For Hap breaking free from his apparent destiny and finding the promise in life that is just out of his reach is the prize he strives for; but, because of circumstances, he isn’t likely to reach it. His life is seen as one of mediocrity in a world otherwise filled with turmoil. It is only through the people around him who seem least likely to help that he can finally reach his goal.
This is a story about friendship and deception, and the joys and pains of childhood; but most of all about Hap’s struggles with the two choices that he must face in order to survive – ‘fight or flight’.
Where the Road Begins is a story of a boy named Hap Pozner growing up in the 1950s and 60s living in South Buffalo, NY just a few blocks away from Lake Erie and the plants and factories where the fathers, including his own, go to work. Hap believes it is his purpose in life to perfect mediocrity. It is life itself that just won’t let him pursue this end. Through his eyes we see how he grows from a child to a young man in a world where everything appears happy and peaceful, but is filled with painful secrets that disrupt his world and that of those he cares most about.
The tragedies that we see are juxtaposed by the wit and humorous antics of Hap and his friends. We experience the love and promise of life given Hap by his Italian-American upbringing and that of the people who make up this diverse ethnic neighborhood.
In this story the fictional characters intersect with historical figures and events to create webs that reach far into the future to touch Hap’s life.
Throughout this journey he experiences friendship, broken trust, loss, being lost, wronged and vindicated, a rite-of-passage, and finally the realization that his life is anything but mediocre.
Chapter 8: Don’t Eat the Orange Snow!
“Quit whining about being cold. We’re from Buffalo – we like to suffer.”
Two things stand out in my mind about this time in my life: orange snow and ‘duck and cover’.
Living in South Buffalo, within purview of the Bethlehem Steel Plant with smoke billowing from the several BOFs (basic oxygen furnaces), Chenango Pig Iron which produced most of the orange ore dust clouds that drifted lazily over my neighborhood, Donner Hanna Furnace, the coke ovens, not to mention Cargill Grain Mills and the various foundries and junk yards – all adding their own fragrance and flavor to the air we breathed, it’s a wonder we all lived past childhood.
‘Duck and Cover’ was a term used by everyone at my school, and I suspect in every school in the country. It referred to what we did during our bomb drills. The idea was that we were supposed to duck under our old wooden desks and cover our heads with our hands thus saving us from a horrible death when the Atomic bomb was dropped on us by the Soviets. Nice idea, but I think it served more as having something to do while you melt away from the blast of the bomb. This way there wouldn’t be 500 or so kids whining, crying or screaming. Thank God we never had to see if it really worked!
“Hap. Don’t ya just love it when we get the first deep snow.” Slick had a way of wiping out any memory of anything. He was like that in school too.
“Don’t you remember last winter you said you hated the cold and the snow. All you did was complain about how cold you were all of the time. You whined about the orange color it got after Chenango sent the clouds of dust over us. And to top it off you refused to play goalie because you said it was making you freeze standing in the net while the rest of us got to skate around and keep warm. Not to mention even your mother tells you to quit your whining about how cold you are. Remember, ‘We’re from Buffalo we like to suffer’.”
“Alright. I get it; but I just can’t help thinking how much fun it would be to dig tunnels in the snow and squirt water over the top to ice it up so we can have our own igloos. How about it?”
And with that we dug; and we dug; and we dug. I’ll have to admit it was warm inside, and it looked pretty cool; that is, until the ore dust fell and our igloos were orange. That meant our days of eating snow were over for the season.
The fields behind my house stretched for about a city block and was deep enough to have put another street with houses on both sides of it. But the city decided to leave it alone for now. They eventually made a park out of it.
This was a great place to make our tunnels; right next to where the firemen had opened the fire hydrant in order to flood part of the field to make our hockey rink.
Slick was a mole when it came to digging tunnels. He must have had some rat in his family genes somewhere. So we dug and we dug and we dug; or I should say he dug and he dug and he dug. I dug for a while; made my little igloo and laid inside and fell asleep.
When I awoke I called out to Slick, but he didn’t answer. So I looked for the entrance to his tunnel. When I found it, it was like a maze. He had dug paths going this way and that. But they all had one thing in common. Each one ended in a dead end. I began to panic. After all, even though he could be a pain, he was still my best friend and I had too few to be able to afford to lose him. So I ran out to get Sarge.
“Sarge! Sarge! Slick’s stuck in one of his tunnels and I can’t find him!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I ran to Slick’s house.
“Slow down there Hap. Now what’s the problem with that trouble-making kid of mine.” Sarge always had a kind word for Slick. I could see where Slick got his temperament from.
“We were digging tunnels in the fields and Slick disappeared!” I could feel that I was about to cry.
“Now don’t go getting out of control on me. A soldier knows how to keep his focus in time of battle. Get with the program private or I’ll have you up on charges.”
What the hell was he talking about? I knew at this point he would forget all about Slick if I didn’t get it together.
“Yes sir, I mean Sarge. I have it under control now.”
“That’s better. Now we need to get to our reconnaissance mission. It’s 1300 hours. Let’s split up and get our troops back here at 1320. Is that clear.”
“Yes Sarge. Crystal.” So I went to find some of the other kids and adults that were home and he did the same. Then we all went looking for Slick with shovels in hand. There had to be about 30 adults and kids from the neighborhood, men, women and even kids as young as 5 and 6 with little kid shovels. We were going to find him.
Sarge went about organizing everyone. I have to admit he was good at that. We combed the field; went through every tunnel, but he was nowhere to be found. That was when my dad called the fire department and the police. Now we had ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, you name it – they were there. By this time the moms all started making coffee and bringing it out with cake or cookies or whatever they had to give to the volunteers, firemen and policemen.
It was getting dark by this time; it gets dark early in the winter in Buffalo and we all began to get a feeling that he was somewhere buried under the snow in a collapsed tunnel – dead.
I began to cry at this point. “It’s my fault. I fell asleep in my tunnel instead of staying with him.”
My dad tried to console me, “Hap, you couldn’t have done anything to save him. If you went along you might be buried along with him.”
“I know, but I’d feel better if I were dead like him instead of being here having to feel guilty.” I had really lost it at this point. My dad saw that and just pulled me closer to him. He knew that there was nothing more to be said.
After a few minutes my dad saw how Sarge had just fallen apart and was sitting in the snow holding his head in his hands. My dad went over to him and said, “Sarge. I know that it’s too late to save him, but we’re not going to leave him out there. We’ll find him and give him a proper burial. Go home now. I’ll get some equipment in here to dig out all of the snow if we have to.”
At that point I saw everyone standing there waiting for my dad to tell them what they could do. They weren’t about to leave. I guess they were all thinking what if that were my kid. So they all spread out and began loading the snow in wheel barrels, sleds, wagons, anything they could find to haul it off. The kids were told to go home with the moms while the dads worked – even if it took all night...
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Unsolicited emails & letters:
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SOME AMAZON.COM REVIEWS:
Where the Road Begins, January 28, 2012
Mike Maccalupo's newly published novel, "Where the Road Begins," will remind the reader of childhood friendships and the good and bad parts of being young. Set in the 1950s and 60s in Upstate New York, the story follows Hap Pozner and his friends as they travel through adolescence to young aduthood. I think any age reader, but especially those in middle and high school, will be drawn into the lively story. The actions of the characters ring true and Maccalupo handles the believable traumas with restraint and subtlety resulting in an uplifting read.
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Where the Road Begins, February 21, 2012
Dr. Maccalupo (Mike) has written an excellent book. This book is a great read for anyone who grew up in the City, in any city! As a kid who grew up in Detroit I found the back drop and characters easy to relate to, in fact the whole story quite honestly reminded me somewhat of my own childhood and the colorful characters that I grew up with. Even though we don't always want to admit it our lives are not all that different. This is a trip down memory lane for most of us who were born in this country in the 1950's 60's or even the 70's I would dare to say! An enjoyable book that is as fast as a Roller Coaster and just as enjoyable!
H. T. Huchi
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4.0 out of 5 starsWhere the Road Begins, January 30, 2012
"Where the Road Begins" written by Dr. Michael Maccalupo is an endearing story about friendship and the sometimes confusing and heartbreaking world of growing up.
The descriptions of South Buffalo in the 1950's and 1960's and the antics of Hap and those around him will keep you turning the pages.
This book, like Hap's life, is anything but mediocre.
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Some Barnes & Noble Reviews:
Posted January 28, 2012
I grew up in South Buffalo and as I read the book I could visualize the areas and places Hap described. I enjoyed the many characters Hap encounters growing up and their stories. It's many stories within a story. Great book the ending brought a tear to my eye.
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Posted May 6, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
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Where the Road Begins, Michael's first novel, is a Coming of Age story of a boy named Hap and his friends growing up in South Buffalo, NY during the 1950s and 60s.
The tragedies that we see are juxtaposed by the wit and humorous antics of Hap and his friends.
In this story the fictional characters lives intersect with historical figures and events to create webs that reach far into the future to touch Hap's life.
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