Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It seems that I’m making history.
The other day a relative e-mailed me some information she had dug up in “Google” about my family. Among other things, the article said that my mother had two sisters-in-law, named Edna and Paula. Edna and Paula are the names that I assigned to my two aunts, in my book, “Mother and Me.” Their names weren’t Edna and Paula. As I explained in the “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book, I assigned fictitious names to some of the characters, since I could not rely on my sixty-plus-year-old memory to treat them fairly and didn’t want to embarrass anyone. Apparently the author of the article did not bother to read that disclaimer, and my two aunts will go down in history under assumed names.
Then there is the matter of my father. Those of you who read “Mother and Me” may recall an incident along the road from Warsaw where we encounter a Polish military convoy with a broken-down truck and a young lieutenant who wants to commandeer ours. To stop him from doing that, my mother tells him a big fib about the truck belonging to my father and about my father being a senator. I believe that I made it quite clear in the book that this is one of the fibs that my mother would use to solve problems and which drove me crazy. But, apparently, the fib fooled not only the young lieutenant, but the author of the “Google” article as well. My father, who had been a businessman in the textile business, is now duly ensconced in the annals of Polish history as a senator.
I can’t help wondering how accurate the rest of the supposedly authoritative articles on the Internet really are.

Monday, January 11, 2010

‘T was a dark and stormy (not really) Thursday or Friday afternoon, some twenty-five years ago, when my late wife, Phyllis and I set out from Greenwich, Conn. for the Berkshire Mountains. A senior early-childhood educator, Phyllis was friend and mentor to a young elementary school teacher named Arlene, teaching in a well-heeled town on Long Island. Somewhere along the line, Phyllis had advised apartment dwelling Arlene to invest in some real property, and it was Arlene and her husband’s new summer house in Austerlitz, NY that we were on our way to visit.
Arlene and Jerry’s house turned out to be a comfortable, three-bedroom ranch, built on a slope, with a garage underneath, nestled in the woods, off a dirt road, and, the following morning, I dutifully took to that dirt road for my daily run. It was a dark and cloudy morning (for real this time), and, as I passed a particular stretch of woods, I could glimpse a body of water, gloomy and forbidding, beyond the woods and clicking my imagination immediately into high gear.
What my imagination concocted was a vicious murder that a passer-by might witness through the trees, in which a man was beating another man to death with his bare hands. The man witnessing it has the option of intervening or calling for help or ignoring the whole thing, but the one that he chooses to follow – and this was the creative part – is a fourth and quite unusual option. I’m not telling what this option is, because I may want to re-visit it one day, but it could have lead to a rather original thriller.
Of course it would take a certain kind of man in a certain set of circumstances to choose this particular option, and over the next days, while visiting with our friends and later, I set my mind to creating such a man and such a set of circumstances. I named him Kip and made him an undistinguished literature professor at an undistinguished college in the Midwest, dealing with some unique identity problems.
But Kip wouldn’t stop growing on me, and the more real that he became, the more interested I became in him, to the extent that pretty soon I considered him far too interesting to be subjected to the requirements of a “thriller” plot. But other matters called. Not having yet retired to my present full-time-author state, I had a business to run and a living to make, and no time to give to Kip’s problems. Then I got involved in writing my “Mother and Me” memoir series, finding a publisher, and promoting the books. Kip kept rattling around in the back of my mind, but never settling down to some constructive thinking. It wasn’t till a couple of years ago that I had the time to return to my undistinguished friend and build him a novel worthy of his personality.
I took Arlene and Jerry’s Austerlitz house, moved it to a coastal village in Massachusetts, and placed it near a woods, with a river flowing to the ocean beyond. Kip inherits it from a colleague, almost as a challenge to sit down and write a book. I gave him a beautiful postmistress named Amanda, whom he lusts after, and a beautiful married woman named Lill who – well, you’ll need to read the book to find out. There is also a large sailboat, named The Black Dog, being built for a cantankerous local, named Tillman. Recognized to be the best sailor in these parts, Tillman has designed the boat himself and intends to sail her, as soon as she’s ready, down to Florida, where he plans to go into the chartering business. There is speculation among the villagers as to the Black Dog’s seaworthiness. The boat isn’t ready till the November chills and storms, and Tillman has invited newcomer Kip to sail to Florida with him, since no one in town will sail with him, even in good weather. No sailor, Kip, nevertheless, believes himself to be in a situation where honor compels him to accept. Then there is the matter of a married lady’s hot tub and…..
Anyway, the book is entitled “Writer’s Block” and it is due to be released by Fireship Press later this winter.
Phyllis passed away in 1986, but Arlene and Jerry were among the first people I introduced my present wife, Donna, to and the friendship continues. How that’ll fare after they find their house so shamefully abused, remains to be seen.