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Rhody Radio episode transcription has been been made possible by the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, which is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.


Providence's Free Comic-Con



Emily Goodman: You are listening to Rhody Radio, Rhode Island Library Radio Online. I am your host, Emily Goodman from the Rhody Radio team. Every November at the Convention Center in Downtown Providence, people from all over the state, region, and nation gather for the Rhode Island Comic Con, a three-day long convention featuring cosplay costume competition, video game tournaments, and an array of celebrity guests like your favorite actors, voice artists, comic book authors, and professional wrestlers.

A staggering estimated 100,000 people attended Rhode Island Comic Con in 2022, but across town on the Saturday of comic con weekend is another event for families who can afford or otherwise attend the large convention, the Neighborhood Comics Fest at Mount Pleasant Library. Here to talk to us about that event today are State Representative and Commissioner of the Renegade Wrestling Alliance, David Morales, and makerspace program coordinator at Mount Pleasant Library, Garrett Locke. Welcome, David and Garrett, would you please introduce yourselves a little bit?

Garrett Locke: Sure. I can go first. My name's Garrett Locke. I'm the makerspace coordinator at the community libraries at Providence. Mount Pleasant Library is one of our locations. I've been working for libraries for about nine years now. We've been doing the event that we're going to be talking about today since 2016 and it's been a lot of fun. I'm excited to be here.

David Morales: Emily, thank you, again, so much for the introduction. My name is David Morales. He/him. I have the pleasure of serving as the state representative in the City of Providence for the Mount Pleasant Valley in Elmhurst Neighborhoods. I'm very grateful to have Mount Pleasant Library as being our neighborhood local branch. [00:02:00] In regards to some of the work I do outside of the state house is community engagement.

I've always had the pleasure of being able to host my monthly community meetings at Mount Pleasant Library, collaborate when it comes to programming, some of which also dives into the work I do as a professional wrestler on the weekends. I love to joke around that I wear a suit on the weekdays and I wear spandex on the weekends, because I am currently, as stated, the commissioner and reigning defending hype champion of the Renegade Wrestling Alliance, which is a local wrestling promotion that provides family-friendly entertainment.

Emily: Great. Since we're talking a bit about comics, I thought I would ask you guys, what's your favorite superhero and why?

David: I'll just say without question, Spider-Man. [laughs] Growing up, I was accustomed to watching the 1990s animated Spider-Man series that would come out on 4Kids Television. In addition to that, my first exposure to Spider-Man alongside the cartoon was the 2002 Sam Raimi, trilogy of the Spider-Man movies starring Toby McGuire. I just fell in love with the character almost immediately because of how relatable the character Peter Parker was. The fact that he is a working-class person who deals with personal struggles and then those struggles related to being a superhero in relation to all the villains he has to fight and overcome.

For me, I just love the stories that went behind Spider-Man, well beyond just the mask, in addition to the cool webbing and the ability to climb walls. For me, it was like the full package of the person behind the mask in addition to just all the cool moves they would do. As a part of that, and we'll get into it a little more, one thing I often do is dress up as Spider-Man and essentially cosplay as Spider-Man for different community events.

Garrett: Spider-Man is also one of my favorites [00:04:00] in recent years, especially for similar reasons. He's just the relatable hero's journey of just the kid next door just discovering these powers. I think that is really cool and something that I love when I see that kind of story emerge in comics. One of my other favorites is Storm from X-Men. I think it's just a really cool power really, to be able to control the weather, and something that you wouldn't necessarily always think about as being like, oh, that would be really useful, just be able to control the atmosphere, but it's actually would have a impact on a lot of things. I think she's really cool. I like that character a lot.

Emily: If you could have any superpower of all the superheroes, or just anything that you could invent for yourself, what would you like your superpower to be?

Garrett: I think mine would be teleportation. I was thinking about this. One of them would be for just selfish reasons. I wouldn't have to walk all the way downstairs to pick up my delivery order, or wouldn't have to commute to work. I could just blink my eyes and it'd just be there. Also if you were a superhero and you're in a really sticky situation, you couldn't fly out of a situation or run really fast out of a situation, you could just disappear from where you are and just appear somewhere else, I think that would come in really handy and save a lot on travel expenses if you're traveling elsewhere.

David: I would say similar to Doctor Strange, the ability to time travel, though that would require a lot of responsibility. Hence why the saying goes with great power comes great responsibility in that regard. Just when thinking about all the different timelines that exist, I think that ability to time travel would just be, needless to say, so eye-opening. [00:06:00] I'd just be exposed to different periods of time, different cultures.

Just being able to have that ability to, again, explore our world holistically. Obviously I think what Mr. G had made a reference to as well though, in regards to just being able to teleport is something that is just immediately accessible. I like to think similarly time travel would have that sense of, again, urgency where it's that level of convenience in addition to also just being able to leverage for the greater good.

Emily: I like that. I think that the ability to pause time would be really cool. Maybe not necessarily to go to different times of time. That doesn't really make sense. Places and time. I'm with you, Garrett. teleportation is 100% the superpower that I would have. I could see all of my friends everywhere that they are. I would see my family a lot more, and yes, I wouldn't have to commute to work, which would be really, really nice. I could get so much more packed into my day. Although I'd have to figure out how to listen to audiobooks, because that's what I do mostly when I'm traveling, so I'd have to carve out some time for that.

David: If you freeze time, you can listen to all the audiobooks you want.

Emily: There you go. I'll have both. I'll have teleportation with time freezing abilities. Let's get into the Neighborhood Comic Fest. Generally speaking, when does it take place each year?

Garrett: We hold it every year on usually the Saturday that Rhode Island Comic Con is going on. This year it'll be on November 4th. It's usually for a four-hour block of time in the afternoon, so it'll be between 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM at Mount Pleasant Library.

David: I just want to comment. I know you made a reference to it earlier, Emily, but I [00:08:00] just appreciate how intentional the library has been over the years to ensure that they're flexible with their scheduling depending on, again, when the official Rhode Island Comic Con is going on to ensure that the Neighborhood Comics Fest is happening that same weekend, and honestly during that same peak hour as well. Because 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on a Saturday is usually when you have the larger stars appearing at the comic con, because they're usually contracted for that respective day.

Those, again, are the days that usually generate a lot of excitement but also generate a lot of disappointment for the folks who don't have the means to attend or don't have accessibility to get there. By being able to say we know that's the peak time, but during that peak time, we also have our Neighborhood Comics Fest, that's what I just appreciate about the scheduling that goes into it. It isn't just thrown together during some time in October, November instead. It is a very intentional space and time in which we do it.

Emily: What's the history of the event? How did it get started? Whose idea was it? Where has it come since that first day in 2016?

Garrett: It started out as a collaboration between Mount Pleasant staff from Mount Pleasant Library and Olneyville Library. Emily LeMay, and Sarah Gluck were the two librarians who got together and started planning it. They were working with Walker Mettling from the Province Commerce Consortium, who's been a big friend of the library over the years. They ended up partnering with Providence Roller Derby because Roller Girl had just come out recently and that was a popular graphic novel at the time. It was they just had an idea to have this event that would just celebrate storytelling and art, and comics culture, gaming, imagination.

All these different things, creative expression, [00:10:00] during the the time of the comics convention, just to have another option for kids and for families to participate in their own way. Over the years, we've had a lot of really great community partners participate as well. Big Nazo has made a few appearances. They're always amazing and just get the party going. Of course David's been great with the Spider-Man appearances. Wilbury Theater Group has been a partner over the years. Some teaching artists from RISD had a lot-- then just the activities that the library staff have put together.

We've had different themes over the years. We've also had a couple other libraries join in. Over the past few years, we've had Washington Park be a partner. Last year we actually had the event at Washington Park Library. That was great because we were able to offer it at a different location in the city, a different neighborhood so we can rotate it around. Really happy that it's going to be back at Mount Pleasant this year. It's great to rotate to different neighborhoods. We're just really excited to see how it's grown over the years and different activities that we've tried, and just the great response from the community.

Emily: Have you thought about doing a full rotation of all of the CLPVD libraries, like having it at a different one each year?

Garrett: As we've added more locations, I and more staff have been interested in participating. That is something that down the road it might be something we could try. I know Olneyville is interested in hosting it probably next year. They have done it in the past. They have a great outdoor space over at that [00:12:00] location. They have really great events over there. That's definitely something that that's on our radar. That might be really cool to do.

David: If I may, I think this also ties back for the need for city and state governments to further support our libraries in order to ensure that they have the resources to do this programming. Because one thing I always cite is across the different community libraries of Providence, the fact that we have nine different branches essentially, we only have three that are open on the weekends between Knight Memorial, Mount Pleasant, and Rochambeau. That's something I always share with our neighbors, that we are spoiled in our neighborhood.

Because not only do we have extended hours until 8:00 PM, but we have accessibility to our library on a Saturday. For a vibrant community like Olneyville where there are tons of youth and families that value and cherish their libraries, it's disappointing that they're not necessarily open on Saturdays. Even the idea of hosting a comic festival at Olneyville Library on a Saturday, I know for a fact, and again, the concern would be that disconnect where folks are like, wait, but I thought the library was closed on Saturday.

If we could get to a point where universally all of our branches across Providence were open on the weekends, I think that would be exponentially helpful. Not even just for neighborhood comic book festival on an annual basis, but just programming in general. Because a Washington Park neighborhood deserves to be able to have access to those Saturday programmings and not necessarily just be those one-offs.

Emily: That's a really great point. Thank you, David. David, when did you get started attending and then partnering with the Neighborhood Comic Fest?

David: I would say Mr. G and I started partnering together essentially summer and fall of 2020. During the midst of the pandemic, Mr. G was doing an incredible job alongside some of the other children specialists at Mount Pleasant Library as related to creating goody bags for the kids in our neighborhoods. Especially because [00:14:00] again, as we know, there's limitations around just the library spaces during the height of the pandemic. I would always tell Mr. G, send me what materials you're working on. That way I can advertise it out to the neighborhood.

I'll put on my newsletter, I'll make sure that I'm putting it out on the neighborhood Facebook pages. That way folks are aware that even if you can't necessarily access the library in all of the different programming in person, there's still story time with Mr. G that's happening on a weekly basis. You still have access to some of the goodie bags. I think that intentional relationship building is what eventually led to more thoughtful collaboration between us. Hence why, again, fall of 2020, again, being conscientious of still masking and understanding the protocols on how we could do outdoor programming, we were able to still host a fall of 2020 comic con festival right outside of Mount Pleasant Library.

I remember the decorations that we had set up, some like the little superhero decorations. There were some tarot card reading going on. Naturally, I was dressed up as Spider-Man. The beauty of it is I've been a part of, again, the Neighborhood Comics Festival for the last three years across 2020, 2021, 2022. Each and every single year, it has grown in capacity in terms of the partnerships and the activities. That's the beauty of library programming. Coming from humble beginnings and then realizing that the programming is catching on across different sectors of the community.

You have more community groups actively reaching out, asking how they can be a part of it. Not only that, but it also becomes a programming event that kids and their families look forward to. Because correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. G, I think we saw an increase in kids dressing up in costumes from 2020 in comparison to 2022, right? We see a lot more kids now actively dressing up because the first time around it was like, all right, let's see what this is about. Maybe a kid was just wearing a Batman t-shirt or something along those lines. Whereas in recent years, now they're wearing the whole [00:16:00] costume.

Garrett: It's nice to--

Emily: You do a costume contest for the kids?

Garrett: We've done a little runway. We haven't done a contest per se, but we have had a little stage where they could just show off their costume and their moves. It's a good opportunity, especially if you have a costume from the week before from Halloween that you want to take around the block for another week. They could dress up as their favorite character for a second week in a row. It's fun. The staff always try to dress up and just bring some of the festive spirit to the event.

David: Alongside the runway, there's also very creative and thoughtful backdrops. That way families can take photos of each other, with one another. Again, it goes back to that intentional focus of making the Neighborhood Comics Fest an experience. Not necessarily just an event to go for an hour or two, but make it a whole experience where you could have photos that you can take back with you, you can reminisce on, build those memories.

I love the runaway. That was developed a year after. In 2021, I remember that's when we started doing the runaway. I was still trying to perfect my cartwheel and I couldn't get it done on time, and I didn't want to take the risk of falling. Some of the kids would get really creative in terms of how they would style the runway. There was some that would get on their knees, do some cool poses as they were walking down the runway and whatnot. Perhaps this year the cartwheel might be ready in time.

Emily: You have, what, a month and a half? You got some time.

David: Lots of stretching, lots of bananas. Avoid the cramping. We'll get it done.

Emily: Exactly.

Garrett: I think I've done one successful cartwheel one time and it was on the beach, so it was like--

Emily: In your life.

Garrett: Yes [00:18:00] I don't know if I could be able to do it on a hard surface.

Emily: I feel like the older I get, the less confident I get. I feel like that shaky confidence is really where you get in trouble.

Garrett: Yes. You have to commit.

Emily: David talked a little bit about this, but what do you feel like the significance of holding this event at a library at the same time of comic con at the convention center is, and why is that so important?

Garrett: I think we're fortunate to have an event like Rhode Island Comic Con. It's a lot of fun. People look forward to it. The spirit of a comics convention-style event is something to celebrate because there's so many stories and characters that mean a lot to people. It's just fun to get together with people and just nerd out on things that they like. Especially for kids and families, sometimes that's out of reach because of cost or because of transportation, or any other factor like that. It'd just be good to have options and different access points for people to join in on the fun during that weekend.

No matter where you are, there's a way to join in in that kind of spirit. The public libraries are already a place where we celebrate storytelling of all kinds, arts programming. Some of our most popular items at the library are comics and graphic novels, so it's already a place where a lot of kids encounter comics and graphic novels, and authors that they really like. It's a place where they look forward to finding those stories. It just seemed like a good fit to have [00:20:00] a event that really highlights and uplifts those elements that people really enjoy participating in.

David: Mr. G said it perfectly. It is all about accessibility. Again, we have to remember, most of our community libraries are very close to rip the bus stop. They're embedded in the neighborhood. One does not have to really go out of their way to access their neighborhood library, especially in a community like Mount Pleasant. That beauty of being able to have, again, an alternative that is free, with free food, free programming, free comic books for the kids, I believe it creates that alternative for a lot of our working parents to be able to recognize outside of--

Again, having to pay $40-plus just to even get in to the convention center for comic con, much less purchasing anything at the concession stands or merchandise stands, or even having to pay for an autograph or a photo. We have an alternative. An alternative, again, that I will continue to emphasize is very intentional in terms of the way the programming is organized. Because the idea is to make it a whole experience. The fact that there are different booths set up, they're all different in their own way. Even in terms of the comics that kids could receive for free all vary by age group.

Because one aspect that I've always appreciated about the Neighborhood Comics Fest is the diversity of the families and those folks who attend. Because oftentimes we'll have teenagers who won't necessarily come with their families, but they'll go with their friends. Thankfully we got comics that are curated to teenagers. At the same time, the programming also isn't necessarily just for kiddos six and under. It's accessible programming that everyone can enjoy. I think that's the beauty of it, just how universal it is. That way one doesn't feel excluded from being able [00:22:00] to participate and have fun.

Garrett: That's been one thing that we've been just trying to be intentional about over the years. Just like having something for everybody, and just all the different-- It's a really, really good opportunity because it's a topic that you can go in a lot of different directions with from more of the having a table with some art and craft activities to having more high-tech things. The library has a lot of those different types of things. It's been a fun opportunity to think creatively about the type of programming that we can offer.

David: Mr. G, if you wouldn't mind, I think it would be awesome if you could also share, I believe it was about two years ago when you had the computer set up for kids to be able to build their own video game during the actual festival, right?

Garrett: That was fun, yes. We had been doing a library program during the fall where people-- we had kids come in and design video games with something called Bloxels, and a opportunity to build a little like scrolling 2D Mario-type video game, but they could customize it with different characters and make little animations for the characters, and design their little scenes and everything. We had a few of those already built. There's a gallery of games that people have made from around the country, but then people could also just put together their characters that day as well.

We had a TV monitor set up and we had a computer next to it. People could just take a crack at putting a game together and then just play the game. Then people were watching and curious about it. We had some people interested in joining in at the ongoing library program [00:24:00] in the following weeks because they're interested in learning more about putting the game together.

It was a good opportunity to just build some new relationships or help to foster or deepen relationships with the families who were coming in so that they could follow up and continue to come to the library and participate in other programs. That was probably just a good combination of technology being used to do something really creative and fun, and hands-on. Yes, the kids had a lot of fun with that one. That was really good [crosstalk]

Emily: If I may, I just want to mention what I loved is how much pride the kids took in the video games that they developed. Because as Mr. G had made a reference to, so they would work on getting the game set up and organized. Then eventually they would plug it onto the TV monitor for everyone who was at the festival to see. They would start describing, this is the protagonist, this is what the objective of the game is. Essentially being an in-person game manual explaining to us the concept and rationale between the decisions they made on why the game was designed the way it was. Again, this happened relatively quickly. Mr. G was like they can develop the video game within a span of half an hour.

Garrett: Yes. The parameter we're using is like using color codes. Green is ground, and blue is water, and red is hazard. You just place the little world together using just the colors. It's pretty quick. You can really put together a really cool concept.

David: I'll just say it again, accessibility. You didn't have to be a coder in order to partake and develop your game.

Emily: Not only that, a thing that I am really hearing from you is how hands-on everything is. I think with the size of the crowd, so I'm remembering that statistic that maybe 100, 000 people were at comic con last year, and I feel like that's super overwhelming. [00:26:00] For me it would be super overwhelming and I imagine for a younger kid who maybe hasn't gone to an event that that's large, that's a lot. That means that those really cool things, like you're describing, of creating your own video game, even if that station exists at comic con, you're not necessarily going to get a turn at it.

Because there's so many other people that you're fighting for time with in this limited time span of four or five hours of comic con. That's also a really great thing that you offer to your community is this, you get that community aspect. These are your neighbors, these are people that you might see at the bus stop or at the grocery store, and you get to talk to them and create this stuff, but you also really get a chance to do it, which is so exciting. It's invaluable. Even though you haven't paid for it, it's absolutely invaluable.

David: You made a really good point, Emily, because you are absolutely correct. Comic cons could be very overwhelming, especially for younger children. I would even argue for parents as well. I think they'll pay for the ticket, not necessarily knowing what to fully expect. Again, you have swarms of booths, dozens of people. Don't get me wrong, some of the cosplaying is pretty cool, but it can get really crowded.

Emily: Imagine, you spend all this money to go and then you get there, and you or your child, or somebody that you're with realizes, oh, I can't do this. This is too overwhelming. There's too much stimulus. Now I'm just going to go home. It's been half an hour, I spent all this money. Whereas you could go to the library event and maybe that's your same experience.

You show up and you're like, oh, yes, too many people, but you haven't really risked and invested as much to figure that out for yourself. I think that that's also something that libraries really offer people, is you get to figure out, what is it. What is it that you like? Maybe you don't know if you're interested in comic books and graphic novels, and so you get to go and explore this and see what it's all about before you really get [00:28:00] to invest more heavily in this hobby or whatever it is.

Garrett: That's a good point. Like you're just testing it out, testing the waters, getting a little bit of exposure to something. That's something, in a lot of different ways, the libraries are really good at doing.

David: Not to mention, Mr. G, we would always see some folks would engage with the Neighborhood Comics Festival and then walk directly right into the library. Because, again, we hosted outside. I think as stated, if folks ever felt overstimulated, it's like, I'm going to go inside the quiet space, inside of the library.

Emily: Being outside, you can take a break. You can walk across the street. You can get some space in a way that, in a really big crowded room you might not be able to. What can people expect at this year's event? What are you particularly excited about that you're going to have? Are you going to do a video game thing again? What's on the docket?

Garrett: One thing, we're going to have a couple different really cool things. We have some robots that we use for library programming. There's little tabletop robots. We're going to be having a little-- people can make little characters to attach to the robots and then do some races. We're going to have some comics-themed mini-golf station. We're going to have some green screen.

Just getting some exposure to some special effects, and incorporate that into our photo booth activities. A lot of other really fun booths and activity tables. I still have to think of a costume. I'm still putting that together. I've been in various characters over the years, but I always have trouble thinking of process. There’s just going to be music playing, people in costume. It would be a lot of fun.

Emily: Danger Dog was always one of my favorite costumes of yours, Mr. G, for what it's worth. [laughs]

Garrett: Dog Man? Was that-- [00:30:00]

David: Yes. [laughs]

Garrett: I haven't been a children's librarian for over a year but I imagine Dog Man is still probably popular.

Emily: I think so.

David: I can definitely share that Spider-Man will be in attendance once more.

Emily: Excellent.

David: He is hoping to bring additional superhero friends such as the Black Panther, and also some local wrestlers from the Renegade Wrestling Alliance as well, who will be in gear and costume, and have some championship belts with them. That way, I'll say this right now, as a reigning champion who literally wears his belt everywhere because I'm weird like that, I will tell you right now, kids love it. They won't even make two and two connections that I'm a wrestler, because they're like, you're too small, but you have a cool title. Can I take a picture with you? I'm like, Of course.

Garrett: If that looks important.

David: Exactly.

Emily: It looks shiny too, right?

David: Yes, exactly. I'm hoping to add some of that wrestling fun to it this year as well.

Emily: Excellent. What a good transition, David, thank you, to talking about you and your wrestling role. Can you talk a little bit about the Renegade Alliance? What's the local wrestling scene like?

David: Of course. I got started with the Renegade Wrestling Alliance about a little over two years ago. They were hosting their first show since the start of the pandemic at Mount Pleasant Little League, which is, again, the neighborhood I represent. The promoter invited me to say a few words and be a good politician, thank the crowd for coming out, and thank the wrestlers for putting on an amazing show. When I got there, they asked me, would you feel comfortable taking a body slam from our world champion who plays the main villain?

I said, absolutely. I grew up a lifelong wrestling fan. I was like, say no more. Just show me how to do it safely so I don't hurt myself, but I'm all in. I got body slammed. People loved it. The promoter asked, would you be willing to come back on a monthly basis? We host our shows last weekend of every month. [00:32:00] Sure enough, two years later, the story has evolved. Now I play a bad guy. I've been Commissioner David Morales for well over a year and a half where I wear very colorful socks, pants, shirts, I wear a little dark glove, and I have a menacing laugh. [laughs]

Essentially, I play the character of what is called an arrogant heel. In wrestling, there are two terms and two types of characters: Baby faces, which are the "good guys," and heels, which are the "bad guys". The way I always describe professional wrestling to everyone is the beautiful art where you combine storyline-driven drama, athleticism, and humor, all wrapped into one within the four corners of a wrestling ring. At the local level, it's just always amazing to see the diverse crowds that we're attracting in every show.

For most shows, we have about 200 folks who show up and we run them in different venues, whether it's a rec center, the basement of a church, a little league field. Our last show was actually at the Columbus Theater on Broadway in Providence. We have many tours right across the state. We are based in Rhode Island, and like I said before, we have tons of families that come out. They are very rowdy, to say the least. That's the part I love, is just how engaged they are into the story lines and the characters. Even if that means I get booed.

Emily: Do you feel like you fell into this persona or did you feel like you got to craft yourself as the Commissioner?

David: It was so organic. Again, keep in mind, I was never supposed to be the bad guy per se because my arch-nemesis, the world champion, was the villain. For whatever reason, the crowd would cheer when I would get slammed or something bad would happen to me. Then [00:34:00] they would boo me every time I got a leg up. Naturally, I was like, all right, the crowd is telling us what they want to see. If they want to boo me, I will give them a reason to boo me. No more Mr. Nice guy. I'm changing up my outfits. I'm about to start laughing in your face and telling you why I'm the most important person in this arena.

I think it just felt so organic and it also opened up so many doors and opportunities for me to work with all the other talent. That's the beauty of it, is everyone is local. Most of our roster are based predominantly in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I have to say it right now, they work incredibly hard. I've been going to wrestling school now for about five months. Because most of my character has been more of an authority figure. Recently, I've started stepping in the ring, and there's just so much technique to learn. The most important part is keeping yourself and your opponent safe as you're doing all of that.

Emily: Do people recognize you when you're out in public? Other than the fact that you bring your title with you everywhere you go, do people know who you are when they see you for the most part?

David: Yes. Especially when I go to Aldis, which is the beauty of it. There's always two ways I'll get recognized. I am either, "Oh, you're the politician who wrestles," or "Oh, you're the wrestler who's a politician." One way or the other, the connection's always made, but folks either identify me first as the wrestler and then the elected official, or the elected official who has the side hustle of being a wrestler. It's always interesting to see those dynamics in terms of how people first identify me.

Again, I just appreciate, again, the recognition. Most importantly, like I said, when the kids see me with the championship belt and ask, "Oh my God, that is so cool." Naturally, I say, hold it. This is your belt. The one comment I always get is, "Wow, this is heavy." Because it looks thin, but then you hold it and [00:36:00] the plates have weight on them. It's then though kids will like struggle to get it up and then they'll get it up in the air, and usually mom or dad, or their guardian will take a photo. It's always a nice time.

Emily: That's great. Do you participate in other community events as your persona?

David: Yes. My favorite recent initiative over the last couple of months has been Rho wrestling story time. I will dress up fully geared in my wrestling persona and I will get some of my fellow wrestlers to also come out. What we do is we read children's themed wrestling books. You'd be amazed. There's so many wrestling books geared for children. What I love is we'll usually have about two stories that are read. They're usually read by our baby faces, our good guys.

We have one of our characters, the Mighty Bosch, who is actually a superhero. It works out perfectly because he has very colorful, bright gear with a cape on. He'll read the story, emphasize certain lines, get the kids and families engaged. Once they wrap up their two stories, I storm in and I tell everyone, I don't like any of these kids and their lovely families in attendance. You all have to remember that this is my library. This is my carpet. All of this is mine and you all need to get out.

Then the good guy will naturally say, no, this is our library, Commissioner. This is the public's library. This is the community library. Then we proceed to have an impromptu match on the carpet. Usually, it's not a minute. We'll grapple, we'll work it around, I'll put him in a headlock. Eventually, I'll get lifted up and then tossed down for a body slam. My favorite part is when I'm covered and ready to be pinned. The kids are the ones that count to three.

Emily: That's awesome.

David: We have done two of those so far [00:38:00] at Mount Pleasant Library. The demand is just so high in terms of other libraries wanting to start hosting pro-wrestling story time and just the positive feedback we get from families. It's such a fun time.

Emily: That's cool. For any librarians who are listening, David is for hire for wrestler story time.

David: Yes.

Emily: Excellent.

Garrett: I love seeing the photos on Facebook too on the Mount Pleasant Library Facebook page. Just recently, just a bunch uploaded and it looks like such a fun event.

Emily: That's awesome. I'll go find those and I'll link that in the show notes. Going back a little bit to comic con, but we can also talk about that wrestling story time, what do you feel the library feels like during these events?

Garrett: There's definitely just a nice buzz. There's a lot of different things going on. You just walk around, you'll see different people engaged in different activities. It's definitely very joyful and lively. There's music going on. You just walk around, there's some more passive things. You can just look at some different-- You just take in what's going on, or you can just dive into an activity. There are always places where you can just sit by yourself, just recharge if you need to. David, I don't know if you have anything to add in your experience.

David: No. It's a special feeling. Because oftentimes, throughout the weekdays, Monday through Friday, our libraries are always hosting programming. Whether it's makerspaces, knitting, story times in the morning. There is always a lot of community engagement within our libraries. I think what especially makes Neighborhood Comics Fest so special is it's outdoors and there's a multitude of different activities and programs all happening at once. It's not as tailored in terms of this is strictly [00:40:00] the knitting club, per se. This is a lot more expansive and extensive in terms of the community partners that are there.

It's not every day that Big Nazo comes and visits the library, for example. It's like a lot of these one-offs that make that feel so much more intentional and exciting, and as I said before, most importantly, engaging. That's what a lot of the families and the kids feel when they come in, is like, I want to be able to get through all the booths. I want to get my face painted. I want to get my palm read. It's all happening at once. Just to see that level of excitement. Again, it's special. It's special and again, it's something that truthfully cannot be replicated because each time we do the Neighborhood Comics Fest, I feel like there's always a different highlight.

Garrett: Definitely. It's fun to add new things to see what's been popular in the past. Or if we got an idea for something from a prior year we want to explore it a little more deeply, we can expand on that and see what people really enjoyed. It's different every year and it's really exciting.

Emily: That's awesome. Other than attending, because it sounds like everybody should attend, what other ways can people support the event? Is there someone or a group in the community that you would really love to support, come host a program, host a table, or anything like that?

Garrett: We love connecting with local artists or organizations that are focusing on art and art making, public art, things like that. If there are new opportunities to collaborate, we're always really excited about that. There are any librarian or library staff who want to check it out and get some inspiration for things they could try, that's always great. We love to take some donations of graphic novels or comic books for kids that we could then [00:42:00] give away. That's always another great way to support. Just to tell your friends, tell people who you think may be interested.

David: I definitely agree with Mr. G This is a call for local talent across the board. What I love is our librarians, our clerks, our library staff in general, all of them are such talented individuals. As I made a reference earlier, the knitting club is literally led by one of our clerks at the library. We're not necessarily even having the contract to bring someone in from the outside to do a lot of this work. In-house, we have so much talent. I'll give a shout-out right now to Kevin from Olneyville Library who knows how to make animals out of balloons. He's awesome.

He told me, I had to learn this a couple years ago because we didn't have the funding to hire someone to come in and create animals out of balloons. That's definitely a call. Again, also looking at our local talent outside the library space. I would love to bring in more magicians of some sort who can come in and do some of that level of programming during the festival. Same thing in terms of our artists. We have a ton of local artists. I'm sure there's a way we can organize someone who specializes in, "spray-painting art". Get a piece of cardboard, let the kids understand what the process entails.

I think in terms of local talent, I wanted to collaborate, if they reach out to community libraries of Providence, I really think the possibilities are endless. Then earlier, a reference was made in terms of our local businesses as well. We would always appreciate being able to get affordable meals. One restaurant in the neighborhood that is partnered with the library in the past, which I've always appreciated, is El Eden, who will offer discounted empanadas to the staff.

That way we have free food that's local in the neighborhood. Then at the same time you combine that with our local comic book shop, RAH-Coco's on Academy Avenue. [00:44:00] Similarly, they've provided us with free comic books in the past as well, or they give us a bulk at a discounted rate. That way we have, again, those graphic novels and comics to share. The more the merrier, without question.

Emily: Anything else that you want people to know about Neighborhood Comics Fest? Or, Garrett, anything else is coming up for the library this fall?

Garrett: We would love people to just drop in anytime during that four-hour block. If you want to check back on the website closer to the event, there might be just for the most up-to-date details about special things happening at certain hour marks, time slots. There will be something going on whenever you drop in between 1:00 and 5:00 on the day of the event. At the libraries this fall, a lot of really exciting things going on in my own little world department doing a lot of makerspace activities.

We have a lot of really great opportunities to learn different machines, laser cutting, sewing, vinyl cutting, making t-shirts, printing on mugs. We have all kinds of really cool opportunities to do something creative, make something with your hands. There's something special at all the neighboring libraries, and they're always coming up with really creative ideas. Definitely check in with your local library to see what's going on.

Emily: Even if you are outside of Providence, check in with your local library because there's always something cool going on at a library.

David: Absolutely. One piece we always have to emphasize is how much our libraries have evolved. This basic notion that libraries are just a space where you check out books could not be further from the truth. We have libraries literally hosting free food pantries, accessible programming for youth. That's where community meetings happen. Our libraries [00:46:00] are, again, public community spaces. It really makes a difference when one actually goes to their library, checks out books, attends programming because all that information and data is recorded, in that information and data helps justify additional investments from local and state governments.

I say that specifically, because again, one number that's always referenced is what's the "circulation rate"? What's the circulation rate for our different library branches? What is the need? What is the demand? What is the attendance for different programming? When there continues to be a spike in attendance and circulation, and programming, it makes it so much easier for our library systems to go back to local governments and say, we want to request more money this year in the state budget or in the city budget.

Then it allows for advocates and elected officials to also further advocate and say, the data here is very clear. There is a demand for additional programming. There is a demand for additional staff. I cannot emphasize enough just showing up to programming, checking out a book. It all makes a difference and it's all recorded.

Emily: To be clear, it's recorded in a very generic, like the number of books that are circulated gets recorded, the number of people at programs, not individual what one person checks out. I just want to make sure that that's clear. We are very intentional in libraries not to collect personal data and to really respect our patron's privacy as of what they're accessing.

Garrett: Absolutely.

Emily: David, where can people find where you're going to be wrestling?

David: That would be You have access to all the different events that are coming up. Again, we do it every last weekend of the month. [00:48:00] One thing I always emphasize is that it is affordable and accessible. Truthfully, that is the one commitment I received from the promoter when I told him I will definitely work with you all. I always ask that tickets never be more than $10, no more than $5 for kids. They've always maintained that and tickets have always been affordable. Again, it's frustrating to see when other local promotions are charging upwards of $25-plus for tickets.

Because again, the point of doing local shows is to bring in, in my opinion, families in the neighborhood, people in the community, to be able to appreciate the art form without the stress of having to go to the convention center and spending $80-plus for a ticket to a Monday Night Raw, for example. Again, I will always just emphasize our promotion takes pride in not only the content and the quality of the entertainment that we provide for families, but also the fact that we're very intentional in terms of how affordable and accessible it is. I've always told people in the past, and this goes for anyone listening right now on the podcast, you are always free to reach out to me, and I am more than happy to cover your ticket ahead of the show.

Emily: We are now at our final question of the show. What are you currently reading, and who would you recommend it to?

Garrett: I just started Dry by Neal Shusterman. It's been on my list of books I wanted to read for a while. Basically it takes place in California during a drought that escalates to a point where obviously the water dries up and then people become desperate, and just things devolve from there. It's really interesting. I would recommend it to someone who is into that on-the-brink-of-apocalypse kind of thing.

Some things are starting to fall apart. Like [00:50:00] first episode of Last of Us kind of vibe where things seem like the society is-- things are getting a little stressful. It's the realism of that could potentially happen. Only if certain things that have to go wrong for that to be a reality. I think that if you're interested in that kind of realistic apocalyptic situation, it's been a really good one so far.

David: Currently, I am reading The Color of Law by Dr. Richard Rothstein, which again, outlines the unfortunate reality that explains racial segregation in terms of housing, and also the lack of housing production across our communities. Especially in the context of today where we have a housing crisis where rents are too high, housing is just simply unaffordable. This book really traces back what I would consider to be the epitome as to why we're in these crises and why it impacts other communities a lot more disproportionately, specifically those of lower incomes.

Again, important to read in the context of understanding why our systems are the way they are, why it was done by design, but most importantly, how we can start not necessarily even just thinking, but acting through policy to alleviate a lot of those damages, and how we can ensure that everyone is safely housed. I always put out the reminder, but we are a part-time state legislature from January through June. Right now we're in the "off-season" as we're in recess. I always appreciate having more breathing room to be able to read books like that and start stimulating my mind in terms of what I want to focus on going into the next session.

Emily: I just finished [00:52:00] yesterday, This is How You Lose the Time War. I think that's the full title. It's a short novella written by two authors. It's about this futuristic society. I don't know about society, but it's a time in the future in which there are these time travelers who go through and change events for their warring factions to remain in control. These two - they're not even really people, they're just beings that travel through time - overlap and then they start writing each other letters secretly in the fabrics of time and they fall in love.

It's really beautiful and interesting, and poetic. If you like time travel, because we talked about that a little bit. If you can suspend your disbelief about how time travel works and how impacting events of time, and how two time travelers might even be able to be in the same place at the same time when they're alternating time at the same time. If you can suspend all of that, because the book really doesn't deal with how that really works. It is very much focused on these two characters crossing paths and developing this relationship. It's absolutely beautiful, so I highly recommend it. There you go.

Garrett: That's really good. Let me check that one out.

Emily: The audiobook's only four hours, so it's nice and short. That's our show. Thank you both so much for being here and talking with me today. We'll see you at Neighborhood Comics Fest on November 4th in the afternoon, and sometimes around, David, either out in public with your title or at your events at the end of every month.

David: This was a ton of fun. Thank you, again so much, Emily, just for allowing us to have this platform. As stated before we hope to see our communities on November 4th for our Neighborhood Comics Festival. Hope to catch you at the next Renegade Wrestling Alliance show. [00:54:00] Again, hope everyone takes care.

Garrett: Thank you so much, and hope to see everyone at the event.

Emily: Bye.


Rhody Radio is proud to be a resident partner of the Rhode Island Center for the Book and is brought to you by library staff and community members all around the ocean state. This episode was made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. You can find more from Rhody Radio on Facebook and Instagram. If you enjoyed today's episode, subscribe to Rhody Radio, and rate or review us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to help us reach more Rhode Islanders.

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