Friday, December 14, 2007

Cowboys and Indians

A world of choice. When I was discharged from the service, the world beckoned me to choose a path. Opera. Preacher. Worker. Professional Student??? Well, I needed to work and got my original job back (no sweat, they had to hold it for me under law). And although I still sang in church and directed th ocassional a teen stage show, Opera (much to my parent's chagrin) was becoming a hobby. I began building a collection of hundreds of Operas and was gaining expertise as an opera-goer and listener. I returned to Brooklyn College, but didn't quite know what to major in. English mayhap? That would be logical for a writer, but I didn't view myself as a writer. That was now a hobby also.Life became a hobby. Fun, fun, fun. I continued scrawling poetry and got a few published including Catherine and The Twin Towers, a now eerie tribute to the World Trade Center (across the street from where I worked). I learned Italian (in case I still wanted to sing). I learned German (because I never did when I lived there). I read local histories, especially about Coney Island (because I had a subway trip and needed to fill in an empty commute). It was from this indecision that I wrote two seminal works. One was a romance about a sideshow performer who falls in love with his lady colleague. It was seminal in that the young hero of the work soon became one of my idee fixee charaters, a thin, wiry, bright eyed lad, who loved life and defied the odds. The work was a novella called Green Folly. It went from play to novella (as was my penchant) and (in part) still survives in a long hand draft.

The other work is more important, because it was a full length novel inspired by Brooklyn history and my own Native American blood. I am quarter blood Cherokee. This work, Nioche, was the torrid history of pre-Dutch Brooklyn when the Nioche tribe held the land during the invasion of the Maspeth tribe. It was about war and love and attempts at peace. It was sort of my Pearl Fishers. It had colorful, but authentic characters like Littafulchee and Enitachopco. The fact that these were Cherokee (that is Muskegon) as opposed to Algonquin, made no matter to me. There was even subtext gay character, a berdache who ends his seperation anxiety by walking into the sea. It had an old woman Gandalfian character—Littafulchee, a pattern for later such characters including the Old Grandmother in The Jade Owl. It was also the first time I used the name Wewoka as a character name. It would be used in my Cherokee poetry cycle Come Wewoka.

Nioche was pretty good, in fact the nearest I came to producing a coherent novel. It caused me to recognize I had a decision to make in my life. Then entered Professor Bela Kiroly, hero of the Hungarian revolution and his class on Military History and history stole my heart and soul, perhaps forever.

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