Where Life-Changing Decisions Are Made

Recently, while zipping west on I-70, I detoured south on U.S. 68 and dropped in on my alma mater, Antioch College, for the first time in more decades than I care to say.

It got me to thinking, as these things will, about life-changing decisions, how we make them and even where we make them. (It’s not like there’s one place that everyone goes, sits down and says, Let’s change the life a bit.)

Ye Olde Trail Tavern_IMG_5042

Ye Olde Trail Tavern, Yellow Springs, Ohio, where life-changing decisions are made.

As I strolled through beautiful downtown Yellow Springs, Ohio (pop. 3,487), I spied Ye Olde Trail Tavern, a place I might have frequented with my favorite professor in my misspent youth. (Any youth that is not misspent is wasted.)

What a change from the last time I saw it, back in the early 1980s. It had a neon sign!

It was here, in 1969, that I decided I go to Viet Nam, albeit not in the U.S. military.

I explained it this way on page 38 of my memoir, HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos:

When I started talking about dropping out because the education I chose was not matching the financial sacrifices my family and I were making, Dan came up with a truly radical idea: I should go to Viet Nam to study for a year under the Antioch Education Abroad (AEA) program.

I don’t remember exactly when he presented it as an option. Well, you could do another co-op term, or you could go to Viet Nam, he probably said. Hey, there’s an idea, Dan. I think I’ll go to Viet Nam. I hear it’s quite the spot.

We might have been sitting in a booth at the Olde Trail Tavern, a dive on the main drag through Yellow Springs. Dan and I downed a few pitchers of beer there, he holding court for me, the avid acolyte.

AEA sent a lot of kids to foreign countries, mostly in Europe, a few to South America, and even fewer to places like Kenya, Nigeria, and India. Going to Viet Nam was an intriguing idea, straight out of the “put up or shut up” school of decision making. We noodled over what it would take and how it would work. Paula Spier, a middle-aged, motherly member of the AEA staff, bought into it.

And in August 1970, I flew off for two of the most intriguing years of my life.

It’s all in HOTEL CONSTELLATION, and copies still available from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Smashwords and other fine booksellers.

It might even explain how I came to write my new book, The Mark of the Spider, but probably not.

Antioch Magazine Spotlights My Laos Memoir

The Antioch College Alumni Magazine just came out with a very nice write-up about my memoir, HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos.

The one-page spread includes three photos of mine and that picture of me interviewing Jane Fonda waaaaay back in 1972.

About 40,000 Antioch alumni, including this Class of ’73 grad, received copies of the four-color 58-page magazine. It’s part of the effort to rebuild the mother campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio, after the school had to shut down for lack of funding. (Yeah, colleges do close.)

I’m grateful to writer Michelle Marie Wallace, who listened to me ramble about my experiences, and to Carol Krumbach, who commissioned the piece.

Back to the Future Fiction

I just don’t know.

This retire-from-the-daily-grind-of-earning-a-living thing and spend more time writing just isn’t working out as I envisioned.

I’m busier now than when I worked for a living. Grandkids living a few minutes away and visiting at least weekly. Volunteering at the food bank. Gardening. Photography. Helping keep up the house and at the same time staying out of the way. Reading.

Where’s all the writing time?

Actually, I AM writing, but as I learned with HOTEL CONSTELLATION, my Viet-Nam era memoir, there’s writing and doing all the other things a writer does.


My book project filing system isn’t pretty, but it works for me.

So here’s the status update:

  • HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos — My college alumni association commissioned an article for its magazine, and I had a lovely chat with the young writer assigned to it. Not certain when it will be out. Will be attending a reunion of NGO Viet-Nam volunteers in the fall and am scheduled to appear on the “memoirs” panel.
  • The Mark of the Spider: A Black Orchid Chronicle — Been working on this forever and a day. My writers group assessed the ending last night and found it in need of another rewrite. I still expect to finish it in time to publish in early fall, certainly in time for the holiday book buying season. Worked the last several days on the publication plan and pitch materials; I’ll finish that this week and move back to the rewrite next week. I’ll have a lot more on this in the coming weeks.
  • Flight of the Spider: A Black Orchid Chronicle — I’ve been champing at the bit for months now to get to book two in the Black Orchid series.
  • She Asked for Green Salad — I jot notes from time to time for this family memoir, and it has its own three-ring binder (see photo above) so I must be serious about it.
  • Untitled Short Stories — I’ve got a short piece about a hospital messenger with too many corpses on his hands, but I need to work on the ending. I have another storty about an alien encounter in an elevator, but this, too, deserves a better ending.

And that is the end of this update. (See. I have real trouble with endings. Separation anxiety? I don’t know.)