Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982
What started off as an adventure for a young Frenchman in America led to a lifelong passion for punk rock and the world stage. Phil Marcade brings us his inside look at the birth of punk rock in New York City in the late 70s and early 80s. He originally came over because of the poetry of the Beats but fell in love and decided to stay. He wound up in New York with a bunch of friends, and one day he and his mates formed a band called The Senders. This memoir recounts those early days: the bands, the people, the drugs, and the clubs. A lot of bands come and go, and he got to witness the birth of some of the most iconic music venues. This is not so much a narrative but instead more of a series of short stories, all told around the same concept of punk rock.
For fans of punk rock, this will be a trip down memory lane, especially all the bands Phil interacted with. He is full of stories, and whether all the stuff he has down is entirely accurate is a different matter; nevertheless, they are fun to read.
Three Rooms Press
Confessions of a Headmaster
Confessions of a Headmaster takes the reader on a journey through one prominent California educators life and how he came to open his own highly acclaimed school that would go on to produce high-achieving graduates while taking a look back at where author Paul F. Cummins got his start and how his experience with his own education paved the way for a future generation.
Unlike the typical memoir, Confessions of a Headmaster doesn’t start at the beginning. The book is broken into several different sections, part I entitled Crossroads 1970 and Onward. Crossroads is the name of the first school Cummins opened in Southern California and became the first of many successful ventures into education reform in the area. Cummins became the headmaster of St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal School in Santa Monica in 1970. Knew nothing of elementary education, no credentials. But, as he writes, the board was desperate. From there, he paints a vague picture that he came from a hippie school background where kids play guitar and have long hair. But, apparently, the board was impressed with his background and mentions his PhD from USC, BA from Stanford, Harvard MAT. Its not until part II in the book well learn more about that.
Although the memoir describes itself as working to achieve social justice through education for all youth: from children of celebrities to foster and incarcerated youth, we dont get to see the actual social justice part until the part III of the memoir: New Roads and New Visions 1990 and Onward. Confessions of a Headmaster is less of a coming into ones own story of struggle and determination of bringing social justice to minorities, but rather just the story of a man from a privileged background and how he used that to his benefit. No doubt Cummins is well regarded in education community of Southern California, and it is exciting to see that he is branching out into using his connections in communities that could use his experience.
The Spirit of Villarosa
In the hazy days after Baby Doc fled Haiti with the national treasury, Americans quickly became prime targets of kidnapping in the collapsed social structure. Marc Ashton was nabbed right outside his palatial estate which had been built by the famous photographer, adventurer, and diplomat, Horace Dade Ashton. llAlthough it becomes clear that Marc draws the necessary strength and courage from memories of his father in order to survive the ordeal, the mixing of these two narratives creates a yo-yo effect that jerks the reader from one part of the world to the other, from one point in history to another. At one point, the suspense of Marc’s story hangs on a jagged edge of life or death when he makes a break from his machine gun toting captors, but the reader must go around the globe with his father before finding out if Marc escapes or is shot. llReworked into separate biographies, both stories might easily succeed. After all, Horace Ashton’s adventures included photographing the first flight at Kitty Hawk, President Teddy Roosevelt at Panama, adventures with the Explorer Club in Africa, and photo interviews with Mark Twain.
Crowning Glory — An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise
Stacy has had an unhealthy obsession with her own locks since middle school, when a careless remark brought unwanted attention to her hairs deficiencies. Add to this the issues shes had with men and relationships, and going out in general, and shes had a lot to handle.
On a whim, she purchases a long, red wig, and notices not only the way people respond to her but also changes in her behavior. These events lead her to do an experiment using the same wig in various natural hair colors. In addition to doing important fashion research, it keeps her busy and focused for several weeks, perhaps stopping her critical evaluation of herself and her unpredictable states of psychosis.
She finds an assistant to help with observing and tabulating information, and sets up the experiment. She will wear basic black, tailored for various locations, in New York City, so the focus stays on the hair color. The last week, her control week, will be her natural hair, in the same clothing and the same general places. Her observations from each hair color red, black, blond, and brown include her honest take on her personality changes as she dons the locks about the city. She incorporates her assistants notes and includes related events that happen outside the experiments parameters.
Her honest recap of events sometimes borders on too much information, but helps to show her personal growth throughout the experiment. Her quick, witty self-evaluation during various phases of her experiment bring humor and lightness to something that could have been dry and boring, but is instead engaging and intellectually stimulating. Photographs that coordinate with each chapter help to bring visual interest. Even though the experiment did not strictly follow the accepted scientific research method, those reading this out of pure personal interest may find themselves agreeing with her findings and wondering about the role of hair color in society.
Jackie, The Adventures of a Little Boy Trying to Grow Up.
Jackie was just a normal boy, growing up with his brothers and sister in a household in Canada in the 1930s and 1940s, far removed from the wartime troubles of Europe. His parents were Finnish, and Jackie had a great love for the classic Finnish foods his mother prepared, especially her coffee bread. These were the years when Jackie began school, with some teachers that he loved, and others that he despised. These years were full of fun with friends and family, including snow castles and scout trips and holiday excitement. And while childhood was not all sunshine for Jackie–there were medical procedures to endure and different fears to overcome–overall, the experiences were positive.
Jackie recounts a smattering of events from the childhood of the author, John Tammela. Written with clarity and carefully reconstructed dialogue that is quite believable, this somewhat novelized memoir makes for an enjoyable, lighthearted reading experience. Some of the stories are just fun, such as when Jackie has himself crowned king, or the process of building and defending an epic snow castle. Other stories hit darker parts of the emotional scale, like Jackie getting over his fear of the dentist, and the scout hike that could have ended very, very badly. This book is refreshing in that it does carry an overall uplifting note; many authors write memoirs because they need to talk about traumatic events from their past, but Tammela offers primarily happy stories, and even his harder stories are viewed through a positive lens. There is nothing in this book that is hard to read, and the easy, flowing way that Tammela spins his stories makes Jackie a great novel to delve into, the kind of book that might help you forget your own problems for just a little while.
Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands
Jorge P. Newbery began a quest for Olympic greatness when he took up bicycle racing at the age of 19: The year was 1984, his hometown of Los Angeles was host to the Olympics, and his father had just given him a used bike. Newbery bought some books on bike racing and started training 500 miles a week. It was the burn zones he experienced in training and racingthose periods of extreme effort that separated the winners from the rest of the cycliststhat gives his new memoir its name. Burn zones became his metaphor for pushing through all the challenges hes faced as a serial entrepreneur. Focus on enduring the pain until the pace slows, he writes.
Burn Zones: Playing Lifes Bad Hands, Newburys new memoir, is a remarkable story. For decades, Newbery believed that he could win at anything he set out to do. For decades, that proved true. Indeed, his quest for the Olympics was not as farfetched as it might seem. Newbery was already accustomed to setting and reaching astonishingly high goals. He got his first job at the age of seven, delivering a daily newspaper from his Raleigh Chopper to houses in his neighborhood. Soon, he was delivering two competing dailies. At 11, he bought a used, oversize tricycle fitted out with a freezer unit: He pedaled it around his neighborhood and to various road races, selling ice cream treats. Then he started a record company and representative alternative bands. All this before he got that bike for his 19th birthday.
He didn’t make it to the 1988 Olympics, but participated in distance racing around the country. His first significant failure, he writes, came when he fell ill during a 21-day stage race in Mexico. He couldn’t finish the race. He returned home and drove himself harder, training more and losing so much weight that his family started calling him Skull. When he developed bronchitis, he decided it was time to look around for a new challenge. He met someone in the mortgage business and was intrigued both by what she did and how much money she made. So he got his real estate license, his first Brooks Brothers suit and a job as a loan originator. A few years later, he joined forces with a partner to launch a mortgage company. He soon started buying up rental properties in Los Angeles. He started with small properties, and then branched out to larger properties around the country. His specialty was acquiring housing projects in distress and turning them around. At the peak of his real estate business, he owned more than 4,000 apartments and a net worth in the tens of millions of dollars.
Then, in 2004, a natural disaster struck one of his largest properties, the 1,100 unit Woodland Meadows in Columbus, OH. Virtually overnight, he lost everything: Tens of millions of dollars and thousands of apartments. He was crushed and $26 million in debt. He was not yet 40. He struggled with his losses and the shame of his very public failure, negotiating debt relief and trying to figure out what he should be learning from the crisis and how he could go on. In the midst of his struggles, he got a call for help from a friend who was losing her house to foreclosure. He wasn’t able to help her; he had too much debt of his own. But the call got him thinking about all of the people in similar situations: Too much debt, unaffordable mortgages, and far too close to losing their homes. He started formulating a plan for his future. He would create a business designed to help others, staggered by crushing debt, to stay in their homes. He founded the business, American Homeowner Preservation, and today runs it out of Chicago.
Newburys story of winning, losing everything, then rebuilding a life in which his purpose is helping others rebuild their lives makes for a compelling read. Not every reader will share his unrelenting drive and focus or his taste for risk-taking, but his telling of despair and humiliation at the darkest hours and how he turned his loss into strength and success are both thrilling and inspirational.