We have three different divisions at Adams-Blake Publishing:
First, we cover business conventions and events, as well as hotel reviews as a source for other media organizations, usually the European and Asian press, as well as some of the larger news conglomerates and aggregators.
Second, we are the managing partner of an affordable website design company called NewMedia Website Design that specializes in websites for small service businesses, agencies, and especially authors and publishers. We recently opened a new "division" called NewMedia Create that does what we call "Less is More" sites... much shorter, much more affordable, and done in a day or so.
Finally, while we have been consultants to publishers of ebooks, we are currently ramping-up to publish our own ebooks. We will specialize in business and travel subjects targeted for special markets.
[People ask all the time about how I came up with the name for the company so I thought I'd write it down once and for all.]
It’s hard for me to understand sometimes how much things have changed and yet know that in some parts of the world, things are as they were thirty years ago. And up to about twenty years ago, I’d say the same about this country. Now we’re all the same… pasteurized, homogenized, franchised, and socialized.
But in the mid 1960s it wasn’t like that. There were parts of America that were right out of the 1930s. And at the age of 20, a newly minted college graduate (“plastics” held no fascination for me) I found myself as a draft-dodger living way up in the mountains of West (By God) Virginia, teaching the entire 8th grade in an eight room schoolhouse located near a place I dare you to find on the map… Diana, W.Va. The job paid $4995 a year… and I had more money then, than I’ve ever had since. Beer was 25 cents a glass, cigarettes were 20 cents a pack, gas was about 29 cents a gallon, a nickel bag was a nickel, and you could get paid sex for an Andy Jackson.
(Sorry to offend, but 'sex' is rather central to the story.)
Teaching school was all well and good, and so was hiding out in West Virginia where I was still scared but pretty sure the FBI wouldn’t find me and haul me off to Vietnam (where I might have been safer!!). Yeah, teaching was fine… but I wanted to be a writer…. not a schoolmaster for the rest of my life.
Well, one thing about being a writer is that you need to find things to write about… and I didn’t have much. I realized I’d have to get a bit of “life experience” if I expected to rival Ernest or John. But I missed hearing the bells toll in Europe, and I missed getting a ride with the Joads out of Oklahoma. But there WAS something I could learn and experience in that part of the world where the law holds that if you get divorced you still remain brother and sister.
Not far from my humble trailer, up a logging road, right next to an abandoned coal tipple, was a place that you won’t find anymore. They were called “dancin’, fightin’ and sportin’” houses. This one was known as Cindy and Miranda’s. There was no sign on the door or anything like that, it was just known as Cindy and Miranda’s and that’s what everyone called it…. I guess because it was owned by Cindy and Miranda. (And they say people aren’t smart in West Virginia?)
Did you ever hear the term “juke joint”? Well if there was such a thing as a “juke joint” for white people, Cindy and Miranda’s would be it. It was an old farm house where store-bought whiskey was sold for exorbitant prices, but local moonshine was very cheap. Some people say that the “recipe” as it was known would gag a goat! I, on the other hand (and rather experienced in the vagaries of distillations (October was a good month!)) like to think of the “recipe” as an acquired taste!
At Cindy and Miranda’s the drinking was done downstairs and business was done upstairs. And surprisingly Cindy and Miranda got a mixed crowd of men and women. The women customers knew what was "goin' on," upstairs, but no one much cared. There weren’t that many places to go on a Saturday night for a few hours escape, see neighbors, and have a good snort, maybe a good fight, and maybe even get lucky, if you had the money.
Both Cindy and Miranda were in their early 30s, a bit past their prime, but it didn’t show in their rates. Cindy was a dead-ringer for a taller Dolly Parton while Miranda looked like a shorter Faith Hill. There were a few other working girls there on and off, mostly part-timers looking for weekend cash, but Cindy and Miranda were the star attractions… I’m sure they would never hire anyone that might have taken away from that. They were blonde, but not dumb.
I used to go up there two or three times a week to drink some "recipe," listen to the hillbilly-bluegrass music that was always being played by someone or other, and occasionally pick up a few bucks tending bar. On Saturday nights I was a minor attraction as people (like I said, both men and women) came from all over to hear me play a bit of guitar and do the entire 28 minutes of Alice's Restaurant better than Arlo could do it. (And I think I still can!)
I got to know Cindy and Miranda (remember Cindy and Miranda?…its a story about Cindy and Miranda) really well… but their history is too long to tell here. We got to be good friends. I taught them literature and they taught me about life. I learned a lot from both of them. On weeknights when it wasn’t too busy, I'd sit at the bar and scribble notes for my great American novel and talk with them about things. If you want to know about life, don’t ask a librarian, ask a working girl.
It was a rare treat for a middle-class Long Island, NY suburban kid to see some real time fighting and real time whoring, to say nothing about the contrasting innate goodness and innate evil that is present in all of us but so well masked by middle class morality (and mediocrity.) There were life lessons learned here.
After a couple of years of teaching I felt it was time for me to move on. The war was winding down, the draft was over, and it was safe to come out again. I wanted to go to graduate school, but of course, didn’t have a dime to my name.
It was Cindy and Miranda who gave me the money (almost $1800) to pay the tuition for the first year at William and Mary. They said it was a gift, but I said I would pay them back someday, someway. (That wasn’t the only gift they gave me, but that too is another story.)
The last thing Miranda said to me was “Now Al, when y’all get rich and famous as a writer and y’all have your own publishin’ company, please don’t forgit us none.”
On clear winter nights like tonight, I think of them.
I miss those days.
I miss my youth.
They were killed eight months later when their car lost control on an icy patch of road and jumped the guard rail, plunging down the mountain. Cynthia Adams and Miranda Blake were their names.
Alan N. Canton