After a year of steady writing and then several unexpected publishing delays, I’m glad to say that Odd Man Out has now been published. You’ll find that its style is a departure from what you are used to reading from me. None of my previous books were autobiographical, nor are most of the articles I write, including what appears on this blog. Instead, Odd Man Out is a short, honest, true story of what was by far the strangest ten-year period of my life.
It begins in Detroit, my hometown, in the late 1960s, when I had lost all faith in the American Dream. In its place, I turned to the spiritual values and interests of what was then called the Age of Aquarius, becoming one if its staunchest practitioners and preachers. That lifestyle sent me into strange places of the spirit, where I made major life-decisions that seemed sweet but turned so sour.
I was often on the road those years, and by July, 1976, the month that Americans were partying big time, celebrating the nation’s bicentennial, I was living like a hermit in southern California and had only the flimsiest grip on reality. Odd Man Out recounts those years when I was an Aquarian dreamer and how that lifestyle eventually left me in bitter disappointment on the beaches of southern California where, to my complete shock, I found myself in the throes of a conversion that revolutionized my life.
Okay, Strohmer, enough of the sales pitch! I’ll shut up now and end here with this short bit from the book, which describes one of several turning point events that shaped big decisions I made. This event took place when I was nineteen years old and have decided to begin what I called “the search for Truth with a capital T.” Following that path over the next several years will take me far away from participating in the American Dream. But at nineteen I’m still waffling, considering certain costs. There was much less waffling after the morning I totaled the Corvette. From the book:
“It is the autumn of 1969. I now have six siblings, three brothers and three sisters, all younger, and my parents have recently moved the family to southern California. But there are two exceptions to the familial upheaval, myself and a sister; we continue living in Detroit. For several weeks following the big move, our gray brick house on Kinloch in Redford Township remains empty, and I still have my key to the place. One Saturday morning I meet a friend there.
“Rick is helping me cart off what remains of my possessions to my new digs, a cheap but roomy four-bedroom flat on Telegraph Road in west Detroit. The empty house is strangely quiet. Rick and I are upstairs in my bedroom, a long rectangular space with wood floors that is now empty. Almost.
“I find the car, thick with dust and cobwebs, stashed deep within the rafters behind a wall of the bedroom. I had forgotten all about it. I haul it out, along with other objects from my childhood, which, if memory serves, included a small wicker basket, a beat up old suitcase, and a shoe box containing kiddie Valentine cards, some baby photos, and whatnot. The heavy baseball bat I do remember.
“What about this? Do you want to take it? Rick asks, shoving the car, which skids along the hardwood floor into the middle of the empty room.
“I don’t know.
“Today, that large, scale model of a white 1953 Corvette roadster is a sought-after collector’s item, itself loaded with symbolic value of the American Dream. I had received it as a gift when I six or seven. The sleek white convertible with its red interior stretched about a foot-and-a-half long, from its big, toothy chrome grille to its two tiny round tail lights. At one time it had working headlights and other ‘real car’ features that made me the envy of childhood friends.
“I wiped the dust from Corvette with a piece of old cloth and pondered its fate. Clearly it is the one thing of material value of mine that remains in the house.
“We see the heavy baseball bat at the same time. Like some Old Testament prophet acting out a piece of performance art, I grab it from the doorway and walk back to the center of the room and stand over the car. The American Dream scatters into a million pieces on the hardwood floor.”
©2017 by Charles Strohmer