The Green Arrow
(My father was an everyday superhero)
Somewhere in a small Arizona town...
Hidden in a cronky dimly lit workshop, my dad the superhero wangled his world of motorcycle madness. In this makeshift work room my dad enjoyed an intriguing life away from our home and the fire station, where he spent volunteer days helping and saving lives. It was here that his passion for repairing and building motorcycles took on another world dimension. They weren't just vehicles to him, they became characters in a movie. Each one was bestowed a unique personality through his cartoon sketches. The daring Harley became the Green-Eyed Winged Dragon. The demure Kawasaki became the Pink Panther. These sketches made dad somewhat of a celebrity and when he finished a repair, he delivered the motorcycle with his artwork and a proud smile. Over the years, the townspeople became curious about what dad did in his motorcycle cave.
The sign said: Visitors allowed, but enter at your own risk.
Upon walking into the workshop, a strange green steam enveloped you, and then lifted like a curtain on stage. As the performance began, it rose up from the garage floor like an eerie cloud from a super crack in the earth. It was palpable, warm and smelled like sweat earth and steel. So many times it sucked me into the entrance and I felt its magnetic pull.
Nobody knew where it came from, but once you were inside, you were drawn to the next dimly lit image illuminated only by freestanding lights. The entire workshop was a muted montage in hues of browns, greys and shades of military green. Like a photograph from long ago, the shop appeared old and vintage.
In the center of the workshop, my dad was typically leaning over his garage sale special, wooden work table. The table was as sturdy as a mountain and showcased an assortment of tools like screw drivers, oil filters,wrenches, and L shaped hex keys. Whatever he was working on made its way to the table. He bargained or traded for these accoutrements, and they were his prizes.
The king of his motorcycle shop, Henry Lee, sat high on a drafting stool. His huge brown eyes popped out of his goggles, and looked a little like a mad scientist. With one leather gloved hand, he held his blow torch or fire gun as I used to call it, high above his head. Sparks flew in every direction, and the torch whizzed and whirred before making contact. It was at these times, that my dad shared his great philosophies of life.
“Aim your arrow straight and long, and in the path of the good green light", he said.
My favorite was: "Not by costume, not by might, understanding will win life's plight".
It was these words and my father’s quirky “Lets figure it out”, artistic approach to life, that got me through some of the hardest times growing up. There was always a winning solution for him, and he encouraged me to find the experiences that made me most happy.
Life was not a bed of roses however, and before dad stepped in, I was challenged being a regular kid. At the time, I thought I would never break free of the torture that I went through in and out of school. I kept having to change schools because I was dyslexic, and mildly autistic, so day-dreaming and sketching in class was not uncommon for me. Dad's explanation was that I was inventing and creative dreaming.
In my dream state, I was imagining how superheroes would save the world. My reveries burst when the teacher told me I couldn’t daydream or draw in class any more. When she walked out for a minute, the kids picked me up, opened the windows and locked me out on the roof. They put their faces near the windows and called me “backwards Sol.” To compound the issue, Miss Puuzio, came in and said, “Let’s just put Sollie next to my desk, where she will be safe". I was corralled into isolation and made to feel like I was an outsider.
Things really took a turn for the worse when I was walking home one afternoon, and a group of kids, “the cool kids”, continued their teasing. Annette, the leader of the pack, began taunting me, and suddenly there was a circle of little monsters around me with the word bullie written across their faces. I was surrounded. All that I thought about was escaping on dad’s green dragon Mythos character as I tripped over a rock and fell before escaping.
It was so disheartening to think that these same kids were in our community where my father had actually saved people in fires, and from raging water in riverbeds. He actually lifted a mom and a son in his arms to get them out of the way of a flash flood.
I came home frightened, and when dad saw my knee and the fear in my eyes, he morphed into the peaceful warrior that he was. “We will call a community council meeting, and talk about your being bullied immediately”. He would not tolerate this type of behavior and felt that I should talk in my behalf as well.
We had our day before the city, and the school, parents and community were invited. Dad strode up to the podium with long strides and spoke from the heart. He said that in the old days everyone respected each other, and then he paused, got very quiet, and sent rays of energy to everyone in the room. “There is a way, we can all find good qualities in every person”. Then it was my turn, and I talked about what it might be like, if we could all be superheroes, even if we had challenges. We would have respect for each other, with just the power of humanity. My dad and I were quite a pair that day.
That same year, I became fascinated with dad's workshop. We started to repair motorcycles together, and he took me on my first ride in back of our desert house on his Green-Eyed Winged Dragon. On that day, I felt like I grew wings. The wind was flashing past me, as we navigated over a hill, and up into the mountain. I was flying. I could sense the strength of the motorcycle, and wanted to learn everything I could about the tools of the trade. And so it was. After school, I became an apprentice at dad’s shop and I was welcomed into his world.
Another intriguing aspect of Henry’s hobby was his artwork. He loved to place his fascinating sculptures around the shop to inspire creativity and discussion.
One afternoon, I came in after school, and was amazed to see a hammered metal motorcycle that looked like it was a rearing horse. It was in the center of the work space, and was almost as tall as the ceiling. It was the best piece of art I had ever seen. Dad said that it represented the rider’s fury, and expressed how he felt when he rode on the open highway. Secretly, I watched this sculpture for the next few years, and it became my power object. I knew in the depths of my being that one day, I would be the first girl in our family, to ride across the country, on the saddle of my trusty motorcycle steed.
I was inspired by Henry Lee, my dad. I could fill up journals of stories about my dad’s superhero status. He was even a member of the Green Arrow fan club which must have started around the 1940’s. He was captivated by the Arrow’s alter ego status, but changed the dynamics a little. Instead of using weapons as described in the comics, dad recreated them as chess pieces. The warriors studied the options in a game of strategy, and then decided on the best move together. He even had canned sound effects, and used a sparking wheel when an opponent was advancing. It was quite a sensory experience.
As part of the Green Arrow fan club, dad had an unusual sign on the back wall that flashed a neon green light. Sometimes when I came in the shop, he would ask me for the password, and I would say, “The Green Arrow”. Growing up has been interesting in my neck of the woods. And now at eighteen, I am setting out on my first road trip, on a motorcyle that dad and I repaired and rebuilt. I decided to call it the Green Arrow. I know that you will ask, as every superhero in the making, always gets asked. What will you do? Where will you go?
I will embrace the lure of the open highway, and right now a new plan keeps rattling around in my head. I have borrowed dad's idea of making sculptures and I am thinking about building percussion instruments with landfill materials. You know for sure I will be working with kids. Check in with me later, and I'll tell you what's happening.
Stay tuned for the adventures of Sol Lee