A patrol with a great team, the GLA, Part 2

Just so you know, I had put over an hour into this post before my computer decided that it had enough of my drivel and spontaneously shut down. It was disheartening.  I will now save often.
The cops went into the diner and I had half an instinct to follow them in. I wanted to ask them if they knew they scared us. I wanted to ask them if they knew of us. I wanted to buy them lunch. I wanted to ask them what they thought of us. But we decided to “Let the cops go.” That’s a switch, huh?
We continued to travel along previously uncharted areas. Actually, it was a different end of Washington Blvd. that we just hadn’t been before. Sometimes we took breaks.
Everyone was doing their part. I tend to take the lead and keep up the pace, since I walk fast. Often, Misery White is side-to-side. We’re also there for public relations and diplomacy. She’s also so quick to spot nuances on the street. People in a situation or someone to immediately help. At the rear, we keep our brute force and tactics. Razorhawk and Blue. Typically, we’ll have Arctic Knight somewhere in the middle, ready to go with his Mad Martial Arts Skillz as he sees fit, but he couldn’t make it for this mission. I don’t think we gave him enough heads-up about it. Communication isn’t one of our strong-points and Minnesota is a bigger state than you might realize. Both metro and urban distance.
So we’re walking down Washington Blvd,, and being waved at, honked at, stared at and also being asked the cool standard questions by people. Everyone is responding so positively to just us being there. But it’s the frequency of it that has me realizing that walking down a street in daylight is so much different than walking down the same street at night. We also ended up waving at at least two sets of police officer who were making arrests. They waved back.
We met a lot of people. Some curious and others in need. If they were in need, Blue was at the ready with food and water for them. He carried the supplies and was always at the ready with them for anyone in need.
Razorhawk was always kind to the street-folk with a listening ear. I don’t think they could believe that this “Big-tough-wrestler-guy” would take the time to listen to their troubles. He has that kind of heart. That’s part of what makes him so invaluable on the streets.
We met a lot of people, had some photos taken, with our permission. It became night.
And just when Blue was asking if we needed to buy more supplies, we found a middle-age couple in the plaza and in real need. They were sleeping on a bench that night. Misery and Blue passed out the last of their supplies to them and gave them her pamphlets and cards.
They were so grateful for what I think was maybe so little. And they hoped it wouldn’t rain. They had nowhere to go.
As we walked out of the area, out of supplies to hand out, it began to sprinkle rain. We decided to head back to my car. By the time we pulled out of the parking garage, it was pouring rain. I know that each and every one of us was thinking of that loving couple we met on the park benches.
God Bless Them.
AFTERMATH: The books…
So the next day, I’m telling a family member, who knows all about me being Geist, about the patrol. After awhile I ask her about the detective series that she thought I would enjoy reading. So I’m like, “Hey, maybe tonight I’ll start reading that first Jack Reacher book. Where is it?” She says, “Oh, it’s in a bag in the trunk of my car. I’ll go get it.” And I hesitantly say. “Wait. Uh… no it isn’t. I gave those away. I thought you put those in the trunk as part of my donations to the shelter.” She was livid for a minute and says, “No, I didn’t. Those were supposed to go to a family friend.  They were promised. I never said you could take the books in the trunk. I didn’t say anything about books.”  She calmed down, understood my over-chartibleness and we’re hoping that the family friend will forget all about the promised books. Or I’ll be doing some apologizing.  ;|

A patrol with a great team, the GLA, Part 1

Saturday I headed north to patrol with some of my teammates of the Great Lakes Alliance. First, I headed to a medium-size college town where Blue and Misery White reside. Blue had planned a drop-off at a food shelf that closed at 11:30 a.m., so time was an issue. My drive was about an hour, but thanks to taking a turn that my GPS didn’t recommend, I had to do some high speeds on some dusty gravel roads to get back on track. Too bad the car had just been washed. Oh well… Only I can get lost with a Garmin.
I wasn’t too late and when I arrived at their apartment, I knew that it was the right one because there was a Spider-Man doormat at the base of the stairs leading up to their place.
Blue was all geared up and ready to go. Miz offered me some homemade chocolate chip cookies. I rarely eat cookies and find sweets easy to resist, but these were wonderful and I had to have more. I was quickly addicted. (Gotta get that recipe.) I was partly in-gear and finished off the rest pretty quickly. It was hot that day. Really hot. I didn’t even consider wearing the coat. It was Geist-lite weather. As I awkwardly worked on putting on the gauntlets / bracers, Blue offered to help me. I kind of overreacted and said “No!” a little too loud. I said, “I’m sorry, Man. But this is part of the ritual for me. This is me getting in the right mind-set to prepare myself for what we’re about to do. This is what I need to do on my own to be a better person. The best person I can possibly be.” Which isn’t saying much, because in regular life, I can be kind of a jerk and I know it. But a step up is still a step up, y’know?
Blue had a huge box of groceries that he and Miz had stockpiled and I had a couple of bags of the type of food that can go a long way. Blue and I headed out, leaving Miz to attend to other things. It was time for some guy-talk. Blue had a lot of questions about how I’ve been. He worries a lot. He’s a good friend. He doesn’t need to worry about me, but he does anyway. We swapped some stories and advice on the way to the food shelf.
When we got there, there was a nice lady arranging and stacking things. Like a lot of Minnesotans, she didn’t seem too shocked to see two costumed goofballs carrying loads of food. If I remember right, she asked if we wanted a receipt and we said, “No, we’re Real-Life Superheroes.” She said, “I thought so! I think I’ve seen you in the Star Tribune.”, indicating to me. Which is odd, because I don’t think I’ve ever been in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. We headed back to Blue’s and Miz’s place for a fantastic lunch with them and Miz’s very hip, smart and cool teenage daughter.
Then Blue had some training for me. We went out to the yard with Miz’s daughter and between the the two of them, they demonstrated some escort, handcuff and takedown tactics while allowing me to inflict a lot of pain on Blue. Good times… And good info from Blue, who clearly knows what he’s doing in the field, despite his regressive, but charming sense of humor.
We hit the road to meet up with Razorhawk. In RH’s driveway, we spent some time chatting, dispelling superhero gossip and experiencing the increasing Minnesota heat. Did I mention it was hot?
We got to Minneapolis in the mid-afternoon and went to a family shelter, People Serving People, where we dropped off toys and huge stacks of comics for the kids, clothing, and a bag of books that was in my trunk. I didn’t know what the books were doing in my trunk, but figured that they were donatable. More on that later. The security guard recognized us from previous visits. That’s always nice.
Then, we immediately headed to a known homeless camp under a bridge. There was no one there, but Misery White left some nice donations for when they would return. She also had some very cool fliers made up of the phone numbers and locations of various social services in Minneapolis. She continued to pass these out throughout the day. What a great idea!
From there, we walked to areas we hadn’t been before. It was daylight and we had people honking, waving, cheering and asking us about ourselves. And then, Miz said, “Geist!” And I turned back to see that two police cars had rolled up on us. The cops were getting out in a hurry. I stammered something that might have come out like, “Hi.” Misery stepped forward and cheerily said, “Hello, officers! How are you?” At that point, they said, “Fine, thank you.” and walked through the door to the diner that we happened to be standing next to. THEY WERE TAKING A BREAK FOR LUNCH.  Razorhawk said, “Y’know, sometimes I think we’re all too paranoid.
(To be continued.)

About time I got suited up again

Hey, I don’t know about you guys, but how do you feel when it’s been way too long since you were active, on the streets and in full gear and helping others? It’s been like months for me and I’ve had various reasons, including concentrating on getting arrangements for HOPE 2012 / Comic-Con taken care of (which they are). And then being conservative with my funds to save up for that trip to San Diego. So I haven’t been especially eager to travel to either Minneapolis or La Crosse to meet up with other RLSHs. That stuff requires cash that I’ll need later.
So I’ve been an online RLSH for awhile and that’s been pretty much the extent of it. And it’s not like it hasn’t been sort of interesting and somewhat useful. I guess I can say it has been productive in a way. I mean, a small group of us were trying to do damage control on some of the interesting and volatile events that have taken place. Included in that, there were a few good friends who really needed to talk about the situations. And I was glad to be there for them.
But I still wasn’t suited up and on the streets… And I was feeling guilty. I mean, here we were being featured in Nadia’s awesome Metro articles. Other people have been asking for interviews. And I was feeling like a paper lion. A fraud. A myth. Because it had been so long since I had actually put on the suit and stepped out the door.
Well, Saturday I finally had no choice because it was one of my annual rituals: “Free Comic Book Day.” It’s a national event, sponsored by the comic companies and years ago, I figured it was a good way to make a lot of kids very happy. Thanks to my local comic book shop owner, we’ve worked out an arrangement where he orders extra free books and saves me a stack. I come into his shop on that morning and pick them up to take to kids who aren’t able to visit his store. I take them to family shelters and to Ronald McDonald House.
Craig, the owner, really loaded me up this time and every place I visit got plenty of books. The Book Review was plenty busy, but people barely took notice of me. Weird, huh? Craig even called me Geist instead of my real name, which he knows. Thanks to him, I’ll have lots of comics to give to various places throughout the year. Craig does so much good on that one day that he doesn’t realize. 🙂
So yeah, I took the comics around to the usual places and each time, everyone was so greatful. Heck, I’m just the gaudy “delivery boy,” but I get to hear their gratitude, while making significant mention of Craig’s shop, The Book Review, and his generosity.
It was awesome to have the costume on again and making people happy. It’s something that I really needed. Until then, I had started to get cynical, whiney and depressed. Doing good creates good in yourself. No doubt about it.
And yeah, I did have a couple of side-trips. I looked for a recent sexual assailant without success. I took four awesome loaves of Great Harvest bread to a homeless shelter.
But then, I saw a homeless man in a median with the traditional cardboard sign. I didn’t already know this guy. He was young. 20s. I had some cash and went to a nearby Subway and got a value meal and circled back to him. He was still there at the busy intersection with his sign. I always enjoy the looks of people when I step out of my vehicle and wait for the light to turn to “walk.” I wait patiently while the person I’m headed toward is wondering who the heck I am, holding food to give them. It’s that little moment of amazement and mystery where the world just seemed to get a little bit more incredible for anyone who’s witnessing the event.
I reached him in the median and handed him the food while introducing myself. This is one of the busiest intersections in town. He thanked me profusely, saying that was exactly what he needed and we began to talk. He had just used up his two weeks at the homeless shelter that I had donated bread to. He didn’t know where he was going to spend the night next and was going to have to ask friends if they could put him up.
He seemed clean, well-mannered and completely honest and sober. He explained that he has skills and experience, but just can’t get hired. He’s been up and been down. He applies for jobs and doesn’t get called. I suggested we go to the corner instead of the median. Cars were passing us constantly. I apologized for taking time away from his potential opportunities and he again thanked me for the foot-long.
He told me that when he does get some cash, he has to buy diapers instead of food. He has a baby and a fiancee. I didn’t get into the details, but it sounded like a tough situation that I can’t begin to understand and have no business being nosy about.
As I made my excuses to leave, I looked at his face again. It was an honest face with a clear determination to earn his own keep. I could tell that he was shamed by what he was doing, begging in that median. It wasn’t what he wanted to do at all, but a last resort. He had pride, but this seemed to be the last option for him. I pulled out my money clip and put what was in it in his hands. He tried to refuse, saying that I had done enough, but I made him take the small sum that it was.
I wished him luck and realized I never caught the guy’s name. Stupid me…
It was a good patrol. And it was about time that I was able to help someone who needed it. I guess more than one, but it was definitely nice to have a face and personality on the last part of the patrol.

Our words and actions have power

I’ve been thinking about something and I figure that it’s a pretty good time to talk about it since there aren’t any recent incidents and it’s unlikely that anyone will think I’m singling them out and trying to lay blame when I’m truly not. I don’t like to blame. I like to overlook unfortunate choices and, at worst, forgive mistakes.
Okay, here’s what I wanted to say: We are more powerful than we often realize. I mean, what is power? It’s influence. And whether we like it or not, people often listen to us. Why? Because they look up to us and they sometimes think we know something that they don’t or mistakenly believe we’re better people than them. We call ourselves Real-Life Superheroes and while I’m not saying it’s a lie, it is a term with a bit of exaggeration at times.  But our optimistic civilian friends believe it. The media at times believes it. And I believe it of most of you.
So when we speak and act, it’s important that we do it well and wisely. When I represent myself as Geist,  I know that I’m no longer the schlep who drags his butt out of bed and goes into work with too little sleep and sweats under pressure and screws up royally sometimes.
No, when I’m Geist, whether online or on the streets, I need to be a whole lot better than that. I have to be kind, polite and at the top of my game. Because people look to me, for whatever reason and I no longer just represent me, but what I say or do could reflect on all of the other RLSHs and terribly damage their reputations as a group as their choices could terribly damage mine.
So when we assume the identity of our individual and unique heroic counterparts, consider that to a degree, we represent each other as well as ourselves. I’ve screwed up on the streets and made every effort not to repeat any incident that had poor results. I’ve said things online in both public and private forums that I later regretted and found to be less than worthy of the voice of a Real-Life Superhero.
But over the years, as I continue doing this, I think I’m also learning little by little what not to say, what comment to delete, what argument not to participate in, and when not to disappoint those who believe I’m a better person than maybe I really am without the mask.
I know the media is watching us, waiting for us to falter, our civilian fans are looking to us with hope and our RLSH brothers and sisters are expecting us to be as solid and worthy of respect as they are.
As a Real-Life Superhero, we don’t just represent ourselves. We represent each other.
And if it’s never crossed your mind before, a lot of RLSHs have wondered aloud if as a group, we might be a paragraph in a history book someday. How do you want to be remembered?


I have a ton of things to blog about and not near enough time. So please forgive me because I’m about to ramble, but hope to drive a couple of points into a few RLSH people’s heads. Most of you know this already, so I hope it doesn’t apply to you.
I’ve had fantastic patrols in Minneapolis with the Great Lakes Alliance and also in Madison, Wisconsin with the Challengers. There was a photograpy student who was working on her thesis and wanted to build it around Real-Life Superheroes. And she told me much later that she tried to contact every RLSH she knew of.
And then she said that no one other than me responded. I don’t know who else was contacted, but that really disappointed me that she hadn’t even heard back from any other one of us.
Are we that paranoid that you can’t help a student get her Masters Degree in photojournalism?
I look at being a Real Life Superhero as a mission of trying to help people. Anyone. Everyone. And we need to look at that from a lot of perspectives. You don’t just help people who are sitting on a street corner on the cold sidewalk wearing essentially rags. Of course, that’s an easy red flag for anyone of us. But it’s not the end.
You might also need to help someone in business dress-clothes who forgot their keys. You might help a woman who is in fear of walking down the street for the possibility of being raped. Is there an elderly couple you see going down the wrong neighborhood that they’re not familiar with? Just tail them from a distance, without freaking them out, but still watching their safe passage.
And if we can help a college student graduate…

Why I think Privacy in RLSH forums is a necessity

Heya Folks,
Maybe a whole lot of you weren’t aware of this, but RLSH forums used to be different than they tend to be at this particular moment in time. There is a current upheaval.
Some of us have seen the hey-day of years ago and frankly, this ain’t it. I’m not meaning to criticize and believe me, I couldn’t do better and I’m in regret for not living up to my own part as a Moderator in a previous forum when I said I would.
I failed. And here’s what’s happened as a partial result.
We seem to be seeing an evolution of ALL of the RLSH forums at the same exact time.
It’s come to my notice because of some dissatisfaction among some of my elder RLSH friends and now I’m being contacted by newer Real-Life Superheroes asking, “Where are the cool forums?” And I guide them to where I can, including here at www.reallifesuperheroes.org. But this is not a self-promotional rant. Not at all.
Okay, I think I know the reason “the times, they are a’ changing.”
Facebook. That’s how we’re now communicating and networking among RLSHs and also our “civilian” friends. And that’s very incredibly awesome. But not good enough.
Wonderful, but take it for what it’s worth. It doesn’t fill our needs. Not at all, if you’re a Real-Life Superhero. Fine if you “Like” us, but if you’re actually one of us, it leaves us lacking support from our specifically-RLSH friends and even our detractors who we could be on a conversational level with. But we’re not. Not really. Not on facebook. It’s really just sort of throwing comments out there and there’s little, if any discussion.
Some of the forum sites are getting to “No privacy policy,” and while I appreciate the concept, I don’t enjoy it. It’s just not fun.
RLSH forums are also steering to a “this is just information and not conversational” and frankly, I think any kind of exclusiveness if going to kill a forum.
My former favorite forum of Heroes Network was in my opinion, killed by being just a bit more exclusive by membership requirements. Yes, the Admins were INCREDIBLY awesome (Love ya both!), but we never really got the nut-jobs or the whackos to debate with to make the efficiently-run forum truly interesting enough to visit often. I’m truly not criticizing the folks who ran it. I just wonder if it wouldn’t have been more active if it was a bit more loose. I appreciate the dedication, hard work and the concept, regardless.
I loved the idea. It was well-run and we’ve never seen anything quite like it before. Who knew that if you only got the “best and tried and true people” (and that I would be lucky enough to be in that group) into it, that they’d be of little interest and have little to talk about? I was honored to have counted myself among that number. But I know how boring I can be. Go figure.
Back to the “No Privacy” thing…
If you’re a Real-Life Superhero: You’re getting back from a patrol, hot and sweaty, or maybe cold and chilled and you want to talk some things out with someone on your level, who can understand or assume what your night or day might have been like. You want to avoid all the chit-chat BS. Or maybe you need to find some diversion among friends who understand what we do. You don’t want to be confronted by a random fb friend showing all of his friends his favorite Youtube video of a random band.
They don’t know what you did that night. -Or couldn’t prevent being done.
You want to commiserate and relate… make inside jokes and maybe kid around with your best RLSH friend who is also online, but in front of your other friends so that they can see how much mutual respect you have for each other to treat them like you do.
You need an RLSH private area.
No media AT ALL. Few, if any, kind “civilians” (No disrespect intended, My Friends.) Where we can just be among ourselves and sort of let down our guard and be our occasional asshole-selves and enjoy those moments with people who also have done the stupid things we’ve done. -(“Dude, don’t hand the guy an ice-cold Pepsi in a blizzard. Wouldn’t a hot coffee been a better idea? You’re such an A-hole, Geist ;)”)
Facebook is absolutely a wonderful thing. And media-friendly forums ABOUT Real-Life Superheros are a wonderful thing.
But if people with secret identities can’t have a place where, as a somewhat exclusive group can’t talk in privacy, then what’s the point of a forum FOR RLSHs?
I might for instance, want to give Razorhawk a hard time about his white and black costume concept, I might want to kid Superhero about his constant smile, I might want to wonder outloud why Watchman is never actually on the forums, and give a hard time to my Buddy Blue for thinking I’m not thinking of him. These are all dear friends of mine. And yeah, I want to give them some kidding. Can I do that in front of the world without you getting the wrong ideas? Not really.
But also, and more importantly, we need a place where RLSHs can speak of issues out of the media eye. I mean, we need to talk about potential press coverage and whether “this or that” might be a good idea, based partially upon our friends’ opinions. Or whether “this or that” was the right approach on a patrol we just had.
“What would you have done? I’m such an F-up. How can I do better next time?”
Over the years, some incredibly private issues have been brought up from our number of RLSH friends. Some of them even put to group discussions. Granted, I’m thinking back to when there were fifty of us online and not 750 or whatever. But there are still some things that I would like to hear about or talk about that are JUST private and among like-minded friends. No offense…
That’s just my take on the current trends.
All My Best,

Christmas patrol 12/22/11

It’s been a busy season. And a pretty meager one. My “Geist” bank account has been pretty low for awhile and I hadn’t done a great job of gradually building it up with small deposits. But I figured I could swing a hundred bucks or so. At least it’s something. But between work and some personal stuff keeping me busy, I also hadn’t gotten around to buying toys for charities yet.
Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about the concepts of random acts of kindness and paying it forward to a complete stranger. It seems a lot more people have lately. I mean, look at the video that Thanatos linked to recently if you haven’t seen it already: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc8ZbVcdHpg&feature=youtu.be
Plus, people across the country have been going into stores like Kmart that have layaway plans and paying on the accounts of complete strangers. According to newspapers, the internet and tv, it’s a nation-wide phenomena and it’s also happened in my city a couple of times. The store tries to choose someone deserving to whom to allocate the funds. This is the sort of positivity that a lot of us have been wanting to encourage for a long time. And it’s happening! This is the sort of thing that I also wanted to do.
I started out the morning swinging through Burger King before work. I paid for my breakfast with exact change, but still had money in my pocket. I took out a $10 and handed it to the cashier after I paid. I said, “I’d like you to put this toward whoever comes up after me. This Christmas, I’m paying it forward. Use it until it’s gone.” I figured it might brighten someone’s morning. Maybe a couple of people.
After work, I made a withdrawl from my account and gotten a crisp $100 bill. geared up in a “Geist-lite” mode. Black jeans instead of cargo pants. A pair of cowboy boots instead of the urban ones. No gauntlets. I was trying to seem non-threatening. And I loaded the vehicle with food and supplies I’d been building up for the homeless. Industrial-size cans of corn, beans and some other things.
I went to Kmart and stood in line as people stared at me. A clerk became available and said that she could help me. I made a point of having the $100 in my hand even before I entered the store. I realize I appear weird and I didn’t want anyone to think I was there to rob the place. I handed her the bill and asked if she could put it toward someone’s layaway account. It took her a few seconds for her to understand and I had to repeat myself, but she eventually recognized what I was doing and said that I’d have to talk to the store manager. I was getting uncomfortable because, like a ghost (Geist), I really don’t like to hang around in public longer than necessary. I asked her if she would please do that for me and went for the exit. She went toward the manager and yelled above all of the chaotic noise, “Thank you!!” I said “You’re welcome.” and left.
Then I was on my way to our local homeless shelter, the Dorothy Day House. As I was unloading my goods, I saw a proper and well-dressed lady walking to the door carrying a crate of peaches. I said, “It looks like we have similar ideas.” She smiled and knocked on the door and stood there. When I got to the door I said, “In my experiences here, you can just go right in.” and we did. The guy at the front desk ushered us to another room and a lady asked if we were together, to which we said, “No.” I waited for her to speak to the familiar lady and tell her who she was and where she got her donations (there were more boxes to come from her). Then it was my turn and I gave my spiel. “I’m Geist and I’m a Real-Life Superhero.” to which the Proper Lady laughed. The familiar lady said, “Yes, I know. We’ve met here before, haven’t we?” I said yes and she showed me where I could put my donations.
On my way out, I saw the Proper Lady with another box and asked if she needed any help. She said, “No, but thank you, Geist.”
I drove away smiling and onto a short meandering street patrol before heading home without further incident. It was a fun and rewarding day.
-Now I’ve got to work on that “Geist account.”