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When I was seven, I moved out of the room I shared with my older brother and into my own room. I don’t recall what caused my parents to decide this — perhaps it was a birthday present for my brother turning ten — but for me it was nothing if not a mixed blessing. I mean, I loved getting my own desk and new wallpaper that I picked out and my own bed, all the trappings of a room to grow up in. But without my brother there with me, there was something truly terrifying about being alone at night in the dark.

Not that my brother was much of a protector. More often he’d attack me in my sleep, steal and break my toys, and “dead-arm” me over and over again for his sadistic pleasure. But in my room alone, all alone, I felt susceptible to all the forces of darkness — the monsters under the bed, the prowlers lurking at the window, the creepers in the closet waiting to kidnap me. I had no protection at all. Leaving the safety in numbers of my brother’s room and the comfort of our New York Giants’ helmet night light filled me with imaginings of untold peril.
More… “Halloween is Cancelled”

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In the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center just outside Chicago, I bump into a crowd of Jedi wearing Obi-Wan-style robes and munching popcorn. I change direction and slip around the Star Wars fans, who are just a few of the thousands of people attending Wizard World Chicago, the second-largest comic book convention in the country.

There’s a large crowd of kids in X-Men costumes in front of me, and I take out my camera.  When I was at the height of my comic-book fandom (now more than a decade ago), the X-Men titles were by far my favorites. There were two things I especially liked about the team of mutants: The X-Men were outcasts, and they had strong, capable females on their team. Sure, those women were drawn with wildly disproportionate bodies, but they were also given equal page time as the men. Gleefully I snap pictures of the costumed… More…

 

At 9:05 a.m. in Story Land, a 16-year-old boy dressed as the Mad Hatter started up the Alice in Wonderland teacup ride. He watched the cups clank and churn around. If a child accidentally stepped into one of the holes where the teacup attached to the ride’s base, the kid’s leg could get ripped off.

At 9:10 a.m., a girl wearing a striped shirt and a red bandana took the pirate boat out for its first cruise of the morning. She turned the rudder and twisted the boat past piles of fiberglass treasure, fake pirates, and a skeleton in a cage named Chuck. As the boat moved forward though the stagnant water, the pirate girl turned it a little too strongly and had to immediately correct course to avoid driving the boat into the cue-line area. Parents held… More…