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Newsletter Dated: 3/31/2012 9:56:09 AM
Subject: Going home......
I just returned from my home town, Ellwood City, Pa, the setting for Charlie No Face. I was there to do two readings on Thursday (AARP and Rotary) and then, on Friday, an assembly for 7th and 8th grades at Lincoln High School, my alma mater. Go Wolverines! Every time I go home I take a walk through the neighborhood that formed the landscape for this novel. I walk down the streets and past the houses of people who figured in the story. I linger at the baseball field near by, walking the outfield, standing on the pitcher’s mound, crouching behind home plate, settling in the dugouts where I spent many of my fondest hours as a youngster. I drive down the main street where the Majestic and Manos theaters, long since gone, used to fill our imaginations. I always drive past Pee Wee lunch, now a tiny hole in the wall store for Canadian medicine, of all things, but once a favorite spot for hot dogs and chili. Every block is a memory and every memory is a story.
I graduated HS in 1968, the year of the Tet offensive in Viet Nam, the draft lottery (I was a happy 348), the resignation of Lyndon Johnson, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Also the year that I started dating the girl who is now my wife of 40 years. I don’t think I have been back to the HS since. Although the interior of the building has changed somewhat, there were parts of the school that hadn’t changed at all---the yellowish brick block walls in the hallways, the ‘old gym,’ the auditorium where, as I mentioned to the students in the assembly, I used to sleep in study hall. They’ve spiffed up the décor considerably and added new seats, but it was still the same auditorium where I sat through many assemblies wondering, “Why do I have to listen to this?”
Lucky for me the teachers who organized this event had prepped the students for months in advance. The kids were remarkably excited, attentive and interested in the story, including its message about compassion for those who seem different. A half dozen students acted out a scene from the book; others volunteered for an on stage experiment; and hands shot up when I was done, as students asked question after question.
I had a great time, perhaps the best since I’ve been out ‘on the stump’ with this book.
The week before I went to Ellwood, I also had the privilege of giving the keynote talk at Monroe Community College’s Department of Human Services Conference on Bullying. I was invited after some students had read Charlie No Face.
In the last week, I have spoken to audiences ranging in age from 12-92. Very cool.