As a matter of career advice?

Growing up in a financially secure family like the one in my novel What’s Left could open your educational and career options, I suppose. For Cassia’s mother, I saw events unfolding along these lines — which I then cut from later revisions of the story:

Manoula, on the other hand, possessed some of her sister’s ability to ask those questions, however gently. And she had some of her brother Dimitri’s practical streak. But she also had an underlying spiritual awareness and a sharp intelligence to match. It’s a potent combination — even intimidating to many potential suitors.

Crucially, both Manoula and Baba knew the vitality of artistic practice and expression. Remember, he was more than a photographer — he may have worked on a daily newspaper, but he profoundly appreciated all the fine arts. On top of that, he had a natural ability in writing that had yet to be encouraged and released.

On her part, Manoula loved literature, in particular, and practiced hours a day on her violin. Realizing early on how difficult it is to earn a living in either endeavor, she followed Dimitri’s advice to pursue a double major — English and music — with a minor in business to fall back on. As she told people, she was open to a career in arts management, and in a way, with the publishing, she’s held to it. She spent five years on her bachelor’s degree — including summer courses — but she was in no race to get out into the world, not once my Baba crossed her path. They were both taking a long-range view ahead. 

In a way, you could say she was a Yiayia Dida while Nita was a Yiayia Athina in new guise. Oh, I don’t know — maybe it was the other way around. They were all strong, emancipated women with a bohemian streak. Not all bohemians, I should add, are strong — not by a long shot.


In early versions of the novel, when Cassia was piecing together her family history from the perch of a teen or 20-something, she might have seen events something along these lines. But in the later revisions, told as she’s seeing them as a teen, this passage was just too much. Way too much. Besides, through much of high school time, she was a lackadaisical student more interested in managing a live music scene.

Looking at her ancestors, though, I doubt that her great-grandmothers had more than a rudimentary education. Her grandmother, Bella, came to town for a college degree but was thwarted in her plans. Cassia’s mother, her Manoula, raised the educational bar.

Fortunately, Cassia’s aunt Nita provides crucial encouragement that leads to college in time.

So what is essential in releasing talent or dreams you have? What kind of advice have you received regarding continuing education and career? How have your plans taken shape? What’s been especially helpful?


They know how to work together. In my novel, a family like this takes their skills far beyond the kitchen. The most important thing that’s happening has nothing to do with the dishes.

Why I keep returning to counterculture particulars

I wish there were a better label than “hippie” to apply to the counterculture explosion that swept the world in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Contrary to popular assumptions, there was no standard-issue hippie, male or female. Not everyone did pot or ventured into acid and beyond, nor did everyone participate in a protest march or have long hair or have sex every night or at least on the weekend. We all came in various degrees of separation from general society yet, somehow, we also recognized a kinship with each other.

The paperback cover …

“Are you sure you were a hippie,” my wife sometimes asks. So what if I didn’t like rock? Many of my friends had been at Woodstock just down the highway from the milieu I describe in Pit-a-Pat High Jinks. No, we didn’t recite a credo, you dig what I mean?

The only other flash in history I can see similar to this was the mid-1600s in England, with its World Turned Upside Down before the restoration of the monarchy – stresses that would fester until the American Revolution a century later. What we shared was a vision of a more just, equal, and caring society. We didn’t have standard-issue, card-carrying members. Alas, we didn’t have elders or cohesive discipline, either. And the breakdown that followed can’t be blamed entirely on a youth movement crossing over into the dreaded age 30. (Oh, how I’d love to be back there, if only I wouldn’t have to figure out how to survive in the current economy.)

Tom Wolfe, author of “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” pointedly asked why there wasn’t the big hippie novel, overlooking a few notable entries like Gurney Norman’s “Divine Right’s Trip.” The problem, as I see it, is that the scope of the events was too big and too fuzzy to be encapsulated in a single volume. You had the activist side, from civil rights and draft resistance to pacifism, feminism, and the environment, for starters. Add to that sexual revolution. And then drug use, abuse, and visions, as well as new spiritual teachings and practices. All before we even get to the music and its scene. How could you possibly wrap all of that, plus more, into a single volume?

… and the back cover.

Believe me, I’ve tried with my own Daffodil Uprising and its companion “Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.” Hate to admit there’s so much more that could be added to the, uh, pot. Make that “pan.”

By the way, I think there are worthy nominations in each of the subcategories I’ve just mentioned. I’d love to hear more.

Frankly, I think we, as a nation, have been in a state of denial about the era, with its tension between the war in ‘Nam and the Establishment supporting it, on one side, and the opposition on multiple grounds, on the other. Those rifts in the soul of the nation have never been adequately examined and addressed from either side, much less healed. We could start with the MIA-POW myth, for one, or the ways we might have failed to answer our kids’ questions about pot use, for another. They are definitely exploding in our face now.

Meanwhile, Cassia, in What’s Left, has come along to try to make her own way out of the debris.

And so I humbly or brashly offer my own novels for discussion.

Ten major Trump disasters

It’s so massive, it’s hard to pick where to start. Let’s try, anyway. Obama warned him to have an in-house critic, someone who could envision the worst, but Trump only laughed him off. It’s not funny. Just see where it led.

  1. His failure to accept personal responsibility or admit wrong or take criticism. See above. That’s why he appointed only yes-men and promptly fired them. Can you name any of the cabinet officers in his revolving door?
  2. Failure to accept warnings about pandemics, even before Covid-19, even before he took office, and then his failure to admit its presence and act to contain it. Much waffling and obfuscation thereafter.
  3. Repeatedly putting himself above the law, contrary to the Founding Fathers’ conception.
  4. Appointing party hacks to federal judicial benches and other public offices. That corrupting influence will remain for their working lifetime.
  5. Insulting everyone and then whining, “Nobody loves me.”
  6. Shattering environmental regulations and treaties. Just wait till Mar-a-Lago is underwater and he wants a bailout.
  7. Wasting taxpayer money on his own properties and that “wall” against Mexico. Yes, he soaked Secret Service for his overnight golf trips or Manhattan visits. Guess who was the highest paying tenant in the Trump Tower? For only a night or two a year.
  8. Alienating American allies while currying personal favor with the free nations’ enemies. Really. Even the Queen was appalled.
  9. Racist agitation that included abuse of immigration agencies against people of color. Dividing children from parents and holding them like animals in cages for months on end. Seriously.
  10. Attacking peaceful demonstrations, turning American military against the public. Seems to think it’s OK to murder unarmed black men. And then can’t understand the message he’s uttering.


On top of it all, an inability to negotiate a deal, presuming instead that insults, ultimatums, and tweeting are effective. No, they only fail. A real deal is a win-win for all. Just look at FDR for a model. If only he had an attention span sufficient for history.

Oh, the list is endless. What would you add?

So much for their model of a commune

When Cassia’s future father moves in with Nita’s four siblings, their big old Victorian house and its household are practically a hippie commune.

But then, when her parents’ generation begins marrying and having children, things change.

Still, she’d grown up as part of a tightly knit extended family, one that was just about everything his hadn’t been.

Where was your family when you were starting out as an adult? Nearby or far away?

Have you ever lived in a group household?


In your mother’s dreams

brutal deep-freeze, heavy snowfall blanket, ice dams on roofs, melting drips through ceilings the hill resembled a resort ski condo development appropriate considering the city-operated slope on the other side of the expressway runs a single chair-lift I tour the surrounding woods on cross-country blades and observe bald eagles wintering along the Merrimack and recall the rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula, desert along the Yakima, views down over the Mississippi or Potomac or elsewhere in New England . spread your wings, then, in the thawing