Sunday, March 17, 2019

A paperweight that carries significant weight

Bill Finger left behind few belongings that we know of

I was lucky enough to inherit one of them—a paperweight. That turned out to be the first of several quirky stories revolving around this small hunk of metal.

First, it's in Bill the Boy Wonder—anachronistically.

Second, I don't take it to school visits anymore. But not for the reason you might think.

At airport security in (I believe) Reno, the TSA agent asked me to remove the paperweight from my carry-on; I (of course) would never put it in checked luggage. 

He asked what it was. I said "Bill Finger's paperweight." He (of course) asked "Who's Bill Finger?"

I said long story. 

Short version: co-creator of Batman and this paperweight is one of the only things he owned that still survives. 

He said it could be used as a weapon so I could not bring it on board.

I nearly choked.

This was several years ago and my memory of the rest of the conversation is virtually nonexistent, but I imagine I said something like this: "I know we are not supposed to negotiate, but as I mentioned, it's a one-of-a-kind and culturally invaluable. Is there anything I can say to convince you to allow me to take it?"

Somehow my desperation sold him so he did let me keep it. I realized I was risking losing it every time I took it on a flight…so I stopped taking it on flights. 

Third, the man who gave it to me, Bill's sometime writing partner Charles Sinclair, did so because he felt I would take good care of it. 

One time I didn't. (Or a second time, if you count the TSA incident.)

I tend to pack for trips at the last minute. One night before an early flight, I went to my basement office to gather a few things to pack, including the paperweight. I didn't turn on the basement light. As a carried the stack through the dark, paperweight on top, it slipped off—hitting the tiled basement floor. 

Then I turned on the light to discover a small piece had chipped off the bottom. 

I was mortified, even more so when I could not find the missing sliver. Luckily, the next day, my wife did, and she even managed to glue it back so well that you'd probably not notice.

Fourth, this everyday object has obtained a near-mythic status in my family. When my daughter was seven, out of the blue she pointed to the paperweight and said "If there was a fire and you and mommy weren't here, I would take this out for you."

I said "That's so thoughtful, sweetie pea. But if there's even a fire, just get out…

"…I'll get the paperweight."

Fifth, it's even a possibility that a paperweight that appeared once on Gotham was similar-looking on purpose…

The paperweight has been part of my presentation for schools for years, and the reveal generates one of the biggest gasps of the hourlong talk. After, kids sometime ask if I brought it, and I relay the reason why I didn't. 

If I told teachers before the talk that we will get to a point in the story when kids will have a huge reaction to seeing a paperweight, few if any would believe me.

This little beetle has proven to have power far beyond preventing papers from shuffling out of order…

No comments: