Room to welcome everyone

They definitely weren’t suburban. A big pink Victorian house suits Cassia’s colorful extended family in my novel What’s Left. And guests, even guests of guests, are typically welcome.

Have you ever been welcomed in a home like Cassia’s? How does it differ from yours?

~*~

Theirs also had a witch hat, something like the one here.

Howdy, Hank

exactly what comes next? maybe it’s Chicago within multiple trajectories of impatience and boredom before connecting and charging ahead roughshod you take a swing, fan, and fan again in this curriculum of revelations from Old Friends everywhere standing on some pebble-strewn base of a mountain, watching a squall line of religious tracts form in oppressive humidity how am I to know this will play Boston, this season or next? maybe I’ll score, ah, yes, and speaking of Hope, give her my greetings the big picture emerges one pitch at a time, here come the Sox . whoops

 

Also on the plate

Why does the restaurant business sustain so many immigrant families? Just look at all our ethnic options in dining today, even in small cities. Not just Greek-American, like the one in my novel What’s Left.

What’s your favorite food stop? Is it run by a single family? Does it have an ethnic identity?

~*~

Look at all these Greek specialties!

Bienvenue, Val

the one who pushed has a brain tumor on top of four or five years of chronic, debilitating, undiagnosed intestinal pain, only in her late thirties I agonize over how to respond, wanting to run up to the coast and bring her back where she would at least have someone to offer care, while from the green valley a letter saying another’s on the way to Old Order Mennonite (unless, maybe, I’d go into dairy farming? Nah!)

 

Before naming the icon

drawing on banked experience and earnings, I deplete the rotting woodpile of any past, my flaking barn filled with scorched ore, my private cemetery of flickering weeds all ablaze banked coals blown to life, all reduced to uncommon metal ingots of no commercial value after which I’ll no longer be gnawing lawn furniture out on the road but holed up, frugally assembling and polishing double-edged maps and chronographs to fuel industry with some fork into prophecy or political revolution or Elysium or celebrity-bashing iconoclasm, I won’t be spooked by the alchemy of regret except, maybe children

Retreat and regrouping led me into poetry and fiction

There was no Nita for me during college or immediately after. Had she existed, my route would have been much less conflicted. Somehow, though, I managed to figure out enough on my own, often through seemingly chance introductions, to survive in an alien milieu.

After college I landed in a place where I knew nobody except a few people from my previous summer as a newspaper copy desk intern. I was a Midwesterner trying to comprehend the East Coast, a hippie working in a low-paid newsroom. Single and lonely.

The locale I create in Pit-a-Pat High Jinks is situated vaguely somewhere north of New York City. It could be in the Berkshires of Massachusetts or in southern Vermont or places like Oneonta or Cortland, New York, perhaps even Utica.

The paperback cover …

I paint it as smaller than Binghamton, the strange place where I was living and working. The Tri-Cities, as it was referred to locally, was flailing to recover from collapsing industry, especially its shoe-manufacturing ruins, as well as a deteriorating but expensive housing supply. The new state university attracted socially awkward straight-A geeks and nerds. My first year I resided in a neighborhood that was Italian by day and Black, as in ghetto, by night. And then there was the summer and autumn on the farm we shared up in the hills. My work schedule was crazy like Kenzie’s, except for the three-day weekend once a month, which I really wish had been in place – I took that from a newspaper where I worked a dozen years later.

Strangely, I also soon came to love the region. There’s something distinctive about Upstate New York, with its hills and forests and lakes, and almost all of my friends were from The City, meaning the Big Apple aka Gotham. Few of them confined their definition to Manhattan, I should note. Through them I got to know Brooklyn, the Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, and northern suburbs as much as the sliver between the Hudson and East rivers.

I initially addressed this fertile period in my life as two parallel novels – one where the hippie boy largely fails to connect with free love; the other, X rated, where his fantasies come to fruition. Either way, the plots arrived at the same finale. Later, in light of Cassia’s perspectives in What’s Left as well as a few of the early reviews, I returned to these two versions and blended them into a much more cohesive, and I hope more engaging tale, “Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.” Well, that is one of the advantages of ebook editions – you can always update them.

There’s still so much that baffles me about the time and place. How one housemate would come home with a different lover each night, all of them gorgeous to my famished gaze. What was his trick, other than that twinkle in his eye?

In the revised rendering, Kenzie encounters a sequence of hippie chicks, goddesses, lovers, each of them leading him to fresh understandings. Still, I’m left wondering how each of these interludes would sound from the woman’s point of view. I suspect Kenzie wouldn’t fare so well.

Also, for me, it was yoga rather than Buddhism as a new spiritual practice, but that’s told in Yoga Bootcamp.

More lingering are the questions of what’s happened to so many I’ve met in the broader Bohemian spectrum. I can’t even remember many of their names, but I have learned that some went on to become OBGYN physicians, United Way executives, federal attorneys, United Nations officials, photocopier technicians. Hardly what you’d expect of hippies, right?

Well, I’ve tried to record and reflect on what happened, seen mostly on the run. Can you experience something – live it – and still step back enough to record it? In my novels, that’s what the photographer tries to do, similar in its own way to my own struggle. And now you can see how much that role’s changed, too, in the shift from film and darkrooms to the digital ease of today.

Working all hours, for starters

Here’s something I’ve pondered in revising my big novel What’s Left:

Does the restaurant business essentially operate at the fringe of normal society? Or do weird characters naturally gravitate toward jobs there?

If you’ve ever worked in a commercial food operation, what’s you most telling impression?

~*~

What a tradition!

How’s the coffee?

and now that Manchester isn’t quite the same the drive flew along trees past their prime yet beautiful in that chaste turning more shadowy and wintry the closer I got to home, a still full moon flirting with clouds during that final stretch of reggae beat back around to Worcester a few tears shed as I passed sparkling Baltimore in a twelve-hour trip taking a shade over nine but here they still haven’t fixed the dripping kitchen faucet

 

With a focus on the family

Cassia’s future father marries into a family that owns a popular restaurant. So that’s one additional connection for the members.

Considering his wife’s sister and three brothers, all with potential partners of their own, he’s not the only spouse thrown into the mix. And that’s before getting to those who want careers elsewhere.

What holds your extended family together? Or are you widely scattered?

~*~

The family also buys an old church, something like this, and turns it into a community center that features wild rock concerts.