, completely buried in snow. Giant mountains of snow were piled up eight feet everywhere. A gust of wind rattled the storm windows of my house. And less than half a mile away, I was told, a man was living in a makeshift tent.

I called up my friend Blackbird, a mysterious man who dresses in all black padded superhero gear, a mask with yellow eyes and a pointed beak disguising his identity.

* * * *

“This is no joke, man!” I called through the wind to Blackbird. It was night now, and we were trudging through snow that was up to my hips (and I should note, I’m 6’5”. Up to my hips is pretty deep!) through the woods toward the river. We had determined there were two things we could do- offer the man a ride to a homeless shelter, and if he refused this, then we could offer him some warm clothing and ask what other supplies he could use.

We packed up an old army style duffle bag with some of our extra winter clothes- I found a winter jacket I never wore in the closet, a scarf, and a pair of wool socks. Blackbird had a spare pair of gloves and a hat. We parked near the student dorms at the path that led into the woods. Blackbird was wearing his gear, minus his mask, a scarf wrapped around his face instead. Walking through the snow drifts was an endurance test. We kept going.

* * * *

“Wait a minute, what’s that?” Blackbird whispered, and took out his night vision binoculars. We were now standing on the frozen river itself. He scanned the odd shapes in the woods along the shore. It was very quiet, except an occasional breeze, and the trees creaking and snapping in the wind. The shape was just a fallen tree.

* * * *

“Hey man, if you can hear me- we’re not cops or anything, just a couple guys from the neighborhood, want to make sure you’re ok!” I was addressing the dark woods in front of me. We had found the man’s camp further down the river. A firepit with glowing embers still faintly burning indicated he had been there not long ago.

There were a couple of chairs set up, some buckets, and a folded up tarp. Mt first guess was that the man must have heard us and got spooked and ran off. Maybe he was hiding behind a tree. Blackbird scanned the woods with the night vision binoculars as I called out again.

We then guessed he had probably left camp some time before we arrived- it didn’t look like the camp had been set up completely, and it was likely we would have heard the man in the woods leaving the scene. We left the bag of clothes near the fire pit and decided to climb straight up the hill to the upper path.

* * * *

“You (huff puff) reallifesuperheroes (huff puff) always... something (huff puff) with you guys.” I told Blackbird at the top of the hill, trying to catch my breath. By grasping onto tree branches and crawling through the snow, we had scaled upward to solid ground on the bicycle path. I was sweating beneath my winter clothes and reminding myself of my New Year’s resolution to get in better shape. We walked along the upper trail, back to Blackbird’s car.

I don’t know that we accomplished anything, but Blackbird told me he’ll make a follow up visit tomorrow. I do know this- it is currently 18 degrees here in Milwaukee, and a man is living outside in the woods, less than a half mile from my house.

16 comments:

  1. I approve of this.

    (With the addendum of "But this would have been another time when leaving the costume at home would have spooked people less".)

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  2. Good Deal. I'm glad you stepped up.

    -Bridges

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  3. I don't think the costume is a bad idea but one of the things I've been thinking about in terms of RLSH and the whole costume thing (which I still find the stance of some of the opposition a bit contradictory) is a toned down version of a costume on hand as a back up. I do understand the reason for the mask - I have seen a few RLSHs have their real life identities exposed because of being seen without a mask and tormented as a result. Anonymity can be both a blessing and a curse, it just depends on the situation.

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  4. Hi all. I had considered this and I really didn't appear very disarming to the best of my knowledge. Mr. Krulos probably looked more threatening (6ft 5in and all). I'm pretty certain that he was unaware of us until he returned.

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  5. This is good work. We've been having extremely bad weather in the UK and I always make a point of checking on my elderly neighbours to see if they need anything.

    If I wore a hat I would take it off to you Tea.

    Marc

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  6. Ok, so the anonymous comment was obviously Blackbird. Yeah, he wasn't wearing his mask which would have been the only out of place thing. Other than that, his other gear doesn't look so out of place- something a bicycle courier might wear in winter...a somewhat gothic bicycle courier.

    Good work, Marc! And thanks Bridges- who are you?

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  7. Pff, Berylium would call a snow parka a costume. Hey, news flash "villain", sometimes when being a hero, you need to have form follow function, this leads to uniforms that convey a message and provide protection from the harsh enviroment. You know, like fire fighters, police men, etc do. Oh wait, I see what you did there, your villainous plot is to convince heroes to head out naked or clothed inadequately, nefarious!

    Nice work guys, I hope the gear you provided the man by the river with had a note attached letting him know he doesn't owe you anything for the gear, that it was a late christmas gift for a neighbor, not charity per se. Perhaps even a pamphlet with information on shelter and wilderness survival would be a good idea. Sometimes people of the woods have a certain pride about that they are making the best of their situation and still want to conduct themselves fairly in trade with others. That person might need a bit of social interaction to, isolation does some harsh things to the human psyche, so much so that it is recognized medically as torture on prisoners.

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  8. *** UPDATE, Feb. 05, 2011:
    Blackbird reports that he returned to check in today, carrying some canned food, water, and a bundle of firewood. When he arrived he discovered there is not one, but four people camping out there in the area- three men, and a woman. They have been camped out there for some time.

    They built a fire and he hung out and spoke with them for awhile. The woman says she is suffering from cancer. One of the men has a job and is trying to save money. They were surprised to find the winter clothes we had left and made use of them.

    They had some pride and told Blackbird they could fend for themselves ok, but were grateful he had showed concern and dropped supplies off. One of them requested a bicycle chain for his bike, which I think is an order that can be filled. They told Blackbird he was welcome to return anytime. He said he would, and he would have company. They said, 'ok, sounds good.'

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  9. Sounds like a good outcome Tea.

    Hey, Canadian Wolverine, what distinguishes you from the original Wolverine who also comes from Canadia?

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  10. ... About 150lbs of muscle and an ass like Hugh Jackman's, I warrant...

    Mmmmm. Hugh Jackman. I'll be in my bunk.

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  11. LOL Beryllium, +1. I may not agree with your views or even the way you go about expressing them at times, but you have a wonderful sense of humour. <3

    Hey Marc, the nick is just a nick, it doesn't mean anything other than something someone once called me when I was being bullied and would get into fights in elementary/highschool school, so I just made it my own when I went online by adding on the Canadian part.

    And the comic book character comes from Canada at some point in its deep, dark fictional history, I think they finally made a comic about it that is considered canon - James Howlett. You can probably look that up on Comic Vine or something ... anyways, at this point in Marvel's universe(s), "Logan aka Wolverine" is pretty much a ex-patriot of Canada, if not an American, surely just straight up whatever constitutes a Xavier mutant citizen. So, I just didn't identify with that character, he was all angry psychopath at the time I discovered comics, I just don't want to be like that and there are a million other people who use the nick Wolverine, so I just threw the Canadian on the front and bam, if you bother to think about it for a bit it is commentary on what I see as pretty much a BS character at this point.

    Sometimes I like to think the nick isn't even about the comic character, its some small town sports team or a group of fictional highschool rebels fighting the fictional red menace or just a interesting but nastily brutal animal that roams the northwest of NA. Whatever images it may conjure to mind, its just the flimsy mask of a name I go by online.

    Well, you asked, I hope that isn't too disappointing an answer. Peace.

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  12. It's an all-too-common story in the super community. "I picked a name that sounded good at the time, but now I realize it's kind of regrettable."

    We need, like, "Queer Eye for the Super Guy" or something. I can see it now: "Honey, that is not a mask. That is a cry for help."

    Is Tim Gunn available? He's got a not-so-secret hard-on for heroics. Not like Carson Kressley. He loves natural fabrics just a little too much. Linen-cotton blends are fine for the daytime but have no place in a secret lair. Sad but true.

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  13. Marc, Manchester UKFebruary 8, 2011 at 3:10 AM

    Thanks CW. A rather convoluted explanation but I think I get your drift.

    AB, Queer Eye for the Super Guy? You should try flogging that to UK Living, they'd snap it up. They almost bought my show, Celebrity Skip-Dwelling, which is basically a load of Z-listers forced to live in a skip until they turn feral.

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  14. @Bery: Let's be clear, I don't regret my pseudonym, it is but a facet of how I self identify. As usual, seems you are not above just making shit up.

    Huh, not that surprising you got me wrong Bery, I don't wear a costume unless you count rain gear and heroes are just neighbours that give a shit about each other in these sleepy villages. Homeless around here is called camping and fishing. The name is only an online thing, just something easy to remember when I bounce around games and forums. I am just an observer and commentator of a interesting movement and the many forms it takes, which just so happens to include your trolling.

    What about you, why did you choose your name? Is it something you only use for here? If you have such a hard on against masks, why do you use a pseudonym?

    @Tea: Glad to hear a dialogue has begun with the people and that a relationship of trust and good will is being established, thanks for the update Tea. If a trade agreement can be reached, I would love to hear about it. Community building, ain't it grand?

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  15. My name? The out-and-out truth? I applied to ROACH using real life credentials and when I got the acceptance email it said "So your supervillain name is... ?"

    I went to Wikipedia in a blind panic and hit the 'random' button until something promising came up, and I started clicking links from there. After coming up with Beryllium and a few other alternatives, I mulled it over for a few days and stuck "Agent" on the front.

    The time-traveling shtick didn't come until much later, once I realized that I couldn't ride the 'token girl' train forever.

    Why use a pseudonym at all? Because I blog as a supervillain and there's an emerging storyline of what ROACH does that is very separate from RLSH commentary. It's more Venture Brothers, less Charlie Rose.

    Lots of supervillains got into this line of work for the creative aspects more than the bear-baiting of RLSH. It's just too bad that RLSH trainwrecks are so fascinating that we sometimes put our own projects on hold indefinitely while watching the fireworks on the other side.

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  16. Thanks for the answer Bery.

    Understandable, those train wrecks are something else. Would it be safe to say you are fascinated by fire fighter and police "train wrecks" as well?

    Have you heard of LiveLeak? I think you might find video there that is relevant to your interests.

    Peace.

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