former sailor, steelworker, musician, professor & journalist turned freelance writer
Although my parents (Victor Sr. & Katherine) were originally from
Ohio, they moved around a bit during the early years of their
marriage. Eventually, however, they settled in Buffalo, NY, where my
father was a mechanical engineer at a local steel plant and my mother
an art teacher.
My mother, a very musical woman with a beautiful singing voice, was
also a frustrated piano player, and it was her idea to march me off to
piano lessons when I was 11. My first teacher, a sweet old lady,
introduced me to Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos (among other
things). I also began playing organ in the garage band my buddies were
putting together, and this led me through a succession of keyboards
including a Farfisa organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, & Hammond L100
I went off to college at Baldwin-Wallace in suburban Cleveland, where
I declared as an English major with a minor in music. Again, I was
taking lessons from a sweet old lady who introduced me to Bela
Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances (among other things). I was
returning to my dorm room one night when I heard a fellow across the
hall playing Bitches Brew. I was transfixed and have never
been the same since. The following summer, the local steel mill closed
down, putting the kibosh on my plans to return for my sophomore year.
I spent what little money I was able to earn as a janitor on a Fender
Rhodes -- much to my father's chagrin.
After a few years immersing myself in the fusion revolution of the
'70s, I realized that the only way I'd ever be able to resume my
education would be to join the military and avail myself of the GI
Bill. The Vietnam War had ended and Jimmy Carter was now president, so
I felt as if the moral red light had been taken off in that regard.
Like my father, I served in the U.S. Navy for four years, receiving my
honorable discharge at the rank of E-5. In addition to learning
welding and pipefitting, I also saw Europe, the Caribbean, and the
western Pacific Rim.
After my discharge, I began working as a pipefitter in the shipyards
of San Diego. When my friends found out that I was an erstwhile
musician and heard me noodling on a piano one day, they egged me on to
put down my pipewrench and pick up a keyboard. Another revolution --
the synthesizer explosion of the early '80s -- was taking place. Every
band in town was looking for a keyboardist. I auditioned for a local
Top-40 group with steady gigs, got hired, and was able to fulfill
every musician's fantasy: quitting my day job!
Nonetheless, I was now pushing 30, and other impulses continued to nag
me, including the urge to get back to school. My parents weren't in
such good health at the time, and my four siblings had married and
scattered. I returned to Buffalo, where I learned that Tom Wolfe was
right about not being able to go home again.
However, I did complete my BA at Buffalo State College, and at the
urging of my professors went on to graduate school at the University
of Buffalo. I earned a Ph.D. in American literature, writing my
doctoral dissertation under direction of the late Leslie Fiedler,
renowned literary and cultural critic. I also resumed my jazz
avocation, putting together a quartet which enjoyed some modest local
success and provided me with a great deal of fun and fulfillment.
I returned to Southern California, and after a couple of years as an
adjunct English professor in San Diego, I took a full-time position at
a small private college in rural Iowa. The culture shock was too
great, and it was not a good fit as they say in the business world.
So, I entered the field of journalism, working as editor at both
weekly and daily newspapers in the Des Moines area. A desire to focus
on specific projects led to a career as freelance writer.
Along with jazz, I have a life-long fascination with baseball and
military history -- three of my favorite writing topics, as well as
literature, of course.