NORMAL: stories from my life; (teaser from PART II: House Building)


My release date is still at least month out. The formatting is being held up by a design issue. 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 teasers from the secong section of stories:

I: Isla Vista 1970

                The Burning of the Bank of America

                The Crazy Concert

                Roland’s Trial

                The Boat

II: HOUSE BUILDING               

The House my father built in Glendale6 house in Glendale

… On one of our trips from Boston to California, Barbara and I stopped by a former neighbor’s home in Pennsylvania. They told us about their first encounter with my father. They lived next door to the vacant lot that had been overgrown with weeds for years. They had used the back of the lot for their vegetable garden. Shortly after the For Sale sign came down, they saw a man with a rented horse and plow come and till the land to get rid of all the weeds. They watched through their kitchen window as my father approached their garden. He stopped, then carefully plowed around the garden, making sure he didn’t damage any of the plants. Betty and Tom were so impressed that they went out and struck up a conversation. George told them his story: that he only had enough money to buy the land, and that no bank would give him a loan to build the house himself. Betty remembered that her aunt had just retired and was looking for a place to invest her money. Within a month and without a meeting, $10,000 was wired to my parents’ bank account.             

 The Stone House at Rumblin’s


There is only one ocean worthy of that name, the Pacific. Sunsets over the Pacific, whether in Santa Barbara, Maui, or Nicaragua, are the most beautiful sights this world has to offer. When driving across the country from the east, it is the bluffs of the Southwest that tell you you have crossed the continent. The great Southwest is a small token that the Pacific has bestowed on our land, a gift built up over time with the ebb and flow of the sea: mud pie after mud pie, patted, squashed, and baked hard by the sun; repeated until desired thickness, one to two thousand feet, varying the layers for texture and color.

8 white house

When crossing the Rockies of Colorado, the Uncompahgre plateau rising out of the Grand Valley is where one first encounters the ancient shore; an edge piece of this layer cake, seventy-five miles wide and twenty-five miles across with the back side tilted up a few thousand feet, sloping down like the top of one’s foot, with canyons like the spaces between the toes, where the runoff meets that of the Rockies on the other side of the valley, finding its way to the Colorado River, the winding path that still links this region to the sea. Half-way up the mesa, very little of the top crust remains, but enough to preserve a straight line horizon from most anywhere. A thick layer of rim-rock, maybe two hundred feet down, supports the shelves on the side of each canyon, and closer to the center is majestically exposed, forming the steep walls as the canyons descend several hundred feet to the creeks which have done the excavating.



                The House at the Land


… The five-year plan under way, I had to face the State, the guardian of “safety standards.” Safety is a word that carries with it a moral imperative. Standards is the innocuous word that actually means cultural norms, however decadent. Used together, the morality associated with safety is used to enforce a lifestyle that is unsustainable. Just because many people use an obscene amount of electrical appliances in their kitchen, and using these without adequate wiring would be unsafe, we are all forced to include this obscenity in our homes. I have no problem with the building code itself; I just don’t want to be required to conform to it. If people want to have the assurance that the home they buy conforms to this kind of “safety standard,” then put a label on the property that says “This house has been designated as safe for immoral idiots.” Most houses don’t conform to the code anyway, but are “grandfathered in.” I would prefer to live in a house that has been “granddaughtered in,” a home whose “standards” come from awareness of the limited resources we will have in the future.


I was born with gifts and abilities that might have allowed me to pursue a variety of professional careers. I was also born with the unwillingness to live my life limited by the expectations placed on people in these careers. But from time to time I have focused my energies on a particular field to the extent that I was able to pull off an impersonation of one or another of these professions. In high school I had flirted with the idea of becoming an architect. So I found a book that described the required sequence of plans, got large “standard” vellum and drew up a set of plans using a #2 pencil for the drawings and a #3 pencil for the lettering, all in capitals at a 23-degree slant between slightly visible guidelines; plot plan, foundation plan, elevations, framing details, including calculations for points of maximum stress. I rolled the plans up in a standard 2½-inch diameter roll with a standard rubber band around them. Lt. Colonel James Beplatt, the building inspector, unrolled the plans on his table, casually flipped through them and gave us the building permit. I’m pretty sure that was the only time he looked at them.

 Stitched PanoramaStitched Panorama

                The Hermitage


There are two ways to dig a foundation in the hills of Massachusetts: with a backhoe, or with a spoon. I used a spoon, and clippers, and when I had cleared away enough dirt and stones, occasionally I would cut a larger root with a tree saw. The lower edge of the boreal forest gives the appearance of a lush rain forest; every inch of the canopy is full of leaves and there are layers of growth beneath. But all of this life is supported by about two inches of soil covering the surface of rocks and boulders, which are on top of larger rocks and boulders. All of the roots weave their way around each other through this soil and tuck themselves in and around this pile of rocks.


oct2012 382


III: Travel

                Backpacking/Boy Scouts


                The 60’s Part I

                The 60’s Part Ii

                In Europe with Barbara


IV: Major Compositions

                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


V: Family Vacations


                Car camping

               Language Schools in Guatemala and Nicaragua

                Spring break with the girls in Florida


VI: Nicaragua



                On the Staff of AKF

                Transition to Entre Culturas


VII: Activism

                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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4 Responses to NORMAL: stories from my life; (teaser from PART II: House Building)

  1. dave says:

    Newell….more than good to catch up with you the other day. it seems our lives are blessed enough to connect occasionally. it was good to hear about your book, I’ve enjoyed reading the stories, which energized me when sometimes I was dealing with depression. the endeavors you take on ! i look forward to the next time we see each other around the neighborhood. best, dave


  2. ElenaLee says:

    Wow, the house is beautiful! I’m looking forward to reading your book’s full story–hopefully the design issue resolves soon.


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