Let me begin this intro-bio by revealing that I love to be up in the wee hours of the morning. Coffee is best at that time of day which also coincides nicely with the inspiring actions of my Muse. My name is Paul Bennett though my golfing alter ego is named Ocho Seis (more on Ocho later). I was born in 1951; way back in the days of the Eisenhower presidency, The Korean War and the Red Menace. Detroit is my hometown, though it is hardly recognizable now thanks to Toyota and Nissan, well The Big Three automakers helped out as well by being stubborn and turning out inferior automobiles.
The street I grew up on like many of the neighborhoods in the city was lined with towering elm trees. In the summer you could lie on your back, look up and see nothing of the sky, just the canopy of green leaves. Then the awful Dutch Elm Disease arrived. When I was really young the city used to spray the trees every year but that resulted in a rapid decline of the bird population. Once the spraying stopped the birds returned but then the trees died, citywide. It was like losing a loved one when the elm in front of my house was cut down.
The street and the alley behind my house were my first playgrounds and was where I began my lifelong love affair with baseball and football (American football that is; soccer in those days was considered a commie plot). The downside to playing baseball in a narrow alley was that it was lined with the yards of grouchy neighbors who frowned upon our intrusions into flower beds to retrieve a wayward baseball. The downside to playing touch football in the street was parked cars; these were the formidable all steel behemoths that caused great pain in the event of collision with a frail human body.
My education was of the public variety which means I had to learn a whole bunch of stuff that was irrelevant to real life. My favorite synopsis of public education is a line in the song Kodachrome by Paul Simon; to wit ‘When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.’ This was generally the case throughout my years in school with the notable exception of some elective American history classes I took at Cass Technical High School that bypassed the drivel of textbooks and sought for causes not names and dates. Those classes formed the beginning of my interest in our past.
My interest in things ancient had been kindled earlier by movies such as Ben Hur and Spartacus (flawed and incorrect as it is). My buddy Harry and I would use rolled up newspapers as swords as we fought against the evil Roman legions. A slightly more educated spark came from my reading of Heinrich Schliemann’s excavation of Troy. This curiosity was ratcheted up a few notches when I started classes at Wayne State University. Professor Milton Covensky was instrumental in making me a history nut with his teaching style and through his book Ancient Near East Traditions. Of course being less than proficient in math and the sciences also helped me decide what to major in. Thusly I became a Classical Civilization major and even learned (but long since forgot) ancient Greek. My favorite assignment/memory was from a class on life in ancient Greece and Rome. For the final exam I had to write an essay on the Watergate scandal from three perspectives and style; Herodotus, Thucydides and my own. It was certainly the most fun I ever experienced in a final exam. J However; I did not complete my degree as I was overtaken by the need to live a little. So, I quit school and my job and took a year and a half sabbatical from anything practical. The next 18 months were spent in frivolous activities such as traveling to California a couple times and smoking a lot of weed. Sometimes the two coincided, for example, when driving past Whittier, CA my buddies and I thought it would be cool to find Richard Nixon’s house and smoke a doobie in front of it and it would have been except for the fact that he lived practically next door to the Marine base at Camp Pendleton. We were rather surprised to see a marine guard station on the road ahead of us; fortunately we had time to do a U-turn before meeting up with the Semper Fi guys with guns.
Once I re-entered the practical world I found that historical fiction filled the vacuum left after quitting school. Authors like Mary Renault (The King Must Die; etc.) and Mary Stewart (her Merlin/Arthur trilogy) fanned the flames of curiosity but it wasn’t until after I married and raised a family that this love affair really took off. Nowadays I am inundated with books and authors that feed my need for things ancient. Colleen McCullough’s series on the fall of The Roman Republic for example sent me on a search for more works of this sort and boy have I ever found them. So many authors, so many books, call to me these days that I have had to create a spreadsheet to keep track.
Much of this largesse can be directly attributed to Twitter. I found and read the first three volumes of the most excellent Marius Mules series by SJA Turney. Piqued by his blurb about his website I started a Twitter account so I could thank him for the work done so far. This has led to a burgeoning friendship and the discovery of many fine authors of this genre; so many that I fear I may never be able to retire so as to have the necessary funds to buy all of these great books. J
Now as to other facts about me:
- Married Daryl in 1977
- Twin sons Jacob and Nathanael born in 1980.
- Moved to Salem, Ma in 1984.
- Daughter Bethany born in 1988.
- Grandson Bodhi and granddaughter Kaedyn born 4 days apart in October 2012.
- Have worked in various multi-platform data centers since 1980.
- Avid fan of The Detroit Tigers even while living in the heart of Red Sox Nation.
- Player of many sports as a young man, most notably softball and basketball.
- Due to aging joints am now a golfer – with my regular golf buddies have formed a group we call The Hoovers as in the vacuum cleaner and thus our motto is ‘We Can’t Suck Enough’
- The name Ocho Seis or just Ocho is the result of the best round of golf I have played. Shot an 86 a few years back and adopted that as my golfing alter ego. Note-I am aware that 86 in Spanish is Ochenta y seis but Ocho Seis has a better ring to it. Thus you will find Ocho in many of the stories I write.
- Drinker of only good coffee – fresh roasted/freshly ground from my friends at Thanksgiving Coffee, though I can take Dunkin Donuts coffee if I get it with a shot of espresso to give it some oomph.
- Drinker of only fine ales, stouts and porters. American industrial beers like Budweiser, Coors and Miller are an anathema to my sensitive palette.
- A cynic of the American political system. In the words of singer-songwriter Shawn Phillips ‘The country isn’t run by the statesman now, but by the gentry.’