For some out-of-this world sensations

In my novel What’s Left, Cassia’s father balances his career between work as a professional photographer and as an American authority on Tibetan Buddhism.

This description seemed a tad overcooked for the final serving:

In the end, Baba creates a dozen-and-a-half commercials before returning to his seat between a pair of six-foot-long brass trumpets and a twelve-hour holy recitation.  

~*~

No matter how much I like the image of long trumpets and chanting, the average reader is going to require too much explanation to get it. Oh, my. Maybe it’s a danger of my being a poet, too.

I have no idea about your father, but I can assure you mine was nothing like that. Mine worked as an accountant for a division of a global corporation. He wore suits and ties, and I never, ever got to see the floor where he worked.

Let’s just say Cassia’s Baba had a lot more freedom and flexibility than most.

Could you imagine having a father like hers Or maybe a famous TV actor? How would your life be different?

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Among the characters who are, uh, characters

Yes, there’s the colorful brewer they hire in my novel What’s Left.

Thanks to the TV commercials Cassia’s father creates, everybody comes to know him, or at least who he is. As one line, no longer in the book, described him:

Fritz himself turns out to be something of a ham.

~*~

Look around you for similar folks. Tell me about somebody in your community who’s an effusive character. Maybe someone on television or running a store or waiting on tables. We have a mailman downtown who would fit as he dashes and dances door-to-door, often with an impromptu repartee. Expand my range of possibilities!

Greenback synergy as a revolutionary butterfly

Considerations of just how much her family could both own and effectively manage led them instead to make strategic loans and investments to help local entrepreneurs – people they knew as neighbors and friends. In my novel What’s Left, I was tempted to get into lists of microloans her uncle Dimitri might have made for counterculture ventures, but I backed off instead. There’s enough suggestion of that as it is.

As one line, no longer in the book, expressed it:

More than anything, we’re creating partnership in a network of kindred souls.

Well, I’m still fascinated with butterfly economics and economic multiplier effects and similar arcane concepts, but fiction is more about, well, heart to heart. Big shifts in the final text were made.

~*~

That’s not to say Cassia’s family didn’t also invest as a partner in startups, where it might also lend some of its business support expertise on payroll or taxes before selling its interest to the founders once the operation was up and running. It’s something they did with the bookstore and Manoula’s publishing house.

I could see many of their microloans going to people whose work touched on their own – farmers and gardeners, cabinetmakers or plumbers, recording studio technicians, among others.

Well, what’s wrong with small-is-beautiful?

Imagine yourself approaching Dimitri and requesting up to $100,000 to make the world a better place. (Maybe it’s not even for a loan – the family has also established a foundation that makes grants for worthy projects.) What would you do with the money?

Who says you have to be a kid to be delighted by this?

I know where I’m getting the candy rocks and gummy fish to decorate my gingerbread lighthouse this Christmas. And it’s also a great place for guys to find great little gifts for the significant other in their life, something that usually confounds us. It’s even a fun place to take her on a stroll around town. (Think cheap date.) You can sit in air-conditioned comfort while savoring the yummy ice cream. Or even keep a bunch of kids happy.

We’re hoping Lickees & Chewies Candies & Creamery catches on. It seems to have its act together, blending several types of economically marginal stores into one.

Key to everything is its location, across from the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and above Noggin’s toys on the ground floor of the historic Cocheco Millworks downtown. The one drawback is that the entry is on the other side of the building, away from those two kid magnets.

But once you’re inside, you’ve entered a whole different world. It smells richly mysterious, largely from the chocolate bakery. There are maps with pushpins where customers indicate where they’ve visited from, and there are metal rings on strings you can swing toward hooks in the wall if you’re feeling playful.

There are more classic games in the sitting area, which includes a large round table suitable for a birthday party, actually. Or just resting or looking at the views out the window.

So one part of the operation is the ice cream counter, with an emphasis on creamery. But remember, this place is loaded with candy, as in toppings.

Then there’s the old-fashioned candy store itself, with about every brand you can imagine. The entrepreneurs don’t proclaim their organization or knowledge of the field, but it’s there – Southern candies in this part, German in that – even before you get to the saltwater taffies. Many of the smaller wrapped bits haven’t been a penny apiece for sometime, but that’s its groove anyway. After all, the idea is to fill your own bag.

Yet another part is the fine chocolatier. This is where to find a gift to impress, maybe even a new client. And there’s plenty of room to grow to the side.

They make the most of the historic textile mill space. The ceilings are tall, with bare wood posts. The lighting is warm, tasteful, with some German Black Forest kinds of surprises befitting a fairy-tale atmosphere in the evening.

It’s been here a year already, but I’ve just discovered it. I’m definitely anticipating getting back before Christmas.

The main entrance does make for an impressive approach. It’s almost like crossing a moat.
Inside is a rich mixture awaiting leisurely exploration.
Lingering is no problem.
Anyone else love fresh turtles? Lickees & Chewies come in almond, cashew, or pecan, for starters.
I want to call this Penny Lane.

The changing face of downtown Dover

My small city is the seventh oldest settlement in the continental United States, not that there’s a lot left from its first century, when the place was largely on the sometimes troubled frontier of English dominion.

As a working-class mill town, it developed more modestly than more prosperous harbor towns like Portsmouth to the south or Portland to the northeast or Newburyport to the southwest.

Our downtown is catching up, though. A small but significant building boom is under way.

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Ten random bits revolving around Greek-American families

My novel What’s Left has me thinking about families – especially like Cassia’s Greek-American household in Indiana.

  1. Number of single-parent families in the U.S.: 13.7 million (27 percent).
  2. Number of Greek-Americans: 1.3 million to 3 million of full Greek ancestry estimated. (With her mixed ancestry, Cassia wound not be counted here.)
  3. Number of Greeks in Indianapolis area, 1900: 29.
  4. Number of Greek-Americans (full ancestry) in Indiana: 23,993 (2010).
  5. Number of family businesses in U.S.: 5.5 million.
  6. Greek diners: More than 600 founded in New York area between 1950 and 1970 alone.
  7. Number of diners in New Jersey: about 525 (the leading state).
  8. Greek-menu restaurants in U.S.: 3,100.
  9. First Greek Orthodox church in the U.S.: New Orleans, by 1866
  10. First Greek Orthodox church in Indiana: Holy Trinity, Indianapolis, 1910.

If this were a business school case study

In my new novel, What’s Left, her father (Baba) has an influential role in transforming the family restaurant even though he’s new to the business. But he’s not alone.

~*~

Here are some passages I cut from the final version:

Baba is an active participant in that year of intense planning, before heading off for his focused Dharma training, those three years in the Tibetan monastery followed by his permanent return here.

My search reveals to me how much Baba contributed to the final result. As a visual artist addressing challenges beyond the kitchen itself, he’s amplified the wisdom Dimitri displayed in bringing him on board – and all of his touches fill me with pride.

Reflecting on Baba’s contributions to the project, what impresses me most is his sensitivity to the underlying unity. What emerges simply feels right and natural.

~*~

In a traditional business school case study, the spotlight would likely fall on Baba’s future brother-in-law, Dimitri.

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