Order On the Strand at:
the Strand is available at a variety of locations: worldaudience.org, amazon.com,
many online book sellers, and at the Country Bean in Paola, Kansas, and
the John Brown Historical Site gift shop in Osawatomie, Kansas. See the
To Order Books and To Contact Me pages this site.
If interested in a signed book, just contact
me via Facebook or MySpace and I'll see what I can do. I don't always have books here at home with me. See the Contact
Me page for these links.
I enjoy signing books and presenting book readings and presentations of one sort or another.
Readers particularly enjoy my father's poems from To the Prairie and To God. See more about this on the About
Me page and how to Contact Me page.
it fate or responsibility that brought me to the plains? Or an escape? And why Kansas?
Certainly a girl was involved. The reason for heading west from my home in Virginia and making a
new one in Kansas is long and complicated. Maybe this is why I always looked at myself as the silent observer,
the kid who continually questioned his actions.
Looking in the mirror that morning, just over a month after Ronnie had rolled
his old man’s Studebaker with me riding shotgun, I noticed my head had only begun to sprout a fuzzy blondness.
Half my head had been shaved to the scalp; the other half was cut shorter to complete my lop-sided Kojak look.
An eight-inch red scar ran from my hairline to the lower left side of my skull. From behind, you
could see the jagged scar, where the surgeon had sewn my ear back together after telling me my head looked like I had been
rolling around in a pasture of horse shit.
My red badge of courage was a chicken’s-foot scar above my left eyebrow. This I didn’t mind.
After two hundred stitches inside the hairline, I wanted a sign to announce, “Hey, I survived a bad wreck.”
The Studebaker had rolled three times
on a warm July 27, 1968, evening, freezing the speedometer on 95. The cops and our parents never wised
up to our mission that night. Seven guys in one Studebaker out to pick up girls. What a joke, but somehow my emptied rum pint
disappeared into the woods or had been destroyed in the accident. I haven’t a clue.
Ronnie lost his driving privilege
from his father, Mercer, and had been required to work construction and whatever jobs he could find to pay his father for
the lost car. On the first day of school, right after Labor Day, Ronnie and I hitchhiked to school, rather than take the bus.
To me, this was prolonging the embarrassment of being seen in the Dixie-cup sailor’s hat—my father’s Navy
hat – that I was wearing, sides down, to hide that huge red scar etched into the left side of my head.
My eyes were focused on the front
door of what looked like a giant red-brick, two-level rectangle of a school built in 1954 and named after a well-known Robert
E. Lee biographer. I knew kids were going to be looking at me, the dumbshit looking kid with the weird
hat on his head. I was right, but I just breezed on by with thoughts of Fuck you
going through my head, as well as a few very real “Fuck you” comments thrown at Ronnie, my taller, brown-haired
best friend, who kept teasing me from behind what I felt was a smirky-smile, but which was quite innocent and caring.
Kevin and Ronnie in saner times working the desk at
the FBLA state convention in downtown Richmond, November 1969. Note: my hair is combed over the left side of my head to help
hide my zipper-like scar inside the hairline.
Kevin's Waking Up in the Studebaker
is also available!
The two books began as one manuscript titled On the Strand. At least
this was the result in 2000, when I finished my master's degree in creative nonfiction from the
McGregor School of Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I felt this thesis too condensed and chose to flesh
out characters and the story. This is when I realized I had two books.
Waking Up in the Studebaker became
book one of this two book memoir. Readers follow Kevin from his earliest memories to a close call in a Studebaker on one warm
July evening in 1968, when my best friend, Ronnie, lost control of the car and rolled it three times. On the Strand
picks up with where I ended Waking Up. I am literally walking across the school yard to enter high
school, still a shy asthmatic kid, who was excited about the possibilities of the public high school, and hoping to do better
in school than I had done at his private school. Girls and making new friends topped my priority list,
though. - KG
Kevin Gray in Amsterdam, June 1970, with his journal in hand,
the same one reprinted in On the Strand.
From On the Strand:
All those famous people were keeping journals and diaries.
Why not me?” There’s only one problem. I don’t have any idea
how to write a journal. So what! I’ll just keep taking notes and write down shit
about places and my feelings. Who’s going to read this shit anyway?
From On the Strand:
Frankie responded with uncanny insight
to my request. She described me as, “Kind, shy, quiet, and very loyal. You had
a dry sense of humor and were ‘on the wild side’ and always ready for something different – always questioning
things and authority: REBELLIOUS!!!” She ended her memory with a telling statement:
“You were hard on yourself and did not believe in Kevin.”
From On the Strand:
For some reason, I
had been in such a hurry to grow up. Only the right breaks never seemed to come along until I left home
to attend college and had met my Kansas girl right there in my dorm room.
Kevin met Diane, his Kansas Girl, on the first day he arrived.
Only she was dating his roommate. Photo taken in Mitchell Hall winter 1973.
From On the Strand:
Hey stupid, she’s
the Kansas Girl! You had thought of a Kansas girl when you were 14! My prophetic dreaming as a fourteen year old had come true; only now, I ran the chance
of losing the brown-haired girl with those amazing eyes who happened to share my interests in politics and music.
School ended on May 15 and, while driving straight through to Richmond,
again, I kept asking myself, “Why was I always leaving wonderful girls to pursue long-distance romances?”
Stupidity was my only answer.
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