Superheroes Anonymous 4: Conclusion

Note: This is the last of several articles about Superheroes Anonymous 4, a gathering of Real Life Superheroes being held in Portland, Oregon. This series, written by Treesong, is a collaborative project of Heroes in the Night and Song of the Trees.

I’ve already given a description of each day’s events in my previous entries. Now, I’d like to write a quick entry to sum it all up and thank the people who made it all possible.

On the whole, I would say that Superheroes Anonymous 4 was a great success. There were some logistical issues, some interpersonal issues, and some lessons to be learned for future events. But this is par for the course when you get together a group of people from different cities and try to bring them all together for a common set of activities. The important thing is that we met up, got to know each other better, and did some good work together. I’ve been to numerous conferences, and I felt that this one went quite smoothly.

This event has been a great inspiration for me. I get the impression it has been for other people, too. Becoming a part of the Real Life Superhero movement in general has motivated me to get active again, and this conference has definitely amped up my inspiration and motivation even further. I also have new contacts now in other cities, and we can support each other in the local work that we’re doing. We’ve pledged to stay in touch so that we can share ideas, offer support, and meet up again as soon as we’re able to do so, whether it’s in the context of Superheroes Anonymous 5 or some smaller regional meet-up.

I’d like to thank Zetaman, Apocalypse Meow, and anyone else involved in organizing the weekend’s events. Like many event organizers, I could tell that Zetaman was starting to stress out as we encountered a few delays and changes in logistical details along the way. But between the good work on advance planning and the attention to detail as the weekend went on, we were able to pull off all of the weekend’s main events: the food bank, the Red Cross training, the coat drive, the patrol, and the Race for the Cure. Thanks for being good hosts and bringing it all together.

Thanks to my fellow Real Life Superheroes for showing up, putting in the time and effort, and keeping it real. There are still plenty of RLSHs who I’ve met online and would like to meet in person. But it was a pleasure to meet some of you in person, and it was great to work and play and learn side by side with all of you.

Thanks also to Tea Krulos for inviting me to contribute to his blog. I’m sure Tea would’ve liked to make it out to SA4, but since he couldn’t, I’m glad we were able to work together in getting the word out about how the weekend went.

On a personal note, I’d like to send out a special thanks to everyone who made my own participation in Superheroes Anonymous 4 possible. I am a low-income worker with no savings, so I was only able to make it out here with the support of my community. Thanks to the several anonymous donors who supported my trip out here, and thanks also to Castle Perilous for matching these donations to ensure that Southern Illinois’ own Real Life Superhero would make it to Superheroes Anonymous 4.

Now, it’s time to return home to my own home town and resume my own efforts here. Good luck to everyone else as they do the same.

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Superheroes Anonymous 4: Sunday

Note: This is one of several articles about Superheroes Anonymous 4, a gathering of Real Life Superheroes being held in Portland, Oregon. This series, written by Treesong, is a collaborative project of Heroes in the Night and Song of the Trees.

Today was the final day of Superheroes Anonymous 4. It was hard saying goodbye to people, especially since I had to leave before the final dinner. But since we spent so much of our time together, it feels like we managed to pack more than three days worth of experience into less than three days worth of time.

I stayed out late last night for patrol, then stayed up even later to write about the day’s events. This was almost evened out by the fact that I was able to sleep in until about 7 am this time. I only slept about a total of 7 or 8 hours between Friday and Saturday nights combined, and I believe others slept a similar or lesser amount. As you might imagine, we were all tired — but we were also excited about walking in the Race for the Cure!

We weren’t able to do a big group breakfast this morning, so we ended up eating in a few small groups. I ate breakfast with Zetaman, Apocalypse Meow, and Civitron because we were riding together in the Zetavan. (Yes, Zetaman had a Zetavan!) We ate at this great little diner called Burgerville. At a glance, it looked like it might just be a typical corporate chain restaurant. Once inside, however, I discovered that it was actually part of a chain of local restaurants that focus on local food and ecological sustainability. I’m pretty sure this was the first chain-style restaurant I’ve seen so far where there were separate bins for recyclables, compostables, and disposables, with three illustrated signs to help the novice determine which was which. Portland is filled with many such pleasant surprises, and I hope that I can go back there again sometime just to explore the city more thoroughly.

Once breakfast was taken care of, we made our way over to the Race for the Cure.

First of all, I was amazed with the turnout. I knew that it was going to be big, and it’s not the biggest mass gathering I’ve ever been to. But it’s definitely one of the biggest, which is pretty amazing since it was for a charitable cause rather than a political protest.

Since we were staying in different parts of town and eating at different places, we ended up arriving at different places and times. It took a bit of walking to bring us all together. What started as a few isolated pockets of soon gathered into a prominent cluster of nine Real Life Superheroes plus several other people who were walking with us. Most people were wearing either the Race for the Cure shirts or their own everyday clothes, but there were also a few other costumed activists, including an entire group of Star Wars characters fighting against breast cancer. We have some photos of superheroes and Star Wars characters posing together, although I didn’t get to pose with them because I was busy taking pictures.

The atmosphere was very friendly and festive. My own costume is simple and low-key enough that it wouldn’t have drawn much attention in a crowd of this size and diversity. We were often walking together, though, or spread out into two or three smaller clusters, which added to our visibility. Civitron, Zetaman, and Blue Blaze in particular seemed to catch people’s eye due to the colorful spandex and frequent friendly greetings. In Blue Blaze’s case, it also didn’t hurt that he was often scaling nearby objects in order to gain a new perspective on the scene! Some people simply noticed that we were superheroes and cheered us on or asked to take their picture with us. Others actually asked us for more information about who we were and what we were doing. I can’t remember who was the first person to say this, but after a while, several of us started telling people who talked to us that EVERYONE who was marching today was in fact a superhero. The money raised will be going to prevent and cure breast cancer, so all of us who are supporting the cause are superheroes.

We didn’t end up staying in a group during the walk, due in part to the fact that we all walk at different speeds. I was sometimes floating between the two or three loose clusters of superheroes, as were a few of the others. Zetaman and Apocalypse Meow were generally at the lead, while Skyman was usually bringing up the rear. I’m a pretty fast walker, so I didn’t get to spend much time with Skyman. However, I was impressed with his commitment to keep going throughout the walk. I’ve been the person at the back of the group before on hikes, so I know it can be tough, but he stuck with it.

All in all, it was a great experience. I don’t have the final dollar amount from Zetaman yet, but our team raised several hundred dollars for the cause, and we got to show our solidarity and meet plenty of cool people along the way.

After the walk, I had time for one last meal with Zetaman, Apocalypse Meow, Civitron, Dreamer, and a couple of their friends. Then, it was time to make my way to the train station for the journey home.

Now that Superheroes Anonymous 4 is over, I plan on writing one last entry on the subject. This epilogue will offer my overall summary of how I feel the weekend went, along with some very important thanks to the people who helped make my own participation possible. First, however, it’s time for some much-needed sleep.

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Superheroes Anonymous 4: Saturday

Note: This is one of several articles about Superheroes Anonymous 4, a gathering of Real Life Superheroes being held in Portland, Oregon. This series, written by Treesong, is a collaborative project of Heroes in the Night and Song of the Trees.

Today was the first full day of Superheroes Anonymous 4. In spite of the rain and various other logistical snafus, we had a fun and productive day and night, and we’re looking forward to meeting again tomorrow.

I started my day this morning at 5:35 am. After two days and eight hours on the Greyhound bus, sleeping on an actual bed was amazing. I slept like a baby for the precious few hours that I had available to me. After a shower and some basic morning yoga, I met up with Zetaman, and we all got together for an early breakfast.

Breakfast was good. We have a variety of backgrounds, personalities, tastes, and so on, but we always seem to have good conversations. Sometimes it’s serious talk about the work that we do; other times it’s completely ridiculous and hilarious banter that isn’t quite ready for prime time. Either way, it’s been good to eat and work and play alongside a group of interesting and genuinely good-willed people.

Our work for the day started at 9 a.m. with a two hour shift of volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank. I had vaguely assumed that this food bank would be bigger than anything I’d seen before, but I was deeply surprised and impressed at the scale and sophistication of it. It was literally an entire massive warehouse filled with donated food that was being received, processed, stored, and delivered to people in need. Some of the volunteers remained in a small area up front to bag food while the superheroes and another batch of volunteers walked to the other end of the warehouse to box some food.

As we headed to the back of the warehouse, we walked among isles of three or four storey tall shelves stacked with palettes full of food. There were several forklifts available to move and lift the palettes, and several different work areas and types of food on the shelves. Our tour didn’t include a detailed explanation of the entire process, but it was a very clean and efficient-looking facility, and they were clearly able to handle large amounts of food.

When we reached the back room, our volunteer coordinator explained to us that we would be boxing food that had been donated. Believe it or not, the food was actually loaded onto a conveyor belt, and it was our job to grab food as it went by and pack it into boxes. At first, it seemed like something from an I Love Lucy episode, with random cans and boxes of food cruising by in front of us as we tried to box them all. But soon, we got in the groove of the work, and it all went very smoothly. Our superhero team was spread out pretty evenly among the different volunteer positions. Skyman was taping together boxes and bringing them to the conveyor belt; Dreamer was one of the people checking for damaged or recalled items; the Irishman was doing some heavy lifting at the far end of the conveyor belt; Civitron was taping shut the filled boxes of food; Zetaman, Apocalypse Meow, White Baron, Victim, and I were on the conveyor belt itself. When Blue Blaze made it out there, he joined us at the conveyor belt too.

It was a simple process, but really quite impressive in its own way. If I remember correctly, we boxed about 12,000 pounds of food, which means that each of us individually helped in providing over 400 meals.

This was a great outcome. Everyone I talked to during and after the event seemed to be having a good time and glad to be able to help the community in such a direct and concrete way. The volunteer coordinator was very personable, helpful, and grateful for the help of all of today’s volunteers, whether they came as superheroes or simply came to help. We took the time to thank him and the Oregon Food Bank itself for the work that they do.

After lunch, it was time for the CPR and first aid certification course offered by Red Cross.

The course was very educational and empowering. Not everyone took it because a few people were already certified or about to be certified through some other means. But most of us took it, and it was quite an effective and informative class. The instructor was very down-to-earth and also seemed quite happy to see a group of superheroes taking the course simply because we want to be able to help others. It was a very good course, and I feel like I learned quite a bit in just a six hour course. I feel like Real Life Superheroes in particular should take this course, but so should just about anyone. Even if you don’t have a high risk job, or a job that puts you in contact with the public, training in first aid and CPR can mean the difference between life and death for someone in your life who is suffering from a medical emergency.

After the Red Cross training, we went over to an event in the park that was gathering winter coats for people in need. Their goal was 500 coats, and the donations we brought them were just enough to put them over their goal.

For a while during the coat drive and our dinner, the fate of our night patrol was uncertain. The rain had picked up again, and between the rain and the hectic conference schedule, we felt less than fully prepared for a night out on the streets. At first, we planned on going ahead with the patrol. Then, we decided that we should cancel it. Finally, at the last minute, we ended up going ahead with it.

On the whole, I feel like the patrol was a success. At first, we just came across various people of Portland who were out for a night on the town and not really in need of what we had to offer. We had a few conversations of varying quality with passers-by, ranging from occasional explanations of who we were to brief encounters with people who just found the spectacle of costumed people amusing. When we got to a certain area of town, though, we really started coming across people living on the street who could make good use of our food and toiletries and other supplies. Socks were a really popular item, and we only had a few pairs to go around. Water and chips were also popular, followed by the delicious brownies and cookies that were left over from our meet-and-greet dinner last night.

Since there was a big group of us, and a big group of people to serve in one area, we spontaneously decided to split up. This lead to some of us scurrying back and forth as we figured out who had the supplies that each person wanted. Some people were casual and nonchalant in their acceptance of our supplies, but others showed a mix of excitement and genuine gratitude. I had a few short but interesting conversations with people, and I saw other people in our group of superheroes doing the same.

People living on the streets are just statistics to some people, but I feel like it was important for us to talk with them, and interact with them as fellow human beings, and offer what help we did have to offer. It seemed like we were all touched by the seriousness of these people’s situation and the importance of outreach to people in need. Skyman in particular seemed taken aback by the whole experience – especially when Zetaman gave away his own jacket to someone in need!

This jacket was a very nice (and very new-looking) blue hoodie with a custome Zetaman logo. I already knew that he was a genuinely kind and generous guy, but I’ll admit that I too was moved when I saw him giving this jacket away. He explained that we were out of socks, and that the person he was giving the jacket to had no socks and no means to stay warm. He also said that when the night is over, he and the rest of us would be going back to a warm, dry place to sleep, whereas this person would not. But hopefully, they should be a little better off now that they have a brand new hoodie.

All of us have contributed in our own ways to making this conference a success. However, I feel like Zetaman deserves special recognition – both for this act of kindness and for working so hard with Apocalypse Meow and others to organize the event.

What impresses me the most, though, is that as I see it, all of this is only the beginning. All of us face a variety of problems back in our home communities and in society in general. All of us respond to these problems in different ways. But if more people of conscience would just decide to overcome their apathy and inertia and get more involved in their local community, then we could solve these problems together.

With that written, I need to go to bed! But I’ll have more news soon. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who made this conference (and my attendance here) possible. I’ll be writing a more detailed thank you in my final installment of this SA4 series, but in the meantime I just wanted to express my gratitude. This has been a good weekend – and hopefully we have many more good weekends, and weeks, and months, and years to come.

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Superheroes Anonymous 4: Arrival

Note: This is the first of several articles about Superheroes Anonymous 4, a gathering of Real Life Superheroes being held in Portland, Oregon. This series, written by Treesong, is a collaborative project of Heroes in the Night and Song of the Trees.

I’ve arrived safe and sound in Portland, Oregon for Superheroes Anonymous 4. The conference really doesn’t get started until tomorrow, so I don’t have much to report yet. I did, however, want to write a brief entry about my arrival and first impressions.

When my bus arrived in town, I took Portland’s lovely Max Light Rail out to a spot that would be more convenient for meeting up with the others. Zetaman met me in the parking lot of the Max station, and we went together to our first event: an informal barbeque and meet-up.

I feel the night went well. We spent a little time discussing logistics for the next two days, but mostly we just socialized and got to know each other better. I’d never met any of the others in person before, so I feel that eating together, and relaxing together, and being wacky and wild and real with each other, was a good way for me to start getting to know them.

I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy this weekend and enjoy working side by side with these people. Not everyone was able to make it into town in time for the barbeque, so there are still more people for me to meet. Even so, I like the fact that we all have serious reasons for being Real Life Superheroes, yet we can all have fun together too. It’s good team bonding, and good preparation for the coming two days of very active working and learning.

With that said, I’m off to bed. Look forward to more news once the conference has officially started!

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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