Click on the links below to read excerpts from each story
in Roads Less Traveled, along with selected passages from
my interviews and other material.
Bob McQuillen Living legend of New England contra dance. Bob's been playing for dances
since 1947, and he's written over 1300 dance tunes.
David Krempels Survivor of a traumatic brain injury; established a foundation
to help others with brain trauma in the Portsmouth, NH area.
Kate Phillips Hollywood actress in the 1930s and 40s, screenwriter in the 50s, teacher in later life. Best known for penning screenplay
for the original version of The Blob (w/Steve McQueen) and for her ability to scream on cue. Her screams are still used on
Will Ackerman Guitarist, producer, founder of Windham Hill Music, credited as the creator of New Age as a musical genre. His life
story is full of incredible high and low points.
Courtney Haase Former nun, former goat farmer (not at the same time).
Now makes rosaries and chaplets at her home in Sutton, NH. This chapter tells the story of her very unique journey.
Roger Payne and Lisa Harrow Roger is a marine biologist and environmental activist
most famous for discovering the song of the humpback whale. Lisa is an accomplished actor in stage, screen, and film, and
a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. They met at a "Save the Whales" rally in Trafalgar Square.
Mighty Sam McClain Supremely talented soul/R&B singer, almost hit the
big time in the 1960s. But his musical career stalled, and he fell into poverty and substance abuse for more than two decades.
He's now clean and sober, happily married, and making music again. He's overcome tremendous hardships, and he is still an
Beatrice Trum Hunter A pioneering writer on food and nutrition. She was preaching
the value of whole and natural foods, and the dangers of chemicals and food additives, long before they became trendy.
Kim Christiansen Artist and craftsman best known for Braille jewelry: flat silver pieces with Braille messages stamped into them.
As he was once told, he's made Braille "a thing of beauty, rather than just a functional tool." He's also worked
in other media; he loves to explore, tinker, and discover new ways to make art.
Father Andrew Tregubov and Grigory Likhter Two Russian emigres who came to America in the 1970s, each with a remarkable story. Tregubov became a Russian
Orthodox priest, and serves at the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Claremont, NH. (He was Alexander Solzhenitsyn's priest
when the writer was living in Vermont.) He is also well-known in Orthodox circles as an iconographer -- a maker of the iconic
images used in Orthodox worship. Likhter is a marvelously talented wood craftsman, furniture maker, and interior designer.
Their paths crossed in the late 1970s, when Likhter fashioned incredibly ornate wood carvings in the interior of the Holy
Betty Johnson A singer who's had three separate careers. As a child,
she was part of the Johnson Family Singers, which had a daily show on CBS Radio and recorded on Columbia Records. As a young
adult, she became a solo pop star in the 1950s and early 60s; her records appeared frequently on the pop charts, and she was
a regular on numerous TV shows, including Ed Sullivan, Jack Paar, and Mike Douglas. She left the music world in 1964 to raise
a family; then, in her senior years, she started performing again. Thanks to the Internet, she's connected with thousands
of fans, new and old, around the world.
Dudley Giberson A true Renaissance man. Giberson is a glass artist, inventor,
and historian. His inventions are commonly used in glass-art studios around the world, and he has rediscovered the long-lost
techniques of ancient glass makers.
Renny Cushing and Kristie Conrad Both are lifelong social activists from southeast New Hampshire. They were two of the founders and
leaders of the Clamshell Alliance, which fought for years against the construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in
Seabrook, NH. In recent times, Cushing took up a new cause; after the murder of his father, he became a leading activist against
Betty Lauer Berta Weissberger was born in 1926 to Jewish parents
in Germany. She and her family wound up living through all of World War II in Poland -- German Jews trying to pass as Polish
Catholics, under constant fear of discovery and death. She fought in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. After the War, she emigrated
to the US and married an American. Hers is an incredible story of persistence and survival.
Eric O'Leary A ceramic artist and son of Jack O'Leary, a leading ceramicist of his time. Eric has pushed his art in dramatically
new directions; he has become a designer and creator of massive environmental installations. He's also been a leader in the
effort to teach potters in the developing world how to make pottery without using lead, a common (and highly toxic) element
in low-temperature glazing.
Jane Bernhardt A multitalented creative force: actor, artist, writer,
and crafter of solo theatrical works. In the 1970s, she was very successful as an actor in TV commercials; but her spiritual
journey led her in much more meaningful directions. Her work has taken her to many places, including a homeless shelter, Soviet
Russia, Auschwitz, and Hiroshima.
Chris Calvin Baker and owner of The Baker's Studio in White River Junction, VT. I spent a workday with him -- starting at
1:30 a.m. He was constantly on the go, mixing dough, baking, and making bagels, and telling me the story of his life. I call
him "the hardest-working man in White River," and I think you'll agree.
Scott Nehring A supremely talented and dedicated maker of wood furniture. He works entirely by hand, using the
finest hand-made tools. He works for months on a single piece of furniture, using no glue or metal joinery; every piece is
made to fit precisely together. His goal is to reach the absolute peak of his craft, which he freely acknowledges is unattainable.
Larry Polansky and Jody Diamond Two people who are entirely dedicated to music. Polansky
is a guitarist, composer, and computer programmer. Diamond is one of the country's leading experts on the gamelan music of
Indonesia. Together, they run Frog Peak Music, a composers' collective whose aim is to keep contemporary music available,
in print and recorded form.
Linn Harwell A longtime activist for reproductive rights and population
control. Her involvement was inspired by a tragedy in her youth: the death of her mother from an illegal abortion.
Rick and Melissa Ayotte Father-and-daughter glass artists who share a studio
in New Boston, NH. Rick is one of the foremost craftsmen in a specialized field: fine-art paperweights. His nature scenes,
enclosed in glass, are incredibly detailed and accurate. Melissa was a star basketball player in high school, leading Nashua
High to an undefeated season. Since becoming an artist, she has learned much from her father and taken her art in some surprising
Karen Kelly A psychotherapist from Concord, NH, and a peace activist
who has traveled the world on a unique sort of mission: she coordinates public mural projects, often in the world's trouble
spots (Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Asia, South America). In the process, she helps people discover commonly-held values,
and leaves behind a daily reminder of those values.
Bruce Cronin and Babe Sargent Two lifelong friends; Cronin is a filmmaker and magician, while Sargent is an actor, artist, and
retired marina operator. In the 1970s, they made two short comedy films, The Wild Goose and Henry Phipps Goes Skiing. The
films have given them, in my words, an unusual sort of fame.
Townsend Howe An artist, determined to paint since childhood, but struggled
for decades to make a living at his art. Until his mid-5os he held a series of day jobs and painted whenever he could. Finally,
in his later years, he became successful enough to paint full-time, which he did happily until his death in 2007.