We said goodbye to Ferris this morning.
The last survivor of the original Pre-K gang of three from before Jenn & I were married, he showed up one night on the front porch of the duplex Jenn and I rented on Princeton Avenue in Orlando in the early/mid ’90s. We’d only just recently adopted Lucky and Charles Wallace, but when we opened to door to investigate the meowing outside, this guy walked in and made himself right at home. A little dirty, but not street-cat scrawny: We got the impression someone had left him behind in the not-too-distant past.
Also, before we had Ferris fixed, his back end was known to make visitors to the Booth household blush: He was testicularly gifted. It was like a furry orange softball back there. I think the vet wound up putting ’em in a museum or something.
Ferris was a kind of quiet bad-ass. In recent years, when we brought the younger Mr. V and Pepper into the house, they learned quickly that sure, Ferris would let them bat him around a little, but you could tell when they crossed the line, because he would flatten his ears back and his and unleash a lightning right paw to knock ’em silly. He was still able to do this pretty much up until the end, too.
As old cats do, he’d lost a lot of weight over the past year or so, but it was only recently that he started really showing signs that illness was coming: He went mostly deaf and blind, but still had energy and affection to spare. Then he started losing his balance, seeming confused, and walking into things.
He spent a lot of time the past couple weeks in a way that he hadn’t been able to for a long time, though: Sunning himself on the back porch, nibbling at the grass. Our cats have been exclusively inside cats for years, but we knew Ferris wasn’t going anywhere, and wasn’t a danger to any wildlife.
Making the decision to let him go was hard. He wasn’t super-sick, like Lucky or Charles Wallace, but he had begun walking a terribly familiar path, and none of us wanted that for Ferris. When we took him to the vet, the doctor confirmed that he was, in fact, in the earliest stages of organ failure, and had likely suffered a stroke, which accounted for his recent struggles. It was something of a relief to hear that, actually.
Maybe that’s why for some reason, I felt for a long time like Ferris was “my” cat. (Quote marks, because, you know – cats don’t have people. Still.) He could be grumpy and funny and weird and playful and affectionate.
In looking up that Wordsworth picture, I found this quote from the poet: “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
Double for cats, and triple for Ferris, who committed those acts daily in exchange for a lap, an ear scratch, and a fresh can of wet food.
The first batch of pre-orders and sales that summer and fall of 2008 were mostly to family, friends, and the supportive Star Wars fans of the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club and the vintage forums at Rebelscum.com. They really jump-started this whole thing with their responses to my 2007 online series of Star Wars recollections.
In early 2009, right around the time my last full-time newsroom job was eliminated and I found myself out of work, Rob Wainfur posted one of the earliest completely-neutral-party reviews of Collect All 21! on his Retro Finds site, which was a more-than-welcome bit of nice news, and especially neat because Rob’s from Wales.
Around the same time, Adam, my Collect All 21! editor, launched Deus Ex Comica, and suddenly I was like, “Hey: I want a cool, professional cover and a foreword, too!” And that’s where Kirk Demarais and David Morgan-Mar came in, generously contributing their talents to the revised version of Collect All 21!, providing me with some amazing front cover art and a kick-ass introduction.
Working with a great digital publishing team, I expanded the book for a Kindle edition in July 2011, adding some new personal material as well as interviews and my magazine-length feature on Lorne Peterson.
Some of the other neat stuff that’s happened along the way:
- In spring 2009, I got an incredibly kind and supportive email from George Krstic, another Northeast Ohio first-generation Star Wars fan who grew up to write neat stuff like MTV’s Downtown, Megas XLR, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Motorcity. We’ve hung out a few times since, and recorded a few Star Wars nostalgia podcasts, and it’s always a blast. (George also introduced me to Josh Ling, who’s also a first-generation Rust Belt kid that came of age addicted to Kenner toys, and, I think it’s also fair to say, deals with the same old-school v. new-era Star Wars internal conflicts that twist so many of us in geek knots.)
- Jenny Williams and Curtis Silver both said really nice things about Collect All 21! on the GeekMom and GeekDad blogs, respectively.
- At PAX East in 2010, thanks to the GeekDad crew, I met Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks author Ethan Gilsdorf, who bought a copy of the book on the spot while we were all hanging out, and later provided me with a superlative blurb.
- CNN interviewed me for a 30th anniversary story about The Empire Strikes Back.
- Sharing Star Wars memories became kind of a thing: My friend Jonathan Liu sent me an advance copy of Tony Pacitti‘s My Best Friend is a Wookiee (2010), and I wound up meeting Tony at Star Wars Celebration V to exchange books and stories. A couple years later, in 2012, Gib van Ert released A Long Time Ago: Growing Up With And Out Of Star Wars, which I read and enjoyed on the way to Star Wars Celebration VI. And, of course, earlier this year, Fanboys director Kyle Newman (who also encouraged me regarding Collect All 21! in 2010) put together The Return of Return of the Jedi.
- Geek A Week artist Len Peralta and I recorded a Star Wars and 1980s conversation/podcast.
- I got invited as a guest to a couple JediCon WV events, which were tons of fun, and got my name on a spectacular poster by Kenner toy photographer Kim Simmons.
- Hugo Award-winning author and good guy Jim C. Hines read Collect All 21! and blogged about it.
- Then there was that time in 2012 when the fantastic Renita Jablonski called me and said, “So, we were thinking of doing a piece on the 35th anniversary of Star Wars, and I said ‘I know a guy,'” and we talked on the phone, and then BOOM! I’m driving to work a day or two later, and right there in the middle of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” is me. (And five years before that, when Renita was at WKSU, she produced a piece I wrote about not remembering the first time I saw Star Wars, which, again, is pretty much where all this started.)
- Topless Robot put Collect All 21! on its list of The 10 Greatest Non-Fiction Star Wars Books, which includes the line, “Celebrate the love, yub yub.” Yes!
- Somehow my book caught the attention of filmmaker Brian Stillman, who visited our house a couple summers back and interviewed me for Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys, which should be coming out later this summer.
Crunching some numbers from Lulu and Amazon to figure out about how many copies of Collect All 21! are out there – counting print and electronic versions – I come up with a number somewhere close to 2,500. (I’m always looking to make that number bigger, of course, but hey – that’s not a bad run for a completely independent, word-of-mouth effort.)
I will never be able to say thanks enough for all the encouragement and support from my friends and family and everyone who’s ever bought, borrowed, read, or shared Collect All 21! among fellow Star Wars fans and 1980s-era nostalgia loons (which I can say since I’m one of them).
The Force Will Be With You. Always.