PLAYBOY CENTERFOLDS VERSUS MY OLD GIRLFRIENDS

Like many young males of his generation, Kenzie in my new novel Daffodil Uprising gazes on the Playboy magazine centerfolds as an ideal of feminine form.

In fact, he mysteriously receives a manila envelope containing about two dozen of them, and they wind up being taped to the ceiling of his dorm room. They fit perfectly in the recessed space between the beams.

Never mind that he still didn’t have a real love life. She would be coming along shortly.

Thinking of this while revising the book had me revisiting images of some of those classic “playmates” online. To my surprise, they’re far more ordinary than we guys would have admitted at the time. To be honest, I think of at least ten of my former girlfriends were more attractive.

My, have times changed! Just think of all the selfies floating around on the Net or all of the plastic surgery enhancements now considered routine. Baring skin no longer has the risqué air it carried back then, either.

Me? I still prefer a natural look. As did Hef back then, when the mansion was still in Chicago.

Note the space between the beams in the ceiling. Perfect for displaying Playboy centerfolds, back in the day. By the way, we never had bookcases as standard furniture. Had to make our own with boards and concrete blocks.
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TEN MORE PERSONAL TRAVEL DESTINATIONS

Travel’s been largely on hold for me – just too much to do at home, for instance, especially when it comes to writing. But what if that were to change?

  1. San Francisco, Seattle, and Yakima. I haven’t been back to my beloved Pacific Northwest since leaving in 1990. This would provide a basis for an memorable sweep.
  2. The East African Quakers have much to teach the rest of us, and I can’t think of a better introduction to this mysterious continent.
  3. Cumbria, England, and Lurgan, Northern Ireland. These two places, a short hop apart on the Irish Sea, are central to my Hodson ancestry. I’d love to see where we’re from.
  4. Apart from the museums, classical music, and theater attractions, I’d want access to some early Quaker minute books – especially those pages marked “too faint to microfilm” in Lurgan’s surviving records.
  5. Alsace, France/Germany, and Switzerland upstream. On my Grandma Hodson’s side, these are my places of origin.
  6. Kyoto, especially. Did I mention my long fascination with Zen Buddhism or Japanese cuisine?
  7. The Himalayas. Or my interest in Tibetan Buddhism along with the world’s tallest mountains? (Yes, I know it will make it more difficult to appreciate the summits back home, but that’s got to be well worth the encounter.)
  8. Canadian Maritime Provinces. These are just up the coast from us but have remained a world away. Think I can fix that in the upcoming future?
  9. Anasazi ruins and Albuquerque. The American Southwest is a huge blank in my explorations. This sweep would end with a visit to some very special friends in their new locale.
  10. Australia and New Zealand. From here, they seem incredibly unimaginable. Only one way to fix that.

~*~

What’s on your travel dream list?

~*~

Continuing the poetry parade, see what’s new at THISTLE/FLINCH.

BOTH NOVELS TAKE PLACE IN THE SAME TOWN MANY YEARS APART

My newest novels are both set in the same college town, but each one focuses on a different locale within it.

Daffodil Uprising takes place largely on the campus, and even when three of the characters move off into a shabby apartment, their focus is on college. It’s an outpost in more ways than one.

What’s Left, in contrast, settles into a neighborhood between the school and the courthouse square. The town and its university aren’t even named in this account. Instead, Cassia’s family’s restaurant is the center of attention, along with their surrounding properties. This story has a strong sense of the town itself, including the river, and the family’s impact on the community.

One thing I’ll confess is that in abstracting the location, I’ve created a place that doesn’t actually exist in the state. There’s nowhere along the Ohio River that’s just an hour from Indianapolis. Consider it as something like the visual tricks Edward Hopper performed in his paintings. Things feel right, despite the realities.

Southern Indiana, with its hills and forests, really is defined in large part by its relationship to the river. I hope I’ve heightened that sense.

AN UNCOMMON FAMILY

The close-knit extended family of Cassia’s childhood is quite different from her father’s. Hers is the one he leaped into when he married her mother. What was he escaping? And what was he embracing in the act?

As my newest novel, What’s Left, unfolds, hers is a family with a mission and a place in the world. Everything her father accomplishes in the ensuing years is enabled by their enterprise and unity.

For Cassia, her brothers, and her beloved cousins, the big question becomes: Will this be too confining for their personal ambitions and dreams? Or will it assure them a secure future if they settle in and stay put?

Do they ever think of themselves more as a tribe than as individuals? We follow our elders in decisions and wisdom?

A family business is full of peril. How will they choose?

~*~

In a passage I cut from the final edition, the family’s spiritual practices are considered. On one hand there’s the Orthodox Christianity; on the other, Tibetan Buddhism.

Well, you could also see it as a refuge for my family. As a calming influence guiding us through some turbulent times. Through it, our eyes returned to the greater good in our shared mission. We were given a vocabulary and fresh ways of thinking about the eternal elements of life. We accepted its reliable foundation in teaching these to our children – including me.

~*~

Well, that could be one uniting factor. I see another family that’s held together by its emphasis on sports and sports medicine. As for others?

What holds your family together? How far does it extend?

~*~

A large Queen Anne-style house with a distinctive witch’s hat tower something like this is the headquarters for Cassia’s extended family in my new novel, What’s Left. If only this one were pinker, like hers. (Rochester, New Hampshire)

TEN THINGS I LIKE ABOUT DECEMBER

  1. The Metropolitan Opera broadcast season begins.
  2. Asteroid showers. Some of the year’s best, and the night sky can be intensely sharp.
  3. Bundling up … including sweaters.
  4. Advent … seriously … and its end.
  5. Candlelight.
  6. Brussels sprouts.
  7. Christmas cards and letters.
  8. Christmas Eve … the tree comes in, gets decorated, then we hit the ‘nog and cookies. They’ve been off-limits till now.
  9. Christmas morning … where gifting is an art.
  10. Boston Revels’ production at Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre.

~*~

What do you like about December?

~*~

Wrapping doesn’t always have to involve ribbon.

 

ADMITTING THE DARKER SIDES OF HIPPIE

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years pondering the hippie movement. The nation has stubbornly maintained a state of denial regarding those years – and the consequences for public policy have been toxic. The hippie side, especially, has been portrayed as an unrealistic stereotype. Nobody, but nobody, really looked or acted like that.

My wife – who came along after the flowering of the movement and grew up in the Deep South, far from its vitality – contends that the hippie label itself now means “loser.” I’d like to disagree, but when I look around at those who outwardly fit the image, I usually have to agree. Even trying to come up with a suitable synonym can be elusive. Bikers most look the role but hardly embody the light-hearted essence or its underlying desperation.

In revising my novels set in the period, I’ve finally more fully acknowledged the darker facets of the era. Some hippies were violent, contrary to peace. There was anger, contrary to love. There were freeloaders and bums and betrayals. As for bad drug trips or destructive addiction? In the end, so much feels like a string of broken promise. We had so much potential and came much closer to achieving the dream than we might have imagined, only to see it slip from our hands.

An America of Walmart and Fox is nothing like the healthy alternative of community and equality we anticipated. Politics and the power of global conglomerates has been responsible for much of the loss – I’ll save those rants for later.

The dream, though, doesn’t need to die. In fact, its essence may be more essential now than ever before. Having my character Cassia look at it from today feels quite relevant. I hope so.

That said, I’ve changed the name of the series of novels from Hippie Trails to Freakin’ Free Spirits, which I feel is more accurate regarding the individuals inhabiting the stories.

Let me know what you think.

Daffodil Uprising

My new novel reflects much of my revised thinking, as related a generation later.