Preview of my book – NORMAL: stories from my life (with teasers from PART I, Isla Vista 1970)

My release date is about a month out. The book is being formatted now. Outskirts is the publisher and I will be sure and let everyone know when and how to get a copy.
But in the mean time, here’s the table of contents, and some teasers.


The Burning of the Bank of America

I moved back to Isla Vista in January of 1970 to start my first teaching job in the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara …

I don’t remember how it came up, but he asked me where I lived. I was living under a tree at the time and didn’t want to go into details, so I had been evasive. One of my poet friends later told me that Mudrick had assumed from my answer that I was a “kept man.”

… We were at the Student Union having coffee when I got the idea that a letter of recommendation from Dan might be the kind of thing that would impress Mudrick. The conversation went something like this:

–        Hey Dan, would you write a recommendation to Mudrick for me?

–        You write it; I’ll sign it.

I took a napkin from the table and wrote on it the above conversation and handed it to Dan. He signed it, making sure I could see that he hadn’t read it.

I don’t know if it was my “kept man” status, the napkin recommendation, or Fricker’s (my former teacher) consent, but I got the job, starting in January; my only successful attempt at getting an academic appointment. 

The Crazy Concert

 … Nature is climate specific, and altitude is a big part of climate. As we climbed the side of the mountain the flora gradually changed. Once we were out of the trees, I could locate the stratum we were passing through on the other side, seeing it in the context of the strata above and below. As we ascended, that context expanded. Because the slope was so steep, even halfway up the mountain, we were close enough to the opposite face that it filled my whole view. The bottom was out of sight; the top merged with the overcast sky, and as far as I could see from side to side was all one immense side of a mountain. As I looked from top to bottom, the ore-rich stones at the top with their oxidized colors gradually gave way to the greens climbing up from the bottom. Gravity and sunlight, each at work on its own medium, constantly tugging in opposite directions over millions of years to form this perfectly blended, intricately detailed scene: every irregularity, a hard outcrop, or slight crack, highlighted over time into ridges and crevasses of every magnitude, all V-shaped by the constant that is gravity. I couldn’t take my eyes off that mountain. I felt the need to describe it, to name it, to praise it, to proclaim its majesty.

 Near the top we pulled into one of those irregular formations, the site of an old mine. I was first drawn to the flowers, small, tiny. On my knees I could see there were more than I had thought. The colors were brilliant, all of those colors I didn’t know the names of, but my daughters now tell me. I began to notice among the rubble evidence of human presence: an old spoon, a segment of a rusted stove pipe, a bolt no longer holding its fragment to anything; all remnants of the industrial revolution made possible by this ore which had followed the same path as the rivulets down the mountain, along the streams and rivers to the port cities; smelted, molded into utilities, then like a virus, spread rapidly back up the trade routes to this mine with more efficient ways to extract the ore, spreading even to the small town of Ouray, named for the great Ute chief who had saved his people by negotiating with the white man, until the virus destroyed his people and his legacy.

 Lost in thought I got back into the jeep, making sure I would be on the view side. The experience on the way down was different. The mountain was the same, but I was different; my mind was silent. I let the mountain speak to me in its untranslatable language; communicate directly to my being, impress its form on me in its immediacy, unmediated by words or thought.

 I have since come to think of this experience as the insight process: encountering something worthy of attention, using one’s previous experience to investigate it, understand it, describe it and name it; then getting immersed in the details long enough that when one looks at the whole again, it makes itself known in a new way: insight. This process, the analogy of my jeep trip, became the model for the first movement of my Symphony.

For the event itself, we snuck into the concert hall to have the performance. Jim had done work-study with Buildings and Grounds, and had made a copy of the master key. I was not on good terms with the chair of the Music Department … I was pretty sure he would find a way to say no if I asked permission to use the hall. I have done a lot of not asking permission in my day. I built a wheel-chair ramp at my church in Boston without getting a permit and I handed in an opera, Cain, as my doctoral dissertation without ever being assigned a committee or advisor. Doing things that are obviously righteous without getting permission generally keeps authorities from making fools of themselves and also makes them do the paper-work if they want to take any credit.

Roland’s Trial

I don’t know how much of this had been planned, other than Dave. I honestly don’t think any of the rest of it was. It was just what these guys did, the way they interacted with the world around them, especially when there were important occasions and issues to attend to. This is how they had trained themselves to respond. And through it all Roland sat smiling, until he rose, triumphantly, turned and slowly proceeded up the aisle to the rear of the church, followed by Dave, still reading, Fred, (in a clown’s outfit) still emphatically preaching, backwards, and Brett, (with his whiteface) straining his neck to peer down every pew he passed. Henri jumped down from the rafters and joined them, as did I and the young couple whom Roland had befriended. We walked out of the building and went to Roland’s Table where we had some tea and chatted. It was after we had dispersed that the Council, followed by a posse from the church, arrived to take down the table. The next day the only thing missing was the flag. The table stood in place for at least another week. I’m not sure who paid for the bulldozer that eventually took it down.

The Boat


            Connie, me  

… Connie was young, but smart and level-headed. We got along well. Pat was more docile. He, too, loved Dostoyevsky. The Possessed was his book; Stavrogin his character. There was something about his leaving Berkeley that was related to this book, but he didn’t go into details. Pat always went barefoot. His feet were pretty cut up and infected but he wouldn’t put any antiseptic or bandages on them. I think there was some self-punishment associated with the Stavrogin identity; not sure. In any case he could barely walk and was pretty useless as far as helping, at least in the daytime. I’m not sure who was in charge of procurement, it happened at night.

… Connie got a book out of the library on sail making and we calculated how much material we would need, figuring canvas would be easiest to acquire. The morning we cut up and laid out the three-foot strips of canvas, I assumed there were several stores on State Street that were missing their awnings.



The House my father built in Glendale
The Stone House at Rumblin’s
The House at the Land
The Hermitage


Backpacking/Boy Scouts
The 60’s Part I
The 60’s Part II
In Europe with Barbara


Violin Concerto
Cain: an Opera in 3 Acts
El Salvador: Requiem and Invocation
The Cell: an Opera in 5 Acts
Ascona: an Opera in 3 Acts


Car camping
Language Schools in Guatemala and Nicaragua
Spring break with the girls in Florida


On the Staff of AKF
Transition to Entre Culturas


Economic Justice: Part 1. Colombia and FTAA
Economic Justice: Part 2. FTAA and CAFTA
Environmental concerns
Immigrant Rights


About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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One Response to Preview of my book – NORMAL: stories from my life (with teasers from PART I, Isla Vista 1970)

  1. Juliet says:

    Looking forward to reading this!


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