Archive for July, 2014

MEMOIR: LIVING ON BORROWED TIME

I’m old enough, and my memory good enough to recall a great deal of detail growing up in Newark, NJ during the 1950s and 60s. With these memories in mind, I study the world around me and have to chuckle. At times, it’s as if our society is rediscovering the wheel, then again, at times I’m amazed that my wheel still turns.

One observation which I find interesting is the current nutritional trends, and what information they provide – if any. Consider all the studies you’ve heard concerning the benefits or harmful effects of coffee consumption. I don’t know about you, but it boggles my mind. Some of the current nutritional mindsets are to cut down on processed food and eat local. When I was young, we adhered to these principles as a way of life. Processed food was in its infancy. And unlike today, for better or for worse, the mom of the family stayed home. Most did not know how to drive, and that didn’t matter because most families could only afford one car. Few moms worked outside the home. Their lives were taken up with raising the kids, maintaining the home and cooking. We are warned away from processed and junk food, yet grocery store shelves grow heavier and heavier with these items. Is there a bottom line at work here?

Another ‘new’ trend encouraged is to eat locally. While I was growing up that was the only option. Fruit and vegetables – veggies had not been invented yet – were not transported from all over the globe as they are now. In my neighborhood, fresh produce was available during the summer months sold from a horse-drawn wagon. During the winter the stores carried a minimal selection.

Those are the positives of my past which are far outweighed by the negatives, hence to purpose of this article.

During my youth, the fear of cholesterol was unknown. Of course it existed, but knowledge of its hazards was unknown and its effect, insidious. Food was consumed without a thought to sodium or fat content. Taste was all that mattered. It was a time long before the existence of ‘best by date’. The rule of thumb was: If the can wasn’t swollen the contents were fine to consume.

But all this is secondary to the primary reason I am living on borrowed time, although my food consumption has left its effects in the form of bypass surgery. The health concern most abused in my past was sun exposure. Today we have sunblock able to protect you from any damage the sun may try to deliver. When I was a kid we also had a means of protection and it was homemade. This was long before billboards began displaying that cute little girl having her bathing suit bottom pulled down by that delightful dog to expose her pale butt and tan line.

The means I used to shield myself from the sun’s harmful rays was a concoction of a few drops of iodine dispersed in baby oil. Where that was invented I have no idea. Did it work? No way! Every summer’s journey to the shore resulted in a bright red burn resulting in a mass of oozing blisters. Back then we were of the mindset that when you spent a day at the shore you had to get your money’s worth and we always paid the price. When we went as a family unit, on the way home I and my siblings would sit in the backseat of the old Chevy shivering from the intense sunburn. To this day we fondly refer to those sun-induced chills as suffering from ‘the disease’.

Once home, my mom would apply vinegar to our burned bodies. This remedy is actually documented as working, usually in vinegar ads. At night, after a day at the beach, slathered in oil and vinegar we were human salads suffering the pain of a summer outing.

 

July 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

NEW MOON RISING ON SALE IN OXFORD

That’s Oxford, PA.

You can now find my novel, New Moon Rising, on sale a Bookplace, a delightful used book store owned by Virginia Beards. If you love books as much as I, and live in southeast Pennsylvania you owe it to yourself to visit this small treasure, not only for what great finds may come your way but to visit with Virginia.

Virginia taught literature at Penn and the depth and breadth of her literary knowledge is truly awesome. Pick up a book and there is a good chance she is familiar with the contents, or for one of the books I purchased, also knew the author. She is also an accomplished poet and her book of poetry, Exit Pursued By A Bear And Others, is available at the store.

Here is a link to the bookstore’s website.

Give it a try.

http://www.bookplaceoxford.com/

July 29, 2014 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment

MY DAUGHTER THE FARMER

  This piece is about my daughter, Lynn, and includes a video seen on WFMZ-TV (Channel 69) broadcasting from Allentown, PA. The video features Lynn explaining her work at a Rodale farm supplying produce to nearby St. Luke’s Hospital.

Lynn graduated from Pitt with a degree in urban studies, and during her stay in Pittsburgh – a city she fell in love with, became involved in urban farming, growing crops on vacant lots in the city. Since graduation she has had farming internships and graduated to field manager. The road of her farming career has been rocky with ups resulting in downs, but she persisted in her love for farming. Now she works for Rodale, a name synonymous with organic farming. My hope is that this stepping stone along the road of her farming life will prove productive and fruitful. From talking with her; I think it will.

Lynn is a millennial. The news is full of how rough it is for them to enter the life they were educated for and dreamed of. Many of their numbers must live at home, finding their future put on hold, not finding productive employment. But let us not forget that the future is built on the past, a past the millennial generation had no role in forming. We who, at times lacking patience and understanding for their plight, are the ones responsible for that past and the conditions that exist today. The millennial generation has inherited the world we, sometimes through greed, sometimes through incompetence, formed.

One side note, Lynn owns the tractor she’s seen starting, a veteran manufactured in the 1950s. Never thought we would have a tractor in the family.

 

Here’s the video.RODALE FARMING

July 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm 2 comments

MEMOIR: PRESERVING YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY

 

While thinking about and writing my memoir, I have come to the realization it is to share our history with our families, to put down the words of our lives. Our lives, to varying degrees, help form the world around us be that world distant or immediate.

As a youth of perhaps ten, I recall sitting in our backyard one summer day when our neighbor came out. The couple living next door was an elderly Polish couple. The husband rarely left the flat, so seeing him outside was a rarity. While he stood there, much to my surprise, he began talking about World War I, how he recalled airplanes flying overhead. With my love for aircraft, I was immediately enthralled. If I had been thinking, I should have sought every memory he had of the war. I never knew if he served during the conflict, and if he did, on which side he fought. I asked no questions, but 50 years later I still can recall that conversation. That fact is testament to my lost opportunity.

The same is true with my parents. My dad was in the army in 1941, with his service almost completed. He told me that when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, he cried, for he knew then he would probably be in for the duration and he was right.

While my wife and I were living in Los Angeles, he came for a visit. Long Beach, CA was the home of the Queen Mary and we took him to tour the vessel. I wanted to make the pilgrimage for I knew he traveled from the U.S. to England on that ship. I’m sure he never expected to walk its decks again. During World War II he served in a supply unit and travel through Africa and then Italy. He did not see action and was strafed once while on a train by a P-51, one of our fighters – oops.

He didn’t talk about the war much and I didn’t ask; my loss.

The greatest regret I have about missing a personal glimpse into the past was talking to my mom about her life when she was young. She lived through the Great Depression and observed conditions on the home front during World War II and I never asked was life was like during those times.

For those of you who read this blog, do not make the mistake I did.  Ask your senior citizens about their past.  They have a more vivid experience with history than a book can provide.

July 25, 2014 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

MEMOIR: LIFE ON A SHOESTRING

Once, while listening to NPR, I heard a report on credit cards. The report stated that the average person has thirteen credit cards and carries about eight thousand dollars in debt. This was some time ago; I hope the numbers have improved. I must admit, that there are times when I have trouble getting my wallet in my back pocket because of all the potential debt lingering in there, but try to keep it under control. On hearing this broadcast, my mind wandered back to my youth, a time when people had the mindset that it was not so much that you lived without but you lived with what they could afford. It was a time less of envy and more of survival.

For most of my youth, credit cards did not exist. They started flourishing in the 60’s, so when I was young, they were not even an option. For paying bills, my parents didn’t have a checking account. When there was a bill that needed to be paid I was sent to the drugstore to buy a money order. It was the only way my family sent money through the mail.

In my neighborhood, credit was not as much a way of life as it is today. People lived on what they could afford. With the exception of houses and cars, you bought what you could pay for then and there. I must admit just writing about life without credit seems so foreign and unreal. Buying just what you can afford at the time of purchase seems like such and odd concept, yet that is the way it once was.

The way a person received their pay was also different in my youth.   Friday afternoons, my dad was home from working at the tannery for hours, but he had to return Friday afternoons to get his pay. I would sometimes take a ride with him. You could smell his place of employment long before you could see it – Ocean Leather – gaining this name due to the fact that it was the only tannery at that time that could tan shark skins. We would drive around to the loading dock where drums of chemicals stood, the soil, stained shades of purple and green, was soil of an OSHA nightmare. Into the building we would go, past large rooms where various stages of tanning was taking place, and into the office. Here my dad was handed a brown envelope with bills and change and that was his pay. That’s the way people were paid back then, you actually held your pay in your hand. It was not electronically sent to your bank from which you electronically paid your bills. You were able to hold what you earned, actually see it.

Friday was also allowance day for me.   For completing my choirs, I received fifty cents a week, and when I could really control my spending – not wanting another airplane model or book – I turned those quarters into a dollar bill, real folding money, which I would immediately take to the cellar and hide – I don’t know why. To this day I can still recall the feeling that, with a quarter, I had money. With a quarter in my pocket, I’m okay. How things have changed, and how I remain the same. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

During my younger days I remember my dad saying, “Always keep two dollars in my wallet or else I could be arrested for vagrancy. If the police only knew how often I walk around with an empty wallet these days I could easily wind up behind bars, aha, but there is the MAC card and all my other credit cards with their lines of credit that keep me out of jail but could lead to the poorhouse.

 

 

July 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

STRUGGLING TO GET IT WRITE: THE KEEN OBSERVER

This piece revolves around my never-ending argument: Can you be taught to imagine? Is it something you just ‘have’, or is it something you can develop? Can you be taught to initiate that spark the gives birth to a story and leads you down that road of wonder? I have no formal training, and I’m sure it shows, in writing fiction, but my mind is crowded with ideas. Can this mental process be taught?

Now, those of you still with me are probably asking, “What the hell does this have to do with the title of the article?” Glad you asked, otherwise, I would have to stop writing this piece.

In order to give a story body, to provide a world to the reader, you need detail. The reader must be immersed in the world you create. See, hear and smell the story. The writer must spend his life being a ‘keen observer’, constantly aware of the world around and absorb, digest it and then someday deposit those observations within his work. I suppose the only genre where this does not apply is the genre I propose to write – science fiction. Here you sometimes need to create a world of the future, one that finds birth in your imagination and exists only there.

I recently finished reading Light of the World by one of my favorite authors, James Lee Burke. Coincidentally, the July/August issue of Poets & Writers had an interesting piece about Burke. If you love his writing as much as I do, I strongly suggest you read this fine article to gain insight into the man.

The setting for Light of the World is Missoula, Montana which also happens to be where Burke now calls home. The novel drips with detail of the geography, plant life and weather of the Montana. We are all familiar with the old adage: Write what you know. I’m going to make an addition: Write where you’ve been. I know this is not always possible, but I feel it helps to keep this in mind when setting the location of your story.

I try to locate my stories in areas in which I have either lived or at least visited. If I need to venture into unknown territory I use maps and research the area online. But I don’t think the writing rings as true as when you experience the area firsthand. However, for me, even if I lived in the location of the story I still find my writing lacking enough detail to bring the story to life.

I’m working on this fault.

Next, people watching.

July 14, 2014 at 7:09 pm 2 comments

FREE BOOK ON PUBLISHING

I just received this offer for a free book on publishing from Savvy Authors and I thought I’d share it with my fellow writers.

 

http://blog.bookbaby.com/2014/07/last-chance-to-get-your-free-copy-of-ape-how-to-publish-a-book/ 

July 10, 2014 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

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