Mixmaster? Just look at ‘Pit-a-Pat High Jinks’

Sunbeam’s Mixmaster quickly became a staple of 20th century American kitchens. Didn’t we all grow up with one? The line about radio interference, by the way, refers to the way the machine could disrupt the AM radio signal you were trying to listen to, often elsewhere in the house.

What, me as a Mixmaster?

Just look at the topics percolating in my novel Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.

Here are ten:

  1. The early ’70s. The counterculture movement has changed. It’s no longer centered in a handful of big cities or a few isolated communes but is now found across the country, often revolving around college campuses.
  2. Back to the earth. For those who move out into the countryside, the new digs could be perplexing. Most of the hippies came from the city or suburbs, and few knew much about gardening or raising chickens or general household maintenance or even cooking. It could be a steep learning curve.
  3. Intentional households. Settling in with a group living together presents unique problems, even when it’s not a full-fledged commune. Just what are the advantages and disadvantages, anyway?
  4. Friends and housemates. Kenzie arrives in a place where he knows only one person but quickly encounters a host of friendly new faces. And through them, his adventures really take off. Where would he be without them?
  5. Each one is different.
  6. That first full-time job. Learning to cope can be a challenge.
  7. For Kenzie, this arises as Tibetan Buddhism and its daily practice.
  8. Couch surfing. The term hadn’t been coined yet, but here he is, spending many nights in friends’ apartments rather than back at the farm.
  9. His best friend’s collection of drums provides a counterpoint to the narrative. Just listen to how expressive this can be.
  10. Personal healing and growth. Kenzie undergoes a transformation through this time of seeming retreat. He emerges stronger, more caring, and happier, especially.

Be among the first to read my newest novel.

 

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Those dark-roasted coffee beans and the Cuisinart

The automatic coffeemaker came from a yard sale. A Cuisinart for, as I recall, five bucks or so. It even grinds its own beans at 4 in the morning, just like we ordered.

We like our brew with a Latin kick. Cuban roasted, for instance. Like espresso, which I turn au lait – or, in this case, Ole’!

Even curbing back my caffeine intake to a cup a day, as my doctor ordered, it’s heavenly.

Imagine rolling over in bed, hearing the grinder kick in downstairs, and then finding the pot freshly made.

What a way to say good morning to the world!

Food as the new cultural touchstone

My wife came across an article that noted the primary cultural focus in 21st century America is fine food and wine. It’s what intelligent people discuss, even argue about, in casual conversation. And just look at all the writing focused on it today.

A related factor the article raised was that in modern history, in each century one nation has dominated in one art form rather than many. That’s had me thinking, even though I think America led on two fronts in the 2oth century.

Here are ten examples that spring to my mind.

  1. Painting and sculpture. 16th century Italian masters.
  2. Theater. 16th century England. Shakespeare is unrivaled.
  3. Painting. 17th century Dutch masters.
  4. Painting. 19th century France culminating in Impressionism.
  5. The symphony. 19th century Germany towering in Beethoven and Brahms. Do we think of Vienna as essentially German?
  6. The novel. 19th century England and America. Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn may be flawed but they remain original masterworks.
  7. Opera. 19th century Italy. Verdi and Puccini remain the core of the repertoire.
  8. Ballet. 19th century Russia. Its great symphonists excelled here. And look where the great dancers and teachers still come from.
  9. Movies. 20th century America. (Shall we consider Hollywood as a nation unto itself?)
  10. Popular music. 20th century America as jazz and then rock evolve. (Note that this happens more in the eastern half of the country – New Orleans, Kansas City, Memphis, Cleveland, Nashville, but especially New York.)

I’ll leave it to others to look for the food trends over time. 

What else would you add to this list?

Mixmaster? Just look at ‘What’s Left’

What, me as a Mixmaster? Just look at the topics percolating in my novel What’s Left.

Here are ten.

  1. Questions of personal identity. For Cassia, this moves from a desire to fit in with what she considers normal for her peers and classmates and turns into something more solitary Goth before she hits stride as a rock concert manager.
  2. Questions of just what, exactly, identifies a family. Hers has its landmark restaurant as well as a circle of close cousins and siblings she calls the Squad. But she’s still missing her dad.
  3. Greek-American experience. She grows up in her mother’s extended family, the fourth generation after two brothers and their spouses, two sisters, arrived in Indiana from Greece. It’s a colorful tradition.
  4. Family owned-and-operated business. Their landmark restaurant means the kids learn to work early, and their parents often have to miss big events at school or sporting events. It also presents uniquely troubling aspects when company clashes erupt or a member dies and inheritance taxes are due.
  5. Guerrilla economix. Her uncle Dimitri advocates a community of small-is-beautiful economics using the restaurant as its base. Seeing himself as a socialist capitalist, he champions generous worker benefits, funding worthwhile startups, and creating considerate rental housing.
  6. In this family, even its initial hot dog joint adds distinctive touches. When they acquire burger-and-fries Carmichaels’, they look for local sources to give them an edge, especially in their daily soups and specials. And then when they branch out into upscale and vegetarian lines, the thinking turns especially creative.
  7. Bohemian life. There’s Gypsy, from one direction, and hippie, from another. And Cassia’s aunt Pia, so full of kefi, makes the most of it.
  8. Keys to success. Cassia soon realizes the ideal of the self-made man is an illusion. Her family is a model of working together, even mentoring. Her father’s fame would have never come about without their support.
  9. The Dharma. Members of her family, especially her father, take up Tibetan Buddhist practice before she comes on the scene. It gives her a dual outlook on religion and spirituality.
  10. Emotional loss and recovery. Cassia loses her father to a mountaineering accident when she’s 11, setting her on a course to recover whatever she can of him. But ultimately everyone in her family suffers a deep personal loss, and how each of them addresses it leads either to bitter despair or else emotional growth and wisdom. Guidance often appears in the most unexpected times and places.

 

Ten favorite restaurants in my experience

Some of these no longer exist, other than in my memory. And while some are expensive, others are quite the affordable but deserve kudos for skillful preparation and good ingredients.

  1. Big Night, Dover. Anything Chris and Linda did here or in their later incarnations in South Berwick, Maine, was always masterful, often with a French or Mediterranean base. Small-scale, as in a two-person operation, can truly be beautiful. They’re the standard by which we now measure all others.
  2. Fore Street, Portland, Maine. On a larger scale and an industrial style room, this is simply great food. We had a sauvignon blanc that was delivered with very little markup from retail simply because the owners thought this would be perfect for our meals – and we’re still searching for another bottle that comes close. My wife will rattle off the details of our meal and why we were so thoroughly impressed.
  3. North, Providence, Rhode Island. Another small setting – 18 seats, plus a small bar – this Asian fusion laboratory was a revelation with tastes I didn’t know even existed.
  4. Gasperetti’s, Yakima, Washington. A small setting – about 48 seats at the time – this was considered by many to be the best Italian restaurant in the Pacific Northwest when we lived there.
  5. A tiny Japanese restaurant near Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Four tables, as I recall on my first and only visit to the city. My introduction to raw fish (shashimi), sake, and plum wine. Heavenly.
  6. PB Boulangerie, Wellfleet, Cape Cod. Wonderful French with a chef proprietor from Lyons.
  7. Little Saigon, Worcester, Massachusetts. I love Vietnamese, and this one most of all.
  8. Lobster in the Rough, York, Maine. Many fine Sunday afternoons here with a cover duo and families playing bocce. They knew how to make fine onion rings and French fries, in addition to haddock and lobster. And don’t overlook the slaw. Straight-forward fare like this can be a tough test for many restaurants. We really admire the ones that pass with flying colors.
  9. Wonderland Café, Watertown, Massachusetts. Unpretentious Chinese cuisine that demonstrated the importance of fresh ingredients. This was takeout that was welcome a two-hour drive away a day later. ’Nuff said?
  10. Ta-boo, Palm Beach, Florida. My first truly upscale restaurant experience, thanks to my girlfriend’s parents. Had my first raw oysters and first orange flambe while being entertained by a Yale glee club. After that, everything’s a delirious swirl.

~*~

So how about your favorites? And what makes them stand out?

~*~

A Corinthian column on the exterior of the Bradford Congregational Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a classic touch. The screening is to keep birds at bay.

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.

Ten ways ‘High Jinks’ is new and improved

My newest book, Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, is a thorough reworking of my earlier Hippie Drum and Hippie Love novels.

Here are ten ways the result is new and improved.

  1. These events are now seen a generation later by the protagonist’s daughter, Cassia, even if she has to pinch her nostrils closed while admitting some of the love scenes. She’s not as vocal here or as perceptible as she is in Daffodil Uprising, but she nevertheless instills a critical distance. There are good reasons so much of this era still puzzles her.
  2. Many of the characters are renamed, starting with our hippie boy, Kenzie, and they’re now more fully developed. The backstory for Shoshanna, especially, emotionally blew me away while revising her part of the plot.
  3. Drummer has evolved. He’s now Kenzie’s best friend and an integral counterpoint to the happenings, as is his pit-a-pat on his very private collection of drumheads.
  4. This is the ’70s rather than a blend with the ’60s. Woodstock has happened, and the movement is heading off in many new directions. One of them is what’s supposed to be a hassle-free back-to-the-earth lifestyle like the one Kenzie’s landed in.
  5. The two earlier novels are woven together. Originally, in the first one, Kenzie usually fails to land himself in bed – a reflection of the reality that in the hippie era, not everyone was getting laid all the time. That version focused more on his housemates and friends in town. In the other story, he’s far more successful sexually, though the events still lead to the same ending. In the new blended novel, he’s one hot dude, though it’s not always obvious how much of the action is a consequence of his imagination or dreaming and how much matches reality.
  6. The blending instills a clearer plot line. His farmhouse and his social circle around campus are given balance, and his sequence of lovers advances his wisdom.
  7. Kenzie’s attraction to Buddhism is more fully explained. The Tibetan practices transform him, inside and out.
  8. The playful, even dizzying thrust of the original two novels is now countered by meaningful times of loneliness and brooding. Being hippie, after all, was no guarantee of always being happy. Quite the opposite. It often involved extremes of feeling.
  9. This novel is now character-driven, rather than running along the surfaces of its actions. The actions grow largely from their individual emotions.
  10. It’s all about connections. The people Kenzie meets lead to new adventures and first-hand discoveries.

Be among the first to read my newest novel.

Pit-a-Pat High Jinks