The featured image above is of Tony DePaul and Iron Piggy. (Photo courtesy & permission of Tony DePaul.)
Last December, I traded a flurry of emails with one of my favorite and longtime friends, David Bright. David and I went to the University of Maine at Orono in the 60s. At one point, 1968-1969, we even rented out the same house on Main Street in Orono, which was literally a stone’s throw from the infamous Pat’s Pizza, a 1930s circa, pizzeria institution and legendary hangout for locals and university folks alike. The house we rented then is no longer there. Surprisingly, we are still standing.
“Often, I believe, it’s the sixties themselves I want to talk about, impossible as that has always seemed to me” (11).
He expressed interest in it and said, “And while we’re talking about a writer’s blog here’s another one I subscribe to: < http://www.tonydepaul.net/ >. Tony lives about half an hour from you in Cranston, RI. He’s originally from Philly, I think, and I first knew him when he worked for me as a reporter at the BDN back in the day. For the last couple of years Tony has been the writer for the comic strip Phantom, also a good vs. evil tome, but with more medieval than futuristic themes. Tony is also an avid motorcyclist who has ridden east to west from Maine to the Golden Gate, and south to north from Mexico to Alaska.
In typical literary style and with the same day alacrity of response to David, Tony wrote to him, “Thanks for the introduction, Dave. This time yesterday I was wrenching on the ’49 truck in Sullivan, Maine, in 4-degree temps. Got the vehicle home to Little Rhody last evening.
“It was a whirlwind trip up & back, I was in Maine for all of 28 hours or so. Will stop in to say hi next time.”
The 17th arrived. I drove over to Lucky’s and arrived early. There weren’t many cars in the expansive parking area that is in front of the place. It is fairly nondescript outside. Something you see frequently on the side of the road here in the northeast.
We introduced ourselves to one another and I led him to the small table for two I had reserved. I didn’t know what to expect. But Tony’s a true gentleman. Despite the tough exterior, he is a very perceptive, sensitive and engaging conversationalist. We ended up talking about Dave, of course, and how we knew him.
“I can’t remember exactly when Tony arrived at the BDN. but I know he was there in May of 1985 because that was the year the Philadelphia Police Department bombed a building in Philadelphia housing Black activists. I mean really bombed—using C4 and Tovex TR2, a dynamite substitute, courtesy of the FBI, dropped from a state police helicopter with a 45-second timer. The resulting fire destroyed a three–block area and when it was all over 11 people were dead and 61 houses destroyed.” (https://mashable.com/2016/01/10/1985-move-bombing).
“I’m a Pennsylvanian by birth, born in Philadelphia in 1954. I met the love of my life in 1972, at college. She was sitting on a stone wall reading a book. I told a buddy of mine, ‘See that girl over there? I’m going to marry her someday.’ Immediately I faced three obstacles: I didn’t know her name, she already had a boyfriend, and she was a little on guard against crazy looking bearded guys. But we were married four years later and raised three lovely daughters. As for career, I was a newspaper reporter for 26 years. Now that my kids are grown I write on a freelance basis instead of sitting in a dreary newspaper cubicle every day. Truth be told, I mostly goof off and ride motorcycles.”
“Piggy because Harleys are generally dubbed hogs, and iron because she’s heavy. Stupid heavy, if you were to ask anyone who rides a really refined motorcycle, something engineered to be as powerful and light as technology will allow.
“Touring Harleys are heavy and underpowered for the weight, but I like everything about them. The heft, the sound, the way they rumble down the road. There’s nothing like touring the blue routes on a Harley V-twin. There are 6-cylinder German and Japanese tourers that run whisper-smooth, you can set cruise at 100mph, be perfectly comfortable, cover 1,000 miles a day, but so what? You don’t see anything. To me, there’s nothing like seeing America on a Harley, on the backroads at 50 or 60, it’s just the perfect machine to have under you.
“Iron Piggy’s a 2004 Road King Classic, 105,000 miles on the clock, and fully two–thirds of that is a long haul, over the road, touring for distance. In traveling trim she weighs 950 lbs. Quite a handful on gravel! She’s seen plenty of it.”
“Tony and another guy who worked for me, Joe Turco, were both Philly boys and followed the story closely. Turco was a wicked sharp copy editor, Tony was a do-anything-you-asked reporter. He came to us as a freelancer, and with no beat reporting assignment, we could send him anywhere any time. I’m not sure how he ended up in Bangor, but since his wife has people here (she might even be a Bangor girl), I’m guessing that had something to do with it. I’m not sure that Tony ever made it to the actual weekly payroll before he departed for the ProvJournal.
“I do know that after a year of freelancing in which he never had any withholding taken out of his checks he discovered he was going to spend a lot of his earnings to help pay for the U.S. adventures in the Persian Gulf (and probably other places we’ve yet to hear about). Hoping I could help him reduce his tax burden I told him to go to three different accountants to get his taxes done, see how the results compared, and then hand me the bills. Not sure if I saved him much money but he got a pretty timely story out of it.”
We talked about having this sense of overpowering wanderlust. This sense of adventure is aptly described by Robert Louis Stevenson (1879). “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”6
He had a similar gut reaction as me to this phrase and what it represented to him. “I took the job at the Providence Journal in September of that year, did not quite 20 years at the Projo, until that day in 2005 when I ghosted them, didn’t go back after lunch. Went motorcycle riding around North America, instead.”
I believe that Tony understands the soul and spirit of storytelling. It rolls out of him as though you are biking with him on the open road. Instead of the road going by underneath, and the wind of your passage buffeting against you as you sit astride your bike, you’re fully immersed in the sources of inspiration carrying you past the landmarks of his memory, experiences and imagination.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
— Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988)
1King, Stephen. The Dead Zone. New York, Viking Press, 1979. Print.
2King, Stephen. The Tommyknockers. New York, Putnam, 1987. Print.
3King, Stephen. Hearts in Suspension. Orono, ME, University of Maine Press, 2016. Print.
4King, Stephen. Hearts in Atlantis. New York, Scribner, 1999. Print.
5Hope, Steffen. “Interview with Tony De Paul.” Fantomey.org, Kjell Steen, the phantom Norway and Karl-Johan Lien, 27 Sept. 2007, web.archive.org/web/20070927211338/fantomet.org/hele_nyhet/id/142/. Accessed 21 Feb. 2019.
6Stevenson, Robert L. Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes: An Inland Voyage. Forgotten Books, 2017/1879. Print. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) is one of Robert Louis Stevenson‘s earliest published works and is considered a pioneering classic of outdoor literature.
7Heinlein, Robert A. Time Enough for Love. New York, Ace Books, 1988, p. 248. Print.
Heinlein, Robert A. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long. Paperback edition, New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978. Print.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. As the sole author of the Penitent – Part I, and the Penitent – Part II, and as the sole proprietor of Copper Beech Press, I have a material connection to these books, as well as to the publishing press, I have just listed. Other than my previously stated novels and publishing press, I have no material connection to the brands, products or services that I have mentioned here. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
© 20 February 2019 by A. Keith Carreiro
For information about my series, The Immortality Wars, please go to my home page: https://immortalitywars.com/