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Steve Waldeck Creator of Atlanta’s Flight Paths

Flight Paths

As frazzled travelers pulling bags and navigating to new flights at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport descend into the long passage between Concourses A and B, a forest canopy of gentle light showers down on them.  Flight Paths, monumental in concept, is the final achievement of Steven Waldeck’s decades-long journey as an artist.  Passing there, I remember a different forest canopy I shared with him.

We were college roommates, freshmen thrust randomly together by Ohio University’s housing clerks.  On a sunny October afternoon, we forded the shallow river that bounds one side of the campus and hiked into the autumn dazzle of an Appalachian forest on the Hocking’s hilly eastern side.  The brilliant sunlit trees – maples, oaks, poplars, hickories and walnuts – mixed above us an artist’s palette of greens, yellows, golds, reds and browns.

See the source image Steve walked a few steps ahead of me as we followed a narrow, almost dry creek into the woods.  We were looking up into the canopy.  I glanced down.  A leafy carpet layered the stony stream bed.  A step in front of Steve a small pool of water had gathered, and gathered in it, lay a copperhead, three feet long.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is copperhead-1.jpg  “Snake!” I yelled.  Steve froze in mid-step, holding his right foot, about to land near the copperhead, in the air.  “Come straight back,” I said, keeping my eyes on the snake.  Steve looked down, saw the danger, and back-stepped towards me, out of strike range.

The copperhead watched us. We watched it.  Standoff.  None of us moved.

“What do we do?” I asked Steve.  “Kill it?” There were hefty rocks in the creek bed.

Steve took in the lay of the land.  “There’s room to walk around,” he said.  We moved slowly to our left, then continued up the stream, wary, but still enjoying the brilliant autumn day.  Coming back, we passed the little pool where the snake had lain.  It was gone.

In the dining hall that evening, we sat quietly with our food trays, pensive.  Eventually, Steve said, “I’m glad we didn’t kill the snake.”

“Me, too,” I said.  “I’ve been thinking a lot about that.”

“We intruded on it,” Steve said.  “It wasn’t after us.”  And I agreed.

When I see Flight Paths, as its forest bath of light and color and gentle sounds showers down on stressed and weary travelers, I remember that autumn day in Appalachia, when my friend chose harmony over violence, coherence over discordance, and let-it-be over annihilation.  Steve was at the start of his artistic career, in the infancy of his aesthetic, exploring the twists of creativity, pushing the turns of invention and the boundaries of expression.  In the long, soothing corridor of forest light that he left us in Atlanta, there survives the humanness we shared on that long-ago Appalachian day, and as I was glad of it then, I am also glad of it now.

Bob Dylan, Desolation Row, and A Rat in the Kitchen

Bob Dylan, head slightly cocked, stared at me from the wall of my Peace Corps home, a dirt and wattle hut in a remote Ethiopian village. Highway 61 Revisited flickered, hanging on a thread I’d snaked through the the album cover, glossy in the candlelight of my little house that had no electric, no water, and most of all, no record player.

“Stupid situation,” I imagined Dylan saying, an abrupt harmonica wail highlighting the “stupid”.

A friend had gifted me the then-new album while I packed for two years in the African back-country. “Stay in touch,” she said. “Lots is happening in America, too.” A few days later, I was in my village, two miles up on the high escarpment of southern Abyssinia. Just behind the town, mountains jutted skyward another 4,000 feet, catching fluffy clouds that drifted above thorny acacia trees and packs of shaggy-maned baboons on the long savanna that stretches from the Somali Sea 200 miles away.

My Peace Corps Home
Village Life

Addis Ababa, the capital, was two days away – by horse for several hours to reach the last kilometer of all-weather road, there to catch a truck-taxi to the next town, and then onward in crowded market buses. After three months in the village, I made the trip, and discovered a small electronics shop in the Piazza, the bustling square that is a legacy of Mussolini’s invading armies. In the shop’s window, gray, plastic, compact, and Panasonic, was a battery-powered phonograph. Out of my pocket came a month of my meager Peace Corps pay, and into my pack went the record player.

“And you’ll need those,” the shopkeeper said. He pointed to a carton of long, fat D-cell batteries. “Lots and lots of those.”

Lots and lots of D-cells

Back in my village, I pushed six D-cells into the underside of the phonograph, took the album off the wall, and swung the arm gently down onto the vinyl. Electric Dylan exploded into my little living room. I played, replayed, and played again the hurtling images. And that was my music for two years. Especially, “Desolation Row.”

I had a funky chair with flat wooden arms, each wide enough to hold a candle, and two candles were just enough to read by. I’d brought Russian novels, thick books like The Idiot, to occupy my nights. I sat in my bare living room, slowly absorbing Dostoevsky and Tolstoy while Dylan sang from a shadowy tabletop, and the phonograph chewed through batteries. About 9 p.m. the rain began. All day the wall of mountains behind the village captured incoming clouds, and as the temperature on the high plains dropped after sunset, the clouds condensed and let loose. About 10-o-clock, the rat came in.

Towering mountains trapped rain over my village

Rat slipped in through the kitchen floor boards, and I never found exactly where. There wasn’t much in the tiny kitchen – a prep table with a kerosene burner for cooking, a plain set of wooden shelves, and a three gallon bucket, my daily ration of river water. Also, a burlap sack with a hundred pounds of flour sat on the floor, leaned up against the far wall. Nightly in the dim candlelight, Rat scurried for the flour sack, Dylan pumping out of the phonograph, rain dropping in torrents outside my front door. And the discharged D-cells were piling up.

So each night before I settled in to read, I lined up eight or ten of the hefty batteries on the chair arms, behind the candles, and started my album so that its eleven-minute finale, “Desolation Row”, would engage about the time I expected Rat. As the guitar strummed into, “They’re selling postcards of the hanging,” I’d peer out into the dim kitchen, grip a battery, and wait to see Rat’s dark form inch up the tan burlap. And, most nights, by about, “The riot squads are restless, they need somewhere to go,” Rat would be there.

Fling. Thud. Fling. Fling. Thud, thud. I’d send the batteries hurtling across my living room into the kitchen, the projectiles thunking into the flour sack. I’d sing along as Dylan intoned “You’re in the wrong place, my friend, you’d better leave”. And if Rat was still there as Dylan leaned into “Get outta here if you don’t know”, I’d belt out that line, too.

I never hit Rat. He was slow and none too bright, a high altitude rat deprived of oxygen and lucky that my aim was abysmal. After a few thuds, he’d turn back down the sack and disappear into the kitchen gloom as Dylan raced on to the song’s end, “Don’t send me no more letters, no, not unless you send them from Desolation Row.”

Sheik Hussein’s Shrine

Thus passed two years, serving humankind in the daytime, in a daft reality at night. Just before I left my village, I put the worn record back into its album cover and taped the sleeve shut. Then I rode far out into the savanna, to a lone tree far from any hamlet or farm. The tree, revered locally as Sheik Hussein’s Shrine, celebrated a mystical appearance there by Archangel Michael. A green row of spiky cacti was planted around the tree to protect it from grazing animals, and a small stone cairn rose on one side. I slipped between the cactus spines and leaned Highway 61 Revisited against the tree, Dylan, his head slightly cocked, staring back at my village. And then, I rode away.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this vignette about Bob Dylan’s times and travels in the early Sixties. There’s more adventure to be had in my full length novel A Lesion of Dissent, just a click away at either Amazon or Smashwords.

Carla Grissmann, Sri Lanka, Colombo, Karl Drobnic, Khyber, Afghanistan <== Cover, Edition, click cover to buy

Author Karl Drobnic

Click to buy –  “A Lesion of Dissent”, Smashwords Edition: “Annette Monclere at Cabaret Khartoum”,

Sunglasses at Play

Coffee Break With Nose

Coffee Break Resize

At Tea With Lord Mount-Melon

Lord Mount-Melon

Mademoiselle Mango’s Afternoon of the Flan
Mademoiselle Mango resized 2



James Fenimore Pineapple’s

The Last of the Mohawkians



Table for One!

Cookie Night with the Christians

Liddell RunningEric Liddell, a gold medalist at the 1924 Paris Olympics, turned his back on sprinting glory and spent the rest of his life as a missionary in one of the poorest regions of China. He and his wife wanted to spread Christian values, and he died doing it, as a civilian prisoner in a Japanese internment camp near the end of WWII. His life has been the subject of two films, the Oscar-winning “Chariots of Fire” and “On Wings of Eagles“. Good films both, but I never much related. I was not the fastest kid in the schoolyard, and nobody ever asked me to be a Christian.

Until last night.

Church steeple

I’m far into my senior years, so that’s a long time without an offer, which came from a young missionary couple. They uprooted from their comfortable Illinois life four years ago to start a congregation in my Oregon college town, where a church steeple seems to rise every three or four blocks. It’s not dirt-floor poverty here, and the zip code is far up on the lists of well-to-do populations.

“Would you like to join our church?” The question bubbled up out of a pleasant conversation at a community picnic in one of our spacious city parks.

Liddell Plaque

Liddell Plaque commemorating the life of one of Scotland’s and The University of Edinburgh’s most renowned sports heroes

I’d met the missionaries soon after they moved to town.  She, for awhile, coached a fitness class at the gym I frequent. Now here they were, at the picnic, and I’ve long wondered about Eric Liddell – not about his locating in one of the poorest provinces of China, but about what motivated him to turn away from Olympic glory. I volunteered for two years in a remote Ethiopian village, where my house was mud and wattle, and water came in a bucket from the river. Some of the places I worked during my career were so far off the economic grid the UN once lumped them into a category of hopelessness – the Fourth World. So I have some understanding of helping the world’s dispossessed.

How could I reply to their invitation? With the simple truth?

cookie plate We’d just talked of truth, and I was not closer to understanding Eric Liddell’s desire to spread Christian values in a place far from home and glory. Why did this couple want to spread God’s word in a town overfilled with churches? I’d asked that as we filled a plate in the dessert line, and we sat together over coconut macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, giant strawberries and assorted cupcakes. They had come as leaders of a small seed group sent to expand their sect’s national presence. Nervous but determined, they put down roots, had a child, and peopled their church.

Should I deflect their question? Obfuscate?


Erasmus Father of Humanism

My niece, far away, had joined one of their congregations years before I met the missionaries. The sect had been a significant milepost on her journey out of a fast-lane life.  I’d told them I appreciated what their creed had done for my niece as our conversation wandered past macaroons to Thomas Aquinas and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, past cookies to Erasmus, the scholar from Rotterdam who laid the foundations of Humanism, and then on to strawberries and the question, “Would I like to join their church?”

“No,” I said. “I’m not a person you want in your church,” answering as gently and kindly as they had asked.

Closed door

And like that, I shut the door on the only invitation I’ve ever had to join a church. We talked of other things. The evening lengthened, the desserts disappeared. And I still do not understand Eric Liddell’s choice. Perhaps he wouldn’t understand mine, either.

So Long Marianne – Leonard Cohen’s Love Letters to Marianne Ihlen Fetch $876,000

Leonard Cohen was already an up and coming poet in Montreal’s Bohemian cafes when he fled to the Greek isle of Hydra to write in 1960.  He was about to meet his muse, Marianne Ihlen, and half a world away, I was beginning college.  She led him into that love affair of bliss and agony so beautifully rendered in “So Long, Marianne”, and the Sixties slipped into being.  Times and events were about to move right on by his hard-earned Bohemian credentials.

Leonard_Cohen_and_Marianne_3 png In those days, “Bohemian” meant Beatnik, and its luminaries, such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, were still at the fringes of fame. I was nine years younger than Cohen, and soon letting my studies slip while I spent too much time in college coffeehouses pursuing my own vision of Bohemian life.  The vision Cohen had already tapped into was intellectually rigorous, philosophically existential, and spiritually bleak.  Once trapped in that Bohemian spider web, there was no way out.

In the coffeehouses, we read works like Camus’ “The Stranger” and Sartre’s “No Exit“, watched movies like Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim” (a tale of tortured lovers), and showed up for guitar players who strummed Pete Seeger songs like “Kumbaya” and “We Shall Overcome”.  Cohen eventually pens a song titled “The Stranger”; like Truffaut’s Jim, he beds Marianne after getting her husband to bless his pursuit of her; and artistically, he never finds the way out of emotional solitude, all the time, strumming a guitar.

marianne wine glass Cohen’s early Sixties would repel today’s youth. It is a time in which Adele Davis has already published the seminal Eat Right to Keep Fit,  but healthy eating is derided on TV as a kooky Southern California fad.  Rachel Carson has raised environmental alarms with Silent Spring but DDT is still a wonder drug for farmers.  In the early Sixties, women are still going to college to get “Mrs.” degrees,  and equality is gaining a cynical pseudonym – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP).

I immersed myself, for a while, in the Bohemian world in the early Sixties, but Cohen, already at home there, stayed a lifetime. Our coffeehouse chatter was about Appearance (distained) vs. Reality (to be sought out), about Hypocrisy (the elder generation) vs. Sincerity (our most fervent value).  For youth of the early Sixties, the existential angst of the Bohemians was about to give way to activism.  There was an exit.  But not for Cohen’s creative genius.

marianne ice cream 2As Cohen honed his Bohemian-fueled writing skills in Hydra and Montreal, I was leaving behind coffeehouse chatter, joining campus efforts supporting Martin Luther King’s civil rights causes and lining up with early protesters against America’s creeping engagement in Vietnam. I was hardly alone. The Sixties were about to explode.  Activism was a way out of “waiting for Godot”, but creatively, Cohen was locked into the Beatniks’ beautiful loser aesthetic.

By the time the aesthetically-estranged “Songs of Leonard Cohen” and “So Long, Marianne” were released, I was deep in Africa, doing volunteer work in a remote Ethiopian village. When his equally bleak “Songs from a Room” brought us the anguished “Bird on a Wire”, I was engaged in eyeball-to-eyeball opposition to the war in Vietnam. I recognized immediately the Bohemian pain in Cohen’s narrations, and I wore out the grooves on both albums, but I was philosophically elsewhere, on the journey out of existential hell depicted in novels like A Lesion of Dissent or films like Bill Murray’s Groundhog’s Day.

I didn’t know Leonard Cohen, and am not particularly familiar with his personal life. I know him through the beautifully penned poetry of his songs, especially his early albums. What I recognize in that poetry is an acute sensitivity to the Bohemian mindset of the late Fifties and early Sixties. I dipped my toe in those creative waters and moved on. He stayed, an intelligent observer of the human condition, and made exquisite music. So long, Marianne. So long, Leonard. Thank you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this vignette about Leonard Cohen’s times and travels in the early Sixties. There’s more adventure to be had in my full length novel A Lesion of Dissent, just a click away at either Amazon or Smashwords.

Carla Grissmann, Sri Lanka, Colombo, Karl Drobnic, Khyber, Afghanistan <== Cover, Edition, click cover to buy

Author Karl Drobnic

Click to buy –  “A Lesion of Dissent”, Smashwords Edition: “Annette Monclere at Cabaret Khartoum”,

A Trader’s Guide to Surviving the Stock Market

Karl Drobnic

I’ve traded stocks for forty years from various countries around the world.  The stock exchange in Addis Ababa was a chalk board in a local bank, open a couple hours on weekdays.  Spokane was dedicated to penny mining stocks. I traded currencies sitting atop burlap sacks of wheat in Kabul’s old granary.  Now we’ve got super-fast online algos and battalions of talking heads promoting their own interests.  But no matter.  Some things I’ve learned cut through the hype.  I hope they help you if trades are going wrong.

1. A trade is neither right nor wrong.  A trade can only be profitable or not profitable.

  • a) Profitable is good.
    b) Unprofitable is bad. Do something!

2. Therapy for traders on a losing streak:

  • a) Brag about your losers, not your winners. Tell everybody about losses. Get on the phone! Tweet!
    b) For a losing trade the only thing to brag about is how small you kept the loss, how quickly you stopped the bleeding.
    c) Your Ego must understand that you’re going to tell everybody about every loss.
    d) Bragging about losers will develop an inner voice urging you to get out. It will replace the voice keeping you in losing trades.

3. The market is uncaring. If you hang on to losing trades, telling
yourself “I’m right, I know I’m right”, the market will grind your
trading stake down to zero.

4. Every trade has two aspects, time and market direction.

  • a) for every trade, know your time frame.
    b) for every time frame, determine market direction.
    c) enter the trade near the beginning of the time frame with
    the market going in the direction of your trade.
    d) you can now monitor your trade in terms of time and
    market direction.
    e) at the end of the time frame, recalculate. Are your assumptions still correct? What’s your new time frame? Why are you still in the trade?
    f) if the market direction changes, why are you still in the
    trade? Why didn’t you set a stop? Are you looking
    for a loss to brag about? Return to #2.

5. As an individual trader, you’re competing against guys with PhD.s in
math and physics, against algos and super-fast computers, against ruthless pit
traders who have the advantage of being on the floor.

  • a) The PhD.s are smarter than you.
    b) The pit traders are genetically superior – short
    attention spans quickly alert to new stimuli, the
    master hunters of pre-historic times.
    c) Your computer is no match for the competing computers.
    d) Always know where the escape hatch is for each and
    every trade. How fast can you get through it? Practice!

6. If you start believing that you have some special insight into the
market, that you’ve “cracked the code”, discovered “the natural order of
the market”, that the market will go where you say, then put your money in T-Bills and take a long vacation. Motorcyclists who stay afraid of their machines die of old age. Those who think they’re Evel Knieval die terrible deaths. Know your machine before you drive it, and stay alert. Freight trains do come roaring across unmarked crossings.

7. The market is a mechanism for transferring wealth. It does so by
causing pain. Great wealth transfers in times of great pain. Losses are
a way of causing pain. Card sharks operate by letting the sucker win big
in the early going. But by the end of the game, the card sharks have all
the sucker’s money, his clothes, his house, and the sucker’s gratitude
for letting him get away from the table with his life. If you’re making
bigger and bigger trades, think about the sucker who ended up betting it
all exactly at the time the sharks held all the winning cards. Trading
is a business. You go to work in the morning, go home at night, and earn
a paycheck at the end of the week. Keep the size of your trades
reasonable. The sharks can’t take what’s not on the table.

8. Once in a while a sure thing comes along. It’s a good day to skip
trading and take a walk on the beach.

9. As options expiration approaches, the Grand Croupier will sweep the table in all directions. You’re not the croupier. In the last week, never keep an expiring short position that’s within reach of the croupier’s stick. Time and an approaching expiration let the croupier take control of an open short. It’s asking for great pain.

10. Getting market direction right is only the first step of a trade.
Selecting the best trade (trading strategy) is the next step. For
example, is it better to go long a put (it will decay against you)?… or
to enter a call spread for a credit (it will decay for you)? The answer
depends on market conditions. Money management is the 3rd step. Your
goal is to make a profit, not show the world. Your profit/loss statement
will accurately reflect your trading at the end of every day. Read it
carefully. Understand its message.

These are a few thoughts that I’ve found helpful. I hope they help you, too. Please feel free to share them.  Wishing you peace, prosperity and good trading – Karl.

After the market closes, I hope you’ll relax with a copy of my novel, “A Lesion of Dissent”. It’s available on both and at the links below.

Same great novel, your choice of either original art cover

Carla Grissmann, Sri Lanka, Colombo, Karl Drobnic, Khyber, Afghanistan <== Cover, Edition, click cover to buy

Author Karl Drobnic

Smashwords EditionCover, Smashwords Edition- “Annette Monclere at Cabaret Khartoum” click cover to buy

The Nazi SS in Afghanistan, or How I Met the Gestapo Twenty Years Late

Author Karl Drobnic

Karl Drobnic, adventurer and author of “A Lesion of Dissent”

I stood by a painted post on a gravel highway. Chill autumn wind was blowing through sparse sagebrush on the darkening Baluchi plains and I did not know what to do. Westward, the milk-train bus I’d ridden all day was retreating back into Iran. East of the post lay Afghanistan, its nearest city, Herat, miles away through the fast-falling night. Several other backpackers from various Western nations also stood near that post, the final passengers to exit the bus that we’d boarded early that morning in Meshad.  In 1968, no one but adventurers went overland to Afghanistan.

baluchistan desert Herat

The Baluchi plains, where dark was quickly falling

The border was the post, the post was the border, our transport was gone. We faced away from the disappearing bus, marooned, staring in the direction we thought must lead to Herat.  Very gradually, some dim lights appeared, and slowly grew bolder, though hardly brighter. We watched until a World War II surplus army jeep pulled up, an Afghan at the wheel.

We quickly established that we had no common language. “Herat,” we said and pointed. “Herat,” he said and pointed. We fumbled our way to a price for transport, handed over some money, and piled into the jeep, crowded together, backpacks on our knees. And then out of the dark, another Afghan appeared, clutching a long Browning rifle, the weapon the Allies issued their infantry in WW II.

Jeep World War II surplus

Surplus jeeps from WW II found their way to all parts of the world

The driver motioned for us to make room, and Rifleman crowded in, a big man right next to me in the front seat, squeezing me over against the driver, and we began a slow crawl along the rutted highway into the eastern night, the limpid six-volt headlights swallowed by the ebony deepness of the surrounding black. A mile passed as the driver picked our way through ruts and chuckholes, and another mile and more, a monotonous, jarring journey with no glimpse of Herat yet on the horizon.

Of a sudden, we were each aware that we were no longer on the highway. The jeep was bouncing across undulated mounds, sagebrush swishing by the open sides. We talked at the driver in various languages, asking why we’d left the highway, entreating him to return, trepidation rising as we bounced deeper into trackless desert. Beside me, Rifleman loomed large in the very faint glow of a few dashboard gauges. “Oh, god, this is it,” one of the travelers behind me said. I knew what he meant. At best, we would be robbed and left bereft in the desert, at worst, murdered as well.

A mile or so seemed to pass, and as the jeep topped a mound, an earthen structure materialized, shaped somewhat like a quonset hut. The blank end of the building threw back enough headlight to define it from the swallowing darkness all around. The driver sounded his horn, and soon, a dazzling white light flooded out from the center of the hut, a door opening and letting out the brilliant white glow of hissing pressure lanterns.

Nazi SS Afghanistan Gestapo

Gestapo uniforms outlasted the organization at the far ends of the earth

The jeep stopped a few feet from the door. Rifleman jumped out, then motioned us towards the hut. The driver was talking and pushing on my shoulder, saying something none of us could understand. First out of the jeep, I was also first into the hut. I stepped through the door, squinting at the bright pressure lanterns hung from the low, rounded roof, facing a long trestle-type table, and then I froze, the traveler entering behind bumping me forward. Grouped at the table were six tall men in Gestapo uniforms: black-wooled, ribboned and medaled, epauletted, leather-belted, weapons-holstered Nazi storm troopers.

Only they weren’t German. They were bearded Afghans. The other travelers pushed in around me as I gawked. They too, stopped and stared. The Gestapo stood behind the table, erect, strict, staring back. One of our group said something in German, and one of the Gestapo said something back, not in German. We sifted through languages and finally found some commonality in elementary Turkish.

“Passports,” our Turkish-speaking traveler said. “He wants to see our passports.” But we still did not comprehend and murmurs of objection floated around our group. Some more rudimentary Turkish was exchanged. “It’s the border patrol,” our interpreter finally said. “We’ve got to get stamped into Afghanistan.”

The jeep driver was motioning for us to sit at the long table as he shouted towards an Afghan at the far end of the room. We sat and laid passports out on the table, then breathed easier when the man the driver had shouted to came forward with a tray of glasses and a large pot of tea. I warmed my hands on the tea glass and tendered my passport down the table with those of the other travelers.

And then a heaping platter of rice pilaf appeared and bowls and spoons, and while the Gestapo-draped guards thumbed our passports, we fell to eating. We ate, they stamped, and more tea was poured. Along one wall of the hut, a high shelf ran its length. Spaced along the shelf were hookahs, the kind with the long hoses that pass around from smoker to smoker. Our driver spoke some more to the tea-man, and he  fell to bringing water pipes to the table and lighting them.

hookah water pipe Afghanistan

The Gestapo-guards watched as we made awkward attempts to draw on the water pipes, and laughed at our ineptitude. They spread among us as we shifted to make room, and gave us lessons in water-piping.  At first we were smoking a sweet, rose-flavored tobacco, and as the guards began to congratulate us on getting the water pipes right, the smoke shifted to heavier mixtures, opium-laced hashish perhaps, but I do not know.  Thus we drifted through endless glasses of tea, smoking, sipping, arm in arm with latter-day storm troopers.

Gradually, their story emerged. Somewhere in Hitler’s mad march to power, he had decreed that Afghanistan was the true ancestral origin of the Aryan race. He reached out with foreign aid, supplying military training for the warlords that controlled the amalgamation of districts that was Afghanistan.  The advisers he sent played dress up, supplying uniforms and attempting to transplant the goose-stepping Gestapo that was then terrorizing Germany. World War II came, and then it went, but good wool uniforms last a long time. Afghanistan, forgotten and at the end of the earth in those days, did what it always does. It carried on.  The warlord of that western territory spanning the Herat road had inherited trunks filled with the Gestapo uniforms and liked the look, uncaring or perhaps uninformed of the stigma they carried elsewhere in the world.

Over the decades since, I have spoken with many intrepid travelers who entered Afghanistan at that post on the Herat highway, but none has ever recalled a similar encounter with Nazi-clad patrols.  It seems at times that it was a water-pipe dream, but it was not.  It was Afghanistan, the end of the earth, where events were to get ever stranger as the years passed, as curious travelers became invading armies, and as I retired to my armchair to contemplate uncommon encounters in places far, far away.

While you’re here, I hope you’ll take a moment to check out my novel set in the tumult of the 1960s. “A Lesion of Dissent” is available at either or Smashwords. com per the links below.

Carla Grissmann, Sri Lanka, Colombo, Karl Drobnic, Khyber, Afghanistan <== Cover, "A Lesion of Dissent", Edition: click cover to view

A Lesion of Dissent

Karl Drobnic

Set in the flash and dash of the turbulent Sixties, “A Lesion of Dissent” is available on and in any format. You can even download this full-length novel directly to your computer in PDF, no Kindle or Nook Book or IPad necessary.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the storyline:

“A fiery liaison in the sacred chambers of Egypt’s ancient pharaohs while Israeli warplanes scream overhead… frenzy and rioting as vengeful Arabs storm into the streets…and Paul Rhodes’ journey of exile through post-colonial Africa and Asia has just begun. Buffeted by the smuggling, black market deception and patriotic fervor that marked those continents’ passages to independence in the tumultuous Sixties, Paul is impelled country by country back to the US and a stunning, fateful confrontation with the military establishment that stands between him and the woman he loves.”

You can order online at both the or links below when you click on the book cover of your choice. I hope you enjoy reading A Lesion of Dissent as much as I enjoyed writing it. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks in advance – Karl

Money from last year’s sales of “A Lesion of Dissent” at was donated to Water for Ethiopian Gardens, a Peace Corps project. The project aids in sustainable, low-tech agriculture at the grass roots, village level, and relies entirely on private donations. Please make your purchase of “A Lesion of Dissent” via if you’d like your money to help malnourished villagers in Ethiopia. The first chapters of “A Lesion of Dissent” are set in the area served by the project.

Images and Previews from “A Lesion of Dissent” .

You can order online at either the link or link on the right. I hope you enjoy reading A Lesion of Dissent as much as I enjoyed writing it. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks in advance – Karl

Same great novel, your choice of either original art cover

Carla Grissmann, Sri Lanka, Colombo, Karl Drobnic, Khyber, Afghanistan <== Cover, Edition, click cover to buy

Jomo Kenyatta and the Texas Longhorns


Jomo Kenyatta, father of the Kenyan nation and its first president, shook my hand on a beautiful seaside morning in December, 1967. I was out for a stroll, dressed neatly for a change, and feeling as spiffy as the bright equatorial morning. But strangely, the usually bustling docks of Mombasa Harbor were deserted.

Tied up quayside was an aging cargo ship, its hull black except for splotches of rust, some white lettering, and a maroon stripe marking the water line. In front of the freighter, an armed semicircle of widely-spaced Kenyan soldiers ringed an area the size of several football fields. In those early years of post-colonial Kenya, President Jomo had encouraged British colonial civil servants to stay on and aid in the transition to independence, and while native Kenyans manned the front offices of the bureaucracy, a leftover colonial often sat in the back to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. Thus, when my morning amble took me towards the freighter, no soldier challenged me, assuming that my white skin was a credential for the ceremony about to happen.

The freighter rose high out the water, its dark sides looming far above me as I approached. No gang planks were down, a security measure perhaps, but an on-board crane had its arm hovered over two stout wooden crates, their sides slatted. Standing in each crate was a bull, two Texas Longhorns I was to eventually learn. Crew members stared down from the deck railing and I stared up. An Army captain and some subordinates, wearing ranger hats and dressed in starched shirts, creased shorts and knee socks, clustered near the spot to which the crates would be lowered.

African soldiers

One of the subordinate officers left the group and came to me. “You must come here,” he said and motioned me towards the little knot of officers. “President Jomo will arrive shortly.” I followed him to the group. At the back, one of the subordinates, taller than his colleagues, held a walkie-talkie device. “By him,” my guide said, and so I joined the lanky lieutenant with the radio.

“We bring the cows down when the car arrives,” Radioman said.

“Good,” I said, feeling I was in way over my head, and wishing I were somewhere else, for it was now evident to me that I was a security breach. Some time passed and then the head officer snapped to attention. The rest of the group followed suit, and I corrected my posture. “Car coming,” Radioman said to me. Far up the docks, a black limo had appeared and was headed slowly in our direction.

Radioman spoke into the walkie-talkie. “Start cows,” he said, looking up to the crewmen at the deck railing. Radioman held the walkie-talkie towards me. “Starting cows now,” came crackling out in a thick accent. Radioman looked at me. “Cows starting,” I said. Above, the crew dispersed and the crane began to take up slack in the ropes attached to the crates. The limo slowed to a crawl while the crates were raised and swung over the side of the ship. First one bull and then the other bellowed.

Radioman waited for a signal from his captain, then said, “Bring cows down,” into the walkie-talkie. The crates began to lower, the limo picked up speed, and as the bulls touched down, the car pulled to a stop about twenty feet away. An aide with a camera got out of the front and opened a rear door. Jomo Kenyatta, dressed in the open-shirted Kenyan style, emerged and walked over to the crates. He peered through the slats while the aide snapped pictures.


Texas Longhorns

Cattle are highly valued in native Kenyan society, and the President was making a gift to the people of two Texas Longhorn bulls, meant to introduce new genes into the traditional Kenyan herds. When he was satisfied that the bulls were what he had ordered, he walked over to the captain and talked a bit in Swahili, of which I understood nothing. The President, who had lived and studied in England, and also in colonial prisons, eventually noticed me. “Thank you for helping,” he said in English and made a short step in my direction. The officers in front of me parted and Jomo Kenyatta extended his hand. I came forward, reached out, and shook hands with the first President of Kenya, Leader of the Mau Mau Rebellion, and Father of the Nation. “You’re very welcome,” I said and nodded a little bow.

Shortly the President was back in his limo and driving away. A few of the officers were busy with getting the crated bulls lifted onto a flatbed truck that had rumbled up from further down the docks and others were forming the soldiers into columns for the march back to barracks. I was left standing by the freighter, Radioman still close by, and it occurred to me that almost two hundred years before, George Washington had worn similar titles – First President, Leader of the American Revolution, and Father of the Nation. “Good luck,” I said to Radioman. “I wish you well.” And that is how, quite by accident, I met Jomo Kenyatta and his Texas Longhorns.

Jomo and George -Something in Common

George Washington

Norman Mailer and Me

a lesion of dissent Norman Mailer was summering in Provincetown, on Cape Cod, and so was I.  He had rented a big house on the beach with a sweeping view of the bay, and I was living in a tiny converted tool shed in a parking lot, two doors west and on the opposite side of the street.  I did menial labor twelve hours per day to pay for my next year of college, the Beatles had just exploded across the TV landscape of America, and Norman was partying that summer, hard, late night after late, late night.

We’d often engage in the early morning on the sidewalk in front of his house, I walking towards the touristy core of the town to begin another long day of scraping peeling paint or scrubbing pots, and he leaning against his car. We’d meet in that early part of morning when the squawk of sea gulls is amplified by dawn quietude, and high-hanging fog reflects a silver sheen off the lapping waters of Provincetown Bay.  And Norman would glare.  Always.  As I turned onto the sidewalk, he’d pick up the sound of my steps as they crunched out of the graveled parking lot, rotate his head in my direction, and glare, his eyes locking into mine and then holding firm while I approached and passed.

The first few times I disengaged and cast my focus along the narrow sidewalk ahead.  My passage to town was half filled with Norman’s legs, which were bracing him against the car fender on which he leaned his rump, arms crossed across his crumpled sport shirt.  Secondly, I tried holding his gaze, nodding, and offering a soft “morning” as I passed.  But neither way did he acknowledge me, nor even shift his legs back to give me more space to pass.  There was just his glare, intense and never wavering.  Discomfit, I took to ignoring him those frequent mornings when he had posted himself on the sidewalk.  It mattered not.  He glared the same.

We had a mutual friend, and one afternoon I saw Norman and this friend walking towards me on the narrow sidewalk. They were talking with great animation and gesticulation.  It happened that I had a message from someone to give to the friend, so I stopped them and delivered the message, then glanced at Norman.  Glare, eyes locked into mine.

We had a second mutual friend – my summer girlfriend, his sometimes babysitter. It was from her that I had learned that Norman partied long, hard, and into the dawn.  She lived in a house directly across the street from Norman, sharing rent with a group of other college co-eds.  One evening, he knocked on her door just as we were ready to go out. “Something’s come up,” he said. “I need a babysitter.  Can you do it?”, his tone polite, normal, friendly.  She turned towards me behind her, apologizing that she needed the money, and Norman’s gaze followed hers to me.  His face transformed.  Glare.  No mistaking it.

He moved away before Labor Day that year and his house stood empty.  I stayed on to catch a last few paydays before my college started up again, and one soft, late summer morning, I walked around to the beach side of Norman’s house.  From his deck, there was a wide panoramic view with the rising sun throwing colors on the gentle waves, the sound of water breaking on the beach pilings, a sailboat catching early breezes as its skipper tacked across the bay, and a setting moon faintly visible in the western sky.

Carla Grissmann, Sri Lanka, Colombo, Karl Drobnic, Khyber, Afghanistan <== Cover, Edition, click cover to buy

I leaned against the deck railing and decided to be late for work that day, wondering why, with such a view, Norman had passed so many mornings on the other side of that house contemplating the sidewalk.  I don’t know, and he’s dead, so I never will.  But I saw his glare recently, in a TV documentary, a still photograph of his face staring into the camera as a narrator reviewed the turmoil and dissent of the Sixties.  It was a photo from late in Norman’s life, the face wizened and leathery, heavy lines etched into the brow and cheeks from hard living.  But the glare was there, deep, straight into the camera lens, and frozen now, reminding me of choices he made, that I’ve made, of how very differently we’ve lived our lives, and of how glad I am that I spent that morning on Norman’s deck.

Author Karl Drobnic

Cover “A Lesion of Dissent”, Smashwords Edition: “Annette Monclere at Cabaret Khartoum”, click cover to buy

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