Friday, February 7, 2014

A Happy Birthday Wish...

"My friend Ricky is an enigmatic subject in photos. There’s something about him that seems mysterious and otherworldly when you view him from the distance of a lens. He has crazy eyes, for one thing, but also a sort of elfen build. He’s inspired me (literally) from the day I met him. I’ve written two characters for him, one in a short story called Second Thanksgiving, which I wrote the day I met him, and the other is Death."- Source

A few years ago I ran across a blue-haired wisp of a creature, sitting with his arms crossed over his chest and his legs propped up, crossed at the ankles. He looked as if he was guarding the door to the event we were both attending, though maybe he was just resting from walking around all day on 2 inch heels. I'd never seen anything like him in real life, even if the glittering abyss that is my imagination had always supposed people like that existed in some form or another. He spoke to me, solidifying his existence and surprising me... after all, I was new to the science-fiction convention circuit, self-conscious and about 20 minutes from a full blood sugar crisis thanks to skipping lunch. We chatted a bit, though I barely remember our conversation. I know I mentioned to him that I was an author, and I mentioned that my book was for sale at a table in the dealer's room, which he seemed to be guarding as a benevolent bright blue sentinel.

We ran into each other again, later, among thousands of strange faces, interesting costumes, world-wide travelers, just as both of us were about to leave. By the time we ran into each other that second time, though, I'd already re-envisioned him as a reluctant young survivor in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, caring for a band of children he'd rescued. I couldn't help feeling surprised to see him that second time, in the painful sunlight of a bright January afternoon, blinking behind glasses. A part of me figured he'd just been a specter, a product of my exhausted mind. After all, the convention had opened my eyes to a world I'd never known had existed, complete with all sorts of alternate lifestyles, drunk nerds, deep discussions about time travel (a favorite subject of mine) and a brand new job offer. I'd barely slept in days and couldn't be sure of the line I walked between the world of the convention and the cold, harsh light of the world outside.

We exchanged social media information and said our goodbyes.

Ricky has this effect on many people, I'm told. At first he seems otherworldly and intense, even while standing under five and a half feet tall. He's a modern dandy, complete with gadgetry on his belt, pinstriped pants, vests and ties and smudged eyeliner. Over time you realize he's actually not half as intimidating as he seems at first glance. He's genuinely goofy and warm in turn, but there's always a sense that a hundred characters live inside him. Maybe he doesn't even know these people, but they live there. Authors see them. Artists see them.

In 2012 I had the honor of traveling quite a lot with his band of beautiful misfits and fashionistas, all of us mismatched gypsy artists. There were good and bad times, confrontations, hours of laughter, meals that mirrored the closing 'shwarma' scene in Avengers, 3am conversations, arguments and childish emotions. Many mornings found our group crawling out of bed at 6am, dark circles under our eyes, to fight for use of the shower and then stand hip to hip in the full length bathroom mirror to add more circles around our eyes, this time with kohl. I like to think of myself as being quite fun and colorful with my look, spending enough time to properly present myself, but no one spends as much time preparing himself for the world as Ricky, when he's incarnated as Locke Valor. He genuinely cares about his fans and followers, and will take over a bathroom with his army of hair products and makeup, take his time and make sure he's prepared before he steps into the world.

It's his birthday today and I wanted to offer a little tribute to this icon of the science fiction world, to a personal muse of my own, to the boy on not one but two of my book covers, and to a friend. Though I haven't seen him in a long time and we've both careened in somewhat different directions in life, I hold those memories dear. It's not every day that you meet a creature from another world, a modern dandy.

Happy birthday, man.

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