ONE WAY TO NAME A CHARACTER

Those highway signs can often take on whimsical readings.

One poetry journal, for instance, took its name from an exit marker of the Interstate crossing from Pennsylvania into Maryland: Northwest Rising Sun. It was for two different towns. Everybody knows the sun rises in the east, not the west. Still, a great name. It pays to be alert.

Likewise, orchestral conductor David Zinman was recording with humorist P.D.Q. Bach (in real life, Peter Schickele) but found his contract with another label prohibited him from using his own name on this project. What could he use instead? Inspiration struck when he was driving on Route 128 outside Boston. That exit sign read Newton Wayland.

More recently, while updating and seriously revising my previously published novels, I set about renaming many of the characters for a better fit.

I’ve passed this sign hundreds of times and often thought it sounded great as a possible character, if only I had the right situation. And then, as I reworked the volume that now stands as Daffodil Uprising, I had the perfect guy to go by the name: LEE MADBURY.

The sign along U.S. Route 4.

 

 

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A BUCKET LIST OF PLACES TO VISIT

How many items are supposed to be on a bucket list, anyway? Twenty is what I’d heard, but now I come across 101. Since this is a Tendril, we start out with 1o.

  1. The Grand Canyon. A mile down? Like an upside-down mountain? How incredible!
  2. Greece and Istanbul. Well, it would fit right in with the roots of my latest novel.
  3. Holguin, Cuba. I love the Quakers I know there. I think January would be perfecto.
  4. Alaska, taking the ferry from Seattle or Vancouver. We’re talking summer, remember.
  5. For the other nine months? Hawaii. I hear it’s about much more than colorful shirts.
  6. Nantucket. So close to home.
  7. The Adirondack mountains, from the top. Again, so close to home.
  8. Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony. Is there no excuse I haven’t done it?
  9. Carnegie Hall, from the inside. I used to know somebody who lived in the tower at the back.
  10. The Metropolitan Opera. Standing outside doesn’t count.

~*~

What places would top yours?

~*~

See what’s new at THISTLE/FLINCH.

 

TEN MORE THINGS ABOUT DOVER

  1. Hardworking leaders. We’ve been blessed by people who want to get things done. The town’s made a huge turnaround in the past 20 years, from a time when the mill windows were boarded up to the vital business incubator it is today.
  2. In general, we tend to vote more to the left, in a working-class streak. In a small state like ours, you’ve probably met the governor and at least one of your U.S. senators. And our city counselor lives across the street.
  3. Family friendly. We actually have four high schools – the city’s (which is moving into a new building), St. Thomas Aquinas, Portsmouth Christian Academy, and the state-chartered Cocheco Academy of the Arts. The Rotary and Kiwanis clubs have been active influences in shaping this direction.
  4. The Greek Orthodox church, one of the oldest in North America. Outwardly, they’re at the opposite end of the Christian spectrum from my Quaker plainness – something I find challenging and refreshing. But they’re welcoming and wonderful and have provided great grounding for my upcoming novel. And, as I’m finding, they’re everywhere in this town. The interior of their house of worship, by the way, is visually gorgeous.
  5. Public transportation to Boston. C&J buses run hourly to Logan airport and South Station. They’re clean and quite comfortable. And Amtrak’s Downeaster heads to North Station five times a day – what a delight! – as well as the other way to Portland, Maine, or a little beyond.
  6. Yes, we neighbor Maine.
  7. Fresh food. Farmstands are just minutes from downtown, as well as two farmers markets. Sweet corn’s no problem. Pick-your-own strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and apples as well. And then there’s the seafood – not just lobster, either.
  8. Market Basket. Well, technically it’s across the line in Somersworth, but this legendary supermarket chain is significantly cheaper than its competition while being highly responsive to its local customers. (It has the best tofu around. The Asian restaurants all get theirs there.)
  9. Police and fire and rescue services. They respond instantly, as we found out back when we had a phone button on autodial. (And they were very friendly about it.) Just as telling, women aren’t afraid to walk home late at night downtown. And, from what we hear from immigrant communities, they’re sensitive and supporting.
  10. Garrison Hill observation tower. The walk from our house starts through our neighbors’ yard, twists up some side streets and then through the woods to the top of the hill and then up the flights of stairs to the crown of the tower where the panorama spreads out over the village -like setting of downtown or, the other way, clear to one flank of Mount Washington. And then it’s the reverse. Great for quick exercise or a jaunt with our guests. See where we live?

~*~

What don’t you like about the place you live?

Laundry on the line.

 

TEN FINE THINGS ABOUT DOVER

For the past 18 years I’ve lived in a small city. One of 30,000 men, women, and children in addition to dogs and seagulls. And it’s felt right. Way back in my past, many folks expected I’d wind up in New York City, and while I do hold a certificate in urban studies from my university, my career took me in another direction.

Well, here are 10 reasons I like where I am:

  1. Quaker Meeting. It’s my core community, my circle of kindred spirits, and we’re the fifth oldest congregation in the entire state. The four before us were all state-supported Colonial Puritan institutions. We were the renegades.
  2. Walking distance to whatever is usually essential. What a civilized way to live! We’re a mile from downtown, in one direction, and the hospital, in the other. (Oh, yes, we can stop somewhere nice for a drink and not worry about having to drive home.) It’s pedestrian-friendly place, really. Cars have to stop or, well, I’ve seen them halted by cops on big horses.
  3. I really like our mounted patrol. As do most of the kids.
  4. The Community Trail. As long as we’re walking, we have the option of a former railroad line that’s become a narrow woodsy park heading out from the train station (I often take that route to Meeting on Sunday morning) or a riverside meander heading upstream. Sometimes I think I’m much further north, in the mountains, especially when I’m on cross-country skis in deep winter.
  5. Centrally located. Within an hour’s drive we have Atlantic beaches one way, forested mountains in another, and the Hub of the Universe in a third. OK, Boston depends on the traffic, but I do rehearse weekly in a choir there.
  6. Waterfalls in the heart of downtown. The river falls to the tide and runs through an arch in the big brick mill. It used to power the mill, too. The scene’s quite charming and sometimes dramatic. And salmon are returning to the fish ladder.
  7. The city’s indoor pool. I swim a half-mile four or five times a week. Nice bunch of fellow swimmers and lifeguards. Not bad for a Christmas present!
  8. Our neighbors. They’re a story in their own right.
  9. Architectural diversity, as you might expect in the seventh oldest settlement in the continental U.S. We’re always seeing something unexpected when we stroll.
  10. We’ve become the downtown for the state university one town over. A third of its students live in apartments here, so we have a bit of that college town flavor. But not so much that we lose our blue-collar edge.

~*~

What do you like about the place you live?

And for a little sobering perspective. It’s wet and cold on the bough.

 

 

BEACON OF THE SEASON

The Nubble Point Lighthouse in York, Maine, is decked out for the holidays.
The Nubble Point Lighthouse in York, Maine, is decked out for the holidays.

The lighthouse at Cape Neddick in York, Maine, is one of the most photographed in America. Also known as the Nubble Point Light, it has a red beam to distinguish it from other nearby beacons. Each Christmas season, it’s outlined in holiday fare. Here’s how it looks.

It sits on its own island.
It sits on its own island. Watching the darkness grow is a memorable experience.

ESPRESSO FIT FOR THE GODS

With a holiday touch.
With a holiday touch.

Vittorio’s in the North End is famed for its espresso and pastries. With Mercury as one of the coffee makers, you can see why the neighborhood is also renowned as Little Italy.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.